Home Moorestown News Moorestown Town Council takes first step toward new turf field

Moorestown Town Council takes first step toward new turf field

Despite the varying opinions of community residents, a 5–0 vote was made to approve the ordinance.

The proposal to replace the synthetic turf for the middle field at Wesley Bishop Park has been a topic of conversation among Moorestown Town Council for months. Yet, at its meeting on Feb. 6, council passed the bond ordinance by a 5–0 vote, allowing for construction of the replacement field to begin.

“This is the time,” Councilman Mike Locatell said. “We need to move forward for the clubs that have agreed [to fiscally contribute] and for the Recreation Center that does need the fields.”

This ordinance will appropriate $650,000 and authorize the issuance of $617,000 in bonds to replace the field. However, Tom Merchel, the deputy township manager, chief financial officer and now additionally township manager, noted the turf itself will only cost about $422,000, and the remaining funds will be used to construct necessary fencing.

Utilized by various sports clubs and the Department of Recreation, the existing middle field at Wesley Bishop Park was constructed in 2007, and while it was under warranty to last eight years, the township was able to get 10 years of use out of the field. After failing the G-MAX test, a means of measuring the shock-attenuation of a field, council was forced to temporarily close the field and consider its alternative options. If a solution were not to be found this year, the spring sports season, and possibly sequential seasons, would be inhibited.

Included in the town’s alternative options were whether to redevelop the natural landscape of the field, or to implement a new turf surface. After it was concluded that the means to maintain a turf field would be cheaper and more efficient in the long run, as determined by town architect Scott Taylor of the Taylor Design Group, the next matter of business included who to contract to replace the field, and using what model of turf.

Ultimately, council extended a contractual agreement to FieldTurf, the company which constructed the same field 10 years ago. Since the fields repairs are necessary due to natural wear and tear, not the fault of the company, and because FieldTurf USA offered Moorestown an extended warranty for repeat business 10 years instead of eight — council had no problems with trusting its services again. In addition to completing the field’s construction, FieldTurf also offered to gift Moorestown a “groom right,” a piece of turf maintenance equipment that can be used by the community to best preserve the field.

However, while council expressed its interest in working with FieldTurf USA, residents voiced very different opinions.

Resident Joan Ponessa questioned how council could contract FieldTurf USA when a class action lawsuit had been filed against the company by the Borough of Carteret for the purchase of what it determined to be defective turf.

“This company, the nation’s leading maker of artificial sports fields, allegedly defrauded more than 100 public and private schools and municipalities in our state,” Ponessa said.

Resident Michelle Thomas voiced similar concerns, saying it could be a waste to allocate the proposed sum toward the field’s replacement as it could also result in defect.

“They’re being sued and you’re going to use the same company?” Thomas questioned. “I would much rather be assured that the field that is being put in is going to last.”

In response to these concerns, and others regarding pricing and maintenance, FieldTurf USA’s regional vice president, Perry DiPiazza, was present at the council meeting to address many of these resident concerns.

“I’ve been working for FieldTurf for 19 years now since they started. We presently have 612 fields in the state of New Jersey,” DiPiazza said. “FieldTurf will always do the right thing.”

DiPiazza explained he took no offense to any of the residents’ concerns and that every company at some point has a “rough road for one reason or another,” and that it’s the way the company chooses to handle these difficult situations that will determine how it rebounds. He added FieldTurf has never denied it had an issue with a certain type of fiber that was used from 2005 to 2011.

Stressing that FieldTurf was never the manufacturer of the plastic, or “yarn,” that comprises the fibers, DiPiazza explained that FieldTurf used a third-party supplier called TenCate to produce the fibers that began to exhibit rapid wear from UV exposure. He concluded by stating that today, the FieldTurf system “in almost every category of injury is safer than well manicured natural grass,” and that he ensured his product offers the best service and quality.

He also encouraged all concerned residents to read the document, “FieldTurf in the Media: Separating Fact from Fiction,” which is available on the company’s website.

Council hopes to begin the field’s construction immediately, and have it ready for use by Saturday, April 1. Taylor Design Group will be overseeing the field construction and keeping record on its progression.

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