October 17, 2012

At a public forum focused on a pending Assembly bill that would exempt private colleges and universities from municipal land use laws, panelists warned that passage could set a precedent enabling other non-profits, such as hospitals and private schools, to bypass local zoning regulations. The forum was held at a meeting of Princeton Borough Council last Tuesday, October 8, and attended by about 50 people.

Borough Mayor Yina Moore, who has been closely involved in organizing opposition to the proposed legislation, commented this week that she was encouraged with the response to the event. “I’ve heard from a lot of people,” she said. “I know that a lot of people who weren’t there watched it on TV. It was very informative. Now, we’re ready to act.”

The Senate version of Assembly bill A2586 passed 26-8-6 last June and is now in the hands of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee. A group of citizens and local officials is planning to attend the Committee’s November 8 meeting in Trenton to express opposition to the bill, “whether or not they have the item on the agenda,” Ms. Moore said. “We have a pretty broad representation, including some Princeton University students, though the administration seems less interested. There will be quite a bit of involvement.”

Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman, responding to a letter last month from Ms. Moore asking that the University oppose the bill, declined, saying the University “would never jeopardize the well-being of the community.” Those in support of the legislation say it will speed up the process of construction projects and give private institutions parity with public universities, which currently pursue development without review by local zoning and planning boards.

“They call it a parity bill. We call it a disparity bill,” said panelist Michael Cerra of the New Jersey League of Municipalities. “We don’t accept the argument that it is a parity bill. It creates an unequal playing field. It puts local governments at a disadvantage.” Mr. Cerra called the amount of opposition to the bill by citizen groups across the state “astonishing.”

Charles Latini Jr., resident of the American Planning Association’s New Jersey chapter, said the legislation would exist to promote the partnerships of large-scale universities such as Princeton with developers and could have a “devastating effect” on communities. “You may lose control of your town,” he said. “And for the other towns that do not have colleges or universities: Be concerned.”

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said large, private universities might not mean to hurt the community, but they might not understand the bill’s implications. What communities should watch out for, he added, are partnerships between the private educational institutions and biotech research firms.

While Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) said he is tracking the bill closely and predicted it will be defeated by a slim margin, his colleague Reed Gusicora (D-15), who has a letter in this week’s Mailbox (page 14), was not as optimistic. “I think this is pretty much wired to pass,” Mr. Gusciora said. “I think it’s a power play by developers and private interests. It’s throwing land use out the window. I think we have a long way to go.”

Several local residents spoke at the forum, none of whom were in favor of the bill. Resident Todd Reichert asked whether the universities had been invited to the forum, “because I’d love to hear their arguments.” He added, “Good fences make good neighbors. And the good fence of a municipal land use law provides the kind of protection that I as a non-17-billion-dollar endowed resident would like to have on my side, since I don’t have those dollars and powerful people on my side.”

Ms. Moore said that Princeton University, Rider University, the Institute for Advanced Study, and Princeton Theological Seminary were invited to the forum. Princeton and Rider universities declined the invitation, while the other two institutions did not respond.

Resident Heidi Fichtenbaum, an architect, said that lots of “back of house” buildings have to be built on campuses for storage and other uses. She used the example of a massive book storage facility that Princeton University is building in the Forrestal complex to illustrate what could happen if the municipal land use laws were not being followed. “If something like that went up in the middle of Princeton, people would be aghast,” she said. “We would lose complete control with this law.”

Resident Kip Cherry said there is reason to believe the bill is unconstitutional. Marvin Reed, former Township mayor, said, “Good town/gown relations depend on good planning and good zoning, and that’s what we have to keep in place.”

Ms. Moore urged citizens to make their voices heard regarding opposition to the bill. “If you think taxes are bad now, you haven’t seen anything if this bill passes,” she said, encouraging people to attend the November 8 meeting of the Higher Education Committee in Trenton. But Mr. Tittel urged people to take action immediately instead of waiting for the meeting. “Get to members now,” he said.

Residents of Princeton had two debates to watch last Thursday evening, and timing was all. Before tuning in to see the 9 p.m. vice presidential debate, many people headed over to the Jewish Center of Princeton at 7:30 p.m. to hear candidates Liz Lempert and Dick Woodbridge talk about what each of them believes they would bring to the office of mayor of the “new,” consolidated Princeton in 2013.

The level of discourse between the two candidates remained highly civil during the hour-long debate, and the moderator’s performance could not be faulted. Barbara Trout, a League of Women Voters representative from Burlington County, was poised and congenial as she gave the candidates their instructions and read questions that had been written earlier that evening on index cards distributed to members of the audience. Princeton Community TV videotaped the debate, which has been made available on their website (www.princetontv.org).

As they have on other occasions, Mr. Woodbridge used his answers to emphasize the breadth of his experience as a former Township mayor and Borough Council president, while Ms. Lempert focused on the more recent achievements of Township Committee, where she has served for four years as a member, and deputy mayor.

The candidates differed on a number of issues, including the significance of national elections on local politics; the disposition of the Valley Road School building; and how each of them proposed to keep taxes flat.

Mr. Woobridge suggested that it would be “a mistake” to allow national politics to interfere with local issues that tend toward the more mundane business of doing things like fixing potholes. Ms. Lempert, who coordinated the local campaign for President Obama in 2008, said that national platforms on issues like affordable housing and environmental concerns do “translate at the local level.”

In discussing the Valley Road Building, Ms. Lempert emphasized the fact that since they own it, its future is up to the school district. While she allowed that being directly across from Township Hall makes it a valuable piece of real estate that might work as a community center, she concluded by suggesting that “we need to figure out the finances.”

“Use it or lose it,” said Mr. Woodbridge in his more pointed response. Describing the building as looking “like a crack house,” he faulted the school district for its failure to maintain it and for the Board’s unwillingness to accept a “free offer” that would have turned the Valley Road Building into a community center.

“I can guarantee there will be no new taxes introduced in 2013,” said Ms. Lempert in answer to the question of maintaining flat taxes. “We’ve done it for the last two years,” she said, referring to Township Committee and citing the “invaluable” work of the Township’s Citizens Advisory Group.

Mr. Woodbridge proposed that municipal finances be treated “as a real business,” and noted recent conversations he has had with Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi and Township Acting Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Kathy Monzo. He said that he would look forward to creating budgets that were not based on preceding years, and to ask for other players, like Mercer County and the school district, to seek cost reductions.

In response to Mr. Woodbridge’s frequent references to his experiences with, and desire for non-partisanship in the next Princeton government, Ms. Lempert pointed out that “almost every” current “board and commission has Republican representation.” Both candidates acknowledged the importance of tourism in Princeton, and the need to find new ways to support it. Mr. Woodbridge suggested that town-gown relations have “deteriorated” in recent years. His own recent meeting with University Vice President Bob Durkee and Director of Community and Regional Affairs Kristen Appelget, said Mr. Woodbridge, should be a precedent for regular meetings in the future. In response, Ms. Lempert cited Township Committee’s recent success in negotiating a voluntary payment from the University in lieu of taxes.

While Mr. Woodbridge spoke of his three main credentials for being mayor as “experience, experience, and experience,” Ms. Lempert noted hers: “current experience.”

October 10, 2012

Princeton Borough Council’s unanimous vote October 2 to introduce an ordinance creating the Morven tract historic district comes after more than six years of efforts in support by one segment of the neighborhood, and vociferous objections by another. The latter was represented in force at the meeting last Tuesday, at which Mayor Yina Moore had to bang her gavel more than once to restore order.

The vote, which elicited boos and hisses, sends the ordinance off to the Regional Planning Board. After review, the measure will return to Borough Council for a final public hearing and vote. The proposed district is in the town’s architecturally distinctive western section and spans portions of Hodge Road, Library Place, Boudinot Street, Morven Place, and Bayard Lane.

It was last month that the Borough’s Historic Preservation Review Committee (HPRC) recommended that the designation be pursued, but also advised that Borough Council postpone acting on the recommendation until after consolidation goes into effect in January 2013. The Borough and Township have different ordinances, and the newly merged commission is expected to reflect elements of the existing two when it is formed.

Borough Council’s decision to take the first steps in considering the ordinance last week caused consternation among those opposed to the designation. Chief among other concerns voiced by residents of the district and some who live outside its boundaries were restrictions that would require them to go through a review process before making changes to the exteriors of their homes.

But Nora Kerr, chairperson of the HPRC, said this week that some of those concerns are unfounded. “The present Borough ordinance says that if any surface has been refinished in the past, you can paint it any color you want,” she said in response to statements during the meeting about paint color restrictions. Changes that require review in historic districts include construction of fences, adding light fixtures, changing or adding awnings, replacing windows, building additions, new construction, demolition, and changes in roof materials. Should a homeowner need to replace a slate roof with materials less expensive, “We try to be reasonable,” Ms. Kerr said. “For a roof, they’d have to come in for a review. But that happens very rarely.”

The restrictions apply only to exterior portions of a property that are visible from the public right-of-way. “People seem to think we would address issues that are interior, which we don’t,” said Ms. Kerr.

Council members Roger Martindell and Kevin Wilkes recused themselves from the meeting last Tuesday because of conflicts of interest. Mr. Martindell, a lawyer, cited legal work he had done for the principal of the firm that drafted a report for supporters of the proposal, while Mr. Wilkes, an architect, said he had a client who lives in the proposed district. Judith Scheide, a Library Place resident opposed to the designation, asked Ms. Moore to recuse herself. Ms. Scheide questioned whether Ms. Moore had met with supporters of the district when she was running for office and promised them she would vote for the measure if they voted for her.

“I did not make any promises to vote,” Ms. Moore asserted, adding that the mayor only votes if there is a tie. “That’s not true. I did not have a meeting with them.” Ms. Moore then warned Ms. Scheide and others in the audience that unruly behavior would not be tolerated. “I can tell you right now that this meeting isn’t going to be like the last one,” she said.

