Peace And Nonviolence Monument Park Plan Gets Council Boost; Could Cost $100,000

Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad saw his decade-old plan to erect a peace and nonviolence memorial statuary park in the township reborn on May 22.

The township manager and attorney were given authorization May 22 to begin vetting a proposed peace and nonviolence monument park targeted for a piece of the former Consolata Mission property on Route 27.

The park has long been a pet project of Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad (D-At Large). His vision is to erect bronze statues of Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and busts of Nelson Mandella and Mother Teresa in a park setting.

The park was originally envisioned for a spot in the municipal complex; in fact, it gained council approval 10 years ago but was never built. The new site is at the corner of Rt. 27 an Cortelyous Lane, on the Consolata property that the township acquired last year.

All the statuary would be donated by private individuals. A township public works crew would do the installation, and create the accompanying parking lot.

The initial plan is to have some sort of groundbreaking ceremony at the site on Sept. 29, in honor of Gandhi’s Oct. 2 birthday.

It was the involvement of the DPW workers – eight of whom it was estimated would be needed for as long at two months – that gave pause to Mayor Phil Kramer.

The mayor noted that using the eight-man crew for that period of time would probably cost more than $100,000.

Kramer said he liked the idea of the monument park, but he wanted to make certain the township wasn’t lunging into something before it was fully vetted.

He also objected to the idea of total control and oversight of the project being given to a council sub-committee as well as Township Manager Robert Vornlocker and township attorney Louis Rainone, especially, Kramer said, since the plans that were drawn up 10 years ago would probably be modified for the new location.

“Given that there’s going to be alterations, I would not be comfortable with it just proceeding on without coming back before this body,” he said.

Councilman Carl R.A. Wright (D-Ward 4) chafed at Kramer’s idea, saying that if Prasad had “all his ducks in a row,” the council wouldn’t even be talking about the project.

“I understand you have the need to be the policy wonk, you need to know this you need to now that,” Wright said to Kramer, ” but let’s be honest here. Councilman Prasad, if you had your ducks in a row, if you had the money in your pocket, we wouldn’t be here right now.”

Wright also brought up the municipal gazebo project, the supporters of which brought a plan to the council that it quickly approved.

“On the simple project of the gazebo, it came back to council three times,” Kramer said. “This is a more complicated project, this is a more expensive project. We’re going to spend … it’s going to cost the town $100,000, minimum. Probably more than $100,000. I don’t know of other projects like this being introduced in a day and then us saying, go ahead, do that.”

“Things will be handled by council and staff as needed,” Kramer said. “But I think before we put a shovel in the ground on the 29th, I think we need to completely understand what the costs will be and what the legal ramifications will be. This is not putting a piece of steel that we got from the World Trade Center, there are copyright issues, etc.”

“I’m optimistic about this, but I want to be careful that we don’t put the town in jeopardy by overstepping this,” Kramer said.

Earlier in the meeting, Kramer raised concerns about any copyright issues that may arise through the use of art work.

Deputy Mayor Shanel Robinson said she agreed with the idea of keeping the whole council apprised of developments with the project.

“I agree with the mayor, I’d like to be apprised of what’s going on,” she said. “We have governance over what happens and we have responsibility, and we all should be kept in the loop.”

Township Councilwoman Kimberly Francois said that more vetting of the project’s cost and the potential legal issues needs to be done.

“It’s a beautiful plan,” she said. “There’s no way that anybody could be against something that beautiful and the concept of having that here in Franklin Township. Given everything that has happened in the world today, the more these things happen, the more we seem to be oblivious to what’s going on, so peace and non-violence is something we need really need to hear in Franklin Township and everywhere in the world today.”

In the end, the council voted to authorize Vornlocker and Rainone to begin the vetting process, and appointed Prasad, Wright, Robinson and Francois to a sub-committee to oversee the project.


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