Basketball courts

Basketball courts saved…for now

The controversy surrounding the city’s basketball courts on Route 77 is officially over – for now. City officials announced that the beloved courts, commonly referred to as “police courts,” will remain in place at the Emergency Services (ES) complex for the “foreseeable future.”

Last year, city officials faced considerable public backlash after announcing that the two courts would be moved further up Route 77 to Bittner Park to make room for the ES complex for the long-planned facility expansion to accommodate a training center and storage of police and fire equipment. When residents appeared to verbally object to the plan, officials immediately responded by seeking an alternative solution that would allow the courts to remain in the compound.

The courts are a popular recreational destination thanks, in part, to their proximity to I-95 and the perceived safety of being located in the ES complex. The lighted courts also allowed players to use the facility until 11 p.m. The proposal to move the courts to Bittner Park was received as an unsatisfactory solution by many fans of the courts and parents.

Now, first coach Matt Hoey says the expansion project will revert to its original design and the city will see two separate facilities on the property, allowing the courts to remain.

“We went back to the original layout of the fire department and the police department and went with two separate projects,” Hoey said. “First, we challenged the police and fire brigade to see if there was a common solution where we didn’t have to build two separate facilities. To their credit, they said, “Well, we have the ability to do something a little cheaper than two projects” and that was the initial idea for this project. »

The new complex will house the storage of emergency equipment which is currently scattered across several sites in the city. In particular, emergency personnel wanted maritime assets such as boats, on hand to facilitate responses to emergency calls. The site will also house a specialist training center for fire and EMS personnel.

Hoey added, however, that the courts would remain open where they were for the “immediate future”, and was careful to reiterate that residents should be aware that the site is an ever-changing public safety complex which, one day may require that the courts be removed for further development of the city’s security assets.

“For now, the courts are going to stay,” Hoey said. “I am fully satisfied that the fire department’s needs will be met with these two additional bays in the immediate future. However, we have a bigger challenge with the police department.

That challenge, according to Hoey, is the need to expand the female officer’s locker room.

“What has come to light since this decision was made is that we potentially need to improve our facilities in the police department building to accommodate the fact that we have many more female police officers than we never envisioned when we built the building over 20 years ago, which means separate but equal facilities – changing rooms, bathrooms and showers,” Hoey explained.

He added that the city continues to seek solutions for facility expansion as well as additional storage needs.

“This is a parcel of land that the town of Guilford purchased for an emergency services complex,” Hoey said. “I’m not going to make any promises – and I don’t think anyone should make a promise – that if there are eventual needs that dictate the use of this whole property for emergency services, we would go in that direction. But for the foreseeable future, we believe we have found the solution and the immediate needs. Part of that is because we still don’t know the needs of the police service with respect to expanding facilities for female officers. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the courts are going to stay exactly where they are.

Kim Mastriano-Guile, one of many parents who have pleaded to save the courts, said she was pleased with the outcome and with city officials’ efforts to work with the community.

“I’m relieved the courts are staying, at least for the immediate future,” Mastriano-Guile said. “I was impressed by the outpouring of support from so much of our community to keep the courts in place. I also appreciate Matt Hoey’s willingness to work with us to find an alternative solution that works for everyone.

Hoey added that the money originally set aside for the original plan to move the courts to Bittner can now be used to improve the courts at Adams Middle School.

“I had conversations with [Parks and Recreation Director] Rick Maynard about Adams,” Hoey said. “We were committed to resurfacing and restoring lighting to the Adams courts. We will move forward because we will no longer need to build new courts at Bittner. This has yet to be decided by the Selectman board, but in conversations with Rick Maynard, we are looking to reallocate some of the funds to Bittner Park…and restore these courts.

Hoey praised community activists and their efforts to save the courts.

“I greatly appreciate the community feedback we have received, in relation to the concerns and potential loss to the courts. Quite honestly, Selectman Council, Fire Commission, Police Commission and respective Chiefs have heard those concerns and made a decision … that would allow the courts to stay,” Hoey said.