Citizens pen letters, petitions in support of high school fields

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:55

    State officials will tour existing fields; view proposed location for new field Sparta — The Board of Education has received numerous letters from citizens, along with petitions containing hundreds of signatures, in support of the proposed multi-sport turf field at the high school, Board President Keith Smith announced at the meeting on Monday. Smith said many of the letters have also been sent to county and state officials, urging them to allow the project to move forward. Smith also mentioned that a Jan Uczkowski,a Sparta High School student and member of the football team is showing his support for the fields in a creative way, via two You Tube videos, which were brought to the attention of board members. (Watch for article on Jan and his videos next week) Superintendent Dr. Thomas Morton said work is continuing regarding the fields project and the engineering firm of Birdsall Services Group is proceeding with plans and approvals. Morton has been in consultation with state officials through a conference call and has invited representatives from the Department of Education’s Office of School Facilities to tour Sparta’s fields. He said, “We’ve invited them to come see what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and why.” Morton added that the district’s bond and construction attorneys have advised them that they are moving forward properly regarding the use of around $3.7 million in unencumbered funds from the high school renovation project to replace five fields lost or damaged as a result of the construction with one multi-sport turf field. He said, “I know there are folks who don’t agree, but we will follow the advice of our attorneys. The $71.5 million dollar high school project was approved by public referendum in 2006 but some citizens have voiced objections to using unspent funds for the fields project, saying the money should be returned to taxpayers instead. It has been rumored that if the funds were returned, it would be in the form of a one-time reimbursement of around $200 per average assessed home. Morton said at the meeting that attorneys tell him it would not be in the form of a check to homeowners. Rather, the $3.7 million would be used to pay down the principal on the bonds which would result in a one-time tax reduction of approximately $180 per average assessed home. Officials have stressed that if the unspent funds are used for the fields, it would not increase taxes as homeowners are already being taxed on the voter-approved bonds.