MONTVILLE, NJ – Residents came together in 2019 to cheer on triumphant high school sports teams, raise money for families in need, and support numerous community events.
The year dawned bright as Deputy Mayor Frank Cooney was sworn in Jan. 1 for a second term. Cooney was sworn in for his second three-year term after winning the Nov. 6, 2018 election against Democrat challenger Emily Ryzuk. State Senator Joseph Pennacchio administered the oath, while Cooney’s nephew Kyle stood with him. Kyle was still recovering from the serious car accident that almost took his life. Andrew Caggiano was sworn in as police chief the same day, upon the retirement of chief Rudy Appelmann.
Also at the beginning of the year, Charles Grau took the helm for his second term in a row as president of the Montville Township Public Schools Board of Education, having been appointed by a unanimous vote of the board. He was sworn in to the board for another term, having run unopposed in the November, 2018 election, as were Karen Cortellino and David Modrak. Michael Rappaport, who was voted onto the board following Carmela Novi vacating her position, was also sworn in, having run unopposed in the election.
February brought the beginning of dual stream recycling, which had residents a bit confused. Once again the calendar had to be checked to see what was to be brought to the curb. Is it plastic-glass week? Or is it paper-cardboard week? The move, although termed by some as annoying, saved the taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars according to Township Administrator Victor Canning, because single-stream recycling costs were being passed on to the township.
In high school sports, the wrestling team earned a North 1 Group 3 state sectional championship, competition cheer earned first place in the national competition in Ocean City, MD, the track teams sent multiple athletes to state sectionals, groups and the tournament of champions. The bowling team won an NJAC Southern Conference title, and the football team competed in the sectional semifinal. The swim team set individual records at the county and state tournaments. The soccer team was Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference National Division Champions and North 1 Group 3 State Sectional Champions.
Many residents showed up at the Feb. 14 Montville Township Committee meeting to protest a senior citizen care facility which may be built at 205-207 Changebridge Road, to ask the committee to purchase that tract of land using open space funds. The tract is owned by the Paterson Diocese, and at township committee meetings over the months, the committee heard from not one but three former mayors. Tim Braden wanted the tract purchased, John Rosellini urged the committee to negotiate with the diocese to purchase the land, and Jim Sandham argued that land should not be purchased if it can’t be used for recreation. The land is in front of The Meadows condominium complex and residents want to keep the land as green space. The land is still under appraisal by the Land Conservancy according to what residents stated at a December 2019 planning board meeting.
In April, township officials admitted that township computers had been hacked in December, 2018 and offered credit protection to residents. No one signed up for the service, according to officials.
Also in April, the newly renovated Community Park playground re-opened to the screams of happy children who were thrilled to be able once again to use the park, which cost $650,000 to renovate. The funds had been set aside over the years, and the playground now includes areas for children of all abilities.
“There are a lot of activities and everyone will have somewhere to go and do something,” Recreation Director Lori Dent said of the renovation. “Special needs children, and all young children, can slide down the slides with an adult. Toddler swings were installed, as well as some picnic tables near the silo slides, so that parents with very young kids can keep an eye on their youngest, while their older children can play on the silo slides.”
A beautiful, sunny Memorial Day was commemorated the Montville Township way, as led by VFW Post 5481, with a flyover by a historic plane and a visit from Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (D-11). Recently deceased past commander Frank Warholic, who usually presided over such ceremonies, was not far from attendees’ minds.
After a several-year hiatus, the American Cancer Society Relay for Life was brought back to the township on June 1, raising more than $40,000 towards curing a disease that has touched the lives of just about everyone.
While the Montville Inn closed down, new owner Michael Cetrulo told a group at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast about his vision for the new restaurant in June, stating it will have an all-Italian menu, and that the building will have a minimal, cosmetic re-do of the dining room for a “comfortable feel.” He will still use the porch for seating, so if diners want to come in shorts, that’s fine, he told the group.
“The prices will be similar to my other restaurants,” he said at the time. “Dinner for two with a glass of wine will be between $55 and $65.”
Citing traffic and proximity to residences, the Montville Township Planning Board turned down Wawa’s application to build a 24-7 gas station/quick mart in Pine Brook in July.
The proposed build site, located at the corner of Route 46 and Changebridge Road, was declared a redevelopment site by the township committee in 2015, and the building that stands on the property is in bad shape.
The application had been heard in 2017 by the planning board and rejected, but Wawa appealed the rejection at that time. Neighbors to the proposed site turned out in force to oppose both applications. An application for a Wine Outlet store is currently being heard in the zoning board, to be added into the existing building at 289 Changebridge Rd.
VFW Post 5481 also hosted a moving Sept. 11 ceremony, at which Montville Twp. First Aid Squad members Carol DaCosta and Julie Greenfield recalled their work at what is now called Ground Zero but at the time seemed to be a war zone.
DaCosta recalled answering a young, eager fire fighter who asked what it was like at Ground Zero.
“I told him, ‘imagine the worst possible thing you can ever imagine, and then multiply it by a million times,’” she said.
The public school district’s “report card,” discussed at a board of education meeting in October, showed the district having good results in state testing. The high school forensics team was performing quite well as always, and the marching band placed first in the US Bands states and national competition. Air conditioning was installed in every instructional space by the end of September, as the result of the 2017 referendum.
Residents came together, as they always do, to try to help those in need. In May, 250 people attended a fundraiser for the Cho family. Son Ian, who was diagnosed with leukemia, and his story, captured the hearts of residents across the township, as organizations held fundraisers such as dinner pickups, #IanStrong bracelet sales, and a concert. In October, Seven Scoops’ fundraiser raised thousands for Woodmont Elementary School teacher Danielle Stoveken, who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Attendees reported the business and the parking lot were packed, but they happily circled around or came back later to participate in the event.
Even on vacation Montville residents do good. When the cruise ship Brielle Cook and her family were vacationing on tipped at a steep angle, resulting in injured passengers, the nurse and Montville fire fighter sprang into action to aid the ship’s medical crew.
“We were feeling sea sick so we stayed in that night,” she told TAPinto Montville. “Out of nowhere we heard glasses on the counter start sliding down and crashing to the floor. Before we knew it everything was flying across the room and when we tried to get up we couldn't get our balance, so we had to hold on to the bathroom door.”
Soon after, the crew asked that anyone with medical knowledge help out in the medical office, so “I helped to triage patients and assist the doctors with procedures,” she said. She helped treat about 100 patients with broken bones and cuts, she said.
In November, Democrats Truscha Quatrone mounted an unsuccessful write-in campaign for township committee, and Democrat Venancio Fuentes faced off against Republican incumbents Mayor Richard Conklin and Richard Cook; Fuentes was ultimately defeated. Conklin and Cook will be re-sworn in at the reorganization meeting to be held Jan. 4, 2020. At that meeting, Cooney will be named mayor and Cook will be named deputy mayor by the township committee members.
Montville Township Board of Education members Michael O’Brien and Michael Rappaport won the election to continue as members while newcomer Christine Fano won the third open seat over incumbent John Morella. Each of these three elected board members will serve for a term of three years, to be sworn in (Fano) and re-sworn in (O’Brien and Rappaport) at the reorganization meeting on Jan. 7, 2020, when a board president and board vice president will be chosen by the board members.
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