SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 10, 2013

Heard Around Town: A turf field of dreams in Peabody

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — Good, old-fashioned dirt and grass will have to do for the new Higgins Middle School playing fields.

City Councilor Barry Sinewitz brought up the possibility of artificial turf during last week’s finance subcommittee hearing, which approved spending $92.6 million for the new school. (The state will pick up more than half that cost.)

“Over the long term, it would pay off,” Sinewitz said, arguing that artificial fields require less maintenance than natural ones. “It would be nice to see.”

Technology for artificial fields has progressed to the point where the fields are increasingly more grasslike. But the cost of installation remains high, and designers have ruled them out at Higgins for that reason.

“Certainly, I would have liked to have had a turf field at this location,” Mayor Ted Bettencourt said.

Even if money is a stumbling block at Higgins, he added, he hopes to see artificial turf eventually at Peabody High School.

Meanwhile, construction of Higgins will begin on the school’s current athletic fields. They will be rebuilt on the site of the current school once it is demolished.

“But,” the mayor cautioned, “for a period of four years, we’ll be down a couple of fields.”

Little League remembers

The Veterans Council will be accompanied by Bettencourt when it dedicates the James Street Park Little League field to the memory of Edward G. Chmiel, known as “Mr. Peabody Little League” and a World War II Bronze Star recipient.

That’s on Tuesday at 4 p.m.

Chmiel, who died in 2008, was considered a founding father of the Little League program here and was also active in local veterans groups. He served in the Army Air Corps during WWII and served in France during the Battle of the Bulge.

Let’s play

All this attention to getting kids active hasn’t gone unnoticed. It earned Peabody the title “Playful City USA” by the national nonprofit organization KaBOOM! (Peabody isn’t the only one to get the title — it shares the playful honor with 217 other fun-loving communities.) The designation is awarded because of the city’s work in encouraging kids to get off their, uh, couches and go outside and play.

A cash prize of up to $30,000 could be forthcoming as a result.

Summer can’t arrive soon enough

The winners of the Peabody Institute Library’s first haiku contest showed plenty of talent but not a lot of optimism.

First-prize winner Jayde Hawthorne wrote, “Empty, barren streets/ with only the greenless trees/ in the bitter cold.”

If that doesn’t give you a shiver, try third-place winner Koby Hirschaut’s entry: “Snow blankets the Earth/ the air is chilly and grey/ winter is walking.”

Yeah, and it can keep walking.

Librarian Melissa Robinson explains that the poems are “nature-oriented,” conforming to the tradition of the original Japanese haikus. Library staff judged the 17 entries. “I was very pleased with the quality,” she says.

The entry winning second place, by Shayne Groom, though as wintry as the others, is a bit more comforting: “Look at the new snow/ like a blanket on the ground/ keeping the earth warm.”

The contest, for kids 11 to 18, was geared to celebrating National Poetry Month in April. Well, Emily Dickinson was no barrel of laughs, either.

They say Atlantis is underwater

The city’s business liaison, Julie Rydzewski, felt right at home on a vacation to the Bahamas. It rained so hard one day the place flooded.

Jamaica shuttle

It’s been tough for veterans to get from Peabody to Veterans Administration facilities in Bedford and Jamaica Plain. So the mayor has set up a low-cost shuttle service that will leave the Torigian Center on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

The service, Bettencourt said, “is designed ... so our veterans can focus on getting the medical care they need.” The mayor officiated at the launch of the service Tuesday. It’s scheduled to get vets to appointments between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Anyone interested can call the Council on Aging at 978-531-2254 for information or reservations.