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Latest News in Chester Township, NJ

Payment Changes For Trash Collection Discussed By Chester Council

The cost of collection will be removed from the municipal budget and collected from residents via a separate annual bill under the new plan.CHESTER, NJ — Officials from Chester Township have moved forward with a plan to change the way that garbage collection fees are paid within the township due to rising costs.A new agreement for continued garbage collection with Blue Diamond Disposal, Inc. will be paid for by Chester Township, which will create a municipal utility as the payment method.Officials assured the pub...

The cost of collection will be removed from the municipal budget and collected from residents via a separate annual bill under the new plan.

CHESTER, NJ — Officials from Chester Township have moved forward with a plan to change the way that garbage collection fees are paid within the township due to rising costs.

A new agreement for continued garbage collection with Blue Diamond Disposal, Inc. will be paid for by Chester Township, which will create a municipal utility as the payment method.

Officials assured the public that garbage collection would not stop while the utility was being set up.

Blue Diamond Disposal's five-year garbage collection contract with Chester Township was set to expire at the end of December. The township prepared bid specifications for a new contract earlier this fall, which were released in November.

The bid showed a significant increase in price; the lowest quoted price among the options was approximately $924,000 per year, officials said.

This represented a significant increase over the $444,000 the town was paying per year under the previous contract and would represent a 5.4 percent tax increase.

Citing this as the reason for the switch, a review by Chester Township's third-party auditor, as well as a discussion at the Jan. 3 council meeting, pushed township officials to create a utility.

Under the current system, Blue Diamond Disposal provides both trash and recycling services to all residents in Chester Township. With the old contract, stickers were required for all trash and were sold at $16 per sheet.

According to the township, the cheapest bid option for residents included having no stickers at all, which increased the cost of the municipal budget but resulted in a lower total price.

"In this option, the amount for Chester Township to absorb in the 2023 budget is $547,000. This represents an approximate 6.16 percent tax increase which, accounting for other, state-mandated cost increases, is mathematically impossible for Chester Township to absorb under New Jersey’s appropriations cap and property tax cap," officials said.

The township has decided, under the new plan, to choose the cheapest option for residents, in which stickers are no longer required, and to pay for this through a municipal utility.

The finance department will be establishing this utility, which will serve as a permanent and dedicated source of funding for garbage collection, township officials said.

Garbage collection costs will thus be removed from the municipal budget and collected directly from residents via a separate annual bill.

The council is taking steps to solidify this decision, but it is not yet final. An official ordinance must be introduced at the Jan. 17 council meeting, with a public hearing held at a later separate meeting.

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Outgoing Mayor Asdal Says Farewell To Chester Township

After six years of service, Mayor Marcia Asdal has officially bid farewell to her constituents in Chester Township. CHESTER, NJ — Mayor Marcia Asdal said her final goodbyes at the Chester Township Council meeting on Dec. 20, as it was the final meeting of the year.Asdal has been the mayor of Chester Township for the past six years and chose not to run for reelection in the Nov. 8 election, instead opting to retire."There is a mantra the U.S. Navy uses to describe its priorities: Ship, Shipmate, Self. The mis...

After six years of service, Mayor Marcia Asdal has officially bid farewell to her constituents in Chester Township.

CHESTER, NJ — Mayor Marcia Asdal said her final goodbyes at the Chester Township Council meeting on Dec. 20, as it was the final meeting of the year.

Asdal has been the mayor of Chester Township for the past six years and chose not to run for reelection in the Nov. 8 election, instead opting to retire.

"There is a mantra the U.S. Navy uses to describe its priorities: Ship, Shipmate, Self. The mission of the Navy comes first, the needs of the team are next and self is at the bottom of the hierarchy. This was my guiding principle as mayor – the priority was always what was best for Chester Township as a whole," Asdal said in her farewell letter.

During the meeting, other council members chimed in about their time working with Asdal over the last few years, detailing her work ethic and high aspirations for the township.

Michael Inganamort, a sitting council member, will succeed Asdal, who is in his fifth year as President of the Chester Township Council and his fifth year on the council.

When Asdal took office in January 2017, she previously said her main goals were, "happy residents, living in a well-run, highly desirable town."

Asdal completed several accomplishments during her time as township mayor, including navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, completing several road resurfacing projects and reconstructing several recreation areas around town, among many others.

