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Westfield Resident to BOE: 'You Took Away Our Freedom of Choice'

A neighborhood outreach meeting was held to discuss the proposed lighted turf field at Westfield High School.

In a heated three-and-a-half-hour meeting, a large group of Westfield residents let members know not only are they unhappy about the proposed installation of a lighted turf field at but they are also upset about the fact that funding for the field has been lumped in with district-wide roof repairs.

Approximately 100 residents attended Tuesday evening's neighborhood outreach meeting, which was held at WHS and hosted by Westfield BOE president Richard Mattessich, facilities chair Jane Clancy and Westfield schools' athletic supervisor Sandy Mamary.

Also in attendance were Bob Zoeller from Musco Lighting, architect George Duthie and Perry Di Piazza of Field Turf, who presented an overview of the proposed field.

Plans for the in mid-May. The district's answer to the swelling student population, the field would be able to accommodate three gym classes per period, allow for more diverse physical education activities and make it easier to hold class outdoors more months of the year, Mamary stated during a presentation before the Board this spring. The lights would extend both practice and play times for teams.

The field comes with a $3.3 million price tag and would be funded by part of a $16 million bond referendum, to be voted on Sept. 24,  which will also cover a  replacement project. The Board the projects at a public meeting held on June 5.

Clancy and schools superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan explained that costly repairs to natural grass fields can often be undone in a matter of months due to weather or continuous use, making refurbishing existing fields an unattractive alternative.

Residents' main concerns regarding the proposed field include light shining into their homes, noise from practices that could last well into the evening, decreased property values and increased traffic in what they consider to be an already "overburdened area." But the recurring question residents put to BOE members was: "Why not separate the bonds?"

Mattessich said he took into account feedback on both sides of the issue and said he believed that just as people at the outreach meeting would vote for the roof repairs but not for the turf field, there were others who would vote against the roof work but for a lighted, synthetic field.

"You took away our freedom of choice," said Codding Road resident Kerry Murphy.

Others agreed that while they would have voted for the roof repairs, now they will not because they do not want the field, and all that comes with it, in their neighbhorhood.

BOE member Rosanne Kurstedt said she voted for one referendum because she thinks both projects will benefit the district. She added that she believes it is her responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of the entire district. Kurstedt also said because of low interest rates and the current bond schedule, doing both projects now would not cost taxpayers as much as it would at other times.

Other parents said they believe the field is an unnecessary expense, especially when schools need upgrades and maintenance. One dad said his daughter brought four rolls of paper towels with her to school this spring because the school had run out of them.

While some residents said the field proposal looked "great" or "magnificient," none said they believed the expense was justifiable given the other needs within the school district.

While the experts were available to answer the public's questions, several times presentations were interrupted as residents spoke over one another, many echoing similar questions and comments.

Scott Robb, who plays and coaches on Cranford's synthetic field, pointed out that the temperature on turf gets much higher than it does on natural grass, often to the point of becoming dangerous to athletes. Di Piazza of Field Turf noted that turf can register 20 degrees hotter because it lacks the moisture that natural grass has. He did say that ahead of events the field can be soaked, which can lower the temperature.

Other questions, specifically regarding the lights, could not be answered as Zoeller said he was waiting on specifics from the Board but could have more detailed plans available within a week.

The district will post a list of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on its website shortly.

Here are several questions that were asked and answered:

Q. What is the seating capacity of the proposed field?

A. At present, seating capacity is 540, with six sections of 90 seats each, with the capacity to expand to seat up to 800.

Q. Will port-o-johns be on the field?

A. No, the school building will be open when the field is in use.

Q. How long will a synthetic turf field last?

A. With proper maintenance, approximately 12 years.

Q. How long is the warranty?

A. Eight years

Q. What time will the lights be turned off?

A. While they are currently off at 9:30 p.m. at Sid Fay, the Board has yet to put a plan in place to regulate a shut-off time.

