MADISON – In a joint prepared statement, Democratic candidates for Madison Borough Council, Councilwoman Astri Baillie and former Madison Board of Education (BoE) member Debra Coen state their support for the use of the Open Space Trust Fund and user fees for the re-skinning of the artificial turf fields at the Madison Recreation Complex (MRC) in 2021 and for a joint project with the Board of Education to turf the baseball field and multi-purpose field directly above the MRC complex.”
Baillie and Coen stated: “Open space, aquifer protection, recreation and historic preservation are priorities for Madison residents. They enhance the quality of life in our town and help to maintain the value of our homes, making Madison is a very desirable place to live. We wholeheartedly support the recommendations of the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Advisory Committee and the findings of the Chief Financial Officer Jim Burnet that he presented at the September 24th Borough Council meeting.”
Councilwoman Baillie continued, “I have worked closely with Mr. Burnet in my capacity as liaison to the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Advisory Committee and to the Finance and Borough Clerk. We have met with the Recreation Director, the Director of Public Works, and the Borough Engineer to discuss the conditions of our fields and parks. There was general agreement that our fields are not in good condition and need restoration as soon as possible.
Although the Trust Fund continues to be the source of money to pay down the debt incurred by the land purchase and the artificial turf fields of the MRC, Mr. Burnet demonstrated that by accruing the money needed for the projects over a period of several years, it will be possible to also pay for these additional recreation-oriented projects without the need for bonding or any increase in the Open Space Tax. Moreover, he showed that the Fund should also have an additional $250,000 available on an annual basis for other grant requests. I think our residents would agree we value our parks, recreational facilities and historic sites and are using the Trust Fund as intended and in a fiscally responsible manner.”
Debra Coen added, “I support a joint project between the municipality and the BoE. I know from having served on the Board, that shared services to enhance our facilities and help reduce costs are always welcomed. This is a win-win for all.”
Councilwoman Baillie recalled that “in 2003, while serving my first term on the Madison Borough Council, I worked with Republican Donald Bowen to place before the Madison voters a referendum asking them to support a two cents tax on every $100 of assessed value to support open space acquisition, recreational fields and improvements, and historic preservation. At that time, we desperately needed new playing fields.
In November 2004, the Madison voters overwhelmingly approved the tax to be used as a dedicated fund for open space, recreation and historic preservation. The Trust Fund was established and the first major project was the acquisition of land in Florham Park for our state of the art MRC – now consisting of two artificial turf fields, amenities, a community garden, a series of trails, protected forest and aquifer recharge areas. The $13 million purchase of this land was funded with county and state grants and with only a 20% match from the Trust Fund.”
“Astri’s children and now my children are the beneficiaries of safe playing fields and beautiful open spaces,” stated Ms. Coen. ‘The residents’ support for the Trust Fund has made a huge difference for Madison. We needed the Trust Fund in 2004 and we need it now, and will continue to need it in the future. A dedicated source of funding for open space, aquifer protection, recreation and historic preservation is more important than ever in insuring that Madison continues to be a desirable place to live.”