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Springfield Democrats: Turf Field Needs Referendum, Further Study

Township Democrats urge caution with proposed bonding ordinance for turf field.

The Springfield Democrats sent out a mass email to Springfield residents concerning the turf field bond ordinance up for discussion at the Township Committee meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14. The letter is below.

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A bond ordinance in excess of $3.2 million will be introduced at the Springfield Township Committee meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, beginning at 7:00 pm.  The purpose of borrowing this money is to fund an artificial Turf Field in front of JDHS.

Although we may all agree that the kids deserve a field, there are issues that need to be clarified before moving ahead with funding.  Of primary concern is the safety of the athletes and residents using the field.  Documented health issues attributable to artificial turf have been raised by the Springfield Environmental Commission and have not yet been adequately addressed.  The SEC, while supporting the need for a field, strongly opposes artificial turf.  Before moving ahead, the Township must be sure they will not be putting our children at risk.  Further, to move ahead without considering the health risks could put both Springfield and the Board of Education at risk of liability for future health problems. 

Another concern is the current plan to build the field within a flood zone.  Before proceeding with funding, we must be sure that construction of this field will not worsen the already disastrous flooding problems in many of our neighborhoods.

As with the municipal pool project several years ago, this project should be subject to a referendum; an open vote allowing all the residents of Springfield to express their opinion prior to committing to fund it.  Mr. Shehadi has stated that the vast majority of township residents favor the project.  If so, a referendum will make that clear, and will allow for a full examination of all the issues and a determination by the taxpayers if this is the best use of taxpayer funds.

This is not an argument against the new field, but a demand that no commitment of our money be made now, before a thorough study of all of the issues can be completed and the risks and benefits can be properly considered by all.

Please attend the Township Committee meeting to promote an open discussion about the Turf Field.

Let your voice be heard!

