Council Delays Fields Project Decision Again

Township council approves some field improvements, but will wait a little longer to commit on the full package.

After an exhaustive discussion Monday night, township council took action on two components of the athletic field improvements project, but once again held off on moving forward with the biggest chunks of the long-gestating project.

Council adopted—on first reading—an ordinance to bond $422,000 to pay for improvements to , and also came to a consensus on replacing the lights at and parks.

The township is hoping to offset part of the $890,000 combined price tag for those projects by applying for a $250,000 recreation grant from the county, as well as commitments—in the form of annual contributions and sponsorships—from the Moorestown Youth Baseball Federation (MYBF), which so far come to roughly $300,000.

Members of council initially debated applying the grant money (if awarded) toward improving the track at after a pitch from recreation director Theresa Miller, but Councilwoman Stacey Jordan and Councilman Chris Chiacchio argued the lights at Maple Dawson and Jeff Young, as well as the lights at Pryor Park, .

“This is not a want; this is a need,” said Jordan. “We’re sitting here struggling with how we’re going to pay for these other projects, and now we’re going to add another one (Memorial Field) to the mix.”

Council ultimately agreed to apply for the grant and use it toward the lighting improvements at Dawson, Young and Pryor, but when it came time to discuss the ($1.3 million—new turf field, parking improvements) and South ($455,000—fencing and irrigation) projects, a resolution was not as easily reached.

After council members lauded the —which to date come to approximately $1.175 million of the $2.8 million total cost, according to township financial officer Tom Merchel—Mayor John Button reminded council the only amount they’d have to pay toward the projects this year is a down payment, therefore they didn’t have to settle on a full funding strategy right away.

“We won’t be paying debt (in the 2012 budget) on anything we borrow this year,” said township manager Scott Carew.

Council members Jordan and Chiacchio have refused to approve a funding plan for the Wesley Bishop fields that would dip into the Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund (also known as the Open Space Trust Fund), . The other members of council—Button, Deputy Mayor Greg Gallo and Councilman Mike Testa—have been more liberal in their willingness to use some money from the trust fund. 

“There’s a significant question in the public’s mind about whether using the trust fund for turf fields is proper,” said Chiacchio, who praised the sports clubs for their contributions, but questioned the need for the projects.

Chiacchio noted the $250,000 county recreation grant could not be applied to the Wesley Bishop fields because the county considers turf a "luxury item."

"These are worthy projects, but more hard commitments for real dollars need to obtained in order for me to support these projects," he wrote in an email to Moorestown Patch. 

Based on Merchel’s projections, the combined cost for all the field projects—both Wesley Bishops, Pryor, Jeff Young and Maple Dawson—spread out over a 15-year bond would come to roughly $120,000 annually (not including contributions and sponsorships from the clubs). If not a single dollar was used from the trust fund, that would cost taxpayers between $13-$14 more per year over the life of the bond.

The township is aided by the fact that its debt service drops $650,000 in 2014 and then again by $1.1 million in 2019, according to Carew.

Gallo said he was in favor of moving forward on the Wesley Bishop projects, but Jordan and Chiacchio were less gung-ho.

Jordan was concerned about the timing of the projects after Carew noted the workload of at least one of the low bidders could delay the start of the project. If work doesn’t get underway until mid-summer or the end of summer, she worried, it could lead to the fields being shut down in the fall, when they’re more heavily used.  

Council directed Carew to find out —and also how long the township could delay the project once the contracts are awarded, in order to avoid shutting down any of the fields. 

