Hearing on Softball/Tennis Court Project

On Wed, February 24th at 8pm the Mansfield Township Committee will consider the Recreation Commission's request to spend $300,000 of the monies in the Open Space Fund to build out Phase 1A of Mansfield Park. Phase 1A contains a full sized softball field, 4 tennis courts, and the necessary parking. This request faces substantial opposition. The amount requested is approximately equal to the unspent monies previously allocated by the Township committee for the Trails Project. The Recreation Commission feels that completing Phase 1A is the best use of the unspent funds as it replaces a substandard softball field (backstop is too close to home plate), moves the softball field off of the football field (allowing the dirt infield to be covered with grass and the football field to be improved), provides access to tennis for the western side of town, and allows us to retire the dilapidated Port Murray Road tennis courts and covert them into basketball courts (when money is available). The state of the economy figures positively into the Recreation Commission's plan. Like the savings realized in the Trails Project, we can undertake the Softball/Tennis project for considerably less than it would have cost two years ago and less than it can can be expected to cost in the future. Inexpensive, local, and physical activities are essential to our residents, particularly in difficult economic times. This is the right time to spend some of the Open Space monies currently in the bank to improve our recreational facilities. As you know from prior emails, there is opposition to the Recreation Commissions proposal. At least two of the Township Committee members, while sitting as members of the Open Space Committee, have voted against a motion to recommend the project to the Township Committee. They and the other members of the Township Committee need to hear your opinion at the hearing. Please make an effort to attend the Township Committee Meeting on 2/24 at 8pm (meeting starts at 7, hearing at 8). I attach a copy of the email sent around in anticipation of this matter being heard on February 10th to give further background on the matter. I also ask you to forward this message to your friends and neighbors. Ask them to come to the Township Committee Meeting to show support for the efforts to improve and expand athletic opportunities in Mansfield. Ask them to join the Mansfield Park group at meetup.com so they can stay informed. Thank you, Diane Margolin 2/10 Dear Park Supporters, As many of you may know, the funds allocated in December 2009 to build out a softball field, tennis courts, and parking at Mansfield Park are being reconsidered by the Township Committee at their meeting next week. The $300,000 of Open Space funds at issue are the balance of the funds initially set aside for the building of the trails. We only spent approximately $150,000 of the $450,000 authorized. These savings were in part due to work done by the township roads department and in larger part due to the economy. Such savings can be had again now on the next phase of our park development. We expect that if we wait on this project, it will cost the township considerably more than $300,000. The Township Committee will hold a public hearing on the softball/tennis court project on Wednesday, February 10, 2010, at 7pm. If you are in favor of using the overage from the trails project for this purpose, please make a point of attending the meeting. Given the recent disapproval of the project by the Open Space Committee there must be substantial interest shown by the township for this project to become a reality. There seems to be some interest in this issue outside of our township. I and others have been contacted this week by the Express Times and/or WRNJ. Below is the information I tried to impart. In early 2009 $450,000 was allocated by the Township Committee from the Open Space funds for the trails project. Benefiting largely from the poor economy, we were able to complete the trails for approx $150,000, leaving a substantial balance. A review of the most necessary and most possible projects was undertaken by the Recreation Commission and Park Development Committee and it was decided that a building a safe, full sized softball field and replacing three dilapidated tennis courts was the best use of the funds. After meeting with our project engineer and the head of our Roads Department, it was concluded that with the Road's Department's help with some of the labor we could build the field, tennis courts and put in the necessary parking for $300,000-- if we act now when contractors are anxious to line up work for the spring. The Township Committee approved the use of the funds for this purpose in December '09. In January we were informed that because the matter had not been reviewed by the Open Space Committee the Township Committee's vote was invalid. I sit on that committee and prior to the January there was support for the trails and the park in general. In January the Open Space Committee met and support for the softball/tennis project was rejected 5-2. The 5 votes all came from members attending their first meeting having been appointed by our new mayor earlier in January. There are no other funding proposals before the Open Space Committee, nor have there be any substantial projects reviewed by this body in the past year. The $300,000 will sit in a restricted account until a permitted Open Space/Recreation/HIstoric use is approved by the Township Committee. The funds are the result of our open space tax and cannot be used to defray regular municipal expense (police, roads dept, personnel, etc

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