Few issues have spurred as much debate in the past eight months as the district's projects to while . Neighbors of the fields have vehemently opposed the projects, complaining that the turf in a flood zone will be a 'boondogle' recurring cost taxpayers should not have to front.
Neighbors also said the lights are far too bright, they were removed from the process and the communication on the part of the district was to keep them in the dark. The council will decide if, as the board of education has, it believes 10 p.m. light times are appropriate. Meanwhile, sport groups and advisory boards the turf was a wise move and the lights should stay on until 10 p.m. to accommodate the growing number of participants in the village.
On Thursday, at the hosted by the League of Women Voters, incumbents Sheila Brogan and Laurie Goodman talked all things fields and lights, as did challenger Christina Krauss.
This is part two in our four-part series getting to know more about where the candidates stand on the issues.
The district budget always has a maintenance budget, Goodman said, which will pay the costs of damage done to fields or other events. At Candidate's Night, she said some things can't be predicted, like the amount of snowfall cleanup in a year.
The board member, who is on the Fields Committee as a liaison, said electricity cost amounts to $18 an hour for the lights (fully paid by the district).
Goodman also noted that the district will continue to address the lighting issue to "minimize as much as possible the impact" to neighbors. Testing was to be completed to ensure specs matched as advertised, but a personal matter on behalf of the tester delayed the process. "Testing will be done and adjustments made as necessary," she said.
Goodman has come under scrutiny on her education blog as well as by neighbors of the fields for how the process has been handled by the school board.
When asked by a resident at Candidate's Night, Goodman said B.F. has the infrastructure set up for lights but "there's not a plan at this time to have lights there."
Speaking for herself (and not the school board) on other possible future projects, Goodman said communication with neighbors should be done "a little bit differently".
In terms of possible future projects, Goodman said they will be evaluated as the district does now–with a full analysis and public comment while creating a plan for financial impact. She added that the lighting issue is about "more than the lights". It's about use of the fields and how to accommodate the growing number of participants, she said.
Goodman appeared confident the sports groups who have pledged the cost of the first year of the lights (money in hand) and pledged to donate 40 percent of the $525,000 fixtures for the remainder of the five-year lease, will continue given the track record of success. There have been questions, however, as media reports have noted the RBSA has threatened to withhold funding should the 10 p.m. end time not be granted.
The district is also looking into naming rights at some of the facilities to generate funds to pay for the lights, Goodman told the public at Candidate's Night.
Challenger Christina Krauss said at the public forum that the safety of children should be a priority and also said sports groups should be charged use fees to help pay for cleanup costs should they be incurred.
She added that the economy will dictate future costs and hopes that the district will be able to adjust the lights appropriately, and noted that neighbors have felt the process was less than transparent and they were not included, though she herself did not offer an opinion at the meeting.
Krauss said the board should charge sports groups for energy costs for facilities use that is not district-sponsored.
In an interview with Patch prior to the Candidate's Night, Krauss said she didn't believe that 10 p.m. was a reasonable time to keep the lights on. She'd defer to 9:00 p.m., she said.
"It is not my intention to turf any fields, it is my intention to work with the sports groups on any improvements to our grass fields," Brogan, also a member of the Fields Committee, said Thursday night.
Brogan took time to remind residents of the Master Plan revision in 2006, which said facilities were not able to meet the demand and should be turfed. The village council has said at recent sessions that the Master Plan is an advisory document, and not necessarily to be followed at every turn.
The council has been critical of the school board's actions regarding fields, which removed a baseball field at B.F. in favor of a track, and it has also said it was not leaning toward agreeing to the board-signed fields use policy, which would have kept lights on until 10 p.m. on some nights.
When asked pointedly by a resident, Brogan and Goodman said it was a false choice that the district chose to turf fields while letting go of staff, as they're separate budgets. "That choice is not a true choice," Goodman said. "We did not cut staff last year because in the future we thought we would have to restore turf fields."