Once the public comment portion of the meeting began, several residents lined up to speak. Kim Pimley, who lives on Library Place, said that about 52 percent of those in the district do not want it to be designated historic. “We’re in the majority,” she said. “We do not want this. Do not over-regulate us.” But her neighbor John Heilner, who has been involved in supporting the proposal since its inception, questioned her figures.

Mr. Heilner, among the few who spoke in favor of the designation, has said that there are others who share his views but are afraid to voice them. Those who support the measure say that the neighborhood’s character is in danger of changing as homes are torn down and replaced with new ones that don’t fit in “This area we are talking about is the so-called treasured western section. It is the most beautiful, historic, most desired neighborhood in Princeton,” said Mary Heilner, adding, “The houses are from a graceful period in time, and are part of what makes Princeton so special.”

But most of the residents who spoke at the meeting were opposed to the designation. B.J. Booth of Morven Place said, “If you add a process that is not needed, you are adding another level of bureaucracy. You’re going to have people fleeing from these houses and it will be very difficult to sell.”

Nick Karp of Boudinot Street said, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. This isn’t going to be the Wild West if you don’t rezone. There will still be regulations.” Hodge Road resident Scott Sipprelle added that the neighborhood was “overwhelmingly opposed” to the designation. “Put this process to an end,” he urged Council.

Mark Solomon, the attorney for those against the designation, commented, “You’ve heard the people speak. We have, at every step, voiced our opposition … government should not go where it is not required to go.”

Following the lengthy public comment portion of the meeting, Council president Barbara Trelstad, a former resident of the western section, said she is concerned about preserving its character. “A house was torn down on Hodge five years ago, and replaced by a new, modern house,” she said. “There are a couple of others on Library Place. Tough economic times have stemmed the tide of larger tear-downs and huge McMansions going up, but still …”

Her concerns were echoed by Council member Jo Butler, who said she used to live in a historic district in Philadelphia and wished her Princeton house was located in one. “I don’t think the historic designation process is that onerous,” she said. “Trust me. The new government does not want to deal with this.”

Ms. Trelstad, Ms. Butler, Heather Howard and Jenny Crumiller then voted to introduce the ordinance and send it to the Planning Board for review. The audience made their displeasure known.

An interactive survey on the Township’s website, proposed by Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert and the Princeton Township Traffic Safety Committee, has enabled Township officials to collect recent statistics and details of commuters’ experiences on Route 1 that appear to have resulted from the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (DOT) pilot project. The trial, which restricts left turns and U-turns on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street in West Windsor, began on Saturday, August 4, and was scheduled to last for 12 weeks.

While DOT officials cite reports of improved traffic flow on Route 1, the Township survey gives respondents the opportunity to get down to specifics. The fact that “Faculty Road is much more backed up at Washington Road, Hartley, and Harrison,” has been noted, as have dangers associated with using the DOT’s suggested alternate route on Scudder’s Mill Road.

“The trial is causing significant hardship for commuters into Princeton,” said Ms. Lempert, who is also the Democratic candidate for mayor of Princeton. “The Township has received 55 comments regarding the closures on Route 1 in the time period between September 19 and October 3.” Results of the Township’s survey will be reviewed by the engineering department.

Motorists participating in the survey complain about “illegal U-turns”; “wasting gas and emitting exhaust”; and “doubled and tripped commute times.” Multiple messages confirmed common problems like “Alexander is a parking lot,” and “traffic can be backed up on Alexander all the way to the exit from Route 1.”

The Township survey gives respondents an opportunity to include details on weather conditions; time spent traveling between locations; roadways traveled; and locations. Motorists are also asked how long the same trip took “pre-closure travel time,” in order to provide a basis for comparison.

Users of public transit are also experiencing the effects of the Route 1 limitations. Crossing Route 1 is “seriously impacting Princeton’s attractiveness as a place to live for those who rely on Princeton Junction train station,” said one report. The “DOT has created a public health hazard,” was another, along with “Alexander bridge was not made to accommodate this traffic volume; it is too narrow.”

“A trip from Canal Pointe to Princeton can now take 39 minutes,” complained a motorist. Others take note of the fact that people are “using the gas station on the corner of Route 1 and Harrison Street as a jughandle to turn around and go north on Route 1.”

“We are pressing the DOT to take a holistic approach to their data collection by factoring in the traffic impacts on secondary roads and related safety concerns,” said Ms. Lempert.

The Princeton Environmental Commission has recommended to the Regional Planning Board and the Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB) that AvalonBay Communities, the company contracted to develop a rental apartment complex at the former site of University Medical Center at Princeton, submit information that provides details about how they plan to clean up the site.

“Recent concerns have arisen in the community regarding the potential presence and removal of hazardous waste at the hospital site,” reads a memo dated October 4 from the PEC to the planners and SPRAB. “A grassroots group С The Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods С has requested that AvalonBay’s project not proceed and be declared incomplete until an independent environmental investigation is done to evaluate the presence of harmful substances on the site and, if contamination exists, to address risks to the health and public welfare of the surrounding community and of the project’s prospective tenants. The investigation would include soil and/or groundwater sampling and analysis.”

The memo goes on to say that the PEC recommends that AvalonBay, which is scheduled to come before SPRAB tonight, October 10, provide a reconciliation report as it relates to the two Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, prior to any consideration of the application.

It was at a meeting of the PEC October 1 that the issue of conflicting reports about potential contamination was raised by the Princeton Citizens group, represented by environmental lawyer Aaron Kleinbaum. Mr. Kleinbaum told the PEC that a September 2011 report commissioned by AvalonBay from the company EcolSciences “identifies current and former underground storage tanks and raises serious concerns about potential releases or solvents and other chemicals into soil and groundwater at the site.”

But AvalonBay’s application and its environmental impact statement “misrepresented the EcolSciences report when it said that no underground storage tanks or contamination were found at the property,” Mr. Kleinbaum continued.

The University Medical Center was also mentioned by Mr. Kleinbaum as responsible for “a lack of transparency” regarding the report. At the meeting, the PEC asked AvalonBay, which was represented by attorney Ann Studholme, to clarify whether the developer had followed up on the EcolSciences report’s recommendations. Ms. Studholme said she did not know if they had.

Mark Solomon, the hospital’s attorney, said that any leaks or spills at the former hospital site were reported and remediated in accordance with the proper regulations. “There are not any known environmental conditions on the property,” he said. “What we object to and find highly irregular is [the inference] that the hospital is breaking the law, with absolutely no substantiation. If there’s something real, we’d like to see it.”

Both attorneys said that reports of any incidents were available on the Department of Environmental Protection’s website.

The PEC memo recommends that AvalonBay provide the requested information, which also addresses issues of adequate space for trash management and food waste collection, management of peak sewage flows, and reduction of storm water flows, by October 15.

October 3, 2012

Princeton Borough Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, October 9 will be dominated by one issue: Concern about a bill pending in the State Assembly that would exempt private universities from municipal land use law. Mayor Yina Moore, who along with Township Mayor Chad Goerner has been active in a statewide effort to prevent the bill known as A2586 from passing, said that a special town forum on the subject is being held to help inform the public about how they can help defeat the measure.

“We’re inviting mayors from other towns who share our circumstance of having land owned by a private college or university,” she said. “During the council meeting, we’ll have [representatives from] the New Jersey League of Municipalities, the American Planning Association’s New Jersey Chapter, who wrote the petition and extensive paper on the problem; legislators, and other organizations who have opposed the bill and therefore support our position that it is not fair to municipalities or citizens.”

The mayors invited to the forum are among 17 municipalities in New Jersey that contain property owned by private universities. Invited speakers include Michael Cerra, senior legislative analyst; and Charles Latini Jr., president of the American Planning Association’s New Jersey Chapter.

The Senate version of the bill passed 26-8-6 last June. The Assembly version has been referred to the Assembly Higher Education Committee. The bill would exempt private colleges and universities from complying with local zoning codes under the Municipal Land Use Law. As of Tuesday, October 2, 956 people had signed a petition on the American Planning Association New Jersey Chapter’s website opposing the measure. A group called Coalition for Safe Neighborhoods has created a flyer that was mailed to local residents, and is currently airing a radio spot expressing opposition to the bill.

While local officials are opposed to the bill, representatives of private colleges and universities have said that it would put them on equal footing with public institutions in the state. Last month, Mayor Moore sent a letter to Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman asking that the University issue a written statement opposing the bill.

“Princeton Borough strongly believes that no developer in Princeton should be exempt from the salutary controls established by the State Legislature in the Municipal Land Use Law,” she wrote. “Those controls include land use planning procedures and law designed to protect communities from a wide variety of threats, including to public safety and health, to the local economy and quality of life, and to the environment. Exempting institutions from those controls could seriously damage the interests of Borough residents in neighborhoods adjacent to a proposed developer as well as the interests of Borough residents as a whole.”

Ms. Tilghman responded in a letter: “Given Princeton University’s 250-year history of being both a responsible developer and a very good community citizen, I was astonished by the belief of Princeton Borough that the adoption of Assembly Bill No. 2586 could subject the community to ‘a wide variety of threats, including to public safety and health, to the local economy and quality of life, and to the environment.’ Princeton is our home and will always be our home, so whether this legislation is adopted or not, we would never jeopardize the well-being of our community. If the legislation is adopted, we would continue to consult with local officials and residents before proceeding with any major project, and would continue to try to address community needs as well as university needs as fully as we can.”

The October 9 forum will be divided into four segments: Short, prepared remarks by speakers, statements by a panel of representatives from impacted communities, and questions from the audience concluding with drafting of an action plan “to more vigorously oppose the legislation,” according to a press release issued by the Borough this week.

Ms. Moore hopes members of the public will attend to ask questions and offer comments. “We have a core contingent,” she said. “We hope to get a good showing, and we want to hear from the public. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get a couple of mayors or representatives from towns that already have public colleges and universities, so we can understand what that experience is about.”

