MONTVILLE, NJ – Twelve-year-old Christian Albecker was honored at the Feb. 9 Montville Township Committee meeting for his bravery.
“On Aug. 19, 2015,” Montville Township Police Chief Rudy Appelman told the assemly, “You, as a 12-year-old boy were home alone, when there was a knock on the door.
“Following his mother’s instructions, Christian did not answer the door. The doorbell rang, followed by more knocking. Christian went upstairs, looked out the window and saw a man standing outside the door whom he didn’t recognize. Christian advised his mother, by phone, of the situation. While Christian’s mom called the police to alert them to what was going on, Christian went downstairs and hid. Shortly afterwards, Christian heard glass breaking. A man had entered the back door of the house. Christian’s mom called the house, but smartly, Christian did not answer the phone, so that the man would not be alerted that someone was at home. The man went upstairs, and Christian took the opportunity to grab the cordless phone and run from the house. Christian took refuge behind the shed and stayed on the phone with the 9-1-1 operator the entire time.
“By providing the valuable information of the male’s description and location to the arriving officers, the male actor was apprehended coming out of the house. Christian, we wanted to give you this presentation and thank you for your heroism, your cool, being calm under pressure, and to say what a fantastic job you did and how proud we are of you,” Appelman said, as he presented Albecker with a plaque.
Responding officers Sergeant Charles Tremblay and Patrolman Scott McGowan were also in attendance to honor Albecker, as well as several other Montville Township Police Officers and the color guard from the Montville Township Police Explorers Post 805, who presented the colors and led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mayor James Sandham also presented Albecker with a certificate of recognition on behalf of the Township Committee, citing his courage and quick thinking.
“I was scared; I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Albecker told TAP into Montville.
“We are very proud of his quick actions,” Christian’s father, Richard, told TAP into Montville
“We’re glad they’re honoring him, but we want to put it behind us, it was a bad time,” said mom Marguerite Albecker.
Changebridge at Route 202 Project
Part of the Township Committee’s agenda is a project status report; the Feb. 9 update stated that the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Historic Preservation Office “has outlined certain conditions that must be met prior to re-initiation of construction. Estimated project completion date is March 31, 2016 although the project could be delayed due to state's stipulations.”
TAP into Montville spoke to County Engineer Christopher Vitz, who said that the state’s HPO had concerns with regard to the Morris Canal site, which is adjacent to that intersection.
“There has been no halt to construction, but during the winter the asphalt plants aren’t open. Traffic signal work was completed on Feb. 10 and the power needs to be switched over to the new signal. I expect this to happen in the next two or three weeks. The pole relocations are still ongoing. We’ve been on top of the utility companies but they’ve been pulled off this project because of accidents and circumstances that happen because of winter weather conditions,” Vitz said.
“The state HPO asked for stringent changes and alterations to the design with regard to the canal site. Some we can’t do, so we’re waiting for a response from them; we sent correspondence to them this week. For now we’re carving that piece off the project. We’ll get 90 percent done and worry about the funding for the canal portion as we have time,” Vitz explained.
Additional Parking at Community Park
Township Administrator Victor Canning and Township Engineer Mark Mantyla created a plan which proposed 34 parking spaces between the community gardens and soccer field number 3 at Community Park, which was met with opposition by both residents and the Committee.
One resident stated her concern for pedestrian safety because the young soccer players kick the ball as they walk along the gravel pathway that would become a driveway to the new parking spaces.
Community Garden Liaison Cliff Seipel stated that soccer families should be informed that they can park in the parking lot behind the high school if their youth is playing on fields three or four. He worried about the safety of gardeners, which is already a problem due to parents driving on the pathway to drop off their children at soccer games and “driving too fast, talking on their cell phones, and driving into the sun,” he said.
Former mayor John Rosselini told the Committee “I’m upset with the park. It was designed to be a park, not a parking lot.”
