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Fields of Dreams Remains at Council's Center Stage

Tuesday's meeting expected to feature a proposed ordinance change related to the controversial turf fields plan.

Many eyes will be on the as it gathers for a regular session Tuesday night that may be anything but regular.

Among the items to be considered is a that, according to its title, would dissolve the Open Space Fund and replace it with the Municipal Open Space, Recreation and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. The proposal apparently also seeks to revise the purposes for which the open space fund may be used and how those funds can be allocated.

This proposal comes in the midst of a township-wide debate over the so-called , a plan promoted by Mayor James Barberio and youth sports organizations and institutions that would install artificial turf fields and other improvements at both of Parsippany's high schools.

Proponents say the fields are in poor condition and that student athletes deserve to have facilities that will help them to excel and to win.

If fact, many in the opposition agree that the fields and track ovals at and are in need of serious upgrade. But some many questions regarding issues including environmental suitability, protected wetlands in the area and potential disturbance to households near the high schools. 

Others have serious problems with the mayor's proposed plan to pay for the Fields of Dreams through the use of Open Space Trust Fund dollars.

FOD proponents say a 2006 voter referendum allows the township to use money ostensibly earmarked for historic preservation and the protection of natural lands instead for recreational improvements. Others argue that open space funds were intended for projects that benefit the environment and create pervious surfaces, unlike turf fields, which create impervious surface.

The project is estimated conservatively to cost $4.5 million. According to a statute as explained by Township Attorney John Inglesino, those funds can be used for Fields of Dreams, but only after the Board of Education, which controls the fields, cedes 51 of that control—and a similar percentage of use of the fields—to the township and area organizations.

Board of Education President Frank but will not hand down a decision until it has gone over all of the facts and pondered the possible ramifications of an act that would be irrevocable.

The title of the proposed ordinance change being introduced at Town Council Tuesday indicates that if approved, uses for the Open Space Trust Fund would be expanded. Additionally, the Open Space Trust Fund would be dissolved and replaced wth a Municipal Open Space, Recreation and Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

"Clearly, this is a cynical move by the mayor and his pals to change the law to make sure they get their way in the Fields of Dreams business," said resident Pat Petaccia, an outspoken critic of the way in which the administration has handled the proposal. "The mayor wants this project. Apparently, he'll do whatever it takes to make it happen, no matter what."

Other items on the meeting agenda include the second reading for a proposed ordinance to establish hourly wages for municipal blue-collar supervisors and a resolution awarding a one-year contract to Wellness Coaches for services provided to township employees.

The Township Council meets at Town Hall Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Bob Crawford February 14, 2012 at 01:18 PM
If, as this article states, the intent of the ordinance is to change the uses for the Open Space Trust Fund then why wouldn't those proposed chages be placed on a referendum for the voters to decide. That is what happened in 2006 and given that precedent should happen again. Also how could this be the second reading of the proposed ordinace? At last week's Town Council meeting, Mr Inglesono, the Townsip Attorney, when repeatedly pressed, confimed that the writing of the ordinance had yet to be completed and that he hoped to present the revised ordinance for a first reading at this evening's Town Council meeting. What;s going on at Town Hall?
Jennifer McNulty February 14, 2012 at 03:00 PM
The Township has now created an Open Space Page on their website. http://www.parsippany.net/Boards-and-Committees/Open-Space/ There are attachments of the Open Space Referendum and of the Open Space Plan. Everyone has access to the files and you can read the entire Open Space Plan that was adopted by the Town Council in Feb 2011.
Natalie Davis February 14, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Bob, as the article states, the open space ordinance is to be introduced Tuesday. The second reading reference deals with other matters on the agenda.
Mark February 14, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Here would be a good time to have members on the council who would actually question the mayor. Barberio has claimed over and over the Open Space Fund is appropriate for the new fields. But this seems to prove quite clearly that is not the case unless the council amends the law.
VietNam Vet March 13, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Mark, you'll never get this council to go against this Mayor on anything. The Mayor basically hand pick these guys because they are the Mayors "Yes Men" the whole council is made up off a bunch of thugs, belonging to the Mayor. Can anyone say crooked here.

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