Police investigations are ongoing into two incidents that took place last month on the Princeton University campus. One involved a student allegedly taking explicit photographs of another student while he was sleeping. The other concerned an employee at the University Place Princeton University store who police say was visited by a prostitute and took part in paid sexual acts at the store after hours.

But Jim Sykes, president of the store, says it isn’t clear that the incidents involving employee Eric Everett and a prostitute actually took place after the U-Store’s 4 a.m. closing time. Mr. Everett, who worked in the U-store’s campus location, was arrested and charged with prostitution and shoplifting after the store manager discovered money was missing when he audited the safe.

Revelations about the sexual acts came to light only after Princeton Borough police were informed of the missing funds. Also arrested was Brittany Smith, 20, of Keyport, who was not an employee of the store.

“From our perspective, all we were aware of was an employee theft,” Mr. Sykes said Monday. “We had no idea of the other part of it until a release came out from the Borough Police. What we can’t confirm is that this happened after hours. I mean, we’re open until 4 a.m. We’re just not sure of when it happened.”

It was on September 20 that the U-Store manager checked the safe and found that it came up short. “He asked everyone about it, and then Mr. Everett started to tell him about having his ex-girlfriend there,” Mr. Sykes said. “That started a sequence, and we informed the police.”

Mr. Everett, who was arrested September 24, apparently met Ms. Smith on Craigs list and arranged for her to visit him at the store on at least three occasions. The pair allegedly helped themselves to several items from the shelves. Borough Police learned of the sexual acts while investigating the thefts. Ms. Smith was arrested on September 25 and found to be in possession of a marijuana pipe and Adderall tablets.

Both Ms. Smith and Mr. Everett were charged and released without bail. Ms. Smith was charged with prostitution, possession of a controlled and dangerous substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Mr. Everett, who is 23 and lives in Bordentown, was sent a letter terminating his employment at the store.” We hired him when he was 20,” said Mr. Sykes. “He lives at home. He seemed like a fairly normal guy. It’s a shame.”

Richard Charles Tuckwell, a 20-year-old Princeton University student from Australia, was charged last month with one count of invasion of privacy after allegedly taking photographs of another male student after he drank alcoholic beverages and fell asleep. Borough Police said the incident occurred on September 16 after Mr. Tuckwell met the other student at a party at one of the University’s eating clubs. The two went to a campus dormitory. The student, who fell asleep, awoke to find Mr. Tuckwell photographing him.

Mr. Tuckwell surrendered voluntarily to police on September 21. He was processed and released. The investigation, which also looks into whether Mr. Tuckwell sexually assaulted the other student, is continuing, according to Borough police.

Last May, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi took his own life after his roommate broadcast video he took of him engaged in sexual activity with another man.

“It’s not that we’re really comparing this case to that,” said Borough Police Captain Nicholas Sutter of the Princeton University case. “But it is a serious incident, and we’re treating it as such.”

The municipality that will be created on January 1, 2013 as a result of the consolidation of the Borough and the Township will be known as “Princeton, N.J.”

“What’s in name?” asked Township Attorney Ed Schmierer before he described the criteria that he, Borough Attorney Maeve Cannon, the transition task force lawyer, and a representative from the state Department of Community Affairs used to come up with the suggestion, which was unanimously endorsed at a joint meeting of Borough Council, Township Committee, and the Transition Task Force on Monday evening. Noting that “the law is silent” on what a new government would call itself if it becomes consolidated, Mr. Schmierer pointed that “we’re probably first to be consolidating two major municipalities in 100 years.”

With that in mind, the group focused on “what the voters voted for” when they endorsed consolidation, and the answer was the name that appeared on the ballot: “Princeton, N.J. to be governed under a borough form of government,” or, simply, “Princeton, N.J.”

Ms. Cannon reported on the attorneys’ suggested creation of a “small committee” to go through the list of existing ordinances in the Borough and Township in order to identify conflicts and make recommendations to the two governing bodies. Township and Borough unanimously endorsed this proposal, and the committee will consist of municipal administrators, lawyers, and two representatives from each governing body. Administrators were charged with convening the first meeting. Ms. Cannon estimated that there are “quite a few conflicts,” especially regarding fees, although construction fees will be considered separately.

Gary Patteson presented the Transition Task Force’s final recommendations on boards, committees, and commissions in the new municipality. These included consolidating the two existing Human Services Commissions into a nine-member body; adding one member to the 8-member Joint Recreation Board, and keeping the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee as a separate from the Traffic and Transportation Committee. Consolidation of the two municipalities’ Affordable Housing groups and Shade Tree Commissions was suggested, and, in all instances, cross-pollination from existing groups was encouraged.

Other recommendations included using the Township’s Citizens Advisory Committee, which has focused on financial concerns, as a model for a new group, and following the Borough model for a Public Safety Committee. It was also suggested that an ordinance may be in order the establish the presence of a member who is “expert in animal biology” on the Animal Control Committee.

A discussion of leaf and brush collection was postponed until the next joint meeting, and it was announced that the consolidation celebration originally scheduled for December 31 has been moved to January 1 at Township Hall to dovetail with the swearing-in of new officials.

At a separate meeting that preceded the joint meeting, Township Committee endorsed an ordinance to pay an amount not to exceed $129,504 to the Yedlin Company, Construction Management Services for overseeing construction in the two buildings being refitted for consolidation. Township Mayor Chad Goerner, who had earlier expressed doubt about the need for this contract, reported on Monday night that he had met with the engineering staff and reviewed building plans, and was satisfied that transition expenses are not going to be as much as he anticipated. Renovations to accommodate Corner House in the Monument Building account for the lion’s share of the work, Mr. Goerner noted.

During the meeting’s “announcements” section, Chief Financial Officer Kathy Monzo reported that the completion of the 2011 audit marked the second year in row “with no recommendations or comments of note.” Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert urged area residents to report long or difficult commutes resulting from the Department of Transportation’s changes on Route 1, to the Township website.

September 26, 2012

The announcement last weekend of Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman’s impending retirement has prompted local government and University officials to express appreciation for her accomplishments during her eleven-year tenure. Ms. Tilghman will depart at the end of the academic year in June and will return, after a year off, to teach.

“President Shirley Tilghman has made many contributions to enhance student life, campus development, and the academic experience that have and will continue to elevate this great University and expand its impact on the world,” said Princeton Borough  Mayor Yina Moore, in a statement. “On behalf of the citizens of the Borough of Princeton, I wish President Tilghman well as she returns to her role as Professor Tilghman.”

Township Mayor Chad Goerner praised the “very constructive, professional dialogue” between the Township and the University under Ms. Tilghman’s watch. “As I look back at the last several years, I see a significant amount of accomplishment, and part of that is due to the relationship we have with the University,” he said. “We negotiated the first significant voluntary contribution [the University’s payment in lieu of taxes] for Princeton Township, and I have to say that a lot of that is due to the fact that we have had that level of professionalism and dialogue” with the University.

Mr. Goerner added, “I think it’s a good thing that next year we will start with a new governing body and a new University president at the same time. Having that fresh start will be important.”

Ms. Tilghman will step down as Princeton’s nineteenth president at the close of the academic year in June. In a letter e-mailed to students, faculty, staff and alumni, she revealed her plans. There is a “natural rhythm to university presidencies,” she said in her letter, and with “major priorities accomplished or well on their way to being realized, and the [recently completed $1.88 billion Aspire fundraising] campaign successfully concluded, it is time for Princeton to turn to its 20th president to chart the path for the next decade and beyond.”

A Canadian by birth, Ms. Tilghman came to Princeton in 1986 as the Howard A. Prior Professor of the Life Sciences. She was one of five winners in 2002 of the L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science. The following year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Developmental Biology. In 2007, she won the Genetics Society of America Medal. She was a member of the National Research Council’s committee that set the blueprint for the U.S. effort in the Human Genome Project. She was also a founding member of the National Advisory Council of the Human Genome Project for the National Institutes of Health.

Ms. Tilghman’s accomplishments during her tenure as president include a large increase in the number of students on financial aid and more than double the average aid they receive; a master plan focused on architecture, landscaping and sustainability; the additions of Whitman College, Lewis Library and Sherrerd Hall; creation of the Lewis Center for the  Arts and the new Princeton Neuroscience Institute; and an expanded global perspective.

The University’s Dean of the Faculty, David Dobkin, commented, “It has been a remarkable pleasure to be able to work with Shirley for the past nine years. She has been a superior president of Princeton. Though Princeton has a tradition of excellent leadership and there is every expectation that the next president will be as good, Shirley’s leadership has raised the bar for that next person.”

Town-gown relations have been tense at times during Ms. Tilghman’s presidency, particularly in relation to the voluntary tax payments and the controversial decision to move the Dinky train station 460 feet south of its current location to accommodate the University’s $300 million arts and transit neighborhood.

But Borough Councilman Roger Martindell, among those involved in those issues, said of Ms. Tilghman, “I think she’s done a wonderful job for Princeton University. There has been a significant increase during her tenure there in financial support for the municipalities, and I wish her the best of luck.”

The search committee for Ms. Tilghman’s successor will be led by Kathryn A. Hall, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. The committee will include four members of the faculty who will be elected by the faculty, nine Board members, two undergraduates, a graduate student, and a member of the staff. Ms. Hall said she hope to be ready to bring a recommendation to the Board by next spring.

In an election where less than ten percent of Princeton’s 19,145 registered voters turned out to vote, a school referendum asking for $10.9 million for school improvements was approved on Monday.  The vote was 1,238 to 571 with 58 people voting by mail.

Approval of the referendum means an estimated $150 a year more in taxes for the average Princeton homeowner.

