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Threat of Lawsuit Halts Council Action on Fields Project

Moorestown council members continue the debate over using Open Space Trust Fund money for field improvements after a last-minute lawsuit threat stymies a resolution.

Township council had hoped to resolve the longstanding matter of funding the fields projects Monday night, but was thwarted at the 11th hour by the threat of a lawsuit.

Mayor John Button opened the meeting explaining council had received a letter only an hour or so before threatening an “immediate injunction” against the township if it passed a resolution authorizing the use of the Open Space, Recreation, Farmland and Historic Preservation Trust Fund to pay for field improvements at .

Township attorney Thomas Coleman said the letter was addressed to the township by the Baron & Brennan law firm out of Voorhees, who are representing an “association of Moorestown residents,” none of whom are named in the letter.

“I take the threat seriously,” Coleman told council, going on to say one of his major concerns would be the potential for a second lawsuit from the contractor for the Wesley Bishop project “who doesn’t want to hear he’s not going to be paid” as a result of the first lawsuit.

Coleman suggested council seek a declaratory judgment from Superior Court Judge Ronald Bookbinder () on the legality of using the Trust Fund for the fields so the township can “get an answer once and for all.”

Coleman has repeatedly advised council the use of the Trust Fund for the fields projects is an allowed use.

The council members then debated, somewhat vigorously, their next move. , since Bookbinder probably wouldn’t deliver a judgment until late summer anyway, according to Coleman.

“If this goes into July and August, we’ve clearly lost the season,” Jordan said. “Priority one is town hall. I don’t think we should be wasting our time on this.”

Deputy Mayor Greg Gallo fired back that delaying a decision, once again, would be a disservice to all the people who’ve invested their time in this project.

“To say, ‘Let’s put it off till next spring,’ it’ll never get done,” he said. “We owe it (to everyone) to either do it or move on.”

The back-and-forth continued, with Councilman Mike Testa lamenting that —from sponsorships and other contributions—could be lost if the project doesn’t get done or is delayed.

Jordan dug in, accusing the other council members of acting like “the 5-year-olds I used to take care of … throwing a temper tantrum, telling me we have to do this, hoping I’ll change my mind. I’m not going to change my mind.”

Councilman Chris Chiacchio backed up Jordan, suggesting the ongoing debate “”—a comment that was met up with applause from the audience.

Ultimately, the council members—as always on this matter—agreed to disagree on the merits of using the Trust Fund to pay for the fields.

If the township seeks a declaratory judgment, and if Bookbinder rules in the township’s favor, Coleman said it’s almost certain they’d have to rebid the project anyway.

Button advised Coleman to seek further clarity from Baron & Brennan and their unnamed plaintiffs, though Coleman said he wasn’t sure how much more clarity he’d be able to get.

“Respectfully, the letter is pretty clear,” Coleman said.

Nonetheless, council held off on any further action and tabled a vote. However, Button indicated it’s very likely they’ll hold a special meeting to revisit the matter before the next regular meeting on June 11.

