SPARTA, NJ – The Sparta Township Council voted unanimously to fund a new artificial turf field at Station Park at their meeting on Tuesday, Aug 10. 

“There will be no tax impact,” according to Sparta Township CFO Grant Rome.  The project will be funded by a combination of Open Space funding and “borrowing against our surplus in the next years’ Open Space budget.”  It can be considered an inter-fund loan according to Rome.  He explained we could borrow if we had to.

Ordinance 16-15 calls for appropriating $775,000 and authorizing the issuance of $475,000 bond or note.

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“This allows for minimal impact to the tax payers,” said Mayor Christine Quinn in an interview after the meeting.   Quinn explained the field “will be for field hockey, lacrosse, football and soccer” and that it “already has lights so that does not add to the cost.” 

Field 3 at Station Park will get the turf treatment using new technology that allows lines to be painted on temporarily for each season, according to Quinn, rather than having permanent lines for multiple sports on the field at all times. 

Explaining they had “discussed many scenarios, many different places” to put the turf field, Quinn said, they “did not always agree” in the placement.   

“We have put thousands of professional hours into assessing the needs,” said Councilwoman Molly Whilesmith.

Having been introduced at the previous township council meeting, the ordinance surprised some who attended the meeting on Tuesday. While everyone who spoke said that they were supportive of the project, there was a little contention about the council’s transparency.

Saying they came right from a soccer board meeting, Jason Kellenberger, listed as the vice president of the Sparta Soccer Club, addressed the council.  Asking “why there was no communication” with sports organizations Kellenberger said, “There are questions, because the sports organizations were not consulted on a formal basis.” 

Kellengerger also said they are “thrilled Sparta will be getting a turf field in town, especially since most other towns have turf.” After the meeting Kellenberger said they “were hoping to have communication because we have many resources that could have potentially helped to fund a bigger project.”

“This has been discussed for years,” said Councilman Josh Hertzberg.  Hertzberg said he had “spoken with football and lacrosse and they supported it.”

Kelly McEvoy also addressed the council members as new Sparta Board of Education liaison. “Many were surprised to see it moving forward without discussion with the school district; something that impact so many students.”  She said she had spoken with Sparta Superintendent Dennis Tobin about this and he confirmed he had not spoken with anyone from the township about the proposed project.

There is a history of reciprocal use of fields between the township and the school district, Quinn acknowledged after the meeting. Sparta recreation sports use nearly all of the school district’s athletic facilities and some high school sports use Station Park fields, including Field 3.

McEvoy also spoke “personally” saying she was “a little disappointed and surprised that the district was not included in the project since it is so large in scope and expense.”

“It’s not a coliseum like the board of education was proposing with snack shacks and everything,” said Quinn. 

“It may be expanded in the future,” Sparta Township Manager Bill Close said.

“This is on township property, intended for recreation,” said Quinn.     

“We’re starting an ad hoc [athletic facilities] committee and we would have hoped to work on this together,” said McEvoy.

“We heard about the ad hoc committee six months ago,” said Hertrzberg, “but never heard from them.”  He said the council wanted to get the project done and not get “bogged down like bureaucracies typically do.”  Hertzberg added, “Thanks to the manager [Bill Close] we were able to get this done quickly.”

“This has been worked on for years,” said Councilman Jerry Murphy. “Maybe there wasn’t communications now, but years ago there was communications.”

When Quinn explained McEvoy’s chief concern appeared to be about the lack of communication, Murphy said, “Well, whose fault is that?”

Quinn asked the manager to “look at ways to increase communication.”

Councilman Gil Gibbs also asked the manager to “reach out to Tobin regarding the ad hoc committee.”

Sarah Franks, Director of Public Relations for Sparta Soccer said, “We are very excited about the field.”