In a September 12 “Princeton Public Schools Report,” Superintendent Judy Wilson described work to be funded by the referendum as “maintenance and safety projects, and a couple of instructional projects.”  This will include “ necessary work” on roofs and windows; drainage systems; “safety work” to improve fields and track; and “energy efficiencies across the system.”

Ms. Wilson pointed out that it has been 11 years since the last school referendum. “It’s time to take care of some of the basics, essential projects that must and will be taken care of,” she observed.  The availability of “great interest rates”  and low construction rates make this a particularly attractive time to do the work, she added.

Proposed projects funded by the additional money at all four elementary schools will include installation of gym air handlers, upgraded playground equipment, and extensions of security and technology systems.  Plans for Johnson Witherspoon Middle School include “repurposing” the old gym into a media center; air conditioning second-floor classrooms; and interior fire-door replacement.  Track, turf and bleacher replacements, “select locker replacements,” and renovations to create additional instructional space are some of the projects slated to take place at Princeton High School.

“Monday’s referendum is relatively small and focused only on needs in those portions of buildings and grounds that have arisen since or were not addressed in prior construction,” noted a statement released by the Board of Education.  Board members noted that “each of the projects identified for this referendum has been reviewed for over 18 months in public meetings of the Board’s Facilities Committee.”  They echoed Ms. Wilson’s comment about this being “an optimal time to take advantage of low construction
bids and capture historically low interest rates,”  and pointed out that applying to state agencies, which are not awarding any new grants for facility projects, was not an option at this time.

The district estimated that all the work will be completed during the next 18 to 24 months.

After hearing presentations from members of the design team charged with creating Princeton University’s $300 million arts and transit neighborhood, the Regional Planning Board of Princeton’s Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB) voted on Monday, September 24, to recommend approval to the planners with certain caveats. Should the Planning Board follow this advice, construction could begin on the first phase of the project this coming spring. The Lewis Center for the Arts, its centerpiece, would be projected for a 2017 opening.

The plan has been a source of controversy among local residents because it involves moving the Dinky train station 460 feet south and turning the existing station buildings into a restaurant and cafe. The project has been opposed by the organization Save the Dinky, and is the subject of two pending lawsuits.

Several university consultants and employees were on hand for the meeting in the Township municipal building. University Architect Ron McCoy led the presentations, which included input from
architects Steven Holl, Rick Joy, and landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh. Mr. Holl, designer of the Lewis Center building, said he sees the project as a “middle gateway” to Princeton, “a place where the community and the University can join.” Having worked on the design since 2007, Mr. Holl said, “We’ve improved, improved, refined and improved, and I’m really excited about where we are now.”

But SPRAB chairman Bill Wolfe expressed several concerns about the project. “Despite being very enthusiastic about the quality of the design, I am very, very unhappy with the overall plan,” he said. The concept of the transit center as a gateway to the town and university is not sufficiently grand, he felt. “This is where important scholars from all over the globe first set foot in Princeton,” he said. “In this site plan, the most important public space to the University and the town should be the transit plaza. But it doesn’t yet look it.” Mr. Wolfe was also disappointed that the proposed arts center was not designed to be closer to McCarter Theatre and that University Place does not run straight to the transit plaza.

Mr. McCoy said the University “has been at this for years,” and had many conversations. “We’re very confident that the solution we’ve arrived at is a good compromise,” he said.

Among the features of the plan described by Mr. McCoy and the design team were parking for Dinky riders, a transit plaza at the new Dinky station site for taxis, jitneys and buses, and enhanced public areas with art that has yet to be determined. A traffic circle at the intersection of Alexander Road and University Place will improve flow, Mr. McCoy said.

The arts complex will include a black box theater, a dance theater, music rehearsal hall, and two studios, to serve the University during the day and be used for public performances at night, he said. Bluestone walkways, green roofs, enhanced plantings and underground wiring and utilities were also detailed.

Trees to be planted will have high canopies in order to keep the buildings “filled with light in winter,” said Mr. Van Valkenburgh when describing the landscaping. The commuter parking lot will be divided with trees. The University Place Green, a major part of the project, will have landscaping modeled after the trees in front of Nassau Hall.

Mr. Joy’s firm will design the new station and renovate the historic Dinky buildings with the assistance of Princeton-based Mills + Schnoering Architects. “This is a great opportunity to give some of the most historic buildings on campus to the community,” he said of the old station building, which will be turned into a restaurant. “We’ve maintained and honored the presence of the original building, and sort of snuck in our addition on the back side,” he said of a planned addition.

SPRAB member Joshua Zinder, who is an architect, suggested that the canopy on the historic building be kept. “The removal of the canopy is too bad,” he said. “That structure, with some clever landscaping, could be the east/west gateway. It’s a big part of the historic character of the station.” Mr. McCoy acknowledged that the canopy was “a difficult issue,” but a new canopy will be built. Mr. Zinder also recommended that a material other than stucco, which is planned, be used.

SPRAB included these comments, as well as those from Mr. Wolfe, with the recommendation to the planning board.

September 19, 2012

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) has no immediate plans to replace the Alexander Road bridge, despite recent attention to its shortcomings.

Officials note that as a result of the current DOT “pilot project”Кthat is restricting left turns and U-turns on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street in West Windsor, more motorists are using the bridge.К

In addition to weathering heavier traffic, the bridge, which is only 20 feet wide, cannot accommodate two large vehicles moving in opposite directions at the same time.К This becomes of particular concern when emergency vehicles, like ambulances and fire trucks, need to pass each other.КК The bridge’s weight-bearing capacity of 15 tons also poses significant limitations to the number and kinds of vehicles it can support at one time.

“That narrow bridge has been there a very long time,” said DOT spokesman Joe Dee on Tuesday. He suggested that area officials are “raising the issue in the context of this trial.  Traffic is flowing very nicely on Route 1 as a result of these changes.

“Let’s continue to gather data,” he suggested. “This is still fairly new for a lot of people who were on vacation in August when this trial started.” More time, he said, will also allow motorists to become aware of alternatives to Alexander Road.   “Motorists act out of self-interest, and if Alexander becomes inconvenient because of traffic volume, they will seek alternatives.”

The current Route 1 trial was created by the DOT in response to aКstudy along Route 1 indicating, they say, that the existing space for left/U-turns at Washington Road and the left/U-turns at the Harrison Street jug handle is inadequate to accommodate this traffic, resulting in traffic backing up onto Route 1 and impacting traffic operations along mainline Route 1.К The trial began on August 4 and was scheduled to continue for 12 weeks.

At a recent Township Committee meeting, engineer Bob Kiser reported that the need to replace the Alexander Road Bridge was recognized and reported to the county “two or three years and ago.”  In a preliminary survey done in response to the request, Mercer County engineer Gregory Sandusky reported that the right of way at the bridge is only 36 feet wide; 50 to 60 feet would be needed to replace the bridge.  Acquiring the additional land on either side of the current bridge will be difficult from a procedural point of view because the properties involved are designated “green” and “historic”  districts.  Obtaining State House approval, Mr. Kiser said, is “quite a process.” In the meantime, he reported, Mr Sandusky suggested going with plans for replacing bridge with the possibility that the municipality might acquire the right of way.

If NJDOT opts to finalize the trial arrangement, said Mr. Kiser, there will be more traffic going over bridge.  The combination of eventually closing it in order to replace it, and maintaining the current limitations would be”setting ourselves up for a real situation,” he said.

Township Mayor Chad Goerner pointed out that the Alexander Road bridge was “meant to be temporary” when it was originally installed.  In the past, the county defended the safety of the bridge by pointing to the fact that buses and other large vehicles have to stop to make sure there are no vehicles coming in the opposite direction.

At its meeting last week, Township Committee indicated that, if the trial is felt to be successful,  they would ask the state to delay making the left turn bans on Route 1 permanent, until the Alexander Road bridge is replaced.  They are hoping that the Borough, Princeton University, and other parties will support this recommendation in a cosigned letter.

“The University would be very inclined to join you,” said  Princeton University spokesperson Kristen Appleget, who was present at the meeting. “We continue to join you in expressing concerns about the trials,” noting that the University is “taking in a lot of our own data.”

The municipalities will collect additional data, as well, said Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert, and she  encouraged area motorists to use municipal websites to report trip times and bad commutes.   “I don’t think the counters will be out there every day,” she said, referring to NJ DOT monitors.

“An  inconvenience by having  traffic back up is one factor,” observed Committeeman Bernie Miller.  “Creating a situation that could put lives or property at risk is another.  We need to make it clear to the DOT that we have a situation where an emergency vehicle could conceivably not get across the bridge, an unacceptable situation to both University and Princeton community.”

Details of a proposed plan to update the two information kiosks on Nassau Street were the focus of the September 11 meeting of Princeton Borough Council.  While Council members expressed interest in the presentation delivered by Peter Crowley, president and CEO of the Princeton Area Chamber of Commerce, they had several questions about the plan to make the kiosks more user-friendly and  decided to delay voting until more information is provided.

The kiosks have been fixtures at the Nassau Street corners at Vandeventer Avenue and Witherspoon Street for several decades.They are currently used as information boards to advertise cultural and political events, rooms for rent, and the like. Under the plan developed by the Chamber’s Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, the care and decisions about what is displayed would be overseen by the Chamber.

“I’m sure what you’re planning will be an improvement over what’s there now, visually,” commented Councilman Roger Martindell. “But I’m a little concerned about content.” Social and political messages are currently posted on the kiosks, Mr. Martindell continued. “It’s a public space for public dialogue. It’s sometimes good to be uncomfortable, especially in a community such as ours.” Mr. Martindell continued that by turning them over to the Chamber, the kiosks become mostly commercial. “Who’s going to sit there and say we’ll accept this one and not that one? Do we care about losing that quality?”, he asked.

Resident and former Township mayor Jim Floyd agreed. “I urge you to really give serious consideration as to whether you want to give up that public right and public expression,” he said.

