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Support Builds for Bond Referendum

Westfield BOE will hold one more public meeting before Sept. 24 vote.

In 12 days, residents of Westfield will have the opportunity to make one decision that will determine the fate of two separate multi-million dollar capital projects. Though it remains unclear whether the public will vote to approve or deny the much-discussed that will be on the ballot on Sept. 24, the answer does seem to be becoming clearer as the crucial date approaches.

Since to include funding for both district roof repairs and a lighted turf field installation as a single bond proposal, the public outcry has been loud. Some members said they would have preferred to decide each project on its own merits. Taxpayers contrasted the roof repair – almost unanimously viewed as an urgent necessity – with a turf field that some felt was more of a luxury. Residents of the high school area expressed concern with potential nuisances spilling over and affecting their property. Others balked at the sheer size of a $16.9 million bond and the all-or-nothing stakes that attached the two projects.

But after a summer that saw impassioned meetings in public and fierce discussions online, last night's gathering remained largely civil and calm. Most in attendance either expressed full support for the bond referendum or raised issues to the Board that were addressed shortly after. 

The meeting was held at the cafeteria of , in part to allow for more space for members of the public to attend and partake in the discourse. About 25 members of the public were in attendance and eight residents addressed the Board on the bond issue, but most of their questions were answered adequately by its members or a team of experts on hand. Others merely spoke up to offer the Board their gratitude or to express excitement that their sport may soon receive the same advantages that football and other programs have enjoyed since a turf field was installed at Kehler Stadium in 2006.

The Board turned to the bond referendum option when it struggled to find other ways to fund two projects it views as urgent and important, and members say they aim to act quickly in order to take advantage of lower interest rates and favorable bidding environments in the construction industry.

“We felt these projects were both necessities at this point,” Board Vice President David Finn said last night.

In the past, school districts had been able to put aside money within annual operating budgets to eventually pay for major capital projects. However, because budgets are now subject to a two percent annual cap, such an approach is no longer an option. Additionally, districts are limited in what they can use a bond to pay for, as such measures may only be allocated for major long-term projects and not, for example, additional computers or textbooks.

The $16.9 million bond would increase the average assessed home’s annual tax bill by $45 in 2013-2014, according to a presentation given last night by Superintendent Margaret Dolan. Over the life of the bond, the average home’s tax bill is not expected to increase by more than $55 (including existing debt).

The roof replacement proposal has received strong approval for months, after the Board spent several years seeking to address the growing concern. In her presentation, Dolan said the average age of the district’s 10 school buildings is 73 years. Though the roofs of most of the buildings have lasted longer than their original lifespan, as Dolan said, “they’re old.” Should the bond be approved, $13.6 million will be allocated to replace the roofs of all district buildings during the summer of 2013, representing 77 percent of the district’s total roof surfaces.  

The disrepair of the roofs had also held up other objectives. The district had approached solar investment companies several years ago with the goal of replacing the roofs and reducing energy costs, but no deals were reached because the roofs were so dilapidated. Once they are replaced, Board members said insulation will be upgraded so that future solar installation would be possible at no cost to the district.

“It’s a savings on an expense that will have meaningful results in the future,” Board President Richard Mattessich explained last night.

The bond’s primary sticking point has been the additional $3.3 million that would be used to install a lighted all-purpose athletic field at the high school. The Board has justified the need for such a facility by pointing to student population growth. According to Dolan’s presentation, enrollment in district schools rose by 17.4 percent from 2000 to 2010, with a 31 percent spike in athletics participation. The proposed high school field would not only provide regulation-sized field for soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and softball teams, but would also be used for all high school student physical education classes. Board members say the field would alleviate scheduling concerns and make the town’s fields more weather-proof, and such a facility would help Westfield stay competitive with those of similar towns.

Dolan’s thorough presentation addressed many questions members of the public had before they had the opportunity to ask them, and a team of consultants and experts were also present to clarify any technical ambiguities that anyone was concerned with. As was addressed at the last meeting, the field’s lighting system will be targeted to allow only minimal spillage. Using a metric known as footcandles, the district’s lighting expert said the high school field lights would result in a spillage of 0.0 to 0.2 on the property of the residents closest to the field. By comparison, the average streetlight results in a spillage of 3.0 to 4.9 footcandles. The lighting will also be targeted for specific sports and Board members said the lights would only be on during practices and games. A password-protected system would allow the lights to be controlled remotely. The lights will not be used on Sunday nights.

Dolan also said the Board is already in discussions with the town and the Armory to avoid scheduling conflicts. A public address system will not be installed at the field and the high school’s restrooms will be available during events. Only one regulation game will be permitted at a time and games and practices will be scheduled to end by 9 p.m.

