Letter: Westfield Resident Urges a 'No' Vote on Sept. 24

Resident says, "While sports are important to their development our primary concern must be on their scholastic achievement."

As a Westfield taxpayer, parent of three young children and owner of a home that looks out onto the proposed lit turf field I urge a NO vote on September 24th’s Bundled Bond (needed school roofs/luxury of plastic fields). Plastic turf fields are being built across the country – one of the Board of Education’s arguments for investing $3.2 million of our tax dollars.  That does not make it a sound investment. In fact many communities find that in addition to the high up-front costs, the recurring costs are much higher then initially promised by planners and the plastic grass industry salespeople.

Either the BOE is not being truthful and they will be renting out these fields and building the concession stands, bathrooms, locker rooms, sound systems, and additional bleachers that might make a stadium version financially viable or they are thinking about short term splashes that will go broke long before this 20-year bond is paid off.

Consider the multiple risks and hidden costs:

Traffic: A seven day and night cycle of sporting activities and events will lead to traffic congestion requiring overtime hours for police and turning otherwise quiet streets into parking lots.

Environmental Liability: With a brook running beneath this field, construction costs will balloon in order to avoid flooding neighboring homes.  As plastic materials are broken down by wear and tear, public health threats become a concern.

Maintenance: This strategy is neither low maintenance nor cheaper than natural turf to maintain over its life-cycle. The BOE has not presented a comprehensive cost analysis which should include: sweeping and brushing of the field, plowing the field, leaf removal, grass cutting of the field perimeters, multi-season multi-sport line painting, the labor and consumable costs of the weekly top-dressing of crumb rubber infill, outside contractor repairs of tears, burns and rips of the field, maintenance of lighting system including bulbs, electrical costs, water costs for cooling the fields.

Replacement Costs: A field used seven days a week, day and night has a likely life-span of eight to ten years. The cost of replacing the field will have us paying over a million dollars halfway before the Bond is paid off. Would you buy a house that will last 10 years into a 20 year mortgage?  The crumb rubber in-fill will not be accepted at normal landfills leading to increased tipping costs. Costs of supplying new and disposing of old petroleum products continues to outpace inflation.

Residential Impact: Residents throughout the neighborhood will suffer game noise, light into their yards and homes, and streets full of cars. The insult of falling property values will add to the injury of rising taxes.

New artificial turf fields may look perfect when first installed, but a damaged or worn field is both unsightly and unsafe to use. Once a synthetic turf field is built, it is completely impractical to go back. We will embark upon a cycle of escalating costs and dependency on outside contractors that will be a drag on critical educational resources needed in our Westfield schools.

If we are investing in the youth of Westfield then the priority should be on teaching, classrooms, technology and yes, a roof over their heads. I do want to see spending on education for my three children and all the children of Westfield. I want them to play on natural grassy fields, sometimes getting muddy, sometimes coming in from the rain. While sports are important to their development our primary concern must be on their scholastic achievement.

The BOE is using our tax dollars to sell this plan to the public. Salesmen, lawyers, engineers and accountants are hard at work. They bundled this with an important roof issue and scheduled the vote on September 24th, when they could have waited six more weeks for the higher turnout Election Day. They are counting on us sleeping through this. 

Up against these forces is a growing band of concerned community members. We gathered a few hundred dollars to put up cheap signs … only to see a third of them stolen just when our momentum is growing. We are going door to door and street to street. Victory is within sight, but if you don’t actually come out and vote on September 24 (7 AM to 9 PM) the natural grass field will be lost forever to a complex of light towers, plastic grass and metal bleachers.  The choice is yours.

