JCP&L Signs Agreement with Montville Township: Montville Township Committee Meeting May 24

Mayor Jim Sandham Credits: Melissa Benno

MONTVILLE, NJ – JCP&L has signed an agreement with Montville Township regarding changes to its proposed electrical towers traversing Montville Township, announced Township Attorney Fred Semrau at the May 24 Township Committee meeting.

Semrau stated that the JCP&L settlement has been approved and finalized by the Montville Chase and Meadows condominium complex residents, and was put before Judge McGee on May 24.

“Montville Township had the desired outcome with this case, but the case may proceed with other communities,” Semrau said.

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Residents had desired movement of lines so they were not so close to homes.

Preparing Museum for the Anniversary Celebration

Amy Curry, Director of the Morris County Historical Society, presented a description of what she thought it would take to prepare the Montville Township Museum for next year’s 150th anniversary celebration. She called the old school house a “treasure,” and said, “It’s a phenomenal resource, and you have a great opportunity to do some phenomenal things for the 150th.”

Curry’s proposal, which did not disclose costs, was to hire a full-time curator for the museum, along with a part-time assistant. She also suggested hiring interns to aid the employees. She recommended the purchase of a flatbed scanner and accompanying laptop, along with PastPerfect software. She called her proposal a “Cadillac”-level plan. She also suggested that township representatives create a mission statement in order to guide employees on what should be kept or disposed of.

Township Committee Member Deb Nielson stated that Curry had told her “your dumpster is your best friend.” Curry said that items are sometimes kept because the donor is important, but the Morris County Historical Society always tries to find a new home for items they can no longer use.

“With a mission statement, the museum stops being a dumping ground. You can get inundated with stuff,” Curry said.

Curry further suggested having rotating exhibits and displaying items in other buildings to increase storage opportunities.

Committee Member Richard Conklin stated he wanted the Montville Township Historical Society to also be involved and wanted to know if training could be done for members. Curry agreed.

“My proposal is short-term,” she said. “We can back off the number of hours eventually. I get that budgets are tight but volunteers don’t come in a steady stream. It may even encourage new volunteers once it’s organized.”

During the public portion of the meeting, Montville Township Historical Society President Kathy Fisher spoke to the committee and said she wished she had been notified earlier of Curry’s visit and proposal.

“All the items in the museum, the Doremus House museum, and the Vreeland Outkitchen are owned by the historical society,” she said. “We do have a display plan and we do have a mission statement. We also have documentation as to who made what donations and what the stipulations for that gift are, if it’s to be returned to the family or any other conditions of gifting.”

Fisher said the society has been working and planning for the 150th celebration and had worked on restoration of the museum in prior years.

Mayor Jim Sandham asked for the mission statement and Fisher told him, “it’s in all the grants.”

Nielson stated that the ten-year and five-year plans have not been followed, nor have the grants, and Fisher stated that plans change and are constantly evolving due to finances and other reasons. She also stated that they do have an inventory list but that no other township requests such a list from its historical society.

Member Frank Cooney said that he wants the committee to work with the historical society, but wanted to know if there is a time plan for re-opening the museum, which has been closed for several years.

Fisher explained that they had to take all of the items out of the building when improvements were made to it, due to security and damage concerns. The historical society is starting to go back through all the items, which were photographed and inventoried at the time of removal, but that they are not done yet, according to Fisher. They tried to acquire grant money to set up exhibits, but that did not work out, she said, and requests in 2014 for a hanging system so as to not damage the walls were not answered by the township.

Nielson stated she did not think the historical society was devoting enough hours to the project and did not think it was going to have the museum ready for the anniversary celebration. Fisher replied that the group used to work at night, but since the township changed the locks on the museum, the group cannot do that since township staff has to unlock the building for them.

Nielson pointed out that the group had had unfettered access for years, but the museum has been closed for five years.

“Now the town is getting more assertive due to the 150th celebration. Our responsibility is to make sure what residents are gifting is being followed through. We want to make sure the museum is there for perpetuitiy, with a system. We’re willing to assist and that’s what our dialog is about – the 150th,” Nielson said.

Fisher replied that the historical society presents nine programs per year, plus ad hoc tours of the Doremus house museum. Sandham said if the society didn’t have enough resources to get the museum ready, they should have come to the committee, to which Fisher replied that they had in 2014.

Township Administrator Victor Canning then stated he was offended because he had not ignored the society and is very responsive to all requests.

“This is outrageous. I will not have my reputation besmirched,” Canning said. “I have tried in earnest to work with Kathy Fisher and the other members. What is the military secret behind getting the inventory? What is your budget? You have not given it to us, and I have asked several times. We are a township, working with you. I’d like to see the inventory. We’re not going to take it from you, but I’d like to see it.”

Sandham stated he would like the mission statement and the plan, and he would like Curry to help coordinate a plan to follow. He said he would like to work to get the historical society’s needs accomplished. Semrau said the first step is actually to work out a lease agreement between the society and the township.

To aid in preparing the museum for the celebration, Nielson made a motion to authorize township administration to “fund $20,000 to hire a qualified professional to assist Montville Township in properly re-opening the Montville Township Museum in anticipation and in time for the 150th anniversary celebration in April 2017.” Committee Member Scott Gallopo seconded but amended the motion to state “in coordination with the historical society.”

Conklin stated he was concerned that if the township can’t coordinate it with the historical society, and if they refuse to do it, he was concerned that township administration “has the intention of going ahead and doing it anyway.” Sandham stated the township wants to organize what the society says is township property, and get help for organizing society property. Nielson stated the township could still “touch it in conjunction with their guidance and assistance.” Conklin asked if the motion is to archive township property, not historical society property without their permission. Sandham stated the motion is to reopen the museum.

Conklin voted no, but the motion passed with a majority vote.

Other News

Canning said all road resurfacing projects have been completed. He further said the Montville Township Police Department is in agreement with local residents who desire a set of stop signs at the corners of Waughaw and Lancaster Roads.

New Jersey Transit has confirmed they will give permission to utilize Lot 2 (Whitehall Road) for the 2016 Farmers Market, according to the administrator’s project report. The market will run from Sunday, July 31, 2016 through Sunday, November 20, 2016, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Two wrecked cars will be placed in two locations in the township, according to Drug Awareness Council liaison Nielson, to remind graduating seniors to celebrate without alcohol or attend Project Graduation and to not drive drunk.

The committee granted a 90-day continuation for G.I. Salvage in Pine Brook to continue to operate. They will take steps to change the zoning to allow the storage of new and used cars, which is currently how the business is operating although it is not an allowed use for the land.


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