Dear Bronxville Parents and Residents,
We write to offer some final perspectives on the January 22 referendum for our flood mitigation/field improvement projects and to correct certain misinformation included in communications distributed in recent days by the anonymous person or group self-identified as "Friends of Hayes Field". The information below includes some recent analysis that was shared at our Board of Education meeting on January 15.
Our work on the flood mitigation project began in 2007, when we joined forces with the Village to determine what it would take to 'harden' our facilities against catastrophic flooding– an inevitable reality we must be prepared for in the future. Then, about eighteen months ago, in response to increasing demand for athletic field time by all three of our schools, we began our research of field usage and facility improvement options.
By now, many of our parents, staff and residents should be aware of the relatively straightforward facets of the Board's proposal, along with improvements to the plan that have been made along the way in response to community input. We hosted an information session on January 8 that was structured to enable more focused discussion between community members and school administrators, members of the Board, and the District's architects and engineers. The session focused on four key elements of the plans -- flood remediation, reconfiguration of Hayes Field and alternative synthetic turf systems, play space and parking areas, and financing of the projects. This information was provided again at the regular Board meeting held on January 15, and we have continued to share this information in small group settings and in response to individual inquiries.
Questions and concerns that have been articulated in recent weeks have been addressed with care by our leadership team. These include:
• Design and Financing of Flood Mitigation Plan– With a total project cost of nearly $7 million, we recognize the importance of creating a full understanding of this proposal. A storm water retention/release system has been designed that includes a pump house used to return excessive floodwater to the Bronx River. This system is not for regular use and will not prevent all flooding conditions; it is intended for potentially catastrophic situations, which should be highly infrequent, but with the proposed system the likelihood that our school will suffer significant facility and financial impacts is greatly reduced. No regular noise or related environmental impact is associated with this plan, and we are paying extra attention to ensuring that the design and landscaping of the pump house are first-rate. Most important is that approval of this plan will allow us to accept more than $5.1 million from a FEMA grant to help offset approximately 75% of the plan's costs, provided the project is substantially completed by September 2015. Without the FEMA funding, it is highly unlikely the District or the Village would be in a position to proceed with such a plan.
• Student Play Areas– our analysis of campus field use shows that about two-thirds of our field use (actual fields plus asphalt and grass play areas) is driven by elementary physical education and recess. Almost one-quarter is devoted to middle school and high school sports, and about 11% is associated with the Spring Youth League. None of these elements of our school community will 'lose' field space under the field improvement portion of the plan. The student play/athletic experiences should be enhanced if the often-poor condition of Hayes Field is rectified. Hayes Field is currently used approximately 1,100 hours per year, which greatly exceeds the recommended standard for natural grass fields. The field reconfiguration plan has been revised to include a natural grass area of 25,500 square feet, adjacent to the current elementary school playground. In addition, we have shrunk a planned parking area in order to maintain the current kickball area. Moreover, the current kickball area could be converted to natural grass, but based on community input, the Board decided to retain the existing asphalt surface. The overall design was developed to meet the needs of the entire K-12 population, not just the athletic program.
• Organic Infill – in December, the Board of Education committed to the use of an organic infill product for the synthetic surface planned for Hayes Field. We demonstrated the product with a sample at our January 8 information exchange. Residents were able to run their fingers through the synthetic grass and organic infill (largely cork and rice husks), which creates a softer, cooler playing surface.
• Landscaping – the Board is committed to enhancing the 'green-ness' of the campus by using a landscape designer and replacing trees that must be removed for the flood mitigation and field reconfiguration plans with many more than currently exist on the site, along with strategically-designed shrubbery.
By communicating our proposals in a transparent manner over the course of the fall, we have gathered actionable community feedback and modified our proposals accordingly. Our efforts seek to combine and balance different community needs and interests in a thoughtful, comprehensive manner.
Neither your Board of Education (as an official body) nor district officials can advocate for these plans. Our role is simply to present you with the facts that have resulted from our due diligence. An anonymous entity has distributed a printed flier that misrepresents our efforts.
District residents are asked to vote on two separate propositions on January 22. The first would authorize new taxes in the form of a bond issue to fund up to $900,000 of the District's share of the flood remediation project. The second authorizes the District to utilize funds that have already been set aside. To be clear: the second proposition asks voters to use existing capital reserve funds of up to $2.2 million not only to install a new organic infill synthetic turf system on Hayes Field, but also to retain a natural grass play space and the present kickball area, create parking, and improve landscaping around the campus. Student opportunities for team participation will be adversely affected without the flexibility and usability of a synthetic turf field. There is no tax impact associated with approval of this question, since funds are already on-hand in the capital reserve. Furthermore, if voters approve use of the capital reserve funds for the field reconfiguration project, the District will still have in excess of $7,000,000 in other reserve funds covering several types of risks and contingencies. The District reviews its reserves at least once every year and generally is able to reallocate reserves as needed.
It is unfortunate that anonymous, non-factual and disingenuous communications have been circulated through our community in recent days. Residents should take heed that our Board of Education and administrative team remain available to hear any remaining concerns or answer your specific questions about this proposal with fact-based responses.
Please remember to cast your ballots on January 22. The polls will be open from 7 am – 9 pm in the Multi-purpose Room.
Bronxville Board of Education
Denise Tormey, President
David Brashear, Vice President
Dr. Mary Giuffra
Dr. James Hudson
David Quattrone, Superintendent of Schools