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Council Talks Fields of Dreams, Honors DeCroce

Among other business, the council honors the memory of Assemblyman Alex DeCroce.

The Township Council met for its first regular meeting of 2012 and addressed a number of issues, including the proposed and  leftover. The gathering took place Tuesday night at .

Julia Peterson of the Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, during the meeting's public comment portion, stood to register her concerns over the proposal to use Open Space Trust Funds to pay for the installation of artificial turf fields at and s.

"I understand the pros of building artificial turf fields, although there are significant environmental and health concerns that must be addressed," Peterson said. "However, I do not believe that school fields should be paid for with monies collected for a different purpose, nor do I believe that the town should control the use of the high school fields."

She added that the purchase could lead to regrets over a future lack of open space in Parsippany.

"Athletic fields are not the same thing as open space," she noted. "The fields should be funded some other way, if they are considered necessary."

Township Attorney John Inglesino said that Parsippany residents gave the administration the power to use open space funds for recreation improvements via a 2006 voter referendum. 

"That's the way the legislators wrote the law," the lawyer said. "Legally, Township Council has the right and authority to utilize a portion of the funds for turf fields."

Inglesino also said that in order for those monies to be employed for the fields, the township must have a legal interest—at least 51 percent controlling interest—over the fields. That control would have to be ceded by the , which may discuss that possibility and may even vote on that notion at its next meeting, scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Parsippany Hills High School. The matter also may be discussed at the next Open Space Committee meeting. That body is slated to gather at Town Hall on Thursday at 5 p.m. The public is invited to attend both meetings.

Two big issues—the continuation of reorganization and the approval of AlphaDog Solutions, the township webmaster—were okayed by Council in the proverbial eye's blink. The members voted on numerous matters all at once under an omnibus Consent Agenda.

Among the approved actions:

  • Inglesino's contract as Township Attorney was renewed for 2012 with no fee increase.  According to Business Administrator Jasmine Lim, Inglesino is paid a retainer of $21,500 for attending council meetings and offering legal advice. He also receives $150 per hour "for legal services" and $220 per hour if said services involve matters requiring public finance expertise.
  • Lim was appointed the town's Fund Commissioner for the . Her alternate will be Robert Strechay, administrator for the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
  • The council gave final authorization to a year-long . Under the pact, the company gets $1,890 per month for its professional services.

After the vote, Internet professional Jonathan Nelson presented evidence that Belleville-based AlphaDog has stock photos on Parsippany.net that violate copyrights of the photos' true owners.

Patch took a look at the site and found that Nelson's contentions were true: Photos found on the website by AlphaDog CEO Michael Melham can be found on other sites. One example is a shot of a calculator and pen found on a website in India. That same photo was on the township home page under the heading "2011 Tax Assistance."  

Update: Patch learned during late afternoon Wednesday that Melham has removed the questionable photos from the municipal site.

An early portion of the Township Council meeting was given over to honors. 

Mayor Barberio presented representatives of , , and the 's Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services with Outstanding Achievement Award certificates for their efforts assisting Parsippany residents impacted by .

, the area committee that raised money throughout 2011 to purchase town holiday decorations, presented a check for $300 to the township's Public Assistance Trust Fund. The money is earmarked to assist families still suffering because of the flooding in lower Hiawatha. The committee collected the funds through a number of fundraising events, including a Christmas in July party and a winter Snowflake Festival.

The Council also noted the . The veteran legislator, who lived in Parsippany, died suddenly Sunday night at the Statehouse immediately following the end of the assembly's final vote of its session.

"His passing caught us off-guard," said Council President Brian Stanton, who called for a moment of silence for DeCroce.

"He was a great leader, great mentor and great friend," said Vice President Vincent Ferrara, reading from a statement. "His legacy will remain with us."

