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BOE OKs Its Own Fields of Dreams Plan

Days after the mayor gave the school board an ultimatum regarding his fields plan, the school board passes an alternative.

The received a hearty round of applause at its Thursday night meeting when it accomplished what many thought impossible: By unanimous vote, the members approved a measure that could lead to athletic improvements at Parsippany and Parsippany Hills high schools, but would not call for the board to relinquish control over its fields, would not require the use of Open Space Trust Fund dollars and might not require homeowners to pay more in taxes.

In other words, the so-called Fields of Dreams still may become reality, but in a different way than was proposed by .

The school board meeting began with an hour-long closed session. Upon the board's return, Board President Frank Calabria opened the floor to unfinished business, and member Anthony Mancuso began to speak.

"This issue of the fields has been going on for quite a while," he said. "I've watched as people have come and spoken for and against the town's proposal to the board on upgrading our facilities. To date, I have not seen any written proposals or plans from the town.

"In an effort to address many issues I have seen come before the board—51 percent, open space funding, the perpetuity of the property—I would like to make the following motion."

The former board president then presented an alternative to the idea that unleashed months of contentious debate, vitriolic discussion and a seemingly irreparable division throughout Parsippany, a plan that Mancuso told Patch was shared in advance only with President Calabria.

"I move that the Board of Education direct the administration to develop a plan to renovate both football field complexes at our two high schools," he said.

As outlined by Mancuso, his plan would include:

  • artificial turf fields with permanent markings and lighting to allow three sports (tentatively football, soccer and field hockey) to play at night,
  • new or renovated track ovals in full compliance with NJSIAA regulations and
  • new or renovated support facilities including but not limited to concession stands, fencing, electrical and sewer service, restrooms, team rooms, bleachers, sound systems and lighting systems.

These proposals, Mancuso said, would give the board options members can select as the developmental process unfolds.

And the plan as presented would put the final decision in the public's hands.

"Funding for this project will be provided through the referendum process," Mancuso said. "The administration is directed to act immediately on this directive so that the question can be placed before voters as soon as possible with the expectation that the vote will occur in December, the first available referendum date."

The motion included a provision that plans for the field improvements would be shared with the full BOE and appropriate committees to allow all members "multiple opportunities to provide input and feedback" and to give citizens "opportunity for public input."

After Mancuso finished speaking, Vice President Frank Neglia seconded the motion.

The board room went silent for a moment. Calabria then asked for comments.

"I respect the motion and will say, though, that I am somewhat concerned about proceeding with a referendum at this point and asking our community for additional tax dollars when we have been presented with an opportunity to have no additional tax," said member Deborah Orme. "I am still in favor of the proposal using the Open Space Trust Fund.

"Investigating a referendum may be a reasonable move," Orme conceded, though she insisted she still favored the mayor's plan.

Member Fran Orthwein countered that the last time the BOE held a referendum, it was for $47 million.

"We're not talking about a program of that scope or size," she said. "We're taling a max of maybe $5 million. But it's totally under our control. .. We don't give up any rights or control of our property."

Mancuso explained that under his proposal, it still is possible to reduce or eliminate any need for taxpayers to see their tax levy rise. He noted that the township is in a position where it may need to bring the open space tax rate under its current rate of 2 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

"[The rate] could be lowered to offset any increase in property tax that may come from our small referendum," he suggested. "There is the possibility that the town could work with us to lower those funds... so it won't cost the taxpayers anything additional."

BOE member Michael Strumolo reiterated an idea he had shared with Patch Tuesday morning.

"I like the idea, but I'm not sure I want to see this all at once," he said. "I want to see [the improvements] done in sections rather than this being one large pill to swallow.

Maybe we could have an urgency list of what has to be done immediately."

"I think that would be decided by the committees," suggested member Sharif Shamsudin. "The motion is a good motion."

Orme said she was concerned for the big picture if the referendum did not pass and the board was faced with having to address concerns regarding the fields through its budget.

"We should deal with it as it happens," Shamsudin replied.

At Strumolo's request, Superintendent LeRoy Seitz shared his thoughts.

"It's prudent for the board to pursue this," he said, noting that the state would have to approve the idea and that the county clerk would have to be informed. "We're not making a final decision, just asking for options so we can meet the needs of students now and in the future and see if it is acceptable to people who participate in the referendum."

