Published May 08, 2012
A small town in western Massachusetts is sorely in need of an umpire.
The mayor of Leominster is in a battle with Little League officials, who he claims are refusing to move a scoreboard off his private land. The league says they'll do it, but not until they get a survey. The mayor says he'll be glad to provide the survey he had done and even pay to relocate the scoreboard, which is dedicated to Pfc. Jonathan Roberge, a local soldier killed in Iraq.
Yet, the standstill continues.
Both sides say there are other issues under the surface.
“This has nothing to do with kids playing baseball,” said Mayor Dean Mazzarella, who believes someone is out to "embarrass me politically."
Little League officials say they have “no problem” moving the 20-by-30-foot sign, and claim they've repeatedly asked the city to do the survey, but haven't gotten a response. A private survey could cost $5,000, according to Little League president Rob Lora.
“We all agree we’re going to move the scoreboard,” Lora told FoxNews.com. “We need a survey done so we know where we’re putting it.”
“The scoreboard is a memorial and we don’t want to have to move it twice,” he said. “It’s sacred to us.”
With Mazzarella demanding they get the scoreboard off his land, Lora said the league is seeking donations to pay for its own survey as well as the cost of moving the scoreboard.
“They want it done in a hurry and, as a non-profit, I don’t have the tools to move it tomorrow,” Lora said. “We run the league on what the kids give us when they register.”
Mazzarella, who has served as mayor for 19 years, said he bought land near the Little League fields nearly 30 years ago in the hopes that one day he’d build homes on the property for his children when they are grown. His spokeswoman, Wendy Wiiks, said Mazzarella is more than willing to foot the bill for moving the scoreboard.
"He's offered to do anything and everything to help resolve this," Wiiks said.
Over the years, Mazzarella allowed the league to use part of his private land for various purposes -- including the building of a field for physically disabled children, he said. In 2009, the league also used his property to erect a scoreboard honoring Roberge, a former player in Leominster’s Little League who was killed while serving in Iraq, Fox affiliate WFXT-TV reported.
“When I bought the land 30 years ago, I could have fenced it all off and that would have been the end of it,” Mazzarella told FoxNews.com. “But I wanted to be a good guy. Now, I’m being put through hell.”
Mazzarella claims personal politics are behind the foot-dragging. He claimed one of its board members, James Xarras, has a grudge against him because Mazzarella denied him a liquor license years ago.
“He’s not happy with me,” Mazzarella said.
Roberge's uncle, Fran Richard, who also serves on the Little League board, said the soldier's family has no issue with the scoreboard being moved -- as long as it is done with the utmost care.
"The memorial, like a flag, can never hit the ground," Richard said. "It has to be moved with the reverence it deserves and he [Mazzarella] has made that almost impossible."