The Township Council meets for its next agenda meeting at Town Hall on Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Bob Crawford January 11, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Township Attorney John Inglesino appears to miss the point when he states that the Mayor has the power to use open space funds for recreation improvements via a 2006 referendum. The Mayor has the power to do a lot of things but he also has the responsibility to do the right things. When the 2006 referendum was held the high school fields were not a part of the town''s recreation facilities and when I and many other Parsippany voted for the referendum in 2006 it never dawned on us that a future Mayor might, one day, seek to take control of those fields. Shame on us for being so naive and trustworthy. To his credit the Mayor has promised us that he would provide township residents with ample public opportunities to discuss the proposal to turf the two high school fields at an estimated cost of $4.5 milion to the tax payers. Hopefully common sense rather than legal loop holes will inform and define that discussion.
Bob Taylor January 11, 2012 at 05:34 PM
How is this not the right thing to do for our children, our schools, and our community? These fields today are used less then 30 times a year for activities; this is combined between the 2 HS football fields. That is less then 100 hours of use. Right now my HS aged children do not get to use these fields as the activities on them are mostly for football games. Improving the fields would allow more usage. If you figure every gym class and school activity (sports, band, clubs, and school function) will be able to use these fields from the middle of August to the end of June, then you’re talking about hundreds of activities for thousands of hours of use. How is that not the right thing? Here is an opportunity to use the money, without increasing our taxes, to improve our fields so more children can use them then just the football teams for a handful of games a year. Yes as an open space funded project these fields will be open to the public to use via a permit; not just residents of Parsippany, but anyone. Now maybe I am too logical, but I would think the usage of the fields go to the schools first, Parsippany youth organizations second, residents third and nonresidents last; much like the other fields in Town. With a curfew (an ordinance would set times for use) and the time allotted to the BOE and youth organizations first, how much time would actually be open to the nonresident public? This is the right thing to do for our children, our schools, and our community.
Chris January 11, 2012 at 09:29 PM
I just don't understand the argument that the Town taking control of the BOE fields is "not the right thing to do". It's not like the County or State is taking it over. It still belongs to us, the citizens of this town. When you do not support a particular politician or group of town leaders, does that mean you should oppose every idea or project they undertake? Should you want a project like this to fail just because you don't want to see that politician succeed at doing something positive for our community? That is not how a prospective community leader should make decisions. Nobody is missing the point. This is a very creative way to accomplish an important objective that would otherwise not happen. These fields would continue to deteriorate and could never be improved. The BOE budget is maxed out and we do not want new taxes. This money is and will continue to come out of our pockets whether they do this or not. So what other projects would you have done? Perhaps another turf field at Smith? Perhaps a new building at Veterans? Let's put another turf field at Jannarone. I do agree with this. The money is there, it is earmarked for parks and recreational facilities and what better facilities to seek to improve than our two High School fields. This is great for our community as a whole. This IS the right thing to do.
Bob Crawford January 11, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Chris This has nothing to do with politics or politicians in or out of office. This has everything to do with making sure that all of us have all of the information we need to understand the potential economic and environmental impact of turfing the fields. It seems as though you and others believe that you have all of the information you need which is great. Some of us do not believe that we have been given all of the information we need and we are simply asking to be provided with the information so that all of our questions are answered.. The Mayor has agreed to provide that information and we hope that any decision he might make is based on all of the facts which have yet to be provided.
Donna Jo Tanner January 12, 2012 at 02:02 AM
It sounds great on the surface - use existing funds to get turf fields that can take more use and therefore be used more by everyone. However, it seems that the financial facts don't support this Dream. Only a portion of the open space funds can be used for this purpose each year - about $640,000. And apparently a portion of that is already being used to upkeep other open space areas. So the town must BOND the $4.5 million dollars over 15 years to pay for the initial turfing project. And the turf field only has a lifespan of 8-10 year (low side) or 12-15 years max. Then the fields have to be redone - even before they're fully paid for. Where will the money come from to returf the fields every 10-15 years? (these numbers come from last weeks Parsippany life 1/6) And the law allows for these funds to be used to maintain or upgrade open space areas - I don't think a school field is really considered open space. So it may be legal but I agree that this is not following the intent of the open space referendum. Then there is the BOE who must conceded this land to the township. In order to do that they must vote that the school district no longer needs this property for schools purposes. How can they in good conscience say that? Or legally say what is not true?
