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Turf Field Bond Ordinance Passes First Vote

Committee votes 4-1 in favor of pursuing bond for outdoor athletic facility.

Following a passionate and crowded Township Committee meeting, the turf field at is one step closer to being funded.

In front of an energized crowd that packed the meeting room and frequently exploded into applause, four members of the Township committee voted in favor of pursuing the $3.4 million bond needed to build synthetic playing fields at Dayton.

While the crowd was strongly in favor of the turf field, opponents, agnostics and skeptics made their voices heard as well. Democrat Richard Huber, a longtime leader for Springfield recreation, voted in favor of pursuing the project, but said that he had significant reservations about the synthetic field and would be researching the material and before the next and final vote on the bond ordinance on Feb. 28.

Township engineer Todd Hay and Perry DiPiazza, a representative from synthetic athletic facility making firm Turf Field, detailed plans for the front field at Dayton. The crowd applauded the simple draft sketch of playing fields for the high school, including a football field with bleachers, a softball/baseball diamond, a structure for storage, concession stands and rest rooms and tennis courts.

Hay emphasized that the plans were more of a wish list than a finalized vision of how the field would look, and that they crammed in as many features as they could to speed up the permitting process. DiPiazza acted as an expert witness, offering testimony on draining, safety and other issues concerning synthetic turf fields. His financial interest in the project—his firm could build the fields—was noted several by several at the meeting, including Dipiazza himself. Several residents decried the absence of an independent expert.

Supporters of the synthetic turf field project, including a number of high school students, flocked to town hall with signs, t-shirts and literature. Tempers and tensions flared at several points in the meeting, with members of the Board of Education, elected officials and former township employees coming to loggerheads over the years of discussion on the project leading to the night’s vote.

Dayton is in a flood plane, and Hay outlined the process the town had undergone so far for permitting from the state Department of Environmental Protection. He and DiPiazza addressed a number of questions about the field, asserting that the material is permeable and that they can engineer the facility with drainage in mind. In addition, they noted that New Jersey had over 400 turf athletic playing fields, and rattled off a number of nearby facilities, including Summit, Millburn, Scotch Plains and Union, where the Dayton football team currently holds their home games.

Throughout the meeting, officials and residents worried over safety on a turf field. Nonetheless, the details were, to a degree, moot. Committee members said specifics could be dealt with later in the process; the matter at hand that meeting was permitting the $3.4 million bond to finance the project.

The night was the first reading of the bond ordinance, and three votes were needed to pass that stage. Four votes are ultimately needed for the bond ordinance to get final approval, and prior to the meeting, Huber was believed to be the deciding vote. Earlier this month, . It was unclear to many if Huber would follow his party’s opinion or side with the turf supporters. Huber attempted to clarify his position early on.

“First, I at everybody to know I am for a turf field in Springfield,” Huber said. “People have said I am not. But I am.”

Nonetheless, Huber had a long list of questions about the project, ranging from facilities to funding. His questions led to conflict with the three members of the Springfield School Board members representing the board at the meeting over the call for a referendum. Board members said that the previous Committee had scuttled concerns about a referendum, an assertion that Democratic board member David Amlen took issue with. Amlen also expressed concern about whether the land swap arrangement undertaken by the town was legal, citing a previous court case concerning Springfield’s school board selling property. Board member Jackie Shanes said the board’s attorney had already cleared the sale.

The contentious mood at town hall spilled over into open conflict during public comments. School Board member Tony Delia expressed disappointment at the slow pace of the turf field effort and implored Huber to not act as a “puppet” to his political party, a charge Huber braced at.

“I’m nobody’s puppet,” Huber said.

Former Township Attorney Bruce Bergen contested the history of the project, saying that more concrete progress had occurred with the turf field in 2011 than in any other year, as the board was able to act in bipartisan concert. In addition, he said that the Republicans were responsible for the politicization of the turf field. During a with Deputy Mayor Jerry Fernandez and Mayor Ziad Shehady, Shehady said Bergen was “absolutely incorrect” in his portrayal of events.

After an admonition from township attorney Jeffrey Lehrer, comments proceeded more sedately. Testimony included two Dayton juniors, Melanie Rossomando and Herlide Joseph, who said that as student athletes they believed synthetic turf fields were signs that sports programs were serious about their athletics.

 In the 4-1 vote, Amlen was the sole opponent to the bond ordinance. Speaking shortly after the vote, Amlen characterized the meeting as driven by “theatrics” and said he was concerned about whether paying for a new synthetic turf field would be fair to the sizable population of Springfield who do not have children in the schools.

