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Bid to fix Dresden baseball field fails

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/4/2020 10:20:16 PM
Modified: 3/4/2020 10:20:07 PM

NORWICH — While approving school budgets on Tuesday, voters in Norwich and Hanover also turned thumbs down to a request for $275,000 to improve drainage at Hanover High School’s notoriously soggy baseball field off Route 5 in Norwich.

Head baseball coach John Grainger took some solace that 728 people cast Australian ballots in favor of the request, albeit to 1,262 “no” votes.

In January mailings to residents, the Dresden School Board advised voters to reject the petitioned article on the school-district warning, noting that the repair project needed more study, and that it would cost Hanover taxpayers an additional $170,381 and Norwich taxpayers $77,778 more.

“It’s obviously disappointing,” Grainger said. “We’re going to see if we can do anything privately to raise the money, but it’s a lot, so we’ll probably try again with the School Board next year.

“When we went to them last fall, we were prepared to make our case, and they understood that there was a need and a problem, but they were in the middle of school budgets.”

The Dresden district, which oversees Hanover High School and Richmond Middle School, asked for, and on Tuesday received by a vote of 1,583-440, permission to spend $27.8 million, nearly 3.2% more than the current school year. School officials estimate that the budget will result in school-tax rate increases of almost 1.1% in Hanover and of nearly 4.2% in neighboring Norwich.

Hanover residents on Tuesday also voted, 428-41, for their own $15.7 million school budget to teach students in K-grade 5 at the Ray Elementary School and to pay Dresden to teach Hanover’s sixth-graders. Norwich voters went 1,152-49 in favor of the Norwich School District’s spending plan of $6.2 million for K-grade 6 education at Marion Cross School.

Grainger said that the proposal for the baseball field — several inches below which he has seen pavement with white lines — also likely ran afoul of Hanover’s widely panned property revaluation in 2018 and of the $2-million energy-efficiency plan for Tracy Hall, which Norwich voters narrowly approved on Tuesday.

“Our timing wasn’t great,” Grainger acknowledged. “And maybe we didn’t get the reality out there, that there is no other option for us.”

On their often waterlogged and unplayable field, he added, the Marauders managed “seven days last year where we could use the whole field. Every year (in practices), we hit in the outfield, and take ground balls when we can in the infield. … We’ll end up playing (six regular-season games) when the field shouldn’t be played on. At the end of the day, it’s not fair to the kids.”

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