Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 9
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
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With Borough OK, Community Pool To Move Forward

Dilshanie Perera

Borough Council unanimously passed an ordinance last week that would provide a maximum of $2,053,500 for their share of funding for the new community pool. The decision, which split Council in a 3-3 tie that was broken by Mayor Mildred Trotman in favor of the project, follows the January 25th meeting that introduced the ordinance.

Township Design Engineer and Project Manager Deanna Stockton explained the changes to the pool complex’s design that had been made in the past month following meetings with the architect, elected officials, recreation board and staff, and members of the ad hoc committee.

The “areas of compromise” include alterations pertaining to the pools, site plan, and buildings. Ms. Stockton noted that the diving well depth had been reduced from 6 feet to 5 feet to accommodate teen programing and that the slide had been relocated to allow for potential swim competitions in the future. The connection between the family bay and the main pool has been shifted as well.

The building layout of the complex has been changed to create a pavilion-style meeting room, Ms. Stockton said, with the adjacent changing rooms expanded to 1,900 square feet with open ceilings that can be covered during the winter months. The size of the concession area has been decreased, the curved walls on the buildings have been deleted, and the filtration system for the wading pool has been housed in the pool administration building.

Although there were 10 bid alternates in January when the proposal initially came before Council, Ms. Stockton pointed out that the number had decreased to two, which included the retaining walls and the pool materials. While the wading pool will be an all-concrete construction, once the bids come in the engineers, municipalities, and Recreation Department will consider the costs and benefits of Myrtha, an all-concrete structure, and a hybrid involving stainless steel walls and a concrete bottom.

Ms. Stockton reported that the changes between the present design proposal and the one presented in January were estimated to provide $300,000 in savings, resulting in $5.8 to $5.7 million as the expected total cost of construction. Princeton Township has agreed to fund two-thirds of the final project cost, with the Borough to contribute one-third. The Princeton Parks and Recreation Fund has also committed to raising $1 million in private donations to offset the municipal contributions. Further monies raised between $1 million and $2 million will be used to lower proposed fee increases for pool users.

Recreation Department Executive Director Ben Stentz said that “many variables” contribute to potential fee increases, and that the department did not know how fees would be structured for using the new pool complex, though he did note the department’s financial aid program.

“Our family rate has gone up $68 in 16 years,” Mr. Stentz remarked, emphasizing that the department’s goal was to “make sure everything we do is affordable to everybody we serve.”

With over 50 subsidies for family pool membership last year, Mr. Stentz pointed out the Recreation Department’s partnerships with other local organizations that are aimed to ensure that those who want to participate in the program are not excluded due to cost.

Resident Ann Yasuhara, representing Not in Our Town, characterized the community pool as a gathering place for the entire Princeton population, and urged Council to approve the funding. Ellen Randall emphasized the need to consider the new pool in the long term, saying that “if we’re spending six million taxpayer-dollars, we should at least design a 40-year pool.”

Dana Hughes, who had lived in the Borough for 30 years, observed that “the most important thing … is that this is the only pool for some of our residents.”

Citing “substantial progress in design issues,” Council member Roger Martindell said he was satisfied that the debt incurred as a result of the Borough’s contribution to the pool was sustainable under the Borough’s debt management plan. His primary concerns centered on pool user fees and creating a “sinking fund” for pool maintenance and future replacement.

“The level of fees always impacts taxpayers,” Mr. Martindell said, adding that the governing bodies should have some oversight into the use of monies accrued from fees. As for the “sinking fund,” he suggested that “some money be put aside and safeguarded so upkeep and replacement can occur,” noting that such efforts were insufficient over the past 40 years with the current pool.

David Goldfarb, also of Borough Council, proposed that the governing bodies should review the Recreation Department’s surplus when they consider the department’s yearly budget.

Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi suggested that a utility be set up to allow the department the flexibility it needs to operate, while also giving the municipalities some oversight.

Barbara Trelstad voiced her support of the suggestion, noting that “we’ve come a long way towards a real community pool,” and Council President Kevin Wilkes agreed that the design is “significantly improved.” Despite previous frictions, he said “we should not resist attempts to engage in community planning.”

Mr. Goldfarb called the process of incorporating community input “enormously beneficial to the Borough,” saying that “at the end of the day, we have projects that are more beneficial than they would have been otherwise.”

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