Two of the three options for the proposed turf field at Sparta High School. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Board vice president Dorothy LeBeau, addresses a member of the public. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Experts in architecture, engineering, finance, and legal, for the project. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
One of the residents, who asked questions about parking. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Todd Muth, a township resident, poses a question to the board. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
A resident questions the motivation behind the project. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Superintendent Dennis Tobin, and business administrator/board secretary, Linda Alvarez. Credits: Jennifer Jean Miller
Sparta High School Turf Athletic Field Plans Reviewed; Ideas For Public Vote Date Discussed
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 • 12:17am
SPARTA, NJ – A small group of Sparta Township residents gathered last night for a three-and-a-half hour special board of education meeting in the Mohawk Avenue School auditorium, to question the experts hired for the Sparta High School turf field project.
“Thanks for coming out on this rainy evening,” Sparta Township Board of Education President Keith Smith told the crowd. “The purpose of this evening is we have all of our experts, we can ask questions, understand the numbers, and understand the project.”
Smith clarified that no decision has been made at this point on the project.
“We’re exploring every option possible with the land available,” said Sparta Township Superintendent of Schools, Dennis Tobin.
Among the experts were DiCara Rubino Architects, and Dykstra Associates, PC, the Project Architect and Engineer appointed at their September 24 meeting by the Sparta Township Board of Education for the bond referendum project, which is formally entitled, “Athletic Fields and Track Improvements at Sparta High School.”
Doug Dykstra of Dykstra Associates, PC, presented more information about the proposed multipurpose field, which is planned for behind the tennis courts, and slated to replace four fields lost when the school underwent its renovation, and expansion project completed at the start of the 2010 school year.
The turf athletic field is planned to accommodate many of the sports, feature 2,000 home seats, 1,000 guest seats, extensive lighting, a concession area, a press box, and be encircled by a one-fifth of a mile three-inch rubberized track. The track is planned to be a walkway to the seats, as well as provide handicapped access to the seating. Additionally, the track is planned to be open for public use for walking, and jogging.
There were three levels of costs (which factored in “soft costs,” such as, engineering, permitting, bonding, application fees, legal, and construction administration) presented at the meeting for the project. The first, with a price tag of $4.1 million, included all of the amenities mentioned above. The second, which was scaled back at $3.5 million, reduced the seating by 750 seats (1,500 for the home seats, and 750 for the visitors), with future seat expansions “roughed in,” as well as the area “roughed in,” for the concession stand. The third possibility Dykstra Associates presented for $3.37 million, left the concession stand out entirely.
Owen Dykstra said another way to save would be to have an asphalt track only. He said the asphalt could have a five-year life, and afterward it may become brittle. He said rubberizing the track would lengthen the life of the asphalt surface.
Dykstra said the project would take about 14 to 15 months to complete, including bidding, permitting, and construction time.
The board’s bond attorney, Andrea Kahn, said the board must provide the county with 60 days’ notice to schedule a date to vote on the referendum, which can be December 11, or, the fourth Tuesday of January, the second Tuesday of March, or, the last Tuesday of September.
At Monday’s meeting, the board decided that December 11 would be too soon, and voted to notify the county clerk to remove the December 11 date as a possibility for the referendum.
Mary Lyons of Capital Financial Advisors discussed the bond itself, and recommended a three percent, 15-year option.
Board member Frank Favichia asked if a 10-year bond would be better, and paid sooner.
“You have to determine what the tax impact is on an annual basis,” Lyons replied, and said most districts use the three percent, 15-year option.
She said the tax impact on a home valued at $301,000 would be $45 a year per home for the first option, $38 per year for the second, and $36 per year for the third.
The $1.9 million capital bond issued in 2006 for the high school expansion project, was brought up, due to some confusion if the leftover funds from that project can be applied to the field project. They cannot, said Lyons, but can be used to lower the aggregate debt service, though some residents argued with the board on Monday that the board had publicly said the funds could be applied.
Several residents aired their concerns at the meeting, and dialogue became tense between certain residents, and the board. Some residents also called out during the meeting, after the public portion was closed.
Michael Vandenberg, a resident, asked what the annual maintenance costs may run.
Owen Dykstra said every seven years, the track would require re-topping, at a $70,000 anticipated cost.
Richard Sullivan had concerns about the $1.9 million from 2006, and said, “It’s costing us money since it’s sitting stagnant.”
Sparta Township Business Administrator/Board Secretary Linda Alvarez said the project could not be closed out until all the requirements were met.
Ted Gail, a resident, asked about parking for the greater seating capacity, which he said could approximate 1,500 to 2,000 vehicles. Board members said there parking in Station Park can help accommodate the overflow, and, the board’s vice president, Dorothy LaBeau, said many often park along West Mountain Road anyway, for a quick exit following games at Cassels Field, the original athletic field that is still in use, and, put in place in 1958.
One resident asked if there was a large request for the jogging track around the field.
Tobin said in addition to the athletic programs at the school, there has been talk for some time to be able to open up the track for the use of township residents.
This resident also questioned what good the concession stand would do for the students, and if Pope John had seating for 3,000. He said the turf field was not for the kids, but the adults, attempting to “keep up with the Joneses.”
Smith said the concession stand would provide the students, from all sports, the ability to earn monies for their programs, and there were no other reasons otherwise.
Smith replied, “It’s not for you, and me, it goes to the kids, and, the concession stand goes to their programs.”
With the referendum having been defeated already last March, another resident asked Alvarez how much has been spent on attorney fees, without having broken ground.
Alvarez replied, she had no idea, and the resident said he would send her an email, requesting a response to the question.
Paul Johnson, another resident, suggested the board return to the residents themselves for ideas on what is required for the field, rather than the board coming up with the ideas for the field, since the referendum had been previously rejected.
LaBeau told Johnson her children will not be able to use the new fields if approved, and she is for them because she said, they are necessary.
“We need fields, Paul,” LeBeau said, “Our fields are so substandard.”
LeBeau reported parents and students from other teams described the fields as “so horrific.”
Board member Scott Turner said a freshman football player was tackled on Cassels Field, and fell on a rock, requiring seven stitches from his injury. Turner said a piece of rebar was also pulled up from the field, before the students could play.
A discussion ensued between the board members themselves, to determine when would be the best time to hold the referendum vote. One of the members, Maureen Myre, said the vote should not be delayed, due to the lower interest rates, which may rise. Favichia was concerned with the previously failed referendum, the board "making the same mistake twice," and the need to rebuild public trust, which he said may take time. Turner said some residents, he had heard, did not vote in favor of the March referendum, because they did not trust the previous superintendent, Thomas Morton.
Tobin said if the vote takes place in January 2013, and is approved, the project would not be completed until Spring 2014; if the referendum vote is scheduled for March 2013, and is approved, the project completion would be Fall 2014; and, if the referendum vote would scheduled for September 2013, the project would be completed in 2015.
The board is expected to choose the date for the referendum vote at their next regular meeting, scheduled on Monday, October 29, at 7:00 p.m.