BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A petition is going around to get the Somerset County Park Commission to turn the lights on at the Green Knoll Tennis Courts – but officials say money is the problem.

Bridgewater resident Boris Velednitsky has started a petition that he has forwarded to the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders asking for the lights to be turned on at the Green Knoll Tennis Center, in Bridgewater, so residents can play at night.

“As the days grow shorter, the lights are essential to continue access to this essential activity,” he said in his letter to the freeholders.

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Velednitsky said he has contacted the park commission, and has been told they are trying to save money by not turning the lights on.

“This is especially disheartening considering that the lights have been installed at the considerate expense to the county taxpayers not so long ago, and now this investment is wasted when it is needed most,” he said in the letter. “The neighboring Bridgewater Township and Branchburg Township courts have lights on. There is no reason to keep the lights off at our county courts.”

The petition ( https://www.change.org/p/somerset-county-freeholders-turn-on-lights-at-somerset-county-green-knoll-tennis-center_) had 34 signatures as of Wednesday.

Geoffrey Soriano, director of the park commission, said the tennis courts opened May 23, and there is no staff there and no cost to patrons for court time. Patrons can play from sun up until sun down, but the Green Knoll courts are reserved for local high school team practice and play from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, as they have been for 15 years, he said.

Soriano said he is aware of the petition, although it is directed to the freeholder board specifically.

Unfortunately, Soriano said, budgetary issues are putting a damper on some of the things the park commission would like to do.

This year, Soriano said, the park commission’s operating budget was set at $18,650,145, down $1,696,065 from the 2019 budget of $20,346,210.

“On top of that, the commission has recently identified an additional $680,926 that will be canceled from this year’s budget in an effort to balance same,” he said. “Long story short, the unpredictability of the pandemic and the commission’s efforts to get through 2020 financially and without any layoffs or furloughs has wreaked havoc on its ability to generate revenue.”

Utility costs like electricity for athletic facility lighting are just one the many parts of the saved and canceled expense budget, Soriano said.

“Those monies are out of the budget for 2020, and there is no looking back,” he said.