Member Gary Martin thanked Mayor Barberio "for trying to help our children."

"This board has been split, and this has brought us closer," he said. "We're working as a team."

President Calabria agreed.

"Everyone deserves an awful lot of credit," he said. "There has been a lot of emotion over this. The board is taking a bold step here."

The capacity crowd that attended the meeting expecting fireworks was subdued and largely pacified.

Many took to the microphone to commend Mayor Barberio and the Town Council for working to bring something positive to Parsippany and to the board for listening to the public's concerns and giving residents ultimate control—via the proposed referendum—to decide whether to proceed after getting all the facts.

"I'm speechless," said resident Mary Purzycki, a vocal opponent of the mayor's turf plan. "It makes sense to me, believe it or not."

Citizen Julia Peterson thanked the board for the proposal.

"I pledge to help you support this referendum," she said.

Township Council President Brian Stanton, who serves as the council's Board of Education liaison, said he was pleased with the outcome and thanked Mancuso "for his hard work."

"This is what we wanted all along," he said. "The mayor, the Township Council and the Board of Education working together for the benefit of the kids."

Finally, the motion was up for a vote, and the entire school board voted in favor.

Afterward, as members and residents congratulated Mancuso and each other, Board President Calabria expressed jubilation.

"I knew this board could come together."

Patch awaits a response from its request for comment from Mayor Barberio.

