Scott Hazelton

Post-Softball Beer Leads To Permit Debate

The following is a transcript from part of the June 22, 2014 Board of Selectmen Meeting. For other parts of the meeting, click here.

8:10 p.m. – The board gave an update on the receipt of notice of intent to sell Drew Gardens on Boston Road, which the board has a right of first refusal upon.

The initial notice had issues, but Jodi Ross now said that the notice was fine, and that the right of first refusal deadline was Nov. 6

The committee to investigate the property will meet at the Mary Atwood Room of the library on Wednesday.

8:12 p.m. – The consent agenda was approved.

8:13 p.m. – Minutes from earlier meetings were approved.

8:14 p.m. – The board signed the State Primary Warrant for Sept. 9 and signed a Form 43 for corporate officers of the Ninety Nine Restaurant on the corner of Concord and Littleton road.

Scott Hazelton

Scott Hazelton

8:15 p.m. – The board then went to the issue of developing and approving a Board of Selectmen Fiscal Year ’16 Budget Policy Directive.

The directive items were approved and will go to the Finance Commission.

8:16 p.m. – The board appointed Jessamyn Gutbrod to a fill a vacant term on the Agricultural Commision and created to alternate positions on the Agricultural Commission, followed by the appointment of Ellen Joseph and Sharon Chew to those positions.

8:17 p.m. – The agenda then went to the issue of permitting the possession and/or consumption of alcohol on town property, which had become an issue at recent sporting events at local ballfields.

The Recreation Department brought the issue to the Selectmen’s attention, with Jodi Ross saying that she and the Recreation Department saying that alcohol is only permitted upon town property with permission of the board that owns the property.

Jodi Ross then said that she recommends that permit be required for alcohol consumption on Selectmen owned property, including the VFW Fields, where this issue first occurred.

She said that the town does not have insurance coverage to indemnify them against alcohol-related issues and that this permit would only indemnify the town against injuries on the field.

Insurance riders had not been required for alcohol usage at other town properties in the past.

Siriani talked about a friend he once knew that was impacted by underaged drinking and drunk driving.

He had asked if there was a policy regarding related insurance to the League of Women Voters at one of their events on town property once and said he would have an issue with open containers of alcohol being consumed on the field, considering it a safety concern.

Peraner-Sweet asked for clarification on Siriani’s position, with Siriani saying there should be a full policy on the issue before a decision is made regarding a permit, and that the one page permit Jodi Ross recommended was not enough.

Peraner-Sweet said that the board was not discussing consumption of alcohol while the games were occurring, but after the game.

She also said that if a policy was to be made, it had to be issued upon all town-owned property under all circumstances.

Siriani agreed.

Sullivan disliked over-regulation and said this was an instance of that. He noted that the letter was made anonymously and that some of these groups can only fundraise with alcohol.

Sullivan found the permit form to be perfectly fine, disagreeing with Siriani’s view.

Siriani mentioned a multi-page policy for groups already in place looking to fundraise with alcohol and said it was not onerous.

He then said that allowing alcohol closer to cars was even worse.

Sullivan reiterated that it was a non-issue due to the age of the players in the league.

Kelly Ross said that this permit was reduced from something larger and asked Jodi Ross whether this was reduced due to political expediency.

Jodi Ross said that it went into smoking initially, which does not have to do with the alcohol issue, and also during the game.

She said that legal counsel initially said that every spectator would need to sign a release, which seemed excessive. So, she asked if the release could be simplified and this was what was offered.

However, she said that if someone is going to sue the town, they will sue the town regardless of any policy.

Regarding whether the town would be negligent if the town did not supply the alcohol, the answer was unclear.

Kelly Ross then asked if a form was already being given, with Jodi Ross saying that one is, also saying that people drinking may be held responsible.

Kelly Ross understood, saying that this particular group of softball players shouldn’t be singled out, but Jodi Ross said that this was the only place where the issue had been brought up.

However, Jodi Ross and the board agreed that language from the new form should be brought into other types of events.

Hazelton then mentioned a balance needed to be struck between the tradition of after-game alcohol can being kept while also keeping an even playing field for all events.

Mark Kost then came to the microphone and said there had not been one incident in the 40 years of the league due to personal responsibility of the players.

Kost asked that anything proposed is not onerous and asked about the fees, but the board said that it had already been in place for field usage, although Sullivan joked that maybe an alcohol usage fee should be put into place.

Peraner-Sweet agreed that the permit form was fair.

Westford Police Captain Mark Chambers echoed Kost’s comments, saying that there had been no problems so far, but that the police would enforce any decision made by the board.

A motion was made regarding the form by Kelly Ross, also asking to add the language be added other requests for town land.

Jodi Ross then mentioned that people would need to come before the board for other requests of groups to serve alcohol.

Siriani then asked a question regarding other fields, but it was noted this form was just for the VFW Fields.

Kost then asked about the current season of the softball league, with Peraner-Sweet asking how long the league would last. It was determined the league would end its season on September 30.

The issue of a grace period was then discussed regarding tomorrow’s games and other leagues that use the field.

A grace period of two weeks was agreed upon.

The motion was passed, with everyone supporting except for Siriani.

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