anoynymous February 14, 2012 at 01:51 PM
LETS LET THE VOTERS DECIDE. SO WHAT IF THEY HAVE TO WAIT A YEAR? there are more pressing issues which people have waited on for 25 years or more. this is a luxury item like a cadillac when all that is needed is a toyota.
rfriedman February 14, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Wanting and needing. That's what people are arguing about. I don't live in a flood area but I remember Mr. Shehady using the flood to meet residents who lost things from Hurricane Irene. He said he'd help them when he was mayor. Is this how he's helping them, by spending money that we don't have. The election is over and he doesn't need their vote anymore.
Leila February 14, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I agree that there are more pressing issues that need our attention now. A field will not bring up the property value, someone wrote, and I agree. I would like to know, and no one has posted it here, where the money that was collected thru private fundraisers is, and where are we going to get the rest of the money (BOE selling land for $1 - 1.5M is great but still need $2M) to pay for the field? Another great point is why is it costing the town so much money? $3.2M seems like an awful lot of money for a field!
Mayor Ziad Andrew Shehady February 14, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Leila, I'm very interested in hearing your ideas for the more pressing issues that need our attention right now. If they are ones that the Township Committee has jurisdiction to address, I'm happy to put them on the Agenda for consideration. Also, since you asked the question about the money collected through private fundraisers, I assume you didn't read my Report. It is available here on the Patch in full: http://springfield.patch.com/blog_posts/the-case-for-the-springfield-athletic-turf-field-project Many of the questions people are asking and the concerns being raised that folks are saying have not been addressed are answered in that document. If the full $3.2 million of the bond is actually used, the impact to the average assessed home in Springfield is about $39 a year, or less than $4 a month. There are several plans, outlined in the document, that are intended to mitigate or further reduce that impact. Furthermore, those individuals concerned about the flood area and work needed, as I am, will notice that the agenda also includes two contracts for that work. It's not being ignored as people will lead you to believe.
Andrew Schwartz February 14, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I cannot escape the feeling that we are putting the cart before the horse. Why is the TC voting on a bond ordinance that may well amount to a blank check? I would be far more comfortable with this issue if approval of funds that will increase our taxes followed, not preceded, proposed plans and a real budget - not an imaginary one on which the TC is proposing a >$3 million bond ordinance. I am in favor of a turf field. I am confident that safety and flooding issues can be addressed. But, I fail to see why there should be consideration of a bond before actual plans have even been proposed. Let the public see a rendering of the proposed field so we can determine how it will impact the area. Present a budget. Identify how a single turf field will be used and shared among all of the competing interests. Explain the impact of a $3 million turf field on the other fields in the town - which will still have to be used for the numerous athletics that will not be able to use the turf field. With all of the rhetoric being thrown around, it is clear that this issue is controversial. I believe the TC should appoint a bi-partisan subcommittee consisting of concerned citizens, TC members and appropriate professionals so that when a field is finally built, it does not become a point of regret in the town. Certainly, this issue needs to be expedited -- but there should not be a rush to judgment and to spend money without proper consideration, instead of politics.
Leila February 14, 2012 at 04:32 PM
I am sure you're working toward the betterment of Springfield, and I do appreciate your efforts. The issue of raising taxes, even if it is a small amount, is not acceptable. I, along with many other Springfield residents, are already burden with the high tax increases, and when another project needs to be funded, who is to say we won't have another 'small' increase? Small increases add up to a bundle of money in the end, and when we talk about re-sale value of our homes, we have to be mindful that prospective buyers look at the tax rates just as much as they look at good schools. No one wants to move in to a neighborhood that has consistently raised taxes on their residents.
Springfield Citizen February 14, 2012 at 04:54 PM
We will end up raising taxes. Look at the national trend: the federal government is giving less support to the states, the states are passing less money down to municipalities .. and less fortunate towns than ours are already facing budget and debt crises. Is this the time for Springfield to be taking on unnecessary long-term debt to pay for a luxury sports field? The mayor notes that we have a terrific credit rating. Great. Let's keep it that way. We may need to draw on that credit - and on our tax base - soon enough, for necessities down the road.
Committeeman Jerry Fernandez February 14, 2012 at 04:55 PM
With all due respect I disagree on the blank check idea. There is a limit on this bond. This is where the figures comes from http://zszs.us/z0Gf5X Many of your questions will be answered during the bond hearings, which is the process of how this is done. Since the money is coming from the town and boe, there will be use by the schools and the town, schedules will have to be set.
