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Residents Debate $3.1 Million Oxford High Sports Complex

The Board of Finance will meet at 7 tonight (July 10) to vote on the project.

More than 150 people packed a town meeting room at the Monday night and discussed whether to build a $3.1 million athletic complex at , whether the project should be sent to voters at referendum and whether the town should invest in other projects, such as a new library, instead of the field.

Residents stood shoulder-to-shoulder around people seated before the Board of Finance and they took turns voicing opinions. Those who support the project delivered impassioned pleas about why they believe the town needs to build the field and surrounding track for the safety of teenage athletes. Others said the town should finish the high school project, now (the high school was built five years ago without money for athletic fields). And many said it is unfair to students, as well as embarrassing for the school and town, when other local schools refuse to play on Oxford’s current makeshift football and soccer field due to its poor drainage, lack of bleachers, etc. Several sporting events have been cancelled over the past four years, and the school has been forced to find new venues to play games; sometimes, Oxford has to pay a substantial fee to use those fields. 

People on the opposite side of the issue believe Oxford should invest in a new library before an athletic field. Oxford has been promised a new library for more than 30 years and many library patrions believe a new learning center should be built before the sports complex, which includes an artificial turf field that can be used for multiple sports, an eight-lane rubberized track, bleachers on both sides and a press box.

First Selectman George Temple says he is not against building a new library, but he does not believe it should be built for $5 million as has been discussed. 

The Board of Finance did not take a vote Monday night about whether to approve the field project. The board is following the town charter, which states that the board must hold a public hearing before voting. So, the finance board will meet tonight at 7 o’clock at Town Hall to vote on whether to give a positive referral to the Board of Selectmen, which will then have the authority to set a town meeting to vote on the project.

Still, some residents do not believe the issue should be voted upon at a town meeting - they want a referendum.

Resident Janis Hardy, who has been involved in town politics for several years, said she believes the field should have been built when the high school was built between 2005 and 2007. Still, she said several people have approached her about how they should start a petition to send the project to referendum. 

"George, I believe this project should go to referendum,” Hardy told Temple during the meeting. “It’s the cleanest way to do it. I still think it will pass by a simple majority.”

She said she will circulate a petition to send it to referendum. She said she would need to collect 200 signatures from property owners in Oxford and believes that will be easy to do.

At the meeting, Temple avoided discussing a referendum. Instead, he spoke passionately about the need for a new field, as did dozens of others in attendance who clearly support the project.

The following is a copy of Temple's speech:

“Much has been said and written about the project you are to consider, the OHS field complex. I recognize that reasonable people can be on either side of this issue, however some of the criticism and comments made seem less than reasonable. To begin with, I saw the need for this project when I attended a football game at our current field.  What I saw was bare patches, a muddy quagmire and no means for individuals to watch the game.  Most of the spectators either brought their own chairs or stood around.  If they were unlucky enough to stand behind the teams on the field they saw nothing, unless they were extremely tall. The opposing spectators not only commented about the deplorable conditions but joked about our town. The person filming the game for the Oxford team had to do so from a cherry picker.   We have no press box.  In the distance you could hear the din of a gasoline engine which provided electricity for the scoreboard. Players were slipping and sliding and covered in mud.

When a soccer game is played on the field, the same conditions prevailed and the ball takes bizarre bounces off of the uneven field.

There are those who say we don’t need a field. I wonder how many of them have actually been up there to see it. There are those who say that we are too hasty in this process. They seem to confuse haste with decisiveness. Unfortunately, there are those who say this project should fail because I am obviously behind it. They seem to put politics over the best interest of the kids in Oxford and the Town in general. There are those who say we are cutting corners. To these people, I invite you to come up and explain where we are cutting corners.  The field we are proposing is built by the same people who built Giants Stadium and Gillette Stadium fields. Are we to imply that they are cutting corners?

