The war of words over who is responsible for the placement of the proposed Lincroft Sports Complex at West Front Street Park has just gone nuclear.
This past week, the Middletown Board of Education came under attack and has been made to look like the “bad guy” for its reluctance to allow the installation of two artificial turf fields on Board of Ed property.
Last week at the February 1st Township Workshop meeting, Lincroft residents packed the meeting room to voice their displeasure at the Township Committee for not notifying them of the proposed Sports Complex that would drastically impact their quality of life.
Mayor Scharfenberger immediately pointed the finger of blame towards the BOE for not allowing the township to construct this sports complex on the grounds of Thompson Middle School and another field at Thorne Middle School. By doing so, Scharfenberger deflected the residents anger away from himself and others on the Township Committee and turned it unjustly onto the BOE.
February 8, 2010
To Whom It May Concern:
Recently members of the Middletown Board of Education and I have been asked to clarify our position regarding discussions which took place between the Township and the BOE regarding the proposed construction of artificial turf fields on school property. It has been suggested that the BOE was not willing to work with the Township on this shared project, and I can assure you that this is not the case.
In the spring of 2009 the Township met with district administration regarding construction of artificial turf fields at the Thompson and Thorne Middle Schools. Given the district's experience and the BOE's involvement with turf field construction in the past, administration requested that a presentation be given to the Board directly at a public BOE meeting. Following a preliminary meeting with representatives from the Township, the district administration and BOE officers, the township finally agreed to present at a public forum. Shortly after this presentation, the Board met and directed our lawyer to write to the Township expressing our interest in pursuing this project and asking for information the Board felt they required to make an informed decision. Items requested included Rights of Usage, Insurance and Liability, Timing Issues, Cost Over-Runs Infrastructure Construction, Drainage and Wetlands Issues, Lighting, Maintenance, etc. At the same time, the BOE requested a feasibility study to determine the viability of placement of these fields at these locations as well as whether this project could be completed with available funds.
In late August having received only minimal information from the Township clarifying these important issues, the BOE Facilities Committee met with the Township to try and get enough information to make an informed decision regarding this project. This meeting was held on September 10 with representatives of the Board and the Township. The Township reiterated that it was their intent to build three artificial turf fields: a Croydon Hall upgrade, "turf and a fence" at Thorne Middle School, and a full sports complex, similar to Croydon Hall, at Thompson Middle School. It must be noted that this was the first time the Board was advised of the anticipated scope of the Thompson project and its primary use for Pop Warner football.
At the September 16 BOE Workshop Meeting, the Board discussed the viability of moving forward with these projects. It was determined that Thorne was not a viable location as a result of wetland concerns and security issues relative to its proximity to Harmony Elementary School. The Board also concluded that the Thompson location was not a desirable location for a full stadium complex we believe there is not enough space available for a field, track, bleachers, snack stands parking, etc. to accommodate the types of activities the Township intended for this location Additionally, usage is a major concern, as Thompson students utilize this field for soccer, field hockey and cross country (practices and games) during the fall season, the very season Pop Warner football would be seeking both practice and game time.
After careful consideration, the Board suggested the Nut Swamp field as an alternative for a sports complex This property is owned by the BOE but currently used primarily for Township recreation activities. We believe there is ample space at this location for its intended use, and its proximity to Normandy Park would be a complement to Township recreational facilities. This was communicated via email to the Township on September 16, adding that any further discussion of this location would include community input from affected neighborhoods. We were advised by the Township on September 28 that they were not interested in pursuing the Nut Swamp location and, if only two fields were going to be constructed, it would make sense to have them both on Township property since two locations were available. This concluded discussions between the Township and the BOE regarding turf field construction.
Lastly members of the community have asked if the BOE would be willing to allow Pop Warner to use high school fields, particularly MHSS. Neither the Township nor the Pop Warner organization have ever formally approached the district regarding field usage for that purpose. Our concerns with that type of use include field maintenance and security and costs associated with such usage Additionally during Pop Warner football season, the BOE fields are used consistently for football, soccer, field hockey and the band, both for practice and games. Our limited use snack bars are dedicated to our parent organizations for their fundraising efforts.
I hope this clarifies the Middletown BOE's position and answers the many questions and concerns that have risen over this important issue. The BOE works collaboratively with our administration and board attorney to ensure that the interests of the school district, the students and the taxpayers are considered and protected. I genuinely hope that whatever further steps the Township takes regarding the construction of turf fields includes input from the community at large.
I have included a timeline as well as pertinent documentation for your review.
Laura Agin, President
Middletown Board of Education
If you click onto the above hyperlink you will be able to read the complete document that the Middletown Board of Education sent out. The document includes a timeline with supporting email correspondences between the Board of Ed and Township representatives.
Note: Sorry for the formatting issue, it happens sometime check out the full statement >>> Here