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Fields Plan Info Offered, Referendum Set for Jan. 22

BOE communications committee says district website and community groups will spread word of fields election.

With less than a month before residents vote Jan. 22 on a bond referendum question to approve plans for $7.7 million in improvements to athletic facilities at Parsippany and Parsippany Hills high schools, the Parsippany-Troy Hills Board of Education has laid out its communication plan for disseminating information to voters.

Board member Susy Golderer, who heads the communications committee, recommended during the board’s Dec. 20 meeting that all official information about the referendum should come intially from the board.

One of the chief tools the board will use, she said, is the district’s website, which was uploaded with referendum information following the meeting. The website now has links to the PHS and PHHS project scopes and layouts for both high school fields, a PowerPoint presentation outlining the plan, voting information and a question-and-answer document.

“There are some questions that do need to be addressed,” Golderer said. “We do need to have exact numbers on the website, such as what maintenance costs will be.”

A website document offering questions and answers includes the average homeowner cost of $30 per year for 10 years, information about other local districts with artificial fields, timeframes and financial information regarding field replacement, the safety of artificial fields, reasoning behind having multi-use fields and explanation of the disparity between the board’s plan and the similar plan proposed by the mayor in 2011.

Additionally, both Golderer and board President Frank Calabria said the board will pass the news on to local seniors and community groups (including the Kiwanis Club of Greater Parsippany and the  Rotary Club of Parsippany-Troy Hills) that have expressed interest in disseminating information.

Golderer said this strategy is preferable to calling another special meeting to discuss the referendum.

“We can set a Tuesday and say, ‘We’re going to be here and answer any questions,’” Golderer said. “I can tell you 10 people are going to show up. The other 59,000 members of the public will say they didn’t know about it.”

Some residents expressed dismay during the meeting that much of this information had not been available earlier. Some, such as former board member Bob Crawford, urged residents not to rely solely on the board for information.

“You are way behind the ball in letting us know what it is you want to do,” Crawford said during the meeting. “I strongly encourage people here to not put all your eggs in this basket in terms of this board, in the next 15 [business] days being able to communicate to this community why we should spend $7 million on two fields.”

Resident Bob Venezia said he had asked months ago about the annual maintenance expenses for each field.

Paul Saxton, the district’s interim director of personnel, said that he has installed four fields throughout his career and that $400,000 per field over 10 years is an accurate estimate.

Venezia said he would like to see the annual cost breakdown included in the referendum.

Some residents also posed questions that board members said it and the district would look into, such as resident Peter Bradley’s query about the incremental cost to operate the fields.

“We want to get an accurate figure first before we give a definitive answer,” Calabria said.

The plan requiring the referendum vote calls for the installation of synthetic turf fields at both high schools, along with running tracks, new storm water management, new lighting and new public restrooms.

Saxton said during the meeting that, in his experience, synthetic fields have had about 1,800 uses in the first three months, in comparison to grass fields that get used around 120 times over 10 years.

The board holds its reorganization meeting Thursday at 8 p.m. at the administration building at 292 Parsippany Road. New member James Carifi is set to be sworn in at the final gathering scheduled prior to the Jan. 22 referendum vote.

Peter B January 06, 2013 at 07:30 PM
Jonathan, On January 1st I presented my questions to the BOE via the instructions provided on the web site. No reply in any form as of today. I fully agree the matter should be brought to the public, but the BOE has not done much to make the residents aware of the referendum and the very unusual voting day Jan 22nd. The fields can be improved and maintained at a fraction of the the $7.7M cost. Did anyone notice, the BOE cannot or chooses not to tell us what the added operating costs will be? The BOE could reach out to the neighboring homes and let them know of the plan, and how it will or will not impact thier quality of life. That has not been done, I believe because it would not get the support they want. We have 3 lighted turf fields in Parsippany. The County has plans to add 4 more at Central Park (Greystone Hosp). Who can support spending $7.7M + operating costs, for 2 more fields? Step back and look at this from a taxpayer point of view...This is insane.
Chris January 06, 2013 at 09:47 PM
Mr Bradley, you of all people should not compare a "town" field to a "BOE" field. As I recall, you were against the town being involved because of the added usage of "out of towners" and said you would support a field improvement handled by the BOE. Now you are saying this is "insane". How do you propose that the fields, that children of our town use, get a real improvement. You speak of increased costs? I have to disagree. The maintenance cost would be significantly reduced. The cost of busing our children to town fields to practice would be significantly reduced. Is $.09 per day too much to ask for? Operating costs? Please be more specific. Jannarone Park's turf field is 10 years old and in fine condition and with very little regular maintenance.
Bob Crawford January 06, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Whether you support or do not support the Referendum that will be held on January 22nd Parsippany residents should be concerned about the Superintendent's and Board's ongoing failure to provide the community with sufficient and timely information about their decision to ask Parsippany voters to approve the expenditure of $7.7 million . Whether it is another example of their casual and careless stewardship of the public's best interests or is simply a case of gross incompetence the very real perception that the Superintendent and the BOE have failed to consider other options (to resolve the condition of the High School fields) and their dogged determination to hold a hush hush referendum in the dead of winter should concern the proponets of the field improvements. Peter B you are right to think the Board's current approach verges on insanity Chris you have every right to wonder why, at this late date, arguments such as the one Peter B makes have yet to be answered. Time is running short and secrecy and silence may not prove to be a winning combination as voters go to the polls on January 22nd.
g January 09, 2013 at 03:35 PM
Clyde just add to the $7,700,000 the annual maintenance costs: Mike Richardson, a horticulture and turf specialist at the University of Arkansas, said that companies regularly inflate the cost of maintaining a grass field, and downplay the cost of keeping up an artificial turf field. He said that the cost of an artificial field, plus its annual maintenance over 10 years, totals $800,000 or more. "I challenge you to find one high school athletic program that's spending $80,000 a year" to maintain a grass field, he said.
g January 09, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Why do we put so much attention on athletic fields and so little attention to the education of the students: From the list of the 2012 Top High Schools Parsippany Hills from 50 in 2010 to 23 in 2012. Although Parsippany seems to have shown great improved, how did this happen when Parsippany High School and 10 other schools—the district would not reveal which—failed to meet Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks in Language Arts Literacy and Mathematics, according to Interim Curriculum and Instruction Director Ruth Anne Estler.? The answer is quite simple. You water down the Federal no child left beheind. The Obama administration announced that 10 states, including New Jersey, were granted waivers from having to adhere to federal No Child Left Behind standardized testing benchmarks. The waiver comes at a fortunate time for Parsippany. Eleven of the district's 14 schools did not meet federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards as of the end of the last school year. How do you get higher standing in the top schools in New Jersey? You water down the federal No Child Left Behind standardized testing benchmarks. It sure looks like manipulation, so that teachers get raises and our students get the artificial turf.

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