"There are many accomplishments of which I'm proud, but what brings me the most joy is the number of residents who were inspired by my leadership to volunteer their time and talents to Chester Township. Thank you to everyone who helped me preserve and protect Chester Township and prepare it for the future, one in which future generations will continue to Choose Chester," Asdal said.

Among the challenges for the coming year, new mayor-elect Inganamort says the main focus for the first half of 2023 will be addressing inflation and ensuring the municipal budget does not incur any unnecessary spikes.

"I am confident that Mayor-elect Mike Inganamort will continue the excellent leadership he's shown on the council, and I wish him much success in his new role," Asdal said.

$1.2M Turf Project At Highlands Ridge Initially Approved In Chester

The Chester council approved an ordinance transferring nearly $1.2 million from the Black River Fields Project to Highlands Ridge Park. CHESTER, NJ — After hearing mixed reactions to the potential addition of turf fields to the Highlands Ridge Park project, township council members approved an ordinance providing funding for the improvements in a split vote.In late December, the township council voted 3-2 to transfer nearly $1.2 million from the Black River Fields Project to Highlands Ridge Park.The project was s...

The Chester council approved an ordinance transferring nearly $1.2 million from the Black River Fields Project to Highlands Ridge Park.

CHESTER, NJ — After hearing mixed reactions to the potential addition of turf fields to the Highlands Ridge Park project, township council members approved an ordinance providing funding for the improvements in a split vote.

In late December, the township council voted 3-2 to transfer nearly $1.2 million from the Black River Fields Project to Highlands Ridge Park.

The project was supported by then-Mayor Marcia Asdal and councilmen Tim Drag and John Butkus, while Mayor Michael Inganamort and Joseph DiPaolo voted against it.

During public comment, local resident Tom Grego argued that the council should have rejected it and instead written a new one in 2023 that called for transferring the approved funds to a more general fund. The council could then better decide what to do with the $1.2 million in the new year, across all of Chester Township, rather than just one specific park.

Grego gave the example of using some of the funds to support the new Chester Volunteer Fire Department project to build a pavilion at Chubb Park to support community events like the annual carnival and Oktoberfest.

"This is where the money should go. This is what would help the entire township," Grego said.

Di Paolo, who rejected the ordinance, echoed this statement, saying that he found the ordinance to be limiting. "I think we should be a little broader in saying if we want to proceed, we should look at Highlands and we should look at other places and not tie ourselves to one specific location."

Asdal argued that the ordinance names Highlands Ridge Park because it is the most logical location for a turf field in Chester, but that if the council wanted to broaden it, it could always be amended later.

"The advantage of Highlands is that we own it, it's not in the preservation area like the Black River Fields was across the street or where Chubb Park is. This happens to be a piece of property that has less restrictions and the rest of any open park in Chester Township, does not have those same parameters," Asdal said.

While many residents spoke out against the unknown financial and traffic burden that adding the fields could impose on the township, others spoke positively about the potential new addition.

One of the speakers in support was Gavin Wilk, an upcoming lacrosse player on the sixth-grade Mendham and Chester team.

Wilk stated that a turf field would be a significant improvement because, currently, weather conditions prevent teams from practicing on days when the field is frozen because the lacrosse season begins in early spring.

Asdal, who stated her support for a turf field, told the public that the ordinance only appropriates money for the possibility of putting a turf field in Highlands Ridge Park. Whether that is actually constructed, would be something for future councils to discuss.

"There will be many public hearings," Asdal said. "There will be many votes. There will be many decisions made. There will be much financial analysis done. There will be many studies done if future councils decide to move forward on any sort of artificial turf project on Highlands Ridge Park."

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More from Mendham-Chester

Concern Over Potential New Brewery Sparks Conversations In Mendham

Residents addressed the committee, discussing environmental concerns about the future of the Backer Farm Brewery project. MENDHAM, NJ — The ongoing process aiming to convert a local preserved farm into a farm-based brewer has recently sparked a new round of conversation as members of the public spoke out in concern about potential environmental impacts.Backer Farm has been seeking permission to establish a brewery operation on their property, which currently has produce and livestock. The farm's plan was initially appro...

Residents addressed the committee, discussing environmental concerns about the future of the Backer Farm Brewery project.

MENDHAM, NJ — The ongoing process aiming to convert a local preserved farm into a farm-based brewer has recently sparked a new round of conversation as members of the public spoke out in concern about potential environmental impacts.