diehardrep May 22, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Ed, Please get real. The residents of just about every town in NJ contribute to their sport programs, both as volunteers, or financially because they understand that sports is not a function of government. Libraries and Town Halls are both a function and responsibility of government. They are supported with taxes out of necessity. How is that a double standard? Where is the ordinance or statute that requires any local government to fund sport programs? Most communities provide the land and basic needs of all recreation activities as a service to its residents, but they are not bound to do so. Every town expects its sports organizations to seek financial donations and volunteer support to round out their needs. It has always been that way. No one in their right mind would refute the efforts, or deny the praise due to those who give to recreation for the sake of our kids. But, don't confuse the necessity of one with the desire to accomplish the other. What do you expect of a responsible government when tough decisions have to be made concerning the need vs the cost of things due to limited resources? And, please don't sell me the crap that using the OS fund doesn't cost anything. Build a ball park in your back yard from your savings account, and tell me it was free.
diehardrep May 22, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Law suits work both ways? What would be the point of filing a counter law suit when the presiding judge will hear arguments from both sides, and then render a decision? I suspect the judge will attempt to rule on the intent of the law when it was first passed by the legislature. If the predominent need was to preserve open space and provide passive recreation, he could rule that installing artificial turf does not fit the intent. It doesn't really matter that Open Space funds were or may have been used for turf in the past if that use was never challenged in court. Has that ever happened?
Referee May 22, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Diehard- for what is understood, the current turf field was bonded, no open space money was used.
No New Taxes 2012 May 22, 2012 at 04:57 PM
I place the blame and responsibility for these problems directly on Mayor Buttons, Mr.Testa and Mr. Gallo. Diehardrep is correct - these private sports teams = elite or not, are demanding Moorestown Taxpayers TO PAY for them having damaged our public fields, for not having maintained them properly, and now they want a REWARD with Moorestown TAX PAYERS paying for expensive, expensive PLASTIC fields to play on, WITHOUT any rear sense of responsibility for maintaining them or paying for there expensive maintenance costs in the 15 years ahead. Legal smegal.... Is this brief commercial " PIE IN BTG's faces?" If private elite or non-elite clubs want to play on our public land, simply pay for it, like everyone else. PAY TO PLAY. STOP LOOKING FOR A SPECIAL HANDOUT from THE MOORESTOWN TAXPAYERS.
Ed Nice May 22, 2012 at 05:38 PM
NNT you do know that all 5 members approved the contract for turf for MYBF last night right? Let me repeat all 5 said it is ok to turf the Pryor park baseball fields. Makes you comments stupid again doesn't it. Now where is the money for town hall and library coming from??
Ed Nice May 22, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Diehard you get real!! Where does it say when we have a library and offices that work we need to raise taxes to build new ones?? At least the sports organizations offered to split the bill with their tax dollars to get the fields done unlike the town hall and library users who from what I am told refuse to contribute any money. That is the double standard and what Mr. Gallo was saying last night at the end. He asked where the library money was. Well where is it?? You can try as hard as you want to hide from the fact that fields will cost $1-2 million where town hall will cost $27 million. Where is the money coming from diehard??
Ed Nice May 22, 2012 at 06:15 PM
This just came to mind DH, if sports is not a part of government, then why in Burlington twp. do the kids pay no money to play sports. They sign up with there rec and their TAX dollars pay for the kids to play. Stick that in your hat. Don't believe me give them a call and check it out.
diehardrep May 22, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Ed, Where is the ordinance or statute that requires any local government to fund sport programs? Most communities provide the land and basic needs of all recreation activities as a service to its residents, but they are not bound to do so. I never said that towns do not fund their sports programs to different levels. I said they are not required to. So be it, if a government chooses to fund above the basics. On the other hand, they are required to provide a base for municipal operations as well as library functions. That was my point. It's not about the cost of one over another. You're not stupid, so why do you always add intent, overinterpretation, or conclusions to what other people say? The money for the town hall and library comes from taxes
There's Been a Leak May 22, 2012 at 08:23 PM
my mrmc source just forwarded info that the mrmc has a legal opinion that would exclude a candidate from running for town council if he or she has pending litigation against the town which doesn't sound promising for the Hines campagin stay tuned
Peter Beter May 22, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Leaks...that's cool that you have an mrmc source. Any word on the possibility of debate for all of the candidates? Indy/Dems/GOP
Ed Nice May 22, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Last time I checked we have a library and where does it say we have to have a town mahal. We have a base for municipal government! We own the capital assets which are our fields and we as a town have failed those fields. We as a town need to fix the fields and the up grades (turf) is being paid for by the clubs (1,100,000). So people need to get over the turf and fix our assets and make our town a more attractable place for families to move into. Though there is nothing saying we must give these fields to the clubs to use, the reason they are, is because the MAJORITY of the citizens of the town want it that way. It is a majority that should run a town not the minority that has manage to hold the majority hostage when it comes to the KIDS project.
