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Task Force Looks at Moving Municipal Building, Police Department

The Montclair Council appointed seven members to head the Facility Task Force, which will determine how to move the township's government and police force to one location.


The Montclair government and police force may have a new home in the future.

The township council appointed seven residents on Thursday to head the Facilities Task Force to analyze where and how a new headquarters for Montclair’s municipal building and police department could be consolidated into one place. 

“One of the things we want to take a look at is having our municipal complex all in one location, if possible,” said Mayor Robert Jackson. “These buildings are antiquated — to say the least — and don’t serve their purpose.”

The mayor and council suggested Lackawanna Plaza as a possible location. The large building, at 294 Bloomfield Ave. in Montclair's east end, houses more than a dozen businesses — including a Pathmark and newly installed Pig & Prince Restaurant. 

The move to Lackawanna Plaza in the 4th Ward would not only revitalize the area, said Jackson, but add a strong police presence in the “heart of [Montclair’s] more problematic area.” 

Jackson also said if the move does happen, there would be no shortage of buyers interested in developing the municipal building, at 245 Claremont Ave., and the police department, at 647 Bloomfield Ave.

“These are prime locations for other types of development that we can put on the tax rolls,” said Jackson. “The idea is to consolidate, move [the municipal and police buildings] back on the tax rolls and have a municipal building that fits our needs.” 

A new, larger premises for the township government could also be a source of added income. By having larger facilities to provide for offices and a jail, among other things, Montclair could be courted for more shared services by surrounding towns. 

A Lack of Diversity?

While 4th Ward Councilor Renee Baskerville was in favor of moving the municipal building and police department into the 4th Ward, she questioned the lack of diversity of the all-male appointments. 

“I love the idea [of the move],” said Baskerville, “but I am extremely concerned that no one on the [task force] is in or from the Fourth Ward. I find it offensive.” 

The creation of a task force was brought up during a July council meeting. At the time, Councilors Rich McMahon and Rob Schlager and Deputy Mayor Robert Russo were appointed to oversee the soon-to-be assembled task force of residents. In addition, Jackson said he sought appointments for the task force for months from council members. 

The task force meetings will be open to the public, so input can be added by residents and other council members.  

Baskerville said she will encourage other residents — especially those in the 4th Ward — to join the public discussion and contribute what she can to the task force.  

“I’m going to continue to encourage to look for diversity in all of our groups, because I think it adds a sort of richness,” said Baskerville.

Task Force Appointees

The following residents were appointed to the Facilities Task Force: 

  • Brian Clarkson 
  • Mitch Heisler 
  • Jim Jacobs
  • Jonathan Moore
  • David Stith
  • Harvey Susswein 
  • David Trout 


