Most residents who spoke at a Harborfields district forum about a proposal to bond $3 million over 15 years for two turf fields at the high school were not sold on the project.
For almost two hours Wednesday, about 24 residents, only two of whom spoke in favor of the proposal, questioned the school board about the proposition that is to be voted on by the public on Dec. 11.
The school board-hosted forum included a bond attorney and the district's architect and doctor to answer questions about the project, which includes enhanced field accessibility for the physically challenged, upgrades to the grass and baseball fields, and asbestos abatement of floor tiles at the high school.
Questions ranged from financial concerns to the environmental impact of the turf fields.
"We have a very intelligent community that understands fiscal responsibility and are asking the right questions," said David Steinberg, one of about 13 residents who said outright that the project doesn't make sense for now. "When it comes down to the vote, the fiscally responsible decision will be made."
Peter Saros, who brought the proposition to the board and spoke in favor of the project, expressed confidence after the meeting that the proposition has more community support than the night's discussions suggested.
"Our initial survey to the community returned over 500 positive responses," Saros said. "So we are not deterred at all. But I think there was a very concerted effort to get people that are against it to come out, which we expected."
District Superintendent Diana Todaro said she was pleased with resident turnout and would be willing to have other forums and meet with smaller groups to give out information about the proposal.
District officials said the turf fields last 10 to 15 years, and will cost the district about $800,000 in 10 years to replace. The annual maintenance of two synthetic fields is estimated at $18,000.
The annual cost of the bond would be about $30 a year for the average property in the district, officials said. The district will be eligible for $65,000 in state education aid annually because of the asbestos abatement.
District resident Bonnie Cheskes said while most of the people who spoke were against the project, it was not about opposition to student athletics.
"They're against the extraordinary costs on fields that are currently fine," she said.