The last public meeting on the bond will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, September 19. Dolan implored the public to read the information that has been made available and to partake in the vote on Sept. 24.

“Please take the time to become informed,” she said. “The choice is up to you.”

No Lighted Fields September 12, 2012 at 02:11 PM
We don't need lights on any of the board of ed fields. Our high school athletic teams have been practicing and playing during daylight hours for decades. Its the town rec leagues and other leagues that are in need of the expanded hours of playing time and fields. Let them fund the projects through the lease or purchase of land and build it themselves with money generated through their own user fees.
Jeff B September 12, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Re: "Your home value depends on the maintenance of our schools and making it the best school system possible and your children deserve the best." Carol Barnes, tell that to the people whose home values will be negatively affected because of a lighted turf field next door. In my opinion, it is unethical to impose house depreciation on any resident for something that is not an essential public purpose, which this is plainly not.
Time For Change September 12, 2012 at 02:17 PM
WHS Neigbor- you didnt come because you were afraid that you might learn something about all of the above. Let us help you out: 1) On the 2% for the capital reserve- it did come up and the point was made by the Board that they had done 30 projects in the last year costing the district like $2.5 million dollars-boilers, bathrooms, windows, etc. You people just think that stuff gets fixed with a snap of the fingers. It costs money to maintain 73 year old buildings. 2)If you look at the Website, you would in fact see that the taxes would go down if there was no bond. All you have to do is to WANT to find the information and you can. 3) Mattessich said that they will create a "sinking fund" so that each year they will budget for a portion of the funds to eventually replace just the turf portion of the field. They said that of the $3.3 million that will be spent, only a small portion of that actually is for the turf itself-the piece that would eventually be replaced. 4) As for the rest, why don't you stop talking about everything other than your last point. You don't want the field because of the lights. If you had come, you would have heard FACTS about the lighting.
Robert Wendel September 12, 2012 at 02:18 PM
The insulting nature of your comments is unwarranted and counter-productive. We need to get beyond the smart remarks and have a dialogue that focuses on people's concerns. Both the roof repair and the field are well-needed but I think combining them into one bond referendum is a mistake. It appears (although I know was not the intention of the Board) to get one past the voters which may be the basis to many voting "no" on this bond referendum. If the presentation had been separate, I think both would have been approved by the voters. Now that they are combined, I think many will now vote against the combined referendum in order to make a point. Both projects are important - I believe the priority of them should be left to the voters to decide.
Jessie September 12, 2012 at 02:28 PM
WHS you are a fraud- All of these issues were discussed ad nauseum last night- you can watch the video on TV 36- Just admit you don't want a turf field and lights in your neighborhood- that is your right and your point- the rest is all B.S. you are hoping will stick- which apparently based on last nights turnout- is not sticking at all. I agree with the comment below about how nobody has these discussions face to face due to cowardice. What a shame you did not show up last night- Guess Americas Got Talent must have been on.
Robert Wendel September 12, 2012 at 02:33 PM
It should be necessary to use your real names (first and last) and not hide behind "handles" or only first names. We need to get to concrete discussions which evaluate all sides of issues in a cooperative and constructive environment. We are, for the most part, adults and should present our opinions as such. Let's rise to the occasion and get out of the "verbal opinion basement".
Elizabeth G September 12, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I'm not bitter, Time For Change, I'm embarrassed. Maybe you can refrain from judging people and remember that each person on this forum or any other, has a right to their opinion.
Mike September 12, 2012 at 02:51 PM
No further discussion or propaganda needed. This issue will be put to a vote. Go vote, and be thankful we can vote.
Westfield Parent September 12, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Why not put lights on Kehler Stadium? WHY NOT? Isn't that the most logical, most economical, most sensible thing to do?
Elizabeth G September 12, 2012 at 04:33 PM
AGREED !
Doogie Howser September 12, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Um - perhaps useability? Turf drains, grass (at least in our town) does not. Typically, the fields are not only unuseable while it is raining, but usually, they are unplayable the following day as well. Between lights and drainage, the town will get a great deal more hours of useable fields to help satisfy the unquenchable demands for field space. This is money well spent if it passes - and desperately needed.
Doogie Howser September 12, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Where is all of this available vacant land you speak of for the leagues to purchase?
Westfield Parent September 12, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Westfield is a corrupt town. The elected officials are eager to serve the elite group, and worse, in this process, they blatantly pick on the people who are not as rich and not as powerful. From Washington redistricting, to Central/Clover light, to now the lit turf field, they are just jamming it down your throat. If you still think that Westfield is a nice place, you are deluding yourself.
