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.
Westfield New Jersey
September 18, 2012