On Tuesday, Garwood Council will vote whether to approve the bond ordinance that would fund the borough's long-discussed Athletic Field Complex. Many residents have been outspoken about their objections to the project because of the expense taxpayers will bear to fund it. This week and last week, we received several letters to the editor voicing similar sentiments. Read the letters from last week, here. Read this week's, below.
At the last meeting of the Garwood Borough Council the mayor and five of the six council members stated that they are voting to build a 3.2 million dollar athletic complex in Garwood in spite of the fact that the majority of the Garwood residents at the meeting were against this project and a public hearing on this issue will not be held until August 14th. This is NOT the time or place to build such an extravagant complex with a two story clubhouse, turf soccer field, bocce court, basketball court, lights and many other bells and whistles.
This project has been talked about for a dozen years. If previous council members saw fit NOT to pass this project 12 years ago when the economy was good and the project would have cost a million dollars then it is ludicrous to pass it now when the New Jersey unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, homes are in foreclosure and taxes keep going up. The founding fathers of Garwood felt that the taxes they were paying to Cranford and Westfield were too high. Frank Morse, who was to become Garwood’s first Mayor said “taxation without representation is revolution”. This is a quote from the Garwood council’s own website yet by voting for this project this council is NOT representing all the residents and are breaking THEIR campaign promise to “keep taxes down”.
I moved to Garwood because I felt it was a nice place to live with shopping and transportation within walking distance and LOW taxes. Taxes have gone up considerably even without this complex. Now our council wants to borrow close to 2 million dollars to pay for this glorified little league field.
Ironically, just a couple days before our council voted for this bond ordinance the headline and lead article in the Star Ledger read “New Jersey: a ticking time bomb of debt” because of the reckless borrowing of money by the state. The state is out of control, the county freeholders are out of control and now our council is also out of control when it comes to spending money we don’t have for projects we don’t need.
Garwood is a small borough without a high school. The 2010 census found 1,870 housing units in Garwood. This project would cost more than $1,700 on the average for each unit and would increase our municipal debt by more than 50%.
Fanwood and Scotch Plains have a shared baseball league and share other services including their high school. At the last council meeting I suggested that Garwood combine with Westfield or Clark. I suggested Westfield since the Westfield baseball fields are only a block away from our school in Garwood and I suggested Clark because these are the students our children will be playing with when they get to high school.
If the council wanted to combine with another town or update the current athletic complex which borders Cranford that would be fine. But to tear down all those trees to build a $3.2 million dollar mega complex with a turf field is fiscally irresponsible!
101 Chestnut Court, Garwood
Dear Mayor Quattrocchi and Council Members, Tomorrow evening you will be given an opportunity to listen to the residents of Garwood and, hopefully, realize that the only equitable course of action is to agree to put the AFC issue on the ballot in November.The amount of money being committed to this project dictates that the people need a voice in the decision.
This project has been discussed in various iterations for the past decade, so why is there now a rush to push it through? People who may have been in favor of a $1 million complex 10 years ago may very well not support a $3.2 million project today. They - and the people who have arrived in Garwood in the last 10 years - should have the right to express their views.
As Mayor and Town Council members, you have a fiduciary responsibility to EVERYONE who lives in Garwood. As currently being considered, proceeding with this project is NOT fiscally responsible for several reasons. First, it is the wrong time for Garwood to increase its debt; municipal governments everywhere are cutting budgets and reducing debt, not adding to it. Second, it appears there has not been due diligence in determining the ongoing maintenance costs to maintain the facility. At least, the public has not been informed of any such estimates. Third, what about the expected cost overruns to a project of this size? How will that be funded? Fourth, if there are any other projects that need to be funded outside the sports complex, how will they be funded if any surplus has already been committed to the AFC?
I hope you will take your roles as elected officials seriously and acknowledge that this project needs to be put to a resident vote.
210 Chestnut Court