Jeff B September 12, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Re: "Our children do deserve the best." Ryan, without qualification, I disagree. They deserve the best consistent with it being a public education at public expense. They do not deserve the best that can be obtained at a private school. A lighted turf field has little or nothing to do with a good public education, especially when we already have some in town that are largely away from residences. However, attitudes like it is "tough" if your house might be devalued by this turf field and "if you can't afford the taxes, move" (which has been expressed publicly in the past) ought to be unacceptable in a place that wants to be considered a "community" - and have a lot more to do with how our kids grow up than whether or not we have a lighted turf field. Too bad some on the Board of Ed appear to have no interest in educating our children by setting a good ethical example.
The Mayor September 12, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Attention Westfield Parent: Please Leave town now- Pack up your troubles and head down the Parkway- You are an idiot. Sorry. Elected officials in this town receive zero dollars and work all kinds of hours- To be corrupt- you need a motivation- being a public servant in Westfield does not come with that luxury. Thank you.
Westfield Parent September 12, 2012 at 07:12 PM
"The Mayor": The emperor has no clothes on and now you feel embarrassed? The truth is plain out there for everyone to see. You and your cohorts do not own this town. This is still part of America, where it is supposed to be "liberty and justice for ALL". With people like you, you not only bully others, if they dare to protest, you call them "idiot". Look into the mirror, "Mayor". In my book, using official position to unfairly treat one group of people for the benefits of another group, is CORRUPTION.
UnionAtty September 12, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Seriously, folks? Does anyone really believe that Mayor Andy Skibitsky is the one making this comment? Just focus on the pros and cons of the issues before you and make an informed decision when you get into the booth. All the other stuff, the name calling, insults, deliberate mis-identifications and ad hominem attacks are just fodder and have no purpose in this debate.
Ryan September 12, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Robert -- Ryan Meyers...Nice to meet you! No idea why it just shows Ryan Jeff B -- I like your point about community -- well said. I think we are getting at generally the same thing re: deserve the best with maybe . The community should be able to decide what constitutes good education experience at what public price. We don't need to (and frankly can't afford to) buy everything.
Suzanne September 12, 2012 at 10:34 PM
I would like to know what would happen if this bond issue is voted down. Will they actually allow unsafe school roofs to go unreplaced? Would the State Board of Education allow it?
Pete September 13, 2012 at 12:23 AM
The schools aren't unsafe but way to buy into the scaremongering. Do you seriously believe that every roof in town needs to be replaced at the same time? If enough people see sense and vote this nonsense down they'll either fix the actual leaks, replace a roof at a time when money is available or just split up the bonds and put it all to another vote.
Pete September 13, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Simple fair answer: the parents of the kids can pay and those without kids pay nothing. That way, if they want fields or lights or roofs with solar or team jerseys or iPads or anything else they can dream up, they just need to do what they expect everyone else in town to do: open up their wallet.
Mike September 13, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Since the Board of Ed rolled the turf field (which I wouldn't have voted for in these economic times) in with the roofs (which I would have voted for) then I have no choice but to vote 'NO'. If they think I am that dumb, then they deserve my "NO" vote. Anyway, respect the democracy, be happy that it IS being put to a vote, and live with the election results.
khaleesi September 13, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Pete- I want to have the Dothraki take you away and move you to another town Westfield minions do not appreciate your selfishness- maybe you could open up your cold heart instead of your wallet
Ghost of Gary September 13, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Nope, They tried that in the 90's and it was soundly defeated.
Luke September 13, 2012 at 02:22 AM
Where is the report stating that ALL of the roofs are bad and need to be replaced all at one? If every school roof truely indeed needs to be replaced then I should be able to stick my head between my legs and kiss my own arse!!
Luke September 13, 2012 at 02:27 AM
Mr Mayor aside from the tales that you really seem to like alot of prescription pills I would be curious to see the bank accounts of all of the BOE memebers pushing for this field. Or just ask all thise BOE members if they were given ANYTHING from this turf field company whether if it be a pen, t-shirt, meals or anything of that nature. If every member can stand before the audience and pass the red face test by saying that they have not accepted anything then I will vote YES for the field.
Walkin Westfield September 13, 2012 at 02:41 AM
In Chatham 1/3 of the acquisition costs and 100% of the maintenance costs are paid for by donations and private contributions. Why do those people promoting covering the WHS field with plastic expect everybody else to pay for their toy.
Gary McCready September 13, 2012 at 03:23 AM
At the Boe meeting referenced it was stated only 77% of roof surfaces needed to be replaced
Suzanne September 16, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Mike I have to agree with you. Had the BOE not rolled the roof repair (a necessity) in with the fancy field (a luxury) I would have voted for the roof repair. They have now forced me to vote no on this bond issue. This is plain old ordinary extortion!
Just Conerned September 17, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Our police and fire departments -- public safety is a BIG issue.. VOTE NO. How can we have money for a field, but not public safety!!!??!?!?!

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