Q. Can the bonds be separated now?

A. No. The vote will take place on Sept. 24.

Q. Why is the vote in September and not November?

A. Because the extra time is needed to get the roof project underway so that it can begin in June 2013 in order to be completed before school resumes in September.

Q. How many light poles will there be and how tall are they?

A. There will be seven. Six will be 80 feet and one will be 60 feet tall.

Q. How long would it take to construct?

A. Four to five months.

When asked if another outreach meeting was planned, Mattessich said the Board is open to "continuous feedback."

The next scheduled Board meeting will be held at 8 p.m. on Aug. 28

For more information, visit the school district's website at www.westfieldnjk12.org.

WF Parent July 12, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Then put the lights in front of your house
Sally McBride July 12, 2012 at 12:15 PM
and it peaked again in 2009-2010 at 1796 http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/schoolsearch/school_detail.asp?Search=1&DistrictID=3417760&ID=341776005764
Emily Glazer July 12, 2012 at 12:50 PM
I certainly hope that after spending all this money on a bond that at least the Board does not give any raises to Teachers! I see other towns holding the line on salaries and certainly hope Westfield gets that right this time. 8 % unemployment and plenty of people struggling -even in Westfield.
Jeff B July 12, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Pete, that would be $600 for each and every year of the 12 years as a user fee if financed that way. A better alternative might be to finance it out of all the roof maintenance expenses they avoid by covering 85% new roofs with a bond issue.
Jeff B July 12, 2012 at 01:37 PM
To KLP, teachers hardly deserve more than they are paid! You must not know any college graduate with the equivalent of an education degree trying to get a job, and what they can get. In Westfield, the starting teacher salary is $57,000 with three months vacation, a low cost health plan, a defined benefit pension plan, and decent job security - a package worth roughly double what similar qualifications can get in the private sector. To everyone, the hidden secret the Board of Education does not want you to know is that a zero contract increase does NOT mean teachers get no raise. Teachers still get what are called step or longevity increases (plus increases for getting an advanced degree) that, in the NY City system (where I have some data), average over 2% per year over a career. Add that to the 3.9% per year teachers got in the 2010 contract and you get some perspective as to why property taxes have gotten so high over the years. Has anyone paying these taxes posting here gotten such increases on a regular basis from such a starting salary?
Marni Sunshine July 12, 2012 at 01:46 PM
With regards to the Student Activity Fee, WHY is the BOE still demanding that money? I thought the only reason the BOE implemented that fee was when the districts were no longer getting state money. That has changed as the district has been receiving State funding. The student activity fees should be diminished, or the BOE in total. Personally, I'd like to see the entire BOE go and continue to pay the fee.
shell536 July 12, 2012 at 02:33 PM
you may not feel the same about this issue when you have to pay taxes to fund such non essential things as a turf field. We already have a turf field for HS activities at Kehler. We don't need another one.
Walkin Westfield July 12, 2012 at 03:12 PM
The town already has two artificial turf fields. One four blocks away from the proposed site and a second one a mile further south. The north side of town has none, how does that make any sense. The town needs to hirer urban planners/architects/designers to address this entire issue it is not for the BOE.
mb July 12, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Other things to consider with synthetic turf aside from the health issues: http://rockvillecentre.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-the-cost-of-synthetic-turf
Jeff B July 12, 2012 at 05:08 PM
mb, thank you for the two articles you linked on safety and preservation/maintenance. I am concerned about the breeding ground for bacteria and turf burns comment - the apparently increased MRSA risk. It almost seems that the extent of the BOE's research was, "Let's have a turf field."
Pete July 12, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Indeed, $600 per year - but paid only once per child. Why would there be an objection to these parents paying for something they apparently believe their children should have? If the field is to go ahead (and as a rule the BoE gets what it wants) what fairer way to fund it?
