Let’s shift to the turf field proposal for the David E. Owens Middle School. It is hardly the Field of Dreams. It is an alternative to the United Water Company property concept.
The DEO field represents the best in the local partnership between the Borough and Board of Education given the availability of the acreage owned by the BOE. The Board of Education has been very public in its support of the proposal. On April 16, 2012, it approved a resolution “to enter into a shared services agreement with the Borough of New Milford in regard to planning and development of a turf field complex to be located at David E. Owens Middle School.”
As far as the BOE is concerned, it is an equal partnership established around mixed use of the field by the school district and the Recreation Commission. Important to bear in mind here that the BOE still represents the interests of the community. It is not interested in glomming up play time to the detriment of the Rec Commission, or controlling field use, or usurping municipal assets to maintain the fields.
To date, there have been a relatively limited number of conflicts in terms of field use. Going forward, New Milford High School teams would be given priority use of the field for home games. This is not dramatic by any stretch of the imagination. This football season, for example, there were four home games and one tournament game scheduled. Most rec games are played on weekends when school teams are off.
Right now, the existing DEO field is used primarily for soccer. The turf field design opens the field up for soccer and football. All of this will be spelled out in a field use agreement and will be coordinated between department of recreation officials and the school athletic director. It is not a complicated process. In fact, this is done routinely already. The interest is in overall field use for the greatest number of kids.
There is talk about flooding and drainage. I wish more residents attended the September 19 presentation by borough engineer, Kevin Boswell, who clarified the scope of the project and dispelled the many myths surrounding its development. If anything, after the ground engineering undergirding the field itself, drainage for that area will be significantly improved.
The mayor and council were informed about that presentation, and three councilmen did, in fact, attend. They and numerous other concerned residents asked many questions which were addressed with clarity and detail. What remains of paramount importance to the BOE is that it and the community have as much factual data as possible primarily so that the BOE and the public can make responsible, educated decisions regarding the non-binding referendum on the November ballot, but also in terms of what is in the best interest of the public school families.
Mr. Boswell addressed concerns including lighting, parking, traffic, noise and a variety of other issues. His responses pleasantly surprised many attendees. Geese, by the way, are attracted to grass—not artificial turf.
As an aside, I live four houses from one of my town’s recreation complexes and just through the woods about a quarter of a mile away from another. They are not nuisances, inconveniences, or interferences with my family’s lifestyle. I actually like the sound of kids playing and the cheering of spectators. But that is just my very subjective personal take. When the borough hosts tournaments, we can live with the increased demand for parking. It is only temporary. The rec commission can also live with the revenues generated from hosting events, and New Milford would be proud to be able to host similar events that draw positive attention to a community on the move.
The DEO proposal may not be perfect, but it is a practical and arguably affordable solution to a decades-old local debate. It is true; taxes will increase. That’s why taxes exist—to pay for community services, perks, quality of life factors that enhance communities for the long term, including property values. Again, the decision comes down to the kind of legacies a community is willing to leave for its current and future generations of children.
—Michael A. Polizzi, Superintendent, for the New Milford BOE