With less than a month before residents vote Jan. 22 on a bond referendum question to approve plans for $7.7 million in improvements to athletic facilities at Parsippany and Parsippany Hills high schools, the Parsippany-Troy Hills Board of Education has laid out its communication plan for disseminating information to voters.
Board member Susy Golderer, who heads the communications committee, recommended during the board’s Dec. 20 meeting that all official information about the referendum should come intially from the board.
One of the chief tools the board will use, she said, is the district’s website, which was uploaded with referendum information following the meeting. The website now has links to the PHS and PHHS project scopes and layouts for both high school fields, a PowerPoint presentation outlining the plan, voting information and a question-and-answer document.
“There are some questions that do need to be addressed,” Golderer said. “We do need to have exact numbers on the website, such as what maintenance costs will be.”
A website document offering questions and answers includes the average homeowner cost of $30 per year for 10 years, information about other local districts with artificial fields, timeframes and financial information regarding field replacement, the safety of artificial fields, reasoning behind having multi-use fields and explanation of the disparity between the board’s plan and the similar plan proposed by the mayor in 2011.
Additionally, both Golderer and board President Frank Calabria said the board will pass the news on to local seniors and community groups (including the Kiwanis Club of Greater Parsippany and the Rotary Club of Parsippany-Troy Hills) that have expressed interest in disseminating information.
Golderer said this strategy is preferable to calling another special meeting to discuss the referendum.
“We can set a Tuesday and say, ‘We’re going to be here and answer any questions,’” Golderer said. “I can tell you 10 people are going to show up. The other 59,000 members of the public will say they didn’t know about it.”
Some residents expressed dismay during the meeting that much of this information had not been available earlier. Some, such as former board member Bob Crawford, urged residents not to rely solely on the board for information.
“You are way behind the ball in letting us know what it is you want to do,” Crawford said during the meeting. “I strongly encourage people here to not put all your eggs in this basket in terms of this board, in the next 15 [business] days being able to communicate to this community why we should spend $7 million on two fields.”
Resident Bob Venezia said he had asked months ago about the annual maintenance expenses for each field.
Paul Saxton, the district’s interim director of personnel, said that he has installed four fields throughout his career and that $400,000 per field over 10 years is an accurate estimate.
Venezia said he would like to see the annual cost breakdown included in the referendum.
Some residents also posed questions that board members said it and the district would look into, such as resident Peter Bradley’s query about the incremental cost to operate the fields.
“We want to get an accurate figure first before we give a definitive answer,” Calabria said.
The plan requiring the referendum vote calls for the installation of synthetic turf fields at both high schools, along with running tracks, new storm water management, new lighting and new public restrooms.
Saxton said during the meeting that, in his experience, synthetic fields have had about 1,800 uses in the first three months, in comparison to grass fields that get used around 120 times over 10 years.
The board holds its reorganization meeting Thursday at 8 p.m. at the administration building at 292 Parsippany Road. New member James Carifi is set to be sworn in at the final gathering scheduled prior to the Jan. 22 referendum vote.