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School District's Fields Plan Creates More of a Stir

Superintendent says the BOE proposal is not the Fields of Dreams, but debate remains similar.

The held a special public session Wednesday night devoted to athletic improvements at and .

Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz outlined the basics of the district's plan for creating multipurpose athletic complexes for the high schools that he said could serve students and the community for 25 years or more.

Voters ultimately get to decide the matter. The BOE plan is to put the proposal up for a referendum on Jan. 22.

The district's idea encompasses installing at each school:

  • artificial turf fields that could be used for many more activities than football and soccer
  • new fencing to surround the fields
  • a water cooling system for the turf fields
  • eight-lane track ovals
  • modernized lights
  • restrooms
  • state-mandated water and sewer systems
  • concession stands
  • American Disabilities Act-compliant bleachers
  • "bare-bones" dressing rooms for home and visiting teams
  • sound systems.

"This is not the Fields of Dreams," said Seitz, referring to the plan backed by Mayor James Barberio and sports groups earlier this year. Discussions of the FOD plan were heated and divisive, and the proposal, which called for the school board to cede control of its athletic fields to the town, ultimately was rejected by the BOE.  

While the estimated cost of Barberio's plan was about $4.5 million that would have come from the town's Open Space Trust Fund, Seitz said the would be a projected $11.5 million to be financed through a tax increase of about $54 per year for 10 years for the average homeowner.

Using calculations provided by the district's bond counsel, Capital Financial Advisors, and township officials, the superintendent said the cost would break down to about $1 per week or 15 cents per day.

Seitz explained the investment would be worthwhile as the improvements would serve the township for a minimum of 25 years. He said the plan would benefit school physical education programs, bands, interscholastic sports teams, recreational groups and the entire community.

He also argued that the improvements would bring Parsippany schools in line with what is happening for many, if not most, school systems across New Jersey.

One example he gave centered on concession stands.

"They would provide fundraising opportunities for students and booster groups," Seitz said, adding that with improved track ovals, Parsippany's two high schools could be eligible to host league, regional and state meets and take advantage of a huge opportunity. "Concessions stands make a ton of money." 

Board member Susy Golderer bemoaned the project's estimated cost.

"It's a shame we have let our properties deteriorate so that we have to spend $11 million," she said.

Golderer asked whether it would be possible to do a less expensive project by implementing only a few of the to-do items on the list. She also suggested creating one complex for use by both high schools.

Fellow board member Gary Martin disagreed.

"We need one complex on one side of town and one on the other to make it fair," he said. "We want to do the job right and do the job once, rather than do it piecemeal and spend a heck of a lot more money over 25 years."

Opinions varied widely among the residents who filled the school board meeting room. The debate very much resembled the past Fields of Dreams public discussions, with sports parents pitted against those who railed against tax increases and against people whose homes are closest to the high schools.

Hank Heller said a need for a cooling system for the turf fields proved to him that turf fields were inherently more dangerous for youth than natural grass fields.

Heller expressed outrage over the projected cost.

"Citizens of Parsippany can not afford the opulent proposal put here," he said. "To build two Taj Mahals [in this] economy is shameful and wrong."

Mary Purzycki offered her concerns over having the fields used by townspeople other than students.

"This is a beautiful plan, like Giants Stadium in two areas," she said. "It would be beneficial for the whole student body. ... It should be about the students."

Track and field parent Maurice Saunders spoke in favor of the plan.

"Our students need to excel in the classroom and on the athletic fields," he said. "If we don't do it now, we're going to come back five years from now, 10 years from now. Something has to be done."

Bob Venezia said the plan was filled with unnecessary items.

"You're asking voters to voluntarily raise their taxes," he complained. "You made part of your case. Additional items—lights, bathrooms, locker rooms, concession stands, a track at Parsippany Hills... these are expensive non-essential wish-list items.

"You don't have to have an eight-lane track. Six is fine," he continued. "The extras have nothing to do with improving playing conditions. Taxpayers are going to be very reluctant to pay for it. Include just the core elements: two fields and a track at Parsippany [High]. Add the other items out of your own budget."

Michael Espejo, who lives near Parsippany Hills High, brought his criticisms of the old Fields of Dreams plan to the BOE proposal.

"I thought the board would be more sensitive to [the schools'] neighbors," he said, echoing the notion that an eight-lane track is not needed. "I don't know why it's necessary to [have a track that would allow the school to host a] state track meet. Is it an ego thing?