Councilwoman Jo Butler questioned whether the kiosks have become outdated and unnecessary. “They are the vestige of a past way of communicating,” she said, adding, “I’m not sure in the long run whether this is what we want in our streetscape. I’d like some time to take this back to the traffic and transit committee.” Ms. Butler also expressed concern that the updated kiosks could pose a distraction for drivers. “I just worry that this could contribute to these corners becoming less safe,” she said.

Mr. Crowley said that because the kiosks front onto Nassau Street, which is a state highway, there are restrictions about what can be put on the street side. The interactive portion of the kiosks would therefore not be visible from cars traveling on the street.

Mr. Crowley described the renovated kiosks as having eight weather-resistant panels. One would be devoted to the municipality, another would be dedicated to not-for-profits, and a third would be used by the Princeton Merchants’ Association. Instead of a fourth panel, there would be an interactive community screen with information on restaurants, cultural activities, and events on one side; and services such as dog-walking and classes on the other. “They would be organized,” he said. “Someone could push a button and find what they want.” The other four panels would be dedicated to advertising.

Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller asked whether ads could be posed only by members of the Chamber, and Mayor Yina Moore asked what percentage would be dedicated to Princeton businesses. Renovating the kiosks is part of a plan by the Chamber to enhance tourism by making information more available to visitors. The front window of Princeton University Store on Nassau Street would be devoted to information for tourists.

“If we didn’t have these at all, would anyone think it was a good idea to install them?” asked Ms. Butler. “I don’t think this is what communities are doing today.”

Mr. Crowley said that the revamped kiosks would be a positive step for both tourists and residents. “I hope when this is done that what you have instead of clutter is a more organized approach to the information,” he said. “It’s a more sustainable use a cleaner look, and it provides individuals with access to more information.”

In other action at the meeting, Council President Barbara Trelstad reported that about half of the $106,000 needed to complete and install sculptural gates at Hinds Plaza, funded by private citizens, has been raised. Mr. Martindell suggested that the Borough make an initial contribution to the effort, though the bulk should continue to come from private funds.

The Princeton citizens who have expressed repeated concerns about the rental community planned for the former site of the University Medical Center at Princeton have been less vocal in recent months. But that doesn’t mean they have slowed down their efforts.

A core group of between 10 and 15 has been gathering information in an effort to show what they see as major problems with the concept that AvalonBay Communities, the company under contract to build a 280-unit apartment complex, has for the site. Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods, shepherded by Daniel Harris, Kate Warren and Alexi Assmus, has hired two attorneys and an urban planner to represent them when AvalonBay’s proposal comes before the Regional Planning Board.

The group will hold an informational meeting, open to the public, at Ms. Warren’s home at 17 Jefferson Road on Sunday, September 30 at 3 p.m. Then on Sunday, October 7 at 3 p.m., environmental lawyer Alan Kleinbaum, one of the attorneys they have retained, will address
the proposed redevelopment at another open meeting. “Sustainable Redevelopment in Princeton: The Legal Perspective” will be held at the Princeton Fire Engine Company #1 facility on Chestnut Street.

“There is significant concern about the development and a desire to have a better development,” says Ms. Assmus. “There seems to be a misconception out there that this is a done deal, that nothing can be done to change it. But that’s not the case.”

The group maintains that AvalonBay’s site plan, which was revised last June, is incomplete. Missing are details about hydrant water flows, fire prevention, traffic study data, and contamination of the site, they say. State documents regarding the decommissioning of the old hospital are also incomplete, they maintain.

In addition to Mr. Kleinbaum, the group has hired a municipal land use attorney. The group is raising funds to pay the lawyers and the urban planner they have also retained. “The big push now is to raise money to have these experts,” Ms. Assmus said. A teleconference was held by the group on September 12. A post on the group’s Facebook page September 6 said that $10,000 had been raised so far, but “at least $20,000 more” is needed.

Since AvalonBay was announced as the buyer for the former hospital site in November 2011 and first presented its plans, some neighborhood and outer area residents have expressed repeated concerns about scale, design, access, sustainability, and safety. An ad hoc committee addressed the design, making such changes as archways opening up the courtyard, a lower building height, and a reduced mass for the building. But many residents have said they were not enough.

“We would like AvalonBay to get their architects [Perkins Eastman] to do a truly custom design, working with the neighborhood and Borough code and the master plan,” said Ms. Assmus. “This really could work.”

Ron Ladell, senior vice president, development, of AvalonBay, declined to comment for this article.

September 12, 2012

The question of whether or not to hire a construction manager “for a sum not to exceed $129,504” to oversee remaining consolidation operations, and whether or not to approve a professional services agreement with a cap of $107,290 to pay KSS Architects for “Phase II-Task 2” work on consolidation, generated heated discussion at Monday night’s Township Committee meeting.

The professional services agreement was ultimately approved, while the question of hiring a construction manager was tabled until the next joint meeting.

“I’m begging you,” Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi finally said to Township Committee after defending the need for the approval of both motions С particularly the KSS payment. Mr. Bruschi will be the administrator of new single municipality created by consolidation.

Township Mayor Chad Goerner, who was firmly on the side of not hiring a construction manager and had doubts about the KSS contract, pointed out that the two expenditures had not been discussed earlier. He counseled “caution” in moving ahead.

Citing a “tight time frame,” Mr. Bruschi responded that the recommendation had come from the Transition Task Force’s Facilities Subcommittee in the hope that the Borough and the Township would “run with it.”

Acknowledging that a conversation at an earlier meeting seemed to point toward not hiring a construction manager, Mr. Bruschi noted that the extent of the work that remains to be done was not known at that point. “It’s not something that we have the capability of doing in-house,” he observed. Township Engineer Bob Kiser concurred, saying that a construction manager with the right contacts is needed “if we’re going to fast track this project.”

Mr. Goerner said that he was “not convinced that we need to fast track” consolidation. He described the costs in question as “high,” and suggested that the work might not be complete by January 1, 2013, anyway. Mr. Bruschi agreed that consolidation would not be completed by that date, but suggested that that didn’t preclude “doing the project correctly” and expediting it as much as possible in order to minimize disruption. He pointed out that “$120,000” was not that significant in the context of an operation that will cost an estimated $60 million, and that “savings will only come if we have the right design.”

“I’ve never met a delay that saved us money,” observed Councilwoman Sue Nemeth, expressing concern about services like police, administration, and Corner House, that might be impacted “if we did delay.”

“We need to be cognizant” of what transition-related expenditures are costing, responded Mr. Goerner. He suggested keeping “an eye on individual expenditures” that may be occurring without the approval of the two governing bodies, and proposed that the decision be tabled until the next joint meeting. Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert suggested that in the future, potential expenditures should be presented first to the Finance Committee.

Facilities subcommittee chair Bernie Miller, who said that he has also continued to work informally with staff preparing for consolidation, emphasized that the two motions in question related to “two very distinct tasks.”

He pointed out that KSS is being asked to develop detailed drawings and specifications, while a construction manager would “coordinate the movement of many people in many departments with minimal disruption,” working, for example, on evenings and weekends. Mr. Miller’s motion to approve the resolution for outside construction management was not seconded.

Acting Township Administrator Kathy Monzo, who will be the CFO of the new municipality said that she “was surprised” at the contract amounts, but recognized that “this isn’t a simple move. Nothing is extravagant in there; they’re really just functional changes.” When Township Engineer Bob Kiser pointed out that the governing bodies do not have cost estimates for the conceptual plans, Ms. Monzo wondered why this couldn’t be done in-house, as it would be done for any other project.

Mr. Goerner cast the only “no” in the final vote to approve the professional services agreement with KSS Architects.

There was unanimity, however, in Township’s approval of a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Decision, giving “personhood” to corporations, allowing them to donate to political campaigns as individuals.

At its meeting on September 5, Princeton Borough’s Historic Preservation Review Committee (HPRC) voted to recommend to Borough Council that a portion of Princeton’s western section, known as the Morven Tract, be designated a historic district. But the committee also opted to advise Council to hold off on acting on the recommendation until after consolidation takes effect.

“It was a judicious compromise,” said committee member Cecelia Tazelaar in a conversation this week. “We voted in favor of the historic designation report, saying it met the criteria for designation as a local historic district. But, given the fact that consolidation is only a few months away, we thought it would be advisable for Council to delay acting on it, because the two commissions will be merged and the ordinances are being merged. We felt it would be unfair to the public to push through something without their knowledge of the new ordinance.”

Currently, the HPRC represents the interests of Princeton Borough, while the Historic Preservation Comission covers preservation issues in the Township. Once consolidation takes effect January 1, a combined commission will be formed with a new ordinance in place. The new ordinance, which is based on New Jersey municipal land use law, won’t be much different from the existing two, according to Ms. Tazelaar. “But it seems fair to let everybody see what the new ordinance is before continuing with a discussion,” she said.

The Friends of the Western District have been actively lobbying since 2006 to establish a new historic district in an area roughly bounded by portions of Library Place, Hodge Road, and Bayard Lane, while encompassing Morven Place and Boudinot Street. The proposed district directly abuts the Mercer Hill historic district, which is one of four in Princeton. The others are Jugtown, Bank Street, and the Central historic districts.

Those in favor of the designation say it will help maintain the area’s unique architectural character and prevent tear-downs. Those opposed say designation would create too many restrictions, which could in turn affect property values.

In 2009, the Friends group engaged Hunter Research to prepare a document entitled Morven Trust Historic District Historical and Architectural Documentation. The report says of the proposed district, “It is significant in American history and architecture and possesses integrity of design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. It is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of Princeton’s past and embodies the distinctive characteristics of a period.”

At the September 5 meeting, the HPRC also recommended to Council that residents of the proposed district be polled on the divisive issue.

Nearly a decade ago, there was considerable debate among Princeton residents about whether the Princeton Public Library should rebuild on its Witherspoon Street corner site or relocate to Princeton Shopping Center. Betty Wold Johnson, one of the library’s most generous supporters, was all for the latter option.

