A discussion item that was first introduced at a Medford Town Council meeting on Dec. 15 resurfaced on Jan. 19.
Headwater Village residents have been attempting to put together a donation campaign to receive recreational items. They are looking to add things such as park benches, basketball hoops, swing sets and streetlights to their community. The Great Bridge and the Wakefield Drive areas in their development both play host to tennis courts, a baseball field, bonfires and walking paths the residents feel need to be renovated.
The village wants the township to take the reins of this campaign in hopes that it encourages people to donate recreational facilities to them.
Headwater Village is a nonprofit homeowners association, but it is not tax exempt, so it can’t offer a tax deduction to do a fundraiser to buy a park bench or a picnic table, for example.
However, if the township were to do it, it could offer that deduction, and people would be more likely to donate.
Several suggestions derived from this idea included whether Medford could take the improvements made by the township and transfer them to the homeowners association. Council also kicked around the idea of a citizen donating to the township for a park bench so they could get a tax deduction, because the township is a nonprofit and it would be for public use.
However, the main concern that seemed to deter the council from moving forward was the idea of maintaining these possessions.
“My concern is ultimately it’s going to come back on the township to maintain all of this,” township manager Kathy Berger said. “And I just don’t know if we want to go down that path.”
Medford would be liable for all the long-term maintenance of anything that was donated, as a result of it being on the township’s property.
“It seems like we have a number of facilities now that maintaining them is becoming more of a burden than a benefit to the taxpayers,” Councilman Christopher Buoni said.
As Councilman Frank Czekay pointed out, the maintenance of a park bench is quite simple. Once it begins to deteriorate, you throw it out.
However, as Berger mentioned, once you start getting into swing sets and larger matters, you start to get into annual inspections to meet certain parameters and more legwork.
“Yes, playground equipment is a different animal,” Czekay said. “Lighting is, too, because we would have to pay for the electric and fix it if the light blows out.”
As far as the lights go, the township recreation rules state that no one is to be at the park after dusk, so the parks are technically closed during the hours lights would be needed.
Unfortunately, a situation similar to this one hasn’t arisen in a neighboring township, so council is unable to draw any comparisons.
Resident Colleen Stover said the tennis courts at Headwater are the only public tennis courts available to folks other than the ones at the high school. In fact, when it comes to residential communities, the common areas at Headwater are the only ones in Medford the township owns.
While the rest of council seemed to be in agreement to deny Headwater Village’s request, Councilman Bradley Denn insisted more research be done before they act on it.
Council agreed to revisit the topic at a meeting in March.