Recreation issues occupy Township Committee


By: John Tredrea
   The Hopewell Valley Regional School District will be sent work done on the so-called Back Timberlane athletic fields project by township engineer Paul Pogorzelski.
   The Hopewell Township Committee voted unanimously May 2 to share this work with the school board. Mr. Pogorzelski estimated the value of the work at $21,000.
   The work was done during late 2001 and early 2002, while the Back Timberlane proposal was being reduced from 10 fields to nine, in response to neighborhood protests. An enlarged buffer around the fields, reduced depth of cuts into soil and monitoring wells were among other changes incorporated into the plan by Mr. Pogorzelski.
   Defeated decisively in a March 12 referendum was a funding proposal for Back Timberlane.
   School board president Sally Turner said Monday that, if the school district eventually decides to seek bids on building the nine-field Back Timberlane project, having Mr. Pogorzelski’s engineering work in hand will eliminate the need to do that work again. "If we didn’t have the plans, the taxpayers would have to pay for the same work twice," she said.
   Also at the May 2 meeting, the committee voted 4-1, with Mayor Jon Edwards dissenting, in favor of a resolution under which the township will make a $135,000 contribution to the Recreation Foundation of Hopewell Valley. The money, earmarked for recreational use, was collected from developers years ago. But for the defeat of Back Timberlane on March 12, the money would have been used on that project.
   Under the resolution adopted during the May 2 meeting, the Foundation may spend the money as it sees fit. That did not sit well with several residents who spoke at the meeting. "You should have some oversight on how it gets spent," William Schoelwer said.
   Fred Babinowich said it would be unfair if the money were spent on Back Timberlane, which he fears could happen. "Who is representing the voters who defeated Back Timberlane in the March 12 referendum?" he asked the Committee.
   Deputy Mayor Robert Higgins replied that he believes the Foundation will use the contribution judiciously. He added that, from the perspective of political reality: "As far as I’m concerned, Back Timberlane as it was presented to the voters March 12 is not feasible."
   Mayor Edwards said he voted against the resolution because of its difference from an earlier resolution, passed by the Township Committee months ago, under which $135,000 would have been given to Back Timberlane had the referendum passed March 12. That resolution, written by Mr. Edwards, said the contribution would be made on the condition that Back Timberlane obtained all necessary municipal and county approvals required for construction of the fields. Such language is not included in resolution passed May 2.
   Mayor Edwards said he believes the township was better off fulfilling its fiduciary responsibilities by including the language stating that county and municipal approvals are required.