HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. -- Like opposing teams on the football field they hope to renovate as part of planned capital improvements, Hastings-on-Hudson residents are scrimmaging over the upcoming Hastings School District referendum on a proposed $8.6 capital improvement plan.
The Oct. 22 referendum proposes that the Hastings School District issue an $8.1 million bond and use $500,000 from its capital reserves to make districtwide improvements, including the renovation or rebuilding of the Reynolds Field athletic complex, which is in need of major repairs.
Villagers have chosen sides with the general consensus approving the bond at a currently low interest rate for proposed improvements on the three schools and campuses. But the cost of the athletic complex -- approximately $3 million for a complete renovation -- and its possible effects on the surrounding residential neighborhood have residents at odds.
According to the school district proposal, 52 percent of the $8.6 million plan would go toward a new competitive track and Geo-Turf synthetic field and other athletic complex improvements. Other work includes roof replacements, exterior masonry repairs, electrical system upgrades, renovations to the high school auditorium and other improvements.
Signs supporting both sides of the issue have been popping up on utility poles and in store windows and Facebook pages are busy with posts. The main points of contention are how the Reynolds Field complex should be renovated -- the extent of the work, use of synthetic turf made with "plastic" materials , taxpayer cost of the work and effect on the otherwise quiet residential neighborhood that surrounds the field.
"I'm voting yes," said Susie Caramanica, a member of the Say YES To the Bond supporters. "In addition to all the facility upgrades as part of the bond, it's so important to give our students the opportunity to play on sports teams, to allow them to grow as individuals and team members, to encourage their bodies and minds to be strong, to gain discipline and confidence through the many personal accomplishments achieved."
Andy Ettinger, who lives near the Reynolds Field complex, said the use of organic turf should be further researched. The district plans to use Geo-Turf, a blend of natural cork and coconut fiber preferred over recycled rubber-based products, at a cost of $1.7 million. Ettinger supports the Friends of Reynolds Field group and others who oppose using synthetic turf.
"The main reason that this bond should be defeated and sent back to square one is that this supposedly organic turf they are proposing is an unknown quantity," Ettinger said. "There is no data on the injuries that occur on it and our children should not be used as guinea pigs. Besides, the decimation of a park that has always been a combination town and school field, it is an inappropriately large development for a space that will have to be 'destroyed to save it.' I don't want my daughter and her classmates having gym class on a plastic facsimile of a grass field. You ever sat on that stuff?"
Norbert Sander sees the state-of-the-art field as a benefit to the village's children. "The bond is for our children and their education, health and future," Sander said. "Hastings students deserve a level playing field to prepare in all ways for the years ahead. We should give them no less."
The proposed referendum is expected to cost village taxpayers $161 a year on average if the entire $8.6 million plan is approved. Without the regulation track and the geo-turf field the taxpayer cost is closer to $120 dollars a year.
"It's not about creating jock athletes or ultra performance, it's about the basics of providing students an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves," Caramanica said. "Hastings already fosters so many great art, music, academic programs, it's time to bring foundational basics of school sports facilities up to par, to allow further grooming and fostering of well rounded people."
The Oct. 22 referendum vote will be from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hastings High School Cochrane Gym. Residents who are not registered to vote may do so at the Hastings High School lobby om Oct. 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or Oct. 17 from 4-8 p.m.
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