The financial impact from this project is minimal. Especially when it is weighed against the safety of our kids and the pride that we can all feel for a job well done. There are those who say that I am a supporter of this field because my son plays football. I don’t deny that my son plays football but a lot of other people’s sons and daughters will benefit from this field for many, many years to come. My enthusiasm in furthering this project stems from my desire to do the best for all of them.  Some say that Oxford has other projects that have not been finished. That may be so. But this project is an attempt to finish the biggest project that this town has ever undertaken, the Oxford High School.

My concern is not to contribute to the camaraderie of a committee but rather to get it done.  I thank the original committee for the work that they did, in particular in determining the site, which I thought was well reasoned and well thought out.  I feel, though, that if we don’t act at this point it is highly unlikely that this project will ever be completed.  We have a state championship cheerleading squad who have to perform in the mud.  We have a football team who works long and hard hours year round in order to be prepared for a game in a quagmire.  We have a soccer team consisting of high level athletes who must play the peculiarities of the soccer field instead of having a true roll of the ball.  We have a state championship cross country team who did not have a cross country course to run on.  We have a track team who finished third in the State, without a track.  As your First Selectman, I cannot stand by and watch first-rate kids attempt to perform on fourth rate fields.  Please support this effort.”

Oxford Patch will bring you more on the field proposal today, tonight and tomorrow morning.  

