Category Archives: artificial turf fields

Letter: Is Middletown’s Mayor Attempting To Divert Bond Money Away From Sports Fields

The following letter was received in my email last night:

Middletown is engaged in a controversy over the installation of artificial turf fields, but the debate is indicative of a much larger issue with how our Township spends taxpayer dollars.

The Township took out a bond in 2006 to fund the turf fields, but the money has sat idle, accruing interest on repayment, because Middletown failed to reach consensus on where to locate the fields. During a number of Township Committee meetings, the Mayor, Administrator, and Township Attorney all emphatically stated that the bond could only be used for the rehabilitation of fields at Middletown parks. However, objections to this usage have recently intensified, prompting Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger to announce he would call off the field construction and divert the bond funds to pay for shortfalls in the Township budget. I have serious concerns about the Mayor’s new course of action.

First, the Mayor appears to be acting independently of the Township Committee. Our committee consists of five members, one of whom is selected as Mayor to lead public meetings and sign local legislation. Nowhere in Chapter 4, Article II of our Township Code, which outlines the duties of Mayor, does it give that person authority to make solitary decisions on funding. A vote of the full Committee is required.

My second concern is that the Mayor, Administrator, and Township Attorney have been lying to residents about the potential uses for the bond money. First, they insisted the money could only be used for the turf fields. Now, the Mayor wants to try and amend the ordinance so it can be used for other projects. If Mayor Scharfenberger has not been deliberately misleading us, he, at best, does not care enough to understand the rules on spending taxpayer dollars; at worst, he is incompetent.

Finally, I am concerned about using bond money to patch holes in Middletown’s budget due to shortfalls in state aid. A single bond will not fix the fiscal reality our township must face as a result of the national economic downturn. The Mayor must stop looking for quick, politically convenient, fixes and present to township residents a fiscally sound plan that does not place us further in debt. Perhaps it is time to stand up that Finance Committee that Committeeman Sean Byrnes keeps calling for. When will Middletown’s Mayor start to listen to the Committee, which represents all taxpayers, and stop acting alone?

Don Watson
New Monmouth NJ

1 Comment

Filed under artificial turf fields, Budget Shortfall, Finance Committee, letter to the editor, Mayor Scharfenberger, Middletown

What Were They Saying Before The Decision To Cancel The Sports Complex

I went back to my archivist to see if he could grabbed me some audio clips of what everyone had to say about using the bonded funds for the artificial turf fields for other uses.

He sent me 5 clips of Township Attorney Brian Nelson,Township Administrator Tony Mercantante and Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger stating that the bond money has to be used for recreation or turf fields. These clips are from Committee meetings on February 1st, March 1st and March 15th .

Nelson and Mercantante address a person’s question concerning whether or not the bond for the turf fields could be appropriated for other use during the February 1st meeting.
Scharfenberger adds his two cents in the following three sound bites, the first two of which are from the March 1st Township Committee Workshop meeting where he is heard saying that the money for the turf fields could not be used for other projects but could be appropriated for a different facility. He later stated that the turf fields were part of Green Acres and there for needed to be discussed at an official public meeting that would be scheduled for the end of March.

The last clip is from the March 15th Township Committee meeting and is of Mayor Scharfenberger announcing that the resolution that would give the go ahead for CMX Engineering to finalize plans and proceed to mark up project bidding specifications for the sports complex at West Front Street was being pulled, but they were going to move ahead with the field at WFSP anyway just not with all the amenities.
Then all of a sudden at the informal March 23th Neighborhood Meeting at Croydon Hall, Gerry Scharfenberger announced that himself and those members of the Township Committee that were in attendance that evening came to a consensus decision to cancel the turf project all together due to concerns over state aid figures that he had just been informed of, and because of this the Township would recall the bond and return the money to the lender.
Using the decline in state aid as a cover story for cancelling the turf projects was just a convenient excuse on Scharfenberger’s end. Both he and Pam Brightbill, had been telling everyone for months prior to the meeting that the bonded funds for the turf fields had no impact on the budget and based on the article that appeared in the Independent, the Township knew a week earlier about the state aid cut, which they had been talking about for the past few Committee meetings anyway.
So will the audio shine anymore light onto the shady dealing that go on down at Town Hall? Not really, but they do give a little bit of insight into the thinking of for what and how the money that was bonded for the turf fields in 2006 could be used for even if it was contrary to the actual language of the bond ordinance.

5 Comments

Filed under artificial turf fields, Brian Nelson, CMX Engineering, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middletown Township Committee, Neighborhood meetings, the Independent, Tony Mercantante, West Front Street

Questions Remain About the Sudden About Face On The Middletown Sports Field Issue

There are still many questions that remain and need to be answered when it comes to the sudden announcement that Gerry Scharfenberger made during Tuesday night’s Neighborhood Meeting at Croydon Hall.
It has become apparent based on an email I received that some are starting to ask those questions and want answers:

I’m sure many of you have heard the news, about the fate of the turf fields, that was announced at last night’s Neighborhood Meeting. There are many questions still unanswered about this decision:

1. The Neighborhood Meetings were billed as an event that “no formal action will take place”. The Mayor decided to take formal action by announcing this decision. I have announcements, below, that explain the purpose of the Neighborhood Meetings.These were taken from the Township website and the alert system that the Township has in place.