Backer Farm has been seeking permission to establish a brewery operation on their property, which currently has produce and livestock. The farm's plan was initially approved by the Mendham Township Zoning Board of Adjustment last year with a 5-2 vote.

Local resident Melissa Rainis spoke before the township committee on Monday evening, requesting that the environmental committee weigh in on the environmental impacts and aspects of the application.

"The township environmental committee has weighed in on Hillandale and recently Mendham Mushrooms and Irene’s Spring Tree Farms, all of which are much smaller projects and have less impact on the environment than this brewery project," Rainis said.

The Backer Farm brewery project is currently still on the docket for the Morris County Agriculture Development Board, although the official application has not yet been heard.

After months of waiting, the Morris County Agriculture Development Board scheduled a virtual hearing on the farm's proposal for a brewery and tasting room on Aug. 11, but it was canceled.

According to Katherine Coyle, Director of the Morris County Agriculture Development Board, the reason for the delay was that the Morris County Agriculture Development Board needed time to review additional information that was submitted.

"Yes, this project is not going before the town board, like the planning board, but the environment does not care who will be negatively impacting it. This will be on the land of our township, and we ask you to defend it and protect it as needed from this commercial development," Rainis said.

Following her remark, resident George Koenig expressed similar sentiments, stating that a project like the brewery would typically have to go through the Mendham Township Planning Board. Under that process, applicants would be required to hire a consultant who would oversee the entire project from an environmental and stormwater management standpoint, according to Koenig.

"That is not the case here because the jurisdiction has now moved to the agriculture board, but I believe that that base still needs to be tagged. I am fully in support of the request to have the environmental committee be designated for a review," Koenig said.

To view Backer Farm’s application on the county’s website, click here and here for the County Agriculture Development Board meeting agendas and schedule.

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Philadelphia area's first indoor pickleball center set to open in Malvern, with more on the way

When temperatures drop and Philadelphia-area pickleball players scramble to find a place to play their increasingly popular sport indoors, they quickly find their options are limited.The choices typically involve booking off-hours at tennis complexes, which are turning to pickleball to fill unbooked court time and generate extra revenue, or setting up portable nets in school gymnasiums and community centers to create their own courts using painter's tape for boundary lines....

When temperatures drop and Philadelphia-area pickleball players scramble to find a place to play their increasingly popular sport indoors, they quickly find their options are limited.

The choices typically involve booking off-hours at tennis complexes, which are turning to pickleball to fill unbooked court time and generate extra revenue, or setting up portable nets in school gymnasiums and community centers to create their own courts using painter's tape for boundary lines.

Talen Singer and Bill Davis want to change that.

The entrepreneurs are preparing to open the region's first fully dedicated indoor pickleball center in Malvern this spring.

Called Bounce Pickleball, the more than $4 million facility will feature 16 courts, a teaching pro, and instructors and programming that will include court rentals, open-play events, tournaments, leagues, one-on-one and group lessons, clinics, drills sessions, and "facilitated play" where members can experience playing against some of the country's top players.

Singer and Davis aren't limiting themselves to one center. They plan to open up to six Bounce Pickleball centers in the region over the next two years, and eventually expand to as many as 18 facilities stretching to the Jersey Shore.

"We want to create a network of pickleball facilities — indoor, outdoor, anything you can imagine with everything under the sun," Singer said.

Braden Keith, Bounce's marketing and operations manager, said the organization has two primary goals.

"First and foremost," Keith said, "we want to create a strong sense of community and togetherness via pickleball by creating structured access to courts and playgroups for all ages and levels of ability, from brand-new players to touring professionals. Second, we are aiming to increase play competencies across our membership and community by bringing in the nation's top players and coaches to instruct [players] here on the Main Line. We believe that pickleball courts can be the new '3rd Place,' a space outside of work and the home to foster friendships and build new relationships."

Pickleball — a sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong — is played on a court 44 feet long and 20 feet wide. Players use paddles commonly made of lightweight composite materials such as graphite or carbon fiber to hit a plastic ball with perforated holes over a net.

According to a recent report from the Association of Pickleball Professionals, more than 36 million people played pickleball in the 12 months from August 2021 to August 2022 and thsport experienced a nearly 40% growth rate between 2019 and 2021.

