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Why I'm Voting YES on the Fields Referendum

Share your thoughts. Send a Letter to the Editor to natalie.davis@patch.com.

On Tuesday, we as a community have a big decision to make.  Do we vote YES to the Multi-Purpose Athletic Fields Referendum?  I hope after you read this, you will have a clearer understanding of all the hard work put in by the town, the Board of Education and those both for and against this proposal.  It has truly been a community effort. 

FACT:  The current field conditions at our two high schools are far below the normal standard for a high school in 2013.  On that, we can all agree.  

Let me start by dispelling a big myth: The youth sports organizations are NOT the brainchild of this project.  This is NOT up for referendum so the youth sports organizations have more fields to play on.  We want these fields for our high school students and athletes.  Having these multi-use fields at both our high schools will mean that we no longer need to spend money on busing the high school teams to the town fields, in return, allowing more time on the town fields for the youth organizations.  So, please, do not be scared into believing that the youth organizations are going to be on these fields 24/7 with the lights on – it’s simply not true. 

This all started over a year ago as a discussion between some concerned residents.  

We have been trying for many years to get something done to our high school fields.  However, with budget cuts, 2 percent caps, failed BOE budgets of past, and the board's need to keep up with the inside maintenance of all 15 of our 35+ year-old schools, we realized that nothing will ever be able to get done—the improvements are just too complex to include in the boards’ annual budget.  

So, we tried another route.  We went to the town with a plan.  After many months of debate it was decided the BOE would not take the town’s offer and it would come up with its own plan and maintain control of the fields.  This was, in part, due to the will of a vocal group of concerned citizens who took the time and energy and fought for what they believed was in the best interest of the community.  I cannot say that I disagree with the outcome.  

It was back to square one for those of us who still wanted to see our fields improved. 

In the meantime, we endured another fall sports season with horrific fields; another graduation ceremony on dirt, rocks, and mud with no ADA compliance for those with disabilities, no easy accessibility for all the grandparents who want to see their grandkids play a game or graduate, another year of rusty fences, and pitted tracks.  We regrouped and decided to continue with our message to the BOE and we fought to ensure that the BOE would follow through on their promise to come up with a solution in a timely fashion.  Here we are, 13 long months later, with a complete plan on the table to fix these fields, the right way, with the voting public making the final decision.   

When you enter the voting booth on Tuesday, please try and keep in mind all that has been done to get to where we are today.  Don’t be lead to believe that anyone has taken this lightly.  Don’t be lead to believe that due diligence was not done.  There has been over a year of talking and planning.   There has been over a year of the public having an opportunity to speak for or against the plan.  We can continue this process for another 5 years and still never all agree on how to get it done.  There comes a time when a decision needs to be made, a plan needs to be put in place, and we move forward.  

That time has finally come thanks to the hard work of all of us. We have an opportunity to finally get the job done.  I will be voting YES.  I hope you will be joining me. 

