Byram withdraws all support for Route 206 expansion plan

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:52

    Decision pits mayor against the rest of the council By Kathryn Kaplan Byram - Citing a total lack of interest on the part of State Senator Robert Littell, as well as county and state DOT officials to engage in any discussion with the municipality regarding the proposed expansion of route 206, the council this week passed a resolution pulling all support for the plan. The council had given its conditional support to the proposed expansion in October of 2003 providing certain conditions were met, including that there be a collaborative planning process and that the design would be sensitive to the area's needs. State officials have cited on several occasions the council's prior show of support and claim the municipality is changing its mind. But according to Councilman Joe Esposito the state failed to live to its agreement. "We want to tell the state we signed on to your dream and it was a great goal. The planning process that we asked for, that we needed to make this the best for Byram, the state did not give us," said Esposito. The council also expressed its frustration that they have not been able to get anyone to listen to their concerns. In July the council passed a resolution requesting the state issue a six month moratorium on the project so that further discussions could be held. The state turned down the request more than 30 days after the petition was filed without any discussions or comment. The council then unsuccessfully solicited Senator Littell's help in setting up a meeting between Byram and DOT officials. "I asked for the Senator's assistance in meeting with the DOT and I got my answer in The Township Journal," said Councilman Earl Riley referring to a recent article in this paper quoting a Littell staff member as saying the senator was not supportive of the council's efforts. Byram officials understand that the council's latest move will affect the municipality's relationship with the state DOT. "This will close any opportunity we have to sit down with the DOT. It shouldn't, but it will," said Riley. However Town Manager Gregory Poff maintained that those doors were essentially closed already. "There are ongoing conversations contacting people that are willing to listen asking for opinions as to how to move forward Byram's position," said Poff. "I am continuing to work on it. I don't want to give the impression that I have thrown my hands up and said I am done. But the margin for doing something radically different is very, very small." The resolution passed four to one, with the Mayor Skip Danielson voting against the move. Council members, at times visibly frustrated with the mayor's support of the project, tried to draft a proposal to which Danielson could agree. Danielson has gone on record as saying that he supports the plan explaining that if the Byram continues to fight to project, funding could be withdrawn. The council, feeling that a show of complete unity was integral to the message they were trying to send to the county and state, failed to change Danielson's mind. Councilman Esposito specifically addressed the mayor several times, trying to find consensus. "Is the plan the absolute best plan for Byram?" asked Esposito. "If the answer is not yes, we have to pull support. Our job is to support what is best for Byram, not funding."