SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Residents of the borough will be asked to take to the ‘polls’ this week to determine the fate of the South Plainfield Community Pool. During Democracy Week 2019 – which will run from Tuesday, March 19 through Saturday, March 23 – registered voters will be able to cast a non-binding ballot vote for or against the council’s proposal to adopt a bond ordinance of up to $2.475 million to finance renovations and updates at the 52-year-old watering hole.
Unlike a binding referendum that requires the result to be acted upon or implemented, a non-binding serves or indicative referendum ‘gives residents a mechanism to weigh in’ when it comes to a ‘large discretionary expenditure,’ according to South Plainfield Mayor Matt Anesh.
“The goal of the Democracy Week vote is simple: to give residents the formal opportunity to let their positions and opinions be known,” Anesh told TAPinto South Plainfield. “It’s a rare opportunity to weigh in on an individual initiative within the borough outside of voting in the general election.”
The vote on the non-binding referendum will be organized and operated by way of a paper ballot to be conducted and received in the borough clerk’s office, which is located in the municipal building; unlike the November general election, no other polling places will be operated. To vote, one must be a resident of the community and a registered voter prior to March 1, 2019.
“Registered voters can come to my office during the hours set forth [and] will present their name and address, followed by signing my voter registration book next to their name,” said South Plainfield Borough Clerk Amy Antonides. “My office [staff] will hand them a paper ballot in which they will check off either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in accordance to the proposition question.”
Earlier this year, the council unanimously approved Resolution 19-91 calling for ‘voter sentiment’ for or against a bond ordinance to cover the cost of the ‘development, construction, and refurbishment of the community pool.’ The proposed project is estimated to cost approximately $2.475 million which a 5-percent down payment or about $123,750 would be paid for through the municipal budget.
During Democracy Week, residents will be asked the following question: ‘Shall the Borough Council of the Borough of South Plainfield adopt a bond ordinance in the maximum amount of $2,475,000.00 to be authorized in order to fund the development, construction, and refurbishment of a new community pool within the borough of South Plainfield?”
Those who support upgrading the facility would check the box next to the word ‘yes’; a ‘yes’ vote on the above question means that you DO want the borough council to authorize the adoption of a bond ordinance to fund the development, construction and refurbishment of a new community pool. Those opposed would check the box next to the word ‘no’; a ‘no’vote means that you DO NOT want the borough council to authorize the adoption of a bond ordinance to fund the development, construction and refurbishment of a new community pool.
All paper ballots will be dropped through a slot in the ballot box by the voter themselves. They will remain in the box until the ‘polls’ close at noon March 23; at that time, Antonides and her staff will then begin the process of manually tallying the votes.
Once finalized, the results of the vote will be forwarded to the mayor and council and posted on the South Plainfield website, on the bulletin board at borough hall, and on social media.
In an effort to inform the public about the proposed plans, two information sessions over as many weeks have been held; borough officials along with Charles Schneider, a civil engineer with the architectural firm retained by the borough to created the proposed plans, presented the plans and answered questions during meetings on Feb. 26 and March 7. The proposed pool project and upcoming Democracy Week non-binding referendum vote will also be discussed a third and final time at the Monday, March 18 council meeting.
Borough officials estimate that the cost for the development, construction and refurbishment of a new community pool to be $2,475,000.00 with a required 5-percent down payment in the estimated minimum amount of $123,750.00, which would have to be included in the municipal budget. Glenn Cullen, the borough administrator, stated that if approved, the cost to the average household with capital and debt services obligations is estimated at $20 a year, which would be absorbed into the rate.
“We think that is conservative number and a worse case scenario,” said Cullen during a public meeting on the project, noting that the exact cost of the project and the impact on taxpayers can only be determine if the project is approved and put out to bid. “We haven’t gone out to bid. We have a pretty good estimate but we don't know if it’s going to come in $300,000 less and we don't know if we are going to get [grant] money from the county. There are still a few unknowns here.”
Borough officials also state that the cost to raise the building, rip out the cement, and close the pool combined with the borough’s current outstanding debit and interest obligation of $687,000 for improvements done in 2015 would be about $815,000.
If the project garners support during the Democracy Week vote, a bond ordinance would need to be passed by the council in April with the project then finalized and sent out to bid. Borough officials state the goal is to begin work on the project in August 2019.
Should it fail, the borough council can still move forward with the plans, however, the mayor believes the governing body would ‘abide by the voice of the voters.’ It would then be up to the council to consider either developing a less aggressive or scaled down plan or begin looking at other options ‘with more widespread support’ for the site.
“Regardless of how you feel, Democracy Week is an opportunity for the residents of South Plainfield to go out and have their voices heard,” said Anesh.
About the Proposed Pool Project
Late last year, borough officials announced that the 52-year-old pool will not open this summer and, in January, the council approved a resolution to allocate $6,000 for the architectural and engineering firm Brandsetter Carroll, Inc. to develop concept plans for the pool renovation project.
To make the facility ADA-compliant, zero depth entry would be added to both the wading (children’s) pool and the leisure pool with a new stair entry also included at the leisure pool. Over at the wading pool, spray features, climbable play structure with a slide, and an approachable water table-style play feature would be added.
In the leisure pool, a tall dumping and spray water feature along with a whirlpool feature, in-water bench seating, an in-pool shade leisure area are proposed. In the competition pool/lap swimming area, the 50-meter would be eliminated with lanes relocated for wider and more regulated length. Additionally, in the 7-foot section, a multipurpose activity zone with climbing wall and a new open flume slide would be added.
The plans also call for the installation of stainless steal gutter system; the installation of lighting in and around the pool, which will allow the pool to remain open later; and a new entry into the facility from the parking lot. While the four multi-color slides at the back end of the pool would be removed, the existing tube slide and upgraded filtration and chemical feed systems, which were replaced in 2015 following a $380,000 bond ordinance to repair the deep end, would remain.
To view the proposed pool plans, visit https://bit.ly/2INAjCr. To learn more about the project, view the March 7 meeting online at or attend the South Plainfield Borough Council’s next meeting, which will be held a 7 p.m. Monday, March 18 in the municipal building.
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