Beth Bluj
Parsippany 

Hank Heller January 22, 2013 at 01:45 AM
#1 Dear Beth, I am sorry to have to disagree with some key aspects of your opinion letter printed above. My disagreements with your comments are as follows: “Don’t be lead to believe that due diligence was not done”. I was at many of those BOE meetings where the Fields issues were discussed. At one of the meetings I asked Dr. Calabria, who handed the question over to Dr. Seitz, to please bring in several more architectural firms, besides Parette Somjen, so the taxpayers and students could get the best facility possible for our money. Dr. Seitz said that Parette Somjen had done good work for the BOE and Town of Parsippany in the past, and he did not think it was necessary to include other firms. Dr. Calabria agreed with Dr. Seitz. I don’t believe that the taxpayers of Parsippany know that the best approach has been taken in the use of our tax dollars. We have one firm’s ideas, period! That is not a reasonable or respectful approach to the taxpayer’s pocketbooks. We have all heard that it is possible that the fields will not cost as much as $7.7mm. It has been hinted at that if less money is spent, the excess funds will be returned to the taxpayers. We all know that none of us have ever seen money returned from either the BOE or the Town of Parsippany. Excess funds always seem to get lost in the accounting process, just like the $5.5 mm in unspent funds from our BOE budget of two years ago, was applied elsewhere and never saw the light of day again.
Hank Heller January 22, 2013 at 01:47 AM
#2 I know that you and others want desperately to have those fields improved. The rationale is ok. I understand that. But, due diligence was not done and the taxpayers of Parsippany are going to be abused again by a sloppy and ill conceived approach to doing a needed job of work if this referendum is passed. And, the explanation that the cost is only 9 cents a day or $30 a year for 10 years is just marketing puffery! If the cost of a properly designed and planned project should be only 3 cents a day or $10 a year for 10 years, the people of Parsippany are being taken advantage of. You and your associates in favor of the referendum have clearly worked hard, but you have accepted the slipshod planning of the former BOE majority and Dr. Seitz and are unfortunately, doing your best to push it down the dissenter’s throats. I wish it was not being handled this way. If we could have compared Parette Sonjen’s ideas with several other respected architectural firms, I think we would not have had much disagreement. Sorry to have to vote against this referendum. Respectfully, Hank Heller
Chris January 22, 2013 at 02:07 PM
A very nice, well thought out opinion. I agree with Beth and I will be voting yes as well. While Mr. Heller raises an opposing view, I have to say that if the BOE paid multiple architectural firms for designs there would have been some who complained of the waste of money paid out to design a field. If this does pass, then it will go out to multiple contractors for bid. Considering that, we can expect that the winning bid will come in well below the 7.7 estimate. Well, we'll all find out soon enough. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but in the end, we all have to move on together and work to make this town a great place to live. Accept that we disagree on some things and agree on others.
Parsippany Taxpayer January 22, 2013 at 02:48 PM
I agree with Hank and my wife and I will be voting no. For $30-50/year for 10 years isn't the issue. The issue is the process and getting competitive bids. There is nobody held accountable here to press on contracts to get competitive rates from multiple contractors with the normal bond, bid, a contract clauses to ensure that the job meets and exceeds expectations. The way this is pitched is like a car salesman approach well it will only cost every home owner $30-50/year so that isn't bad. What a crappy way to manage costly projects.
Maurice Saunders January 22, 2013 at 03:25 PM
One thing that we can all agree on today is that every register voter in town has an opportunity to voice their opinion where it really counts....at the polls. I agree with Chris J. in the end we all have to move on together and work to make this town a great place to live.
Beth Bluj January 22, 2013 at 03:27 PM
Hank - as Chris J. said, a very well thought out opinion. I think you have proven my point completely - we will never all agree. Regardless of the outcome, the first pretzel at the field next season is on me ;)
Scott Dean January 22, 2013 at 03:40 PM
Maurice, would love to agree with you but that is not quite true. There are many including myself that have yet to receive notification of this referendum. Suprisingly nothing in the Daily Record. Thank goodness for the Patch !!!!
Maurice Saunders January 22, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Scott, I think with such informed neighbors like ourselves, I'm sure we did our neighborly part to get the word out to those who didn't receive a sample ballot in mail. Thank goodness for the informed resident!!!
Hank Heller January 22, 2013 at 03:58 PM
Beth, You are a lady and I am so glad to have gotten to meet you and Tom. The fact that you are wrong, is immaterial to me (I hope you know that I am teasing you both). You are a terrific person! Chris J., You also seem to be a very nice person and I need to disagree with your contention. I know that the cost might come in substantially below the $7.7mm that is being voted on in the referendum. The problem with your very correct point is that the taxpayers will still HAVE to repay the purchasers of the bonds $7.7 mm, no matter what!! That is the problem of not getting competitive ideas via other architects. So, even if we get fields that competitively cost only $3 mm, we will still have a $7.7 mm tax bill to pay. The current administrator, Dr. Seitz and the prior BOE majority has never enabled a penny to be returned to the taxpayers. That is why a YES vote is wrong and a NO vote is right,...in my opinion. Your point about paying several architectural firms for their ideas is very wrong, because then we could have had perhaps several options to choose from and we might have had a much stronger coalition in favor (and a better, more cost-effective product). Remember, we are talking about taxpayers having a debt of $7.7 mm. This is not chicken feed although Seitz and the prior BOE majority couldn't care less about our tax bills, based upon their behavior. If this passes, watch Seitz bury any unspent balance of the $7.7 mm in his budget. Sincerely, Hank Heller
