Millburn Township Moves Forward with Flood Control Project, Seeks to Acquire Abandoned Cemetery

The Township Committee introduced an ordinance that authorizes the municipality to acquire this abandoned cemetery on White Oak Ridge Road. Credits: Patricia Harris

MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Township Committee last night saw some prices associated with installing pipes and pumping stations to control flooding in the South Mountain area and decided to proceed with the proposed project.

The next step will be meeting with residents of the affected areas to explain the township’s need for easements through their properties and the assessments the township will need to make.

Township Administrator Timothy Gordon offered to arrange the meeting for later this month. Leaders promised that residents of the affected areas will be notified by letter and the meeting will be publicized on the municipality’s Web site and in the press.

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Leo Coakley, the engineer with Hatch Mott MacDonald who is leading the project, came before the committee to explain the project, which he estimated will cost $4.7 million.

The basic plan, which is designed to carry water back to the East Branch of the Rahway River, includes adding storm sewers behind homes on Greenwood Drive and Ridgewood Road, enlarging the existing pump facility at Gilbert Place and adding another one at Ridgewood Road.

 In addition, a floodwall will be built at Haran Circle and backup power for the pumping stations will be provided.

During the course of the discussion, Coakley was asked if there would be a benefit if only some parts of the project were done. He said all parts of the system are designed to work together to prevent the type of flooding that would occur once every 25 years.

Mayor Sandra Haimoff summed up the concept by saying, “In other words, to get the maximum result, the township and the residents would have to work together.”

Coakley admitted there will be some storms for which the improvements would not be adequate, but he indicated they would suffice if 6 inches of rain fall in a 24-hour period.

“If the river crests, all bets are off,” he noted.

About 20 residents came out for the session, and several expressed approval for the committee’s efforts to remediate their chronic flooding problems.

One resident said his concern is the 100-year storm and asked why the township just cannot build a higher floodwall.

“You can’t just move the problem downstream,” Coakley responded. “You really need a regional approach. That’s what the mayors of the towns along the river are working on.”

Haimoff reported she has been working with her fellow mayors through the Rahway River Coalition. In informal talks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suggested creating a detention basin in the South Mountain Reservation that would reduce the flow on the West Branch, but to date the agency has not issued a promised report, she said.

In other business, the committee introduced three ordinances. The first authorizes the acquisition of the Parsil Cemetery on White Oak Ridge Road by the township. Committee member Sari Greenberg explained the cemetery appears to be abandoned and the municipality wants to be able to maintain it.

The Rolling Hills Garden Club has expressed an interest in assisting in the upkeep, she noted. The president and civic chairman of the club were on hand for the introduction of the ordinance.

Club president Joann McAleavey, expressed pleasure with the measure, saying the cemetery lies at one of the biggest intersections in the town and it deserves to be celebrated and maintained.

“Give the ladies what they want,” she quipped.

A second ordinance amends a previous one authorizing execution of an easement agreement between a property owner and the township. The new version puts the owner’s name on the document, Committee member Thomas McDermott explained.

The third ordinance creates a fire lane in Old Short Hills Park. The land extends from the driveway entrance to the park to the property line between the park and Greenwood Gardens and then along the roadway on the gardens’ property.

Committee member Robert Tillotson explained the move is necessary because of the heavier usage the park is experiencing.

Also at the session, the governing body issued a proclamation recognizing the 12-and-under Millburn Short Hill Youth Baseball Summer Team for winning this year’s Cal Ripken Northern New Jersey State Championship. Team members and one of their coaches, Kevin Ford, were on hand to receive copies of the proclamation.

A second proclamation issued by the committee designates Oct. 10 as “Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day” and encourages drivers to improve safety on the roadways in the community and throughout the state.

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