Board Focuses On Implementing Referendum

By on March 27, 2014

Barbara Bochese, a Dodd Terrace resident, is part of a group that wants no lights on Doc Goeltz Field.

Barbara Bochese, a Dodd Terrace resident, is part of a group that wants no lights on Doc Goeltz Field.

The Board of Education made it clear at Tuesday night’s meeting that, while it welcomes community dialog and input on the implementation of the March 11 referendum, that implementation is moving forward as voters intended.

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”.

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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.

"I'm imploring us and the community to stick to the facts," said BOE member Steve Spardel. "Stop with the innuendos, stop with the rumors."

“I’m imploring us and the community to stick to the facts,” said BOE member Steve Spardel. “Stop with the innuendos, stop with the rumors.”

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.)

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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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  1. Barbara Bochese

    March 28, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Now a days with YouTube, videos really tell the true story. I encourage everyone to watch the BOE meeting referred to in this article. How interesting the difference is in the two reports that are presented by this website and the Verona – Cedar Grove Times. The Times reports on a Verona resident who questioned the strong-armed tactics/actions taking in order to get the referendum passed. That seemed to be missed in this site’s article.

    But my position has nothing to do with anyone’s decision to vote yes or no for the referendum. It is about the quality of our lives living around all BOE properties and in our case VHS.

    The be a Good Neighbor Homeowners Association is not crying and we certainly aren’t asking anyone to feel sorry for us, in fact we are steady and strong and determined. I might not have the actual height size correct of the light poles correct but they certainly are planned for and presented in the proposed design. And just look at the Verona Eagles article on the website back in January where they recommend lights on the FN Brown field. So let’s talk about possible BOE encroachment: It can really happen to anyone that lives near a BOE property.

    The BOE does not have to conform to zoning so everyone should be very aware of what is and will happen on this field and to our neighborhood.

    And yes, the plan has not been decided. So, the question should be asked, then what was really voted on?

    Without question, this field has an impact on our neighborhood and we stand firm in our conviction that the BOE had an obligation to be a good neighbor and present to us their plans.

    In closing, I am proud to be a part of a group of people-not good neighbors but great neighbors, who in the face of having the quality of their lives threatened,accept the responsibility to stand together and question and challenge what has been thrust upon us.

  2. Virginia Citrano

    March 29, 2014 at 7:54 am

    Readers might also be interested to know that, on its Web site, Be A Good Neighbor says it wants to limit usage of Doc Goeltz Field to VHS-sponsored events. That would seem to preclude usage by VBSL’s Majors and Pony teams, and also its key fundraiser, the Greater Newark Tournament. The position could also block the usage of the field by youth sports summer camps, which bring in thousands of dollars of outside revenue to the district.

  3. Barbara Bochese

    March 31, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    The Be a Good Neighbor Homeowners Association is a community-based, grassroots movement by homeowners who live around the VHS field who are voicing their concerns for the over development of this multi-purpose property that is in our backyard.

    The editor implies in her article that the use of the field by VHS sports will be limited and then in response to my comment, she speaks of the usage of the field by outside and community youth organizations. USAGE, USAGE, USAGE!

    And that is exactly our point. Lots of promises to use the field. With the addition of two new turf fields built specifically for youth sports, there should be no reason for the VERONA HIGH SCHOOL Field to be used for anything but VHS/BOE sponsored games and events. We don’t think that is unreasonable especially since there is no feasiblity or impact study done to measure the impact on our neighborhoods.

    We are only asking for the same quality of life that everyone in this town has. Please feel free to stop by anyone of the houses pictured on the BGNHA website and picture what it would be like if you lived there.

    Please visit our site and we need your support.

  4. Virginia Citrano

    March 31, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Correction to my story: The VBSL Pony League team plays at Linn Drive and the Majors play at Everett. So we’re back at 23 VHS games that start at or after 5 p.m., which means that some of them might need lights. Twenty-three game days out of 365 total days, which is just a dot over 6% of the days in a year.

  5. Barbara Bochese

    April 3, 2014 at 11:30 am

    The editor has not answered why she did not accurately report on the concerns a Verona resident cited about the tactics used in the schools to get the referendum passed in the last BOE meeting. No mention. Fair, unbiased and honest journalism.

    Fact: The Superintendent and BOE spoke to the youth leagues in town. They assume they will use those fields day and night.
    Fact: There are two new youth sports fields joining the Centennial Field complex. Need has been served with these new fields.
    Fact: The Superintendent and BOE never bothered to speak to the people living around the VHS fields/property but they found the time to “speak to” other individuals connected to town sports organizations.
    Fact: The VHS property is on a neighborhood block surrounded by homes. You can’t pick it up and move it and neither can we.
    Fact: Approx. 40% of the referendum monies is being spent on fields and not in the learning environment.
    Fact: The BOE does not have to follow zoning ordinances that every taxpayer/homeowner in towns has to adhere to.
    Fact: No impact or feasibility studies have been done on how this will affect the neighborhoods.
    Fact: The BOE maintenance budget has been increased this year causing additional tax increase beyond the 48 cents per day. It has been increased to approx. $230,000 from $150,000. That budget is to support all 6 schools. How will the BOE maintain new facilities and a mega-field complex year after year so that we are not in this place in 10-12 years again?
    Fact: The track, after 10 years,needs to be replaced at a significant cost. SO will the turf fuelds. How will the BOE pay for the field in 10 years?

  6. Virginia Citrano

    April 3, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Thank you for your comments Barbara. The time has passed on debate. There were 1,777 “yes” votes in the March 11 referendum and 1,067 “no” votes. The focus now is on implementing a project that Verona voters said, in a democratic process, that they wanted.

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