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Letter to the Editor: Say No to Parking Lot

A resident expresses his opinion on an item in the school budget.

Editor:

On the proposed budget for the Chatham School District there is a line item that allocates $400,000 for construction of a parking lot for additional spaces on the open gym fields adjacent to the high school.

These spaces would give each anticipated future high school senior a space to park his/her car at the High School. The justification for this item is that it is unsafe for seniors to park their cars in the Colony Pool lot and walk to the high school.

This lot is 0.2 miles from the high school and takes about 6 minutes to walk to and from. There is no sidewalk from the parking lot to the corner of Floral Street which is about 300ft. However, most of the Township has no sidewalks, notably Longwood Avenue, Dellwood Avenue, and Fairview, which are used by high school students every school day and on which seniors now drive their cars to and from school.

There are less costly solutions to this supposed safety issue such as building a sidewalk, which would cost less than $15,000, or putting up signage to reduce and maintain a traffic flow which would be safer for the walking students. The real reason for this parking lot is that seniors have the option of going off campus during their lunch and study hall periods and it is easier for each of them to have their own car at the high school.

Seniors currently have to share parking spaces and thus car pool when they drive. Existing spaces could also accommodate future students by allocating them in a specified format (lottery or specification of shorter time period for each student to have access to a space).

Why must the district spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to accommodate every senior in the school? Why must the district put asphalt on green field space surrounding the high school, which is used for all physical education class, to accommodate seniors?

The current situation at the high school when school begins and ends is unsafe. There is no management or control of the existing traffic. Now add more cars driven by teenagers into this situation.

In these difficult financial times why is the district spending funds that benefit a small portion of the school population and which will add maintenance costs in the future.

Couldn’t we spend this money to cut our maintenance costs by adopting energy saving measures?

Unfortunately, the proposed budget was approved with this line item in it which was not discussed with the taxpaying public prior to its inclusion in the budget. Additionally the high school’s adjoining neighbors were not notified of this item’s inclusion in the budget which the superintendent’s office two years earlier indicated it would do.

Therefore, I am voting NO for the school budget and I believe that all concerned residents of Chatham should do the same.    

James Urbelis
Chatham

Sir May 02, 2011 at 02:12 PM
MadInNJ - seems like I have struck a chord with you. If you want to spend $400k for asphalt, you fit right in with our current US administration - let's continue to spend on meaningless projects which provide zero return. On a personal note, since you have gone there, I actually went to Scarsdale HS in Westechester, undergrad at Princeton, so I think I did quite well. And by the way, we had to walk more than a 1/4 mile to school.
Sir May 02, 2011 at 02:19 PM
To heretolong - benefits are in the 30% range of total comp for teachers. If 8 teachers at $25k, salaries total $200k. This leaves another $200k for benefits. If benefits represent 50% of total comp, we have a serious issue and not just budgeting $400k for asphalt. Let's even make the case that we hire 4 teachers at $50k, we still have ample money to pay for their salary and benefits.
FanofChatham May 02, 2011 at 11:33 PM
I am a graduate of Chatham Township High School (quite a long time ago) and can speak factually: the parking lot is exactly the same in 2011 as it was in 1988. The student population is NOT: it was just over 500 students in 1988 and currently has over 1100. You figure out why we need some more parking.
Sir May 03, 2011 at 12:52 PM
FanofChatham - the student population will grow by 30% over the next several years. There is a larger issue than spending $400k to add 50 parking spaces. Let's look at the real issue and that is over crowding at the High School - and the infrstraucture (much of which is old / outdated) can not support the continued student population increases. Why is no one talking about adding on to or constructing a modern high school that can accomodate continued growth over the next 20 years? The issue shouldn't be about adding 50 parking spaces.
ChathamResident May 03, 2011 at 09:22 PM
Jerry, good points. Lets see how the town feels when they ask for 20million for a totally new high school. If 400k is this big of a problem I can only imagine what kind of slander would be said about a brand new high school. It however will need to be replaced or totally redone over the next 5-10 years. This 400k parking lot is such a small spec on the big picture problem.

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