BUCKFIELD – Selectmen voted Thursday night to form a committee to explore changes to town recreation fields, using $50,000 offered by a beekeeper for the lighted Bessey Memorial Field on Paris Hill Road.

The special board meeting attended by 27 residents was called to discuss Tony Bachelder’s proposal to purchase the ball field and move the newly installed lights that he said threaten his business and people at the games. He has raised bees for 35 years and has one of the largest beekeeping operations in Maine, with up to 800 hives at times.

A special town meeting will be held to vote on whether to accept the offer; if voters reject it, the town will vote on whether to use the lights or ban night games.

Bachelder said that when nights get warm, they draw the bees from their hives, and they will get lost when the lights are turned off. Also, since there is no nectar for the bees at night, they are likely to become aggressive and pose a danger to those at the field, he said.

He offered the town $50,000 for the field and to move the lights.

Selectmen Chris Hayward and John Lowell supported Bachelder’s offer. Town Manager Glen Holmes said lawyers would be the only ones to benefit if the issue goes to court.

For more than 30 years the field has been used for day games with no problems with the bees. The former owner, Gerald Bessey, allowed the field to be used for games. Following his death in 1984, his children, Norma Bessey Colby and Sidney Bessey, sold the field to the town so it could continue to be used for recreation.

Recreation Committee Chairman David Chabe said that when the Oxford Adult Softball League disbanded, it gave all its property, including a set of ball field lights, to the Buckfield Recreation Department with the understanding that they would continue an adult softball league.

Over the last three years the Recreation Committee and other volunteers have done extensive work on Bessey field, including spending $12,000 to install the lights. They have scheduled three night games per week through mid-July; two are for adults and one is for youth.

He said it was thrilling for youth to be able to play under lights, “like the big leagues.” Chabe favored proceeding with games as scheduled to see if problems with the bees really develop.

Holmes pointed out that if they take the offer and spend the money to develop the field near the Town Office, with any extra going to improve other youth ball fields in town, the town will still be benefiting 20 years from now. If they insist on playing, they will probably only get a few games in before Bachelder obtains an injunction, the $50,000 offer will be withdrawn and the town will be facing legal fees.

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