Resident Advocates for 'Reasonable' Fields Plan Compromise
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Having attended the Parsippany Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, I want to offer some perspective on the field renovation issue.
All due respect to this news outlet—I was a little taken aback with how this headline, "Fields Plan Failure Could Be Felt in Classroom," read in my email inbox on Friday, coupled with the context of the article. It's a big lesson in how something is presented in the press.
What I think both Patch and Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz were trying to convey is that if we’re going to continue to have sports in Parsippany and compete at the level of comparable school systems, something is going to have to be done eventually with these facilities.
Addressing [the renovations] as a full package today–in Dr. Seitz's opinion—is preferable and more economical than piecemeal over time. In the general budget a 2 percent cap is in place, and you either lay off teachers or shut down or scale back the sports.
I agree only partially.
When school board member Susy Golderer made the point that there should have been a number of option “packages” discussed, and possibly more than one referendum option on the ballot when this goes up to vote, I could not agree more.
I think it’s worth researching whether the referendum (presented at a single election) can be structured to offer options, by way of multiple questions.
So the big question is why is the package so inflated?
Short of getting the BOE architects and Parks Superintendent James Walsh (the town’s manager who got the estimate on the original Fields of Dreams proposal) in the same room together, as there was no uniform bid specification between the two, you’d be a bit hard-pressed to make an apples-to-apples comparison.
But at the meeting I did attempt a quick and dirty rundown of the line items presented. To get back to the original FOD package of turfing two fields, new lighting, and stands, it equalled about 5.5 million of the BOE estimate. Of particular note is that I dropped the tracks from this scenario because the BOE package is still insisting on changing the footprint of the tracks to eight lanes rather than six for about $1.3 million apiece. I’d imagine this is way over the cost of a resurface job.
That brings you to about $8 million. The rest of the difference is the locker rooms and other fan accomodations (accessibility) and concession facilities, plus some extra bells and whistles.
For example, each field in this proposal was to be equipped with a water cannon system for cooling (addressing some concerns brought up about summer heat and effects on athletes) for a half million dollars apiece. I have not seen a water cannon system at Smith Field, Veterans Park, Montville's field or any other turf facility I’ve traveled to with the Police Athletic League Redhawks. I took that out of the estimate I made above.
So obviously there’s so much more slicing and dicing to be done and doing so would be a worthwhile exercise prior to the Aug. 23 deadline to decide on the package.
However, there seems to be a mentality of “it’s $11 million or nothing” by the administration and some board members (unless this is just another “ask for the stars, get the moon” scenario). That needs to change in my humble opinion.
And just as an aside, my respect has been further elevated for FOD propoenet Beth Bluj, who so passionately spoke for the original proposal, as she simply commented to the school board on Wednesday that “this is more than we asked for.”.
I think there’s a lot of opportunity for common ground now, given that the original funding scheme is off the table and the matter is squarely where it belongs—in the BOE’s court.
Now if we can just get a reasonable, acceptable proposal on the table, a large part of the community can come together on this ambitious plan. And that's a very good thing.