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Majority Of Township Council Say They Oppose Speaker System In Middlebush Park

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Rutgers University’s Eric Zwerling talks about the science of sound at the Aug. 12 Township Council meeting.

A proposal to install a speaker system in the Middlebush Park sports complex will likely be defeated on Sept. 9 when it is scheduled to be up for a vote by the Township Council.

All six council members who attended the Aug. 12 meeting said they would not vote for a system which includes external speakers, with some expressing support for a so-called “21st Century” solution of providing a wi-fi broadcast to smart phones.

Mayor Brian Levine ( R), Deputy Mayor Brian Regan (D- At Large) and Councilman Carl R.A. Wright (D-Ward 4) – the project’s champion – did not attend the meeting.

“I still believe in the 21st Century alternative,” said Councilman Phil Kramer (D-Ward 3), who originally broached the idea of a closed-system Wi-fi broadcast that listeners could tune in on smart phones. “I will not vote for a sound system that will impact (nearby residents) in any way.”

The potential of adding speakers to the park – primarily for the use of the township’s Pop Warner football program – has sparked controversy since May, when Wright invited a potential contractor to talk to the council about what type of sound system would be best for the area.

Since then, Middlebush-area residents have hammered the council at several meetings, telling its members that they do not want a sound system to exacerbate what they say is already a noisy situation.

Proponents of the plan – one of whom spoke at the Aug. 12 meeting – contend a speaker system would boost morale among the program’s players. Proponents also say a sound system was contemplated when the bleachers and press box were built between the park’s two football fields.

Middlebush-area residents’ opinions were not swayed at the Aug. 12 meeting after they heard a presentation by Eric Zwerling, director of Rutgers University’s Noise Technical Assistance Center. Zwerling, considered a national expert in the field, told the council and audience that if the speakers were positioned to face down onto the playing fields, and if their volume were set at a certain loudness, nearby residents would not hear them.

In fact, Zwerling said, “the sound from the crowd (watching the game) would be of much greater intensity than the speaker system.”

Zwerling said the ambient crowd noise would effectively overpower any sound coming from the speakers at the points where nearby residents could hear it.

Opponents to the plan continued to maintain that they would be able to hear some of the amplified sound from the speakers and questioned the need for a speaker system in the park.

Regardless of how loud the sound is, “it’s still noise,” said Hunter’s Crossing Way resident Tom Moran. “It’s not the quiet peacefulness of my home A sound system will compound and complex” the noise that is already emanating from the playing fields.

Gerald Meinster of Hazlitt Way said there was no need for the speaker system.

“These kids can play without the loudspeaker,” he said.

The three months of constant lobbying by opponents to the idea seemed to have swayed several council members who initially supported the plan.

Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large) and Councilmen Rajiv Prasad (D-At Large) and James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) spoke in favor of a sound system at the council’s May 13 meeting.

After the Aug. 12 meeting, the three said they would not support a plan with external speakers, although they did support Kramer’s “21st Century” solution.

“I haven’t been convinced” of the need for the sound system, Vassanella said. “I don’t think this is the area for it.”

“Technology solutions are there,” Prasad said. “We should be looking into the 21st Century technology.”

“My mind is made up,” Francois said. “I believe that if we’re going to be thinking win/win, we need to think of a technological solution. We have heard you loud and clear.”

Councilwoman Roz Sherman, (D-Ward 2), has previously questioned the need for speakers in the park.

“Speakers were never supposed to be there, and as far as I’m concerned, they never will be there,” she said on Aug. 12. “We’ll do what is the right thing for the township.”

Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1), said that while he believed Zwerling’s statements about the mitigation of the sound from the speakers, “I’ve also heard all of you.”

“I’m not convinced that speakers are a necessary addition to the park,” he said.

In addition to Wright, Regan has said the park should have a speaker system. Levine has not publicly stated his preference.

Township manager Bob Vornlocker said that a vote on the sound system will be on the council’s Sept. 9 agenda.

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