montclairdad December 29, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Cary, I just find it a bit disingenuous - and unfair - to throw stones at somebody regarding problems that you and your former council members could have rectified, yet did not.
Cary Africk December 29, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Montclairdad, Many of the problems I've mentioned were problems that could have been addressed before, had out Council made them a priority -- e.g. streets, abandoned buildings, etc. The majority chose not to. I can't simply say that since we didn't do it, the new council shouldn't do it either. We now have a new Council, and moving forward they have a chance to set their own priorities and I'm hoping that serving the residents in ways that are visible and have meaning to the residents will be on the priority list.
frank rubacky December 29, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Martin, The underlying motivation is development and shared services planks. The key property is the Valley Rd parking lot...so, the PD has to move...and everything flows downhill (literally) from here. Parking is so often the key in this town. As to the MFTF: First, parking lots are outside the scopeThe Municipal Facilities Task Force. Second, this is capital related and there is no hard link to the CFAC. Third, shared services are key to this revenue model and, once again, outside the scope of this task force. Fourth, unless the TF wants to be assume a Field of Dreams mantra of"build it and they will come", there needs to exist a pay-in agreement from either CG, Verona, GR, etc. before one brick is laid. Fifth, the only way one would you put a tax exempt central booking / prison / court in the middle of your biggest redevelopment zone is to have a list of assumptions that, once again, would be outside of the scope and expertise of this group? I would readily agree these are extremely smart people on the TF. I see their half-empty tool box as eerily similar to that of the original CFC .
Dbc December 29, 2012 at 06:57 PM
hear, hear!
profwilliams December 29, 2012 at 07:23 PM
This is a dumb idea. But before I get to why, I want to echo and support what Councilor Baskerville said, it is offensive on its face that not a single "appointed" Task Force member (and forgive me, but this town and it's appointments of folks continues to be a disgrace) is from the 4th Ward. I would imagine that folks up in my little hamlet of UPPER Montclair would SCREAM if say, redeveloping the large parking lot behind the Bank of America on Valley (opposite the CVS) was "determined" by only "appointed" folks from the 4th ward. This is just as offensive.
profwilliams December 29, 2012 at 07:36 PM
It's dumb because there are several empty buildings and lots around the current police station. So rather than an outright move, can folks first look at the immediate area and see what can be done? The old Volvo dealership is gone, as is the building next to it, and the lots behind it remain empty, but we're to believe that somehow the (current) police station will be some kinda beacon of development, and that Lackawana answers all current issues. And don't get me started on the offensively stupid Mayor's comment: that this is a good idea because it adds a strong police presence in the “heart of [Montclair’s] more problematic area.” Isn't there already a police "substation" next to Pathmark? But if crime prevention is the variable as to where to put the new police station, perhaps the town should buy up, and rezone Mission St. or whichever Street has the highest crime rate. I need someone to Appoint a Task Force to convince me this is a good idea.
frank rubacky December 29, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Reading above, Dr Baskerville supports the new municipal building, police station and a regional jail being placed in the Fourth Ward. The only viable site in the ward is Lackawanna urban renewal zone. So, if she wants to make an issue, then she needs to make the real issue and stop fooling around. BTW, Upper Montclair never screams...look at what was built in U Mtc in the last 30 years without so much as a whine. You must have just moved into the hamlet.
Cary Africk December 30, 2012 at 12:13 AM
I don't think the PD HAS to move. I think people would like to have a "Municipal Complex" that was more in keeping with the image we like to have of Montclair -- nicer, more spacious buildings. By the way, the big "miss" in all of this is the BOE Central Office which is not only pressed for space, but does not comply with ADA regulations for handicapped access. So in any "grand plan" that should be taken into account. Comprehensive planning is what is missing. I tried to promote a larger redevelopment area, one which would include DeCozen, the public parking lot on Valley as well as several other parcels. One doesn't need to do the entire project at once, but it's easier to decide how a CentroVerde fits into an overall plan, instead of building CV and then figuring out what should go around it. There was a rush to complete the CV project. It was the need of the developer to rush, not the town's need for urgency. Frank mentioned the Orange Road Parking Deck. This was built by DCH to story their inventory, on land OWNED by the Township. They paid a ground lease to the Town. Smart move. It gave us leverage in negotiations. Did anyone notice? At the last Council meeting this property was sold to CV for $1.2MM. Fair price? Who knows. The whole concept of "ratables" and generating revenue is problematic. Revenue for what? Most people think to reduce taxes.
