WESTMINSTER - The stadium lights funded by the financial holdings of a deceased resident has upset one local woman and sparked a bit of controversy in the town.
Alvin Southwick fell very ill in the summer of 2011 and before he died at 85 that August he asked longtime friend Frederick Yates to help him put together his final will and testament. Yates, who knew Southwick for more than 50 years, agreed and as a result Bellows Falls Union High School's Hadley Field became one of about 12 organizations to benefit from Southwick's generosity and was soon equipped with lights for the first time in history.
Yates, the executor of Southwick's financial holdings, said he followed proper procedures and requested a permit from the Westminster Zoning Board to install lights at the baseball and football facilities at Hadley Field.
Yates said he went to every residence two rows deep that might be affected by lights at the field and he told the Reformer no one had a problem with them.
In February and March of 2012, however, Ruth Gale, of 256 Coolidge St., wrote letters to the town to express her opposition to the lights because she said they could cause additional traffic during baseball games. She drafted another letter in August stating she would like the permit, which had been granted in May, revoked because the lights were so bright they were shining into her two rear bedrooms and bugs were attracted to a deck of her
The Bellows Falls Union High School Board's Building and Grounds Committee held a meeting on Tuesday to address the matter. The committee decided to not do anything because Gale missed the 30-day appeal period that came with the permit, and because its members felt it was not their action to take.
Another issue Gale brought up is that the lights were not installed in accordance with the information provided on the permit application.
"It is my understanding that the poles were put and mounted in a different place than was on the original site plan that was presented by Fred," School Superintendent Chris Kibbe said at the meeting. The lights were installed by a Texas company called Techline, and not Musco, like Yates originally expected.
Gale had no comment when contacted by the Reformer.
Kibbe said he visited Gale's house and agrees the lights are very bright. He also said Gale has three issues -- the amount of light exceeding the target area, the placement of the posts and a glare that can distract drivers passing by the football field. Kibbe said Gale's house is the closest to the access road.
Yates said the board was slightly misinformed. He said Gale, whom he has known for at least 20 years, did not express a problem when the lights were proposed. He also said the amount of illumination the lights disperse to the area is perfect.
Yates could not speak for long because a meeting of the board's policy committee was set to start at 7 p.m. The meeting of the building and grounds committee was designed to bring the issue to the board's attention.
Kibbe suggested putting shields over the lights to block excess light and as a way to "be a good neighbor." Yates said that would cost $22,000 to $28,000.
"I've already spent $301,000. I'm not spending any more," Yates told the committee. After the meeting, he said he has gone $60,000 over budget on the lights.
Board member Laurie Rowell said it would be a nice gesture to offer to plant some trees to filter the light. She said the board has done procedurely everything it had to.
Because he served as assistant manager of the American Legion Junior Baseball League team for more than 25 years, Southwick decided to leave a portion of the money to the American Legion Post 37 for lights to be installed around Hadley Field.
Yates previously told the Reformer the original plan was to purchase lights only for the baseball field. Once bids went out to private companies, however, it was determined that there would be enough money left over to get lights for the football field as well.
BFUHS also benefited from another allotment coming from Southwick's financial holdings, as the soccer and field hockey fields got new scoreboards.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 277.