Rec pitches turf proposal to BOE

Board will form committee with Rec Committee

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  • Photo by Patricia Keller Bill Hemstead, of the Recreation Advisory Committee, presented the group's proposal for a second artificial turf field to the school board recently.





Bill Hemstead, chairman of the township’s Recreation Advisory Committee, recently approached the West Milford Township Council to get its approval to formally approach the school board with the committee’s proposal to install another synthetic turf field in the township. The council agreed, and Hemstead echoed his presentation to the Board of Education at the May 27 meeting.

According to Superintendent James McLaughlin, there is interest in the proposal.

“A committee of the BOE is following up on the proposal with the RAC,” said McLaughlin via email to The West Milford Messenger.

The proposal
The committee will seek funding from both the town council and the school board, as well as apply for a grant for matching funds through Passaic County, to meet the estimated price tag of $1,675,000. Hemstead said the purpose of his presentation to the board was not to seek permission, approval, or funding at this time, but rather “just to see if the concept is appealing to you.”

Hemstead said the new synthetic turf field as proposed, to be installed on Dygos Field behind Macopin Middle School adjacent to the current turf field, would help solve the field shortage in town and bring a revenue source through events such as tournaments.

The proposed field would serve to create a centralized intramural sports complex in the township, utilizing the existing resources at McCormack field such as parking, restrooms, scoreboards and snack stand. The new multi-sports turf field would have a baseball diamond and a softball diamond, as well as a multi-purpose field for soccer, football, rugby, field hockey and lacrosse.

Board has questions
Trustees had questions about the township's support of the project and a commitment of open space money for it.

Board member Marilyn Schultz was not at the meeting but submitted a question in advance. Her concern was that township discussed using open space money for other projects and she didn't want the school board's decision to get in the way of that, namely the library project.

Hemstead said there was a discussion at the council, but they unanimously voted to have him approach the school board with the field proposal.

Trustee Dave Richards asked what the timetable was to implement the project. Hemstead said they would ideally want to have an agreement between the township and school board in place and a proposal finalized before March 2015, the closing date for county open space applications.

Trustee Greg Bailey asked if a resolution could be crafted stating the board's interest in the project, without committing to funding just yet, allowing the Rec Committee to move forward with research on funding and to work out the necessary details.

“In West Milford we have a habit of prolonging discussion on these types of things,” said Bailey, adding that the current turf field was discussed for five years before it was approved, and it was still met with opposition. “Tonight we heard about how great it is, so why can’t we have more great things like this in West Milford?”

Possible bond issue?
Trustee Wayne Gottlieb said he thought this was a worthwhile, long-life project, and suggested that it be put up as a bond issue in November, since the district’s current bond debt is low - currently below $2 million. He likened that to owning a $200,000 home with no mortgage. He said long-life projects need long-life money to support them, and there are plenty of bonding capacities. Gottlieb said the proposed new turf field was the perfect project for bonding, and if the school board agrees to move forward with bonding, he would vote for it.

What are your thoughts on this turf field? Go to westmilfordmessenger.com and be part of the conversation.

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