Rich For Citizen of the Year May 22, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Leak I have it on very good authority that the law suit was funded by 3 very prominent and active community members that all happen to be republican. Real republicans are for open space.
Townie May 22, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Ed...doesn't it get old? Where is the ordinance requiring sports funding....have you seen the library? Most communities provide land.....no town mahal on my watch! I didn't say they shouldn't fund it some.....the clubs are paying for it! We need a town hall....not if you want young families to move here! The money for town hall comes from taxes....MOST want to spend n turf! Would you at least pretend to listen?
Ed Nice May 22, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Townie no it doesn't. The truth is a stubborn thing like Jordan/ciacco claim to not want to burden taxpayers but they voted to raise taxes and will do it again for town hall but not for fields. Its there in black and white just read the minutes. I think the sports townies should get a better explanation on why they don't get the same consideration when they have offered to share the costs and the library and town hall don't. Do you really think the sports townies want higher taxes for town hall when they can't even fix fields. Dear mr taxpayer we are sorry we cannot fix the fields but we need you to pay us more for our town hall that you won't use.
Ed Nice May 22, 2012 at 10:50 PM
I like that idea. We can hear them explain how they will build town hall and lower taxes since they refused to answer me when I posted it here.
Townie May 23, 2012 at 12:18 AM
Ed, like the fields have those who would rather spend there than town hall/library, I'm sure there are sports townies who are ok with the idea of town hall. They are independent issues that are ultimately all bought and paid for with money collected from the people who live here. This discussion started about fields and should focus solely on issues related to them. I disagree with you here, but tend to agree with your comments about other issues. You obviously care a lot about getting the fields right, and that's tremendous. People are willing to give money to help....wonderful. Arguing that the library hasn't been maintained or that town hall is $20/sq ft more expensive doesnt do anything here except throw negativity toward the people that have been elected and don't agree with you in this issue. It's weak. You're better than that.
diehardrep May 23, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Ed, Who in particular is refusing to answer your question about weather on not building a muni complex would raise taxes? Once and for all, the reason you are not getting answers to your question is because the answer is self-evident. A new or even rebuilt complex would raise taxes. And, to my knowledge, no one has said they would lower taxes while doing it. That's your fabrication. You are on a fishing expedition with the goal of insulting people who do not agree with you. You don't agree with spending any money on needed facilities, but have no problem buying plastic grass. Ok, after your hundred blogs, we get it. Will saying it again bring you support, or make you look obsessed? You single out Chiacchio and Jordan for not supporting $$$ grass, but are supporting the complex. That's confusing since your beloved BGT are supporting both $$$ grass and a new complex. Gee, who do you think wants to spend more? I thought you were against more spending and higher taxes. Aren't you just mad as hell at BGT? Or, is it that you don't care as long as you get what you want.
diehardrep May 23, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Funny thing about leaks is often they seem to create their own, and that makes them all wet.
Mr Hooper, May 23, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Hello diehard- I've been reading some posts since hearing about this news of the fields at the meeting. There's a story on all of this and I appreciate what Mr Chiacchios and mrs Jordan are doing here. They are looking after our towns budget wisely. All five were ready to tackle the town complex together right after chiacchio and Jordan were sworn in and then what happened? As someone else said "too many balls in the air" happened. Funny, I'll have to agree what our friend CM said before, "mr Homebrew why isn't mr Chiacchio Mayor then"? Someone else said,"What is the current mayor proving to run as an independent ? ".
Ed Nice May 23, 2012 at 05:39 PM
First off DH since Jordon and Chiacchio were sworn in they all have been going through the process of getting the town hall/library done. They can not make the people that are getting paid to get the information or draw the plans do it any faster. The process is the process. And yes they all support doing it but not all of them support doing it at this time. Putting that enormous project off for say 2 years will make a big difference. The towns dept service is going down a lot in the next several years. That's why it would be a smart thing to do then. I have never said not to do it but to say you don't have the money for a small project like the fields but then turn around and start the library town hall now is ridiculous. The tax payers that are going to be using these fields have come up with the money to pay for the up grades (turf) so drop it. It doesn't count towards your argument. The people that think turf is over the top don't need to think about it. It's not costing use anything. They are picking up that tap with the $1,100,000 that they have raised so far. There are a lot of things that need to be done in this town that would make use as citizens feel better about our town. The barn, getting done should have used the trust, the dams at Strawbridge should get done and should be done with the trust, bond them and there is still plenty of money to pay for acquiring land. Those aside, I would love to see the shinny Town Hall Library done but when we can afford it!
There's Been a Leak May 23, 2012 at 05:58 PM
thank you for the info I have reached out to my source but you may have hit on my source's confusion since she has been around mrmc for so long she may not know recognize a real republican leader anymore.
