SCOTCH PLAINS – The petition calling for a referendum on the Brookside Park artificial turf question, which was delivered to the municipal building last week, will be reviewed before the township council considers the next steps, according to Mayor Joshua Losardo.
The petition, which garnered 2,050 signatures—602 more than required—seeks a referendum on the $3.8 million capital bond ordinance passed by the council last month that includes funding to install artificial turf at the park’s baseball field along with a host of other upgrades to the field and to the park itself. An effort to garner enough signatures to force a referendum got underway around the same time that the council approved the bond ordinance. The effort was spearheaded by Friends of Brookside Park, a group comprised of residents—most of whom live near the park—who had spoken out publicly against the turf proposal, at multiple council meetings as well as meetings of the recreation commission.
The neighbors are concerned about the impact of the turf on the park’s environment – specifically, the many cubic yards of rubber chips that would be used as an underlay for the turf and how much would eventually run off into the brook along the park’s southern and eastern edges. They have also pointed to the potential for dangerously high temperatures on the turf field during the summer months, the increased potential for injuries and the overall impact of synthetic turf on the 23-acre park itself.
At the council’s meeting on Monday, Susan Dazzo, one of the organizers of the petition drive, said the signers “came from all over town, about 200 different streets.” She described the 2,000-plus voters who signed the petition as being a “nonpartisan, varied demographic group of people.” She reported that people “were surprised and interested” to learn about the bond ordinance, and Ms. Dazzo said the council should either put the question on the November ballot or, “given the outpouring of support for the petition,” repeal the ordinance.
Mayor Losardo, who last month said that he was “not a believer in referendums,” said on Monday that the township attorney and township clerk will review the petition and then advise the council on the next steps to be taken.
In other business, Councilman Roshan White reminded residents that the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Memorial Day parade will be held on Monday, May 29, beginning with a ceremony at 10 a.m. at the gazebo at the corner of Park Avenue and Front Street, followed by the parade at 10:45 a.m. A contest for top floats in the parade will also be held. Fanwood resident and air force veteran Oshanda Erb will serve as the parade’s grand marshal. She is the first female of color and member of the LGBTQ community to be selected.
At the beginning of Monday night’s meeting, Councilman Matthew Adams read a proclamation declaring the week of May 14 as National Police Week. Police chief Jeffrey Briel handed out department medals and commendations to seven officers for their heroic efforts in the past year and also issued 16 letters of commendation to several officers and also named Sgt. Stanley Pearson as officer of the year. Mr. Briel also handed out two Chief Citizens Awards to two township residents who assisted law enforcement over the past year.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Stamler read a proclamation congratulating the high school Moonglowers jazz band on finishing first in their division at the recent state jazz festival. Councilman Adams read a proclamation calling attention to the National Gun Violence Awareness Day set for June 2 and the mayor read a proclamation declaring May as Building Safety Month. Deputy mayor Ellen Zimmerman read another proclamation declaring May as Rescue Squad Month, and rescue squad chaplain Robert Gurske noted that the squad, now beginning its 85th year of service, had answered 922 calls in 2022 and spent more than 29,000 hours “helping the people of Scotch Plains.” He also thanked the community for supporting the all-volunteer squad with donations.