Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 40
 
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
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Borough Council Sees Debate on Ordinance, Township Back Dues

Dilshanie Perera

Though a protracted debate preceded Borough Council’s vote on a bond ordinance authorizing $1.3 million for joint capital improvements between the Borough and the Township, the ordinance was approved unanimously last Tuesday.

When the ordinance was introduced, Council member Roger Martindell characterized it as “a bond ordinance to fund joint programs where we put up bond money, we build the Township, and we hope that the Township pays us back.”

Council member David Goldfarb added that the Borough’s Finance Committee’s auditor was “concerned that we have not gotten the money we are owed by the Township.”

They were referring to monies that the Township owes the Borough that have yet to be paid back, the Township having paid $1.6 million in July after long negotiations over the exact amount of money owed.

“I’m reluctant to commit the borough taxpayer for these upfront costs,” said Mr. Martindell, announcing that he would not vote in favor of the ordinance until the Borough had “more security, assurance, and evidence as to progress before incurring more debt.”

Mayor Mildred Trotman noted that over the past ten or more years, “it hasn’t always been the case that the Borough submitted bills to the Township in a timely fashion.” In agreement, Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi reported that the “bills from 2006 were submitted a few months ago.”

“I hope the staff understands that it pains us greatly talking about who owes whom what, when we really should be discussing COAH or the University” said Council member Kevin Wilkes. Suggesting that the Borough should “issue the invoice immediately” as part of its billing protocol, he noted that “most of commercial America works that way.”

“Frankly, we’re all looking fairly bad in the whole process,” said Council member Andrew Koontz, adding that “the level of vitriol that has been hurled at the Township is way over the top and has not acknowledged the Borough’s responsibility.” Noting amenities, specifically parks, that residents of both Princetons enjoy, he suggested the bond ordinance be handled more like those of the joint Recreation Department.

Mr. Goldfarb warned that “the consequence of not passing ordinances is that everything gets held up,” but added that he was “willing to discuss financial strategies to get the Borough and Township cooperating in a productive way.”

Reporting that settling the debt is “a process that is continuing,” Council President Margaret Karcher said that negotiations were “moving along at the level of the CFOs” of both municipalities.

Though “improvements need to be made,” said Mr. Goldfarb, “lots of routine payments go back and forth without a problem.”

After much debate, Mr. Martindell amended his earlier statement, noting that he would vote in favor of the ordinance this time, “in hopes that it will prompt the administration to come forth with a written procedure” for ensuring timely billing and payment between the Borough and Township.

During the meeting, the Wilson Road reconstruction project and status of the Valley Road School building were discussed. Council also heard the monthly police report from Police Lieutenant Sharon Papp.

The north side of Wilson Road falls under the Borough’s jurisdiction, whereas the south side is part of the Township. Since the Township is installing curbing along it’s portion of Wilson Road, a resolution to approve an agreement with the Township for the reconstruction project was passed. Staff said that during the next Council meeting, an ordinance pertaining to Wilson Road would be on the agenda.

Following resident and Valley Road School Adaptive Reuse Committee member Jim Firestone’s remarks on preserving the school building because of historical importance and the presence of a number of non-profit organizations within the space, Borough Clerk Andrea Quinty assured him that a discussion about Valley Road School would be on the agenda during the following Council meeting.

Lt. Papp reported that Borough police officers had to work overtime on September 14 because noise permits were not applied for by the University eating clubs, which were hosting bands during their “Lawnparties” weekend. The University will pay the cost of the overtime, she said.

Truck enforcement in the Borough has been “very successful,” said Lt. Papp, adding that the trucks are stopped due to equipment violations, not moving violations.

In addition to the ordinance that sparked the debate above, a $2.3 million bond ordinance for capital improvements pertaining to the Borough only and a $31,700 bond ordinance for improving the Spring Street parking utility, including the garage, were both passed.

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