Education

Westfield Residents Face Off on Lighting Kehler Field at BOE Meeting

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Superintendent Margaret Dolan, board member Richard Mattessich and board memberGretchen Ohlig heard from the public at Tuesday night's Westfield Board of Education meeting. Credits: Alexandria Addesso
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WESTFIELD, NJ — A hearing about refunding a bond ordinance and a discussion on the Westfield Soccer Association’s proposal to install temporary lights at Kehler Field took up much of Tuesday night’s Westfield Board of Education Meeting. The budget was also discussed.

“The board in 2007 issued a bond for over $9.3 million to be paid back over 20 years,” said the board’s business administrator, Dana Sullivan.

The board approved the refunding of the bond ordinance that would save the district about $200,000.

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The soccer association’s proposal to install temporary lights at Kehler Field for weekday practices from 7 p.m. to  9:40 p.m. for a 10-week pilot program this spring brought many out to the meeting that night, which was held at Westfield High School to accommodate the crowd.

Many have voiced concerns over noise, light pollution and the possible emission of a diesel smell. Two Fridays ago, the board had the soccer association set up one light generator on the field so that board members could see for themselves what they are like.

“I personally did this from several locations on foot and by car,” said Board President Richard Mattessich. “Asking the WSA to set up one generator was a useful exercise.”

“Until I got three to five feet away, I didn’t hear the generator,” said board member Mitchell Slater.

For nearly three hours residents, both for and against the field lighting pilot program, took the podium and voiced their opinions.

There has been an increase in interest in youth soccer and a need to use the field at night, after the high school sports teams are done using it, said WSA President Steven Aronson.

“This is not a problem that happened over night. It’s a problem that started in 2006,” he said.

Although the lights would be purchased by the WSA and installed and maintained by them, the Westfield High School sports teams would also be able to use them.

“The impact this will have is it will give us an extra hour and a half of practice time,” said Sandy Mamary, Westfield athletic director.

Many residents who live around the field spoke against the proposal, citing the possibilities of noise, lights disturbing them in their homes, extra traffic around the field (which does not have its own parking lot) and decreased property values.

“We try to be good neighbors. We’re just asking the board of education to be good neighbors,” said Scott Rodger, a resident of the neighborhood.

A petition signed by about 60 residents of the Kehler Field neighborhood against the proposal was also mentioned.

Board Vice President Gretchen Ohlig made a motion to move the vote to next Tuesday’s board meeting so that they could verify that no extra permits are needed from the city before making their decision.

Also brought up by the public were concerns about the budget. Parents, faculty and students spoke about the need for more space and an additional band instructor for the growing music program. Several people also mentioned the desire to start a varsity girls’ fencing team to compete with local schools. Currently, there is only a fencing club.

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