The on Monday agreed to contribute $354,000 to a $1 million project to install artificial turf at two fields at . The money will be contingent on $500,000 in private funds raised by a community group for the project.
The agreement came after a 20-minute presentation from Joe Del Duca, a local attorney leading the private fundraising effort, and a lively 30-minute debate with Del Duca, and among themselves, at a work session. The commissioners finally agreed to support a resolution at their next meeting on Tuesday, May 22. Commissioner Jeff Kasko expressed concern that approving a resolution then may not provide enough time for public comment.
“I’m very nervous not to have public input,” he said. “I don’t know if I can support this before getting public input.”
Commissioner Ed Borden argued strenuously to move forward with the resolution and public comment next Tuesday after Del Duca said his group needed borough support for continued fundraising.
“You’ve really done fantastic stuff here,” Borden told Del Duca. “This is really a great thing and gives us a great opportunity to do something we’ve been talking about for years and years and years.”
Del Duca’s group has already raised $250,000. One donor gave a large portion of the money and Del Duca said he hoped there would be more large givers, as well as many smaller contributors.
The borough board of education approved $150,000 toward the project last week, which will resurface turf at the high school football stadium and the adjacent Anniversary Field. The borough owns Anniversary Field, which the commissioners and Del Duca agreed was not well maintained.
The borough spends more than $40,000 annually for maintenance of three public fields, including Anniversary Field near the high school, borough Administrator Sharon McCullough said. One argument for the artificial turf field is reduced maintenance costs. Another is that Haddonfield Memorial High School and borough youth sports have some of the poorest fields in the area, proponents of the plan said.
Borden said another selling point of the plan is that half of it will be paid for with private money. But even with private donations, the borough and the school board will continue to own and maintain the properties.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story did not have the correct name for Anniversary Field.