Howell to move forward with Soldier Memorial Park improvements


HOWELL – Municipal officials will move forward with a project that is expected to add a building with restrooms and lights on several sports fields at Soldier Memorial Park on Lakewood-Farmingdale Road in Howell.

Township Manager Brian Geoghegan said he had heard from residents who voiced support for improvements at the park.

Bennett Matlack of CME Associates presented two proposals to members of the Township Council and the public during the council’s March 1 meeting.

Matlack said a building with restrooms is proposed to be constructed in the middle of the park. He noted the park is heavily used and has numerous sports fields.

“It is my understanding that when you have big events here, such as Howell Day, you have to bring about 12 (portable restrooms) to the site. That is one of the reasons why we are proposing this project in the first place,” he said.

The first concept proposes men’s and women’s restrooms and a family restroom that would be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The building would have a picnic area, picnic tables, an equipment storage area and a concrete sidewalk around the structure, Matlack said, adding this plan has a construction cost estimate of $925,000.

The second concept proposes a smaller building with smaller restrooms, the family ADA-accessible restroom, a storage area and a picnic area. Matlack said this plan has a construction cost estimate of $810,000.

He said the estimated cost of each project includes about $200,000 to bring water and sewer service to the new building.

“That is a much larger (cost) percentage than what you would typically see, but we have 1,100 feet to travel” to bring utilities to the building, Matlack said.

He said the cost of lights that are proposed to be installed at two soccer fields and two softball fields is included in the construction cost estimates.

Councilman John Bonevich said Howell expects to receive a $250,000 grant from Monmouth County to help fund the improvements.

Geoghegan said the balance of the costs would be paid with open space funds. He said there is currently $4.2 million in the open space fund.

The planned improvements at Soldier Memorial Park “are not going to increase anyone’s taxes,” Bonevich said.

The council members unanimously favored the larger building Matlack described in his presentation.

“I am for the larger building. I figure $800,000 to $900,000, you are getting more (restroom) stalls, what is the difference? We are here, it is open space money, let’s do it right, it is long overdue,” Boenvich said.

Councilwoman Suzanne Brennan said, “I totally agree with doing the larger building. When you do it, you just have to do it right. I think it is a fantastic idea. We don’t have a town center, but this could start to become a hub and that is something that is really exciting. It is something I think Howell is lacking.”

Bonevich, Brennan, Mayor Theresa Berger, Deputy Mayor Pamela Richmond and Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell voted “yes” in a straw poll to move forward with the project.

“This is the first time in a very long time that this council sat here and spoke about a positive project for Howell without screaming and yelling and nastiness coming out of the audience,” Berger said.

“And I have to say this is one of the first times I am actually proud to sit with the people up here at the dais. So even if it is just for this one little second, this one little gem, I want to say thank you,” the mayor said.

Department of Public Works employees would be expected to maintain the new building and the township would charge sports leagues for the cost of using the lighted fields.

Municipal officials said the project will not be completed this summer.

Parents and children who belong to the Howell United Soccer Club and the Howell Soccer Club spoke in support of the project and thanked the council members for moving forward with improvements at Soldier Memorial Park.