July 12, 2017

Council Casts Votes In Favor of New Cleaning Service, More

Improvements to Princeton Public Library, a new group home, and a possible revival of efforts to ease traffic woes on U.S. 1 were among the topics at Princeton Council’s meeting Monday evening, July 10. The governing body voted on several ordinances and resolutions.

The Council voted to switch to a new cleaning service for government buildings, replacing the organization Arc Mercer, which provides employment to the developmentally disabled, with CNS Cleaning Company, a private vendor. Though CNS provided a lower bid, the move was based on the quality of work rather than cost, Council members stressed.

The change means four developmentally disabled people will be replaced. “Our staff tried, for a number of years, to make this situation work,” said Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller. “”I’m sorry to say it was not the money. It was the quality of service.” Councilman Bernie Miller said, “I think we are all sorry about the outcome of this. But I think from the standpoint of providing the kind of facility that creates the kind of impression we want to create with residents of this town, we are doing what we have to do.”

ARC executive director Steve Cook conceded that “you can’t argue with economics,” but argued that the four employees did a decent job. “You have to work with them, and I feel like if we kept at it, we could have made it work,” he said. Mr. Cook told Council that the national unemployment rate for the developmentally disabled is 84 percent. “Of course, the ARC is going to do everything it can to place them in another janitorial contract and find other employment for them…It’s hard to find jobs like this.”

A bond ordinance appropriating $275,000 for improvements to the library was voted in unanimously. But before casting her vote, Councilwoman Jo Butler expressed reluctance. “I don’t think we’ve had the appropriate discussions that ought to take place about surveillance at the library,” she said, adding that she would support the measure in order to hasten other needed work in the building. “But I do think it’s a mistake,” she said.

The acquisition of a parking lot on Franklin Avenue, which has been used for construction vehicles during the building of Princeton University’s Merwick Stanworth housing complex on Route 206 (Bayard Lane), was next on the agenda. The University is conveying the lot to the town under a multi-year agreement, possibly for the construction of affordable housing. Council passed the ordinance unanimously.

The establishment of a group home for four developmentally challenged individuals at 24 Dorann Avenue drew praise from Council members Lance Liverman and Heather Howard. “We have these group homes throughout Princeton now, and they have been a remarkable contribution,” Mr. Liverman said. “To see something preserved in this fashion and see something as caring and loving taking place is an honor for Princeton.”

Ms. Howard added, “This is part of our commitment to both affordable housing and inclusive housing. These are members of our community who cannot care for themselves but can contribute to the community. I’m excited we found another opportunity here to do that.”

But one resident of the neighborhood complained that neighbors were not sufficiently informed of the plans and given a chance to comment. She added that she has read complaints about how the group homes, which are managed by the organization Çommunity Options, are run. “It’s not as perfect and sunshine-and-roses as it seems,” she said.

Community Options Executive Director Ida Bormentar said there are 21 group homes run by the organization in Mercer County. “We take good care and we like to treat our homes as if they are a family setting,” she said. “We treat all individuals with respect.”

The three-bedroom house with one bath will be converted to a four-bedroom with an additional bathroom, she added. An open house for neighbors will be held before the home is opened. Council voted unanimously to pass the resolution. The group home will provide the town with credits toward its Fair Share Affordable Housing obligation.

The issue of traffic flow on Route 1 between Harrison Street and Alexander Road has been tackled multiple times by the New Jersey Department of Transportation. Previous attempts have not succeeded because of a lack of money in the Transportation Trust Fund. Now that the fund has been replenished thanks to the recent gas tax, the project is revived. Among the features under consideration are the addition of a travel lane in each direction and the extension of the queue before entering the jughandle turn at Alexander Road.

One change Princeton has requested of the DOT is to make better accommodations for bicycle riders. Addressing the east-west flow of traffic over Route 1 is not part of this proposal and would be a second phase of the project, if it is undertaken.

“The DOT wants consensus for this plan, which is still a concept plan,” said Mayor Liz Lempert. “They want to know there is general support in the region before they move forward with it.”