Cary Africk December 30, 2012 at 12:30 AM
(cont) But what reduction would be meaningful? A 10% reduction in taxes for all? Would that make Montclair significantly more attractive to newcomers? Would it make it easier for seniors to live here? HOW MUCH development would lead to HOW MUCH of a reduction if ALL new revenue went for tax reduction? It's a calculation that can be made, but won't because the numbers won't be attractive. And this ignores a basic reality of Municipal finance. All expenses are going up. Sharply. This year we negotiate with ALL the unions. Salaries will go up. The cost of insurance, and benefits, including health and pensions will go up. And we also have had a huge reduction in manpower -- streets, community services, and the like. Not to mention the neglect of the parks. So maybe we'll build everywhere, and decide not to use the revenue for tax reduction. Bottom line? What's the plan? Where's the numbers? Who will be the real winners?
allaboutthenumbers123 December 30, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Cary, we keep hearing about reductions in staff, yet when one looks up the last completed application for transitional aid, the employee #s are about the same as they are reported to be today. When you look up salaries listed on njbythenumbers website & count #s of employees listed, the staff #s haven't changed as much as our town manager has reported. Where were all these reductions in staff #s you mention? When comparing salaries per capita to other Essex county numbers, Montclair is painfully high. Why is it that if the numbers of employees are going down as you say, shouldn't the salary expenses reflect this?
scarletxknight December 30, 2012 at 05:46 AM
i might have missed this in the article and i didnt read through all of the comments so can someone briefly tell me what exactly is the point of moving the two? i def. missed it because i dont understand why/what the point is in moving if there isnt anything wrong with where they both are at the moment.
Cary Africk December 30, 2012 at 06:12 AM
allabout.... When I looked at the head count it seemed like we had "gone down" by about 10% -- 40 Municipal employees, over four years 2008 to 2012. The Manager "bragged" how he was able to "maintain" spending at approximately $70MM as if it were a good thing yet I was puzzled: we lose 40 employees and our expenses stay the same? That being said, department after department complained that they couldn't do their jobs because "staff was down." Police, Fire, Community Services. So what I'm saying is that if, somehow, development suddenly puts millions into the coffers I expect that we'll add employees. That combined with contracted increases, and increases in health, pension and other benefits will dissipate the added revenue. scarlet, The Council is suggesting PD move, and the administrative offices move, into "nicer" facilities. Maintenance is high, the structures don't have sufficient space, they're not energy efficient, etc.
grewupinmtc December 30, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Cary don't drag the PD and FD into this. We have been doing more with less or years. This new TC wants to keep building and cramming more people into this town, are they also going to build up the PD and FD, I doubt it . Don't blame the rank and file for the deals the politicians made over the years. If the TC wants to put the PD in a place to deter crime they should make the Bullock school the Police HQ and town hall and get Grove st. School back by eminent domain. On a side note, did you know about the FD mutual aid agreement with Paterson. 20% (1 engine) of the department has responded to Paterson over 40 times in 2012. They have yet to cross our boarder. How much money is spent on this? Montclairs Eng 2 was just on the news in Paterson, spent over nine hours fighting a fire while Montclair was under staffed.
Cary Africk December 30, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Dear grew, Exactly. My point is that the uniform and other services have been cut and cut too much. Thus, additional revenue should go back to staffing. MPD or the fire department has NOT asked for additional facilities, and MPD has done a great job with the facilities they have. The "complex" idea didn't come from them. I had no idea re. Pateson!
ira shor December 30, 2012 at 06:35 PM
