Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 8
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
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Neighbors Support Park, Capital Projects Featured In Borough’s Budget Talk

Dilshanie Perera

Continuing the discussion about the 2009 budget, last Tuesday’s meeting of Borough Council focused on capital projects and debt management. Neighbors advocating for the rehabilitation of Harrison Street Park were also in attendance.

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi explained the construction projects that would have to be undertaken in the next few years, while suggesting ways in which the Borough could allocate money for those projects.

Proposing setting spending limits instead of a formal plan, Mr. Bruschi noted that the goal of the capital spending plan is to “allow for the maintenance of Borough-owned infrastructure and programmatic needs” in a way that doesn’t compromise community use of them. He suggested capping the debt at $3.6 million dollars per year.

The kinds of infrastructure covered by the Borough’s capital budget include street and road resurfacing and paving; public safety equipment, including vehicles; the public works department; joint agencies like the library and health department buildings; the sewer; and parks and recreation.

Regarding roads, Mr. Bruschi proposed a little over $4 million for the initial year, which would involve the reconstruction of Mercer Street, and $1.6 million for routine maintenance in the subsequent five years.

In terms of joint agencies, expenditures for recreation are the greatest, with Mr. Bruschi estimating spending an average of $1.25 million per year for the next six years. The funding would go toward the rehabilitation of Harrison Street Park, which is projected to cost $850,000, and then toward the new pool and other anticipated recreation amenities.

Council President Andrew Koontz said, “In a lot of ways, the stars and planets have aligned on the park project this year. It is finally time for the Borough to move ahead on it.” Adding that “the safest course is to set aside capital funding for it now,” he noted that the neighborhood is eager to see the project move forward, and that the construction market is particularly good given the economic downturn.

Borough Council members Roger Martindell and David Goldfarb both expressed concern over the cost of the park, saying that the proposed plans for the rehabilitation could be scaled back slightly.

Borough resident and neighbor of the park Clifford Zink noted that “if you go to the park now, you won’t find anything that’s been invested in since the ’50s.” The lack of investment, compounded with increased demand for using the park by young families, and a water drainage problem, make it the appropriate time to address the park, he said.

Donald Cox of Harrison Street observed that the park property has also become a “hazard,” since water from nearby impervious surfaces is not fully absorbed by the park, thus “causing a problem for the surrounding homeowners.”

Council member Kevin Wilkes suggested that, given the fact that many contractors are looking for work, it would be timely to put together a plan to renovate the park in stages and work on a bidding strategy.

As for the overall capital budget and debt management plan proposed by Mr. Bruschi, Mr. Koontz noted that “the concept of pre-planning is a very good idea and will begin to protect us from major debt,” adding that “these are future events that will happen: the pool is coming, these buildings will need infrastructure maintenance, so a policy of planning capital expenses in this way is very wise.”

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