MONTVILLE, NJ - The public portion of last month's Montville Township Committee meeting opened up the floor to Towaco resident Ellen Conlon who gave an appeal to the Committee regarding the town's handling of the Old Lane sewer expansion project.
"I've come in peace," Conlon stated at the beginning of her remarks. Conlon detailed the events over the past six years that led to her standing before the township committee to ask for their assistance in helping to resolve the payment obligations for the potential Old Lane sewer expansion project. Conlon said the residents impacted by the project understood they would be responsible for paying the connection fee of $6,373 as part of "their contribution" to the project. However, Conlon said it was suggested at a Long Term Financial Planning Committee meeting that the impacted residents would also be asked to share in the capital cost of the project, which have increased from an estimated $1.7 million in 2017 to nearly $2.8 million currently.
"I implore [the Township Committee] to please keep to the original agreement and statements told to homeowners and honor the connection fee of $6,373 without capital costs. I ask you to make the ethical decision," Conlon concluded to a standing ovation by the thirty plus residents in attendance.
A few other residents impacted by the project also spoke during the public portion of the meeting to offer their time to "help figure this puzzle out" and to understand the "communication gap" between the town and the residents.
“This body right here will be making the final decision on what happens in Montville Township,” Mayor Richard Conklin said in response to Conlon’s comments about the many meetings over the years with individuals holding various capacities within the township. “We have twenty-three thousand residents in Montville Township and my concern is what happens to all of those twenty-three thousand people. We have an area in Montville Township where we have a major concern and that’s an issue to me...but the funding for this project will be shared by the rate payers who are on the sewer system in all of Montville Township so that has to all be figured out.”
Conklin said it looked like the project was moving forward but explained that the fees associated with the project are not totally at the discretion of the township committee so he “wasn’t sure where it will come out.” Conklin said the fees are determined by a formula provided by the state of New Jersey.
The township committee agreed to appoint a sub-committee who would research this issue, talk to residents and make a recommendation to the full governing body after assessing the situation. Conklin said part of that assessment is to understand the math related to the project.
“The long term financial planning committee is strictly an advisory committee...they give us the facts and figures and we will do the interpretation and the final decision will come from us,” Conklin said.
Township Attorney Fred Semrau advised committee member Matthew Kayne not to participate in the discussion as a member of the governing body since Kayne is directly impacted by the outcome of the project; at which time, Kayne removed himself from the dais.
Committee member June Witty indicated the youth center transition from social services to the recreation department is currently in progress.
“The youth center is not being used as much as it could be,” Township Administrator Victor Canning said. “The goal is to use the building and have school children socializing with each other.” Canning said Recreation Department Director Lori Dent is in the process of thinking of ideas and working on programs to be held at the youth center.
Committee member Kayne took time during the meeting to publicly thank Montville’s first responders for doing a “phenomenal job” during a recent family emergency where the police and EMT treated his in-laws with “white gloves.”
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