BOE Alters VHS Field Plan

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Sellitto Field has been closed since the start of the 2012-2013 school year.
Sellitto Field has been closed since the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

When Verona voters overwhelmingly approved the public school referendum in March 2014, they believed that they would be getting the redevelopment of one field at Verona High School. As it turns out, they will be getting two.

As part of a referendum progress review at last night’s Board of Education meeting, the BOE disclosed that it had saved enough money in the project so far that it will be able to return the upper field at VHS to action. Thomas J. Sellitto Field will be stabilized and turfed, and it will be lit for night games. Doc Goetz Field, as the lower field is known, will be turfed as originally planned, but it will have smaller moveable bleachers and it will not be lit for night play.

In August 2012, the first of two holes opened on Sellitto Field, forcing the BOE to shut it and relocate all sports and marching band activities to either Doc Goeltz or the town-owned Centennial Field. Then Superintendent Steven A. Forte devised a plan to turf the lower field for use by multiple sports and the band and it was incorporated into a referendum for school work that the BOE had previously been planning. There were 1,777 “yes” votes in the referendum and 1,067 “no” votes, a substantial margin of 710 ballots.

But after the referendum passed, a handful of residents on abutting streets  tried to derail the field work. The so-called Be A Good Neighbor Group hired a lawyer, who went before the Verona Planning Board last November. That body decided that the field needed a full-blown site plan and not an abridged “courtesy” review, and the BOE had to back off plans to put the work out to bid at the start of this year.

In the meantime, the BOE secured an energy conservation grant that freed up roughly $900,000 that had been earmarked for lighting upgrades in the referendum. (It wasn’t the first time that the BOE had saved taxpayers money on the project. The initial cost of the referendum was $16.6 million, but the Board won a $2.8 million state grant, reducing the total cost to a touch over $13.8 million.)

The BOE said it would present the new field plan in detail at its next meeting, but it said that it would be able to light the upper field with just four light stanchions, instead of the eight that would have been needed on the lower field. The light poles would be only 70 to 80 feet high, instead of the 110 proposed for the lower field and that the lights would be 200 feet away from properties on the upper part of Franklin Avenue. Unlike the lower field, which has homes on three of its borders, the upper field is has homes only behind the southern goalpost. “There will be no light spillage onto any property,” said BOE member Joseph Bellino.

BOE President John Quattrocchi said that members of the Be A Good Neighbor group had been briefed on the new plan and were “comfortable” with it. MyVeronaNJ.com requested interviews today with the Neighbor’s Dan DePalma and Dan Motley; neither returned our email.

Several of the high school sports organizations seem comfortable with the new plan as well. “Any time our student athletes and band have safe and better facilities to use, it is a win for all Verona residents and taxpayers alike,” said Michelle Kieran, president of the VHS Baseball Association. Bill Cummings, president of the Fifth Downers, was pleased because it would return football games to  a field closer to the school. “I have seen great games on that field,” he added. The lower field was VHS’ first sports field; the upper field was added in the late 1970s.

“I think it is great that everything will now be at the high school,” said Bob Maguire, president of the VHS Girls Lacrosse Association. “If a game is played after school at VHS you have a chance of getting a bigger crowd, and everyone wants to play in front of a big crowd.” The lacrosse teams have been using Centennial Field, and attendance has often been sparse. Maguire also said that he hoped the upper field would be shared equally among all the teams, both boys and girls.

While voicing her support, Kiernan said that she hoped that baseball would be able to get in all its home games next spring before the work begins. “This way, if it needs to interrupt the season in any way, it interrupts only half.

You can watch the update on the referendum and the field project in the BOE video above. The discussion starts at the 1 hour, 36 minute mark.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m more concerned about how they are going to “stabilize” the upper field, than which field will be getting the lighting.

    I went to VHS when they were building the upper field and was concerned then about what they used to fill in the field to level it before the topsoil and sod was put down. There were demolished construction materials (like cement steps with the hand rails still attached, bricks, etc). The type of materials where air pockets would exist. I’m wondering if these holes were created when the top soil settled into these air pockets.

    I just hope they do it right this time.

  2. Al DeOld, who was a teacher at VHS when the upper field was landfilled, asked this question at the BOE meeting on Tuesday. They explained that they will be using a special “fabric” that has the ability to stabilize a landscape and prevent erosion. It gets put down and soil goes over it, with some minor compacting. It is something that is now being used under roads when they are being built, so it sounds as if it can stand up to the wear and tear of high school sports.

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