Huber’s vote in favor of initially pursuing the bond ordinance was framed by his reservations. He said his next move was to meet with members of the environmental commission, and that he would otherwise be busy researching turf fields.

“Fifty dollars is nothing,” Huber said in reference to the estimated average $40 annual tax increase per household for the bond. “Safety is first.”

JC February 17, 2012 at 02:09 PM
s
art tupper February 17, 2012 at 02:13 PM
We built our house on Tree Top in 1985. Our property taxes then were $4500. They are now a little less than $20,000. We have seen this inclination of the Township Committee to boast about how little a tax increase affects an "average" household in Springfield. Now, multiply that amount times 3 or 4 to arrive at my increase. Then if the $50 goes up, the multiple in turn does, also. I am in favor of the field. The fact that Dayton plays its home games in Union is embarassing and reflects poorly on the Town. However, it truly galls me when some politician cavalierly says, "Fifty dollars is nothing." It just goes to show you how little they care about someone else's money. I guess it's a NJ thing. Lewis Cohn is right. Send Mr. Huber my tax bill. Art Tupper
annomymous February 17, 2012 at 02:31 PM
and u havent been insulting big u. i WAS at the town meeting and actually kept true to form as i didnt speak and was just as my name says i am here. yes i am stiring the pot as i am seeing both sides make fools of themselves. I also saw lots of bickering by totaly moronic comments at the tc meeting on tuesday. hence if both sides cant grow up as the expression goes monkey see monkey do. i will not stop talking as i have just begun to fight. im actually undecied on this issue but leaning towards against for money reasons only. the taxes in this state are unmanagible as it is. most people have seen their taxes go up 2-4 fold since the 90's. if u r so sure this is so good why dont u pay the 40-50.00 tax bill for so many who are against it?
annomymous February 17, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Kari i trust NO politician in either party. taxes will mysteriusly go up by more than 50.00 i agree. i have a bridge to sell u all if u truly believe the taxes only go up 39-49.00 as we have been told. plus if u borrow 3.4 million even if the costs are less they wont return the balance they will spend it. BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A TAX AND SPEND SOCIEITY. trenton & dc are fun by egomaniac pompass asses. they spend spend spend with no means ot pay it back and pass the buck so to speak to future generations. for those who pay their bills mortages and taxes please accept my apologys., we are in an econmic downfall in this great country because we loan money to people who didnt deserve it because they couldnt pay it back. THE MADNESS MUST STOP. also the reports by the mayor are always going to be presented thru rose colored glasses to make it a slam dunk.
annonymous February 17, 2012 at 02:49 PM
i stand corrected lets give 1/2 of the tax bill increase to mr huber & the other 1/2 to big u. they share the same thoughts apparently so you 2 gentleman pay for it. why didnt the countil do a referandum? because they know it would have lost. if they knew it would have done through they would have called for a special vote and do it. this whole issue is a bunch of hogwash.
annonymous February 17, 2012 at 02:53 PM
to those who dont like my opinions too bad. I see some of you complained and had my id removed. ill make another one and will not stop talking. im doing nothing wrong but speaking my opinions which are my right. i am speaking what i see to be the truth and my opinion. this bill simply is too expensive and people cant afford this bill. i predict the tax bill will increase more than 50.00 u heard it hear 1st.
Marc Krauss February 17, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Your tax bill is broken down into roughly 3 basic parts. 1. Springfield Public Schools – 50% 2. Union County & RVSA – 35% 3. Municipal Government - 15% The Township Committee can only influence 15% of your total tax bill. We have absolutely no power change the other 85%. Of the 15% we can influence, about 5% are contractual obligations that include your Police, Fire, Garbage pickup, etc. Only 10% of the total taxes collected the Township Committee can influence. The $39 additional increase in your 2012 taxes comes out to $4 a month. You have to look at the turf field as a long term investment in Springfield. Springfield is in competition with its neighbors. How do you attract new families or businesses to Springfield? You have to offer them the same or better amenities than our neighbors in order to be competitive, such as a turf field, community pool (needs work) and an attractive business. So for your additional $39 dollars a year, what do you get out of it? You will probably increase your property value more than $39 and have a more attractive town. The turf field isn’t solely for the high school sports. It can be used for other sporting activities and hosting sporting competitions. Your tax dollars currently go towards paying Union $8000 to use their turf field and they are consider raising to $20,000. Not mentioned the cost of transporting our teams there. Lastly, what price do you put on hometown pride? That in itself is priceless.
Kari February 18, 2012 at 11:23 AM
And mine.
Kari February 18, 2012 at 11:33 AM
With all due respect Mr. Krauss, please stop teliing us "how we HAVE TO look at things", especially those that seem to be shoved down our collective throats. If you are concerned about attracting new families and businesses, focus on the "downtown". Or better yet, focus on ways to decrease or at least slow down the constantly rising taxes. Anyone can go on zillow..com and see how much the taxes increase every year on any property in Springfield by simply typing in the address. Don't you think prospective buyers do this?
