Residents object to Board of Ed changing Sayreville field into bus depot

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ALAN KARMIN/CORRESPONDENT
Members of the public held a rucking protest on Jan. 23 to object to the moving of a Vietnam War memorial and sports fields at Selover Elementary School to make way for a bus depot.

When you live in a community, sometimes you take for granted that things will always remain the same. But with growth, and progress, things change. Even places that you got to know so well growing up in that community.

The Sayreville Athletic Association, formerly known as the Morgan Athletic Association, has maintained a home on Woodland Avenue on the grounds of the Jesse Selover Elementary School for over 50 years. While the fields, along with the clubhouse and refreshment stand, have always been maintained by the athletic organization, the Sayreville Board of Education has always retained ownership.

And because of the growth in the community, the Board of Education is looking to take back its property. As a result, social media has been the platform for many residents voicing their displeasure at the news of the baseball and softball complex being leveled to make room for a bus depot.

“We are is discussions to find a viable solution that will serve to make everyone happy,” said long-time Sayreville Athletic Association President Thomas Pollando. “We are working with the Borough Council and engineers to come up with a plan. There are things being discussed so as not to interrupt any of our programs.”

There were posts on social media that indicated that the association had abandoned the complex. Pollando said that not true.

“There is a lot of false information being circulated out there,” he said. “We have obviously not abandoned the complex. We just completed our fall season with over 200 participants. The organization is as strong as ever. We have over 600 kids registered for soccer and our volleyball and track programs are doing very well too.”

Pollando said that the organization has been approved for a $1.5 million grant to build two turf fields at the town’s soccer complex on Bordentown Avenue that will be used by the Sayreville War Memorial High School programs as well.

Even if the Sayreville Athletic Association is pacified by a relocation to a newer and more modern complex, that still leaves a different kind of problem – a memorial dedicated to Vietnam War Veteran PFC Wayne “Butch” Grant, who was killed in action in 1967, is now the focal point of the Board of Education’s initiative to build a school bus hub.

To protest, Raritan Bay Ruckers organized a ceremony and rucking event on Jan. 23 to show solidarity and to ensure that the memorial stays right where it is.

“While others were running away from the draft, using their family money to avoid service, PFC Grant enlisted,” said Robert Bouthilette, a U.S. Navy veteran and organizer of the Raritan Bay Ruckers. “When others were running away and shirking their duties and responsibilities, he was a hero.”

Rucking is a conditioning method that includes walking, running or hiking while carrying a weighted backpack. Fitness enthusiasts have taken to doing it as a way to get in better shape. But to military people, it has come to have a deeper meaning.

“We ruck in order to share in the pain suffered by our comrades,” Bouthilette said. “A lot of veterans suffer from the obvious physical pain, but there is also the internal pain and baggage that you don’t see. So we do it to carry that weight along with them in support of their struggles.”

More than 50 people came out to complete a two-mile loop in and around the neighborhood, supported by the Sayreville Police Department, Morgan Fire Department, and Morgan First Aid Squad.

“My perspective, as a veteran, is to ensure that whatever the outcome, we do not dishonor the memory and sacrifice of Butch Grant and his family,” Bouthilette said. “Replacing a memorial with an 8-by-10 plaque in a hallway is some building just won’t do it.”

Sayreville Board of Education member Eloy Fernandez attended the rucking event and said that it was his belief that everyone wants the memorial to remain on site.

Not speaking on behalf of the Board of Education, Fernandez said, “I am speaking for myself when I say this, the memorial will stay regardless. That is something I believe we are all committed to.”

In the meantime, a petition has circulated on social media to halt any actions to eliminate the complex in order to build the proposed bus depot, and has garnered over 1,000 signatures.

The Sayreville Board Council, Board of Education, and the township’s engineers plan to reconvene to discuss multiple alternatives for both the Sayreville Athletic Association and the Board of Education.