Howell Historical Society plans reorganization meeting for April 25

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HOWELL – A reorganization meeting of the Howell Historical Society will be held at 7 p.m. April 25 at the Ardena Baptist Church, 593 Adelphia Road (Route 524), Howell.

The dormant historical society has been a topic of discussion in recent months as Howell officials have sought to determine the future of the MacKenzie Museum and Library, 427 Lakewood-Farmingdale Road (Route 547).

The building, a former private residence, is owned by the township and requires more than $150,000 in renovations, municipal officials have said.

Artifacts in the building are owned by the Howell Historical Society which, according to recent statements, has not been active for several years.

Municipal officials recently sent a letter to the historical society regarding its non-compliance with the lease agreement for the building.

The issue was a topic of discussion at the April 2 meeting of the Township Council, when Township Manager Brian Geoghegan said information regarding the matter had been presented to him that day.

“Our attorney sent a letter to the prior historical society putting them on notice about their non-compliance with the (lease) agreement. To my knowledge there has been no response yet. Today I received correspondence from a new group that is looking to form,” Geoghegan said.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Don McGirr said he had been asked to read a letter that was sent to the township manager from the people who want to reorganize the Howell Historical Society.

McGirr said the letter refers to two entities, the “previous society” and the individuals who are reorganizing as the “current society.”

The letter states there are many issues to address, but the first issue that must be resolved is the proper termination of the previous historical society and the identification of ownership of the property in the MacKenzie house and the Ardena schoolhouse.

The letter notes that some items were donated and some items were loaned to the Howell Historical Society.

The individuals reorganizing the historical society are requesting “that as of April 2, 2019, the current members of the Howell Historical Society be recognized as the entity that will take the historical torch that was lit back in 1972 and return the society to its current intent – the preservation and teaching of Howell’s history to others.”

The letter states that “you will find the repairs have been listed and divided into phases. Phase one and phase two must be completed as soon as possible. We have an opportunity to apply for matching funds for that work from the Preserve New Jersey Historic Preservation Fund, but the application must be submitted by 4 p.m. May 2.”

McGirr said the current historical society must be recognized by the Township Council in order to proceed with what it seeks to accomplish. He said one of the group’s goals is to apply for funding from Monmouth County historic preservation sources. Another idea is to explore multiple avenues for fundraising.

He said the reorganized historical society realistically believes the MacKenzie house and the Ardena schoolhouse could be re-opened in the spring of 2020.