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Memorial Park Plans Move Ahead

West Caldwell Council promises to address residents' concerns over field lights; encourages residents to promote field use with school district.

Updated at 7:46 a.m. Thursday, July 19.

The West Caldwell Council unanimously passed a $1.35 million bond ordinance Tuesday to move ahead with improvements to , which include installing new lights at the baseball fields. 

Residents in the surrounding neighborhood expressed reservations about the lights, as well as increased traffic, problems with maintaining the established 9:30 p.m. curfew, and the cost of the project.

Several council members, including Recreation Committee Chairperson Dominic Aiello, said the concerns of residents in the surrounding neighborhood, especially with the installation of lights, will be taken into consideration.

"We need the money from the ordinance to start the design, but we need to discuss the lighting plans with residents," Councilman Richard Otterbein said before casting his vote.

The original bond ordinance was for $1.5 million, but was amended to $1.35 million by removing a plan for new lights at . 

Fairmount Road resident Bob O'Donnell, in addition to discussing his concerns about the lights, submitted a letter to the council from his neighbor, Congregation Agudath Rabbi Alan Silverstein, whose home is adjacent to the basketball courts at . 

While Silverstein did not object to new playground equipment, he stated he opposed the installation of a regulation basketball court and the overall cost. "In a time of economic uncertainty, it is not fiscally prudent," Silverstein stated in his letter.

Silverstein suggested as an alternative installing seven-foot-high hoops for older siblings to use while young children were on the playground. He also noted the installation of lights would be "more appropriate" at , where fields are in a "larger, open area" with more parking availability.

In addition to O'Donnell, several other Fairmount Road voiced their concerns.

"I live across the street. I do not want the field lights lighting up my house," said Pat Maraviglia.

Another resident, Mitch Payne asked how the town would be able to enforce the 9:30 p.m. curfew in the park section when ball games could possibly end at 10 p.m. 

Use of Bonnel Field and Other BOE Fields

Tempesta agreed with residents that the proper place for the installation of lights would be at the ball fields at James Caldwell High School. 

However, Tempesta said the Caldwell-West Caldwell Board of Education (BOE) "owns and jurisdicts" the fields. "It is very frustrating. We would like to work with them," Tempesta said.

After a BOE bond referendum to install a turf at Bonnel Field was voted down several years ago, Tempesta said the Board has not revisited improvements to the fields. 

"They have control over about 18 fields," Aiello said. The town has offered to work with them on improvements and to include them in their agreement for grass-cutting services but has been turned down.

While municipalities in Essex County are eligible to receive grant money for open space, funds are not available for school districts. In order to receive a grant in Nutley, Tempesta said their BOE sold the high school football field to the town for one dollar, making the township eligible for a million dollars of grant money for a turf field.

"We wanted to do this with our Board but were turned down," Tempesta said. 

During closed session, the council was going to review the township’s contract with the BOE.

"We cannot make any investments. The only maintenance we are allowed to do is line the fields for games," Tempesta said.

The mayor encouraged residents to attend school board meetings to discuss more shared use of fields between the town and the district. With 58% of West Caldwell residents' total tax bill allocated to Caldwell-West Caldwell Schools, Tempesta said they are "one community."

"Collectively we have to go to the BOE. There are some golden opportunities for sharing and improving fields," he added.

However, when Mitch Payne asked the council if the ordinance could be tabled until residents spoke to the board. Aiello said in his opinion the time to make improvements to Memorial Park is now. 

"I strongly believe this is the right time for investment," Aiello said. With interest rates at an all-time low and with more children involved in both recreation sports programs, as well as club sports, he said, the town is "hard pressed" for field usage.

Aiello also noted with improvements to the completed this past year at Memorial Park, adding lights would allow for additional use of the renovated fields.

Financial Opportunities

As Aiello explained, with interest rates hovering below one percent, the council does believe the opportunity for investment is now. 

Council President Hladik agreed with this assessment.

"We had a in our municipal budget this year. This included capital funds for this project," Hladik said. "We are taking on projects for improvements to our roads, public safety and water. Recreation is also a vital part of any community," he added.

Parking and Lights

When asked by O'Donnell if the town had conducted a study on the impact of traffic, Tempesta responded since the fields were already being used, the addition of lights would allow for only one extra time slot for games. 

"The only traffic change would be the transition as cars enter and exit," Tempesta said.

As for the lights, Tempesta said residents would be apprised of bid specifications before decisions were made.

The ordinance also included funds for the reinstallation of lights at the tennis courts. The original lights were removed since they had become structurally unsound. 

While funds have been allocated for new lights, Tempesta and several council members said demand for court time, especially at night, has decreased over the years, and they might not install lights in this portion of the park.

When O'Donnell noted there is a basketball court nearby at the  Aiello said he is not "completely sold on a basketball court."

Instead, Aiello envisions that area of the park to be a place where seniors can congregate and play horseshoes, bocce, checkers and chess as well as picnic. 

"I would like to add more green to that area," Aiello said.

Other Improvements

In addition to the installation of lights at the baseball fields and the tennis courts, new playground equipment and a regulation basketball court, the $1.35 million bond ordinance included the following other improvements:

  • Improvements to the field house to be used for indoor activities for seniors
  • Installation of barbecue area, horseshoe pit and bocce court
  • Installation of bleachers, dugouts, scoreboards and a batting cage at Memorial Park
  • Baseball dugouts, batting cages and drainage improvements at
  • Bleachers at EVS (Essex Valley School)

The ordinance had originally included $150,000 in funds for the installation of lights at Francisco Park. However, Aiello said the council would not consider lights at Francisco until they were first installed at Memorial Park.

Aiello said he hopes the renovations can be completed for the start of next spring's baseball season.