Trixy July 10, 2012 at 02:36 PM
I am part of a hardworking family that hash't had a family vacation in 12 years. We eat dinner at home, that I prepare with coupons! We do indulge on Friday nights with pizza and sometimes even get to rent a movie. There is nothing to do in this town as a family because any money we would have to do anything fun like go to an amusement park or the shore is spent on taxes that pay for alll the benefits, (before & after school programs, food stamps, free insurance, free housing, free education and all of that given to people that bring children into this world for a *&^%$paycheck. No, friend, I am NOT part of the 1 percent. Maybe I'm wrong to want a little something from my community because I pay taxes. We don't get any discounts or special treatment, We pay our own way.
Me July 10, 2012 at 02:39 PM
There was nothing disingenuous about it. The original design included it, I merely stated it got taken out. I was trying to keep this mature and informational (and have a little fun with you from yesterday), but if people want to act absurd by being sarcastic, mean-spirited and self-loathing I will be more than happy to challenge that behavior with like. Oh for example, I refer you to these comments posted by people, 2 comments are from a person you are defending: Trixy: "Well the meeting was attended by the usual suspects spouting off their expertise & experience. Most attendees show up because they need to validate their mere existence." - And her comment is not disingenuous? Someone: "now you are stuck with a crappy field because you couldnt build your highschool efficiently...too bad....so sad" - Real mature. Trixy, again: "& u meet the parents at a game & they r buzzed & tattooed, u need to know." - No, I don't.
Me July 10, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Perhaps they did, but like I said, it wasn't felt last night and for being a hearing, we didn't hear your written comments you sent in.
Trixy July 10, 2012 at 02:41 PM
I'm at the library 2-3 times a week. I go at different times. I have never seen more that 2 people other than myself.
John M. Joy July 10, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Have you and your family ever walked the Larkin Bridle Trail? Or Southford Falls? Or the Naugatuck State Forest? Then there's that aforementioned Wiffleball with the neighbors. Do you know your neighbors? When's the last time you visited? You're complaining about your taxes going to other people's kids - but I'm guessing you have children in the local schools. Do you have the foggiest notion how much, per each, that costs the taxpayers?
Trixy July 10, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Have you taken a look at the youth in Oxford?? They are FAT. They are YOUNG. The y are UNHEALTHY and many of the parents are also.. We NEED MORE OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN THE TOWN.
John M. Joy July 10, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Again: Naugatuck State Forest, Larkin Bridle Trail, Southford Falls State Park, Jackson Cove. Climbing trees in the yard. Wiffleball with neighbors. The children CAN go outside and play; many prefer video games and thumb-gazing.
Roc July 10, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Will the athletic complex be available to the taxpayers of Oxford.
Johnny Ribbs July 10, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Seymour and Oxford should regionalize. Even Ansonia/Derby are in discussions to do so, and for decades those clowns couldn't even agree on where to hold the meeting to discuss such intelligent action. It isn't too late, get some smart people talking and realize if we don't make a move like this we will be the last two towns standing trying to make it on our own. Look at Woodland, Pompy, Amity, etc. The kids benefit, the towns benefit. Man up, set aside history....get it done.
Trixy July 10, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Our neighbors are old, can't take care of their property and their children don't come around much to visit or help them for that matter. As for the Naugie. st. forest. , bridle trail and the falls... been there done that. Walking around the woods with the family looses it's juice the 10th time around. It would be nice to have social interchanges with people the same ages and age groups. Oh, and John. We don't had video games or cable.
John M. Joy July 10, 2012 at 03:12 PM
I dunno. I've been to those places many more than ten times, and still love going. As for social interchanges... Oxford, and the Valley generally, have a plethora of organizations. To which do you and your family belong?
C. Thomas Tarby July 10, 2012 at 03:13 PM
What it all comes back to is not building a facility to educate, but a facility that will be the "envy of all other towns". A direct quote from an original member of the school building committee. Perhaps if we had built a functional facility, there would have been money available to complete the project then. Agree or disagree, there are so many areas of town that need attention. Do the teachers have all the supplies they need to properly educate the children? Has anyone considered a renovation of the Great Oak complex? Yes the track is substandard but the field is regulation and there are bleachers already in place. If the purpose of this project is to save face in the eyes of the SWC parents, I suggest a move to the NVL. The football team will be more competitive against schools of comparable size, and natural rivalries would be born. The previous administration convinced many people that with reval, their tax increase would be minimal, if anything. My taxes went up 18%, $2100. This year saw another increase of over $600. What do I get for that? NOTHING. Don't tell me the impact will be a cup of coffee. We all know, for or against, that no large project in this town has ever come in at or under budget. Might I also suggest to those who do comment here, be respectful of others thought process. We don't all have to agree, but as the adults in the community, we should be setting an example for those who we wish to acommodate.
Coach Carb July 10, 2012 at 07:05 PM
My God, what are we arguing about? This field will cost us $35 a year! I will spend that on pizza take-out tonight. 166 high schools in CT. We are one of only a very few who don't have a real field. The other projects in town are being addressed. This is not an either/or situation. Our kids are worth 9 cents a day.