Beth Bluj May 11, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Thank you Natalie
donna May 11, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Tj...it's unfortunate that when you write on here you not only represent yourself but also your wife, Kristen. Unlike you, she is classy and respectful and it is a shame that you feel it necessary to come on patch and post your childish banter. Why don't you start acting like an adult and follow through with your first post to "all work together to make these fields better for the children". Your calling for apologies but seems to me you owe some apologies as well.
VietNam Vet May 12, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Bj, unfortunately our taxes were going to be raised either way they went with this thing. The BOE has a $5m. surplus but they keep saying that never happened but it did, let them use that money and there should be NO reason to raise the taxes, but leave it to Seitz he will make sure they look for more money each year. Just once I would like to see the BOE say they don't need anymore money, infact they would be lowering the budget and giving back to the residents instead of taking like they always do. I can tell you if I were in charge I would make sure that happened. I would see to it taxes were lowered and I know how to do it.
TJ Ritter May 12, 2012 at 04:46 AM
@donna If you look at my posts I use my snarky style of writing only after people have already initiated rude comments. I never initiate anything and I don't hide who I am. Have a blessed evening.
TJ Ritter May 12, 2012 at 04:48 AM
@par4thecourse I love your screen name. I'll be at the Knoll East on sunday around 8ish. Maybe you can give me some pointers on how to fix my slice as based on your screen name you are a scratch golfer I presume.
TJ Ritter May 12, 2012 at 02:42 PM
@donna You said "Tj...it's unfortunate that when you write on here you not only represent yourself but also your wife, Kristen. " Whatever happened to the women's lib movement where a woman was not defined by her husband? Come on sing along with me, "I am woman, hear me roar In numbers too big to ignore And I know too much to go back an' pretend 'cause I've heard it all before And I've been down there on the floor No one's ever gonna keep me down again"
Par4theCourse May 12, 2012 at 04:01 PM
TJ, actually I'm a hack with a terrible slice also. Thanks for the invite but definite rain check. Mom's day this Sunday, don't forget to get the Mrs something. Especially since she wears the pants over there :) Have a great weekend.
Marcia M. May 13, 2012 at 03:02 AM
If you don't want to park far away and all the spaces in front of my house are filled with cars( I live next door to the Hills) maybe you or one of the other families waiting for the sound system and lights to be put in will be happy to purchase my house when it comes on the market.
Kristen Ritter May 14, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Thanks for this, Natalie. I'll tweet it out today, too and tag it Parsippany.
Hank Heller May 14, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Part 1 I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Mayor Barberio, each member of the Town Council, BOE President Calabria and each member of the BOE, The Field of Dreams committee and its leadership and the Parsippany Unite! committee and its leadership for the strength of effort and conviction put forth by all parties in this great community-wide debate over what should be done for the high school fields and how Parsippany should approach the challenge. There have also been many people on either side of the argument that were unaffiliated except for position. We have all been discordant at times among ourselves and each other. We have even been unkind at times in our many moments of passion. Never-the-less something good and useful has come out of all the rancor. It seems likely that we will have improved playing fields for our high school students in the near future. We may even have other accoutrements that will make both high school facilities more viable. I am proud of the much stronger community we might have fashioned through so many good peoples efforts to come up with “right” answers for the children, the taxpayers and the school system. Hank Heller
Hank Heller May 14, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Part 2 There are many people who sacrificed their time, energy and risked reputation to help the town come up with the decisions that will benefit people the most, especially over time. It is impossible to list all the names in the space of a blog of the good people who tried to help. If you read the many controversial comments above, you will find some of those worthy of our respect (regardless of which side of the field you are on). The Pietrowicz and Bluj families and the Ritter, Noguerra and Espeyo families (among so many others), the Petersons, the Wykas, Pettaccias, Crawfords, Venezias …the list could go on forever, all deserve our respect. Mr. Mancuso deserves respect for his putting forth a proposal that could ultimately be accepted by the Board of Ed. Mr. Strumolo, as well, deserves our respect and appreciation for having had the courage to demand (as a private citizen) that the decision be put before the public as a referendum item at the next election. The many people of great worth and effort whose names I have not mentioned here, regardless of position or belief, please know that they too are valued and appreciated. We don’t all have to be in agreement all the time to build a stronger community. It would be great if we could all remember to be civil if we need to go to the “mats” in the future. Respectfully, Hank Heller
Tom Wyka May 14, 2012 at 07:43 PM
May we all keep up the good work Hank! Thanks for the positive comments.
parpardon May 15, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I wanted to publicly apologize for any rude comments I may have made. I have come to terms with my issues and realized I have been way out of line with some of my comments. I look forward to working together to form a better future for Parsippany children. Once again please accept my apologiy and I promise to not revert back to my old ways.
Bjohnson May 16, 2012 at 12:27 AM
I don't think you need to apologize, there is one other person on here that should though.
Hank Heller May 16, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Mr. Johnson, Let's have an end to this stuff. I can think of many people on both sides of the equation that could stand some "lightening up". Rather than continuing the snarky behavior, how about just letting it be. If Mr. Parpardon feel better to have admitted to have been out of line on occassion, I can respect that. It would really be best if we could all agree to only use our own names because that would cause us all to have to be legally accountable in a very direct way for our comments and behavior. This is not an attack on anyone of either group because there are some people in either camp who refuse to be civil or accountable, but that is not something that I can do much about. It would be good if folks who use fake names or real names used discretion as to how they communicate their ideas. We'd probably get more accomplished. Hank Heller
parpardon May 16, 2012 at 01:13 AM
