The Verona Board of Education met for almost three hours on Tuesday night and Board members finally got some much needed details on the referendum planned for next year. As things stand now, the vote will be next March 11 and the total tab will be $16,950,924.
When the Board last met on the referendum on October 22, there were many unanswered questions. The projects’s architect, Mylan Associates of Verona, seemed unable to answer basic questions about the security system that would be put in place and did not offer and building-by-building and project-by-project breakout of the work to be done. (You can watch the video of that meeting here.)
But, under the direction of Board President John Quattrocchi, Mylan delivered a nearly complete presentation, from the general timeline that we need to follow to how much will be spent and where. We learned that 97 school doors district-wide will be equipped with security cameras and that 34 of those doors will have swipe card controls as well. Total spending on security: $995,000.
Where most of the work done in the 2005 referendum happened on the elementary schools and H.B. Whitehorne, this time the focus and spending–$7,873,045 in all–will be at Verona High School. VHS needs a near total rehab of its heating and cooling system: The boilers are more than 30 years old and the air handler in the old gym dates from when the school was built in 1956. There’s also going to be another addition to the music room (at a cost of $1,551,417), and the upper field must be completely redone. We learned in May that it would cost $1.9 million to compact the failing fill on Sellitto Field; with bleachers, lighting and turf striped for four sports, the cost of that project now stands at $5,416,226.
That seemed to cause some consternation for Steve Spardel, who was reappointed to the BOE earlier this month. Spardel, who seemed unaware of the May recommendations on the field, repeatedly asked fellow BOE members if Verona could not “just walk away” from it. “Four million dollars to recover four acres? It will be the most expensive football field in New Jersey,” he said at one point. (It would not be: the new Schools Stadium in Newark cost a reported $24 million.)
“You’re talking about walking away from something that we’ve been told that we can’t walk away from,” BOE member Joe Bellino admonished Spardel, the frustration visible on his face. But Spardel was undeterred, even asking Superintendent Steve Forte for the cost of turning the lower field into a multi-sports complex. “I would definitely do $6 million down there,” Spardel said. There is no work contemplated on Doc Goeltz Field in the current plan.
And even if Verona voters do approve this referendum, Quattrocchi made it clear that it will not be our last. The 2005 referendum identified $67 million in needed repairs, but the BOE went to voters for only $33 million and more problems, like the football field, have cropped up since then. You read the full PowerPoint presentation from Tuesday’s meeting here, or watch the video below.