As the debate over the controversial Fields of Dreams proposal continues, the focus of the dialogue is changing.
There certainly are residents who completely oppose the idea, arguing that public funds should go toward what they see are more important matters than high school athletic fields. But most of the people Parsippany Patch encounters tell us they believe improvements are desperately needed at both Parsippany and Parsippany Hills high schools.
One developing rift appears over how to pay for the proposal.
Another bone of contention involves the possibility of the Board of Education handing over 51 percent of its control of the high school fields to the municipality.
Mayor James Barberio and Township Attorney John Iglesino met with the Recreation Advisory Committee over a series of months and came up with a shared services plan that would use Open Space Trust Funds over 15 years to pay back Green Acres Fund loans (secured through the purchase of bonds) totalling an estimated $4.5 million.
In a presentation before the school board on Dec. 15, Inglesino said the move is legal, thanks to a 2006 voter referendum that allowed up to 40 percent Open Space Trust monies, intended initially for the development of parkland and open spaces and to prevent overdevelopment of the township, to go toward recreational improvements. An additional 10 percent of the fund was earmarked for acquisition of historic properties.
The problem is that when residents voted in 2006, some thought "recreational improvements" meant improvements to parks, not to athletic fields. Many, including Julia Peterson, a local historic preservation advocate, argue that using Open Space money for the Fields of Dreams proposal violates the spirit of the fund's purpose and that the referendum held nearly six years ago does not really address the present turf fields issue.
These opponents aren't against the idea of turfing the fields. Many have said to Patch that they agree—school fields need an upgrade. They believe, however, that the town should find another way to pay for the plan.
Fields of Dreams supporters disagree. They say the 2006 vote gives the town the legal green light to move forward.
Patch wants to know: What do you think?
Pick an answer below and please amplify your thoughts in the comments section.