Bob Taylor January 12, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Donna, the fields are baely being used for school purposes now. The track at PHS is not up to standards so the team cannot host any home meets. The gym classes cannot use the fields. So except for limited use, they really are not being used for school purposes or any other purpose now.
Chris January 12, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Now that is a much better statement Mr. Crawford. That sounds like a community leader. I agree completely with your concerns and questions when presented like that. We all should question our leaders and a request information. I've just been getting a different impression as of late.
Bob Crawford January 12, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Bob This is a good and necessary conversation and thank you to Patch for providing a forum. With that said please check on your statement above that track at PHS is not up to standards and cannot host any home meets.. To my understanding the track is up to standards and is used for home meets. The argument that is being made for building a new track is to add an additional lane so that PHS would be eligible for consideration to host state/sectional meets. How often those meets might be awarded to PHS over the next number of years is not known but perhaps the AD at the High School could research the issue and provide us with an estimate so that a return on investment could be guaged. With that said and according to the Superintendent at the last Board meeting,, it is probable that the PHS field will need to be repaced within five years. So the core question would seem to be:. Should Open Space funds be used today to replace a track that still has four or five years of life left? .
Bob Taylor January 12, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Mr. Crawford My statement on the track at PHS was what I heard: "The PHS track team needs to be bused to PHHS for home meets, beacuse the track is not up to standards for meets", and read. I need to reread the information from the BOE meeting as I thought the Superintendent said the PHHS track had about 5 years left, but the PHS was not standard for meets; it was safe to use, but not standard for meets. With the BOE policy of "must do for both", then yes the open space fund should be used to replace (maybe refurbish to get around it) the PHHS track so PHS as a standard one too,
Tom Wyka January 12, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Donna Jo's comments above are actually a great example of how things are getting a bit discombobulated. The numbers in Par Life may have been accurate - but not quite written out in a way that tells the story correctly (all due respect to Cindy Forrest - who's trying to relay something of a bit of complexity with limited space). Chris - I got the link to the FOD website from the PAL when this first broke - and the first thing I did when reading the whole thing was send a message to tell them to lay out the numbers right so people could understand - or else there's going to be howls. To date - a good summary is still not out there. I just sent a note again and asked if they needed help. The communication on this is really awful - but it appears that some folks just think it's fine to bulldoze this through. I'm in the middle on this - smack dab. I'd love to see more playable space (it's a real pain to get time on Smith Field when it rains in the Fall - we often have 4 or more teams squeezed on there and that's not easy or safe for a variety of reasons). But I also want to see this done right and most of all - transparently. I'm hoping there's still time - and this doesn't just run into an arrogant railroad job. That's not productive. Chris - it's not political. Nobody's against the kids or just out to embarrass folks anyone (least not me). I suspect you've been told that and that's really unfortunate (and maybe a bit political in it's own way).
Tom Wyka January 12, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Just to be clear - Donna Jo - no disrespect to you either.
Mel January 13, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Where are the awards and accolades for District 4 - Lake Hiawatha - ?????? That FD did the most for the residents who were affected so severely by Irene. What's the deal????
Mel January 13, 2012 at 04:48 AM
Excellent points Donna Jo...this money used inappropriately from a fund that should be preserving Greystone (a historic site) is inexcuseable, it's political BS. No brownie points for Barberio or his council.
