SPARTA, NJ — The proposed Sparta High School turf field project is in a “holding pattern,” until the district receives approvals from state agencies, according to Superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi. 

Sparta Board of Education Business Administrator told TAPinto Sparta the plan to move the softball and baseball fields had been changed; the girls’ softball field will remain behind the school and the boys’ baseball field will be moved from Cassels Field to Reis Field.

Rossi said he did not “know what month it reverted back.” He said he “felt it was the easiest thing,” to leave softball in their current home. He said moving baseball behind the school would require a “big cage” of high fences to be built around the field and that “wasn’t a good idea.”

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The change is not noted in any turf field ad hoc committee meeting minutes. Details of the project were last discussed in public a year ago at the August 2017 board of education meeting.  

The original architect submitted plans to the New Jersey Department of Education in December of 2017 or January of 2018 according to Rossi. 

“For 18 months the plans have been in the queue,” Rossi said. He said he was going to call the new architect Gregory Somjen of Parette Somjen on Monday to find out the status of the application.

Rossi said the architects were changed on October 2017 because “they wanted to go in a different direction.” He said he has “worked with Greg Somjen for 10 years and he hasn’t steered me wrong yet.”

Somjen recommended the application be made to turf Cassels Field because he felt it would have fewer obstacles than the original plan to put the field behind the high school according to Rossi. In August 2017 Rossi said the change was being made because “it would save the district $500,000.”

Rossi said Somjen did not recommend making a dual application for either option of turfing Cassels or behind the school because it would take longer for the state to review the application.

The current estimate for turfing Cassels Field is $3.5 million according to the Turf Field Ad Hoc March meeting minutes. 

This is a project that has been under discussion since 2008. During the referendum to reconstruct the high school, the field was on the ballot as an optional question. The voters approved the $72 million reconstruction but not the turf field.

At the end of the construction process, the board of education intended to use money left over from the referendum to construct a multisport turf field and an eight lane track behind the high school. The bond counsel had confirmed that the money could be used in that way to repair or replace things damaged or lost during construction. With the new footprint of the building and the required bog turtle habitat, the school lost five fields.

Preliminary approval for the project had been given to the district by state agencies.  Before permit applications were submitted, however, the Department of Education Office of Facilities in Trenton let Sparta know they would not allow the funds to be used for a turf field, despite other district having recently done so. 

In 2012, the board of education put the question of a turf field to voters in another bond referendum. Once again the single question of putting a field behind the high school was defeated by 159 votes. 

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