Neighborhood Meeting – Senior Center
3/23/2010 – 7:00:00 PM
The Township Committee will hold a Neighborhood Meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23 At the Middletown Senior Center, 900 Leonardville Road, to give residents an opportunity to speak informally with township officials and staff about life in Middletown. Township Committee members, and representatives from the departments of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs; Planning; Police and Public Works are scheduled to attend. No formal action will be taken.


Location:
Middletown Senior Center
Croydon Hall
900 Leonardville Road

Leonardo, NJ 07737

Source:

http://www.middletownnj.org/html/EventDetails.asp?EventID=2f8b8140-7923-480e-9c2d-e1b80643d843&EventDate=2010-03-23

Neighborhood Meeting 3-22-2010
posted Monday, March 22, 2010 4:08 PM
Dear Resident:The next Middletown Neighborhood Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23rd at the Middletown Senior Center, 900 Leonardville Road. Neighborhood meetings are held annually to give residents an opportunity to speak informally with township officials and staff about life in Middletown. Township Committee members, and representatives from the departments of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs; Planning; Police and Public Works are scheduled to attend. No formal action will be taken. The last Neighborhood Meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 30th at the Tonya Keller Bayshore Community Center, 50 Bray Ave.

Source:

https://my.c3alert.us/middletownnj/home/welcome

2. At what public meeting did the Committee decide to return the bond? This is not a decision that can be made by the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, or any other Committee person. It must be decided in a public meeting with a vote by ALL Committee members. I believe that a bond ordinance must be have approval of at least 4/5 of the Committee to become effective. The question is, Can the Mayor legally announce this since no formal action was taken on his decision?

3. According to the by-laws of the Township, the Mayor is a member of the Committee and is appointed by the other members of the Committee. His sole functions are to lead Committee meetings and sign legislation that is passed by the Committee. I don’t believe that he has any other authority than that, besides what the other Committee members have. Any announcements, coming from the Township, should be with the approval of the whole Committee, not just one member of the Committee.

These questions need to be asked as well as:


– How much interest have WE paid over the past 4 years on this bond?
– How much has OUR bond counsel (Middletown GOP Chairman) charged US to sell the bonds and now buy them back?
– What other legal expenses are associated with the whole bond. beginning with the sale to retirement?
– Why isn’t the plan presented, by Mr. Vrabel, acceptable? Who determined this?

The sudden announcement of the cancellation of the turf projects at a neighborhood meeting that wasn’t suppose to be an official meeting where actions would be taken on any subject specific subject is troubling.
What really changed the collective mind of the Township to drop plans for the fields and when and with whom were theses plans discussed with? As the email stated, the Mayor doesn’t have the authority to act alone when making decisions regardless if the Town Administrator or others thought that the plan should be cancelled. This is a decision that would have had to be have been made during a formal meeting with every committee member present and from what I know that did not happen.
Middletown’s “shadow government” has once again crept in from the darkness and reared its ugly head.

2 Comments

Filed under artificial turf fields, Asbury Park Press, Croydon Hall, Gerry Scharfenberger, Middeltown Township, Pop Warner, shadow government, sports complex, Tony Mercantante, Trezza Field

Lincroft Sports Complex Is Dead; Plans For Artificial Turf Fields For Croydon Hall and Lincroft Are Dropped.

At last night’s Middletown Neighborhood Meeting at the Middletown Senior Center at Croydon Hall a very interesting turn of events was announced by Gerry Scharfenberger, the plans for the installation of artificial turf fields in Lincroft and at Croydon Hall are being dropped.

There will be no sports complex built or field upgrades at West Front Street Park that met so much opposition from the residents group SONIC (Save Our Neighborhood’s Integrity and Character) and the Pop Warner Lincroft Chargers organization, and no upgrade for the field at Croydon Hall which is used by the Middletown Eagles Pop Warner team.

According to the Asbury Park Press article posted online late last night, Scharfenberger use the current economic conditions affecting the Township as the reason for why the turf field projects were being dropped. Scharfenberger is quoted as saying:

“…In a difficult budget year in which the township’s state aid has been cut by $1.3 million, 14 retiring employees will receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in parting costs, and snow removal expenses were at least $500,000 above normal, it makes no sense to also take on a fields project…I see no way to go forward with this… In terms of what had to go, this became something of a no-brainer.”

The article went on to state that Township Administrator Tony Mercantante said the $2.4 million bond that was originally issued for the project in 2006 will be returned to the lender.

