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Joe Bellino, a member of the Board’s finance and buildings & grounds committees, said the BOE is formalizing contracts with the architect and engineering firms for the project, so that they can start to put together plans and specifications for potential bidders. The Board has also put out a call for residents interested in serving on referendum project committees. (For details on submitting your qualifications to be on one of the four committees, see here.) Bellino also said that bonds to finance the many security, technology, building and facilities projects covered by the work would likely go out to bid on April 29.
Before that happens, Superintendent Steven A. Forte has invited residents who live adjacent to the lower football field to a meeting on April 1 to listen to their concerns. Forte mailed invitations to approximately 50 addresses on Dodd Terrace, the stretch of Grove Avenue between Ann and Franklin streets, and the north side of Franklin. As of Tuesday, Forte said he had only 10 RSVPs for that meeting.
Some of those residents did, however, address the Board at Tuesday’s meeting, largely to object to the possibility of lights on Doc Goeltz Field. Barbara Bochese, who lives on Dodd Terrace, identified herself as a member of a homeowners’ association called Be A Good Neighbor. She is the registered owner of the group’s Web site, which says the group wants “no lights” on the field and asserts that the design plan includes “80-120 foot light poles”, even though the BOE has not filed a design plan yet. Bochese asked the Board how they would feel about living with night lights at her address “365 days a year”.
In reality, fewer than two dozen of the games now on the Verona High School schedule require night lighting. In the fall, only five events started at or after 5 p.m.: two JV football and two soccer games at Centennial Field, and the Marching Band Festival, which rented lights for Doc Goeltz Field.
This spring, 18 Centennial Field lacrosse matches start at or after 5 p.m., though by mid-April, when the final 10 of them are to be played, sunset shifts to 7:40 p.m. and later, which means that the games are likely to end before lights would have to be switched on. And though the VHS sports schedule shifts from year to year, Verona’s town code requires all artificial outdoor lights to be shut off at 10 p.m.
BOE member Steve Spardel recognized Bochese’s efforts to organize her neighbors, but added a caution: “Going forward,” he said, “I’m imploring us and the community to stick to the facts. Stop with the innuendos, stop with the rumors.” He went on to add that, “what I would encourage you to do, so that you’re not making stuff up in your group, have a person in your group as the spokesperson so that if they have questions they are welcome to call me or any one of us.”
Spardel’s concerns were echoed by Rob Caruso, a referendum supporter and former Town Council candidate. “There’s a lot of stuff on the [Be A Good Neighbor] Web site that is different from what they are saying tonight,” he said. “My concern is that they have too much of a say.” (Since the BOE meeting, Be A Good Neighbor has added a section to its Web site entitled “Verona Board of Education Encroachment Can Happen to Anyone Living Near a School Property”. There are no plans for changes to other school fields.)
Joseph DeVivo, a referendum supporter who lives on Laurel Court, praised the BOE for its “measured approach” to improving the schools, and he said he believes that people who live around Doc Goeltz should have a say in how the lights are done. “But to come down here and make it sound like oh poor me and all these people are ganging up on you is not true,” DeVivo said. “Some of these sports organizations that people are speaking of together equal 200 people tops. Obviously, there are 1,200 or 1,300 or 1,400 other people who agree this needs to be done. ”
Cheryl Nardino, the BOE’s business administrator, announced that, according to the certified vote count, there were 1,777 “yes” votes in the March 11 referendum and 1,067 “no” votes, a margin of 710 ballots. The 2005 referendum, by contrast, passed by just nine votes. The turnout was 27.19%.
You can watch the full Board of Education meeting on YouTube:
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