West Tisbury School will water town fields

School committee expands access to non-potable well.

West Tisbury School will allow Field Fund to use a well to irrigate town fields. — MV Times

Members of the Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) gave their blessing to the Field Fund for access to the West Tisbury School’s nonpotable well, providing a source of irrigation for adjacent town fields.

At Monday’s UIRSD committee meeting, West Tisbury School Principal Donna Lowell-Bettencourt said the Field Fund came to her because they are working with the Community Preservation committee to discuss upcoming maintenance for the town fields. “We definitely use the town fields a lot as the school, so the Field Fund is requesting the use of our irrigation well for the town fields,” Lowell-Bettencourt said. The Field Fund has maintained the town fields for several years. 

Dardanella Slavin, co-founder of the Field Fund, said the Island has been experiencing severe drought, and it has been difficult to keep the fields viable without an irrigation system. “We decided to go to the CPC to ask for irrigation for that field, and in the process we asked for designs from an irrigation company,” Slavin said. “They didn’t realize that the two properties [the school and the town fields] were separate, so they had the thought to draw from the school field, which to us was a great idea.”

Slavin said water would be pulled from the well as needed, and the irrigation lines would run underneath the main road and snake over to the town fields. “We’ve met with parks and recreation, we ran it by [board of health agent Omar Johnson], and he said that it’s all good by his standards,” she said. 

Committee member Kate DeVane said the Field Fund will be using the well to water the fields that the school uses on a regular basis. “All we are saying is we are willing to water the fields that we already use for free,” DeVane said. “I think it’s a no-brainer.”

Although there will be no immediate additional expense to the school, some committee members did note the period of drought, and wondered about increased water or energy costs. Climate advisory committee member Kate Warner said pumping water is a very energy-intensive activity, so the school may find that providing expanded access to the well may incur additional expenses.

Committee chair Alex Salop said the school could always vote to increase the expenses for water pumping if need be. Lowell-Bettencourt reiterated that the parks department wants the well to be expanded to cover town fields, and said the school could do a cost analysis of the additional pump and present it to the department. Committee member Skipper Manter said there will inevitably be a cost increase to the school. 

DeVane said the committee could include some leniency for times of extreme drought, where committee members could make the decision to limit the amount of watering available for town fields. 

Manter’s motion to approve the request to expand access to the nonpotable well was approved, with the contingency that it must be passed by the CPC and installed. Slavin said the Field Fund does everything possible to minimize water use. “If there is a period of drought, we make sure to use the minimal amount of water to keep the grass viable,” Slavin said.