“I didn’t want it in Princeton at all,” Mrs. Johnson recalled last week during a telephone conversation. “In the shopping center, [where the library relocated during its rebuild] I could go to the library and do my shopping at the same time. I thought it would have been just great.”

The library stayed on its corner footprint, replacing its 1966 structure with a state-of-the-art building that has become one of the busiest public libraries in New Jersey. And Mrs. Johnson soon came around to the idea. Starting with a $1 million gift for the capital campaign, she has since donated challenge grants for the endowment campaign of $2 million. Her latest is another $1 million in challenge grant funds, to build a new endowment for maintenance and upkeep of the building, now eight years old.

“The most important thing about Betty Johnson is that she is quietly philanthropic, in a way that has significantly changed not just Princeton Public Library, but many organizations,” said Leslie Burger, PPL’s director. “She is very unassuming. She asks incredibly smart questions. What she has done has been quietly transformational.”

In recognition of her staunch support, Mrs. Johnson is the honorary chair of “Beyond Words,” this year’s fundraiser for Friends of the Princeton Public Library. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides is the featured speaker at the Saturday, September 29 event, which begins with his talk at Richardson Auditorium and follows with a cocktail reception, silent auction, and dinner in the library.

The widow of Johnson & Johnson heir Robert Wood Johnson III [and later Douglas Bushnell], Mrs. Johnson first began contributing to the library in the early 1990’s. “She started in 1991 to support the attempt to keep the library open during Sundays and some holidays,” Mr. Burger said. “She provided that support for many years.”

Ms. Burger isn’t sure just how, when, or why Mrs. Johnson became an advocate for rebuilding the library on its existing footprint. But once she made the switch, she was firmly committed.

“Betty was a doubter,” Ms. Burger said. “She wanted the library to stay at the shopping center. But for whatever reason, she was here the day we were moving the books in. I put a hard hat on her and said, ‘Here, let’s get to work.’ And she jumped right in.”

Mrs. Johnson remembers the day well. “I happened to be there that first day that the books came in,” she said. “Leslie handed me a dust rag and we got to work. That’s also the day I found out she baked cookies, because she had brought them in for everyone.

“This is how I’ve come to know Leslie,” Mrs. Johnson continued during a phone interview, proceeding to read something she had written about Ms. Burger. “When Leslie Burger came to Princeton to our library, we didn’t know what we were getting. It wasn’t long before we discovered we had hired a cleaning lady who baked cookies for workers, an arranger of books and a mover of furniture, and an accountant who notices when the water bill goes up. She’s our CEO and beloved librarian.”

Donations from Mrs. Johnson to the library come from two sources: the Robert Wood Johnson 1962 Charitable Trust, and the Williard T.C. Johnson Foundation Inc. There are three areas of the library named for Mrs. Johnson: the Teen Center, the Terrace Garden, and the Afterschool Study Center.

“Her gifts to the centennial campaign were instrumental in helping us reach our goal of $10 million,” said Ms. Burger. “She is a huge library supporter. We couldn’t be where we are without her.”

September 5, 2012

With the formal openings of local campaign headquarters for both parties within days of each other, more attention is being drawn to the upcoming November elections.

Labor Day morning saw the opening of “Woodbridge for Mayor” headquarters at 162 Nassau Street. Princeton Democratic Campaign Headquarters will open nearby at 217 Nassau Street (rear building) on Sunday, September 9, from 5 to 7 p.m.

In addition to mayoral hopeful Richard Woodbridge, the single Republican candidate for Council, Geoff Aton, was present at the Monday event. News of the opening had gone out just a day before, and Mr. Woodbridge estimated that between 80 and 90 people showed up. “Not bad for a last minute event,” he observed. Orange balloons with the candidates’ names marked the entrance to the headquarters, where area Republicans posed for photographs and offered some informal comments. Upstairs, banks of telephones were at the ready.

Mr. Woodbridge emphasized the “non-partisan” nature of his campaign, a theme picked up by Irv Urken who noted the “mixed bag of people” in attendance. “We’re working together,” he observed. “It’s not about Republicans and Democrats.”

“Our special interest is you,” added District 16 Assemblywoman Donna Simon, indicating those who were there listening, referring, perhaps, to an earlier message in which she cited “Trenton Democrats and well-funded special interest groups [who] have already targeted me for defeat.

“These groups have promised to spend whatever is necessary to take our Republican seat away and upend Governor Christie’s hard-fought victories to make New Jersey a better, more affordable place to live, work, and raise a family,” she added.

Asked later to comment about the recent Republican convention, Mr. Woodbridge suggested that “the national election is not generally relevant to potholes and local issues.” He added, however, that “how Congress deals with the ‘fiscal cliff’ could be highly relevant at the local level because it may affect money the state gets and the towns and the institutions also get.”

“I am certain that after both conventions are finished I will still feel the same way; I am not a huge fan of either candidate,” commented Mr. Aton. “I pride myself on being very centered and moderate when it comes to politics. When leaders move toward the far left or right I believe the focus becomes more about ideals and grandstanding than about simply serving the people who elected them.

“This is exactly what I will bring to Princeton Council,” he added. “I want to serve a town I love for the benefit of our entire community with no hidden agenda.”

In a separate conversation, Mercer County Republican Committee Chair Rich Levesque spoke of the Republican convention as providing “a great week for Republicans throughout the country.” Mr. Levesque lauded Governor Christie’s convention speech, noting that it “focused on leadership … and made a tremendous push to elect Governor Mitt Romney to be our next president.”

Democratic mayoral candidate Liz Lempert and Council candidates Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, Heather Howard, Lance Liverman, Bernie Miller, and Patrick Simon will kick off their campaign this coming weekend. On Saturday, September 8, Representative Rush Holt will join them for a wine and cheese reception at the home of Lisa Fischetti from 4 to 6 p.m., with campaign headquarters opening the following day.

“Democrats pursued consolidation and are implementing a smooth transition,” Mr. Miller noted recently. “We’re well prepared to manage the new Princeton.”

For details on the Saturday reception, email campaign @princetondems.org or call (609) 301-0842.

Last year, the tenth anniversary of 9-11 was marked with numerous commemorative events, locally and across the country. Observing the eleventh anniversary of the catastrophic terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center is proving to be a quieter affair. But two upcoming programs at Mercer County Community College promise to pay moving tribute to those who died that day.

First, on Tuesday, September 11 at 11 a.m., a ceremony at the Student Center Memorial Garden on the campus in West Windsor will include Sergeant Michael Yeh of the Lawrence Township Police Department, who is also a volunteer firefighter in Princeton Junction. Mr. Yeh will speak about his experiences at Ground Zero as part of the New Jersey Urban Search and Rescue Team. Student vocalist Alison Varra will perform as part of the ceremony.

Then on Thursday, September 13 from noon to 2:30 p.m., a panel discussion will include historians, a journalist who covered 9-11, a survivor of the attacks, and two New Jersey residents who lost family members and have devoted their energies since to works that honor their memories. The discussion is the first in a series of programs organized by the New Jersey State Museum to go along with its exhibition, “9/11: Reflections and Memories from New Jersey” currently on extended view at the museum’s main building on West State Street in Trenton.

“The really important speakers in this event are the survivors and the people who lost folks,” said Craig Coenen, a professor of history at MCCC and one of the historians who will take part (the other is Drexel University’s Scott Knowles). “We’ll have Brian Clark, who was working on the 84th floor of the south tower, talking about his remarkable escape. He was a hero, because he rescued someone trapped under the rubble.

“Mike Kelly is a reporter for the Bergen Record, and he’ll talk about his coverage of the attacks. Edie Lutnick, whose brothers worked for Cantor Fitzgerald — one of them died that day; the other was taking his son to his first day of school so wasn’t there when the planes hit — will speak. So will Herb Ouida, whose son Todd, a broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, died. Herb has created Todd Ouida’s Children’s Foundation in his memory.”

Mr. Coenen will speak briefly about putting events in a historical context. “I’ll talk about major events in American history like Pearl Harbor and the Spanish American War, and their impact in shaping our country and shaping our lives,” he said. Mr. Knowles will discuss how 9/11 might be remembered in the year 2051.

A lawyer until turning her attention to the 9/11 community, Ms. Lutnick is the author of a book, An Unbroken Bond. Her parents died young, so Ms. Lutnick raised her younger brother Gary, who was killed in the attack. Her surviving brother Howard is chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, the company that lost all 658 of its employees who were present in 1 World Trade Center when the plane hit. Since a few days after 9/11, Ms. Lutnick has led The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, which has raised and distributed more than 180 million dollars to more than 800 families of the victims. She serves on several 9/11 advisory boards and is a frequent speaker at events related to the attacks.

Herb Ouida was the last person in his family to see his son Todd alive. Both father and son worked at the World Trade Center, but the elder Mr. Ouida, who was on the 77th floor of Tower One, was able to escape. Todd, on floor 105 with the others at Cantor Fitzgerald, was not. Mr. Ouida established the Ouida foundation to honor his son, who overcame crippling anxiety as a child to graduate from the University of Michigan and embark on a successful career.

The corresponding exhibit at the State Museum is the first comprehensive show to tell the story of September 11 from the New Jersey perspective. This month, new artifacts on loan from the National September 11 Memorial Museum, along with recently produced videos and digital materials, will be rotated into the exhibit, which runs through next July.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public. Participants will be able to ask questions of the panelists following the discussion. “We’ll be looking at their stories, and at the bigger picture as well, from a historian’s perspective,” said Mr. Coenen. “Fifty years from now, what will be the real meaning of 9-11? I hope there is something we’ve learned, so that we can make something positive out of a terrible time.”

