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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

Board debates scoreboard

courtesy photo

HAMMONTON—The Hammonton Board of Education held a discussion regarding the purchase of a new scoreboard for Hammonton High School’s Robert Capoferri Football Field at its March 16 meeting.

The matter appeared on the agenda under Resolution No. 22, which the board table after much debate.

“Resolved that the Hammonton Board of Education approve the purchase from Nevco a Scoreboard located at the High School in the amount of $166,905.35 based on Sourcewell National Co-Op,” the resolution read.

Board member Luke Coia first broached the topic under committee reports.

“Two weeks ago, we’re trying to provide better benefits for our staff—all the staff, not just people that work here for four years; all the aides, all the maintenance people. This is a state-run facility; everyone that works here should have health insurance, and health benefits and a decent pay; we’re the biggest employer of the town. We couldn’t do that; we just don’t have the funds, I guess,” Coia said.

Coia said that budget letters have been sent to staff members regarding the increasing costs of goods.

“We might not be able to get all the pencils and books—or whatever it is that you want—because of funds; it’s always a problem here, is money. I’m just a little concerned of spending nearly $200,000 on a scoreboard when we have four home football games a year,” Coia said.

Coia, a member of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, expressed concerns about the manner in which the topic was presented to both the committee and the board as a whole.

“I find it very odd that when I walk into a Buildings and Grounds Committee, I’m handed a quote for $170,000 by our president of this board, who has sat here and told us he was going to be transparent, and he’s going to let everybody know what’s going on. The first question I had was, where did this come from and how did it get here so fast?” Coia said.

Coia said that Hammonton Board of Education President Sam Mento III—who was absent from the meeting—has often said that “things are done in committees.”

“It goes to a committee, it gets approved in that committee and then it’s presented to the board,” Coia said.

Coia said that the scoreboard proposal was presented to the members of the committee, which, in addition to Coia and Mento, includes board members Kelly Donio and board vice president Lynda Byrnes—who presided over the meeting in Mento’s absence.

“I can sit here and tell you that three of the board members weren’t thrilled with the scoreboard. We were told it doesn’t matter, it’s going on the agenda anyway, by our president. I don’t think that’s the way this board should operate. I do not think that he should have the authority to do whatever he wants in this school district,” Coia said.

Coia said that he received an email stating that the matter went in front of the Student Activities Committee, chaired by board member Thomas Attanasi.

“It said it was approved by his committee. Mr. Attanasi, did this go through your committee?” Coia said.

Attanasi responded.

“Not to my knowledge,” Attanasi said.

Coia continued.

“You’re the chair of the committee; wouldn’t you know?” Coia said.

Attanasi said that he had been absent for the past two months.

“I did hear it went through Finance, and Buildings and Grounds,” Attanasi said.

During the meeting, board member John Lyons—who appeared via Zoom teleconferencing software—said that the scoreboard matter did appear before the Finance Committee.

Kelly Donio commented further, expressing “significant concerns.”

“I’m calling it a Jumbotron, because it has a video screen and I don’t know the appropriate specific type of screen it is; it’s the best way I can describe what was shown to me; it’s a scoreboard with video capabilities in the amount of $166,905,” Kelly Donio said.

Coia said that was just for the price of the scoreboard itself, and Donio continued.

“While this might be an appropriate use of funds, I have a lot of concerns like Mr. Coia about the timing and the process by which it appeared on the agenda. I don’t understand how we can approve to spend this significant dollar amount of our taxpayer dollars until we have some further questions answered,” Kelly Donio said.

Kelly Donio said that she learned of the scoreboard the night prior to the committee meeting when she received a copy of the committee’s agenda. Following the meeting, she wrote an email to the committee with questions on the matter.

“I guess I was just curious about what specifically is wrong with our current scoreboard, because I wasn’t sure if it was unusable, or is it just something that we’re looking to upgrade because, in the next two to three years, it’s going to be obsolete?” Kelly Donio said.

Kelly Donio also asked what would happen to the existing scoreboard.

“Is it something that we’re planning on putting the new on the opposite side—which is what we were told—and then will there be two? And, if the old scoreboard is removed, what is the cost to do that?” Kelly Donio said.

Kelly Donio said that the quote as received only listed the scoreboard itself but did not cover potential additional electrical needs. She also asked about the need to purchase additional camera equipment.

“If it’s a video component being pitched to us to be able to do instant replays and all this really cool stuff, in my opinion it seems like we’d need somebody with a little bit more training, and there’s probably going to be a cost associated to do instant replays and all that, so what is the actual per-event expense?” Kelly Donio said.

Kelly Donio asked if there would be advertising on the screen.

“If so, what is our board policy on advertising revenue, and where will the revenue dollars go? Will it go back to paying for the scoreboard? Will it go back to the sports using that?” Kelly Donio said.

Kelly Donio also questioned why no other options were investigated.

“This is the only option that was presented to us,” Kelly Donio said.

Kelly Donio said that committee members were given a copy of the associated letter of intent, which was dated February 21, and signed by Business Administrator Barbara Prettyman on March 1. The Buildings and Grounds Committee meeting, Donio said, was held on March 14.

“I guess I just don’t understand the rush for approving this and putting it on the agenda this evening, because my question is: who instructed Miss Prettyman to sign this letter of intent?” Kelly Donio said.

Kelly Donio continued.