Andrew Schwartz February 14, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Committeeman Fernandez, while I am familiar with and typically respect the work of Pennoni, a one page "estimate" of expenses is hardly a sufficient basis for passing a $3 million bond ordinance. In the absence of real plans or an estimate presented with real back-up in support, this ordinance is a blank check. If I give my daughter $20 and send her to the mall with instructions that she should only spend what she needs to spend, I am a fool if I expect change. Why should I trust politicians - from either party - more than I trust my own daughter. If the town approves $3 million - then $3 million will be spent. It is thus incumbent on the TC, as our representatives to have a real plan in place first and not as an afterthought. Again, I support installing a turf field. But, it is time for both sides to put politics aside and do this properly so that it is not a long-standing regret in this town. Get real plans and a real budget ... then come to the people and tell us how much it is going to cost us. Moreover, proceeding in this manner actually presents an opportunity for this to be a bi-partisan effort - not the party presently in power ramming through a bond ordinance (or the other side rejecting it simply because it is the minority and will not receive "credit" for the field). All five of you on the TC need to work together on this to justify the trust that has been placed in each one of you.
Committeeman Jerry Fernandez February 14, 2012 at 05:29 PM
These number were not picked out of hat, there is a real plan I am not sure what else you would like done at this stage. We will not have "real plans" until this is sent out to bid and the people bidding on it come up with the drawings. I tried moving this issue last year with a Democrat majority and got no where. I do not care who helps make this move, I truly believe that this would be an asset for our town in many ways. I have not played party politics. What amazes me that every candidate every year goes to Union to take photos in the stands and promises to bring a field in all their mailings, but for the last 10 years nothing has happened. Everyone promises to work on the field, then why has it not been done? Since I been on the committee we have moved to make this happen. Now we have a chance to do something that will benefit our town and people think its party politics. This is the reason good people get frustrated and do not want to run for Committee seats.
Andrew Schwartz February 14, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Your intentions are good and clearly aimed at helping the town. And, I agree, it is time to put the empty promises aside. But, I cannot support a $3 million bond ordinance based on a single page estimate. You say there are "real plans" - then show them to us. The Mayor's missive contains no link to any real plans. Perhaps I am being cynical, but I have no reason to believe that a bid for less than $3 million will not grow with the addition of unnecessary extras if the bond ordinance is approved for more than is truly needed. The process you are pushing for is backwards. Would you agree to pay $500,000 for a house before you see it? Then why should we be excited about a $3 million field that lacks plans?
Big U February 14, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Mr. Schwartz - then attend the meeting tonight. I am not sure what else you want to see but I'm sure it can be given to you. I have seen enough to justify my opinion in that the plan makes absolute sense. I think any more detailed plans prior to a go- ahead would be a waste of more money that has already been spent with the initial plans we already have. Many thousands have already been spent on engineering and other up front costs. It has to stop somewhere and I believe we are at the cross-roads.
Bob Groder February 14, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Mr schwartz makes the most sense. i would love to see this field if the costs can be proven 1st not after the bond is issued. I love the fact that the Tc wants to complete this but lets do it the right way. why put up money when we dont have an exact figure. why cant it go to bid 1st with the stipulation the project wont go thru unless the bond is floated AFTERWARDS. then we have exact costs up front and not in reverse.
Leila February 14, 2012 at 10:17 PM
How many RFPs have been sent out? What companies will you request bids from? Like anything else, there needs to be several companies who are reputable.
Leila February 14, 2012 at 10:20 PM
I agree with Mr. Schwartz, and add that we need to see all the plans, proposals from several companies before anything is approved.
Kari February 14, 2012 at 10:56 PM
I agree with Leila. Raising taxes again is unacceptable to many residents. First, it's a "little bit for this" and "a little bit for that", and it turns into a big bundle, which we already have. We already have a situation where taxes are raised every year for NO reason. This might be an easy "sell" to new residents who don't know any better, but to those who have lived in Springfield for many years, it's another story.
Committeeman Jerry Fernandez February 14, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Leila this is the method to reach that goal, you must prepare the bond you must have hearings on the bond then you go out and put it to bid
Michael Williams February 15, 2012 at 01:00 AM
In my opinion, Springfield doesn't need a turf field. Even when I attended Jonathan Dayton, I didn't believe the town needed another field. That money should be used for something else. Call me a jerk or an idiot, but I feel the money should be used to doing something about the YMCA that I think closed not too long ago. That's useful for more people than a turf field.
Bob Groder February 15, 2012 at 03:41 AM
I just read the turf ordinance passed. congrats to the TC. I hope you get the right deal for the citizens of springfield who will now pay a small increase in taxes im sure.
Stan B February 15, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Not a "blank check"? And when was the last time a town capital project came in under budget, on time and within scope?
Sandra Lyna February 16, 2012 at 04:34 PM
