Potential Of Sound System In Middlebush Park Sparks Debate At Township Council Meeting

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Brian Koskey of Koskey Electronics Systems speaks to the Township Council about a potential sound system for Middlebush Park.

The potential for a sound system to be added to the athletic complex at Middlebush Park, off DeMott Lane, sparked a debate among residents at the May 13 Township Council meeting.

In general, residents who live near the area were opposed to the idea, while residents connected with the various sports organizations that use it were supportive.

Residents who live on Gauguin Way and Charles Street, especially, say they will be the most affected by a sound system.

Those opposed said they already hear noise from the Pop Warner football and township soccer club games, and adding amplified sound will make it impossible for them to enjoy their backyards.

Proponents said the system will be designed to minimize noise escapes from the complex, and some said that having a sports complex without a sound system would be “a disgrace.”

Councilman Carl R.A. Wright, (D-Ward 4) is the catalyst behind the movement to add a sound system to the park. He invited David Koskey, of Koskey Electronics Systems of North Brunswick, to give the council an idea of what type of system could be placed there.

But Koskey’s presentation did not seem to impress some of the council members, especially when he could not answer a question of how far the sound waves would travel from the complex.

Nor did it sit well with some audience members on both sides of the debate. Residents, who were told of the meeting by council members Phil Kramer (D-Ward 3) and Roz Sherman, (D-Ward 2) – both of whose constituents would be affected by the system – suggested the council look more thoroughly for a potential contractor.

In additionto the football/soccer fields, the park boasts a “tot lot” and a skateboard park, and there will be softball and baseball fields built. The park is also lit for night games.

Koskey told the council that the system,which would feature four speakers mounted on poles between 20- and 30-feet tall, would cost “in the neighborhood” of $25,000.

The speakers, he said, would be pointed down toward the field to minimize the sound heard by neighboring homeowners.

“We will be able to focus those speaker cabinets on the field,” he said.

The system would also feature a CD player and iPod docking station to allow “background music” to be played through the speakers, he said.

Using more speakers, Koskey said, would allow less power to be pushed through each of them, which would translate to less noise being heard by neighbors.

But when asked how far the sound would travel, Koskey said he “hasn’t done any type of review” on that.

“I’ll have to look at that a little more carefully,” he said.

Koskey did say, though, that if residents can hear “cheering and yelling” now, “then they will hear something, yes.”

Wright told the council that this “state-of-the-art” system would “be a moneymaker” for the township because it would rent the fields out to other organizations.

“The fees that we generate we use for the upkeep of the park,” he said. “This type of park dies us good.”

Rayanne Raya of Wilson Road said she did not think MIddlebush Park “was a good place” for the sound system.

“The homes were already there, we like the peaceful lifestyle,” she said. “I want to hear the creek across the street.”

Hunter’s Crossing Road resident Catherine Cimini told the council that she’s been a recreation coach and is “concerned about the sound system.”

“This is going to destroy my piece and quiet,” she sad. “I bet you could spend that $25,000 more wisely within the Franklin Township recreation department.”

Cimini caused a stir among some members of the audience when she said she did not want to “hear rap music” coming from the playing fields. She later apologized for the comment.

Referencing the potential for soccer games to be announced by the sound system, Cimini said, “I’m going to be mighty disturbed when I have to listen to ‘gooooal!’ every five minutes when I’m trying to listen to Dan Folgelberg.”

Another Gauguin Way resident, Neil Strotman, said the sound system “will make it unpleasant for us when we’re in our backyards.”

“I don’t think the park can’t not be enjoyed without the loudspeaker system,” he said.

Keith Stewart, chairman of the township’s advisory recreation commission, said that “everybody is affected” by noise made by their neighbors.

“There’s all kinds of noise we hear in this community,” he said. “We need to do what’s right for the whole community, not just” a certain segment.

Dennis Harris of Lincoln Avenue said that when an athletic facility such as the one at Middlebush Park does not have a sound system, “it’s a disgrace.”

“The sound system ail benefit the parents and kids of Franklin Township,” he said.

Jasmine Castro of Gauguin Way said that while she is “for anything that will entertain a child,” she is “totally against” the speaker system.

“There is no way we will have peace of mind,” she said. “we purposely moved into this area because of the quiet.”

Charles Street resident Jo Ann Jackson said she has “plenty of neighbors who are moving out because of the park.”

“We’re happy with the park,” she said, “but every Saturday, I don’t want to hear a sound system.”

Bill Gallagher of Lake Avenue, the recreation advisory commission’s co-chairman, said it was “not our intention as sports organizations to be bothering our neighbors.”

He said the “technology exists now” to keep the sound of the speakers in the park.

Council members who expressed an opinion on the idea were in favor of it.

Councilwomen Kimberly Francois, (D-At Large) said that a “balance” has to be struck.

“We have to balance the needs of the community, balance the needs of our youth and balance the needs of the people who live in the area so we don’t denigrate their way of life,” she said. “I do sympathize with the residents who live in that area. We will make sure we do our due diligence and have the right sound system over there.”

Councilman Rajiv Prasad, (D-At Large) agreed and said the council will “find whatever best system we can.”

Councilman James Vassanella, (D-Ward 5) said that a park as large as Middlebush “should have audio capability.”

He suggested testing a system during the fall’s Pop Warner system to see what type of setup would be best.

Deputy Mayor Brian Regan (D-AtLarge) agreed the park should have a sound system and said the council will “work hard on a solution that will be the best for the situation.”

“We need recreation and we need peaceful enjoyment of our homes,” said Mayor Brian Levine, ( R). “I think we can have it both ways.”

Kramer reminded everyone that “this is right now an idea. This is just Councilman Wright trying to get as much information as he can to council so council can make a decision.”

“I want to have the park have as little impact as possible on the people who live around it, but still serve the people who use it,” he said.

Saying that he is not advocating for the system, Kramer said such a system would have to be engineered for minimal impact.

Councilman Ted Chase, (D-Ward 1) said the council is “a long way away from making a decision. People on Gauguin Way and Charles Street have a right to not hear the system.”

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