There are three candidates for two three-year seats on the Montville Township Committee in the Nov. 5 election. TAPinto Montville recently asked them five questions. We will be running their answers individually as part of a series; the order of the candidates’ responses was chosen at random.
MONTVILLE, NJ – TAPinto Montville recently asked township committee candidate Richard Cook five questions. Here are his responses.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a life-long resident of Montville Township and attended Montville High school. I graduated Morris County College with a Degree in Criminal Justice. I was hired as a Montville Police Officer in 1983 and my police career spanned 31 years. During this time I served all aspects of the Police Dept. (i.e., Juvenile Officer, Traffic Bureau Commander, Detective Bureau Commander and Operations Commander). In 2014 I retired as Chief of Police after serving this role for over ten years. In addition to being a police officer for many years, I also served or currently serve on many of the township’s departments & boards. These include but not limited to; the Montville Township Fire Department, the Montville First Aid Squad Board of Directors, the Township Planning Board, Historic Preservation Review Commission and Drug Awareness Council. I received the Montville Township Chamber of Commerce Public Safety Award in 2013 and in 2019 was inducted to the Montville Township High School Hall of Fame. I currently serve on the Montville Town Council and I am seeking reelection in 2019. I have devoted most of my life and career to the township in various ways of which I have already mentioned. I am also a member of the Morris County Police Chiefs Association and currently employed as a Director at the Morris County Sheriff’s Office. I am married to my wife Dolores and live on Route 202 in Montville.
Residents often complain about the condition of the roads in town, saying they pay a lot in taxes yet the roads are in horrible condition. What would you tell them to answer their complaints, and what do you feel is the proper amount of miles to repave: the seven miles many municipalities have recommended be done, more, or less?
The township has made roadway paving a #1 priority in our budget. In years past, the township spent approximately $500,000 a year in paving projects. This year the township will spend approximately three million dollars. In 2018, substantial rains caused damage to many of our roadways. We invested significant dollars in 2019 to improve drainage and pave roads in Montville. Two of our roadways, Hook Mountain and Pine Brook Rd were badly in need of repair. They both were scheduled to be paved in the spring but we had to delay until the fall in order to expand natural gas service to our residents. Sixty-six homes have committed to installing natural gas on these streets. The township will be paving these roads and many others in the next couple of weeks. In addition, there have been numerous roads under construction. NJ Natural Gas has been installing new and updated gas transmission lines. A lot of this work has been done on Route 202 and Changebridge Road. These roads along with others are not maintained by the township rather by the County of Morris. I have been in contact with the county and those roads are slated to be paved in 2020 once the trenches have settled. In speaking with experts in the field I was advised that to apply a seven mile roadway formula is not practical. If you used that formula you would be paving roads that still have a useful life. The township has contracted with a company called RoadBotics to review and assess the conditions of our roadways and to formulate a priority list of roadway paving projects. This company provides the township with an unbiased report on the conditions of all our roads thus providing a level of objectivity when finalizing our projects. Roadways with the highest priority will be funded in the upcoming budget year.
Arguably, the best way to get ratables is to have development in town, yet residents seem to oppose development. Where is the balance struck? How does Montville get more ratables while not increasing traffic and/or noise?
I believe it is not possible to obtain additional ratables without increasing traffic and noise. Even building a park will increase traffic and noise to any neighborhood. What you want to do is to minimize those affects by finding ratables that do not have as much of an impact to the community such as the self-storage unit under construction on Rt. 202. A self-storage unit has the least impact to the community but also increases your tax base. The town also has a master plan which guides zoning in our community. We are currently reviewing our master plan to ensure that the town is on the right path. The best way not to get into the trap of chasing ratables is to run an economically efficient government. That’s what we strive to do in Montville Township. We are one of a few towns that have a Triple-A (AAA) bond rating. We continue to pay down our debt, and find ways to share services with other municipalities. In 2018 we went back into the State Health Insurance Program which saved the town over $500,000. Many municipalities and cities fall into the trap of bringing in a good ratable then spend the money they gained in their budget. The result is they chase after the next ratable thus increasing traffic and noise in their community. The cycle continues and begins to affect quality of life and property values. By running our town with sound economic principles we can avoid the trap of chasing the next big project.
Should green space be purchased solely to prevent it from being developed? Should it only be purchased if it has use for recreation?
Green space should not be used solely to prevent development. There are many elements associated with purchasing open space. The cost, location, the impact to the community and the environmental sensitivity of the land should all be taken into consideration before making a purchase out of open space funds. According to the EPA, fragmented and haphazard purchases of open space have less ecological value as wildlife corridors, are less accessible to community members, and have reduced value in directing growth to existing areas then larger parcels connected by corridors. In order to help plan for the future of open space purchases, the township has just entered into a contract with the Land Conservancy of NJ. These are the true experts in the field of environmental conservation. They will be doing an analysis of the remaining properties in town and prioritizing them in order of preservation. The residents will be able to provide input to the study so that the best decisions on preserving our open space are made and the township will be guided in open space purchases without politics. We will be working with the Open Space Committee along with our Recreation Commission to achieve our goals of open space and recreation opportunities for our citizens. Montville has been aggressive in preserving nearly 1600 acres of open space including 600 acres in the township’s aquifer. Additionally, the town obtained another 40 acres of open space in 2018 without any cost to the taxpayers. Our town should provide both recreational and passive open space opportunities for our residents.
Why do you feel you are uniquely qualified to be a township committee member?
I believe that I am uniquely qualified to represent the residents of Montville Township due to my extensive experience and leadership in government work. Having grown up in Montville, served 10 years as police chief, been a volunteer firefighter and little league coach and serving on many township boards and as an elected official it has given me vast knowledge in all aspects of running a town. In the last three years on the Township Committee we have completed numerous projects. This includes but not limited to; constructed a new state of the art playground, made roadway improvements, expanded our open space, placed police officers in our schools, increased police staffing to the full complement of personnel, returned Montville Day to our community and installed environmentally friendly LED lighting at our soccer fields and basketball courts. This was all accomplished while running an efficient town that continues to reduce its debt and spend tax dollars wisely. I ask that you vote for me, Rich Cook in the upcoming November election.
Editor’s note: It is TAPinto policy to not edit candidates’ responses.
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