New Milford gets Green Acres grant for turf field

7 July 2017

A multi-year struggle to provide local sports teams a dry place to play has been given a boost from New Jersey's Green Acres program, which approved a $647,500 grant to construct an artificial turf field behind Borough Hall.

Recreation officials have long sought a synthetic playing surface because some of the borough's existing fields, including the high school's football field, are susceptible to flooding from the Hackensack River.

The problem has caused teams to have to borrow field time from neighboring towns and postpone important matches. It also has led to an untold amount in fees to maintain the muddy and soggy grounds.

George Adelung, president of New Milford Junior Football Knights, has led the effort to construct a turf field in the borough.

"It shows that when you don't give up, you can actually get something done," Adelung said on Wednesday, when officials learned the grant application was approved.

The grant is worth 25 percent of the full cost of the project, which is estimated to be $2.69 million. The borough also is eligible for a low-interest loan.
Turf dispute

While the borough awaited word from Green Acres, an 11-member ad hoc committee formed by the Borough Council met several times to study possible ways to improve the recreation complex behind Borough Hall, known as Connelly and Kennedy fields.

Its recommendation to construct a multi-use turf field at the complex was contained in a 24-page report that was approved by the Democratic majority of the council late last month.

Democrats also voted to pay the borough engineer $125,200 to design the project. The council had earmarked that money in a capital reserve.

Republican Councilman Al Alonso voted against both measures because, he said, there still are "a lot of questions" that must be answered.

Chief among them, Alonso contends, is the fate of the Suez tract. An application is pending before the Planning Board to develop the 14-acre property, and the builder offered to deed a 4-acre portion of the land to the borough to use as a playing field.

It has not been determined whether the field at the Suez tract would be made of grass or turf. It also is not known how the remainder of the proposed project behind Borough Hall would be funded. A $125,000 grant application from the county is pending.

When Democrats voiced support for the committee's recommendation, Alonso said they were looking at the project in a "vacuum." And he said his opinion had not changed on Wednesday, when he found out the grant application was approved.

"I'm 100 percent in favor of making improvements to the field," Alonso said Wednesday, "but why are we spending that much money to put plans on a shelf?"

Council President Hedy Grant, a Democrat, said the grant award validates the recent decision to move ahead with the next phase of the project.

"I'm delighted we were awarded this grant," she said Wednesday. "It means New Milford can go forward with approving modern, up-to-date fields on which to play."