frEd May 01, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Whatever happened to those wanting to get the town hall project done first? Nice roof on the swedes house. I
No New Taxes 2012 May 01, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Button, Deputy Mayor Greg Gallo, and Councilman Mike Testa are the blame for this entire problem. Failing leadership, squandering millions on the town hall fiasco, no management and accountability for the Rec. Department and no rapport with the townspeople, viola - disaster. I am so happy these folks are leaving. Moorestown can't afford failed leadership anymore.
Our Town May 01, 2012 at 01:29 PM
"Town Mahal" Ha, classic! A more apt, descriptive, and appropriate moniker there simply cannot be. Well done 'Playa, well done!
George Foreman May 01, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Down goes Fraiser!! If townhall costs 27000000 and has 25 employes, thats 1000000+ cost each. colossal waste of tax money and will force more seniors to sell there home
frEd May 01, 2012 at 02:08 PM
I guess wb fields will go on and on and on, perhaps next year? How many flags will we need ref?
Tax Playa May 01, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Thank you Our Town! I thought it was pretty good myself. I think people are finally realizing that it is a colossal waste of Money. Like George Foreman Below. What young family cares at all about town hall? They'd rather have better recreational facilities for their children.
HomeBrew May 01, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Clarifications: Estimated price tag of field projects, including financing costs, is $4M, not the $2.8M cited in above article. http://moorestown.patch.com/articles/moorestown-moves-ahead-with-athletic-field-improvements Also, Pryor lights are not replacements of unsafe lights: they're new lights to illuminate a baseball field. (One Pryor field already is lit.) http://moorestown.patch.com/articles/field-improvement-bids-670k-cheaper-than-estimates
KJL May 01, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Hey HomeBrew, keep your abacus out and run some more numbers for us, I will help you where I can: 1. What is the total price tag for Town Hall (hint - $27M!) 2. What is the amount and percentage of private contributions to lighting at MD and JY? (hint - $0 / 0%) 3. What is the amount of the grant as a percentage of lighting construction costs? (hint - 42%) 4. What is the amount of the Lacrosse contribution as a percentage of the WB North construction costs? (hint – 60%) 5. What is the “amount left on the table” if the grant were not received? (hint - $250k) 6. What is the amount left on the table is the Lacrosse contribution is refused AGAIN? (hint - $800k) 7. What is the amount of the Open Space Fund to be used for lighting if the grant is not received, including interest since that is a fetish of yours? (hint - $800k) Your input is greatly appreciated by those of us less worldly in the ways of municipal politics.
HomeBrew May 01, 2012 at 03:42 PM
KJL: Yeah. Why should township pay for new Pryor lights? Let them be paid for w/ "private fundraising."
KJL May 01, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Come on Brew, you were at the meeting, you heard the facts, baseball is already at $300k and the amount will only go up. My favorite councilman even acknowledged as much and even speculated that baseball and its private contrubutions may even be MORE than the cost of the Pryor work.
Tax Playa May 01, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Homey, If 2.8 is $4million is that before or after grants, contributions, etc and if so how much is town hall at $15 million plus interest less NO MONEY costing the taxpayers. Are the employees contributing to town hall? How about we outsouce REC and use the savings to pay for fields
HomeBrew May 01, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Estimated price tag on fields project, including financing, is about $4M. http://moorestown.patch.com/articles/moorestown-moves-ahead-with-athletic-field-improvements
Ed Nice May 01, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Hey HB does that mean the township shouldnt pay for town hall?? How about next time your street needs repairs, do I have to pay for it?? Which project are you sayin is ok for taxes to pay for and which arent?? Maybe those taxpayers who want fields and lights and get a rebate from town hall and those who want town hall can get a rebate from fields. Thats fair since town hall requires new taxes (NNT wont like this LOL) and fields/lights do not.
KJL May 01, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Be careful Ed, that's a tough crowd you're dealing with.
Ed Nice May 01, 2012 at 04:06 PM
And how much is the estimated cost of town hall with interest 15 million plus?? How much in new taxes will this require??
frEd May 01, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Ahh, I guess we are not doing all of this at once? So wb next year?
No New Taxes 2012 May 01, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Council members Jordan and Chiacchio are to be congratulated for their stellar leadership positions and bold sense of purpose. Keep our taxes down. Do not invest public taxpayer money in public ventures which have no accountability, no proven record of maintaining themselves, nor give public money to causes which will raise our taxes. Period!
Tax Playa May 01, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Stellar leadership? For what ? Playing Politics? Let's do the following: 1. Eliminate the Rec department and all employees (Save Salaries and pension) 2. Outsource all events to another organization (how about YMCA?) 3. Give all leagues to the clubs that seceded already and are run by volunteers. 4. Form a non profit to manage all fields and recreation in town run by volunteers. Each club pays in and gets field useage.. Save over $350K per year Give 1/2 to takpayers Take the rest and cover the bond debt. How about that NNT? Now.... That would be sound leadership.........
