Townships Presentation to Middletown Board of Education A Lot About Nothing

I returned home a short while ago from the Township’s’ special presentation to the Middeltown Board of Education concerning the installation of artificial turf fields on the campuses of Thorne and Thompson Middle Schools. To be frank, It was a waste of time. The township had no real plan to present and no real answers to questions.

It seemed as if Township Administrator Tony Mercantante was somewhat unprepared, he had a few ariel shots of the proposed sites with superimposed rectangles to simulate where the fields would be installed and not much else.

Mercantante basically just asked the Board of Education if they would like to partner up with the township on this project. When BOE members asked specific questions he answered that all the details would have to be worked out during land lease and partnership negotiations and that problems would be ironed out then.

About two dozen residents voiced concerns about the projects and asked the BOE to keep in mind the hidden costs that may associated with this plan. A couple of other residents mentioned the safety and injury concerns associated with artificial surfaces.

Overall though, it was a waste of time for the public to invited to hear because there was just not enough details and as I stated earlier, there are many questions that need to be answered like, who would be responsible for maintaining the fields? What about insurance liabilities? Who would be responsible for supervising or policing them during off hours? Who gets preference of use, the school system or sports leagues? Who replaces the carpet when it wears out in 10 years do to over use? What about lighting, concessions, locker rooms and bathroom facilities? All of these questions and more need to be answered before this project can move forward, not just brushed over with false statements or promises that can not be kept.

So let it be known that I am not opposed to the fields per say, I think that it is a good idea, a win-win situation for both the Township and the Board of Education, but it has to be done right all of the I’s need to be dotted and all the T’s crossed before I feel comfortable with giving this matter my unconditional support.

There is also the problem that I have with this years township budget. How can we spend money on obvious luxury items around town when we can’t balance our budget? The adoption of the budget is almost 6 months late and have a proposed 9.2% tax increase associated with it. if we have money lying around for 3 athletic fields maybe we should drop the idea for the 3rd and use that money to off set the shortfall in the current budget.

One thing that was lost at the meeting, which I feel that I should mention is that even if these fields are not approved by the Board of Education, the Township seems to have every intention on moving forward with installing an artificial surface over the football field that is located at Croydon Hall. This is the 3rd field mentioned and is used by Pop Warner teams in town.

6 Comments

Filed under artificial turf fields, Football, Middeltown Board of Education, Middletown Parks and Recreation, natural grass, Pop Warner, tax increase, Tony Mercantante

6 responses to “Townships Presentation to Middletown Board of Education A Lot About Nothing

  1. Chris

    <>if we have money lying around for 3 athletic fields maybe we should drop the idea for the 3rd and use that money to off set the shortfall in the current budget.<>Like I stated on your other posting, if these are funds that Middletown bonded for, you can’t use them for anything else than the original purpose! As a matter of fact, the original bond was allocating funds for 2 fields, but since better prices were negotiated, the money can cover 3 fields now. But it’s still the same amount in the bond.

  2. Middletown Mike

    Chris,

    Your right about using the money for the budget. It can not not be done. How I should have stated it was like this.

    if you do not use a portion of the funds then the unused funds could go toward the retirementof the debt, which will have an impact on the budget. Or the use a portion to make badly needed improvements to exsiting fields and parks.

    And one other thing that needs to be pointed out, from what I have been told the 3rd field is not a certainty!.

    There has been no negotiations with any company about the cost of fields. It is being presumed that because of the current economy and the fact that 3 fields is ideal, that the town will be able bid the project out so that there will be enough funds for the 3rd field.

    Keep in mind that the danger of this is, if the bids for the contracts are exceptionally low then there are significant cost overruns who gets stuck with the bill? Untimately it will be the tax payers who will have to cough up the addtional funds or pay for the litigation.

  3. Chris

    First of all, a bond is a loan, so it’s subject to all the problems about spending money you don’t have, and that you have to borrow.

    However, a low interest loan is always a good financing source. You must build improvements in a town, you can’t just let everything go old, so sometimes you have to borrow for capital improvements. Middletown doesn’t have any fields open to the public, since those owned by the BOE have restricted use… so township-funded fields that can be used by the public could be something necessary for the quality of life.

    Now I may be wrong, but as far as I know, the bond was just approved. The muni bonds aren’t actually sold until the funds are needed, so basically there are no “unused” funds. And once the entire bonded amount ($2mil) is used, the interest on Aa muni bonds is around 3%, so it would affect the budget by $60k/year – not a very significant amount. If a sinking fund is created for the repayment of the bond, that could add another $60-70k.

  4. Middletown Mike

    Chris,

    I am not a bond expert and I don’t know all of the particulars behind this bond issue so I’ll take your word for it until I know otherwise.

    What I have found out was that this bond was originally intended to be used for the Lincroft Sports Complex that was shot down by the residents over there.

    And if you ask me, I would rather prefer that the town build grass fields around town as opposed to the artificial surfaces.

    If properly maintained the grass fields will out live the turf surfaces by more than a dozen years.

    Who gets stuck paying for new carpets every 8-10 years when surfaces wear out do to over use? The tax payers do, so every decade new bonds would need to be floated to fix them.

    Bonding is expensive, administration fees just to issue a bond are a times close to $1 million above the bond.

    At last I heard there is very close to 300 or more homes in town in foreclosure, how can we justify spending money on items that are clearly a luxury when people are out of work and losing their homes. If times were different I may not have such a problem with this.

    Now is just not the time to spend frivolously when the township can’t get it’s own finances in order.

  5. turfboss

    Mike –

    If I read your presentation correctly it appears that decisions about the turf field installations is really in the beginning stages – if that is the case I would like to find out to whom I should send information concerning our turf field products (www.targapro.com) since we provide only EcoSafe, Environmentally Sustaainable and 100% recyclable products for the sport field marketplace. Thus we address all the issues of playability as well as the health and safety issues which is the normal objection by parents because of the potential problems with crumb rubber and silica sand infills – both deemed hazardous waste materials. We have addressed these issues with a lead free turf and our infill material is an anti-microbial treated organic with an 8 year guarantee – and it addresses the MRSA staph problem as well).

    With regard to the issue of whether one should spend money in these tough economic times I would counter by saying that if you do your homework and ask the right questions to get answers which will show COO and ROI numbers that you can work with (making sure you have included, for example, the disposal costs for fields filled with hazardous waste materials) you will see that not only will these synthetic fields be very cost effective in the long run – they also provide orders of magnitude more playing time for teams in the area to keep kids off the streets and involved in team sports.

  6. Middletown Mike

    Turfboss,

    Thanks for the information and inquiry.

    If you know anything about how our local government worked you would also be leery of the overall costs of these proposed fields.

    The person that you should talk to is township administrator Tony Mercantante. I don’t have a phone for him but here is the township website http://www.middletownnj.org/ you can contact him or find someone to talk to through the website.

    I implore you to act quickly, this project is on the fast track against most wishes.

    You may also wish to contact the Board of Education http://www.middletownk12.org/

    Thank you

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