Randi Moffat July 12, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Whether you agree or disagree on the bond I think it is important to pause and remember that while all of us sit back and judge others on their decisions- we remember that the Board of Education is made up of non-paid volunteers-most parents of kids in the schools- that take time away from their own families to do their best to make decisions to help families like ours. Disagree all you want- Challenge decisions- that is our right- but treating good people like crap in a rude manner is just pathetic- and those that acted that way the other night should be ashamed of themselves- If they had any guts they would choose public service rather than acting like a public enemy as the man in the attached video does.- only one word to describe him but I'll keep that to myself.
Doug Mongo July 12, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Perfectly stated. This BOE has been out of control for years and needs to reigned in. Parents: If you think your kid who did not make a team because of the lack of fields and this will give little Bobby or Jane their shot, FORGET ABOUT IT! Nothing will change and your little sweetheart will still need to find another place to play. TAXPAYERS WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE. This town is out of control and the time to send the message that enough is enough starts in September. By the way, is there a recall procedure for the BOE?
Jeff B July 12, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Randi, I was not at the meeting so can't comment on its tone. However, in my opinion, being a "volunteer" earns no one any break. To use corporate terms, this is a $90 million budget enterprise. It you do not have the business and financial management skills to be on its "Board of Directors" and supervise the management of the enterprise in a competent and fair fashion for the benefit of ALL constituencies - which in our case is primarily children, employees and taxpayers - then you deserve to have to deal with an irate public. This isn't a sewing circle. When I look at things like the incompetence that led us to needing this roof bond proposal, packaging of the field with the roofs, the scheduling of the vote, the (related) ridiculous raises in 2010, etc, I think they deserve the criticism they are getting - with a few exceptions, like Mitch Slater. (The raises are related because had there been none, aside from the normal step/longevity increases that are automatic, which I have previously discussed, there would not now be any need for the roof bond issue.)
Walkin Westfield July 12, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Sally, I should have written that the WHS student populaton plateaued in the year 2006. I believe in 2010-2011 there was a slight decline. My point is that there is no school enrollment crisis.
A.John Blake July 12, 2012 at 09:18 PM
To Lisa B, I did not say the decision was unanimous.I said the Board decided and it had done so. To the extent that Ms Moffat seeks civility to the members of the Board, I agree. I do not agree that ,because they are volunteers, we should excuse the duplicity and underhandedness which the Board, by majority vote, perpetrated on those they promised to represent. The BOE is a body created to represent the people of Westfield. They may be volunteers but they seek and run for office all promising to be open, candid and honest. They cannot be heard to hide behind a shield of volunteerism when they are criticized for decisions that voters feel are not correct. Does anyone really think the fields are in the same category of necessity as the roofs? Does anyone imagine the lights to be near the necessity of roofs? Does anyone think it was honest of the majority of the Board to equate all three items in one referendum? Or do you believe that the majority of the Board thinks they can shove the bundle down our throats with the cry " well we have to have a roof over our children's heads"? Whether paid or volunteered in its origin, a sleazy deal by public officeholders should be soundly rejected by the voter. Remember the "snake oil salesmen" trying to get the Town to buy into the $40 million parking decks. That was a reprehensible piece of subterfuge that was rejected by about 80% of the voters. This similar piece of "salesmanship" should suffer the same fate. A.John Blake
Walkin Westfield July 12, 2012 at 09:43 PM
night baseball didn't come to major league baseball's the Cubs Wrigley Field until 1988 and they are limited to 18 night games per season. On a summer evening my children are getting ready for bed, being tired from playing all day and in preparation for a another big day tomorrow. KLP, travel to the union county stadiums and enjoy yourself but don't force your idea of fun on everyone else.
NoTurfVoteWithRoofVote July 12, 2012 at 11:19 PM
after watching the video i find nothing wrong with what the people said or how they said what they said. he didn't act like a public enemy, he is a concerned resident experessing his opinion and quite frankly he is right. the meeting was nothing but a sales job. these types of meeting should have taken place before the board voted to combine the needs with the wants into one referendum.