"You're infringing on our neighborhood," he said. "We don't want our neighborhoods turned into a complex year-round until 9 p.m. When you get to the lights, that is an issue."

Danny Ilic, of the Par-Troy Wrestling Club, spoke in favor.

"The fields and facilities are an embarrassment," he asserted, defending the need for locker room and for restroom facilities, which he said are particularly needed for female students.

Soccer dad George Blair pointed out that the proposed improvements are not extravagant and are standard fare for many schools in New Jersey.

"What makes Parsippany so much different from Summit or Millburn?" he asked. "Why can't we have a field where our kids can prevail? Why do they have to play on a field not comparable to Summit or Woodbridge? Why can't we give our girls the same opportunity other towns have?

"Once you start having winning programs, your entire community comes together," he said, adding that the proposed improvements would make Parsippany kids competitive. "Build them a nice field, and these girls will win!"

Pat Petaccia griped that the $30,000 cost of a special election was too high.

"Hold off until next November [in 2013]," she said. "There's no rush."

As for the $11 million cost, she said she would rather see that amount spent on iPads for classrooms.

Superintendent Seitz argued that a piecemeal and patch approach would be more expensive in the long run and would negatively affect student-athlete performance and school spirit.

He also pointed out that the project is not close to being a "Taj Mahal." 

Seitz said that the items on the improvements list will be bare-bones and nothing fancy. As an example, he noted that the proposed locker room facilities will be a small room with a cement floor, benches and hooks on the walls. Bathroom facilities will feature only two or three stalls, he said.

And the superintendent insisted that everything on the list is needed. 

"Without these improvements, the bleachers will need extensive reoairs," he said. "The tracks will not be in comliance with the ADA and the High's track will need to be replaced. The fields will be restricted to football.

"Our interscholastic sports teams will be less competitive," he warned. "More and more schools are playing on artificial turfing surface. It changes the game."

Seitz pointed out what he called the "cost of doing nothing."

"If this plan is not funded through the referendum, it will negatively impact future annual budgets," he said. "That impact will be significant due to the hard 2 percent cap that does not permit waivers for capital projects."

And he cautioned that there would be additional election costs if multiple referendums are needed over time.

The time table for the project, Seitz said, means that by the next BOE meeting date, Aug. 23, the board must decide whether to authorize the district to file for the referendum. By the 24th, the proposal must be submitted to the Parsippany Planning Board for review. 

If it is decided to move forward with a referendum, the vote, by statute, would have to take place Jan. 22, 2013, Seitz said.

