Two potentially impactful developments in the polarized saga of the Martha’s Vineyard High School track and field replacement project have begun to unfold.
In an Oct. 21 letter from Oak Bluffs Building Inspector Tom Perry, Schools Superintendent Matt D’Andrea was informed the synthetic turf and track project “must apply for a special permit from the planning board” in order to move forward. Perry’s letter stated that because the project area is located in the Water Resource Protection Overlay District and because the project appears to include toxic materials, the special permit is required under town bylaw. The synthetic turf field is not mentioned in his letter, but opponents of the project have pointed to potential contaminants contained in the plastics used for the turf.
Perry could not immediately be reached for comment.
“We are grateful the town of Oak Bluffs is taking the threat these highly toxic, bioaccumulating chemicals pose to the Island’s water supply seriously,” the Field Fund wrote in a statement to The Times.
The project won a narrow victory with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission after an extensive public hearing process.
Asked about the special permit requirement, Terry Donahue, a longtime advocate of the project, said proponents will do whatever it takes to convince Oak Bluffs that the project is safe. Donahue said he continues to advocate for the project on behalf of the children who’ll benefit from it.
“It’s been debated to death,” he said, adding that no scientific evidence has arisen that shows the field is toxic or dangerous to kids, and that the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, over six meetings and through 80,000 pages of documents, found the detriments to the project to be “de minimis.” Donahue claimed the project would prevent 200 pounds of nitrogen from leaching into local water bodies, or a ton of nitrogen each decade. And due to a padded underlayment, Donahue claimed, the project would reduce concussive injury by 25 percent.
“For eight years what it’s been is irrational fear,” he said of project critics.
Meanwhile, a records request made by the Field Fund to Martha’s Vineyard Regional School District officials has yielded a letter from D’Andrea — a letter with a request for a $121,508.33 fee. Dated Oct. 26, the letter identifies D’Andrea as “Records Access Officer,” and comes in response to a request for Vineyard Athletics Inc. correspondence, the correspondence of principals of Vineyard Athletics Inc., and correspondence relative to the funding of scientific consultant Dr. Laura Green. In support of the six-figure records fee, D’Andrea wrote that the school district had already handled one or more large records request from the Field Fund free of charge, and another cannot be managed without charging for it.
Asked whether he believed the requested fee was actually viable, D’Andrea emailed, “It is not my job to determine what is viable. My responsibility is to determine the extent of work involved to meet the request, and apply the fee allowed by law.”
Asked if the school district had ever requested a six-figure fee, D’Andrea wrote, “We have had previous requests that were also very extensive that would have required a significant fee. During my tenure, to my knowledge, we have not received a fee for a records request. We always try to accommodate if the request is reasonable — as we have in the previous requests.”
D’Andrea wrote the letter was written in collaboration with the Braintree law firm Murphy, Lamere, and Murphy.