Groton, Schooners try for fresh start at Fitch

Groton - The Board of Education approved a tentative agreement Monday night, as did the Town Council last week, that amends their contract with the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, which plays its home games at Fitch High School.

The amendment is intended to set up the town for a fresh start in the relationship among the three entities after a dispute over the cost of improvements to upgrade the field and facilities at Fitch to meet league requirements.

The upgrades were intended to be paid from a $500,000 anonymous donation. When the work was completed, the bills totaled $644,012.

The town and school board contended that the team was responsible for the unpaid invoices. The town paid the outstanding bills, with the expectation that the team would reimburse the money.

The team disagreed, contending it spent all the money required for the renovations and that it was "unaware of any work that would result in unpaid invoices above and beyond the sums," and had no reimbursement obligation. The team also requested an audit of the Fitch renovation project, which was contracted by the school district under the direction of Superintendent of Schools Paul Kadri.

Kadri is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation in a separate matter.

The three entities signed their initial contract with the team last July. The disagreement arose in the fall. The town attempted to draft an amendment earlier this year that would have assigned the team various means of repaying the money. The team balked at the amendment, and there had been no resolution until the current amendment was crafted.

In the new amendment neither side relinquishes its position regarding the liability for the disputed $144,000. The agreement calls for a three -year "cooling off period." It also requires to the Schooners to furnish the town with a copy of its annual tax returns.

"In lieu of the Town and Board immediately exercising any rights they may have related to the disputed invoices (or) the Corporation pursing additional information or arbitration regarding the disputed invoices, the intent of this Amendment is to establish an evaluation period during the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons to allow the parties, ... to strive to gain a more positive working experience with one another."

To achieve that goal, the agreement establishes an advisory committee of two Town Councilors, two school board members and a representative from the Schooners.

c.potter@theday.com

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