g August 02, 2012 at 07:06 PM
In a University of Missouri study comparing the two surfaces, extension specialist Brad Fresenburg, PhD, found that artificial turf costs “far exceed” those of natural grass over the long term. He recommended using the money that would be spent on a synthetic field to put in a sand-capped, premium field instead, and putting what’s left in a maintenance fund. Warranted for eight years, the field can be expected to last about ten to twelve years according to the industry’s Synthetic Turf Council. County Parks and Recreation Director Ralph Albanir says that replacing the field is considered maintenance, and there will be no Open Space funds available to replace it. In return for the $1.7 million county grant, though, the borough has exchanged public access “in perpetuity.” How much will a petroleum-based field, which costs $600,000 today, cost in ten years?
Maurice Saunders August 02, 2012 at 07:27 PM
g, Thanks for the additional postings. It's always much better when positings like yours can at least be linked to real life cases.
g August 02, 2012 at 10:36 PM
Maurice, since you were skeptical about the dangers of artificial turf, are you for or against the use of artificial turf where children are playing?
Maurice Saunders August 02, 2012 at 11:51 PM
g, for the record I am for children playing on turf. Injuries are going to happen that's part of any sport. With the advancement of techonolgy artifical turf has improved over the last 2 decades. My children play haved played on turf and I have no problem with them continuing to play on it.
Roman Hoshowsky August 03, 2012 at 03:18 AM
I see a turf field in Mount Olive is going to cost a soccer club $300,000. Yet, turf fields for Parsippany are projected to cost around $1,500,000 for each field. I'm just shopping around here. Now somebody check for coupons!
Natalie Davis (Editor) August 03, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Maurice, it was great to see you at the meeting last night! Sorry I didn;t get the opportunity to say hello. Roman, good to see you too.
g August 03, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Maurice, Almost all sports involve some risk. Young rugby players are paralyzed every year in scrums. Scuba-diving accidents can lead to brain damage or death. Even golf or jogging can lead to pain or injury. Without some elements of risk or challenge, sport becomes meaningless. A marathon runner trying to improve his time, basketball players fiercely battling an opposing team, or a sky-diving team defying gravity – all are trying to push themselves to their maximum. There is therefore no sport without danger. However, It should be noted that assumption of the risk does not apply where the risk is not one that is inherent in the recreational activity itself. Artificial turf is not inherent in the recreational activity itself. For the good of our children, we should continue to try to prevent accidents and injuries. We want to make sure that if we are looking at changes, it is to enhance safety, rather than to weaken safety requirements. Artificial turf weakens safety requirements.
4kidsproductions August 03, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Its funny, I read up on these fields almost daily (thanks Natalie, great job) and if it isn't the "parking" it's the "lights" if not the lights, it's the "noise", if not the noise, it's the "turf" and so on. g, what if they did a revision of the fields and added fresh grass to the mix instead of turf, would you be all for going ahead with the proposal?
4kidsproductions August 03, 2012 at 02:38 PM
In regards to Michael Espejo - "I thought the board would be more sensitive to [the schools'] neighbors," he said, echoing the notion that an eight-lane track is not needed. "I don't know why it's necessary to [have a track that would allow the school to host a] state track meet. Is it an ego thing?" ---- holding a state track meet will boost revenues for our local businesses. Families comes from all around the state and are at the event for a whole day and need to eat. When I would travel for sports events, like tournaments and/or track meets, I would always take my family out to eat or go grab some pizza and bring it back, etc. Look at all the soccer fields in town, they host many tournaments and such and I always see teams (can't miss a gaggle of kids in jerseys sitting together) at local restaurants or at the pizza and/or ice cream places. As for the "bare-bones" dressing rooms for home and visiting teams issue: Everyone is so upset about kids getting hurt on the turf but what about on rainy days when those same kids have to walk down all those steps at half time (with full gear and cleats on). For all those that have worn cleats, you know that walking on pavement or steps can get slippery when wet (sometimes, even on perfectly dry pavement/steps). What if a kid from our team or an opposing team slipped and got really hurt walking all that way just to "catch a rest and get a pep talk from the coaches". Not to mention, half of the halftime is wasted.
patchitup1 August 03, 2012 at 03:08 PM
G you are SO wrong! Did YOU ever tear an ACL or MCL? Did you ever turn an ankle in a hole running FULL speed? Those stats you provided are so one sided! How come almost ALL pro football fields are turf? Cause they ARE safer to run on! The temp in the fall in Nj is Not the same as Ga or Ca. And there are hundreds of fields in NJ look at Smith Field.
g August 03, 2012 at 04:38 PM
I didn't tear a ACL or MCL but read about the damage Dashon Jankins suffered: Dashon Jenkins vs. Moreno Valley Unified School District and others (filed 2008). SynTurf.org, Newton, Mass. December 19, 2008. For Dashon Jenkins, a football player at Valley View High School, September 8, 2007, began like any other game day. By the time the game ended against Great Oaks High, Jenkins would not play football ever again. For, you see, Jenkins’ football cleats failed to break loose from the artificial turf surface and so his ankle and leg received the full force of the opposing player’s weight, causing Jenkins’ leg to break in two places. Are you a gambler? Would you let our child play football on artificial turf?