Jonah Gensler

Westfield New Jersey

September 18, 2012


Time For Change September 19, 2012 at 03:18 PM
You could have saved yourself a lot of time by ending your letter with your sentence about where you live. That in itself indicates your reasons for opposition. As for the BOE hoping residents sleep through the process, if you have followed the questions and comments still being made (many even in your letter), you would see that in fact many are asleep. Either people don't really follow what's going on or they claim that answers are not being given WHEN those answers a not the ones they want to hear. Don't hide behind the plastic field, or the brook, or the heat of turf or the countless other excuses you have. Just say it. You don't want the field across from your home. Go ahead, say it out loud so all of your friends in town know why you want to stand in the way of enhancements to the town.
Roofus September 19, 2012 at 05:34 PM
I don't want the lights at the field but welcome the field on its own merit. Because the Bd of Ed piggybacked the lighted turf field with the roof repairs I will vote NO. I live nowhere near the high school. It's not fair for the residents to have to deal with the increase in traffic parking garbage lights at night noise and any other problems associated with the use of a turf field that will increase usage of this area of town. Put it at Sycamore and watch all those residents complain. Put it at Jefferson and hear those residents complain. Put it in any residential area and a home owner will complain. To me the issue is not the turf. It's the lights and the coupling of a luxary with a necessity.
JERSEY GIRL September 19, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Lets install lights on the Franklin school field or at the field by Stop and Shop. There would be an uproar!
billy September 19, 2012 at 09:43 PM
overtime hours for police: HA HA- no more than the entire force keeping guard over Fairview when Princess Whitney was buried. That must be some 'brook' that runs under the field! They already covered it up once, proper steps are taken to ensure materials do not leach into soil and water. Should have thought about these pressing issues before purchasing a house near a high school with a town population over 30,000- meaning high number of students. Don't forget about all of the outside vendors who clog up Rahway Ave when they rent out the Armory! Lets boycott the next home and garden sale!!! Maybe we can make signs to stop that too!!
South Westfielder September 19, 2012 at 11:01 PM
I will be voting NO. Natural fields are not inferior to plastic and I don;t believe for one minute that we need them. If there is a decision to go with them, then charge those who use them for leagues, travelling teams and intermural competition. There are plenty of hours in a day when those ugly fields near the track and the football stadium are not being used.
Westfield guy September 20, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Mentioning "property values" is the typical real estate 101 scare tactic, an absolute joke. As a side note go around to other neighboring towns and see their sports facilities, we need to step it up here in Westfield, the new field/lights is a good start.
JERSEY GIRL September 20, 2012 at 12:09 PM
The vendors who use the Armory cannot compare to the increased traffic, noise, litter, that will happen if you vote Yes. Is is easy not to "get it" when it isnt in your back yard. This is a residental area, not the ideal location for the amount of traffic that the residents will be forced to deal with. I know that with the HS parking issues, we are dealing with cars parked too close to driveways, litter in the street, etc. can you only imagine? Its not really about the property value, it is quality of life. This Rahway Ave area is already too congested with limited parking, this will overflow into First Street and the neighboring side streets. Please vote NO.
Diane Barabas September 20, 2012 at 01:43 PM
The suggestion to use the Field on Elm Street is a great idea! This would be the least invasive to the residents, not like Rahway Avenue. What happened to safety? Did we forget people rubber necking on Rahway Avenue when there is an Event? Besides, this is not the TIME to Burden Tax Payers with such a frivolous expense! We pride ourselves in educating our children, but indulging them is not answer.
Unemployed September 20, 2012 at 01:56 PM
You hit it spot on..This letter would have had a lot more impact or meaning if it didn't come from the, "owner of a home that looks out onto the proposed lit turf field..".
Wally Westfield September 20, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Every Sunday morning I have noticed a talented group of soccer players have a game on that field. They don't seem to be bothered by not having turf or lights. Instead they seem to be grateful that they have a field to play on. Pehaps we could all learn something from them
1aokmom September 20, 2012 at 02:29 PM
