WEST CALDWELL, NJ — Gerard Moreno, P.E., project manager from Mazur Consulting, presented an update on the Harrison School Field Project during the West Caldwell Township Council meeting Tuesday night.  

The project will provide a turf field that will be utilized by the school district, recreation department, travel teams and residents. Sports that can be played on the new turf field will include soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, and football. 

A previous version of a draft plan was presented during the Nov. 2020 meeting and the latest version according to Moreno has revisions based upon that feedback. The field now will be positioned east to west versus north to south which will allow for minimal environmental impacts to the buffer wetlands. Councilman Stanley Hladik who is the council liaison to the project confirmed that the new plan has minimal impact on the environment.  

A new building will house a concession stand and restrooms and will be located on the northeast section of the field that is closest to Memorial Park and walking paths.  The initial draft plans included approximately 15 more parking spaces, but it was determined that the existing parking will be sufficient. The new turf field will have exterior lighting.

Mayor Joseph Tempesta suggested that prior to Mazur’s application to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) agency that it would be prudent to meet again with representatives from the Board of Education to finalize plans. It is expected that the DEP approval will take six to nine months.

It was confirmed that the project is expected to cost between 1.6M and 1.9M which will include all costs for the project inclusive of construction, lights, concession stand with restroom facilities, drainage, and turf.  The township received $150,000 in grant money from the Open Space Essex County grant which will be used for the project.

During public comment, a resident questioned if the existing children’s playground or sensory garden would be encroached upon, and it was confirmed that neither would be affected. The same caller stated they had heard from residents from Dodd and Ravine Avenues who are questioning the height of the proposed lighting for the field and the impact the lighting may have on their home. It was confirmed that the height of the poles will be of industry standards and Tempesta noted he has not heard from any residents regarding the lighting.

Councilman Joseph Cecere and Hladik confirmed the need for the third field as there is a community growth in year-round sports. Soccer now plays in two seasons, there is a new field hockey program which is “immensely popular” according to Hladik.  He continued stating that when there is a rainstorm the field cannot be used at times for up to two weeks and there is an “absolute need for more fields here and there is no better time to invest in a capital project with interests rates at their current level.”  Moreno confirmed that the life expectancy of a turf field is between 10-20 years.  Councilman Michael Docteroff stated that the turf field that was installed over a decade ago at James Caldwell High School is in “fine condition."

Initially the project was to be a shared service agreement with the Caldwell-West Caldwell School District and the Borough of Caldwell. The Borough of Caldwell had decided to withdraw their commitment and support of the project in addition to not contributing the expected $150,000 that was presented to the Borough through the Open Space Essex County grant. It was announced in Dec. 2020, that the Borough of Caldwell ultimately decided to purchase a piece of property adjacent to Caldwell University.  

Commenting on Caldwell’s decision to withdraw their support, Hladik said that he was “very disappointed that Caldwell didn’t pitch in, since they participate in our recreation program, and they really don’t have any field in their town, but we’re going to move ahead.”  He said, “In speaking to the school system… this is a very good improvement for their kids during the day and our programs will be after school. By getting this third turf field in town it definitely makes the town more desirable and improves our property values.”

Under committee reports, Council President Michael Crudele announced that Camp Wyanokie is open as of March 12 and reservations may be made on CampWyanokie.com. Cecere congratulated Director of Recreation Gabe DiMasi keeping the children engaged during the winter with well over 1,000 children from both West Caldwell and Caldwell participating in recreational opportunities in addition to senior citizen programming. New programming for the spring will include outdoor volleyball for girls and boys.

Councilman Stephen Wolsky reported that plans are forming for a park cleanup at Wrench Park with the Environmental Commission. Councilwoman Kathy Canale announced that potholes along Smull and Washington Avenues and Elmwood Terrace will be temporarily filled with cold patches until the weather warms and permanent paving can be poured. The schedule for filling in the potholes with permanent fill will be moved up to possibly late March or early April, as soon as the weather conditions allow. 

Essex County liaison Caitlin Sharp reported that Essex County is now accepting applications for positions at the Turtle Back Zoo complex in West Orange and applications may be found on TurtleBackZoom.com. Docteroff congratulated the county on their “tremendous” inoculation program taking place across the county and specifically at the new Essex County Vocational School located in West Caldwell.  Canale commented that she has received feedback from residents who normally would not have entered the facility, commenting how “well the school looks.”

Hladik took the opportunity to comment on a shared services agreement with the board of education.  Noting that Cecere had suggested the idea of outsourcing lawn maintenance and since that time collectively the municipality and the board of education has saved over $1,000,000 in the past six or seven years since the work was outsourced.  Hladik confirmed that there were no layoffs and personnel was minimized through attrition.  Costs savings were evident in pension, benefits, salary, equipment, insurance, and gas.

Tempesta announced that he and others visited the Piscataway Community Center with Mayor Waller of Piscataway.  He stated the center was “very impressive.”  The mayor noted that there have been discussions for a number of years about a community center and the tour gave the administration a “lot of good ideas.  It’s expensive but its something we are going to look at over the next several months.”

Tempesta concluded the meeting reporting that as of the meeting 2,500 West Caldwell residents have received their first inoculation and 1,500 residents have received their second inoculation which represents 20% of the population.  He expected by the end of April 50% of the residents will have received their inoculations and that “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

The next council meeting is scheduled for March 16.