A report on the Princeton Public Schools that sparked criticism from Republican mayoral nominee Richard Woodbridge concerning the fate of the Valley Road School building was among the topics at last week’s meeting of Princeton Borough Council. Also part of the discussion were resolutions regarding a right-of-way use agreement along the Dinky corridor, a transit study and traffic study, and a pending Assembly bill that would exempt New Jersey’s private colleges and universities from municipal land use oversight.

Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Judy Wilson told Council members that Princeton High School was opening on September 4 with a record high enrollment of 1,444 students, 375 of whom are freshmen. The numbers are also up, from 35 to about 55, for pre-kindergarten students.

“We thought 340 was our peak last year, and only seven years ago we had 300,” Ms. Wilson said of the high school enrollment. The school district is opening two additional sections of pre-kindergarten to accommodate the growth. While enrollment is down at Riverside Elementary School, it has risen at Johnson Park Elementary School, she added. Princeton University’s shuffling of its faculty housing is the reason for the enrollment figures at the elementary schools, she said. The jump at the high school and Pre-K is due to the fact that more people are moving to Princeton. “There are more Institute families,” Ms. Wilson said, referring to the Institute for Advanced Study. “Children are leaving private schools because of the economy. But there is no single reason.”

Ms. Wilson was asked whether the school board had made progress on deciding the fate of the Valley Road School building. She replied that the Board’s commitment was to not address the issue until after consolidation goes into effect in January. She then left to attend a Board of Education meeting, and Mr. Woodbridge approached the microphone to take issue with comments Ms. Wilson made in a Town Topics story (“New Name, New Look, New Website; Princeton Public Schools Ready to Go” ; August 22) saying that the building was “well maintained.”

“I’m rather baffled by the superintendent’s comments about the state of the school,” said Mr. Woodbridge, who went to the building on July 29 to take pictures. “It’s in terrible shape. I would like to request that the Board do at least minimal maintenance. The maintenance is terrible and I would give it an ‘F.’” Mr. Woodbridge added that if the $10.9 million public bond referendum to be voted on by citizens on September 24 passed “before January 1, there won’t be any money for it.” [the Valley Road building].

In a statement, School Board President Tim Quinn responded yesterday, “The current bond referendum is strictly for facilities being used for the education of our students. Plans for projects covered by the referendum have been approved by the state Department of Education, and these plans did not include the Witherspoon portion of the Valley Road School, which has not been an instructional space for several decades. While the board has not made a final decision on the future of the Witherspoon portion of the Valley Road Building, we have stated unequivocally that we are not willing to commit public funds to the maintenance of buildings not being used for the education of our students.”

In other discussions related to education, Borough Mayor Yina Moore reported that she and Hoboken Mayor Don Zimmer were drafting a letter opposing the bill that the state Legislature is considering that would allow universities and colleges to bypass municipal zoning codes. Public universities are already exempt. The Senate passed its version of the bill last June, and the Assembly’s version is still with the Higher Education Committee.

Borough Council has already passed a resolution opposing the bill, and has encouraged the public to sign a petition against the measure. Ms. Moore said she hoped the Township would join in signing the letter. Councilman Roger Martindell suggested joining with Township Committee and possibly the Regional Planning Board in opposition to the bill, as well as asking area colleges and universities to formally express their positions on the issue.

A resolution to approve a shared services agreement with Princeton Township for a transit study from URS Corporation was tabled by the Council following extensive discussion. Council will ask URS to attend a future meeting so that they and the public can be better informed about the transit study, which was part of the 2011 Memorandum of Understanding between the governing bodies and Princeton University regarding the University’s proposed Arts and Transit neighborhood. Princeton Township has already approved the resolution for the study.

The Alexander Street/University Place Transit Task Force interviewed five transit consultants and recommended URS, which would charge $100,000. The task force also recommended AECOM of Newark to perform a traffic study, at $72,980. The traffic study would examine the developments at the former Merwick site currently under redevelopment, the former site of the University Medical Center at Princeton, Princeton University’s Hibben Magie site, Hulfish North at Palmer Square, and the redevelopment of the YM/YWCA, along with several intersections.

August 29, 2012

While acknowledging that there have been some unhappy voices responding to the restriction of left turns on U.S. Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street, the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) believes that their pilot program is going reasonably well.

“There’s been a number of comments from people, but I have to say, in general, that the trial got off to a fairly smooth start,” said spokesman Joe Dee. “There have been some concerns raised by residents, and we’re seeking to address them” (see Mailbox on page 9).

Representatives of the Princeton Medical Center at Plainsboro and the emergency medical technicians (EMTS) who drive ambulances there were among the complainants, Mr. Dee reported. While ambulances have the ability to change a red light to a green one in order to get across Route 1, the process is not instantaneous. When Harrison Street is heavily trafficked, EMTS drivers may shift into what is an oncoming lane of traffic for southbound motorists turning right off Route 1 who cannot see them. Mr. Dee said that the DOT hoped to address the situation by “cutting some vegetation” to improve the sightline for motorists, and installing a new sign that will alert southbound traffic that an ambulance driver has activated control of the signal, and right turns on a red light are prohibited.

Another “one of the larger issues” that has become apparent is motorists’  practice of making U-turns and K-turns in nearby residential driveways and streets as a way of coping with the changes. Mr. Dee said that the DOT is “looking into a way to enforce no K-turns and no U-turns “to help provide some relief to those residents.” The DOT is also aware of nearby gas station owners’ concerns, he said.

Both Mr. Dee and Township Engineer Robert Kiser agreed that a real test of the changes will come as students return to school and vacationers come home during the coming weeks. “The last two weeks of August have the lightest traffic,” said Mr. Kiser. “We’re interested to see how the test works in September.”

Mr. Kiser and Mr. Dee also agreed that the recent closing of Quaker Road for repairs is not significant in assessing the Route 1 pilot, and that, on the whole, traffic has been light. “We’ve seen good traffic flow on Route 1 and we’ve seen good traffic flow coming south off the Scudders Mill interchange,” commented Mr. Dee. “The only thing that I’ve been hearing is that the traffic is light,” concurred Mr. Kiser.

“It’s still a learning curve,” observed Mr. Dee. “We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed.”

Back when Princeton was a small college town and Princeton University football was its biggest draw, game day visitors often bought their tickets at the two kiosks on Nassau Street. The small windows in the two structures — one at the corner of Vandeventer Street; the other at Witherspoon — have been closed tight in more recent years. The kiosks have served as unofficial bulletin boards, advertising everything from yoga classes and rooms for rent to political meetings and cultural events.

Plans are underway for the kiosks to welcome visitors again. Once a project that is being steered by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Convention and Visitors’ Bureau is officially approved, the kiosks, along with a small visitors’ center in the front of the Princeton University Store on Nassau Street, will make the town and the Mercer County region more user-friendly for the busloads of tourists who regularly descend on the area.

“Of course I’d like things to happen immediately, but I’m hoping we are very close to getting final approvals in the month of September,” said Lori Rabon, who chairs the CVB steering committee. “The best thing is the visitors’ center. We have so many visitors and we need to have a spot where they can get maps, information, and everything they need. Right now there is no central area where people can get this information, and that is such a shame. I’m hoping this will drive more people into the U-store and drive business everywhere.”

Tourism has become big business in Princeton. Since starting Princeton Tour Company in 2008, Mimi Omiecinski has watched her business balloon by 75 percent. “I have at least 150 each Saturday in the summer, and then get about 400 in fall and spring,” she said. Tours of town led by the Historical Society of Princeton have also grown in recent years. “It’s been especially busy in the past year,” said Eve Mandel, the HSP’s Curator of Education. “We’ve sold out every Saturday this summer. We’ve had to increase the number of guides and the number of tours we give, because we hate to turn anybody away.”

Ms. Omiecinski used to begin her themed tours outside Starbucks at 100 Nassau Street. Jim Sykes, president of the U-Store a few doors down, asked her if she would like to assemble her tourists inside the store instead. She took him up on the offer, and soon came up with an idea. “I thought, why not a visitors’ center in there? He has bathrooms, a staff, it’s air-conditioned, there’s room for racks of information,” Ms. Omiecinski said. “I asked Jim if he would give up some space in the store, and he was happy to do it.”

Mr. Sykes said the visitors’ center will be on a platform in the front window, by the door that the store does not use. Display terminals will allow visitors to access maps and event schedules, and literature about various attractions will be available.

“We track all the numbers, and at this location we get about 240,000 people a year coming through,” Mr. Sykes said (the U-store’s other location is on Alexander Street). “Some of them are students, but probably one out of every five or six are tourists. The tour groups have picked up a lot in the last three or four years. From my observations, there can be seven or eight buses dropping people off. Many of them come in to buy a souvenir from us and hopefully other spots in town.”

The Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce was one of 16 organizations to receive a Destination Marketing Organization Grant from the State of New Jersey’s Travel and Tourism office last January. The $123,000 grant is intended to fund programs not just in Princeton, but in 18 municipalities in Mercer County. “It’s not just about the downtown,” said Ms. Rabon. “It’s taking a more regional approach. There was over a billion dollars in tourism expenditures last year in Mercer County alone. We want to give people a complete exposure to the region. We will have information about the Princeton region, which encompasses a great deal of the county.”

Once discussions got underway about a visitors’ center, the Chamber also began to consider using the kiosks for informational purposes. The hope is to install touch-screens with information in different languages. Notices can still be posted, but with some oversight.

“The idea is that we’ve got these two kiosks which are unmanned, and unmanageable to a degree,” said Peter Crowley, the Chamber’s President and CEO. “We talked to the Borough and told them we wanted to beautify the kiosks and bring them up to date, making them more focused and interactive. They have electricity, so the raw material is already there. We think this will be enhanced material not only for the tourist, but also for the consumer and the person who lives right here.”

Ms. Rabon said the kiosks will have some new uses but not be significantly altered. “They’ll have the same size, and the same feel,” she said. “We’ll utilize four or five different panels. What it’s going to do is clean up the way we put the information out to people. This is where the interactive piece will play a key role. My hope is that we’ll be able to use them both in the same way.”

