Hillcrest building’s future remains undecided


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  • West Milford Board of Education and Town Council members discuss the future of the shuttered Hillcrest building and the property it sits on. PHOTO BY ANN GENADER




  • The Hillcrest building, originally a school, was used as a community center. Photo by Ann Genader



BY ANN GENADER

The future of the Hillcrest building at 1810 Macopin Road – a former school and later a community center – remains undecided.

The West Milford Board of Education is now reaching out to the YMCA, other organizations and for-profit entities such as spas to see if they are interested in locating at the site. All options remain open.

The 1946 building was the township’s first consolidated school. Later, after it was closed, it was leased to the township for community services and recreational uses.

West Milford Board of Education President James Foody, with support of the trustees, called for a special BOE meeting, which was held Wednesday at the West Milford Municipal Building.

“The purpose of the meeting was to conduct a joint meeting with the township council and township administrator to discuss the Hillcrest building,” the legal advertisement for the meeting said.

School trustees, council members and the public offered ideas for the building during the meeting.

Most of those commenting favored using the property as a recreational facility with an indoor pool and additional sports playing fields. Also suggested was having an urgent care facility in at least part of the building.

Rehabilitating the old structure was seen as too costly, so most of those commenting seemed to favor tearing it down and putting up a new building.

Also suggested was having an outside source take over the property. This would create a ratable that would help ease the tax burden.

Many of the 1,497 respondents to a questionnaire on the West Milford School District web site also favored pursuing recreational uses.

Foody said that although the BOE owns the building, he believes it is prudent to involve the mayor, council and administrator in determining its future. Because they are part of the township’s government their input should be heard and considered, he added.

Foody said school and township representatives all want to do what’s best for the community and should have the opportunity to work in unison for that result. Contentious feelings between the two bodies in the past are just that – a thing of the past – Foody said.

“The joint Council-Board of Education meeting was respectful and productive,” Mayor Bettina Bieri said after the meeting. “It appears that virtually everyone shares the same goals – such as providing additional recreational services to the residents at no additional cost to the taxpayers while preserving the existing fields. Having an indoor pool and/or recreational complex at the old Hillcrest location would serve residents of all ages and is something I suggested years ago. I’m happy to see this concept potentially come to fruition now that the building is vacant.”

Calling the meeting a success, Foody said he hoped the two bodies could also get together to discuss the future of the Wallisch Homestead. The property was left as a gift to the town and Board of Education by the late John Wallisch and Louis Wallisch Jr.

Foody said he wants to see the site used for the community and repeated his earlier suggestion to investigate putting a solar energy section on a remote part of the property.


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