By STEVEN VIERA
HOLMDEL — When it comes to synthetic turf fields, residents say no, but the Township Committee says yes.
At its regular meeting on Sept. 6, the Township Committee unanimously voted to adopt an ordinance that will authorize a $3.3 million bond to pay for the installation of synthetic athletic turf fields in Cross Farm Park.
That action came over the objections of residents.
According to Township Clerk Maureen Doloughty, the township will need to put the project up for bid and accept a proposal before work can begin.
In response to complaints about the costs of the project, the Township Committee decided to use a preexisting fund to ease the financial burden.
“The funding for the debt service associated with this will be paid out of the Open Space Fund,” Township Chief Financial Officer Jeanette Larrison said. “That is a flat tax that is already collected, and the monies that are collected from there are for open space improvements and debt service, and this certainly falls under that.”
Larrison noted that, under this arrangement, Holmdel residents will see no increase in their taxes relating to the installation of synthetic turf fields.
Residents have raised concerns about the installation of artificial turf due to its potential links to cancer, its proximity to Swimming River Reservoir and various private wells that provide residents with drinking water and the size of the expense. At the Sept. 6 meeting, members of the public spoke for nearly two hours about the proposed turf fields.
Residents presented the Township Committee with a petition bearing the signatures of over 700 Holmdel residents, which were gathered over Labor Day weekend, seeking to have the bond issue placed on the ballot in November to be voted on as a referendum.
“[The petition] came about because the Township Committee has been trying to put turf fields in Holmdel — this is their third attempt — and we in Holmdel are against it because we think, environmentally, there are issues, but also because of funding,” Holmdel resident Lea Shave said.
Regardless of the petition, the committee went on to adopt the ordinance.
Holmdel’s Citizens for Informed Land Use (CILU) also objected to the project.
“The reason that we are, as an organization, against this is that it is going to introduce synthetic turf fields very close to the Swimming River Reservoir, which is a source of drinking water for a very large number of people throughout Monmouth County,” CILU Vice President Anthony Cooper said.
Cooper explained that the synthetic material for the turf fields is made from ground-up automobile tires, which contain elements of heavy metals like lead.
“We are very concerned with the introduction of lead, which would leach out and enter the drinking water and contaminate it,” he said.