Capital Improvements

In this time of “Economic Stimulus,” it is incumbent on all levels of government to get the best return on our taxpayers dollar. Byram Township is in serious need of capital improvements.  Here are some of Skip’s and Jack’s thoughts on a few capital improvement needs.

The Consolidated School

Skip has a special affinity to small, historic schools. From second through fourth grades in Denville, he attended the Union Hill School.  Currently the Denville Board of Education offices, as a two-room school divided by a folding door, it provided for the concurrent teaching of K-4.Yes, kindergarten was in the basement and first and second were two rows each in one classroom and third and fourth were two rows each on the other side of the divider. When a teacher was out sick, the divider was opened and one teacher handled all four grades simultaneously. One might say that it resulted in poor education but, to the contrary, Skip’s classmates went on to be doctors, teachers and even lawyers.

The Consolidated School was built in the 1920’s to consolidate the various one room schools dotted throughout the township. The property was donated to the township with a deed restriction that the property would be used for education or other public purposes in perpetuity. Several years ago, the Byram Board of Education advised the NJ  Jersey Department of Education that there was a need to go forward with a new school due to the deteriorating condition of the Consolidated School. Thus the Byram Lakes School was constructed. Once that school opened, the Consolidated School reverted to the township and has been used for educational and recreational purposes. A special needs school (Celebrate the Children) started operations in the school in space leased from the township. The success of CTC included television and magazine reports and success caused them to seek larger facilities in Wharton.

Although re-use of the school by Byram schools was looked into awhile back, it was determined that the case made to the state precluded the re-use without major renovations.

The mayor and council have had the use of the facility studied by two professional consultants and the findings are that it would cost too much to renovate the facility. The Byram Township Capital Improvements Committee has recommended clearing title and selling the building. Skip and Jack would like to see the original 1920’s building be the core of a new senior citizen housing complex developed through cooperation with an agency that has done such work in other communities. Skip and Jack will work with all interested parties toward this goal.

Municipal Complex 

The current municipal complex on Mansfield Drive/Beatrice Johnson Way, is a mix of construction modalities. The front building which houses the court, meeting room and tax office, was built in 1971 to consolidate municipal services from home-offices. The clerk, tax collector, treasurer, and tax assessor worked out of their own homes and meetings and court were held in the Consolidated School or Intermediate School which was a shadow of the current IS.

When the Byram Township Police Department was started in 1971, they occupied one small office which soon became much too small. Chief Danielson heard that ATT /195 Broadway Corporation was giving away construction trailers from the new complex on North Maple Avenue in Basking Ridge. He went to the site with police chiefs from around the area and selected a construction trailer for the police department. The chief then went to the construction office building to finalize the paperwork. With his background in building modular homes in the family lumber yard while in high school and college, he was able to assess that the constuction office was actually modular - ten ten-foot wide by fifty-four foot long units connected. The building was fully plumbed, had air conditioning and heating and was well configured. Chief Danielson asked what was going to happen to the building and he was told it was going to be bulldozed in a week. Chief Danielson put a dollar on the counter and told the ATT people he would pick it up.

Chief Danielson then returned to the township committee with a complete set of plans and advised them that he had just bought the building for a dollar. After realizing he was not joking, the governing body directed the building inspector (Harry Salotti) to go to the site to see if the building could be moved to Byram. It was quickly determined that it could be separated and moved two units at a time with police escort to Byram. Monies were authorized to build a foundation using in-house personnel and volunteers. The units were moved to the present site and reconfigured as the 5,400 square foot municipal annex. Later, when a new roof was needed, foresight had the design for the roof separate from the actual structure - self-supporting. It would someday be possble to gut the ‘trailers’ out and refurbish the building under the free-standing roof.

Today, the 1971 building and the annex need to be refurbished and the Capital Improvements Committee is looking toward accommodating not only municipal services but some recreation and classroom space in the refurbished complex. Being in the Highlands, some expansion can occur for public safety needs such as the police department.

It makes a lot of sense to do these projects during these times of very low interest rates. The bonding of necessary capital improvements over the life-span of the building is as sensible as taking out a mortgage to buy a home. Byram Township cannot afford a catastrophic event like Blairstown experienced several years ago. They lost most of their records and are still impacted today.