NoTurfVoteWithRoofVote July 12, 2012 at 11:21 PM
locate this lighted turf field at Roosevelt, Franklin, Wilson, or Washington and watch how fast the residents vote it down.
E July 13, 2012 at 01:42 AM
very interesting discussion all the way around. I am a bit partial to recenthighschoograd's comments (he/she has done the system proud). there is an old expression that it is hard to get a man to see the truth when his very livelihood depends upon him not seeing that truth. I think there is a good bit of that undercurrent being exposed by the thoughtful comments of "recent..."
E July 13, 2012 at 01:53 AM
i sympathize with your concerns but to keep grass green and full when it wants to be brown and thin generally requires a lot of herbicides and fertilizers which also poses it's own risks. just because grass is more "natural" doesn't mean it is safe. also, there is a lot of water "wasted" in the process. just sayin'....
Karen Lesho Petruzzi July 13, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Walkin Westfield: I am not, by any means, forcing my idea of fun (as well as the hundreds of other children and families in the Town of Westfield that consider organized sports enjoyable) on you or anyone else. I do not know how old your children are, but most children 8, 9, 10, 11 +....are not in their pajamas when the sun is setting "in preparation for another big day." In addition to organized sports, many of these children are also playing in their neighborhoods during the day, attending camps, pools, etc... Yes, I have thoroughly enjoyed attending evening sporting events at beautiful facilities in Union, Cranford and Springfield, to name a few. My husband is also glad we don't have to play every game in Westfield at 5 or 6pm, otherwise, he wouldn't make many games at all. Not every family is involved in Westfield sports; I understand that. But when arguments are made that we already have a field in Westfield with lights--well--not every family is a soccer family, either. I have stated that the proposal was unfair. Of course all three issues should be separate. I have stated that the location is probably not perfect. I would prefer to see natural grass vs. artificial turf. But I also think it would be wonderful for the families of children participating in organized sports to gather together on a beautiful summer night--in WESTFIELD--to enjoy an evening game, whether it be soccer, baseball, football...etc.... Not forcing my idea of fun...just voicing my opinion.
SN July 13, 2012 at 02:20 AM
So, what happens regarding the roofs if this is voted down? Obviously, roofs need to be replaced. Where will the money come from? Another bond for roofs alone, or will the PTO's be fundraising for a roof now?
LB July 13, 2012 at 02:42 AM
Good or bad we all work our rear ends off to afford a quiet, safe place to live..... the people make westfield what it is, westfield doesn't make us who we are. PS it's not nice to throw Kearny under the bus, the only lights you had to worry about were the street lights...when they came on your butt better be in the house within 5 minutes.
Jeff B July 13, 2012 at 02:43 AM
As stated in the very first post on this topic, "This would also push the vote, on separate bonds to a later date, possibly November which would allow a greater voter turnout. In my opinion, it would be one bond issue for whatever got approved, but a new vote might offer roofs, field and lighting as separate votes - or maybe just roofs if the Board believed there was not support for a field, lighted or not. Remember, the original proposal was just roofs, until one Board member brought up the idea of a turf field, that ended up getting added after study.
Walkin Westfield July 13, 2012 at 10:19 PM
the sunset for today July 13th in New Jersey is 8:28 pm
South Westfielder July 14, 2012 at 11:29 AM
I hate to say that you're right. The "not in my backyard syndrome" is epidemic on the northside.
South Westfielder July 14, 2012 at 11:37 AM
I wish people would consider the health risks of synthetic fields as well as the environmentally unfriendliness of it.
Walkin Westfield September 06, 2012 at 02:29 AM
the BOE will tell you that Chatham has 4 regulation size turf fields but what they won't tell you is that private contributions and donations paid for 1/3 of the acquisition cost of Chatham's plastic fields and that 100% of the maintenance cost is paid with private contributions.
South Westfielder October 06, 2012 at 12:47 PM
People, people, the redistricting will go away by itself when the population and number of kids shift. In fact it will be gone within a couple of years for tehose crybaby parents who have to send their kids to Edison. Then, it will be other parents who will have to deal with the "horrors and damage" to their little darlings when another part of town needs to be redistricted. Then, those northside parents will be happy again and their concern will fade away and life will go back to normal.

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