frEd May 01, 2012 at 08:39 PM
YMCA isn't in moorestown, get realistic with your accusations.
Townie May 01, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Hey Playa, While I'm all for saving money and giving it back to the people, there is a fundamental issue of services that your note addresses...or should I say ignores. I don't know anyone in the Rec. department, but I assume they do something. They may be overpaid, they may be lazy, they might be superman or wonder women...I don't know. I'm gonna assume they do something. Who's gonna do that, your outsourcer? Outsourcers provide services that either you don't have or feel you can deliver more efficiently by leveraging their existing knowledge and scale. Club scheduling websites are a good example of renting someone else's intellectual property to make your life easier. Events are labor intensive, and usually end up costing more to deliver. If not up front....give it time. Adding a profit motive to an otherwise basic service drives up costs over time. The Y won't be free. If the leagues are willing to take on more responsibilities, then sign 'em up. Pretty soon they're going to run out of volunteers and have to hire someone to replace the people you fired. Saves tax dollars, harms community and creates a caste system for participation. Not sure that's good. Finally, NFP's have costs to operate. Need money for that and people when the volunteers run out. Like I said, I'm all for saving money, but your "leadership" is about reducing services and creating temporary cost shifts supported primarily by a small volunteer army. Is there a plan B?
frEd May 02, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Plan b with both fields and town hall complex appears like a real one. Have this big plan in parts instead of One big salami! Maybe just keep the library where it is and renovate it. Build a smaller more practible town hall and a police and court next to it where it was before.
Groundskeeper May 02, 2012 at 02:01 AM
As a senior citizen who cannot afford my taxes now I cannot believe anyone would spend 30 million to build town hall when we have houses in foreclosure and kids who cannot get food. Town council should do more to help the less fortunate and not the elite sports clubs.
Tax Playa May 02, 2012 at 05:04 AM
frED, You are right. Brickman isn't in Moorestown either but they cut our BOE lawns. Why can't the YMCA do a better job than the current Rec employees? Just eliminate it and the free market will take over.
Tax Playa May 02, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Townie, From what I understand. The Recreation P & L looks like this: Revenues $100 K Expenses $700 K (not including healthcare pensions, etc) Net cost to town $600 K. Sounds like an easy target for budget reduction when we are talking about a $1 MM tax increase. All I am asking for is to let the free market determine the real cost of recreation in Moorestown. Surely a $100K+ director is not marketwise. How about this question: Why does Cinnaminson, Delran, and Mount Laurel have a recreation director? Why not let a private company do the same thing and share the cost? Seems like an awful lot of overhead that is redundant. Plan B is eliminating recreation in Moorestown. Parents and Volunteers will pick up the slack anyway with volunteer organizations . Ask yourself, what is the most efficient way to run something? Answer- though volunteers. Why? because they want to spend the least amount of time on BS and the most on actually getting something done.That is way government will never be efficient.
Tax Playa May 02, 2012 at 05:16 AM
Gkeeper- Agree, but the township is not responsible for feeding people in this town. That is the responsibility of the individual (but 50 MM people are now on foodstamps so I guess the federal govt is taking that on.) We don't need a town Majal but I have put forth several times the way to fund fields without raising taxes. Just eliminate a department and the funding is there. $27MM is a complete waste of money.
Tom May 02, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Has anyone sought out the witnesses, assuming they exist, to determine if this is true or just another internet fabrication?
Rob Scott (Editor) May 02, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Commenters, I had to delete two comments this morning because they leveled a very serious accusation against a particular member of the community. In order to make those kinds of accusations—as opposed to something more innocuous, such as, "So and so said this"—you need proof, not just hearsay. Otherwise it borders on libel, which is obviously a violation of our terms of service. Please keep this in mind going forward.
East Side Resident May 03, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Lets see No town hall built,no 2012 budget yet, But When is town council going to build the Town Hall? Also how about a Town Budget for 2012? some on council whats to use general funds for K.I.D.S.
Mtown Talker May 05, 2012 at 05:31 PM
And the kicker of it is, a fantasy that mfs will give it away when it bought the little acme for $4Million in 2005. I like your thoughts, but come calling to all of us when that donation ro mtown comes thru. Fix up the parking behind Peter pan, but that other expensive fantasy of a contiguous parking behind Starbucks and companies is at this point, far fetched and is a destraction from the point "our town" is right on, our town complex is what needs full attention to get done.
tEd May 15, 2012 at 02:20 AM
We heard there will be a vote to use open space funds for the athletic fields at the next council meeting? How much are they considering taking out? We heard 50% private contributions? So, will that mean $1.4M to be taken out of the open space etc fund?


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