lynn magnusson August 05, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Build a pool. promotes life long fitness. Better health benefits. Nobody breaks a leg while swimming. Benefits the entire community. No lighting or noise issues. Let's encourage more missy franklins!
David Comora August 05, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Nice thought Lynn! One web page says the cost is about $1M per school and $100K a year to operate..at this point,.whats the difference between 11M and 13M? At least the pools would be something substantial. I keep pinching myself to see if I'm dreaming when I read the about the BOE's proposal. Patch...Thanks for posting more details on the plan. BOE - Thanks for taking control of the fields and presenting a plan for public debate. Even though I can't grasp the concept of how you increased the cost from $4.5M to $11M, I'm glad its out there for the town to debate and ultimately decide on its fate. I'm reading the various posts here and find them enlightening on both sides.
Parsippany Grad August 05, 2012 at 01:29 PM
G..Thank you for the info..I see patchitup1 doesn't get it..NFL players are pieces of meat to be used by their organization until they are no longer healthy enough to play..another player is always in the wing to take their spot..ask the NFL players what they think or turf..what they concider the safer surface..it's overwhelmingly grass.. NFL players last a short time in this sport and that's with the best money can buy..You think Parsippany is going to get the same turf and professional upkeep as say..Giants Stadium or the one in Dallas?..the answer is NO. And the MAIN reason the NFL has turf is because it LOOKS nice on TV..not used like grass does over a season..the players health has absolutly NOTHING to do with it!..High school atheletes are not 7,8,9 or 10 year old children anymore..some are over 6' and 200lbs..the impacts are much greater then the Moms who watched their little children play on this stuff in a summer camp league..Parsippany can't afford to give it's residents paper bags to put thier leaves in for the fall anymore..the busses that once helped the elderly,disabled and financially stressed are gone because the town can't afford it..yet $11,000,000 and counting is available for what?..I'm in favor of all else in the plan except for the turf..but I do not live by one of the schools and will not have to deal with the other problems..out of site out of mind for so many who are in favor.
Candice Aloisio August 05, 2012 at 01:58 PM
If I read the article correctly, this plan includes a water cooling system for the fields so the whole turf-heat-lawsuit thing is not even a discussion point. I am 100% FOR turfing the fields so our student athletes can be competitive, however, I cannot understand how the price more than doubled. The FOD plan included fences, tracks, lights, turf. The BOE plan adds concession stands, bathrooms, and stands - how is that worth an extra $7Million? The $4.5 million was overstated in the first place given that the turf field should cost roughly $1Million installed, each. I need to see an itemized list.
Michael August 05, 2012 at 03:11 PM
4kidsproductions - let me get this straight. If I read your comment correctly, you are suggesting we spend millions of dollars in extra tax payer dollars to support local pizzerias and other restaurants through more fans attending events. So... an issue that is supposed to be about the high-school student athletes and their athletic facilities has now turned to a way to support local restaurants through our tax dollars. Your name says 4kids... .but are you for the kids or do you own one of these local restaurants?
Peter B August 05, 2012 at 09:10 PM
The BOE field proposal is simply irresponsible and reflects the boards' misguided priorities. Why would any responsible BOE commit $11M to bring our ball fields up to acceptable conditions when they could do so for less than 1/10th the cost. We just don't need most of what's in the plan. 8 lane tracks?, 70 ft high light towers? Locker rooms? New bleachers? (has anyone looked at the PHHS bleachers? They are relatively new and in great shape, yet the plan says replace them). We need good playing surfaces. Natural grass is the most economical choice and is preferred by most athletes. The proposal is way way over the top and wasteful. This is like someone on a fixed income who needs a new roof. Since the roof will be replaced, the owner decides to go for the best, and chooses a slate roof like some of his neighbors,, and at the same time, adds a new story to the house, new driveway, irrigation system, new heating and AC, new windows and new siding.
Bob Crawford August 05, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Peter If I remember correctly $100,000 was included in this year's budget to replace the bleachers at PHS and I agree the PHHS bleachers appear to be in very good shape so why are they to be replaced? Something is not adding up which is unfortunate given the expectation that the Superintendent and BOE would understand the importance of being able to count. If there isn't a bit more transparency immediately folks who want to support the intiative won't be able to.
Analli Citall August 06, 2012 at 12:32 PM
But Peter, it will be cheaper to replace it all at once. It doesn't matter that you can't afford it, it will be cheaper.
4kidsproductions August 06, 2012 at 03:11 PM
at "Michael": I do not own any business in Parsippany. I was just making a point that having tournaments can help local businesses survive. It seems a majority of the people that comment here and at the meetings don't even have kids in the school system nor do they care about local schools and/or businesses, they just care about their tax dollars and/or who they do or don't like on the BOE or town council. And just to clear something up, the fields would also benefit middle schools and such, not just "high-school student athletes".
Tom Wyka August 06, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Candace - As someone who as at the meeting - I did the best I could explaining here...http://parsippany.patch.com/articles/resident-advocates-for-reasonable-fields-plan-compromise
Michael August 06, 2012 at 03:25 PM