Marc Krauss February 20, 2012 at 03:21 AM
I am pleased to read that you have done some of your own research and that your conclusion is that this is good for Springfield in the long term. The democratic process is having a 1st reading of the bond ordinance and a 2nd and final reading with time for public comments before the vote. Due to the sensitively of this topic, an hour long presentation was made on the 1st reading followed by a lengthy public comment portion. I hope the following reasons will suffice: 1. This action is within the purview of the Township Committee to execute. As the mayor stated and I agree, there are many decisions that have a higher dollar value that do not go to a referendum vote. However, for a referendum vote it would need be on the November 2012 ballot, roughly 9 months away. Hoping for the 1st home game on the new field by October. So this couldn't happen within 2-4 weeks as you mentioned. 2. If you review the campaign literature of all five members of current the Township Committee and some of the previous committee members, we all made a promise of creating a turf field. So this isn't news to where this committee stands on the issue. We were all elected with the full understanding by the public were we stood on issue and we all believe we are doing what is right for Springfield.
Marc Krauss February 20, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Downtown - the downtown Springfield Business Improvement District now named the “Springfield Community Partnership” that we started in 2010. This organization of property owners, businesses owners, residents and Township officials is determined to revitalizing the downtown once and for all. Instead of lifeless plans sitting on a shelf, this group is dedicating time and money to real change. At our January 24th meeting, the Township Committee voted to introduce the Springfield Community Partnership 2012 Budget in the amount of $400,961.90. This is money coming directly from commercial properties (not residential taxes) to improve downtown Springfield. Zillow - Taxes compared to our Union County neighbors. Springfield Union Summit Mountainside Year % Chg % Chg % Chg % Chg 2011 2.70% 3.50% 4.20% 6.00% 2010 2.30% 2.50% 4.50% 2.10% 2009 4.90% 3.70% 3.90% 6.10% 2008 3.20% 3.80% 6.60% 6.30%
Kari February 20, 2012 at 04:21 AM
I am not really concerned about the taxes in other towns. I can tell you that MY taxes go UP EVERY YEAR, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Marc Krauss February 21, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Kari - my point was a simple response to your Zillow comment in that people do go to the website and do their homework and compare tax increases in the area and compared to our neighbors we are doing fairly well.
Marc Krauss February 21, 2012 at 01:15 PM
I cordially invite you to the next township meeting to speak during the public comments portion prior to the vote on the 2nd and final reading of the bond ordinance to make your case. As for your questions, please tune to your local public access channel on Verizon or Comcast and you can watch the replay of the township committee meeting.
rfriedman February 21, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Mr Krauss I've lived in Springfield for many years and I never saw anything that showed we pay a higher percentage, 35% according to you, of county taxes and a lower amount of municipal taxes, 15%. And you have the RVSA in the county portiion of taxes but that isn't right either. Didn't you take out the RVSA from the municipal taxes a couple years ago, so how are they now in the county portion? You keep telling people to do their homework and you're someone who deals with this every day and you don't even have it right.
Marc Krauss February 21, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Mr. Friedman, my apologies, you are absolutely right. I had my numbers backwards. In fact, I checked the 2011 budget briefing and the breakdown was 50% Schools, 33% County and 17% Municipal which included your sewer. Thank you for pointing that out. The overall point is that township committee has little control over the majority of your taxes.
rfriedman February 21, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Mr. Krauss, thank you for correcting your error. I don't want to speak for all seniors but the ones I spoke with understand there's a limited amount of things in the municipal budget that can be controlled and the turf field is one of them. If our municipal taxes are used to fund a bond does that mean the towns recreation department will be in charge of scheduling the field use or will the BOE be given that job. If I'm going to pay municipal taxes for the field I would like to know the Recreation Department, a municipal department, is in charge and not the BOE. Can you please let us know how that will be handled.
Marc Krauss February 22, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Management of the turf field will remain as the current field is managed, by the BOE. The only difference is the surface the field. I don't see it being it an issue of who manages it. We are all working for the greater good of Springfield, whether it be high school athletics or Recreation Dept sports.
sportsparent February 23, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Can anyone confirm the rumpr I heard from numerous people that Wilf,the owner of the Vikings, was going to pay for a large portion of the the turf project. In exchange of changing the name of the high school mascot from Bulldogs to Vikings.
Big U February 23, 2012 at 05:08 PM
You're looking for confirmation of a rumor from a bunch of anonymous bloggers????
