Middletown committee, school board need to get priorities in order

I truly believe that the members of the Middletown Township Committee and Board of Education believe that money does grow on trees.

The Middletown Township Committee is determined to destroy approximately 10 acres of trees and wildlife in order to expand Fairview Park’s existing two soccer fields into four soccer fields and paved parking for 200 cars at an approximate expense of $750,000. This is being pursued by the Township Committee even after knowing the residents of our area are opposed to this proposal. They also have spent approximately $400,000 of taxpayers’ money to purchase the Banfield property. When Mr. Banfield sold this property to our town, it was his intention and the citizens of Middletown were also led to believe that this was for open space and a future community center and playgrounds for our children. Now the Township Committee is allowing "temporary" train station parking on the Banfield property. This is not what the taxpayers of Middletown approved the open space money for. When residents pressed the committee to make a statement that this "temporary" parking would not become permanent, they refused to comment.

By their own admission the Township Committee approved the sale of approximately 2,500 parking permits when there are only 1,200 parking spots at the train station. It doesn’t take a genius to see that there were going to be problems. The committee has stated that this was done to protect the resale value of the homes in Middletown because no one would want to move here if there was a waiting list for permit parking.

Now for the Board of Education. In 1996 the taxpayers approved a $78 million bond to refurbish and improve the schools. Except for Bayshore Middle School, the work on the remaining schools has yet to be started. Now they discover they forgot furniture for the new additions. These people are in charge of millions of our dollars. A very frightening thought. Now to add further insult to the taxpayers, they have applied for a $6 million loan for the furniture from the state of New Jersey and a $7.6 million increase in the school budget to run the school this year. The new superintendent, Mr. Jack DeTalvo, states there will also be layoffs of teachers.

My question to the Board of Education is, if we are going to lay off teachers, why are we expanding our schools? Who will be put in the classrooms to teach, especially if this year’s budget is defeated?

My question for the Township Committee is, why are we spending at least $750,000 on soccer fields for which the need has yet to be proved and more than $400,000 on the Banfield property when apparently our schools are in dire need of additional funds?

Maybe these two entities should be working together. Since neither board seems able to plan for the future by itself, maybe working together and having long-term plans, with input from the residents of Middletown, will result in a township and school system we can be proud of.

As to the value of our homes, the Township Committee should be made aware that it is not the train station and soccer fields that make for higher property values, it is an efficient school system and natural quality of life.

Barbara DeSanto