Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 32
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
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Community Input Will Be Sought On Future Pool Complex Design

Ellen Gilbert

The Princeton community will soon learn about, and be able to respond to, plans for a new pool complex. At its Thursday evening meeting, the Joint Recreation Board approved a motion to engage a consulting firm that will meet with local residents to discuss the need for new pool facilities, and to hear what pool users would — and would not — like to have in an updated facility, which would be located on the same site as the current pool. At least one of the meetings will occur poolside, according to Recreation Department Executive Director Jack Roberts, so residents can see where there are problems with the existing complex, and envision plans for the future.

Mr. Roberts noted that independent money, accrued through user fees, will be used to pay the consultants. Financial responsibility for construction of the new complex, however, has not yet been determined. Although the Joint Recreation Board has asked both Borough and Township administrators to meet with them to discuss the master plan, which includes plans for the pool, neither governing body has responded. “It appears that it’s going to happen in September,” observed Mr. Roberts, who hopes that there will be enough lead time before the meeting for everyone involved to have a chance to read the master plan.

The pool has outlived its 25-year life expectancy by more than 15 years, and frequent “band-aid” patching jobs on pool walls and concrete walks attest to the need for something to be done soon. Some concern was expressed at the meeting about the possibility that the Borough and Township governing boards may want to approve the entire master plan (including proposed improvements on all Recreation Department facilities) before endorsing a plan for refurbishing the pool area.

Board member Mike Finkelstein observed that while pool use around the nation has declined, Princeton continues to be a strong supporter of its community pool. Board members agreed that the size, location, green shady landscape, high quality maintenance, good value, and family friendly atmosphere all contribute to the pool’s popularity.

As it did at the recent Library Board of Trustees meeting, the Township’s four-page “budget summary,” inserted with its recent tax bill, received high marks from the Recreation Board, which commented on the breadth and clarity of the information presented. Mr. Roberts also pointed out that in Golden, Colorado, the community that provided the prototype for the document, recreation accounted for 28 percent of the city’s budget capital expenditures, as opposed to the three percent allocated to the Princeton Recreation Department.

The department’s financial future was still clearly on Mr. Robert’s mind as he distributed copies of the current “guidelines for recreation facility dedications” to board members at the meeting. In the face of uncertain fiscal support for a new pool, he noted that the relatively modest criteria (noteworthy volunteerism, for the most part) for naming facilities might have to go by the wayside in favor of corporate sponsorship or significant individual gifts and the creation of an “alternative funding foundation” for finding “new revenue streams.”

Other News

In other news at Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Roberts reported that the Borough and the Township had approved the Recreation Department’s 2008 budget, which has “no increases whatsoever.” Improvements in the recently reopened Potts Park, he noted, were largely due to financial support from Mercer County. Monetary concerns arose yet again in a discussion of financing Recreation Department-sponsored summer concerts, which may need alternative forms of support in the future.

A particularly bright spot in the department’s programs is the men’s basketball league. Program Supervisor Ben Stentz reported that this year marked the largest number of teams (12), and that a recent 20th anniversary celebration of the league brought out over 700 people. Mr. Roberts described the anniversary event as “one of our finest hours,” and said that the high quality of the players was remarkable for a small community like Princeton.

The pool is enjoying a “banner year,” according to Mr. Roberts, with “pretty good numbers” reflecting more residential and non-residential memberships, as well as higher daily admissions, and an absence of “monsoon weeks.” The number of people registering for tennis programs, he reported, is down, however.

Mr. Stentz noted that Friday was the last day for the Recreation Department’s summer camp, which had enjoyed “a wonderful summer” and was up this year by ten campers.

The next meeting of the Joint Recreation Board, which is open to the public, will be on August 28.

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