Haddonfield Commissioners Meet Monday after a Public Spat Last Week
Meeting agenda attached.
The Haddonfield Board of Commissioners will met Monday for a work session just four days after a heated meeting in which two out of three commissioners pounded tables and raised their voices at each other.
The outburst, which is not typical in this historic borough founded by Quakers on the principal of consensus, revolved around a $356,000 commitment they unanimously made last month to install artificial turf on a field the borough owns on the Haddonfield Memorial High School campus. The turf project is part of a $1.06 million effort to resurface the borough field, and the adjacent high school football stadium field.
The borough's contribution to the effort is contingent on half of the $1 million being raised by residents in a private fundraising drive and $150,000 in funds that have already been approved by the borough school board.
Commissioners Ed Borden and Jeff Kasko argued Thursday about details of the effort, including possible environmental impact, that may or may not have been provided to the borough. There was also a dispute over whether the Turf Field Committee, the group raising private money for artificial turf, has represented itself as a group sponsored by the borough.
"It's very clear the information and documentation was not provided to the public," Kasko said after the meeting. "He can pound his fist all he wants, call me a lair and say it's not true, but the facts speak for themselves."
Kasko said the Turf Field Committee promised to provide details about the environmental impact of installing artificial turf and other background documents. Borden said they "absolutely did that!" while pounding his hand on a table during a commissioners meeting Thursday.
Kasko and Borden bickered several times during a nearly two-hour meeting last week before the both raised their voices and pounded a table to make a point.
Mayor Tish Colombi, the borough's third commissioner, Haddonfield's highest elected officials, sat between the two. She said she this was a first in 28 years as a commissioner.
"We've had disagreements, but I've never seen a commissioner raise their voice during a public meeting," Colombi said.
Borden also had several other testy exchanges with the six people who remained for the last hour of the meeting. The former courtroom where regular meetings are held, was full at the beginning of the meeting for the induction of five new volunteer firefighters.
Mary Fagan a Merion Avenue resident peppered Borden with questions about the $356,000 turf funding commitment. Fagan said she felt like the commissioner used a "bait and switch" by stating they want to use money raised from a borough open-space tax toward the potential public purchase of the nearly 19-acre Bancroft site next to the high school on Kings Highway East.
Fagan said the resolution the commissioners passed last month for the turf-field funding stated the $356,000 could come from the open-space tax fund. The commissioners statement about using the funds for Bancroft came before a referendum to renew the tax for another five years. Residents resoundingly approved the referendum.
"The resolution includes the possibility that you would use open-space trust funds for existing fields," Fagan said.
"We didn't say we were going to do that," Borden shot back. "We said we were going to take a look at it, with other public sources."
"It leaves open the possibility that the funds would be used to turf the fields," Fagan said.
"It does, yeah," Borden said.
"That's counter to the statement of intention."
Borden said using the open-space trust funds for the turf field would only likely happen if a Bancroft deal was dead.
"If there is no Bancroft deal then the open-space trust funds would be available."
Another resident, Janice Hallahan, pressed Borden and the commissioners on the notification on the vote for the turf field funding. Finally, looking frustrated, Hallahan said I actually voted for you in the last election.
"Please don't vote for me again."
Tonight's meeting is on the second floor of the Municipal Hall. Commissioners don't vote on resolutions or ordinances at work sessions, but may come to conclusions on matters of public policy. The decision to support the turf field funding was made in a work session eight days before an action meeting on May 22.