Singer readily admits he had no interest in the sport when his father, who had retired to Florida, first introduced him to pickleball. He reluctantly gave it a chance after his brother played and urged him give it a try. "I hit about seven balls, smiled and thought, 'I'm going to do this for the rest of my life,'" he said.

The Bounce team isn't the only group looking to capitalize on the sport's growing popularity.

Last year, an indoor pickleball complex with nine courts, the Mercer Bucks Pickleball Club, opened in Ewing, New Jersey, and three more pickleball centers are expected to open in South Jersey later this year.

Pickle Juice, a newly formed company, announced last week it has signed a lease with MLG Realty for two indoor pickleball facilities with juice bars in Ventnor Heights and Blackwood, New Jersey, that is expects to open this summer. ProShot Pickleball is getting ready to open at the Harbor Square Shopping Mall in Egg Harbor Township at the Jersey Shore.

The first Bounce Pickleball is being created at what was the 36,000-square-foot Great Valley Racquet Club on Morehall Road in Malvern.

Set to open in May, Bounce will feature "premiere play" enclosed courts for uninterrupted play, along with open-play courts. The facility will offer an array of membership opportunities.

Davis, a serial entrepreneur and avid pickleball player, is the lead investor for the project. Singer is the operating partner.

Singer has more than 28 years of professional experience in sports including serving the past eight years as the co-owner and operator of the Philadelphia Jumps Club in Eagleville, a facility that provides coaching and a practice site for pole vaulters. He previously owned and operated a high-end, multi-site personal training program out of several country clubs on the Main Line. He sold that business to focus on Bounce.

Singer, who was introduced to pickleball by his parents, said he had the idea to create an indoor pickleball facility several years ago after experiencing how Philadelphia Jumps coalesced the area's pole vaulting community.

"We became a one-stop shop where people can train, find coaching and actually compete in meets and perform," he said. "I thought, why can't we do this with pickleball? This really came about because there was no place to play indoors and I could never play at the prime times. My whole life has been kind of spent in niche sports, and when this project started three years ago, this was a niche sport."

Singer initially started small with plans to have a few courts at the Jumps Club, but as the club became more popular that idea wasn't feasible.

He next had lengthy discussions about creating a pickleball center from scratch inside a building in King of Prussia, with a different investor. Those negations, however, ended without a deal — in large part because the required renovations and ongoing supply issues would have meant a prolonged delay before any courts would be ready.

After discussing the idea with some of his personal fitness business clients, Singer expanded his concept.

"I had access to big thinkers, CEOs and CFOs and people who started restaurants and other businesses," he said. "I just couldn't think small anymore. When I found the right person [Davis] to partner with, we decided to jump in."

Their first move was to work with Chris Lange, managing director at the commercial real estate advisory and services firm Newmark, to determine if any existing indoor tennis centers — which could more easily be converted into a pickleball facility — were on the market. That move led them to the Great Valley Racquet Club, a more than 30-year-old tennis center owned and operated by Michael and Catherine Capelletti.

A deal was eventually worked out, and Singer responded to backlash from club members who would be losing their tennis home with assurances that all existing contracts would be honored and offers to convert tennis contracts to pickleball for any interested members.

As a result, he said, when Bounce starts accepting members in March, it will limit the number accepted to between 600 and 700 to ensure all Great Valley Racquet Club members have a chance to join Bounce.

Membership fees will start at $125 a year for open-play members. Other options include a more extensive general membership for $225 a year and a founders membership (limited to 50 people) priced at $3,450 a year that features unlimited cost access and other perks.

Bounce has already signed a partnership deal with Joola, a leading table tennis equipment company that recently expanded into Pickleball. As part of that partnership, Bounce will sell Joola equipment and gear and the Joola brand will be featured prominently throughout the facility. Bounce members will get to demo and give feedback on new paddles in development, and Joola pros will make regular stops at the center.

Keith said pickleball is unlike tennis in that tennis club members will typically rent specific court times for a small group of players who split the cost. Contract court time will be available to Bounce members, but he said they don't believe it will be widely popular for pickleball players.

Pickleball, he said, is more of a sport where groups will let it be known through social media sites what times players of a certain skill level will be playing at a site, indoor or outdoor.

"Then 30 people sign up and mix and rotate with everyone who is there," Keith said. "I think that contributes to pickleball's community vibe."

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