4kidsproductions January 22, 2013 at 04:03 PM
@Hank Heller, I will be voting "yes" today but your comments have really made me think. I think that is the first time since all the bickering in the Patch about this subject has someone finally said something that really made me think about my vote. It was such a nice change to the "negative no's" that have been said so many times on repeat by the same people about this issue. Well done Hank!
Hank Heller January 22, 2013 at 04:36 PM
A very good man just left my house. He is a plumber and lives in Parsippany. He was not aware of the referendum, it's implications for the taxpayers and the implications for the students. I implored him and his wife to vote. I directed him to Patch so he could read the various points of view. Those of you who think that enough was done to inform the electorate are dead wrong! The School Administration/BOE/Clerks Office/Post Office have done a miserable job of fairness and putting out effort to get the job done. It is clear that the BOE left the job in the hands of the wrong people. The design of the BOE Newsletter was left up to the proponents of the referendum. That was wrong on so many levels. The timing of getting the ballots and Newsletters out to the public is a disgrace and the PO may not have done their job well (although I am inclined to believe that some "high energy' areas might have been purposely left out of the mailing by someone or group). The time to vote is now upon us. I hope we can all be smarter the next time an important issue is before us.
Hank Heller January 22, 2013 at 04:37 PM
Thank you, 4kids.
Michael January 22, 2013 at 06:06 PM
Maurice, Kind of hard to do when we do not know who did or did not receive the ballots. How do you inform people when you don't know who needs to be informed?
Chris January 22, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Mr. Heller, Thanks for acknowledging the fact that the winning bid of multiple bidders will most likely come in well below 7.7 million. However, it is by LAW that the remaining portion of the 7.7 million can't be used on anything else and therefore, by law, must be returned to the tax payers. This did happen with the building referendum several years ago.
Chris January 22, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Mr. Heller, Thanks for acknowledging the fact that the winning bid of multiple bidders will most likely come in well below 7.7 million. However, it is by LAW that the remaining portion of the 7.7 million can't be used on anything else and therefore, by law, must be returned to the tax payers. This did happen with the building referendum several years ago.
Hank Heller January 22, 2013 at 10:52 PM
Hank Heller 4:43 pm on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 THE TWO DISHONEST POSTS FALSELY ATTRIBUTED TO ME NOTED THAT I RECOGNIZED THE FOOLISHNESS OF HAVING MULTIPLE FIRMS PRESENT PLANS TO THE BOE. PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT IT IS NOT SO. THE ONLY WAY FOR CITIZENS TO FEEL THAT THEY ARE GETTING GOOD THINKING AND GOOD PRICING IS FOR THE WORK TO BE PUT OUT COMPETITIVELY! THIS HAS NOT BEEN DONE. ADDITIONALLY, THE DISHONEST POSTS NOTE THAT I SAID THAT I HAD BEEN REMINDED THAT TWO YEARS AGO, ON THE ADVICE OF DR. SEITZ, $2.5 MM WAS RETURNED TO THE TAXPAYERS. THIS IS ALSO NOT SO. IT DID NOT HAPPEN! FURTHER, POST 1 SAID THAT I UNDERSTAND THE ACCOUNTING OF THE $5 MM IN EXCESS FUNDS OF SEVERAL YEARS AGO. THE EXPLANATION WAS OFFERED BUT NEVER BACKED UP BY WRITTEN DOCUMENTS AND THE MONEY DID DISAPPEAR INTO THE MORASS OF THE NEXT YEARS BUDGET. I DID NOT UNDERSTAND IT THEN AND I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE EXPLANATION NOW. HANK HELLER
Natalie Davis (Editor) January 22, 2013 at 10:56 PM
As someone who believes in the sanctity of elections, I apologize for the bad behavior of those who would misrepresent someone's opinion in order to manipulate an election to turn out their way. Parsippany deserves better. It deserves a vote result, whatever it is, that is honest.
Hank Heller January 22, 2013 at 11:01 PM
Chris J, I did not at all write what you think I wrote. If you think the excess money can be returned, please show me how. The bondholder buys a bond. The seller has to return the money and interest in a contracted amount of time. How will our burden be lessened???
Robyn M. January 22, 2013 at 11:09 PM
Please don't ever back down, Mr. Heller. It's brave citizens who speak up and ask the tough questions, and request clarification when answers are unclear. I admire the fact that you feel confident enough to use your full name (I don't - have had enough run-ins with people in our town over questions of my own, unrelated to this vote and have kids young enough to fear retribution for disagreeing on school issues). Sad that it has to be this way, however, I think a lot of people understand how people who disagree are treated (on- and off-line). Anyway, I always look forward to your intelligent, well-written commentary and am grateful that you take the time to post on this board.
Ray Santana January 23, 2013 at 03:01 AM
Thank you to all those who made it out to vote today. Thank you Beth for your insightful opinion above. As a citizen of this town with children in the school system who will benefit from this referendum, if passed, I thank you and the many committee members who spent so much of your time and effort in an attempt to make this dream a reality. I voted YES, and would do it again and again. It's a great plan, and I'm proud to be a supporter of it. I can only hope that the majority of voters see all of the benefits to all of the children of Parsippany. Job well done, you should all be proud of your efforts! Thank you again.
Hank Heller January 23, 2013 at 03:43 AM
My daughter called to tell me that the referendum did not pass. She saw it on Facebook, I think.
Chris January 23, 2013 at 04:32 AM
Hank, I knew that it was not you. It doesn't matter now anyway. I remain committed to providing our students with adequate facilities provided to all students of all sports and activities. What we have is embarrassing.
Hank Heller January 23, 2013 at 10:48 AM
Thank you for your kind words, Robyn M. I am humbled by your comments. Even if you cannot risk identifying yourself fully, please keep writing your opinions. I have been respecting your efforts at fairness and decency for a while now. It restoreth my soul.

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