@Bjohnson, I really did need to apologize. I realized that open communication and no name calling can work better to heal the divisive wound in our community. Publicly calling out our fellow citizens such as Bob Crawfors, the Ritters, etc. does not solve anything. While I might not agree with all that they have done, I can see that they had the best intentions and only wanted what is best for the children at the high schools. We should all band together now and support the new fields at the schools so our teams can be proud at home games. We should all Unite Parsippany!
Bjohnson May 17, 2012 at 01:44 AM
I have come to realize that it is not TJ & Kristen Ritter or Parsippany Unite that can raise my taxes. They are not elected officials and do not have the power to do that. It is only our elected officials who can raise our taxes. The people of Parsiappany Unite merely showed how we can let the voters choose as to whether or not we go forth with the project.
Frank L June 08, 2012 at 04:04 AM
Tom may we all get back to work, if you do any. Who is paying you the salary to blog all day long...
VietNam Vet June 08, 2012 at 04:59 AM
I am all for the BOE taking responsibility for these fields but not with the taxpayers dollars, they have the $5 million dollar surplus let them pay for them with that, but they won't, they'll just jack up our taxes again, which we need like a hole in our heads. Our taxes are high enough as it is and when your on a fixed income you don't need higher taxes again by the BOE just because they don't know how to manage the money, and please don't tell me like your husband, that if I can't afford to live around here that I should go somewhere else, because that is the most appalling thing I have ever heard. Most of the seniors in this town are responsible for what this town is today, so don't tell them to get out, this is not Mendham,its just Parsippany, which is getting a good rep for having a crooked gov.
VietNam Vet June 08, 2012 at 05:02 AM
Frank, thats the big problem, we are paying him to sit around and blog all day instead of doing the work that the people trusted him to do, tipical of the dems. waste taxpayer money!!!!!!
Tom Wyka June 08, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Frank - see my post on your profile (Right margin). I received all your responses.
QUIN ROSAMILIA June 16, 2012 at 11:24 PM
I still say, one of the two fields should be decided upon as to be best suited for the large improvement. Making it ' PARSIPPANY SCHOOLS STADIUM' They can host day and night events. Track upgraded to 8/10 lane championship quality.Large field house for home and visiting teams..Costs will be cut, after all this is still only one town PARSIPPANY !
Robert Simpson June 17, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Schools are for education. Sports are for entertainment. I know someone will comment that "sports teach teamwork".
VietNam Vet June 17, 2012 at 05:46 AM
Quin, maybe you would like to have this Stadium in your backyard and you can pay for it because the taxpayers in this town are getting tired of paying for all the towns little dreams.
QUIN ROSAMILIA June 18, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Paul, if you read what I wrote, I said decide on which of the (two existing) sites would be best suited to make a improvement upon.They are there already your just building on them. They should also combine the schools to make them more competitive on the fields and courts against other schools. The hand full of good players from both school would make up better teams. Now don't someone go off on a rant about winning and losing. it's ALWAYS about winning, and don't kid yourselves about this. Anyone one ever stepped on a field knows this, you never put in your mind 'Oh it will be Ok to lose today."
VietNam Vet June 18, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Quin, I have never stepped on thse fields, never had the desire to do so, but I am still worried about how the BOE will eventually raise our taxes again because they don't have the money, which we ALL know is a total lie, with the $ 5 million surplus that they keep trying to tell us that it never meterialized which is another lie. Its getting so nobody can live in this town unless your filthy rich. I believe thats what they are trying to do, remember folks its still Parsippany, it will never be Mendham.
QUIN ROSAMILIA June 19, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Paul, I agree with you 100% about the amount of money invested in the Parsippany schools from taxpayer's money. Honestly the returns are terrible for amount spent, and school and class rankings throughout the state.Some of the BOE Board members understand this and are trying to bring it to light, but sometimes it seems like their like salmon swimmng up stream in a frozen river.Be forwarned the town will jam this Field of Dreams Project through one way or another.
VietNam Vet June 19, 2012 at 04:07 AM
Quin, yes I agree with you on that, but we still have 4 main members that are still there and 3 come up for re-election this year and thats Neglia, Orme, and Calabria and next year Mancuso comes up and these people are the ones who are responsible for the contract mess with Seitz who is sueing the town or the BOE and they have already paid over $ 30,000 in legal fees and overpaid him $ 38,000 which he refuses to give back now. If Mancuso and his gang didn't try to put one over on the Gov. we wouldn't be in this mess. These 3 have got to go, this town is dumb enough to vote them back in, not because they're doing a good job but because they're friends and we all suffer for their incompetence.
QUIN ROSAMILIA June 19, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Can't add to that Sir, you spelled it out most clearly. Only the voters can make the changes.
Parsippany Grad July 24, 2012 at 12:14 PM
I am all for better fields and amenities for the kids and adults in town having played on them as a child and young adult myself..however I still can not agree to the artificial turf..the price and upkeep of such fields should be a red flag to begin with.. I don't see the saftey of the children being taken into account..what will it take for people to understand this..one bad seem means broken ankles, legs and torn ligaments.. when the first lawsuit comes in from a childs parents for a torn ACL or any injury..the town and taxpayers will be named..the price for this surface just multiplies and multiplies..natural grass is the way to go..especially at this level..you're risking every childs health and future.. and what about out of town players?..suppose they get hurt on this surface and sue..it makes no sence for something to look good and be dangerous..every adult who is in favor of artificial turf should go out and run,cut,get knocked down,slide on this stuff..feel that burn!..and then do it on grass..it's a saftey issue in my eyes with too many down sides not only for the kids..but the tax payers as well...keep the grass..do it right..do it the best in the state..but this artificial turf is gonna be a horror..the idea of losing one athlete or more for a season or career should be reason enough..can you imagine a young athlete who signs a letter of intent to say..Rutgers..and then gets hurt on this stuff?..if it was my child..I'd sue you too...too much money..too much risk.

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