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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

WSA Remains In The Dark About Kehler Stadium Lights

     At last night's Westfield Board of Education meeting, a brief update was given on the status of the Westfield Soccer Associations request to use temporary lights to illuminate Kehler Stadium. 
     Bd. of Ed. President Gretchen Ohlig was quick to dismiss WBOE member Chris Langhart's description of a recent letter, received by the WBOE, as a "lawsuit."  The letter, submitted by an attorney representing the Kehler Neighborhood Preservation Committee, has caused the WBOE to table a vote on approving the WSA's lighting request.  The WBOE has not set a date as to when the vote will take place and is waiting until legal matters addressed in the letter are resolved.
     The portable generator/light that was being stored at Kehler Stadium after a WSA demonstration for Westfield BOE members, in anticipation of the WBOE's approval to light Kehler Stadium, appears to have been removed from the site.
     Westfield Soccer Association Trustee Peter Franks has insisted that the WSA needs more fields to accommodate the privately run soccer association's increasing number of participants and lack of time afforded to the WSA on town owned recreation fields.  A check of the WSA website revealed that they currently utilize 21 fields, with 14 of those fields within the borders of Westfield.  Of the 14 fields in Westfield, 9 fields are owned by the Westfield Board of Education.      
     While the Town of Westfield requires a $10 fee to be paid by each member of the WSA to use a town owned field (the WSA imposes a $15 fee on each of its members to cover the cost), the Westfield Board of Education requires no such fee.  The Westfield taxpayer is left to foot the bill for the cost of maintenance and other expenditures associated with the Westfield Soccer Association's free use of WBOE fields.  The Westfield Soccer Association is a private organization not affiliated with the Westfield Recreation Department.
     The WBOE's operating budget has topped $100 million dollars of which 7.5% is allocated for "Maintenance, Insurance, and Utilities."  The BOE's "Maintenance Staff," which includes employees that maintain WBOE fields, makes up 7.3% of total staffing.
     The Westfield Board of Education requires middle school and high school athletes, band members, drama production participants and others to pay a one time yearly fee to the Westfield Board of Education to participate in school activities that offsets operating costs. Currently, that fee is $125.
     The Westfield Soccer Association pays nothing in participation fees to the WBOE to use their fields.......fields maintained using Westfield tax dollars.

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