I live 2 miles from Roosevelt School. The bus stop to Roosevelt is my house. My kids can't ride the bus because we are 2 doors from eligibility. If my kids cross Mountain Ave where the crossing guard is, they walk more than 2 miles (the eligibility criteria). The district wants to charge me $486 per yr per child to transport them. What do you think my vote will be for the referendum??????
Karen September 20, 2012 at 03:13 PM
From the negative comments listed, I guess sports are more important then the quality of life for the people that live near the field. I do not live near the field but am concerned of the costs involved. Seniors that have lived here for over 50 years are struggling to continue to live in their beloved homes. If you want the first class field/lights, host a fundraiser! Cake anyone?
Unemployed September 20, 2012 at 03:31 PM
JERSEY GIRL September 20, 2012 at 04:18 PM
This field is not be a priority. It is basically trying to "keep up "with the neighboring towns and what they have. This field should be placed in an area that isnt residental, and high traffic, bottom line. There are other needs that should to be considered. Are they going to allow parking in the Stoneleigh area to accomodate all these cars? I think not!
B. Reasonable September 20, 2012 at 07:15 PM
'NO' is the only reasonable and intelligent vote here. For anyone dense enough to think having ANOTHER lighted turf field is truly critical for the community, feel free to pack up and move somewhere else where you can find people who share your short-sightedness and lack of common sense. ANOTHER turf field would add zero long-term value (unless of course, you're a contractor or vendor trying to soak taxpayers via construction or maintenance contracts). BOE should do the right / responsible thing and split this ridiculous 'impulse buy' (which only a foolish few support) apart from the need to repair the school roofs (which everyone unanimously agrees should be done).
Matthew Wiener September 21, 2012 at 02:01 AM
I do not live near the high school, or the proposed field. But I cannot stomach the Board bundling totally unrelated projects into a single vote in an effort to make people take something they don't want or need (the turf field) along with something they do (the roofs). I lived in the Soviet Union for a year and this kind of bundling was common there - I didn't expect to see it here. This referendum should be voted down so that, in the future, the Board knows it must allow people to vote on things issue by issue. As an aside, the concerns about maintenance and replacement costs for the field are well-founded.
Walkin Westfield September 21, 2012 at 02:55 AM
if the BOE practiced full disclosure we wouldn't even be discussing resurfacing the natural grass field
Walkin Westfield September 21, 2012 at 03:02 AM
There are many home owners in that neighborhood who owned their houses before the WHS opened in 1952.
Walkin Westfield September 21, 2012 at 03:05 AM
the BOE tells us that Chatham has four plastic fields, but what they don't tell you is that 1/3 of the acquisition cost and 100% of the maintenance cost is paid by private contributions and donations.
Walkin Westfield September 21, 2012 at 03:07 AM
step up if you want, but don't expect everyone else to pay for it.
Walkin Westfield September 21, 2012 at 03:09 AM
the BOE needs to realign its priorities
Walkin Westfield September 21, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Some people say free will is being able to choose without external pressure or coercion.
jonah September 23, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Interesting comments on all sides of this issue. The issue of the field is two-fold: negative impact on quality of life for those who live near the field and the overall financial viability for all tax payers. Yes, those who live next to this planned lit turf field are disparately impacted and I'm sure that causes us to look more carefully at the details. If you are going to go about the business of seriously impacting resident's quality of life, you better be sure the need is fully justified and the plan is a strong one. The fact that lots of towns are turning to turf and that bundling is commonplace does not make it right. This issue is also about being a good neighbor. If I were to try to open a bar in my home, the police would not allow it. The town would never rezone my property and if by some miracle they did, the high school would be all over this. Why? Because this would be an important change to the community that would adversely affect the school. They don't want a bar next to the high school. The same standards should apply to a high school. To place light towers and bleachers right up against people's yards is a hardship and a nuisance. So of course I am fighting it. Please vote NO on Monday.
Walkin Westfield September 23, 2012 at 12:59 PM
In day light hours the intersection at First and Rahway sees an unfortunate large share of motor vehicle accidents. Now imagine adding to this dangerous intersection parents racing to drop off, leaving to run errands, speeding back to pick-up their children and then racing home to put them to bed all at dusk.


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