Hank Heller January 14, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Bob, You wrote above..."Here is an opportunity to use the money, without increasing our taxes, to improve our fields so more children can use them then just the football teams for a handful of games a year." If the town needs to issue bonds for the balance of the cost of the project, (because it does not have the cash flow to pay for the project immediately) of course our taxes will go up. That is, unless the town administration reduces expenses in other areas so they can pay the interest on the bonds each year. I have not heard any plans for the town administration to reduce expenses at all. Therefore, you must expect your taxes to go up to pay out the bondholders. There is nothing free in this world. If the people who want to have a new field will donate money to the project, it is likely that the project can be done quickly and without the huge cost of legal fees for bonding attorneys and municipal bond consultants. Hank Heller
Bob January 16, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Hank, My statement "...without increasing our taxes..." is based on the the fact that the the tax dollars that are being proposed to pay for the bond (thus the bond holders for) this project; is coming from the Open Space Tax that is already collected. By using money that is already being collected, that is how my taxes will not go up for this reason. If you can show me the day when taxes do not go up for any reason, then it will be the day you are running this town.
Bob January 16, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Mel Should the residents of Parsippany vote on this too; preserving Greystone? Is there anything left to preserve there that is actual Parsippany owned property? How buying an old dilapidated building that is unusable for anyone better use of money then improving facilities that all residents can use?
Hank Heller January 16, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Bob, If there are no more open spaces in Parsippany, we should no longer be taxed to collect money to buy open spaces. Let's stop playing games with taxpayers money. This whole thing is like a shell game. How will the taxpayers be assured that funds currently collected and promised away for the Field of Dreams, will all of a sudden not be promised away for something else? This whole situation is rediculous in my opinion. If you want to have turf fields, because it is so important to the welfare and further development of our children, you and those parents who want it so much, collect your funds and buy the fields. I played football for many years in organized leagues and no one I ever met got to feel more loved, more successful or more valued by the type of field we played on. We felt good if we worked hard, got better at our game and knew that we had done our best. Does your kid feel and perform better because he/she has a pair of designer jeans? The concept is the same, I think. It seems to me that the involved parents of our students have decided that this is what they and their children need. I suspect that their children will grow wonderfully well without a special field. Our dreams grow from what we learn and are taught and accomplish. Hank Heller
Bob Taylor January 16, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Hank, You were not originally proposing to eliminate the tax you were asking how I can say our taxes would not go up and that is what I commented on. If you are now proposing that we should eliminate the open space tax, then I am all for it. I have seen no benefit to me or my family with any of the purchases made with the money. The Fields of Dreams actually is something that would benefit my kids as they would have the opportuinty to play on them during gym class and then seeing their classmates play as oppose to not sharing in school spirit because the team is playing their HOME game some where else. I am glad you played football in organized leagues when you were a kid. However, this is an opportunity for all kids ,not just those like you who played football. It is an opportunity for not only the field hockey players, soccer players, and marching band members to use the field at their school; a field that is not used by anyone today, but all the kids that go to the school. You want me to buy the fields from the BOE and turf, then you and our family can sty off it, One more thing, my kids feel good about themselves not for what they wear or were the play, but for who they are and how they are raised, So take your designer jeans and stick em.
Bob Crawford January 16, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Bob Taylor Please help us understand how the turfed fields will be scheduled for use by students after school hours? On any given autumn afternoon at the PHS complex, which consists of numerous grass fields, the Varsity, Junior Varsity and Freshman soccer teams, the Varsity, Junior Varsity and Freshman football teams, the Varsity, Junior Varsity and Freshman field hockey teams and the Band are hard at work practicing for upcoming events. Additionally on many afternoons, some of those teams are playing a home game. Given all of that activity and assuming that all teams will have a fair amount of access to the 100 yards of turfed field, how will the scheduling work? Thanks
