Montville Explorers: Recreational or Educational?
Officials question whether group meets requirements to build new facility on Open Space land.
The Montville Township Police Explorers Post No. 805 was out in force Tuesday evening.
The 40 young men and women, and their families, attended the Montville Township Committee meeting at town hall as Ptl. Frank Cooney, director of the Explorers program, presented a proposal to build a training facility on Open Space property owned by the township.
The proposed facility would consist of a two-story prefab log cabin that would house a kitchen, storage room, two bathrooms, an office and a large open room for law enforcement training scenarios.
It was proposed that the cabin be established on the recreational lot at the corner of Stiles Lane and Changebridge Road. The building would serve as a home to the community’s active Police Explorers program, which trains 13- to 21-year-olds in police procedure, and would be used for other community activities.
However, the construction company that has offered to build the facility at a discounted rate is only available for about a month before starting another project in September that will be featured in an October episode of Extreme Home Makovers.
In addition, Township Committee members questioned Tuesday night whether the Explorers could even use the land, which the town purchased through an Open Space grant for recreational purposes. Committee members said the Explorers' use would likely be considered educational.
“The issue is the use," Township Administrator Frank Bastone said.
Cooney, whose Explorers have been working for years to acquire a permanent structure in the community, was able to convince Blue Ridge Log Cabins to construct the facility at the reduced rate of $125,000.
“We’ve been promised other buildings in the past,” Cooney said. “Never has anything ever come to fruition.”
The career officer, who is a former Explorer himself, noted that the Montville Police Explorers program is highly successful and has resulted in the training of many police officers at the local, state and federal level.
But town officials remained concerned that the Explorers would not meet the use requirements of the land.
“The property was purchased as Open Space for recreational purposes,” Township Attorney Martin Murphy said. “It could be argued that Explorers is more educational.”
There was once a rundown house on the property that was removed after the township purchased the land. If the house remained, it could have been converted for the Explorers to use.
However, since the structure was demolished, the proposal will now need to be reviewed by the State Department of Environmental Protection to validate that the construction of the cabin, and the use of the facility and land, will meet the requirements of the Open Space grant.
The Township Committee asked Bastone and Murphy to work with the Explorers and Cooney to re-draft the proposal with more accurate language.
It was noted that the Explorers are an active recreational, as well as educational, program, and the proposed structure could provide additional recreational opportunities when not used by the Explorers.
“We will ask them [the DEP] to expedite it,” said Bastone, recognizing the time constraints on the current opportunity.
All committee members expressed support of the Explorers proposal, but cautioned that the committee is bound by the constraints of the funding that was used to purchase the property.
“We will offer a lot of programs,” Cooney said. “These kids love to hold events. This is a recreational community service program.”
Cooney, and Officer Carlo Marucci, also received proclamations and recognitions for using a defibrillator to save a resident’s life. Mark Duffy, chairman of the Northern New Jersey Chapter of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, presented each with a plaque.
The Township Committee also passed an ordinance to bond nearly $300,000 for the construction of a new animal shelter on Church Lane.
Girl Scout Cayleigh Aslanian made a Silver Award proposal to place a temporary sign on the animal shelter construction site. The sign will alert Montville residents to the shelter’s new location and its need for donations. The committee asked that the sign have some animal graphics incorporated in the design, and approved the Girl Scout’s proposal.
The fire hydrant ordinance, that would require residents with fire hydrants in front of their homes to remove snow from the hydrant during the winter, was tabled by a vote of 4-1. Mayor Jim Sandham voted to ratify rather than table the plan.
The ordinance would have directed police to enforce fines if hydrants were not cleared following snowstorms. The committee heard public discussion regarding elderly residents, residents without sidewalks and Department of Public Works snowplows that must push snow into cul-de-sacs, sometimes covering hydrants.
There are more than 1,500 fire hydrants in Montville Township. The fire departments of Montville, Pine Brook and Towaco requested a hydrant clearing ordinance to insure prompt and effective response to fires.
The Township Committee also asked the July Fourth Committee to present needs for the 2012 celebration. The committee asked for the plans earlier this year to have more time to review and consider the costs involved.
Police overtime and compensatory time for the 2011 Independence Celebration will be reviewed next month.
Also next month, the Township Committee intends to make additional strides in its efforts to go paperless and provide more transparency in government through technology. Bastone and Township Clerk Trudy Atkinson are scheduled to place more documents on the town’s website, with hyperlinks from the agenda, prior to the meeting.
Each committee member is expected to receive a tablet by next month's meeting to review documents during the session. As the transition is made, Township Committee members will also have paper packets next month. But, if the distribution of exhibits by computer is executed, the committee plans to go paperless by October.
Due to the observance of Labor Day, the Montville Township Committee will not hold its next meeting until Tues., Sept. 13.