The Verona Planning Board will resume its hearing of the plan to rehabilitate the upper and lower fields at Verona High School on Thursday, January 28. The hearing will be held in the ballroom of the Verona Community Center beginning at 7:30 p.m. The meeting is free and open to the public.
The field work was part of a referendum overwhelmingly approved by voters in March 2014, but it has been stalled since then by a small group of opponents. They have forced the plan into a full site review that has cost the Board of Education more than $200,000. The first Planning Board session on the fields on January 12 lasted four hours. (Mayor Kevin Ryan explained at the January 19 Town Council meeting, in response to resident complaints about the review, that the Planning Board is an independent body and that the Council cannot intervene in its deliberations.)
Verona High School was opened in its current location in 1956, before many of the houses in the neighborhood were built. Its lower field, Doc Goeltz Field, was in use from 1956 until the late 1970s, when the upper field closest to the school was expanded for full football play. But Sellitto Field had to be closed in August 2012 after holes opened in its surface. The field was later found to contain infill that would be deemed inappropriate today.
Most of the public schools that VHS plays have turfed their sports fields in recent years, largely without the controversy that has stalled the renovation of Verona’s fields. Newark schools have six turf fields to play on, and there are turf fields in East Orange, Orange, West Orange, Maplewood, Bloomfield, Belleville, Nutley, Montclair, Millburn and Livingston. West Essex Regional has a turf field, as do several private schools Verona competes against. Cedar Grove and Caldwell both approved referendums to fund turf work in December 2014 and their installations are under way.