“We used to have a park ranger who enforced the parking. Parents can park at Lazar, the upper parking lot near the playground, or behind the high school. Now there’s no one pushing the drivers out of the areas they’re not supposed to be. It needs enforcement. If 34 spaces are created, the next 34 who can’t get a spot have nowhere to go, and kids might get injured. It’s a bandaid design,” Rosselini said. He called the proposal “crazy.”
Former mayor Robert “Doc” Purnell told the Committee he was also not in favor of the proposal because the soccer families “go zooming. They zip around to the top of the field.”
Sandham stated that the proposed parking spaces were not at the behest of the Township Committee and the lack of parking on Saturdays was due to the park being a “victim of its own success.”
Committee Member Deb Nielson stated that the Montville Soccer Association needs to put maps on its website informing parents and tournament visitors that parking is available at Lazar and the high school. She said the new parking lot on the opposite side of the turf field will be available in the spring and will hopefully provide some relief.
Committee Member Scott Gallopo stated “It’s about enforcement.” If police give offenders a ticket, it would be all over social media and parents would stop driving on the pathway, he said.
“We want to get drivers out of the area – not in. It’s a hazard, so why make it legal? This is a non solution,” Gallopo said. “We need to start sending a message. We need tough love. You could put up billboards, and no one would pay attention.”
Sandham asked if any committee members endorsed the proposal and none did. Sandham encouraged Canning to continue to bring ideas to the committee.
Open Space Committee
The Open Space Committee was discussed at the meeting because the Open Space Committee (OSC) had asked the Township Committee if its scope needed to be changed.
Gallopo stated, “Now that we’re not just covering our debt service, we’re going to have some cash flow moving forward. Unless the [Township] Committee will consider no properties, I hope we’re saying there are properties that make sense to purchase. Let’s get that list.”
Other members agreed that more open space purchases should be examined.
Nielson stated that in time for the township’s 150th anniversary celebration, it would be nice to have trail maps downloadable to smart phones because “a lot of folks don’t know about all of our trails. We spent $35 or $40 million preserving about 25 percent of the land in town. Montville is to be commended for that. The tax payers should have access to them. It’s a resource that is underutilized.”
Member Richard Conklin agreed, saying, “The Township Committee can take that up right now. Call the Recreation Department. Let’s get kiosks with trail maps out there at each park. Let’s get the maps up on the website. Let’s get folks out there to use these things. This is the time of year to do it, not in the summertime, so they’re ready for the spring.”
Nielson said the OSC is here to do that, and is “walking properties” and will send the Township Committee a list of potential acquisitions.
Sandham said the Committee did not send out a flyer soliciting volunteers and donations for the 150th Anniversary Celebration, and he found it premature that the Historical Society did so.
Sandham also announced that 15 towns have united to oppose the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline.
He also stated that the Zoning Board had been advised that traffic light timing in Towaco at the fire station and post office could be optimized, as described by TAP into Montville HERE and engineering will be requesting that Morris County optimize the timing to reduce traffic problems at the intersection.
Other Public Input
Rosselini also suggested a no overnight parking ordinance which would help snow removal and clear derelict cars from Montville streets.
Seipel asked that the ordinance regarding not plowing snow into the street being enforced.
A resident also approached the microphone to complain about excessive speeding in the Cheryl Road neighborhood, asking for traffic calming devices. Sandham announced with dismay that police reported speeds on Cheryl Road in a 24 hour time period as “half the time greater than 40 mph in a 25 mph zone, four times cars traveled more than 50 mph, and one time a car traveled more than 60.
“Enforcement needs to be part of this. The prior chief didn’t like calming techniques, but 60 mph is not acceptable to anyone reasonable. We have to do something,” Sandham said.
Sandham asked administration to place notice on the township website that parking at the park is not to be next to the soccer fields, and speeding will not be tolerated in the township, and that there will be strict enforcement moving forward. Gallopo stated he would bring the Committee’s soccer parking concerns to the Recreation Commission meeting. Sandham asked Canning to create an enforcement plan regarding both the park and Cheryl Road.