Artificial turf promoted as a money saver in Washington Township October 14 2014

WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — A plan to put artificial turf on Memorial Field would save the township money, according to an analysis from the Recreation Department. The plan calls for constructing the turf field, along with a companion drainage system underneath it and replacing lights at the facility. Recreation Director Eamonn Twomey and resident Scott Spezial presented a series of studies to the council indicating that despite a significant initial investment, the township would save money in 15 years compared with the current annual costs to maintain the grass field.

"Years 16 to 30 is really where we are going to save the money," Twomey said. "It will pay for itself over 30 years." The township currently pays $114,300 annually to maintain Memorial Field, or about $34 per tax-paying dwelling. Some of the costs include placing sod on the field twice a year, reseeding, maintaining the clay for baseball fields and performing chemical maintenance of the field. Twomey and Spezial said the turf field would cost the township $2.2 million — which they suggested bonding over 15 years, equivalent to about $147,000 per year. However, the recreation officials said the township would save money after that.

Much of the initial cost to replace the field would come from the infrastructure needed to be built underneath the field for drainage. Turf fields typically last about 15 years before needing to be replaced, but the township would only have to replace the surface-level turf, not the infrastructure, Twomey said. According to their analysis, over years 16 to 30, the field and lights would cost $2,713,499 with a grass surface compared with $499,999 if the township bonded the replacement surface-level turf. The township would save more than $2 million over the next 30 years with a switch to artificial turf, the study says. "There is nothing else we can do to prove the fact that this will save us money in the long run," Twomey said. Councilman Glenn Breckmeyer addressed the plan to his fellow council members.

"When you build the field the first time, you are building the substructure," he said. "What they are saying is in 15 years, you only have to replace the carpet, or the top part. It's like a house; you don't uproot the floor, you just roll out a new carpet. It's basically the same thing. It's only a fraction of the price of the whole job. You get a bigger savings in years 16 to 30." Councilman Peter Calamari said he took an informal poll of township residents and that more than 90 percent of the people he talked to were in favor of turf. The council seemed receptive to the idea and is expected to review the studies from recreation officials.