Daily Archives: March 16, 2010

RedBankGreen: MIDDLETOWN FIELD DEBATE HEATS TO A BOIL

Reporter Dustin Racioppi from RedBankGreen.com also attended last nights Middletown Township Committee meeting, I think his article did a better job at capturing the overall atmosphere and feelings that were present in the room, more so than what was published in the Asbury Park Press. He also has a few good pictures worth checking out.

Below is his take on how things went last night:

Podium pounding. Yelling. Fingerpointing. The only things missing from Monday night’s Township Committee meeting were pitchforks and torches.

To say the least, the residents are getting restless.

About 200 of them turned out to hear how the town intended to go forward with contentious plans to upgrade two athletic areas to artificial turf and add more fields to them in order to accommodate more sports. Many came to voice their concerns, some to give the committee a stern talking to and others just to grandstand.

It wasn’t for naught.

Because of a potential sale of the project’s engineer, CMX Engineering, the committee decided not to move forward just yet in finalizing plans to upgrade fields at Croydon Hall and West Front Street Park.

The governing body also nixed its plans to add lighting, a public announcement system and concession stand at West Front, which have long been a bone of contention among neighbors.

Still, a certain level of outrage remained concerning West Front.

A number of residents in the Lincroft section of town — at least 400, if you go by signed petitions gathered by resident Mary Mahoney — are against the town’s plan in one way or another. Some believe that although the committee resolved not to add the amenities now, it may try to do so in the future.

A seemingly larger number are still angered because they’d rather see Trezza Field, the longtime home of Pop Warner’s Chargers, get the improvements.

Originally the committee wanted that, too. But plans drawn up by T&M Associates to add baseball fields, multi-use fields and parking to Trezza Field proved to be an unwise choice for the town, primarily because of limited space and surrounding wetlands, said Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger. As a result, the focus shifted to the fields at West Front Street.

Since then, residents have decried the plan, saying it will increase traffic and otherwise alter the area’s quality of life. And at the meeting, Allen Vrabel tried to prove that T&M was wrong, when he took his five minutes of the public comment portion to break out a schematic drawing from an unnamed engineer and pass out copies of it to the crowd showing that the fields will fit at Trezza with sufficient parking and without impinging on wetlands.

The crowd erupted with hoots and applause.

“What you’re proposing is like putting a square peg in a round hole on West Front Street,” Vrabel said. “These can go out to bid tomorrow.”

Vrabel’s comments opened up the gates for the public to skewer the committee, which took it with aplomb — particularly Scharfenberger, who got an earful from Barbara Thorpe.

Thorpe, who scolded Scharfenberger for not paying close enough attention to her, argued that now isn’t the time to spend the estimated $2.5 million on these upgrades.

“Your priorities are all screwed up,” she said to Sharfenberger. “I don’t know what planet you come from or live on, but you are oblivious.”

The $2.5 million to support the field upgrades comes from money set aside in a 2006 bonding package, and is specifically approved for the fields, Committeewoman Pamela Brightbill said.

More pressing at the moment, though, is the fate of CMX. Scharfenberger said he’s not sure of the specifics or how a sale could potentially affect the timeline of the field work, but said the town is looking into it.

“There’s lots of variables. We’re sort of in limbo right now,” he said.

Scharfenberger said the committee is going to also look into the feasibility of Vrabel’s proposal.

“We’re going to look at this very seriously. We wanted to put (more fields) at Trezza, but conditions, as we explained, precluded that,” Scharfenberger said. “We’re going to consider everything that is viable.”

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Filed under CMX Engineering, Lincroft, Pop Warner, RedBankGreen.com, sports complex, Trezza Field, West Front Street

Middletown’s Committee Meeting Was Loud, Raucous and Uncomfortable At Times: Have Plans For Turf Fields Now Changed?N

I’ve been to plenty of Middletown Township Committee meeting over the past six years, most are sparely attended with little to no dissension among those in attendance or between those that sit on the Dias, last night was different. I haven’t seen it like that since the Township was rocked by the arrest of former Mayor Ray O’Grady, who was caught up in Operation Bid-Rig a number of years ago.

The courtroom was packed and people flowed out into the lobby, to say people were upset would be an understatement.

I am still getting my thoughts together on what transpired last night and will have more to say about it later. I saw this morning that the Asbury Park Press has an account of what happened last night online today. The article was written by reporter Kevin Penton and is somewhat accurate.

I say somewhat because you really had to be there to witness what happened yourself, it was loud, raucous and at times uncomfortable to watch.

I am posting Penton’s article below with a few pictures that I took placed in between:


MIDDLETOWN — Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger said Middletown needs to further question the firm, CMX Inc. of Manalapan, which told the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development on Friday that it intends to layoff all of its 196 employees by May 11.

Before the postponement, the committee was expected to vote on finalizing the engineering plans, and seeking permits and bids for the planned installations at Croydon Hall and West Front Street Park.

The West Front Street Park installation would not include lights or a concession stand, Scharfenberger told a standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 residents.

Many of the Lincroft residents — who have attended the public meetings at which the fields were discussed for several weeks — have said they believe those amenities would add traffic, parking congestion and noise to their neighborhood.

Committeeman Anthony P. Fiore, who participated in the meeting via a telephone connection from Orlando, Fla., said CMX’s departure only represents a “little speed bump in the road.”

“We weren’t completely blindsided,” Fiore said, referring to CMX’s notification last week.

Middletown officials had asked the company about its situation, he said.

“We were told things were status quo,” Fiore said.


A somewhat dramatic moment came when resident Allen Vrabel, standing at the podium during the public comments portion of the meeting, waved his hand towards the back of the jammed meeting room.

Before long, two people walked towards the front of the room and placed two large sets of plans on easels. Simultaneously, others handed out copies of the same plans to people sitting in the audience.

The plans show 221 parking spaces, a 200-foot-by-360-foot, multi-purpose field; a baseball field with 90-foot base paths and 225-foot foul lines; and a baseball field with 60-foot base paths and 200-foot foul lines at the current site of Trezza Field, where the Pop Warner Chargers currently play.


Township Administrator Anthony Mercantante has repeatedly said that Trezza field could not be part of the turf fields project because of wetlands concerns.

But Vrabel said that engineers hired by Lincroft residents and members of the Chargers organization, using a 2007 wetlands study by T&M Associates, were able to make the plan work at Trezza Field.

“These plans didn’t cost me $194,000, I can tell you that,” said Vrabel, who declined to say the firm that prepared the plans.

Township officials said they would study the plan.

“We are going to look at this very seriously,” Scharfenberger said. “We are going to see if this is viable.”

As I said, I’ll have more to say about what happened last night later, it was a lot to take in. But I think the Mayor and his fellow suporter may have had a change of heart last night after have their heads beaten in by Vrabel and others.

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Filed under artificial turf fields, Asbury Park Press, Lincroft, Middletown, Middletown Township Committee, Pop Warner, Sonic, sports complex