East Brunswick Council faults tennis court repairs

Staff Writer

EAST BRUNSWICK – The future of tennis court repairs in the township are unknown after the Township Council bounced an ordinance that would have allocated funds its repairs.

Members of the council voted 3-2 in favor of throwing out a $1.6 million bond ordinance at the March 28 meeting, which would have not only allocated funds for repairs for several tennis courts in town, but also help pay for the acquisition of a firetruck for Fire District 3 as well as update the town’s IT servers.

Of the three expenditures, the more than $917,250 allocated to fix tennis courts at Bicentennial Park and Community Park drew the most criticism.

“I just don’t see the need to spend this kind of money on resurfacing tennis courts for the residents of our town,” said Councilman James Wendell, who stated that since the ordinance was first introduced last week he has received “countless emails” from residents questioning if mostly residents or non-residents used the courts.

Under the ordinance, the four courts at Bicentennial Park would have been completely reconstructed and the two courts at Community Park would have been resurfaced.

Wendell, in his comments, spoke of an alleged phone call that occurred between himself and Lou Neely, the township’s chief financial officer, that some of the funds for the tennis courts would go into other repairs.

“He indicated to me that we are only spending $700,000 on the tennis courts and $180,000 is for lighting at the parking facility. Why do we have a bond ordinance for tennis courts that has lighting for the parking facility when us council members don’t know anything about it?” said Wendell, reaffirming his opposition.

Then, Township Administrator James White responded to Wendell’s comments, saying that lighting was in a memo to the council and that “lighting system improvements “is in the bond ordinance.

“Could Lou have written the bond ordinance a little bit clearer? I’d agree with you on that,” White said to Wendell.

White also commented on the use of the parks and the idea that the township would be able to resurface the courts for less money.

“We haven’t put a whole lot of money into our parks in the past couple years. We have to start keeping up with that,” White said.

“Bicentennial is our most widely used facility and we know from the amount of use we have we need something that’s going to last,” he continued, adding that the township has not done full reconstruction on tennis courts in “quite some time” which is why they keep cracking.

“We keep putting Band-Aid approaches on it. Can you do it cheaper? I think that answer can be said with pretty much everything that government is going to do could. You could do everything cheaper but is it cheaper in the long run?” White said.

According to Michael Risner, the parks and recreation director for the township, the courts at Bicentennial Park are the most used in East Brunswick and the lighting system was over 30 years old. The ordinance would have seen LED lights at the courts.

There was a public hearing on the ordinance scheduled for the March 28, but no member of the public gave their input on the matter.

Wendell was joined by Councilman Michael Spadafino and Councilwoman Camille Clark in voting down the ordinance. Councilman Michael Hughes and Councilwoman Denise Contrino voted in favor.

The ordinance also calls for the purchasing of a firetruck for Fire District 3, which is slated to cost the township $644,137 and the acquisition and installation of a digital computerized attendance and payroll system for the township’s Human Resources Department priced at $121,613.

Contact Michael Nunes at mnunes@gmnews.com.

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