MONTVILLE, NJ – The ongoing friction between the Montville Township Historical Society and the township was renewed at the Sept. 10 Montville Township Committee meeting as historical society president Kathy Fisher came to the microphone during public portion to ask for the keys to the historic buildings in town, as the society had had in the past.

Fisher asserted once again that while the township owns the historic buildings, the artifacts within the buildings are historical society property. She cited information that has been reported here before, that the locks were changed on the museum and the Doremus house, and items within the buildings were moved out of the buildings. She said the historical society had met with members of the township committee regarding ensuring the legal and fiduciary grant responsibilities. She also said the buildings had been given to the township with the understanding that they were for township as well as citizen use.

She said that potential funding had been passed up because township administration had ignored emails from the historical society regarding a meeting with the Crossroads of the American Revolution.

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“We provide tours and docents for free, whereas the town pays employees to sit in the museum,” Fisher said. “We help groups like the Boy and Girl Scouts and the schools. We give tours and nine lectures a year, as well as researching town history.”

Fisher said the group needs the keys to the buildings to keep up their work.

“We have tried to work with township administration, to no avail,” she said.

But Mayor Richard Conklin wasn’t having it.

“I’m glad the members of the historical society came out to support Ms. Fisher, but you need to hear the rest of the story,” he said.

Conklin said he is a staunch supporter of the historical society, but the governing body requires certain paperwork for all township organizations.

“We require this of the Kiwanis, the Rotary – every club,” he said.

The paperwork he listed included a treasurer’s report, minutes from trustees’ meetings, an inventory of the items the historical society lays claim to, proof that they are a non-profit, by-laws and proof of an election of officers. Conklin said that the museum was closed for years, and no one knew who was second in charge, with the hope of opening it up again.

Township Administrator Victor Canning said he had been working with the historical society for four years regarding the situation.

“We’ve been asking for the incorporation papers and we still don’t have them,” he said. “I can’t allow people in the building without insurance. People tell us they’ve donated items, ask us where the items are, and we don’t know.”

Township Attorney Fred Semrau said that when the museum lease expired, he met with historical society members. The township asked for no rent, just the documentation, and to start with a one-year lease.

“The historical society wanted a 50-year lease, and when we said no, their attorney filed a lawsuit complaint,” he said. “They never filed the lawsuit, but when I tried to talk to their attorney, there was no response.”

Fisher said that the society had all the paperwork and she would email it. Conklin wanted to set up a meeting with her and all of the trustees of the society. Semrau said that the paperwork was needed in advance of the meeting.

“The goal is to work together,” Semrau said.

Fisher agreed to the meeting request.

Other News

The township committee is considering a temporary ban of e-cigarette sales in the township considering the CDC’s warning regarding the use of such products. They are also looking into an ordinance for companies that dig into the roads in the township to be required to pave the entire width of the lane of the road, as opposed to just the ditch created by digging.

Eagle Scout candidate Nicholas Brown of Troop 74 presented the proposal for his Eagle project. He wanted to extend the blue trail at Camp Dawson and place a bench at the top of the hill. He said he had been working with the Open Space Committee. The township committee unanimously approved the proposal. Brown will be working with 11 volunteers from the varsity soccer team as well as 20 to 30 Scouts and leaders, he said, around the end of September.

Township administration is working with department heads on the capital, operating and open space budgets, Canning said.

Montville Day will be Sunday, Oct. 13 from noon to 6 p.m.

Semrau said the township completed its affordable housing application last week for immunity from lawsuits through 2025 for its affordable housing plan. If it is accepted, the plan is in place.

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