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Merrimack eyes Baboosic Lake property for possible athletic fields

Union Leader Correspondent

October 10. 2017 8:23PM

MERRIMACK — The town’s parks and recreation committee is requesting permission to survey undeveloped school-owned property to determine whether it could be converted into athletic fields.

The Merrimack School District owns a 40-acre parcel of vacant property at 277 Baboosic Lake Road that’s being eyed by the parks and recreation committee.

The committee wants to have the parcel surveyed to determine some baseline data that could be used to help find out whether the land could be used for future ballfields.

“Athletic fields to the school board and the Town Council are terribly important. There are very few and everybody wants more,” said Superintendent of Schools Marge Chiafery.

The school district’s planning and building committee previously determined that perhaps one field could be constructed on the property, although it would be significantly challenging because of the layout. The parks and recreation committee also walked the land and has a more optimistic opinion on how many fields could be constructed there, according to Andy Schneider, school board member.

The committee is hoping to have some pro bono surveying work conducted on the land to determine its official boundaries and elevation points, Schneider told the school board last week, adding the results of the survey would be provided to town and school officials to discuss whether fields could be viable on the site.

Matt Shevenell, assistant superintendent, said the survey would need to include data from an expert soil scientist because of wetlands on the property, which would need to be identified and located.

“I can’t see getting a free survey for that,” he said.

Schneider said the parks and recreation committee is only asking for the school district’s permission to have the land surveyed, stressing that the district has no associated commitments.

He said the proposal would serve as the first step in identifying conclusive information to help officials make an informed decision about what the property could be used for.

Shannon Barnes, school board chairman, questioned the logistics of any future fields being constructed on the parcel, specifically whether they would be owned by the town or the school district.

Shevenell explained that if the town wanted to accept responsibility for a future field on the school property, the school district would need to deed the town the land or a portion of the land — a move that could only happen through voter approval of a warrant article.

“I think the layer of the onion just got a little thicker,” said Barnes.

According to town records, the 40-acre parcel is assessed at about $307,000 and is often referred to as the Timmons property; it is located at the intersection of Baboosic Lake Road and South Baboosic Lake Road.

Chiafery said that if the school board wants to explore the issue further, it should take the time to investigate and study the matter thoroughly to ensure that it is done properly.

The board agreed to discuss the proposal jointly with the Town Council at an upcoming meeting.

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