A new artificial turf surface and drainage system won't be installed at the Montville Township High School football field after voters rejected the plan by a 186-vote margin on Tuesday.
The Board of Education asked voters for permission to install the field with up to $990,000 from a surplus gained by switching insurance carriers in July.
Poll results showed 1,357 voters were against the turf field while 1,171 voters were in favor.
The Board of Education unanimously supported the plan, saying the district eventually needed to improve the field regardless of the outcome of the vote and that installing artificial turf was the best choice.
People on both sides felt strongly about the issue, with supporters saying artificial turf would be safer, used more and would cost less than a grass field in the long run due to lower maintenance costs and lower transportation costs because high school athletes would not need to be bused to other fields as often.
Some residents said the grass field could have been maintained for less than the cost of installing artificial turf, and that they would have rather seen the surplus used on other projects.
The question involved a portion of a $1.5 million surplus that was created when the district got a better offer for health insurance coverage and then switched comanies.
Supporters of the project gathered in the lobby of the township municipal building Tuesday around 9 p.m. After the votes were tallied, they said they were disappointed with the results and attributed the failure to voters who did not understand the merits of the plan.
"We're just very disappointed for the kids in the community," Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried said. He said the field affects all students in the district.
Board of Education President Dr. Karen Cortellino also said she was disappointed. She said the district did a good job of presenting its case for artificial turf and that parent groups rallied support.
In April, voters approved the budget 1,923-1,217.