SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Scotch Plains resident Eric Fellen called into the Scotch Plains Township Council meeting on October 20 to question the $65,000 price tag for protective netting upgrades at Scotch Hills Country Club. Fellen commended the town for its efforts to improve things in the community and then asked about the cost for the netting.

"Sixty-five thousand dollars for a net at a golf course -- really? Why does $65,000 have to be spent on a net? Obviously, the bidding process isn't being put into play as it should," Fellen said. "It shouldn't cost that much. There needs to be transparency on these bids and on the process. This is why our taxes are really high."

Township Manager Al Mirabella responded that the grant needs to be approved and matched by the town before any money is spent. He also explained that the $65,000 grant covers more than just the golf netting.

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"Not all of the money is for netting, some will be used to update the miniature golf course," said Mirabella. "No money has been spent yet, and the Recreation Commission is still working through the grant process."

"We will consult with the Recreation Commission to see where this stands and how they are moving forward based on quotes they received,” added Mayor Al Smith.

Parks & Recreation Director DJ Salvante says that increased usage -- and errant golf balls -- have led to the deterioration of the netting and smashed windows at the historic Shady Rest Clubhouse, a building that dates back to pre-Revolutionary times. 

"The golf course usage has been through the roof since COVID began," Salvante told TAPintoSPF. "In fact, the course has completed more rounds in August than in all of 2019, even after being closed for 50 days."

When asked how many golf balls had hit the building, Slavante responded: "enough that we have to fix broken glass."  He further explained that the cost for fixing the netting, includes replacing the poles and support structure for them.

"The whole idea was to make sure golf balls don't hit the Shady Rest building. It's a historic building," said Salvante, who explained that the netting is over 40 feet tall and 100 feet long. "It takes a beating with all the use of the course."

Salvante echoed Mirabella's comments about the improvements to the miniature golf area.

"It was designed a certain way and needs to be upgraded in order to keep playing the course, which has a 19th hole ball return featuring a miniature version of the historic Shady Rest building," said Salvante. "Kids can and should have birthday parties there."

Salvante said some confusion arose regarding the cost because the press release issued by Union County did not include the mini golf renovations nor the enhanced measures to protect the building in the list of projects that would be funded.

"The Recreation Commission felt that the grant should not be used for just the netting. The mini golf course is part of it as well as any further remedies that will help prevent damage to the Clubhouse," he said.

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