The Kinnelon Council has not given up the fight to be able to install artificial turf on municipally-owned fields and the borough now has support from two state legislators.
The borough council had originally considered installing artificial turf on the field behind the Kinnelon Road municipal building, but was advised by the borough engineer that because the borough is located in an area protected by the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, too many New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection exemptions would be needed for the project to come to fruition.
Board of education property, however, is exempt from many of the restrictions of the law and the borough has been working with Kinnelon Board of Education members to see if artificial turf would be feasible to be shared by the borough and school district on the high school field.
In the meantime, council members have reached out to state lawmakers for help and state Sen. Robert Gordon, D-38, has drafted a bill that would establish parity between the school district and municipality when applying for exemptions relating to artificial turf. After Sen. Joe Penacchio, R-26, agreed to be a co-sponsor of the bill, the legislation now has bipartisan support and is ready for introduction.
Kinnelon Mayor Robert Collins told the public about the bill and the council's continued quest at Thursday's meeting. He said the bill would not preclude the borough from having to apply for exemptions to construct a turf field, but it may create an easier process.
"I think the general implication is that [the legislators] don't understand why boards of education are treated differently than municipalities," Collins said.
Collins said because the borough is wet and steep-sloaped, the natural surroundings often create a hardship for projects. He noted it took nearly three years for the exemptions to be approved for a new Fire Co. 2 firehouse to be constructed on Boonton Avenue.
At the same meeting, Councilman Jim Freda, liaison to the Recreation Department, spoke about continued interest in recreational programs, despite the poor conditions of the existing field behind the municipal building.
"The good news is that we have a very active recreation program. The bad news is we really don't have enough fields to meet the needs of the borough," Collins said.
Freda said the field behind the municipal building is "beyond repair" and the borough is trying to do whatever is possible to at least make the field safe enough to play on.
Councilman Ron Mondello, who reached out to legislators for support, warned the public that even when introduced, the state legislation is not a promise that an artificial turf field will be installed in Kinnelon.
"The Senate bill has to get passed. If it does get passed, it certainly doesn't mean that we're going to have a turf field," he said.
In addition to the Senate legislation, the mayor also said he has reached out to Gov. Chris Christie.
"My letter to the governor basically says, 'Help,'" he said.