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Resident Advocates for 'Reasonable' Fields Plan Compromise

If you wish to express yourself on any issue, send a Letter to the Editor to Patch at natalie.davis@patch.com.

Having attended the Parsippany 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, "," 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 , 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 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.

Joe Casiner August 05, 2012 at 04:22 PM
I agree 100% with the above assessment
Hank Heller August 06, 2012 at 10:36 AM
Tom's questions and comments are fair and kindly presented. I appreciate that very much. I also was very respectful of Beth Bluj's comments at the meeting as well as Mrs. Golderer's. This is a difficult situation to fix but I am sure it can be done with reasonable conversation. What also needs to be done is for the administration to pay attention to the parents comments about currently filthy and in need of repair locker rooms at both high schools for both the boys and the girls. That is inexcusable and should be fixed today!
David Comora August 06, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Thanks Tom, you hit the nail on the head... I support improving the condition of the fields but there no way that I could see supporting this current proposal. Its just not the right time for the BOE to try to get everything on its wish list! I would like to see one option that would be Turf, Fences and Fixing the track at the High. I have a son that runs for the Hills and the track is fine. Plenty of the schools they compete with have the same amount of lanes as the Hills and High. I question the wisdom of building additional lanes and snack facilities in order to bring in more revenue. I have not seen the projections and would be interested in seeing how long it would take to bring in a couple million dollars of snack revenue to make that a worthwhile investment? Tom, I was thinking about options for the referendum as well the last few days, here's the downside...the more options you offer, the greater the % the "No" vote will have....not sure how you get around that.
Tom Wyka August 06, 2012 at 03:34 PM
David, Well the problem is that we haven't even figured out legally how the referendum could be structured beyond "11 million - yes or no". Not sure if one could go on the ballot as e.g. "11 million - 7 million - or no". Or two as "11 million or no" plus "7 million or no". All the "no" votes will always be "no" - but at least someone like yourself could have another option. And someone like myself (full disclosure of my preference) would not have to vote (and sell) the Cadillac. I do believe that competing referendums like this are allowed. I believe that Parsippany did something like this the last time we changed form of government (where one group had a referendum proposal that expressed the proposal to change to a particular form as "yes/no" and a competing group did the same on a different form of government.)
Beth Bluj August 06, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Tom and Hank - thank you for the kind words. Tom, I too, was very perplexed and angered when reading that headline. I firmly believe if this project is scaled back, the neighbors' concerns addressed with compromise from both parties, and not taking an 'all or nothing' approach a referendum would be passed. I think these same sentiments have been repeated over and over again the past 8 months. I hope the BOE will seize this moment when seniors and families with kids in schoool alike, are in agreement that these fields need to be fixed and are willing to support a reasonable plan. The only additional item that I do believe to be very important is the accessiblity for people with dissabilities. If that means re-structuring our bleachers than I am all for that as well.
Lee Seitz August 06, 2012 at 08:42 PM
While I rarely comment on the Patch, I must simply state that the presentation made last week was a list of options and, now with additional BOE and community suggestions, more options will be presented. Neither the BOE nor I made a recommendation regarding the size of the project. Rather, we presented options and are now listening to the community that will have to vote and approve any referendum project. One note, the line item for the water cannon includes storm water management which is an expensive State requirement. The cost cited is not just for a watering cannon. Removing the water cannon will not reduce that line item to zero. Future presentations will seperate these two items to avoid the current confusion. I believe the BOE and administation is doing exactly what our community suggested. Namely, have the BOE maintain complete control of the fields, fund it through a referendum, and solicit and listen to the thoughts and concerns of the entire community. I know I look forward to the discussion that is taking place and I beleive the end product, whatever it is, will be the most appropriate for our community...for today and for the future. Dr. Lee Seitz
VietNam Vet August 06, 2012 at 09:50 PM
This is no longer "For the kids" it more of what you and the others who voted for your illegal contract that want this project. I for one cannot stand by and see my taxes increase just because of the boards wish list. I to have a Christmas wish list, but my finances say otherwise, and NO I'll not move just because you want to put one over on the townspeople again, by jacking our taxes up again and again.
Tom Wyka August 07, 2012 at 02:26 AM
There is no comment history at all on this account (as to your statement that you "rarely" comment. Obviously I'm a bit skeptical - however tactfully worded that this is actually Dr. Seitz.
Natalie Davis (Editor) August 07, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Dr. Seitz: If that indeed is you, welcome!

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