Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 1
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Wednesday, January 5, 2011
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Baseline Report Expected Next Monday, Consolidation Commission Looks Ahead

Dilshanie Perera

The Joint Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission expects a baseline report from its consultant, the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), by next Monday at the latest. The report will provide data and a preliminary analysis of the status of departments within the Borough and Township in terms of finances and operations and will be posted to cgr.org/princeton.

While this particular report will not make a recommendation for or against full municipal consolidation versus shared services, it will pave the way for future action. Commission Chair Anton Lahnston said that the five subcommittees focusing on finances, full municipal consolidation, the police departments, the public works departments, and community engagement, respectively, will be able to make informed decisions for future analysis and further engagement with the distribution of the report.

Each of the subcommittees have met on several occasions to prepare for the next few months of data gathering. The Finance group has already considered preliminary documents, and will continue to provide feedback to CGR, Mr. Lahnston noted, while the municipal consolidation group will have to wait for more data to begin making recommendations.

Likewise, the police subcommittee’s “work will pick up once the baseline report is issued,” regarding what “some of the opportunities and some of the options” are for collaborations among the departments, Mr. Lahnston remarked, pointing out that the subcommittee chair Bill Metro has expertise in information systems within police departments. “That knowledge is not a terribly common thing,” he noted.

Both the police and public works groups will make site visits and interview the leadership of each department, and meetings are scheduled for later this month, according to Mr. Lahnston. The public works subcommittee has also been tasked with analyzing the Sewer Operating Commission and the Borough’s parking operation.

The community engagement group has a slightly different strategy and is currently liaising with already-existing avenues and organizations to make a presentation to various constituents and hear their ideas and concerns. Meetings with the High School PTO, the Suzanne Patterson Senior Resource Center, and Princeton Future are all forthcoming, with more en route. “We have a whole list of organizations,” Mr. Lahnston acknowledged, citing business organizations, apartment and condominium boards, and educational institutions. Subcommittee member Valerie Haynes is reaching out specifically to minority communities within town as well.

“We want to leave no stone unturned,” Mr. Lahnston said, in regard to getting residential input. Smaller neighborhood meetings in people’s homes will also provide the opportunity “to have conversations with people who have very serious questions about shared services and consolidation,” he noted.

“It’s really a dialogue,” Mr. Lahnston emphasized. “Our focus up to this point has been on our current status,” which he described as “not terribly exciting” but simultaneously “absolutely necessary in order to move forward. We really need to understand what exists.”

A full list of the open public meetings of the commission and its subcommittees can be found at cgr.org/princeton/meetings.aspx. The next meeting of the full commission will take place on January 19 at 7 p.m. in the Township Municipal Complex, and the next public forum will take place on January 26 at 7:30 p.m. at the John Witherspoon Middle School Auditorium, 217 Walnut Lane.

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