A group of citizens have come together to promote the school district's case in advance of the athletic fields improvement referendum scheduled for Jan. 22.
The Turf Our Fields collective is made up of residents who support the Board of Education's $7.7 million plan to improve athletic facilities at Parsippany High School and Parsippany Hills High School.
The proposal, which would be bonded and cost the average Parsippany homeowner about $30 a year for 10 years, would install artificial turf fields to replace the schools' grass football fields; renovate existing six-lane track ovals; restore earthwork, tracks, curbing and sidewalk to visitor bleachers; install storm water management systems; install barrier free accessibility to fields and grandstands; replace existing fences and add sports field lighting systems and public restrooms.
The TOF committee has published a website offering details of the referendum plan in an effort to ensure that residents are informed before the Jan. 22 vote. The website offers cost breakdowns for the project, a frequently answered questions page and an online brochure with facts about the effort and links to BOE documents on the plan.
Among the documents referenced is a presentation on multi-purpose athletic fields given by Superintendent of Schools LeRoy Seitz dated Dec. 2012. (The document link brings up a page that no longer exists on the BOE server, however, a Google cache search provides the page.)
The document puts forth that the refurbished high school "athletic complexes" will serve the Parsippany-Troy Hills School District and community for a minimum of 25 years to provide safe, appropriate facilities for physical education classes, school bands, interscholastic sports teams and township recreation programs. The fields, Dr. Seitz wrote, will also serve as "safe and appropriate facilities" for students, parents, community members and visiting teams and their supporters, allowing them "to watch an event in comfort and in the evening." He added that the upgrade also will create new fundraising opportunities for student and booster groups.
The Turf Our Fields committee pleads the project's case in a letter being distributed to residents.
"Our high school fields are used by township children and adults for athletics, club activities and recreation such as jogging and walking," the letter states. "There is no disagreement that these facilities have far surpassed their life expectancy, need to be upgraded and are not up to the standards set by other schools in our county."
The letter states that the high school fields "sit idle for well over 300 days each year" and that their grass surfaces "cannot withstand the punishment and cannot grow due to poor drainage and other issues."
"Patches have been applied to repair the tracks but act only as temporary band-aids," the letter goes on to say. "The fences that encircle the fields are broken, rusted and dangerous. [Americans with Disabilities Act] standards and the use of port-a-johns are inadequate and need to be replaced with permanent restrooms. The project will save our district tens of thousands of dollars each year that is currently used for grass field maintenance and busing of students to off-campus town facilities."
Supporters argue that the project will be a boon for more than Red Hawks and Vikings football players.
"The new facilities will be used for physical education classes, football, boys & girls soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, band, track and field, cheerleading, baseball, softball and local recreational programs as time permits," the letter says. "The project will provide residents with areas for recreational activities such as jogging and walking. It will provide all residents with unobstructed access to the fields and bleachers and a safer track surface for walkers and runners."
In urging Parsippanians to vote yes for the referendum on Jan. 22, the Turf Our Fields committee say supporting the fields upgrade is investing "in our kids, our community and our future."
The group also has established a page on Facebook with information and points to the BOE website as a source of more infomation regarding the referendum.