WESTFIELD, NJ — As election day approaches, Westfield student athletes and marching band members took to the microphone to urge voters to pass the $11.8 million bond for the undertaking of the Edison turf field project question on the ballot.

Westfield voters will weigh in on whether to repeal or ratify ordinance No. 2023-03 for a $11.8 million bond for the undertaking of the Edison turf field project on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

“We are in major support of the project,” said Westfield High School(WHS) senior and athlete Colin at the Oct. 24 Council meeting.

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Students spoke during the public hearing portion encouraging parents to pass the ordinance. The students cited a lack of fields in Town and safety concerns playing on “poorly maintained” grass fields

“Now we heard many arguments about the environment, while we are no experts on the environment, we find this argument to be a front. We feel that athlete safety and their wellbeing and their quality of life, frankly, is being sacrificed for this argument,” said Sam, WHS senior and athelete.

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Sam went on to note the “complete lack of space for Westfield sports resulting in parents driving their kids 30 to 40 minutes out just for their athletes to practice.”

The question was added to the ballot in August after a group called the Citizens for Responsible Athletic Field Development (CRAFD) submitted a petition on June 12 to the town with more than 2,800 signatures to allow Westfield voters to weigh in on the controversial Edison Fields project.

Concerns prompting the petition included the loss of natural grass, the cost, and health concerns.

That petition was confirmed and accepted by the town on June 22. Read More: Westfield Confirms Petition, Edison Fields Bond Will Go To Public Vote

David, one captain of the WHS Soccer team said that when the Gary Keller football turf field is unavailable teams will have to play on Tamaques School’s grass field which he described field conditions as “really, really poor.”

“The grass is often bumpy, there is mud, we often slip in it and it makes the quality of the practice a lot worse,” said David.

Zach, another WHS Soccer Captain, said last week the boys team was “forced to play on the poorly maintened baseball field behind Edison Intermediate School.”

Nolan, a WHS senior with the Marching Band, shared how dangerous the field conditions can be if a band member slips and falls under the weight of their equipment.

“These subpar facilities hinder our athletes and performers from reaching their full potential despite the exceptional staff, coaches and equipment Westfield provides,” said Nolan.

Mayor Shelley Brindle thanked the students for speaking at the meeting.

“I am always really proud of the children and the students who come to speak to the council you did a fantastic job,” said Brindle.

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At the beginning of the meeting, Brindle encouraged voters to pass the ordinance and to take the time to read information about the project including FAQs, the financing details, and environmental approval requirements, at westfieldnj.gov/edison-fields-project.

She also addressed residents quesitons over the reasoning to choose turf over grass.

“Natural well-maintained grass cannot sustain more than 650-800 hours of use per year. Today, the Town and Board of Education teams currently utilize between 1,300-2,600 hours of use per year on our natural grass fields, which explains why they’re in such poor condition. No field maintenance professional or amount of money could adequately maintain our grass fields with the amount of play required,” said Brindle.

“For this reason, adding turf is critical to alleviate the current overuse of grass fields that already exist. Maintaining existing natural grass fields without the supplement of a lighted, turf field to relieve some usage capacity is not reasonable. With the addition of Edison Fields, the Town’s field locations will still be approximately 85 percent natural grass,” continued Brindle.

The referendum is listed as Public Question #1, to the right of the candidates column. Voters can return their ballot by mail or drop it in the secure ballot drop off box in front of the Union County Clerk’s Office at 300 North Ave East.

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