The bolts of lightning flickering behind New Providence High School’s Lieder Field were not the only source of light last night on the Pioneer’s home turf.
For the first time since their completed installation two weeks ago, the football field’s new four field lights were turned on, tested for borough ordinance compliance, and approved.
About 50 residents — including children, who took advantage of the brightly lit field to play lacrosse and other games — showed up for the testing, where a representative from the city’s engineering department and the lights’ manufacturer, Musco Sports Lighting, checked to ensure the lights did not spill over into neighboring properties more than the ordinance’s approved .1 footcandles (a technical measurement for light projection).
At the last council meeting, council members asked for this test to ensure the lights comply with the borough ordinance before making the last partial payment of $37,510.28 to Fai-Gon Electrical Contractors, which installed the 52 lights that are grouped together on four, 70-foot poles.
Borough engineer Andy Hipolit said the lights, which are very energy efficient, passed the test, with numbers recording under the requirement.
Frank Gonnella, vice president of Fai-Gon Electrical Contractors, said the company saw little setback in the installation process.
“We just had to make sure to stick to the guidelines that were set forth,” Gonella said.
These lights, which also come with a 25-year warranty and maintenance from Musco, are designed to reduce light spill onto neighboring properties — a concern of some nearby homeowners, he said. The bulbs can also be adjusted to different settings and angles.
“These lights are one of the best products on the market for the spill,” Gonella said.
Hipolit said when the plan for the lights was brought to the council, the light ordinance was passed in December of 2008 to address these concerns. Residents within 400 feet of the school were notified of the plans as well.
Before the test was complete, Hipolit said he doubted the lights would fail to pass the ordinance.
“These lights are designed via computer technology,” he said.
During the designing process, the computers accounted for the worst-case scenario of the light’s spill, including reflections off the field and the bleachers. If the lights did not pass the test, their swivel design could allow them to be tweaked manually to satisfy the ordinance, Hipolit said.
The passing of the light ordinance signifies that the lights are ready to be used. But Councilman Alan Lesnewich, who is president of the New Providence Athletic Foundation, said they will most likely be used for the first time on Sept. 9 — the first high school home football game of the season.
“I feel so good for the community and for the future,” Lesnewich said.
Jim Madden, also a member of the NPAF, said he predicts about 3,500 community members can now use this field, whether it be for casual nighttime soccer games or running and walking around the track in the evening.
This was evinced by the excitement of the crowd that came to see the lights pass the ordinance.
“I’ve designed about 50 fields,” Hipolit said. “I’ve never had people show up to testing.”
The completion of the lights also mark the six-year end of construction of the school’s turf field, as the process for getting the lights started in 2008, three years after the installation of the field.
The process took longer to complete because the volunteers wanted to ensure it was done right. They compromised with the concerns of the homeowners, who feared light spillage, Madden said.
In addition, funding fell short of the groups’ aspirations at first, so they had to fund-raise longer before they could propose a plan, he said.
When they had the funds to start the project, they appealed to the neighbors to input their concerns for an ordinance regarding the lights, Madden said.
“We didn’t want a fight … We wanted to make sure we came back with a compromise,” he said. “The beautiful thing about this project is we worked with the neighbors, with the council, with the board of [education] … we got everyone’s buy-in.”
When the light ordinance was officially passed in December of 2008, the groups began their fund-raising campaign for the lights in 2009, Madden said. The bid for construction was awarded this past February.
The council worked on the debt plan with the New Providence Partnership for Recreation and determined what they would need to come up with to finish financing the plan, he said.
“We worked within the community,” Madden said. “The community dictates the pace.”
The council also worked to reduce costs by about $50,000 and sought contractors who could finish the plan in one phase, rather than the projected two, he said.
So far, volunteers raised about $125,000 of the $235,000 needed for the lights, Lesnewich said. They need about $110,000 more to repay the council, who bonded this money at a .
Although they have 10 years to do so, Lesnewich predicts it will only take three years due to aggressive fund-raising efforts, which include community mailings, golf outings and the annual “September Fest,” a borough-wide fundraiser that raked in $25,000 last year alone. This year’s fundraiser is scheduled for Sept. 17.
Fund-raising ensures the price does not fall on the taxpayer, and Madden stressed the importance of uniting the borough to complete this project.
“It does take a village,” he said.
Madden hopes the borough can come together to contribute to the cause quicker, so the organizers can work on another project for the community.
“There’s a lot more we can do for the fields in this borough,” he said.