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City secures deed to skate park and course irrigation

(July 11, 2014) A one-two punch of negotiations with Worcester County will give the city not only a greener golf course, but the ability to start its much-anticipated build-out of the downtown recreation area.

Not only did City Council take the final vote this week on the wastewater irrigation agreement at Eagle’s Landing, but Mayor Rick Meehan also disclosed that the city had finalized a deed concession from the county on the public parks between Third and Fourth Streets.

“We were able to reach an agreement with the County Commissioners to deed that over to the city with the understanding that it remains a recreational use,” Meehan said.

“I certainly think these are two big steps forward, and I congratulate the council and the County Commissioners for getting it done.”

The city maintains and operates the fields, playground, basketball court, and skate park that occupy the two blocks between Third and Fourth Streets, from Philadelphia Avenue westward to the bay. However, it is the county that actually owns the land, and gives the city permission to use it.

Prior to the 2008 recession, the city had commissioned the design of an expansion to the skate park and a redeveloped recreation complex on the two blocks, although the improvements were put on hold due to financial constraints.

If the city now wished to move forward, as has been expressed by City Council over the past year, it would have to issue a bond for the $3 million project. But lenders are unlikely to back a bond for capital improvements on land the city doesn’t have permanent rights to.

However, the new agreement will see the county grant the city full possession and privileges to the land, as long as it remains a public recreation facility, thus giving the town the necessary credibility to do the desired improvements

Although not officially linked, the deed concession comes on the heels of the agreement reached last month that will allow treated wastewater from the county’s new sewer plant at Mystic Harbor will be used to water the fairways and greens at Eagle’s Landing, the city-owned golf course.

In exchange for 40 years of easement rights to pipe wastewater under and onto Eagle’s Landing, the county will be footing the bill to build the new, state-of-the-art irrigation system needed to do so.

Worcester will also pay for water and sewer hook-ups at other nearby city facilities, at a total package cost of over $2 million, essentially giving the city an overhaul of its off-island properties at no cost.

In turn, this will save the county – and the ratepayers of the Mystic Harbor sewer district – from acquiring land or building a separate facility to disperse of waste effluent.

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