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Vol. LXV, No. 46
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
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Municipalities’ Work to Consolidate Begins; Future Roles for Some Players not Clear

Ellen Gilbert

Not wasting a minute since both municipalities endorsed consolidation in last week’s election, the Consolidation/Shared Services Study Commission has scheduled a meeting on Monday, November 21, to review and plan consolidation. The announcement of the meeting noted that “action may be taken.” Consolidation is officially scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2013.

Unofficial results show that consolidation passed by 61.06 percent in the Borough (1,397 yes, 891 no), and 85.34 percent in the Township (3,870 yes, 665 no).

Other reported election results include Yina Moore’s narrow margin of just 100 (1,218) votes over Jill Jachera (1,118) for Borough mayor. Reports of municipal contests gave Township Committee Democratic incumbents Bernie Miller and Sue Nemeth 3,013 and 2,957 votes, respectively, and challengers Geoff Aton and Mark Scheibner 1,386 votes each. In the Borough, democratic incumbent Barbara Telstad was reelected with a reported 1,522 votes. Democratic newcomer Heather Howard will also be joining Borough Council, having received 1,570 votes over Republican challengers Peter A. Marks’s 639; Dudley G. Sipprelle’s 652, and Robert Raphael’s 62 votes.

Unsuccessful challengers and other individuals closely involved with consolidation may be considering what’s next for them. Center for Governmental Research Public Finance Director Joseph Stefko, a key consultant to the Consolidation Studies Commission, said that he had “no conversations with anybody” about the possibility of his participating in the current transition year.

“Right now I’m just really trying to take a step back and process what happened during the election,” said Ms. Jachera. “I felt that at the time I would be the right person for the consolidation process. I felt I was better suited and experienced. I’m concerned about what’s going to happen next,” she added, and “to the extent that there are opportunities presented to me I’ll evaluate them as they come in.” She indicated that it’s “too premature” to decide if she will run for elected office again, but said she would consider an invitation to sit on the transition team.

Preserve Our Historic Borough spokesperson Alexi Assmus, who was issuing near-daily posts against consolidation, has continued with her postings, now emphasizing the concentration of votes against consolidation that occurred within areas of the Borough, and warning other communities about the potential dangers of consolidation. “As far as other municipalities following our lead, they should wait and watch Princeton to see if all the research on consolidating municipalities is wrong before taking the leap — the research that shows there are no consistent savings or political effectiveness achieved with consolidation,” she said.

Mr. Stefko said he had anticipated that consolidation would pass, but not by so wide a margin. On the other hand, he observed, “these are two communities that have worked together for a long time,” and already have many shared services. They know each other well.”

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