We don't need a new PD/TC Palace to enrich real est dev at the expense of Mtc families. This worse than dumb development; its cronyism of TC acting like an arm of RE dev. New Town Hall/PD Palace won't make the town better. The rest of us don't need such palaces and so many TC's picking our pockets to enrich their cronies in RE dev. TC's and mayors don't get reelected b/c they don't enhance family life in this town, enriching their friends instead. After 4yrs on TC, these "public servants" return to the business world where it's their turn to collect more wealth. The continued neglect of our greatest asset--the public schools--is disgraceful and also destroying the single most impt draw for families buying into Mtc, the single best asset that supports our property values--good public schools, not Town Hall Palaces! The 7 honorable men on the appointed Task Force cannot get us tax relief and a family-friendly town by such a RE boondoggle. No matter what these 7 men report, we will still have a TC ready to rewrite the deal later on to suit developers, as it did when TC relieved CV of the required affordable housing provision. A TC that put Mtc families first would not propose building one palace after another, out-of-scale with our town, another money-pit for our taxes.
Martin Schwartz December 30, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Within the mass of comments here, there is always one tidbit of information that spurs some important fact from the past. The Deron School. It reminds me again of what happens when there is no real land use planning, or no full due diligence and things are just handled knee jerk at the political level. Taxpayers inevitably lose money. That’s why we should be very happy today that the Council appointed a task force first to fully consider this PROPOSED municipal move. Rather than preemptively complain…we should embrace. Here’s why. In contrast, a number of years ago, we were stuck in development hell to build the $40 million plus Bullock school (much more $ long term after interest of course). We were stuck because the BOE business office hadn’t properly reviewed the history of the land they purchased first and now had to spend $1 million more to remediate a graveyard discovered before any construction could begin. But that’s another story. What was interesting is that at the same time, the current owners of the now privately owned Deron School were seeking to build a new addition on to their still original school building. Deron is the grade school building on Grove Street that Montclair shortsightedly sold off for $1 or 2 million many years ago when there was a population shortfall. Now, it’s an independent special needs school. And they wanted more space to expand because they were doing very well. (con't)
Jeff Jacobson December 31, 2012 at 12:04 AM
I'm (mostly) with Martin on this one. Potentially, the idea of selling these two existing municipal buildings, and moving to a new, lower-cost-to-occupy building at Lackawanna, could be a win-win. It's certainly an idea worthy studying, and Mayor Jackson has assembled a terrific group to do it. Let's see what they recommend. Two things, though: First, I'm in complete agreement with Frank Rubacky that we shoudn't build a jail on the assumption other towns will use it. Strike a binding shared services deal first, or don't build. Second, were I a First Ward resident, I'd be concerned about the police HQ moving to the Glen RIdge border, potentially meaning that the other end of town will be without coverage for an unacceptably long time during shift changes. That needs to be part of the discussion, too.
Cary Africk December 31, 2012 at 01:34 AM
So, let me get this straight. If the operating costs of my 120 year old house are high, I sell it, and buy, another bigger more modern and efficient one and it won't cost me anything? Where do I sign up for such a deal? By the way, I just passed a headline in the local paper announcing a Verona -- Cedar Grove shared services agreement for 911 communications. Wonder how our shared services people are coming along?
frank rubacky December 31, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Firstly, $40MM real estate projects don't get stuck because of a cemetery. Secondly, the TF is studying a "hotel".
tryintosurvive December 31, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Cary, the "shared services" idea touted by this slate was never realistic. It appears to have been an election ploy to pitch to naive voters who were receptive to any idea that claimed to be able to reduce costs without reducing town staff or benefits. Anyone being realistic knew that taking our high priced services and selling them to other towns was a folly. I don't think that they ever believed it. The point was to get the voters to think that it could work. This they did.
Martin Schwartz December 31, 2012 at 06:10 AM
Tried to finish this comment but the system won't take the copy - sorry. Seems like a dangling participle.
Jeff Jacobson December 31, 2012 at 11:12 AM
Cary, as I understand it, the idea is that a developer would build and own the building; the town would just lease space in it on a long-term basis. Because operating expenses in our current buildings are very high, leasing space in the new building actually may lower our operating costs. There are a lot of "ifs" here, but it's potentially a good idea and one certainly worthy of study, I think.
Martin Schwartz December 31, 2012 at 01:05 PM
