A referendum on the proposed $3.1 million Oxford High School athletic field project will be held on Thursday, Aug. 16, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Quaker Farms School, 30 Great Oak Road.
That is what the Board of Selectmen decided Tuesday night after the Board of Finance voted 6-0 to approve the project, which would bring an eight-lane rubberized track, an artificial turf field that can be used for multiple sports, bleachers, a press box and lights to the high school, which opened to students in 2007 without adequate athletic fields.
The project would be bonded for a maximum of 20 years at an interest rate between 2 percent and 2.5 percent. If approved by voters, the cost of the project would add about .16 mills to the tax rate, meaning that a homeowner with a house assessed at $250,000 could see an increase of about $35 a year, based on the current budget and grand list, both of which change year-to-year.
The Board of Finance said it wants to see regular accounting updates on the plan, and all future bonding projects, so its members can make sure the projects do not come in over budget. Selectmen Jeff Haney, who has been overseeing this project for the Board of Selectmen, said he does not anticipate any cost overrides, but that there is a slight possibility it may cost more than anticipated to lay concrete at the base of field lights. If that happens, selectmen must come back to the Board of Finance for approval to spend money from the contingency account. There is $207,853 for contingency included in the bond package.
First Selectman George Temple, who had planned on sending the project to a town meeting vote rather than a referendum vote, said he changed his mind after listening to residents who packed a public hearing held to discuss the plan Monday night at Town Hall. Several residents called for a referendum, and resident Janis Hardy said she would circulate a petition to force the town to send it to referendum.
Temple said Monday night that a petition would have “wasted a month’s worth of time that could be used to get the project done.”
“So from a standpoint of getting this project completed, which is what the Board of Selectmen wants to do, this is the best way to proceed,” he said.
A referendum usually costs the town about $8,000.
If the bond proposal passes by a simple majority, construction can begin shortly thereafter.
The Board of Finance said it has reached out to the state to find out what is reimbursable. The town anticipates that it can get between $575,000 and $625,000 reimbursed from the state, and the Board of Finance has vowed to seek that money after board member Bob DeBisschop made a motion to put it on record that the town will do everything in its power to secure that money.