“Whether I support this initiative or not, this is indicative of a larger culture of, I believe, this board and its lack of planning that we continue to, I think, engage in. I think that we need to change the way in which we operate,” Kelly Donio said.

Kelly Donio expressed concerns about the financial priority of the scoreboard.

“How are we prioritizing this project in light of all the other things that have come about in the last year?” Kelly Donio said.

During her comments, Kelly Donio said that the committee was informed that a donor has offered to pay the installation costs.

“My biggest question regarding that is our insurance liability. Does our insurance company cover the liability for his company and his employees? What would happen if one of his employees were to get hurt? Are we exposing our district to any additional liability?” Kelly Donio said.

Later in the meeting, board member Ray Scipione said that the donor in question was Capoferri.

“The board does bring up a good point about insurance liability, and I think that, if I make a motion, he shouldn’t be plowing our driveways and shouldn’t be constructing a bathroom behind the baseball fields, and he shouldn’t be with the park that was supposed to be done in the front or something. It’s too late to stop him from doing the middle school track, but I would add that into the motion, too, because of insurance,” Scipione said.

Coia said that Capoferri and his company “probably have more insurance than this school building.”

“Speaking of insurance, I don’t think that would affect anything. He works on many state projects and has all the qualifications and everything he needs to be able to work with this district—and I’d also like to thank him for his generosity as well,” Coia said.

Board solicitor Wil Donio commented further.

“One could have interpreted some of the discussion as not recognizing that the volunteerism and the generosity of really a tremendous benefactor to this community, Mr. Capoferri, was somehow swept into the whole idea of the scoreboard, and almost dismissed because of the idea of, well, someone’s going to install it, but what if they install it and somebody gets hurt, or what have you,” Wil Donio said.

Wil Donio said that the district has “readily accepted with great gratitude—exceptional gratitude—the other things that he’s provided.”

“I would hate for it to be either heard or interpreted as somehow or manner, because I would suggest that this is not the intention of this entire board, because I think the intention of this entire board is to continue to express our appreciation for the numerous things Mr. Capoferri does without any of the concerns that might be raised,” he said.

When the resolution was introduced for a vote, no member of the board made a motion to adopt it. Wil Donio said that, in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order, whoever would make a motion to adopt the resolution would also be required to vote in the affirmative for said motion.

“The second is only to, yeah, now we can discuss it—but, if there’s no motion to make it, then I would suggest that you just move on with your agenda,” he said.

Board member Kelli Fallon inquired further.

“Can we motion to table it? Can we motion to take it out, or just not—if we don’t make a motion at all, we won’t be considering it?” Fallon said.

Wil Donio replied in the affirmative, and Coia commented.

“Somebody has to want this; it’s on the agenda. How did it get on the agenda?” Coia said.

Scipione then offered a motion.

“I make a motion that 22—I have to vote in the affirmative; yes, I know,” Scipione said.

Wil Donio continued.

“Whoever seconds it doesn’t have to vote for it,” he said.

Attanasi seconded the motion.

During discussion of the motion, board member Barbara Berenato said that the cost of the scoreboard was a concern of hers.

“There have to be other alternatives out there, and I think if we vote on this tonight we’re not looking at an alternative that might be cheaper,” Berenato said.

Coia presented an invoice for a similar scoreboard installed in Linwood.

“It’s not a Jumbotron, but it’s a very nice, new-technology scoreboard, and it is $30,000,” Coia said.

Coia suggested revisiting the matter of a new scoreboard in conjunction with improvements to the overall athletic facilities at the school, including repairs to the track and the possible installation of turf on the football field.

Fallon inquired as to procedure.

“If we go and vote, and say, hypothetically, it gets voted down, it’s not that we’re never having a scoreboard; we just can’t have this particular one, Mr. Donio? What if we went back to the table, and decided to do other things, and grouped it all together, and then everyone was on board; could we still get this particular one, or have we—that ship has sailed?” Fallon said.

Wil Donio answered.

“If it’s not the exact same motion, and you’re not using that as a subterfuge to avoid, then yes, you could,” he said.

Fallon continued.

“So right now, we have a motion, we have a second to vote for or against this right now,” Fallon said.

Wil Donio affirmed that assertion.

“It would proceed to vote unless you table it,” he said.

Berenato commented further.

“I would like to table it and see if we can get a cheaper price,” Berenato said.

Kelly Donio concurred.

“I also would like to hear from perhaps the athletic director and possibly members of the football team, because I know that there’s a lot of discussion about adding turf, but I personally don’t what’s best—is it grass or turf—and we’re all saying, yeah, let’s put turf on there, but does the football program actually want turf?” she said.

Attanasi agreed.

“You need the pros and cons of turf,” Attanasi said.

Berenato made a motion to table the resolution, which Fallon seconded, and Wil Donio informed the board regarding how to proceed and what the vote means for the future of the resolution.

“This is a motion to lay Resolution No. 22 on the table. A yes would be, you’re putting it on the table and you’re not going to be considering it right now. At any time during this legislative session, you could bring it back,” he said.

The motion was adopted unanimously by all members present, and Resolution No. 22 was tabled.

Waterford Representative Roe Hunter, while present at the beginning of the meeting, left early due to a family emergency and was not present for the vote.

The next meeting of the Hammonton Board of Education is scheduled for April 13 at 7 p.m.


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