While the process is still underway, Ms. Rabon is confident that the final product will enhance the tourism experience for visitors and residents alike. The CVB steering committee wants to work with the Princeton Merchants Association and the Princeton Area Arts & Culture Consortium as well, she said.

“What I’m hoping is that this will drive business not just at the U-store, but everywhere in the region,” she said. “This is great exposure for everyone.”

How do you renovate a 430,000 square foot building С most of it underground С without disrupting the essential services it provides to faculty, students, scholars, and others almost every day of the year?

Answer: very slowly.

“This is a saga, not a story,” observed Princeton University Librarian Karin Trainer describing the current renovation of Firestone Library, the largest building on campus. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2018. Until then, a team of architects, from both within and outside the University, meets frequently to share plans and sketches of the day. There are often “multiple screens going at the same time,” said Ms. Trainer. The estimated cost of the project is “in the nine figures,” and is being underwritten by the University, “just as they would a new laboratory for scientists.”

It’s very clear to anyone entering Firestone that a renovation is in progress; scaffoldings and drop cloths abound, and there’s a considerable amount of rerouting to various services. There should be no real sense of dislocation, however, thanks to “a promise to ourselves that we would continue to offer all of the normal services we provide; that the library would stay open its regular hours; and we would not dislodge large portions of collection,” said Ms. Trainer. “We’re moving people and books around to keep them out of the contractors’ way; that’s another reason it’s going to take a long time.”

Built in 1948, Firestone Library was the University’s first major academic building constructed after World II. (The vastness of its underground portion occurred out of a desire not to overshadow nearby buildings, including the Chapel.) “The University has maintained it very carefully over the decades,” said Ms. Trainer, “but there comes a point when systems need to be replaced.” The current project includes a complete renovation of the library’s infrastructure, the creation of “modern study spaces” for students and faculty, “more suitable” spaces for students who are using digital resources. and computer upgrades. New electrical outlets are high on the list of must-haves; “staff and students would be lost without them,” said Ms. Trainer.

A great deal of attention during the renovation is being paid to making the building more environmentally responsible. “It’s a very big building that’s open lots of hours, so we feel an extra responsibility to have systems that are as efficient as they can possibly be — especially lighting; all the lighting in the building is being redone.”

Firestone Library currently houses about three million books and is growing. “We still buy almost two miles of books every year and we don’t see that changing very soon,” Ms. Trainer commented. “We also offer ebooks and we loan Kindles to students and faculty, but major research libraries like ours buy more than half of our material from other countries, and digital publishing hasn’t caught on abroad as much as it has here.”

Some recent, more obvious changes to the building include the fact that the main staircase is closed from C floor up past the third floor; a brand new, light-filled open staircase is scheduled to open in January 2013. The Trustee Reading room has been closed for asbestos abatement above the ceiling and at perimeter radiators, and a new “temporary” circulation desk has been constructed. Core work preparing for new bathrooms and service point closets is being done on the B and C levels.

“It’s gone very well so far; students are getting used to seeing workers replacing hardware on the doors,” joked Ms. Trainer, who has been University Librarian since 1996 and is the first woman to hold the post. “I think everybody on campus understands how important this work really is.”

In addition to serving and remaining open to the University community, Firestone will continue to be accessible to Princeton residents who take advantage of the cooperative “museum pass” program with the Princeton Public Library, and to local school teachers and librarians. Public exhibition spaces remain open as well.

August 22, 2012

At its Monday evening meeting, Township Committee members heard presentations from school Superintendent Judy Wilson and a representative of United Bowhunters of New Jersey, and responded to a question about consolidation implementation.

Ms. Wilson presented an overview of building projects that would be carried out if the referendum bond vote on Monday, September 24 is approved. (See related article on page seven in this issue.)

At a “work session” in which no action was taken, representative Chris Midura described United Bowhunting of New Jersey programs that have been “safely and successfully administered” in Princeton in the past. With the season starting on September 8, Mr. Midura said that he hoped a decision to continue with them would come soon, so that they can “line up” the hunters and do an orientation. The Animal Control Committee, which will make the recommendation, is meeting in early September.

In response to a question from Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert about a “problem” alluded to in a letter, Mr. Midura explained that it had to do with suggestions that members of their organization were conducting “deer drives” (i.e., moving the deer toward hunters). It was determined that this was not occurring “among my people,” and Mr. Miduri said that in a recent conversation with Bob Buchanan, the former police chief indicated that the mayor could contact him if there was still any question about the episode.

Township resident and Transition Task Force IT Subcommittee member Henry Singer, described himself as having been “caught off guard” when, at a recent meeting Transition Task Force Chair Mark Freda said that “things are winding down.” When he asked Mr. Freda about continuity in the process, Mr. Singer said, he was told that the Task Force’s charge is essentially to “recommend and facilitate” by providing a “starting point.”

“It’s not something that will happen by accident,” continued Mr. Singer on Monday evening. He noted the complexity of consolidation and the ongoing analyses and decisions that participants should be referring to as they proceed. In the corporate world, he said, there’s a “play guide,” and detailed coordinated set of plans. “Who’s going to carry the ball across the line?” wondered Mr. Singer at the meeting, citing a need for “project management skills” that would address two of his favorite sayings: “plan the work the work the plan,” and “trust but verify.”

In their responses to Mr. Singer, both Committeewoman Sue Nemeth and Ms. Liz Lempert, who chaired the meeting in Mayor Chad Goerner’s absence, noted that oversight will be in the hands of the governing bodies. “We have experience doing this,” said Ms. Nemeth, pointing to shared services that already exist, and suggesting that combining like departments from each municipality might actually be easier than the management of shared services to date.

Ms. Lempert echoed Ms. Nemeth’s comments, noting that there will be “reports at public sessions” to ensure that everything “should run smoothly. If there’s a problem, we’ll discuss it.”

Mr. Singer also voiced concern about the placement of three transition-related costs under the regular consent agenda at the meeting, suggesting that they be identified separately on future agendas. The costs approved on Monday evening included payments to Vital Communications for tax assessor software (not to exceed $34,000); Comcast Enterprise for internet services (not to exceed $89,100); and Open Systems Integrators, for the integration of Borough security cameras in the new dispatch system (not to exceed $47,900). CFO Kathy Monzo gave a brief explanation for each of them.

Updates on municipal office moves and regulations for the newly united police force were the focus of the most recent meeting of Princeton Borough Council. On August 14, the governing body heard from administrator Bob Bruschi about which offices will be located where and when, and from Borough Police Captain Nick Sutter and consultant Frank Rodgers about how the merging of the Borough and Township police departments is progressing.

The following night, the Transition Task Force (TTF) talked about transition costs while hearing updates from various committees involved in overseeing consolidation, which takes effect January 1, 2013.

Mr. Bruschi reported that the biggest changes in the consolidation of offices will be to the police department and the administrator and clerk’s office in the Township municipal building. “We expect to start shifting municipal offices in September, and hope to have everybody in their final office locations by mid-November at the latest,” he said. “This may exclude the police because we will need to get the [Township] building ready for doubling the employee population. That is KSS’s priority.”

KSS Architects is the firm hired to determine the best use of Borough Hall and the Township Municipal Building in the newly consolidated Princeton. The architecture firm was paid $27,000 for the first phase of the project. The second phase, which involves physical changes inside the two buildings as offices are reorganized, has been approved by Borough Council and Township Committee. KSS is being paid $38,000 for that portion.

Mr. Bruschi said that the affordable housing, historic preservation, and zoning offices might be among the first to be relocated. “The most important thing is to get people moving, both logistically and from an employee morale standpoint,” he said.

Mr. Sutter and Mr. Rodgers, who is with the Rogers Group, discussed the updated rulebook for the newly merged police department. “This is a very important document,” Mr. Sutter said of the rulebook, which is being updated to meet national and state standards. “It will be the foundation of department operations.”

Councilman Roger Martindell questioned the section of the rulebook dealing with the acceptance of gifts and gratuities. Mr. Martindell said the wording was not clear enough in its restrictions of officers accepting any gifts, loans, fees or gratuities. The issue has come up before, when officers were receiving free food from a local restaurant. “There should be a line drawn, and it should be a very bright line,” he said.

Mr. Sutter and Mr. Rodgers said they would look into the wording to possibly make it more specific.

Also at the meeting, Councilwoman Barbara Trelstad reported that a gardener has been hired to clean out the beds at Harrison Street Park. “We have had a considerable loss of plant material and we won’t be replacing it, but we will have a reassessment in the fall,” she said. The gardener, who works four days a week and is employed by the Borough, has done some transplanting and will continue that work in the fall.

At the Transition Task Force meeting, Task Force member Scott Sillars reported that $59,000 of the $149,000 budgeted for consolidation has been spent so far, not including the $38,000 for KSS Architects. A complete overview of the costs will be presented next month, he said. “The taxpayers are going to want to know what the costs are,” said Task Force member Jim Levine.

In discussions of merging the two communities‘ traffic and transportation departments, there was some disagreement on just how to proceed. While some members advocated putting some of the current responsibilities of the traffic safety departments into the newly combined public works department, others did not agree.

“Combining them is a huge mistake,” said Anton Lahnston, who is not on the Transition Task Force but chairs the Consolidation Commission and was in the audience. “Don’t combine the pedestrian bike and traffic and transportation departments, because they serve very different purposes. A lot of people in this community are very passionate about bikeways. I think you’re killing something that’s very important to this community, and you’ll hear about it.”

Transition Task Force member Hendrix Davis also said, repeatedly, that he is not in favor of such an action.

Near the close of the meeting, Borough Mayor Yina Moore reported that she and Township Mayor Chad Goerner are working on a new logo for the town, “rather than hiring a $50,000 branding firm.” The logo is being developed in conjunction with the Arts Council of Princeton.