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Staples lights back in spotlight: Football practice could cancel May event

Updated 10:57 am, Thursday, January 31, 2013
  • Hedi Mandel, left, and David Call, center, two residents of High Point Road adjacent to Staples High School's athletic fields, with  Dan DeVito, right, operations supervisor with the Parks & Recreation Department, at Wednesday's meeting of the Staples Lighting Advisory Committee.  WESTPORT NEWS, CT 1/30/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed
    Hedi Mandel, left, and David Call, center, two residents of High Point Road adjacent to Staples High School's athletic fields, with Dan DeVito, right, operations supervisor with the Parks & Recreation Department, at Wednesday's meeting of the Staples Lighting Advisory Committee. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 1/30/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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A Staples High School football practice under the new stadium lights last year could force cancellation of a springtime event at the stadium under an agreement with neighbors.

The Staples Lighting Advisory Committee on Wednesday night decided to seek an opinion from Town Attorney Ira Bloom to see how it should proceed regarding the looming dispute.

The potential cancellation came to light when the committee met to review the first season of nighttime events at Staples' stadium, which took place under newly installed lighting permitted under an agreement that settled years of litigation with neighbors opposed to the athletic field lights.

"I can comment that the lights were off at the right time, which was appreciated by the people on the street," Dan DeVito, operations supervisor for the Parks & Recreation Department, told the committee.

However, David Call, a High Point Road neighbor and lawyer involved in drafting the agreement and stipulations that settled the lighting lawsuit, said that by having a football practice under the lights on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 24, the town used one of two Saturday special events allowed by deal. The Wrecker football games themselves are played on Friday nights.

While two nighttime Saturday special events are planned for May, Call said the agreement means that because of the Saturday nighttime football practice, one of the Saturday events in May should be cancelled.

"There is a piece in the agreement that states if our football team is playing in this playoff, there is an allowance for a Saturday practice," Marty Lisevick, Staples' athletic director, contended.

Call, however, disputed Lisevick's view.

"It's an issue for a couple of reasons," Call said. "Number one, all the language (regarding) Saturdays was a huge issue in negotiations of the lawsuit ... Saturdays were never a part of the equation, until right at the end ... We decided to allow two events on Saturday."

He said it doesn't matter what the Saturday events are, "If (the lights) they're turned on, it's a special event. I am a lawyer and I didn't see any issue about how clear it was.

"My view is the fact that you turned them on Saturday (and) you've now used another one of your special events," he added.

"I think it was an inadvertent misunderstanding," said Elaine Whitney, Board of Education chairwoman, who stepped down from the committee at the start of Wednesday's meeting.

"My instinct is to say it's a screw-up," said Maury Wind, who was nominated as the panel's new chairman. "It's not going to happen going forward ... I don't know if we agree here not to penalize either of these events, that that's setting precedence ... that would be something I would not want to happen."

Call said, "Another neighbor can file a complaint that the contract was breached," and advised the committee to proceed cautiously, lest it overstep its charge.

"If we agree on what David is talking about, that this is a fair interpretation ... personally, I don't want to hold back from any of these events, because I think they're fair and I think the committee has worked well until now," said Wind.

At the same time, he agreed that Town Attorney Ira Bloom needs to be consulted on the issue.

"We don't have the power to undo this agreement," Wind said.

On another issue, while unresolved neighborhood concerns about sound levels during the games, committee members generally agreed those could be corrected by making a new recording of music played during the events. It was suggested that James Honeycutt, the Staples teacher who oversees the high school's media department, be asked to create a new recording for the games.

"It depended which song was on there," said Call. "Some of the song recordings are much louder than others, so we clearly realized that is a big issue ... Some of them were fine."

"As far as the music goes, it should be pretty easy to control," Wind said. "We should be very attuned to it next year."