Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 30
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
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Princetons Address Consolidation, Pool

Ellen Gilbert

>At a special joint meeting on Monday evening, members of Township Committee and Borough Council addressed two of the most contentious issues in recent Princeton history: consolidation, and the future of the Community Park Pool complex.

By unanimously accepting the Consolidation Commission’s final report (see www.cgr.org/princeton), the two governing bodies set the stage for the question of consolidation to appear on the ballot in the coming November election.

Officials endorsed, but were not unanimously in favor of accepting a bid for a Myrtha pool to replace the current pool.

Despite an early statement from David Goldfarb emphasizing that the Monday night meeting was simply about whether or not to put the question of consolidation on the ballot, the evening devolved into a long line of audience members addressing the question of consolidation itself. Borough residents reiterated previously expressed concerns regarding the loss of their “voice” in the face of the Township’s larger population.

“It’s a free speech issue,” responded Princeton Community Housing Executive Director Sandra Persichetti. “Put it on the ballot and let people decide.”

Mr. Goldfarb, who is both a Borough Councilman and a member of the Consolidation Commission, had praise for the “quantity of work” that was accomplished by the Commission, and said that he was willing to put the question on the ballot, noting that there will be lots of time for debate between now and November. It was agreed that public meetings led by the Consolidation Commission and both municipalities (both separately and jointly) should be a priority.

“It’s been an honor to serve the community and to work with the members of the Commission,” said Chair Anton Lahnston as he began a presentation that detailed the research, consultancies, and public forums that led to the Commission’s final report, which was posted in June. Noting that there was “a lot of dialogue, debate, analysis, decision-making, etc.,” Mr. Lahnston said that the Commission, which consists of both Township and Borough representatives, “listened to residents” and were “open and transparent” as they proceeded. He noted that the Commission’s website has been accessed over 18,000 times; a remarkable number, according to the Center for Governmental Research.

“It was not an easy process,” said Mr. Lahnston, citing “a lot of passion and emotion surrounding different points of view.” He described the overall experience, however, as “absolutely fabulous,” and said that Consolidation has the potential to take Princeton to a new level of financial, political, intellectual, and public service strength. Responding later to a question from Township Committeeman Lance Liverman about whether any “strong negatives” had been identified, Mr. Lahnston said that there were no negatives, just “concerns” about issues like the larger Township population and possible degradation in services that might occur as a result of consolidation. He noted that the Commission’s recommendations ensured that there would not be any degradation in any services, and might actually lead to improvements in departments like Public Works and Police.

While a transition team, also consisting of representatives from both municipalities, will be created should consolidation be adopted by the community in November, it was noted that the Consolidation Commission will continue to function as a separate entity, along with the combined financial advisory committees of the Borough and Township, to help with the implementation of the many issues that consolidation will entail. These include the new entity’s assumption of the current municipalities’ debts, providing solid waste collection for the Township, and centralizing the new government in the Township Municipal building (Borough Hall will continue to house some offices). Members of the Board of Education, currently elected by the municipality in which they live, would be elected by all the residents in the consolidated entity.

Pool Decision

The selection of a Myrtha pool came after reassurances about the ability of the municipalities and the Recreation Department to pay for additional costs that have been incurred in the years-long planning process for the pool complex. It was largely agreed that, although a Myrtha pool will cost about $500,000 more than a concrete pool up front, over the years its relatively low maintenance requirements would make the investment worthwhile. Timing was another factor in favor of Myrtha; opting for a concrete pool would probably mean a delayed opening of next year’s pool season, while construction of a Myrtha pool could be accomplished by Memorial Day, 2012.

Myrtha pools represent the latest in pool construction, using a patented pre-engineered modular system, based on the use of laminated stainless steel panels and a buttress system. Myrtha manufacturers suggest that they are able to attain “perfect waterproofing,” the “ideal solution to the many limitations of traditional reinforced concrete structures and ordinary prefabricated swimming pools.” (See www.myrthapools.com.)

As the clock approached 11:30 p.m., Township Committee voted unanimously to accept the lowest bid for a Myrtha pool. Borough Council members David Goldfarb, Jenny Crumiller, Jo Butler, and Mayor Mildred Trotman voted for the Myrtha, while Kevin Wilkes, Roger Martindell, and Barbara Trelstad voted for concrete. Work on the pool is scheduled to begin on September 12.

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