Town officials may give look to historic society squabble

By kathy baratta
Staff Writer

By kathy baratta
Staff Writer

HOWELL — While it may not make the history books, a battle is being waged locally over how the township’s past should continue to be preserved in the present and future.

At stake is how Howell’s past will continue to be preserved by its present trustees, the Howell Historical Society.

The society’s museum on Route 547 near the Interstate 195 intersection has, for some months now, been padlocked for the first time since its inception in 1972.

According to Howell Historical Society President Steve Meier, the museum had to be closed so an inventory could be taken in order to determine what has been loaned or donated to the museum, as well as who has the right to remove any items from the premises either for restoration or for return to the lending families.

The historical society is the passion of many old-guard families who view their roles as keepers of the town’s history as a sacred trust.

Meier told the Tri-Town News that in the last two years there was a nominating committee that started a new Board of Trustees. He said that for some time fractious relations had been developing between longtime members.

The resulting discord, he said, has developed "misunderstandings" about many of the basic tenets of the society; as to what constitutes outright donations and/or proprietary loans to the museum.

Meier said the rules need to be defined regarding donated articles.

Ida Devlin, chairwoman of the trustees, did not return a message from a Tri-Town News reporter seeking her comment on the matter.

Meier said he has discussed the historical society’s tempest with Township Manager Bruce Davis in an effort to seek direction in determining the parameters of the society’s powers.

He said one of the major sticking points was the creation by the membership this summer of the "member in bad standing" category, a measure that would allow for ways to oust members for infractions such as missing too many meetings.

Meier, who notes that his role as president simply provides for him to run the meetings, said the real power in the society lies with the board of trustees.

He said he himself has questions as to how the member in bad standing regulation should be enforced and whether infractions committed prior to the adoption of the member in bad standing category could result in the expulsion of members of exemption from holding elected office in the organization.

Meier said Davis told him the matter would be taken up in executive session by the Township Council on Oct. 7.