While the three Republicans on the Township Committee are eager to pursue plans to fund and build a turf athletic field at Dayton, Democrats urged caution.
Republican Springfield Mayor Ziad Shehady introduced the turf field into a discussion about the Recreation Department at the Township Committee’s goal setting meeting earlier this month. Shehady urged immediate action on the proposed field.
“Time is of the essence,” Shehady said. “It is realistic to have it operational for the fall sports season.
Dayton’s football team currently uses Union township’s athletic fields for its home football games. Shehady and his fellow Republicans said that Dayton football could play their 2012 home games at a home Turf field if they act fast.
“According to our engineer [Sam Mardini], it can be done if we move quickly,” Republican Deputy Mayor Jerry Fernandez said, adding that work would have to start in April or May.
Mardini said that the timeframe was realistic assuming the state’s Department of Environmental Protection grants necessary permits in a timely manner. He estimated building the turf field would take six to eight months.
Shehady said that four Township Committee members needed to vote in favor of the $3 million bond for the project. Judging from comments from the two Democrats on the five-person committee, the fourth vote is in doubt.
“I don’t feel comfortable bonding three plus million without a referendum showing the public is on board with it,” Democratic Committee member David Amlen said.
Democrat Rich Huber, the committee’s representative to the Recreation Committee, said the town should look to neighboring Cranford as a model. Cranford recently installed a turf field with a combination of public and private funds.
“They charge teams to play on it,” Huber noted. He added that he was unsure about the turf field, and that he would know where he stood by the next meeting.
Plans for building a turf field at Jonathan Dayton High School have been proposed for several years. The project gained momentum at the end of 2010 beginning of 2011 when the Springfield School Board agreed to a “land swap” with the township government wherein the BOE turned over land to the Township Committee to be sold to partially pay for the field.
Amlen characterized the actions as hasty and said that more investigation was needed.
“Prior to when I joined the committee, there was a rush to judgment on this issue,” he said.
The Democrat majority put the project on the backburner in 2011, citing numerous legal complications for the land swap arrangement.
“We wanted to find out if it could be done before we put it in front of the public and make false promises,” Amlen said.