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Should Open Space Money Pay for Fields of Dreams?

Patch wants to know your opinion.

As the debate over the continues, the focus of the dialogue is changing.

There certainly are residents who completely oppose the idea, arguing that public funds should go toward what they see are more important matters than high school athletic fields. But most of the people Parsippany Patch encounters tell us they believe improvements are desperately needed at both and high schools.

One developing rift appears over how to pay for the proposal.

Another bone of contention involves the .

Mayor James Barberio and Township Attorney John Iglesino met with the Recreation Advisory Committee over a series of months and came up with a shared services plan that would use Open Space Trust Funds over 15 years to pay back Green Acres Fund loans (secured through the purchase of bonds) totalling an estimated $4.5 million.

In a presentation before the school board on Dec. 15, Inglesino said the move is legal, thanks to a 2006 voter referendum that allowed up to 40 percent Open Space Trust monies, intended initially for the development of parkland and open spaces and to prevent overdevelopment of the township, to go toward recreational improvements. An additional 10 percent of the fund was earmarked for acquisition of historic properties.

The problem is that when residents voted in 2006, some thought "recreational improvements" meant improvements to parks, not to athletic fields. Many, including , a local historic preservation advocate, argue that using Open Space money for the Fields of Dreams proposal violates the spirit of the fund's purpose and that the referendum held nearly six years ago does not really address the present turf fields issue.

These opponents aren't against the idea of turfing the fields. Many have said to Patch that they agree—school fields need an upgrade. They believe, however, that the town should find another way to pay for the plan.

Fields of Dreams supporters disagree. They say the 2006 vote gives the town the legal green light to move forward.

Patch wants to know: What do you think?

Pick an answer below and please amplify your thoughts in the comments section.

Jennifer McNulty January 30, 2012 at 02:58 PM
The BoE has enough money in the 2012-2013 budget (over $4,600,000 in cap space) to make these improvements themselves. There is no reason to give up control of the fields to the town and allow any other organization to use the space. If the BoE wants to allow the in town recreation programs to use the new fields they would have that right, but the BoE would not be required to allow other out of town groups to use it as the town would be required to do. In addition, all of the cost savings and revenue opportunities would go directly back to the BoE. Every time the fields are used for tournaments, competitions or other revenue producing events that revenue will directly benefit the BoE.
Myles Frischer February 02, 2012 at 10:27 PM
This is just an attempt to transfer expenses from the school budget to the town budget to get around the 2 percent cap. If the school feels that it is needed, let them take it out of their budget.
David Comora February 06, 2012 at 02:35 PM
I like the idea of turf field and I've seen how they allow kids to practice through all kinds of weather situations. I can recall numerous football practices, sometimes half of them cancelled due to inclement weather. Having Janarone Park really turned that around. However, I tend to agree that this is a misuse of open space funds and I'm not thrilled with the idea of opening up these fields to external groups in an attempt to generate revenue.
VietNam Vet March 13, 2012 at 07:18 PM
The BOE knew for years these fields need work but they neglected to do anything, and now the Mayor wants to use these funds for this when the BOE should be responsable for the expence here. I believe the Mayor is over stepping his bounds here. I don't believe that when this was done in 2006 that they had something like this in mind, the Mayor and the Lawyers are turning this around and its wrong and stinks of corruption.

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