DOWNLOAD: Board of School Estimate Ritzer Field/CHS Improvements Documentation

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Ahead of the now-postponed Feb. 13 Board of School Estimate meeting to vote on $29M+ in bonds for improvements and repairs to South Orange Middle School and Columbia High School — including Ritzer Field — several documents were posted to the meeting agenda.

The documents are attached below in downloadable PDF format.

The $29Mis in addition to approximately $160M already bonded through the South Orange-Maplewood School District’s Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP), covering repairs and improvements to every school building throughout the district. Many of the school repairs have been completed or are in progress, with Maplewood Middle School, SOMS and CHS last in the order of contracts to be awarded.

Related: Board of Ed Accepts $21M Bid for Maplewood Middle School Projects; District $16M Short for SOMS Work, October 6, 2023

The documents attached to the Feb. 13 agenda include maps of the proposed improvements to Ritzer Field, which entail the use of artificial turf, as well as emails between the district business administrator and the LRFP architect.  [Note: As of publication of this article, no new date has been set for the BOSE meeting.]

One email dated January 31 from SOMSD Business Administrator Eric Burnside asks the architects, “Can you let us know when we will get the results for Ritzer Field being a wetland? We need to know as soon as possible for the Board of School Estimate. If it is a wetland, we will also need a mitigation plan for them. I don’t think it needs to be in great detail, but we will need to have something to give them a level of comfort.”

The response from representatives of Spiezle relates, “Regarding the comment that the field was shown on a DEP [NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection] map, our engineers checked and confirmed that yes, it is. However, no, that does not mean it is wetlands. The current use has been in place since the mid 1900s and an active athletic field and a wetland are somewhat opposite in characteristics. Their comment was that the maps are often wrong in either direction or it is possible, but the map reflects a soil or other condition in the area prior to the school field being built. That said, we have asked to make a visit and do some initial investigation on site to confirm.”

In a follow-up email dated February 6, Todd Waskowitz of Spiezle Group, Inc. responds, “Based on the civil engineering consultant (CME Associates), their site inspection observed no presence of wetlands. Therefore, no further action is necessary by SOMSD regarding this subject. None of the required jurisdictional applications will require a letter of interpretation (LOI) from the DEP. A LOI would provide DEP’s official determination on the presence or absence of wetlands. However, if an LOI is desired, please find the followings of the process involved.” Waskowitz then outlines the cost of the application fee ($1,000), and the engineering time required from completion of the application (around $3000). “Completion of the application would take three to four weeks,” writes Waskowitz.

There is also a document titled, “Addition of CHS Girls’ Locker Room to LRFP,” detailing a request for $2.3M to improve the space and juxtaposing the condition of the girls locker room with that of the boys locker room.

The proliferation of Ritzer/CHS documents reflects intense public interest in the Ritzer Field plans, with advocates both for and against artificial turf voicing opinions at a recent Board of Education meeting. Regarding the $21M request for South Orange Middle School, the only information provided is a chart noting that the project is for “air conditioning” and “renovations.”

Village Green will continue to follow this story. Please email us at if you are unable to download the documents below. The documents are also available on the SOMSD website at:

Download (PDF, 121KB)

Download (PDF, 1.42MB)

Download (PDF, 68KB)

Download (PDF, 56KB)

Download (PDF, 143KB)

Download (PDF, 575KB)

Download (PDF, 11.72MB)

Download (PDF, 1.42MB)

Download (PDF, 737KB)

Download (PDF, 39KB)

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