On May 1, 2012, the BOE made mention of their desire to have a Lit Turf Field installed at Westfield High School, replacing the existing natural grass field. On May 15th, they voted unanimously in favor without informing taxpayers on the issue. Please keep in mind Westfield already has turf fields - Kehler, Houlihan and Sid Fey (the latter are lit).
Even harder to swallow, than a hushed unanimous vote to spend $3.3M on a lit turf field, the BOE then voted to bundle the lit turf field bond, a luxury, with a bond for much-needed roof repairs on our schools, which is a clear necessity for the safety of our children and the school staff. Thus, taking away our freedom to choose how our tax dollars are spent, and hiding a luxury behind a necessity.
An article in the August 24, 2012 issue of New Jersey Monthly titled, “The Top New Jersey High Schools”– showed that Westfield High School ranked #49 in 2012. We were # 41 in 2010. We took an 8-point dip in two years. Additionally, a friend moved to Westfield in 1999, and said that at the time, Westfield High School was ranked in the top 10 High Schools in the state. We are now looking at #49. What happened?
Rather than spending taxpayer dollars to replace a perfectly fine grass field with lit turf, it would seem more prudent to spend the money on academics (technology), etc. so we can begin taking steps toward getting our school ranking back up.
There are many other things that the BOE could spend taxpayer dollars on to improve what goes on inside the school for the students and faculty, rather than an unnecessary lit turf field. No matter what school your child goes to, I’m certain that if you took a few minutes to think about it, you could come up with 3-5 ways to improve our schools using the $3.3M the BOE proposes to spend on the installation of the lit turf field.
Some things we thought about: Constructing new classrooms for the schools that are experiencing growth in student population. Hire more teachers to reduce classroom size. Improve technology used in the schools. Update the very seriously outdated (Edison excluded) and “gross” (quote from an elementary school student) bathrooms that our children have no other choice but to use. Add some sort of air-cooling system so the students and teachers are not subjected to the extreme heat in the spring/summer, while trying to concentrate and learn. Provide schools with their own librarians, art teachers and music teachers. Remove the activity fee that was instated last year for arts, music and sports, which we parents are burdened with above and beyond our taxes. While not all are “capital projects,” this list could go on.
The elementary schools are having bake sales and numerous fundraisers every year to raise money to buy/install things such as SmartBoards in the classrooms, just so we can get our children beyond chalk & board and keep them slightly relevant with technology.
Something to think about, and we fully understand that the Westfield Fire Department is drawn from a different fund - the WFD’s entire budget is $3.5M, (and there’s a freeze on raises and hiring staff). The WFD budget is about the same as the “installation” cost of the lit turf field!
How can the BOE, in good conscience, justify this lit turf luxury?
The BOE has not sufficiently addressed concerns on the maintenance cost of the field over the course of its life, plus the maintenance cost of the seven 80 ft. light poles, the bleacher seating for 800 people, new brick fence to surround the field, etc. Not to mention the cost for disposal of a turf field when replacement is needed. We did a quick search on turf field disposal and found that when artificial turf (in-fill systems) needs renovating every 8-10 years, there is a hidden cost of disposal. Because the field is filled and top-dressed with a crumb rubber material (typically made from ground automobile tires), the material may require special disposal. Disposal costs are estimated at $130,000 plus transportation and landfill charges.
These are among many concerns that the BOE should address before spending our tax dollars. After all, Westfield taxpayers will be burdened with the expense and inconvenience of this lit turf field from the moment it is installed.
The field will be installed in an already crowded and overburdened residential neighborhood, which houses a high school, parochial school, churches, armory activities, as well as commuter parking. How much more congestion can our streets handle?
When asked by local residents during a meeting a couple of months ago, “if you would be happy about having an 80 ft. light pole in your back yard,” the BOE President Rich Mattessich admitted, “I would not be happy about it”. But he can put seven in essentially the back yards of 30 houses, plus surrounding residential blocks, not to mention the spillage beyond! For perspective, Houlihan & Sid Fey fields light poles stand at 60 ft. So, whether you live right next-door, the next block over or further, you’ll more than likely see the seven proposed 80 ft. light poles.
Sandra Mamary, the Supervisor of Athletics at Westfield High School, mentioned that the students were very excited about the lit turf field. Just a couple of questions:
- Which students were happy, the athletes, or all of the students? Is everyone thrilled that so much emphasis (and money) is being placed on sports rather than education?
- Were ANY dangers of turf fields clearly outlined? Just a few we’ve read about:
- Increased concussions
- ACL injuries
- Staph infections
- Dangerously high temperatures (90 degree day = 110-120 degree turf field). We understand from the BOE meeting on 8/28/12 that the heat dangers will affect kids mostly from the waist down, and that from the waist up, they should be ok. So, half of their body may over-heat while the other half is... er, ok?! Is that supposed to make us feel better?
- Turf toe and ankle sprains
- Please take a moment to watch this video discussing “Artificial Fields - Bacteria Dangers” - www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQvj3F2Zg6k
- Please Google “Turf Field Dangers” for more detail
If the dangers of a turf field weren’t clearly outlined, isn’t it important to do so before you ask students to have gym class and play afterschool sports on it?
In the end, the bundling of the two bond referendums, one for a LUXURY - the lit turf field, and the other for a NECESSITY - school roof repairs, considerably undermines the taxpayers/voters in Westfield, and removes from us our ability to choose what is important to us.
Please let’s not lose control of our taxpayer dollars to the BOE. We strongly encourage everyone to join us in voting NO to the bundled bond referendum on Monday, September 24th.
Kerry Jean & Michael Murphy – Westfield, NJ