Par70 January 16, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Just a side comment in regards to open space... Wasn't the Baldwin home on Beverwyk just bought with open space money as well 672k??? This is a great use for the open space money. Honestly -- the whole thing is BOONDONGLE (if I spelled that correct). The house is in serious need of repairs and with the home prices dropping -- I can not see how anyone would seriously drop that much. Also -- exactly what is that have to do with open space. As far as I am concerned -- distribute the money back to town as the TOWN COUNCIL has proven that they cannot be trusted with anyone elses money. Seriously -- would they have spent that much if it was their own actual dime. In regards -- to this open space issue for the "field of dreams" -- this seems like another money grab. It will end up with prettier fields and other costs (that weren't known). This WASN'T the intent to purchase already owned town properties with open space. In addition -- this isn't even an addition. I thought the intent was to reduce the over-building and loss of woods. Again -- TOWN COUNCIL proving that they know how to go aroud the intent of what was voted upon. To me this is simple -- you want to re-allocate 5 million. Then put it to TOWN VOTE. If the town agrees -- then there is no issue. My guess is that they are afraid that this won't pass.
Hank Heller January 16, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Bob, Let's communicate without telling each other to "stick" anything. Some neighbors seem to have decided what should be done about the fields and how to fund it. I AM for getting rid of the Open Space taxes, if we do not have any open spaces to buy in Parsippany. Additionally, we do not know enough about turf fields and what their benefits are and should cost. If the fields are in poor repair, let's fix them so they can be used. If our track teams cannot host dual meets because we are missing a lane, add the lane. We are using bad reasoning for pushing this project much too fast. We are seeing our politicians "buying" future votes by going along with the "recreation" groups, at the entire community's expense! Twisting the intent of Open Space funds is wrong. The kids may not get the benefits the "recreation" groups are promised. The taxpayers money will be spent, we'll have a new obligation to keep funding as fields wear and folks who live near those fields will have less joy in their properties. Your comment that all participants will benefit is just as true if the current fields are fixed properly. I don't want you to buy the fields. I just don't want to pay for changes that only benefit some people. My comment about kids feeling good about themselves has to do with the parents who claimed at public meetings that our kids do not perform well because they are embarrassed or ashamed of our facilities. I'm glad your kids were raised well. Hank Heller
Bob Taylor January 16, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Bob Crawford, Is that not what the BOE pays the ADs at each school to do; schedule the teams including fields when not on school grounds (i.e. town fields). If they need to hire someone then let me know. I can not claim to know all the activities at the schools outside of the ones you mention so my opinion on the scheduling is limited. I would schedule varsity games first, JV & Freshmen games next, followed-by Marching Band to prepare for an upcoming competition, and then practice last. Rotate the practice and game schedule, so each activity gets equal time on it. For example, if soccer was moved to the turf on Tuesday, then Field Hockey can be moved to the turf on Thursday to play their games while the other goes to the town fields if the grass fields are unplayable (field hockey lost games, because of playing conditions and the soccer teams got the town turf first). Unfortunately football will always get priority for games over the other sports and activities as this is the only fields for playing games. Additionally the teams can practice together (all boys soccer teams, all field hockey teams, etc) or after each other or after a game; if any want to go into the night. Maybe the Marching Band would prefer this over the parking lot. I would schedule the other sports to play a couple of night games at their school just like other towns and PHS football do now. This would give parents a chance to watch their kid play at home.
Bob Crawford January 17, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Bob Taylor I would agree that the Athletic Directors at the High School should be responsible for determining the scheduling of the turf fields to ensure that all of Parsippany's student athletes will benefit from the turfing of the fields, To my knowledge that scheduling analysis has yet to be done and so claims that all student athletes will benefit from the turfing of the fields seems to be be a bit premature at best and untrue at worst.. Given the proposal to spend $4.5 million in tax payer funds to turf 2 high school fields let's be sure all of us understand the return on this multi million dollar investment before going forward.
TJ Ritter March 26, 2012 at 01:22 AM
http://parsippany.patch.com/articles/fod-walking-tour-scheduled-for-sunday#comments_list www,parsippanyunite.com FYI, there were no "FOD" members/supporters at this walkthrough today (3/25/12). It was very informative. We saw things that needed repair, saw things that probably did not need repair and saw things that raised more questions about the scope of work. The press was there and we would have loved to have had the "FOD" members/supporters there so we could discuss the project.
Chris March 26, 2012 at 02:51 AM
TJ, you and I have sat down and spoken. I would love to walk these fields with you. You know why I did not go today.

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