BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater Township is working to establish an office for a full-time historian and local history advisory.
The town council recently introduced an ordinance to do so.
Councilman Filipe Pedroso started by saying that he was pleased the measure was on the agenda, and remarked that Bridgewater is one of the oldest townships in the country, having been chartered in 1749 and then incorporated in 1798. He added that this new historical group would preserve the town’s storied history, at practically no cost to the township or its citizens.
“It’s really almost at zero cost,” said Pedroso, who added that the people participating would be volunteers. “I assume they would have a love for Bridgewater, to preserve its history for future generations.”
He also said that such preservation would include photographs, documents and other materials. He added that there were other, non-profit organizations around town that were doing tremendous work, such as the Friends of Bridgewater, in acquiring property, but that the people of Bridgewater needed to have a place to donate historical artifacts.
Council president Christine Henderson Rose said that what concerned her was the question of how.
“I do think there will be some costs related to the work,” she said.
Pedroso said it would be up to the council, to get recommendations from the historian.
“I don’t envision spending money,” he said. “It’s practically free. There’s no place to donate photos to the town now.”
Pedroso also added that there were handwritten municipal minute books from years past that were currently stored in the clerk’s office. Rose said the preservation of such books would be expensive, requiring climate control and other measures.
Councilman Howard Norgalis said he would support the ordinance, although he had questions about storage and the like. He said there is an active county historical organization, but added that this is an opportunity for Bridgewater alone.
“We need to start some place,” Norgalis said.
Councilman Allen Kurdyla said he believes the township still has an ad hoc historical committee. Pedroso said that is true, one that had been started earlier this year by the mayor, but it is a temporary body that was intended solely for the preservation of Bridgewater’s Lane-Brokaw House, which dates back to the American Revolution.
“It’s a completely separate committee,” said Pedroso, who added that it is not a political body.
He also said that he wants something else, an entity for town historical preservation that would last 50 years, 100 years or even longer.
Council vice president Matthew Moench said he supports the ordinance, and that a township historian could serve as a focal point for all historical-related groups.
“There are history grants out there,” said Moench, who added that the town historian could also come back to the council in the future with recommendations.
Prior to the council vote, Rose said she would not support the ordinance at present, as she did not believe it was well-planned. The measure still passed by a 3-2 margin.
After some debate, the public hearing on the ordinance will be held Sept. 17, instead of the originally proposed date of Oct. 1.