MONTVILLE, NJ – The Montville Township Tea Party Club sponsored a meet-the-candidate evening April 26 so residents could meet township committee candidates Richard Cook and incumbent Richard Conklin, who is running for re-election. Conklin did not attend. The two Republican candidates are running unopposed for two seats on the committee.

Cook stated in an opening speech that he was born and raised in Montville Township and was a member of the Montville Township Police Department for 31 years, where he served as chief for 10 years until his retirement in 2014. He is an exempt member of the Montville Fire Department and has served on the Montville Township First Aid Squad Board of Directors. He is currently a member of the Planning Board and the Historic Preservation Review Commission.

Here is video of Cook's opening statement:

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“I am a fiscal conservative, and I support less, efficient, government, but that still ensures its citizens are safe and secure, and still provides needed services its citizens expect,” said Cook.

A vast working knowledge of Montville Township and experience as a police chief and police officer will be of utmost value to the community, according to Cook. New technology, outsourcing, and elimination of ineffective programs were improvements he made to the police department, he said. Further, gaining accreditation of the police department during his tenure saved taxpayer money, he said.

“If I’m elected, I hope to increase revenues [with the] redevelopment of the Route 46 corridor. As you know, Pine Brook Motel is under a redevelopment application right now and if you haven’t noticed, Montville Township is really not growing that much. We need to get some revenues in to offset any tax increases,” he said.

He wants to examine operations of the town to see what programs are effective and eliminate unnecessary programs, he said. He feels that “rigorous debate” with members of the town council is the way to get the best decisions for residents, while still having a good working relationship.

He also supports maintenance of the town’s infrastruction, and recounted a tale of the former River Road police department roof leaking due to lack of maintenance.

“That building fell down around them because no one did anything about it. You have to maintain stuff,” Cook said.

“I believe my leadership and problem-solving skills will be effectively used in our township council and I look forward to continuing our family tradition,” Cook said.

He then recounted a story of a Cook ancestor being arrested in the Montville area by British soldiers for cutting down trees, but later being broken out of prison by area Dutch residents.

Questions were posed to Cook by Tea Party President Scott Russell, beginning with Cook’s opinion of the proposed Towaco townhouses project.

“I am a member of the Planning Board but it is in front of the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The only thing I can say is, they went to the Township Committee to get the zoning changed and it was part of the Master Plan, the Township Committee did not approve it, and I was in support of that. The Master Plan was made for a reason and a lot of thought was put into it, and that’s what you follow,” Cook told the assembly.

“As far as the Zoning Board of Adjustment, you’re going to hear testimony from both sides, and hopefully they’ll come to a logical conclusion,” he said.

When Russell asked for the current state of the project, Cook said, “I think it was already in the Master Plan approved for retail with apartments above and I think [the owner is] changing it to retail and condos of some sort.

“I would support the town council in not changing the Master Plan,” Cook said. “Every citizen has the right to go in front of the Board of Adjustment and ask for exceptions to rules and I haven’t been part of that process so I don’t know exactly what exceptions they’re looking for.”

For more information about the ongoing testimony with the proposed project, click: Towaco Townhouses

The next question Russell posed was whether Cook felt he could be objective while negotiating police contracts. Cook said he has not been in the building since his retirement.

“For 13 years, the police chief never got involved in contract negotiations, except for areas where we thought we could make improvements and streamline situations. We never really sat down at the table. For 13 years I had to distance myself from those guys because I had to hire, fire and discipline them, so I’ve always been the township administrator. That wouldn’t be a problem for me,” Cook said.

Cook was then asked about the redevelopment application on Route 46.

“You may not even agree with this but the town has what’s called imminent domain,” Cook said. “So they can take a piece of property that’s not conforming properly, condemn it and sell it off to a developer. Then the person gets paid. I know they tried to work with the owner of the Pine Brook Motel to get something done, and it hasn’t gone… I think it’s some sort of retail establishment. Some apartments also.

“What they do is they come in with a redevelopment plan. The town hires somebody to come in and put what they think is going to look ‘right’ there and be well and then they put it out to developers to purchase with a purchase price. Then they condemn the property and pay off the owner of the property. The Pine Brook Motel has been a problem for a long time,” Cook said.

For more information about the redevelopment plan, click: Redevelopment.

Montville resident Kurt Dinkelmeyer then asked about the apprenticeship program resolution, which Governor Christie rejected, but the Morris County Freeholders entertained and tabled. The resolution stated that for construction projects worth more than $250,000, an apprentice program is necessary for companies who wish to bid. Dinkelmeyer asked Cook’s position on such a program.

“I believe in open, competitive bids,” said Cook, “No strings attached. [When] we needed the steps out in front of the police department replaced, it cost about $100,000. It went to an open bid. A local Montville guy and his brother got the job. You shouldn’t have strings attached.”

Cook further stated he would support an ordinance similar to the recently approved ordinance condemning apprentice programs passed in Hanover Township.

Cook closed stating, “I believe I have the credentials, I believe I know Montville Township, and I have the time since I’m retired now, I have the time to put into this town. I hope I get your support in the election on June 7.”