Someone July 10, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I agree ' coach' that kids are worth 9cents/day......id just rather see it spent on educational supplies which support reading/writing/math 1st...do you realize that student are doing without essential resources to learn? Stop kidding yourself...goms is not up to par & neither is center...teachers at goms don't have the technology to teach...some and only some have smartboards....others have chalkboards...get real & spend some money on nececities rather than a field...educational budgets are cut for supplies at goms but you want a football field...where are your priorities?
Jennifer July 10, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Easy with the sweeping generalizations. I think the fields would be an asset to the town, but it certainly is not true that all the kids and parents in Oxford are Fat. That's just not the case, nor can it be the reason to build. There are lots of options for organized and recreational activity in this town. The fileds would only help in that effort.
Jennifer July 10, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Yes, though the OHS teams would be given priority.
John M. Joy July 10, 2012 at 08:58 PM
That's $35/year, every year for twenty. And that's assuming there aren't cost overruns. Seven hundred bucks is a lot of money to be spending for someone else's children's pastimes.
Johnny Ribbs July 10, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Great rivalries to be had in the NVL with Seymour, Derby, Ansonia, Woodland, Watertown...... Plus save tons on gas money. And no pressure to form a field hockey team. You won't get those fun bus trips down to Stratford or out to New Fairfield anymore....I know you'll miss those. Plus we won't mock your mediocre facilities as much as the Barlow or Weston kids will. The Valley loves Oxford, come love us back. NVL is where you guys belong. Don't worry the Waterbury kids coming to your gym once a year to dunk on you won't lower your property values too much.
RAK July 11, 2012 at 11:32 AM
BnB, I'm not sure why the sarcasim about DOT inspector is. I'm just saying the town needs to put a competant person on to oversee these big projects. The mess on Great Hill is a disgrace and we as townspeople got completely ripped off as we did with our high school. Look at what's currently happening on Silano. The immediate/temporary fix by laying down asphalt over potholes is an complete waste of thousands of $$. As one of the worst roads in town, you know it has to be completely reconstructed. If they started reconstruction at the time they started laying down the temp paving, it would be done by now. Take the money we saved this winter and do it right from the start. Somebody has to look into who's approving the funding for such a waste. I could go on and on, but the post only allows 1500 characters. Anyway, I drive Quaker/RT188 everyday. You must be talking about the area near Moose Hill/Silano then South of Governors Hill. It's an issue but not a pressing one. Rt 188 is one of the better roads in town. To answer your final question, the gully's along side RT 188 is probably on the bottom of the board at Newington. And no, I would not be able to expedite that one.
Steve O August 09, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Sports people always think they are the priority. It is their arrogant nature. Vote No. It benefits a small percentage of the students.
Steve O August 09, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Actually, my daughter is very skinny.
Steve O August 09, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Do not let Jennifer fool you. They used to kick us off the Shelton football field when I was younger. Ask yourself this...Can you just walk into an Oxford school and use their basketball court? Ummmmm...no.
Jennifer August 09, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Actually, that isn't true. The Oxford Schools and fields are used quiet extensively by the public on their own or through park and rec for all sorts of programs. My husband plays volleyball at the middle school, for instance. I ran on the GOMS track twice this week, and noone kicked me off. And there was a pick up game of flag football being played on a nearby field. Sure there will be games and practices scheduled for school sports, but the fields will be available when those are not taking place.
JYD August 09, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Wrong, Steve. No kids or sports in our family, and I still can't wait to vote YES on this project. The track will be well used by the community.
Roc August 09, 2012 at 08:08 PM
There hasn't been a clear answer if the the track will be available to the community. Only speculation and that's not good enough.
Dad in Oxford August 09, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Or if the direction of the field will negatively impact other daytime sports. The argument has been it won't affect football because the games will be played at night, but what about the other DAYTIME activities, won't those be affected? If not, then why are they going out of their way to say football won't be affected because the games will be at night? Until they get this right and do it in whole, vote no. Labor is cheapest now, so if we need future construction to complete the facility, it should have also been brought forward instead of piece-mealing it to look less expensive. Games are being played...and it's not football!
Ed Rowland August 09, 2012 at 11:46 PM
No one can say for certain that all home games will be played at night.And Dad's point is well made.There will be plenty of daytime activity.It seems it is all about football.There is so much more to the full highschool experience than football.
carol August 10, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Does anyone here realize that "ME" is Augie Palmer? The guy you voted out of office, only to finally become Temple's PR guy?? You guys are giving Augie lots of laughs these days. Jeez...
carol August 10, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Not only is Palmer (and Carvers') Temple's PR guy(s), they/he are/is running Ox Govt. Are those others who you voted for for to lead this town? No. They/He isn't. Temple is just a front-guy. Not more. Palmer and partners KOG are/ is back in office, behind the Temple patsy; poor guy. Please wake up. I am the average resident these days but still I cannot tolerate shams. Can you?? About the fields: vote your conscience...and gut feelings. Kids' full edu is a good thing.
Paul Singley August 16, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Hey John. I just now noticed this. I sincerely apologize for not getting back to you earlier. I realize this is not a choice between the two, but the crux of discussion from dissenters was that they would rather see a library first, which is why I mentioned it. Thanks for the comment.

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