MONTVILLE, NJ – Montville’s seven heroin and opiate deaths in 2016 make it the number one town in Morris County for such deaths, according to Mayor Jim Sandham in his “State of Montville” address given at the reorganization meeting Jan. 1.
Township police also made 53 heroin arrests, which was the fourth highest in the county, he said.
The opioid-blocking drug narcan was deployed by police personnel four times in the township in 2016, but only twice did it save the life of the overdose victim, according to Sandham.
Sandham said the ages of those who died were two 21-year-olds, 23, two 26-year-olds, 37 and 38.
“We think the problem is in other places, but it’s right here,” Sandham said. “Our community and this township committee need to do more. Our police need to do more. Our Drug Awareness committee needs to do more.
“Sheriff Gannon, Montville Township stands ready to participate in expanded and intensified county-wide efforts to battle this growing problem,” Sandham said.
Sheriff James Gannon, the newly sworn in county sheriff, was in attendance.
Sandham described the other challenges facing the township, including “the incursion of an oil pipeline that would traverse our sole source aquifer.”
“From our past battles, we realized that there is strength in numbers, so we banded together with 14 other impacted communities to oppose the pipeline as a group,” Sandham said.
Sandham also talked about the achievements the township has attained over the past few years, including “hiring a new group of sharp, dedicated department heads to manage our services now and well into the future.”
The township has also cut its debt in half over the last 11 years, then used its triple-A bond rating to refinance at lower rates, saving taxpayers more than $2 million in interest, according to Sandham.
“That [savings] now allows us to make greater investments in our infrastructure: we tripled our road resurfacing projects in 2016, we installed a new field surface for Camp Dawson, we’ve upgraded our emergency management services and facilities, we’ve improved the VFW facility for our veterans, and we will be investing in our water storage tanks,” he said.
Sandham welcomed the start of Montville Township’s 150th year.
“It was in April, 1867, that we separated from Pequannock Township. To put it in perspective, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated less than two years earlier,” Sandham said. “We have had a long and storied history since then, where the vision, dedication and effort of many men and women have brought forth a vibrant and prosperous community.
“One of our forebears was James P. Vreeland, mayor of our township and a state senator. This municipal building was opened in 1995 and these council chambers were dedicated in his honor,” Sandham said.
The chambers were refurbished in 2016 and Sandham thanked Committee Members Deb Nielson and Frank Cooney, plus Township Administrator Victor Canning, Assistant Township Administrator June Hercek and Department of Public Works Director John Perry for their efforts in the project.
Sandham also thanked former Township Committee Member Scott Gallopo for his six years of service to the township. Gallopo stepped down on Dec. 31 as Richard Cook was sworn in on Jan. 1.
“There were a lot of disagreements, but we always know he approached that position with nothing but the best interests of Montville, and that’s the number one priority to be up here,” said Sandham. “We appreciate [his] service.”
Sandham in turn congratulated Cook and Richard Conklin for being sworn in. He also asked that the families of the public servants be thanked due to the sacrifice of time together the families make. He thanked the township administration and employees for doing their best for residents every day. He also thanked the volunteers on township boards, civic organizations, and those who volunteer as first responders.
“You are the lifeblood of our community and we thank you,” said Sandham.
He concluded his speech by quoting Eisenhower and Gilda Radner’s comedy character from the TV show “Saturday Night Live.”
“One thing I’ve learned in my 11 years is that we will always have challenges,” Sandham said. “Roseann Rosannadanna had it right: ‘If it’s not one thing, it’s another!’
“But Montville stands prepared and ready for the future, with excellent township administration and employees, dedicated township officials and outstanding volunteers and citizens.
“So I will end with another inspirational quote from Ike, as appropriate now as it was 60 years ago: ‘May the turbulence of our age yield to a true time of peace when men and nations shall share a life that honors the dignity of each, the brotherhood of all.’”