Field House for 9/11 Victim Raises Questions
Amid concerns over the proposed football field house's maintenance costs to West Deptford taxpayers, two meetings are planned to answer residents' questions.
While the goodwill appears present to build a field house at the high school in memory of Nick Brandemarti Jr., West Deptford’s school board president acknowledges the community has questions about the plan.
It’s been two weeks since former soccer coach John Cobb and former board of education member Edward Houghton proposed the football field house to honor West Deptford High School alumnus Brandemarti, who was killed on 9/11.
School board President Chris Strano said the board will answer any questions before a vote to approve or deny the structure occurs.
Cobb and Houghton’s presentation detailed the field house they envision—built from donations and not tax dollars, they said—although their plan may not necessarily be the exact specifications of the building.
The presentation outlined a field house that would cost $230,000-$260,000. The proposal has it located adjacent to the blockhouse near the football field. The field house would include restrooms, showers, locker rooms, laundry rooms, equipment rooms, coach meeting rooms and official meeting rooms for the football team.
Strano said Monday night that one of the board's main concerns surrounds the potential cost of the building to taxpayers. Though construction won’t cost the district, the school board has to take into account how much the maintenance and utilities to keep the field house running will cost per year.
Brian Gotchel, chair of the school board’s property, buildings, and transportation committee, said his fellow board members have sent questions his way about the proposal.
“There have been a lot of questions about usage and expense,” Gotchel said.
His committee plans an upcoming meeting on the field house; it will be a chance for the board and public to ask questions and register their thoughts on the proposal. A meeting with a community group is also planned. Neither has been scheduled yet.
With a proposal this large, Strano said, the board will not vote before the public can ask questions and comment on the project.
Alternative idea proposed
Some people in the community have concerns or ideas about the project. Mary Beth Kirschling, the mother of West Deptford alum Megan Kirschling, opted to reserve many of the questions she brought to Monday night's meeting for the future public session. But Kirschling floated an idea for spending the money to benefit all West Deptford High School athletes instead.
“New Jersey now has state-mandated concussion rules,” she noted,” so the money could be used to purchase the ImPACT test.”
Kirschling’s idea stemmed from a story she heard about Brandemarti suffering from concussions during his football-playing days. She added that many high schools in the Colonial Conference and throughout South Jersey have ImPACT, a computer program that makes identifying athletes’ concussions easier by establishing a baseline for each individual.
The cost and training required for ImPACT wouldn’t run as high as maintaining a field house and it would benefit all sports, whereas the proposed field house would be constructed just for football, Kirschling said.
Superintendent Kevin Kitchenman said he has discussed purchasing ImPACT with athletic director Tim Cammarota in the past, and it will come up for discussion again as the West Deptford School District prepares its upcoming budget, which is taking precedence.