Burgo Basketball pitches plan for indoor courts

Mar 6, 2018

The Burgo Basketball Association again pitched a proposal to build an indoor basketball facility on its current Slocum Road site, but legal issues with the town-owned property are getting in the way.

Appearing at the March 5 Select Board meeting, the president of the basketball organization, Steve Burgo, gave the Select Board an overview of the $6 million facility. It would house indoor basketball courts, including one with 1,200 seats to serve as a home court for Bristol Community College, a gym, weight room, a track for running, and plans for other expansions.

In 2015, Burgo proposed to build a 57,000 square-foot facility on the same property. He secured approval from several town boards, but legal language in a required 30-year lease brought the process to a halt.

After attempts to purchase land on Faunce Corner Road and the Hawthorne Country Club fell through, Burgo now hopes to build on the organization's town-owned leased property at 101 Slocum Road on land donated to the town by J. Greer McBratney in 1998. The property must be used for educational and recreational purposes.

The deed itself did not contain any language on selling the land, but the family of the donor recently told the town that the donor did not want it sold. Acting Town Administrator Greg Barnes said the town’s attorney advised selling the property now could violate the town’s public trust obligations.

“This is a sad situation,” Burgo said. “We’ve been raked over the coals for years. We’re just trying to do something right for the kids. There is nothing in the southeastern Massachusetts area that could even come close to what we’re going to do.”

Burgo noted his non-profit organization has already invested nearly $2.5 million into the property since leasing it from the town, and has received little town support for what is now one of the largest facilities of its kind in the area for more than 1,500 children from across the South Coast.

Select Board members weighed in on the proposal, stressing the positives of the proposal but noting it's difficult with the legal issues.

“I feel it would be really dishonest to me to go against their wishes,” said Chair Frank Gracie. “If we didn’t know their wishes that would be a judgement call, but we do know and we asked the family. My hands are tied.”

Member Shawn McDonald said he was fully in support of the project, and suggested an alternative way to achieve the building, including having the town build the facility and Burgo Basketball providing funding through a 30-year payment option.

“This town should really be ashamed of itself that we don’t have a public facility like this,” McDonald said.

Planning Board member Lorri-Ann Miller spoke at the meeting, noting her family had donated property to the town and specifically stated in writing at the time of the donation that the land must forever remain natural and is not to be sold.

“We put that into the document when we gave it to the town,” Miller said. “We were smart enough to do that because that’s what we wanted. That was not done in this case.”

She also asked the board to consider if the town has ever sold donated land.

Among a crowd of supporters was Dr. Michael Rocha, a doctor at Hawthorn Medical Associates who is also an advocate for youth outreach and drug prevention programs.

“I can’t understate how important this is, from a physician’s perspective, for the wellbeing of the community,” Rocha said. “We need to see something happen here,”.

The board did not vote on the proposal, but some of the ideas and comments made at the meeting would be looked into.