Dr. dolan discussing the bond referendum at last night's board meeting Credits: Jason Cohen
Perry DiPiazza, the vice president of Field Turf ,discusses his company's plan to install field turf at the high school. Credits: Jason Cohen
resident sharon stockwell voices her concerns about the referendum Credits: jason cohen
Westfield Debates Bond Referendum at Board of Education Meeting
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 • 12:50pm
WESTFIELD, NJ--A week into the 2012 school year, Westfield residents face a big decision as the school bond referendum is up for vote on Sept. 24. At the September 11 board of education meeting, a lengthy discussion took place among residents and the board over this impending vote.
The referendum, which has been debated since the spring, involves repairing the roofs on the district’s buildings and renovating the athletic fields at the schools. The primary reason for the referendum is because major capital projects cannot be funded within a school operating budget. There is also currently a low interest rate and a favorable competitive bidding environment in construction that make this an opportune time to consider bonding for current and future needs of the district, according to those in favor. In total, the bond costs $16.9 million and the average assessed home’s annual tax bill would increase by $45 next year.
Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan gave a brief outline of what the projected referendum would do if passed. By next summer, all of the roofs will be replaced, out of total roof surfaces 77 percent of the roofs will be replaced and upgraded insulation will be installed for energy conservation and the roofs will be solar-ready. She also pointed out that from 2000-2010 Westfield’s population increased by 3.2 percent, enrollment has risen by 17.4 percent and athletics increased by 31 percent.
Dolan explained that there would be a computerized system of lighting where certain lights will be used for specific sports. Lights would be on only during practices or games, there would be remote access by district employees, all games and practices would end at 9 p.m. and there will be no lights used on Sunday evenings.
Bob Zoeller, a technical consultant at Musco Lighting, said the quality of the lighting is extremely important. The goal is to have 21st century technology in sports lighting on all of the fields, he said.
“We’re supposed to provide light on the fields and we’re supposed to provide darkness,” Zoeller said.
Perry DiPiazza, vice president of the company Field Turf, said he is looking forward to implementing field turf in Westfield. Unlike the Astro Turf of 20 years ago, when athletes constantly got hurt, this is much safer and player-friendly, he said.
The field will only hold one regulation game at a time, there will be no public address system, the high school bathrooms will be available and the school will coordinate with the town and Armory when scheduling events. The new fields at the high school will provide regulation-sized fields for high school competition in soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and softball.
While the majority of the board members and residents present at the meeting were in favor of the referendum, there were a few who disapproved of it. One of them was Sharon Rockwell, who believes the field and the roofs should be separate issues. While the maintenance to the roofs is necessary, the renovation of the fields is optional and is more of a cosmetic procedure, she said.
“$16.7 million is a lot of money and I would feel better about a bond referendum that separated these,” Rockwell said.
In other business, Dr. Dolan and Assistant Superintendent Paul Piniero spoke about the technology initiative. They both expressed their excitement about the idea of merging technology into the district. On Aug. 30, over 325 teachers were trained by technology experts in the field. The new instructional technology staff will educate teachers on how to enhance their classrooms through the latest technology. The district now offers 360 iPads, 156 ultarabooks, 97desktop compuerters, 395 multi-seat computers and wireless internet anywhere on school property.
On Sept. 19 there will be a special meeting for the public to learn more about the referendum. The next board of education meeting is Oct. 2.