August 1, 2012

“Phase 2” of Consolidation Begins

With the signing of a $38,000 contract with KSS Architects to refurbish the two current municipal buildings, “Phase 2” of the transition process has begun.

At a joint Monday evening meeting that included Borough Council, Township Committee, and Transition Task Force members, subcommittee representatives gave their recommendations for the composition of some of the new departments in the consolidated municipality, reconciling the different employee compensation packages currently received by Borough and Township employees, and other questions that need to be resolved before January 1, 2013. Compliance with local and state guidelines were important considerations, they said.

It was agreed that a “Princeton Board of Health” will replace the current “Princeton Regional Health Department,” allowing for more flexibility in responding to local concerns. Borough Councilman Roger Martindell wondered if it wouldn’t be more efficient to use the governing body as the health department, thus avoiding some of “the legal conflicts” that have occurred between the current health department and the governing bodies. There was overwhelming support, however, for having professional experts in health-related fields as members of a separate entity.

The many conversations and decisions that have occurred in preparation for consolidation will be documented in a final report, said CGR Vice President Joseph Stefko. Intended to be used for both “reference” and “strategic” purposes, the report will chart how decisions were made and “memorialize” all the recommendations that came out of subcommittees. It will also document the Transition Task Force’s role, as well as those of its subcommittees, by “walking through” each of the tasks set out at the beginning of the process, and the various options that could have been chosen. The first release of the report, probably in September, will have “place holders” in those instances where financial decisions are still in flux, said Mr. Stefko. He expected that Finance Committee information would become available in October.

Mr. Stefko noted that the concluding section of the report will “really be forward-looking,” to ensure that “the new governing body is attentive to the issues.”

Most of those present at the meeting voiced their support for “the concept” of a celebration to mark the municipalities’ consolidation, although there were differing views on the best venue and time for it. While the Communications subcommittee recommended a New Year’s Eve, family-style event on Palmer Square from 3 to 4 p.m., there was also support for using Hinds Plaza, with the library’s Community Room as a good back-up. Residents’ enthusiasm for this celebration has, apparently, been considerable; thanks to their donations, no taxpayer dollars will be used to purchase “consolicake” or any of the other refreshments.

A second set of recommendations for the new government will be presented at a joint meeting on August 15.