Board of Education President John Quattrocchi expressed frustration at Tuesday night’s meeting with misinformation about the work that will be done on the lower field at Verona High School that he said had been disseminated by Verona Township Engineer Jim Helb.
“Mr. Helb, I know, has told many people that the light poles are going to be a hundred and some odd feet high. Different than what our designs have,” Quattrocchi said. “A lot of that is a surprise to us. I wish that I was the resident he called with that info, but I wasn’t. Somebody else was.”
Quattrocchi’s remarks came during a lengthy comment on the project by Dan DePalma, a Dodd Terrace resident who is part of Be A Good Neighbor, a group of homeowners opposed to having any lights on the field. DePalma interrupted Quattrocchi after he spoke of the “surprise” to say “as it is to us.” But Be a Good Neighbor’s Web site says, in the second paragraph on the home page that, “The design plan includes 80-120 foot light poles and borders right up to neighboring homes on Franklin Street.”
MyVeronaNJ.com called Helb on Wednesday morning and read him Quattrocchi’s remarks. Helb declined to address them saying, “I have no comment on what the Board says.”
There is, as yet, no formal design plan for either the upper or lower fields. Last night, the BOE approved a contract for that work with French & Parrello, which did an assessment of the problems on Sellitto Field last year.
“Whether there are six light poles or 12 has never been a secret Board conspiracy,” Quattrocchi told DePalma. “The designs, including how the fields are going to orient on the space as a whole, were just sort of sketched out.” The Board has repeatedly tried to get project opponents to understand that referendum projects are not fully engineered before they are put to a vote to save taxpayers the cost of that work if the referendum fails. Verona’s March 11 referendum passed by 710 votes, compared to just a nine-vote margin of victory for the 2005 referendum.
“But whether the light poles are 10 feet high or 1,000 feet high,” Quattrocchi added, “whether they are this much wattage or that much is going to make no difference to you unless they’re turned on.” He stressed that the BOE is working with a committee to develop a policy on field usage; DePalma is a member of that committee.
Though the BOE and town officials have frequently highlighted the closeness of their working relationship, there have been points of tension over BOE access to funds from the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes made by the Hilltop apartment development and, more recently, over having the town share the cost of resurfacing the track behind H.B. Whitehorne Middle School, which is used by residents and Verona Recreation Department programs. Steve Spardel, a member of the BOE’s Buildings & Grounds Committee, said at last night’s meeting that the Board is anticipating it will have to spend $90,000 for track refurbishments, and $40,000 to $50,000 on correcting drainage behind the school that has contributed to the track’s deterioration. Montclair Kimberley Academy, which developed the track in partnership with Verona more than a decade ago, will split the cost of the resurfacing, though perhaps not the drainage repairs. Joe Bellino, who said at the March 25 meeting that the town seemed disinclined to participate in the repairs, said last night that the BOE had not gotten any further response from the town on the project.