Members of the Washington Township Recreation Board said Memorial Field could be upgraded with artificial turf at an average cost of $18.30 per year to each homeowner.
Township officials had planned to include money in the year's budget to pay for new sod for the field, which they expected to cost no more than $40,000. They were also considering using a grant to purchase residential properties adjacent to the field for an expansion, though the properties are not currently for sale.
Township residents Scott Spezial and Eamonn Twomey presented their case on behalf of the recreation board to township officials during a council meeting Monday night. According to Spezial, netting from old sod sticks up through the field surface and can trip athletes.
"It's blatently obvious sod does not work," Spezial said.
Residents and officials have agreed that something needs to be done with the field, which has been in fluctuating states of disrepair during different times of year for about 10 years. The field can be difficult to maintain because of drainage on the site, which is at the bottom of the hill behind Washington Elementary School. The site also slopes down six feet from one side to the other, according to recreation board officials. There have also been problems with geese feces on the field.
Spezial and Twomey proposed that the township could replace the field with artificial turf in less time than it would take to install new sod, citing a field built in River Vale last year. Spezial estimated the cost of upgrading the facility would be about $62,000 more than maintaining the field each year for the next 15 years. Whether officials decide to replace sod or put in artificial turf, the field will need to be closed for several months this year.
"If it's going to be closed this year either for sod or a project, we'll take the project," Twomey said.
An artificial turf field could be used year-round and is expected to last between 15 and 20 years. Having a year-round facility could save money on the cost of renting fields from the school district, Spezial said. Using district fields for the spring would cost about $24,000 for the recreation programs.
Council members said they were not sure a plan could be completed in time to work on an artificial turf project this year, but they said they would consider the switch.
"I'm not willing to spend $1.8 million of our taxpayers' money and find out we did it wrong," Councilman Fred Goetz said. "Initially we're trying to do what we can for this season."
Officials said they would have a proposal to vote on by the next council meeting on April 9.