So why the sudden change, why did the Scharfenberger and Mercantante drop the plans for the turf installations? You can’t tell me it was because of the sudden realization that the Township is facing a budget deficit of over $5 million and this was a prudent decision on the part of the Township Committee. The Township has known for weeks that it would not be receiving the same level of state aid as in years past and Scharfenberger, Mercantante and crew said that the $2.4 million that was bonded for the turf projects was already in the bank, waiting to be used and would have absolutely no effect on the current budget process.

I feel that the real reason why they decided to cancel plans for the turf fields was the embarrassment that they felt when confronted at last week’s March 15th Township Committee meeting by members of the Chargers organization and SONIC when they present a plan to the Township that clearly showed that a multi-sport field could indeed be placed at Trezza Field, the home of the Chargers for over 40 years as originally called for in bond ordinance, with no impact to wetlands that the Township based its decision on as a reason for not going ahead with the field upgrade.

If Tony Mercantante accepted the Chargers’ plan, he would have had to admit that the advice from the town’s engineers and other professionals was wrong. He would have had to essentially throw them under the bus, which would have lead to questions of competence and may have raised doubts about other projects around town that residents question.

I know that this announcement will upset some people, particularly the Middletown Soccer League and the Pop Warner Eagles; Middletown Soccer aligned themselves with the Township in pushing for the field upgrades at West Front Street and the Eagles who became the victims of the collateral damage inflicted on members of the Township Committee by SONIC and the Chargers in the fight against the sports complex at West Front Street.

It was never in dispute, the playing field of the Pop Warner Eagles at Croydon Hall was going to be upgraded as a multi-sports playing field as part of the Township’s turf project but Parks and Recreations Director Greg Silva made it clear during at meeting with the Chargers, that if they succeeded in their efforts to derail the West Front Street field upgrade then the upgrade at Croydon Hall would also be canceled as a result. So I guess he wasn’t lying.

While this is a clear victory for SONIC and those who questioned whether or not it was prudent for the Township to move forward with this turf project because of current economic conditions, the victory for the Chargers is somewhat less and not much of a victory at all.

With the bad blood and hurt feeling inflicted on the Township Committee by the Chargers, Trezza Field may never get the field upgrades that are so badly needed for the continued and future success of their program.

The Independent has a related story that should also be read.

6 Comments

Filed under artificial turf fields, Chargers, Lincroft, Mayor Scharfenberger, Middletown Township Committee, Pop Warner, Sonic, sports complex, Tony Mercantante

Cody Vs. Brightbill; What Did Pam Have to Say About Trezza Field While Defending Herself ?


Here is the last audio clip that I have from March 15th Township Committee meeting that deals with the Pop Warner Chargers, Sonic and Trezza Field.

In this audio Clip you can hear Lincroft resident and Chargers supporter Jim Cody confront Committeewoman Pam Brightbill about what she had told those in attendance of a Pop Warner fundraiser in 2008 about upgrades that would be made to Trezza Field, the home of the Chargers.

Committeewoman Brightbill in trying to defend herself against accusations of improprieties and false statements becomes frustrated, at one point she threatens to have someone removed from the courtroom while her voice raises to a shrill.

The exchange between Cody and Brightbill was an act of classic showmanship on Cody’s part. It showed that when the heat is on, most of those on the Committee can’t take it.

5 Comments

Filed under artificial turf fields, Chargers, Middletown Township Committee, Pamela Brightbill, Pop Warner, Trezza Field

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.

12 Comments

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

Letter: The Republican Majority In Middletown Is Financially Irresponsible

The following letter was sent to me by Lincroft resident Barbara Thorpe who wishes to express her opinion on how irresponsible the Republican majority is when it comes to managing the Townships finances:

The Republican majority of Middletown’s Township Committee is financially irresponsible.. big time. They exhibit insensitivity to current economic conditions as they relentlessly pursue the installation of turf fields within the township which already has turf on each of it’s high school fields. Are the taxpayers now being obligated to providing turf in townships parks at the public expense during the most financially challenged times since the Great Depression ?

Middletown Township has more parks than Monmouth County and fails miserably in adequately maintaining any of them. Just what is done with the appropriations for Parks and Recreation? More than half goes to salaries and why is the town not realizing better service from the employees in that department. Is it attributable to poor management ? Please tell us,Greg Silva or Gerard Scharfenberger . Seems there are many questions that demand answers in this scenario. Also bond issues are indebtedness that must be repaid with interest over time so it’s not free money as the committee would like the public to believe.

This resident understands one consideration of the republicans..this is a re-election year for the current mayor and he desperately needs an issue to run on. Try financial responsibility. That’s an issue every resident can understand and wants. It has been lacking in this township for several years. I am referring to the Township finances,not the BOE finances for education.

The BOE in Middletown does one of the best jobs in this state with the tax dollars they are entrusted to manage. They achieve one of the lowest per student expense and one of the best quality of education ratings.

Barbara R.Thorpe
Lincroft

10 Comments

Filed under artificial turf fields, Barbara Thorpe, letters to the Editor, Lincroft, Middletown Parks and Recreation, Middletown Republicans, sports complex