Correction: The bond ordinance that was passed Tuesday was for $1.35 million, not $1.5 milion.

Frank M. July 19, 2012 at 11:34 AM
I'm confused??? So the Capital Funds were included in the budget for this project in our 2012 municpal budgets zero percent increase??? Then why would we have to take out a loan for the 1.5 MILLION DOLLARS? Well said Mr.Silverstein in these uncertain economic times it is NOT fiscally prudent. Even at the current low interest rates if you add what West Caldwell already owes in municipal bond loans I worry who's going to pay for all of this? Call me old fashioned but I'm of the mindset if you have $5.00 you dont spend $6.00....Just common sense As Aiello explained, with interest rates hovering below one percent, the council does believe the opportunity for investment is now. Council President Hladik agreed with this assessment. "We had a zero percent increase in our municipal budget this year. This included capital funds for this project," Hladik said. "We are taking on projects for improvements to our roads, public safety and water. Recreation is also a vital part of any community," he added.
Frank M. July 19, 2012 at 11:56 AM
A bond ordinance is a regulation which allows an agency to issue bonds for the purpose of raising money. Most people think of bond ordinances in terms of measures which are brought before the public on the ballot, allowing members of a community to vote on municipal bonds which raise money for things like transportation, schools, and other civic improvements. In this case, a bond ordinance may also be called a bond resolution. However, a local government can also pass a bond ordinance directly. Before going into the specifics of how bond resolutions work, it may help to understand precisely what a bond is. A bond is essentially a loan which is offered in the form of a security to make it more appealing for lenders to provide money. The issuing agency promises to pay interest on the bonds it issues, and to pay back the bond at a set point in the future. Purchasers loan the issuing agency money with the understanding that they will receive a profit on their loan in the long term. Some people like to invest in government bonds because they stay stable and they are backed by government agencies, which makes them safe investments, although they do not always yield spectacular interest rates.
victor pallante July 19, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Great Job council members this should have been done years ago this is great for the town and kids keep up the good work !!!!!!
A West Caldwell Resident July 19, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I'm glad we are doing some improvements to our town. Now, we just need lights for our High School football field. Also, what I don’t understand is when you buy a home by a park, don’t these people realize the park is for everyone’s use and just not the neighboring people on that street. You have to expect noise and traffic it’s a public park. If you want a quiet neighborhood you buy a home on a cul-de-sac.
Kean09 July 19, 2012 at 04:40 PM
This is a great Idea!!!! All it does is make the town more attractive to new buyers.. Your home value will go up and be much more desirable to families with young kids.. I never understood the "light up my house" statement.. The Sun lights up your house all day.. Do these people go to bed with the birds? The Games will be over by 10:00 . I agree with With A West Caldwell Resident.. Why buy the house if you are going to be upset when people want to use the park?
WestCaldwell guy July 19, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Nice idea, but lose the ball courts....Its been my experience that when ball courts become too nice...they attract pick-up games with ball players from other parts of the county.
WestCaldwell guy July 19, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Hey Patch - any updates on the swimmie/vest situation at Cedar St pool? of will the Town council wait until December to decide?
Kevin B July 19, 2012 at 07:17 PM
When u buy a house on a main road, dont complain about traffic. When you buy near a park, dont complain about park like activity. This park will be a center piece for our recreation so all teams, including BLUE DEVIL baseball teams can have more time to play. And frank, when i have $5 but I need $6, i do what you and every other american does, and that is borrow. and below 1% interest rate???? Where can i sign up for that.
Justthefacts July 19, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Wow Frank it’s not that hard to figure out how this works. In the beginning of the year each department submits a budget for operating expenses and for capital improvements for the year the council then reviews the budget for each department. After that is complete they come up with a town wide budget for the year. This year after that was complete the town had a ZERO PERCENT tax increase with these expenses included they still need to bond the money which is already included in the budget. Maybe you should stop trying to smear the fact to benefit your campaign for council
Teresa Akersten (Editor) July 20, 2012 at 12:13 PM
See update on flotation devices ban here... http://caldwells.patch.com/articles/flotation-devices-banned-from-town-pools
Iwonder July 20, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Wow "councilman just the facts" are you saying the ZERO PERCENT budget had a loan figured in? So after this year we will be free and clear of the 1.3 million dollar loan? FYI Frank I got your question and how "just the facts" avoided your question to smear you and keep himself or Pals in office
Justthefacts July 23, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Iwonder just like I said Frank is on here smearing the facts all the time I am not nor have I ever been on the West Caldwell council. Like I said when they planned the budget for this year the payments of a bond were figured in just like they are when they buy a police car, fire truck, dpw equipment or anything else that is needed. Oh and by the way isn’t there a couple of articles missing from the patch because Frank made extremely inappropriate comments on them that the patch removed the entire article to avoid problems.
Teresa Akersten (Editor) July 23, 2012 at 01:51 PM
@Justthefacts There haven't been any articles removed from Patch. Maybe you are thinking of the blogs that have been submitted by the candidates which are not listed under News. Please note that comments have been closed on political blogs. Instead of commenting on the blogs we welcome anyone to start their own blog on Patch to talk about local issues as we lead up to the election. You can sign up here: http://caldwells.patch.com/blog/apply
Frank M. July 23, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Anonymous "JUSTTHEFACTS" All I did was pose a question about the 1.3 million dollar loan. I am not for higher taxes, nor do I feel it is fiscally the right decision in our current economy. I have NEVER smeared or posted inappropriate comments. It is my right as a TAX-PAYER to question. I would hope we could agree to disagree BUT I will NOT apologize if my opinion differs from yours or that of our current council or my right to defend my positions and beliefs. In fact I have great respect and certainly no ill feelings toward them. This is what makes America the greatest country to live in.

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