WOOD-RIDGE, NJ - Emotions over the conditions at Pomponio Field in Moonachie and the treatment of the Wood-Ridge soccer programs dominated Tuesday evening's Borough of Wood-Ridge Council meeting.
Several parents were in attendance at the meeting to raise complaints about the conditions of the field and how they feel the town’s soccer teams are not getting a fair shake when it comes it allocation of playing fields and money.
Wood-Ridge leases the space that house Pomponio Field for $1 per year from the Port Authority, and per the council there are restrictions on what the Borough is allowed to do at the field.
“I have been to other high schools, and I can say, that Pomponio is on par with other high school soccer programs are playing at,” stated Councilman Ezio Altamauro, who is a volunteer coach on the Wood-Ridge High School girls' program.
Parents, however, believe that the playing conditions are unsafe, pointing to large dirt patches and divots on the field as having the potential to cause injury. They also pointed out that the field needs to be leveled off, as there are spots where the field is uneven, leading to a risk of injury.
Borough Administrator Chris Eilert tried to explain to the parents that the borough does maintenance work on the field at the end of the season, and again in the spring, but once the warm weather comes around, any work they do will not fix the problems with the grass.
The borough is also prohibited from hydro-seeding by Port Authority, which has concerns about geese relative the field’s proximity to Teterboro Airport. There is also no running water at the field, and the borough is not allowed to install sprinklers.
“I do not know how to make grass grow without water, “ Eilert stated.
Councilman Altamauro stressed that parents had to remember the strides that the program, and facilities, have taken in the past six years since the high school program was established after the co-op program with Hasbrouck Heights.
Pomponio would not be a problem, some parents believed, if the town was a little more sharing with the high school’s astroturf field. Only three of the nine home games that the boys' program has this season are scheduled to be played on the turf field. Parents felt that the team was also being placed at a disadvantage when playing teams that have astroturf fields, since Wood-Ridge never gets to practice on astro-turf. That was something, however, that Mayor Sarlo was not willing to discuss.
“Scheduling issues are something that has to be taken up with the Board of Education,” Sarlo stated.
Another grievance aired was the practice of bussing athletes to games and practices, but not back to school, leaving them to their own device to get home.
The Mayor and Council seemed surprised by the statement, but quickly noted, that transportation issues regarding student-athletes was a Board of Education issue, and that the Council would not be making any comment on it. The Mayor encouraged the parents to bring their concerns that the council could not address to the Board of Education meeting on Monday.
The discussion eventually swung to the recreation fields at Wesmont Station that was part of the original plans.
The Mayor explained that the project has undergone several changes, but that the Mayor and Council are working with the developers at Wesmont Station as well as some of the other commercial properties to come up with a solution that would give the borough new recreation fields. However, that solution is not going to be immediate, and would not solve the current issues.
The Mayor assured the audience that the Council was working on these issues, and for some of the solutions, they would have to look at the long-term.