It's funny how the people that are so concerned about the turf causing health issues don't even have children who will be using it, hmmmm. I have seen a player BREAK his leg playing on the back field at a JV football game, and so MANY concussions it is ridiculous! A turf field is actually a SAFER place to play AND allows for better drainage - the flooding problems in Springfield have NOTHING TO DO with the turf field. Finally, as was brought out in the meeting - the kids are ALREADY playing on turf fields in other towns - like when they have their "NOT AT HOME" - HOME games in UNION for football! Spending money on the turf field will actually RAISE property values, bond our community, and I think we will get a good deal, and it will end up costing taxpapers nothing, and it will actually GENERATE revenue through entry fees and concession sales and a savings in not RENTING out "home" fields! I applaud and thank all the committee members who voted YES on 2/14, and I hope they do the right thing on February 28th!!!!!!! Mr. Amlen, I hope you are reconsidering your NO vote.
annomymous February 16, 2012 at 05:36 PM
to anyone who thinks a turf field will raise property values hasnt done their homework. it will raise property taxes by a figure of aprox. 50.00 so i have been told. the town is in a flood zone and hence property values already have gone down plus we are in a bad economy. in bad times the last thing this town needs is a turf field.
annomymous February 16, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Sandra in your opinion the right thing is to have a turf field but in a bad economy myself and at least a dozen others think its not a smart move. I SAY TO MR AMLEN AND OTHERS TO SAY NO ON THE 28TH!
Leila February 16, 2012 at 07:27 PM
I would like to see the money go to the cleaning up and beautifying of the existing fields and parks and cleaning up of all the roads equally. Township trims fat from places that sometimes make no sense. Example, a few years back, we had approx 24K cut because we couldn't afford paying for grass clippings collection. I find that very amusing, since now we are taking over 2M to pay for a field. Yes, I too agree with the person who mentioned the YWCA. What is happening to that building? Are we waiting until it becomes uninhabitable to figure out what to do with it? How about having a 'youth center'? Three million dollars would definitely revamp it and our Springfield youth would not be hanging on corners -- making the town much less attractive -- and kids would be able to work out, do homework, hang out, and play sports, inside and outside. Not a bad investment.
BART FRAENKEL February 16, 2012 at 08:42 PM
This should not be a poitical issue; all the TC members should vote based on how they feel and not how their party leaders direct them. Both parties have blamed the other but its not the parties its the individuals. Elected officials will always have a certain number of people they represent who agree or disagree with various issues. There's never be a complete unification regarding any issue. In my opinion the only issue with any validity is the financial one and arguments can be made for and against this expenditure. But in the long run, I feel a turf field will benefit residents and businesses and should be passed. Other towns with turf fields have seen an increase in business revenue when tournaments are held at their fields, so we should too. The issue of property values is an unknown. Springfield has always been a flood zone area, and nothing that has occurred in the past 10+ years has changed that situation. The retention basin on Meisel Ave. was the single most significant improvement that was made to eleviate flooding problems, but home sales weren't hurt before or after that happened because of flooding problems. The economy was the single factor that has driven down property values, not anything else. The majority of residents will see a benefit from a turf field, not just football/soccer familes. So the TC should do what is in the best interest of the majority of people and those against a field will have to accept the decision if its approved.
annomymous February 16, 2012 at 09:19 PM
well said Bart. This should be a vite on whats good for the town and not by political party. I HATE POLITICS AND WHAT THEY STAND FOR. I LIKE WHEN THINGS ARE DONE FOR THE PEOPLE and nothing else.
Leila February 16, 2012 at 09:22 PM
I hear the discussions of Turf bringing business to Springfield. What business? How do we know that other towns have benefited? Where do we get data that points to it? I mean, we can say that, but we don't really know. Which towns have benefited? Who said they benefited? We don't have gourmet restaurants that out-of-towners are going to say: oooohh, aaaahhh, Springfield, there is a town I want to drop my money! Let's get real, besides an 'ok' Chinese restaurant in town, there is nothing else! Oh, sorry, a couple of decent bagel shops, but I doubt if that will drive our economy up! Besides, having huge crowds of people will only add to transit issues on the weekends when citizens want to get to places, will add to pollution, will generate lots of garbage that the town already struggles with... I mean, there is no actual data that could convince anyone, even poor little me, that it would help us. Maybe those towns that generate huge revenues are well planned and have the shops and restaurants people enjoy.
annomymous February 16, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Leila U forgot the gormet campus sub shops which is actually a good place to dine but the gormet part is sarcasm on my part. u r right we dont have a gormet place in town that know of. campus sub is a fixture in town for years and a good place to eat at and run into politicians at times. i kid u not on that issue.
Leila February 16, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Anonymous, you can go to the bagel shops and run into people who are supposed to be working, but are having breakfast and hanging out in the am. These are the same people, at around the same time, so I am thinking this is a ritual. Rituals are good. I like it too. lol
annomymous February 16, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I do too Leila> i try to joke a bit in hear as it is a touchy subject. i wish i had the proper answer i honestly want whats good for the town. i stay annomymous for a reason. iwant to judge people who 1 day i might reelect or vote out depending on what they do.

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