Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 14
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
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No Decisions Forthcoming at Township Pool Presentation

Dilshanie Perera

If last week’s Recreation Department Board meeting evoked Cool Hand Luke’s lament about a failure to communicate, last night’s Township Committee meeting could be said to have channeled Scarlett O’Hara (“Tomorrow is another day”) as Committee members politely thanked Recreation Department head Jack Roberts for his presentation on the community pool complex’s state of deterioration, but preferred not to commit themselves to supporting any manner of capital funding towards its refurbishment at this time.

Reminding Committee members of area residents’ high regard for the pool as “a cornerstone of the community,” and their appreciation of the site as “a park with a pool,” Mr. Roberts provided commentary on a series of slides illustrating rebuilt pool walls, corroding pipes, antiquated coping blocks and lifeguard stands, deteriorating concrete paths, and decomposing walls. He observed that the pool’s record of having no fatalities in its 41-year history is remarkable, and described the availability of new filtration systems that would ensure against the spread of infectious diseases like E. coli and Cryptosporidium. Noting that the high priority items identified by Water Technology Inc., the firm retained by the Recreation Department (and paid for using its own funds) to do a pool audit in 2005, had since become even higher priorities, he wondered about the wisdom of “throwing good money after bad,” doing “patching” jobs that can cost $50,000, while knowing that “in two or three years it will be necessary to build a new pool anyway.”

The public’s reaction to the three potential pool complexes suggested by CMX engineering (also retained using the Department’s “sink fund”) was, Mr. Roberts reported, the simpler, the better. That, and obtaining quotes from work-hungry bidders right now would probably result in lower total costs than the anticipated $7 to $8.5 million price tag originally put on a revamped complex, he said.

As he did at last week’s Recreation Department Board meeting, Mr. Roberts reiterated his belief that the two Princetons would not and could not foot the entire $34 million bill for capital improvements in the department’s master plan, acknowledging that efforts were being made to create a foundation — complete with naming opportunities — to help finance Recreation Department projects.

A tentative timeline, Mr. Roberts said, would have work on the pool complex beginning immediately after the pool closes on Labor Day in 2010, with completion by Memorial Day, 2011, or at least by July 1 of that year. “We’re walking on eggshells,” he observed, noting that the department is already figuring out what the operational costs would be once a concept plan was accepted.

In response to Township Administrator Jim Pascale’s comments about creating a financial plan and using West Windsor’s pool development as a model for creating a self-sustaining utility, Mr. Roberts noted that West Windsor residents had failed to buy into their township’s pool facility, and that doubling and tripling pool fees in Princeton was unlikely to fly.

Deputy Mayor Chad Goerner pointed out that reports that the Township and Borough Finance Committees had turned down Recreation Department capital requests were erroneous, and that the committees had actually not had time to consider them. He emphasized that last night’s meeting was for information purposes only, and that more serious consideration of whether or not to support Recreation Department proposals could come when Mr. Roberts makes his case once again at a joint meeting with Borough Council.

In other business at Monday evening’s meeting the Committee voted to appoint Mary McManus, Robin Wallack, Caroline Clancy, and William Enslin to the Revaluation Committee, and to affirm the Township’s civil rights policy. Mr. Pascale explained that while a civil rights policy was already in place, the joint insurance fund in which the Township participates had asked that the policy be extended to include all officials and volunteers who serve on Township boards and committees. They will now be required to watch a tape on “the do’s and don’ts of harassment,” Mr. Pascale said, and be better able to supervise others.

The next meeting of the Township Committee will be Monday, April 20, at 7 p.m. in the Witherspoon Street Municipal Complex. On April 27, chairman of the state Local Unit Alignment, Reorganization and Consolidation Commission Jack Fisher will speak to a joint meeting of the Township Committee and Borough Council on the rules governing consolidation. The time and venue for this meeting, which is open to the public, have not yet been announced.

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