Government

Bernards Committee Approves 'No Exception' Fee Schedule For New Turf Fields

128629cb16f8bf74b41b_MountainPark.jpg
Two new artificial turf fields are due to open this Labor Day at Mountain Park in Basking Ridge. Credits: By Linda Sadlouskos
128629cb16f8bf74b41b_MountainPark.jpg

BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - Fees to use the two new artificial turf fields due to open on Labor Day at Mountain Park have been set for sports teams and organizations, with no exceptions to be granted -- even for school groups and sports teams.

The Bernards Township Committee on Tuesday night approved fees in three categories, depending on the number of township residents involved in the sports program and whether it is a commercial organization, of either $55, $80 or $110 per hour of use.

The proposal to build the two new fields at a cost of $1.7 million -- with $1.1 million of that amount coming from the final funding in a township open space, as well as a sale of other tracts of open space land to Somerset County -- was sold to voters as being "taxpayer neutral," Township Committeewoman Carolyn Gaziano said.

Sign Up for E-News

Other Township Committee members supported that view at Tuesday's meeting. However, Township Committeeman Thomas Russo persuaded other members of the committee to add a clause to the fee resolution specifying that all teams sponsored by the Bernards Township Board of Education would be in the category that charges the least amount.

Township officials said they had received communications from School Superintendent Nick Markarian and also Rita Zarabara, athletic director at the William Annin Middle School, reminding the Township Committee that school teams are now exempt from paying a fee to play on township-owned athletic fields, in exchange for township recreation programs being able to use the school district's buildings and athletic facilities.

Mayor John Malay said at Tuesday's meeting that there is a certain amount that officials want to raise in fees to both repay the $1.1 million to the open space fund, and to save up to replace the turf fields when necessary. "If we start to grant exceptions...someone else will have to make up the rest."

School teams and athletic groups will be placed in "category A," along with organizations or groups that are non-commercial and include participation by at least 75 percent township residents, according to the fee schedule approved on Tuesday. 

Upon the recommendation of Township Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Gander, the category A players would be charged $55 per hour.

Category B users, at $80 per hour, would include organizations with fewer than 75 percent of township residents on the roster, and non-residents seeking to rent the field for non-commercial use.

For profit and commercial organizations would be charged $110 per hour, in category C, according to the resolution approved unanimously by the Township Committee.

Malay said the fee could be subject to revision next year if the township determines that more money than estimated is being brought in by fees.

'Handshake agreement' with Board of Education

The township has for years had a "handshake agreement" in which the township's adult gym and ant hockey programs for children can use the school's gym facilities for free, Township Administrator Bruce McArthur pointed out to the Township Committee.

In return, McArthur said the township's biggest contribution is to clear snow and ice from school property, as well as letting school vehicles use gas from township pumps, where gas has been purchased as part of a cooperative, as well as providing other assistance.

Township officials said that school teams and other local civic groups would still have the option to play on municipal grass fields all around town for no cost.

"We will most likely be playing on grass," Willian Annin School athletic director Rita Zarabara said after Tuesday's vote on the resolution. 

"As school teams, we were hoping to use the turf fields," Zarabara said after the Township Committee vote. Zarabara was among those who had attended last year's meetings to show support for the artificial fields.

The two fields at Mountain Park, off Mountain Road and Martinsville Road, are due to open on Labor Day, Gander said.

The Bernards Township Committee gave final approval late last year to earmark $1.1 million in open space funds to pay for two synthetic turf fields at Mountain Park in Basking Ridge, with a goal of installing both during the next year.

The plan was then to have the two multipurpose field at the municipal park open for the entire fall season in 2015, said then-Mayor Carpenter. Members of the Township Committee unanimously voted 5-0 to approve the proposal, which was placed on the November general election ballot, and was favored by local voters, 3,113 to 3,060.

The proposal was made last year by the township recreation department, as well as a number of parents, who said that the township's grass athletic fields are often closed because of wet conditions.

The municipal open space tax fund, part of local property tax bills, is set to expire at the end of 2017. Officials said the $1.1 million due to be left at that time wouldn't be enough to make a significant purchase of open space land.

Instead, as per state law, the municipality asked voters if that amount could be spent on an "active recreation" project of building the two turf fields.

The total cost of the two fields would be an estimated $1.7 million, Terri Johnson, township chief financial officer, said last summer. 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Basking Ridge

Somerset County Preparing for Construction of Finderne Avenue Bridge, Beginning Feb. 20

February 19, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Finderne Avenue bridge, between Union Avenue and Foothill Road, will be under construction from Feb. 20 for about nine months, according to a release from Somerset County.

The bridge will be constructed in three separate stages, with one lane northbound and one lane southbound being maintained, aside from intermittent single-day closures as required. In addition, ...

‘Reefer Madness’ Comes to Chatham Borough Council; Cannabis Advocates Make Pitch for Chatham Marijuana Shop

February 14, 2018

CHATHAM, NJ - A group of pro-cannabis activists came to the Borough of Chatham Council meeting on Monday night and used the public commentary portion of the meeting to ask the council to support a marijuana dispensary in town.

The advocates, who say they have attended more than 80 town meetings to inform about the benefits of medical cannabis, mentioned the 1936 movie "Reefer ...

Guest Column: The Great "Wait" of the College Process

February 16, 2018

For all the high school seniors and their parents, we are in the stressful "waiting period".  We've just finished or are finishing applications to all the schools we might possibly want to attend next year and now sit and wait our fate after the $60-$80 non-refundable application fees to at least 8-13 schools and staring at some pretty ridiculous tuition fees.

Early ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, February 20

Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: Volunteer Art Show!

Arts & Entertainment Green

Tue, February 20, 9:00 AM

The Center for Contemporary Art , Bedminster,

Dan Bischoff: Critic As Artist

Arts & Entertainment

Tue, February 20, 9:00 AM

The Center for Contemporary Art, Bedminster

Keepers of the Chroma: An Exhibition Regarding ...

Arts & Entertainment

Franklin: Sister2Sister Seeks Volunteers for 5K Run; Breast Cancer Health Summit and Screenings March 24

February 20, 2018

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ – Sister2Sister, a non-profit organization that supports minority and underserved breast cancer survivors, is getting an early start on planning its 5K Breast Cancer Run & Walk For Life with an organizational meeting Thursday, Feb. 22.

Those interested are invited to the organization’s headquarters at 1201 Hamilton St., Somerset for the 7 p.m.

AtlantiCast

AtlantiCast: Episode 12

On this week’s episode of AtlantiCast, decade of excellence makes headlines, as Atlantic Health’s place on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For List leads off the newest episode of AtlantiCast. Also on this week’s show, check out the newest “hybrid” operating room at Morristown Medical Center and find out how Atlantic Health is helping local ...

AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M7euCp86-c

AtlantiCast Episode 011

Breaking Atlantic Health System news on this week’s AtlantiCast! Plus, find out why Morristown Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation when it comes to recovering from joint surgery, see the newest center for fighting brain cancer and an Atlantic Health System red-carpet premiere!