4kidsproductions - i would like to reiterate my point. These fields are supposed to be about the kids and their athletics. Not about the local restaurants. Please show the same concern for the surrounding neighbors and their quality of life with a new complex holding major events in the middle of their neighborhoods as you are for the restaurants in the area. I, and others I know who live here do shop and eat at local businesses, however, if a local restaurant needs a major tournament to stay in business then they are already in trouble and won't survive anyway.
Beth Bluj August 06, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Bob - go take a walk on PHHS visitor's bleachers - make sure you bring something to hold on to when you fall right through the rotted wood.
Scott Dean August 06, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Here is a thought, There are new bleachers at Smith Field. The replaced bleachers are in Excellent condition and already are being used around town at needed locations.Maybe a deal can be made to bring them to the High School if other town locations arent utilizing this oppurtunity??
g August 06, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Scott Dean, You are an optimist. hopefulness; confidence If government can spend money, why do it the right way. Make the world happier Bill Clinton, Hillary Ramrod Clinton, Al Gore, and Tipper Gore are flying aboard Air Force 1 on their way to visit the Communists to share their success stories about taxing Americans. Bill: "Why don't I throw this hundred dollar bill out the window and make someone very happy." Hillary: "Well, why don't you throw ten hundred dollar bills out the window and make ten people happy." Al: "Why don't you two jump out the window and make me and Tipper happy." Tipper: "Why don't we all jump out the window and make everybody throughout the United States and world happy."
Scott Dean August 07, 2012 at 09:57 AM
Usually the simplest of decisions are the hardest one's to make. If our leaders were less worried about reputation and more worried about common sense we all would be better off.
Bob Crawford August 07, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Beth I took a look and you are absolutely right about the condition of the PHHS visitors bleachers and in the "preliminary" proposal offered by Parette Somjen Architects to the BOE an estimate of $267,627 has been allocated to replace them. Also allocated is another $645,462 to add barrier free accessibility to the PHHS field and Home side grandstands and to replace existing grandstands to accomodate 1,500 seats and include a new sound system and emergency egress upgrades. Also the estimate anticipates the need to spend $381,130 for a public rest room facility at PHHS and $375,292 for a restroom at PHS. As you may recall the Superintendent described the planned for restroom facilities as being "small and having no more than two or three stalls available for each gender" If you haven't see the list of proposed costs provided by Parette Somjen Architects for the entire project it makes for some interesting reading
VietNam Vet August 17, 2012 at 06:22 AM
Bob, I would like to know why its going to cost $267,627 to replace a few bleachers. I'm sure we can find someone to do them for alot less than that. If they hired a few carpenters to build them it could be cut down to less the $100,000. Its another example of the supt. wasting our money again. They are making a big deal out of nothing it seems here. The fields can be re landscaped for 1/10 of the cost of this other stuff, and it just has to be watered and put a little fertilizer on it a few times a year as you would your lawn at home. If they don't want to use chemicals then get an all Organic Fertilizer. This guy is just looking to waste money so they can out do other towns around and "Keep up with the jones" as they say. Maybe other towns have the taxes for it, we don't have the big 2 3 and $5 million homes like they do, some of the people in this town are lucky if they can hold on to pay for what they have now. I know Beth would say, let them move someplace else then. That in an of itself is a very poor thing to say. Many of the seniors here had a hand in making this town what it is today, and then you tell them if you can't afford to live here anymore thats to bad. These so called "Rich" people need to have more compassion for their seniors....they'll be one so day too!!!
Bob Crawford August 17, 2012 at 11:44 AM
FOD Costs Provided By Town Hall via an OPRA Request: Excavate and replace natural grass field with synthetic turf field - $1,200,000 for each school Remove and replace running track surface -$250,000 for each school Chain link fence -$100,000 for each school New sports lighting - $300,000 for for PHHS and $175,000 for PHS Consultant's fee for each field $150,000-$175,000 Estimate does not include site amenities and assumes running track subsurface can be used. This estimate also assumes some storm water management facilies can be re-used w/ the exception of the underdrain system, but not guaranteed pending civil engineer review and design based on county regulations and permits. Total Costs w/plus/minus 15% added contingency = $4,480,000 No dressing rooms, no restrooms, no water cooling systems, no sound systems BUT a chance to win voter support when put to a referendum.
VietNam Vet August 17, 2012 at 04:26 PM
I'm sorry but they won't get my vote for this thing. This will jack up our taxes much more and many of the seniors here don't need that and neither do I. Bob, I know what its like when you hate to see the tax bill each year because even if the town did raise the taxes, we know the school will. Seitz could care less about the people in this town, as long as he gets what he wants, we both know that. He looks for the most exspencive wat to do things. They really needed a consultant to come in on this to. What ever happened to the days when they put things out for a bid and to the cheapest bid to do the job. Whats this going to one of his friends and he gets a nice kick back thats added in there also? I already know this is way over priced and they don't need to put synthetic turf on these fields thats only going to last about 10 years and then we have to go through this again to the tune of another $3 million because we all know the scholl board as it stands will NOT take care of the fields again, its total mis management.There is about 4 idiots on that board including Seitz, who should have been fired.

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