diehardrep May 23, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Ed, For once, I couldn't agree more with most of what you are saying. However, waiting two years to start town hall isn't necessary since it would be two years before the first bond payment is due anyway, so why not take advantage of low Interest rates and construction costs now. Not all of council supports building town hall at this time? This is the first time I have ever heard that. I think they had better stop the presses then, because it's going to bid in July. Many of your previous comments led me to believe you were against any new facilities at any time, and only for renting. Sorry so many of us misunderstood you. I didn't know they had already raised 1.1 million, as you said. That's a horse of a different color. What account did they put it in? Is it drawing interest? To be fair, Ed, I think most people do understand that your guys want turf, and the reasons why you want it. I just think that many believe it is a luxury expense (not free) that comes at a time of balancing a budget, balls in the air, mandatory expenses, and other pressing costs just on the horizon. There is real fear out there in terms of the broader financial future, and I don't fault any on council for the state we are in. Each councilperson must wrestle with what ever he/she thinks are the greatest priorities in serving the town as a whole.I think it is fair to disagree with some of them, but that doesn't give cause to insinuate anything more than what it is, simple disaggrement.
diehardrep May 23, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Mr. Hooper, I don't know if it was too many balls in the air, or too much fine tuning, causing convenient delays to the town hall complex. Not positive what could cause that, but I do have an opimion. The Mayor's term is two years, this being the second. The current Mayor is angry, IMO.
Ed Nice May 23, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Gee diehard I meant pledged but you knew that. Remind me again of how much is pledged for town hall oh yeah ZERO!! NEW EXCUSE ALERT!! Turf is a luxury but town hall is not!! Come on Rep you and I both know that the cost of the luxury is being paid for by the clubs and then some. we also know that the the debt payments wont start until later is exactly what Mercel told everyone May 14 meeting about the fields. We started with we cannot afford it and its a burden then it wasnt the right time then there wasnt enough private money then the tax burden then its not a priority then the budget wasnt done then the reval was cancelled then turf the luxury is ok for baseball then lights are ok then taxes are no longer a burden when we raid the utility fund then Open Space can't be used except to cut grass and pay for lights then it snowed and there was a sunami. How many excuses do you think we can take? Your diehardrep BS stinks!! LOL!!!
diehardrep May 23, 2012 at 10:36 PM
From Ed: . We started with we cannot afford it and its a burden then it wasnt the right time then there wasnt enough private money then the tax burden then its not a priority then the budget wasnt done then the reval was cancelled then turf the luxury is ok for baseball then lights are ok then taxes are no longer a burden when we raid the utility fund then Open Space can't be used except to cut grass and pay for lights then it snowed and there was a sunami. How many excuses do you think we can take? Response: I guess that is their seven ways of saying no turf. I think I said this somewhere before, but why can't cooler heads sit down with J and C and try to work some verifyable arrangement. I wouldn't reccommend yours. It wouldn't fit through the door.
Ed Nice May 24, 2012 at 01:52 AM
Ohhhh and you wonder why I take shots DH!!! Do really think that BGT haven't sat down and tried to work this out with J and C. I know for a fact that Jordan has lead Button to believe that she has come around before the last couple of meetings with all the different options to pay for the project to then during the meeting stick to her guns like she is some big savior for the town. She and Chiacchio have done everything they can to justify blocking the projects. But how is it ok for baseball to have turf but not North? Tell me that DH. How is it that we can pay for lights that were not a priority according to Carew but North was the number 2 priority of the projects. If the lights were dangerous get the people to play on the other fields or take them all down and only play with day light until they could be fixed. How is it that these projects were picked over the big turf field? Too many political games are being played here. The law suit is a bluff and they are now going to call for another special meeting and I would think they will add to the agenda the option of bonding one more time before they pull the trigger. North is going to get done and should get done. Hell we should be using the liquor money anyway to pay for it. Use it for capital improvements and not day to day expenses to balance the budget.
Third Base Coach May 24, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Maybe because MYBF and those lights have been around longer than the others?
William May 24, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Diehard.. We think that the current mayor wants to Continue as mayor for more than two years. So he has resorted to try a run as an independent, and thinks somehow he'll get two others on council to vote for him as mayor again. The only way, it appears, he could do that is his slate of three wins, which is very unlikely. But , no I don't know what he is trying to prove to run as an independent. Got me.
diehardrep May 25, 2012 at 11:52 PM
William, Good point. I'm not sure if he can after just finishing a 2 year term. Would have to check on that. I know that Miller did it, but I don't know what if anything has changed in the Faulkner Act. He could be running because he didn't like being ousted. I don't think it's because he loves the town. I assume he quit the republican party. The best he can hope for is to hurt other reps, not just a few, but most of them. That isn't love.
Great Town May 27, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Hi guys- just an FYI as for past mayors serving as mayor for more than 2 years. aberant mayor 4 years, Miller mayor for 6 years, maahs for 6 or 8 years , and so on. Fwiu, someone can be mayor for unlimited continous sessions as long as they get reelected. There is No rule stating that there must be a rotating process for mayot. Usually the person who has the most seniority if possible is voted by council as mayor.

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