Kathy Dailey and Mark Chiarolanza, the Republican candidates for Madison Borough Council, expressed their full support for Council President Pat Rowe’s lone dissenting vote on proposed allocation of the Open Space Trust Fund Account at the September 24 Borough Council meeting. Rowe’s objection was based on several concerns, including: the lack of an updated field use and conditions analysis, which was last performed over a decade ago and before the MRC complex was built; preferring a “Pay as You Play” plan to pay for the re-skinning rather than having current residents pay for both the debt service on the debt incurred by the borough as well as future maintenance; and the need for a better understanding of all projects under consideration by the Open Space committee before the council starts setting aside any of the $1,200,000 that is currently in the Open Space Fund and the $10,000,000 the council was told the fund is expected to expend over the next decade.
Both Republican Candidates support the Recreation Advisory Committee’s advice and requests related to re-skinning Madison’s existing turf fields, and they also support discussions between the borough and the Board of Education regarding the feasibility of adding another turf field within Madison. “We disagree with the proposed mechanism for funding the new field and the resurfacing of the existing fields until the community has a better understanding of the concepts that were floated at a recent council meeting - there was no notice to the public that all of these details would be reviewed or voted on during the September 24 meeting,” Dailey explained.
The Borough Council voted 5-1 to “reserve” the user fees paid over the past three years by families that allow their children to play a variety of borough sponsored sports into a fund that will be used to re-turf the field when the current carpet wears out. “One of the underlying assumptions for the funding proposal is that the user fee will be increased from the present $20 fee to a whopping $50 per player per season. This 150% increase in the user fee was not mentioned as a concern by any of the Democratic Council members during the discussion,” commented Dailey, “and it will have an impact on the many young Madison families whose children play these sports. Mark and I have already begun hearing concerns from some of our neighbors as we have been canvassing Madison neighborhoods in the past few days.”
The candidates also expressed surprise that the council moved this topic to a vote so suddenly and hastily during the September 24th meeting, and with no meaningful notice to the public. The proposal was first presented that evening during the Open Space Open Trust Fund quarterly update to the Council, and then minutes later, without any opportunity for the public to digest the materials presented or to ask clarifying questions, it was voted upon. “Very few members of the public were present, and it also appeared that neither the Recreation Director nor any member of the Recreation Advisory Committee was at the meeting to lend support for the proposals related to turf fields, to provide insight, or to answer questions,” explained Chiarolanza.
With regard to the MRC turf fields and other recreational fields within Madison, Kathy and Mark indicated they have had a number of discussions with members from Madison’s Recreation Advisory Committee (RAC) and other parents who volunteer with Madison’s recreation programs. Chiarolanza said “It is understood that the turf fields will need to be re-skinned over the intermediate-term to keep them safe, and we also need to ensure that we pay enough attention to the health and safety of our grass playing fields as well.”
In order to pay for the continued maintenance of both grass and turf fields, user fees would likely need to increase, but the Republican candidates support “A gradual increase in fees that are consistently shared across all youth sports leagues.”