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Westfield Presents Athletic Complex Renovation Plan

This is a photo of the current athletic complex at Westfield Academy and Central School.

WESTFIELD — Community members in Westfield got the chance to offer feedback on possible upgrades to the school’s athletic complex at a recent public forum.

Presenters offered different options for the complex that range in price form $6 million to $15.5 million. Jeff Nunn of Gordon Jones & Associates Architectural Firm presented Option A, which incorporates everything that people asked for in response to a survey the district conducted in February.

The option would include all new fields, a walkway around the complex, new parking facilities and a protective retentive berm. Business executive Joshua Melquist said Option A would cost $15.5 million, which would entail an increase in taxes of $245 per $100,000 assessed value annually.

Option B has two phases. Nunn explained that Option B-1 would replace the track and the field and add the protective berm. The second phase, or Option B-2 would replace the baseball and softball fields over the next few years.

Melquist said this option would cost $6 million, which would include a tax increase of $31 per $100,000 assessed property value. He noted that, “Along with conceptual drawings, there are conceptual prices.”

Presenters at a public forum concerning upgrades to Westfield Academy and Central School athletic complex received an estimate of possible tax increases.

Westfield Superintendent Michael Cipolla welcomed all those in attendance and introduced the presenters, who along with Melquist and Nunn, included Neil Huber, athletic director; Matt Sikora of Turner Construction; and Josh Brumagin, district director of facilities.

Cipolla reviewed the timeline for the project, noting that discussions for improving the athletic complex began during the last school year. After the February survey, in which community members prioritized upgrades for the complex, the district met with employee groups, students and alumni to set short-term and long-term goals.

“What we do in the future will mirror that feedback,” Cipolla said. “We are looking at the financial landscape, both short-term and long-term of our district. That is a heavy consideration.”

Huber displayed images of the current athletic complex after a rain storm, demonstrating the need for enhancements to the athletic complex. All of the fields were retaining water and the soccer field had about 2 inches of mud, he said.

Huber went on to show that the number of students participating in sports has been stable for ths past five years.

A photo of the baseball field at Westfield after a rainstorm illustrates how the field retains water.

“The numbers here are going to be with us for a while,” he said. “About two thirds of the student population plan on playing a sport in the spring of 2022.”

Huber noted that, while most of the students who responded to a recent survey, are proud of their district, a majority of them described the current athletic complex with such adjectives as “rough, old, terrible, embarrassing, trashy, outdated, horrendous.”

“A new athletic complex would greatly improve our outdoor sports,” he said.

He also played two videos of interviews with students. The first video, which featured three recent graduates, emphasized how difficult it was to practice and play sports on the current athletic complex. Katie Bodenmiller noted that the condition of the track prevented the district from hosting events such as steeple chase and hurdles. The second video illustrated the opinions of three current athletes: Haleigh Dellow (class of 2023), Makartnee Mortimer (class of 2023), and Cameron Paternosh (class of 2024). All three students reiterated the opinions of the alumni, agreeing that the complex is in deplorable condition.

After Huber’s presentation, Melquist reviewed the financial impact of the proposed plans on the local community. He noted that a good athletic complex that could host more events would benefit the entire community.

“If we have a facility that is bringing more people to our community, it will likely boost the local economy,” he said. “It’s also going to open people’s eyes to what we have here.”

In response to a question from a community member regarding the tax impact being so high for Option A, Matt Sikora explained that the tax levy is impacted by the maximum cost allowance provided by the state. The overall cost of the project determines the percentage of aid the district will receive. If a district exceeds the maximum cost allowance there will be a higher impact on the tax levy.

Cipolla said the next steps will be to follow up with the board of education, staff members, Brumagin, Huber, students, and all stakeholders. Another community forum will be scheduled as the project progresses, he said.

In response to concerns from community members, Huber noted that the purpose for the athletic complex enhancements ultimately comes down to the students.

“You’ve seen the numbers,” he said. “I believe a better facility would get even more students to participate. As you guys have said ‘build it and they will come.'”

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