John Fry Elected to Bernards School Board; Voters Approve Turf Fields Plan

Credits: By Linda Sadlouskos

BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - Republicans Thomas Russo, Jr. and John Carpenter, a newly appointed and a longtime member of the all-GOP Bernards Township Committee, easily won re-election on Nov. 4, with township voters more narrowly also approving a plan to use the final $1.1 million of local open space funds to install two synthetic turf fields at Mountain Park off Martinsville Road.

Russo, received an unofficial 5,117 votes, and longtime Township Committeeman John Carpenter, who is serving as this year's mayor, unofficially received 5,210 votes. Democrat David Ferdinand, who has attempted to break the Republican hold on the Township Committee in past elections, received 2,554 votes in the unofficial vote count posted Tuesday night on the Bernards Township web site.

In a three-way race for the full three-year terms on the Bernards Township Board of Education, the top vote-getter was a newcomer, John Fry, who received 3,157 votes. 

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School Board incumbents Priti Shah and Linda Wooldridge were reelected with 2,749 and 2,746 votes respectively. Candidate Michael Storms received 2,427 votes, falling short of the number of votes needed to win a full-term on the Board of Education for the township's kindergarten-12 school district.

The two school board members who are serving partial terms, Karen Gray and Karen Richman, were unopposed in winning re-election to the remaining time on their terms, with with 4,601 and 4,449 votes apiece. Gray will serve a two-year unexpired term, and Richman, for one year.

Results aren't official until any votes cast directly with the Somerset County Clerk are added in, and the final numbers are certified by Somerset County.

Township Officials previously said that the two multi-purpose turf fields at Mountain Park would be built in 2015 if Tuesday's ballot question on use of the open space funds was approved.

Approval of the reallocation of $1.1 million of open space funds for turf field construction will not raise local taxes, or extend the life of the four-cent open space tax, officials vowed before the election.

The question for Tuesday's ballot was prepared by township officials last summer. The total cost of the two fields would be an estimated $1.7 million, said Terri Johnson, township chief financial officer.

The open space tax of 4 cents per $100 per assessed property value will "sunset," or end on Dec. 31, 2017, leaving about $1.1 million, she said.

Over a period of 20 years, fees charged to users of the field would be expected to repay for the construction costs, maintenance and a replacement of the turf surface of the fields, according to township officials, as well as the explanatory statement to be listed on the ballot. Nonresidents would be charged more.

Last summer, when the Township Committee voted to put the question on the ballot, officials said the remainder of the cost would be made up from the sale of parcels of township open space land to be joined with Somerset County's open space holdings.

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