The Army Comes to Franklin Lakes
Over the years Franklin Lakes has played host to the U.S. Army. From the Anti-Aircraft Base off of Franklin Lakes Road to the Nike Base on top of Mays/Campgaw Mountain the Army has had a presents in town.
Late in 1937 Councilman William H. Ainley reported to the Borough Council that the WPA had approved the application for the building a new Municipal Building. (The original Municipal Building still stands as the Board of Education Building). The funds were approved in Paterson New Jersey for the sum of $25,677.00.
The council looked to build a two story building with a brick face and a slate roof. It would measure 37x 97 feet. It would have a basement, Boiler room, Police department with holding Cells and a vault. The first floor would contain chambers and Borough Offices. The other half of the floor would contain a game room for the citizens of the town. The second floor would hold the recreation room with Basketball, kitchen and a lunch room.
The full cost of this erection would be $ 53,561.04. But with the funds from the WPA the cost to the town would have been 27,888.04. The council said a bond issue will be used to cover this amount. They said that an increase of .22 per $100 valuation would be added to the taxes. They also stated that decision on this would be made after consulting with the citizens of the town.
At the next meeting of the council the citizens expressed their opinion on the project. A number of petitions were presented with half to three quarters of the tax payers rejecting the project. After a long and heated debate the project was rejected. Then the war came and the Municipal Building remained where it was.
Then in the 1960’s the town again formed plans to develop a Municipal Complex. Through the efforts of Council Man William McCabe the land was cleared. He approached the National Guard’s 50th Armored Division. Attached to the division was the 104th Battalion, an Engineering Division. After talks the idea was formed to use the unit to clear the town’s ninety acre complex area as a training exercise.
Early in 1964 elements of the 104th Battalion mobilized. They left their base at the Teaneck National Guard Armory and headed to Franklin Lakes. While advance troops of the unit were already setting up a landing zone at Fireman’s Field. This would aid the landing of the Guard Helicopter that was carrying Supervisory personal along with Major Kenneth Nelson and Captain Paul Coughlin who were in command of the 350 men clearing the land.
In clearing the land the troops used the experience they learned in the classroom. This extended into the use of heavy equipment, communications, demolition, surveying and construction. Later a landing zone was created for a Helicopter. This aircraft was used to survey the land and to chart the progress of the land clearing operation. After seven months of weekend duty the land was cleared of trees, boulders and structures that once covered the land. Once this was done construction started on the first buildings in the complex. They were the New town Hall and Police Station.
Councilman William McCabe received high praise from the Mayor and Council for his innovative idea of using the Guard to clear the land. The Guard received valuable hands on experience in a real world environment. Today the Complex stands as a tribute to the combined efforts of Municipal Government and the Armed Forces.