For some reason, I couldn't input the trail of my comment above. Nonetheless, here is the main point. Let's not jump the gun either for or against this newly proposed project. Let the appointed Task Force do their work and hold meetings. Be thankful that there actually is a group appointed to review the impacted issues based on passed history. Rather than attack first, even if you think the numbers won’t work, give the task force your POV and information and attend their meetings. Between new taxes on two buildings, the sale profits etc..-- renting instead of owning -- the numbers might work. But maybe not. Maybe the costs don’t hold or there are other spaces or other approaches that make more sense. Maybe nothing should be done and we sit and stay in the two municipal buildings. Until all those variables are at the table, one doesn’t know. Remember -- it was actually the Capital Finance Committee’s report against the purchase that stopped the proposed $3.5 million expenditure that the last Council considered for a new senior center. But that’s not this proposal. This is a complex, multi-property sale and potential revenue generation transaction that may or may not make sense. What I see are the right financial talent at the table to work through the numbers/variables and determine if the proposed move is warranted. Let’s help them!
Cary Africk December 31, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Here's the reason for my lack of optimism: The Council adopts a debt reduction model by unanimous vote. The NEXT WEEK the Council appoints a Capital Finance committee to study debt. What next, a committee to forecast last week's weather?
frank rubacky December 31, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Martin & Jeff, Cary basically had it nailed. Why? Why are we doing this? Why do the taxpayers benefit from the police being in the same complex as town hall? Does this imply we need to consolidate the fire department's 3 facilities. Maybe close the Harrison Ave station. I can also surely see the synergies of moving the DPW garage next to the police parking. As a matter of fact, let's move the Montclair Schools Central Office there also and sell the 78 (nope, 76, nope 72) remaining "public" spaces...this would certainly make the numbers look better. So, it is about he money. I can accept that. But, with all the trends around us going away from centralization (outsourcing, shared services, cloud technology, and so on), we establish a TF to evaluate whether we should put town hall, a jail and the police department in one complex? As an official naysayer on this initiative, I will go on record as saying I spent 2012 on this issue..even though it just came out Christmas Eve evening. But, my resolutions for 2013 include letting this whole thing go...and watching the original Cheaper By The Dozen tomorrow.
Stuart Weissman December 31, 2012 at 11:29 PM
"Remember -- it was actually the Capital Finance Committee’s report against the purchase that stopped the proposed $3.5 million expenditure that the last Council considered for a new senior center" Actually, the Fried Three still wanted to go forward with it. It wasn't until the conference meeting (upstairs) where Dashield announced that the town revenue was looking way less than expected that the idea was dropped. Though, the Fried 3 still wanted to continue pursuing it. I think it was Murnick who changed his mind from for to against effectively killing it. Ultimately, that purchase was more about giving the rec department nice new offices. Of course, there's not much of a rec department left, which would have made the purchase even dumber financially than it originally appeared. I'm looking forward to seeing the increase in taxes on the properties on South Park Street. When should we expect to see this Cary?
Cary Africk December 31, 2012 at 11:52 PM
The Council was all set to spend the $3.5M for the Senior Center when Marc, who was fairly new, said "we have no money." It might have sold anyway. Some were looking for a bargain price and if the sellers went down to, say $3MM it might have actually been bought. Funny thing. Our good deal? Less than a year later it was consummated for a little over $2MM. Oh well. The ratable argument for Park Street should never have been the driving force for the project. It was justifiable without it. The project is a disappointment for me. All I wanted was wider sidewalks. The median is ridiculous, turning the parking into a nuisance. Can't wait to see how we'll plow that street! But the project was part of a plan that involved Karl's and other improvements. Tom Lonergan of the BID, now gone, was driving that. I don't think the benches are in, even, nor was the landscaping complete. But don't worry. With every parking lot converted to a multi storied mix use facility we'll soon be awash in additional tax revenue.
frank rubacky January 01, 2013 at 12:32 AM
Cary, Let's end 2012 pn a positive note and toast all those who volunteered their time to our town in 2012. From PTA parents, to the religious organizations, the gardeners, the food pantrys, the amimal foster homes, the students who raised money all the many I portent issues, the artists and creatives that made the year so much better, those that gave to make the tragedies and disasters a little mor bearable...and the list goes on. Let's toast the volunteers of 2012,
Cary Africk January 01, 2013 at 01:25 AM
Frank, Right you are! There are so many who give to our community! Best of health, and happiness and success! Cary Africk
I'd-Rather-Be-at-63 January 01, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Here here for all the wonderful volunteers helping the underprivileged in Montclair.


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