S. Miller February 24, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Other towns have voted against a turf field, too (Maplewood/South Orange, Parsippany/Troy Hills.) I don't know how Union paid for its fields but I'm pretty sure Summit was a trade with the county for other property. My fear is that because the only part of the tax bill people can vote on is the school portion, people will vote against the school budget. That will be a shame as currently, we need every penny to support the academic program.
Big U February 24, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Parsippany/Troy Hills was not voted down. There are questions on whether they can use Open Space money for the 2 Turf fields they want to install. If they get the OK to use that money Parsippany will build 2 more fields. They also already have a Turf field, not sure if it is Township or County owned right along Rt. 46. I agree with you on the school budget.
Mark W February 24, 2012 at 04:24 AM
S. Miller,your post about Maplewood- South Orange voting against a turf field is only partially correct.They voted that down at De Hart Park, but bet you didn't know they have a turf field at Underhill Field which is turf and used by high school athletes and youth athletes also.
Sprinfield Resident tired of the bickering February 24, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Not so sure on voting on the school budget. I thought Springfield was moving the board election to November. If so no more voting on the school budget as long as it is under the cap. This was a new law the state passed this year and the decision needed to be made already (or very soon).
rfriedman February 24, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Mr. Krauss you said you had your numbers wrong but then you wrote very similar percentages. Are you telling us that the county part of our tax bill is larger than the municipal part?
Marc Krauss February 24, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Mr. Friedman - Please go to the town website to see the 2011 presentation. http://springfield-nj.us/departments/finance/treasurer.html
BART FRAENKEL February 24, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Considering the fact that this is your 3rd year on the TC you are terribly uninformed Mr. Krauss. I read some of your posts and someone even tried correcting you about our tax bill and the %'s that represent the municipal and county portions and you still got it wrong. The BOE is the largest amount, next is the municipal portion and lastly the county. Since you're voting on something as important and controversial as the turf field has become, you might want to do you homework or at least know what you're talking about when you post things. Your making a decision about how tax dollars are spent and you don't even know that the municipal part isn't the smallest. I hope the turf field gets approved but keep control with the township and not the BOE. The BOE doesn't have a vested interest in rec programs or anything outside their school activities so why should they manage the field and its usage?
BART FRAENKEL February 25, 2012 at 05:38 AM
Anthony D I was wondering when you would crawl out from beneath your rock. Its no wonder you prefer to remain anonymous when all you do is make absolutely false statements. You don't even have the courage to identify yourself so what makes you think anyone even considers you credible? Mr. Krauss posted 2 thiings that are absolutely wrong and then directed someone to the towns website for verification. I asked the township CFO to clarify it and he confirmed that the BOE is the largest, then municipal and finally the county in terms of % of our tax bill. And I have to laugh that you'd say I waffle on the turf field. I've been in favor of it from before you were even irrelevant. I was with Ken Faigenbaum when he first brought up asking the BOE about a land swap in 2007. Yes, it was his idea and a local title company can verifiy that because they did a search (at no cost). So now that you've given me an evening chuckle I can't wait to read what words of wisdom you'll have tomorrow.
BART FRAENKEL February 25, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Expressing an opinion about something anonymously is one thing, a personal attack from an anonymous person is being a coward. And don't get me wrong, I'm in favor of the turf field. It's too bad it dragged on all of last year but the question I'd have to ask is why Mr. Krauss and Fernandez didn't take it upon themselves to move this forward and allowed a full year to be wasted? If a referendum was something the Democrats wanted then they should have done it last year and anyoone could have initiated it. At this point if a field is going to become a reality the TC just needs to vote on it and get it done. There are a couple of things I'm concerned about. The first is with such strong public comments by the 3 Republicans, why they haven't even attempted to secure outside funding and are just willing to put the burden on taxpayers. I'm willing to pay whatever tax increase it takes but they should have explored every possible avenue because there are many people who either can't or don't want to pay. The other things involve scheduling or management of the field and its maintenance. Who is going to make decisions as to who can use the turf field? I feel that should be completely controlled by the rec dept. and not the BOE .It looks like municipal employees will be maintaining the field and municipal $'s paying for it, so why should the BOE manage it?
David Frank January 02, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Now that the vote is over, and the work has begun, does it strike anyone as strange that the rallying cry was for a "turf field". Turf used to mean natural grass, not plastic. It took me several months to figure out what was being proposed. So we voted in the field, and voted out the Council. Best for 2013!

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