Manasquan varsity soccer players and their parents hoping to call The Atlantic Club home for the fall sports season were denied that chance earlier this week when the school board fell just shy of the majority votes needed to approve the proposed contract.
The five votes to award the $2,000 contract, to be paid for by the teams' parent organizations, needed just one more vote Tuesday to garner the majority of the 11-member board. Christine Muly's resignation, yet to be filled, has left the board one short of its normal 12 members.
Even after removing the sending-district members from the vote and considering just Manasquan's district representatives, the resolution received only three affirmative votes out of a possible eight.
Overall, three members voted against the resolution, while three more abstained.
Board President Michelle LaSala, Katherine Verdi and Mike Shelton voted against the measure, and Julia Barnes (Brielle), Linda DiPalma and Patricia Walsh abstained.
The five members who voted to approve the contract were: board Vice President John Winterstella, Thomas Bauer, Jack Campbell, Mark Furey (Belmar), and Michele Degnan-Spang (Spring Lake Heights).
Although the varsity boys and girls players' parents had told the district they'd pay for the use of the field in Wall, some board members were weary of adding a third facility for the district's lone athletic trainer to cover.
Barnes, a licensed athletic trainer herself, has said for weeks that she was uncomfortable having just one athletic trainer shuttle to and from three separate locations. In addition to the school campus fields, several teams also play at the Sea Girt Army Camp.
And while Athletic Director Ronald Kornegay last week said he believed The Atlantic Club staff was more than capable of handling any injuries until more expert personnel arrived on scene, the majority of board members were not swayed.
Some members who abstained from voting said they didn't want to vote until the board decided whether it was hiring an assistant or substitute trainer to cover the extra field.
Furey, who voted to approve the contract, said the board should have separated the issues of the contract with The Atlantic Club from the discussion of adding another trainer.
Board Attorney R. Armen McComber said the district was not legally obligated to employ even one athletic trainer, as some districts do. But he added he was not recommending the board go that route.
McComber said he had been in discussion with representatives of The Atlantic Club to remove language from the proposed contract that would have said the sports club and spa was not liable for any negligence.
But unless the board decides to revisit the issue next month, those talks presumably would have been for naught.
After the vote, some members indeed seemed interested in re-opening discussion on the proposed deal.
Margaret "Peg" Hom, district business administrator and board secretary, said most initiatives that begin as parent-funding movements eventually fall financially on the district once the originally affected students graduate.
LaSala said that was another reason why the board shouldn't approve such a deal.