March 14, 2012

Princeton Borough Mayor Yina Moore will not run for mayor of the consolidated Princetons, but will instead be a candidate for the council that will govern the combined municipality.

“First, I think we have the opportunity to elect a mayor who has broad experience, has contributed to the Princeton community outside of the political arena, and who has the vision and fortitude to lead our community in a new era,” Ms. Moore said in an email Tuesday. “Second, I decided to run for office one year ago to bring my experience, leadership, and clear purpose to bear in addressing a myriad of community issues. Although I have been in office only 70 days, I have put forth several initiatives that I want to focus on for the next few months as mayor without the distraction of a mayoral campaign.

“Third, I want to continue the implementation of these initiatives and contribute to decision making as a voting member of Council to ensure that benefits of consolidation accrue to the entire community,” she concluded.

Ms. Moore’s decision leaves the field open to two Democrats, current Township Committeewoman Liz Lempert and Councilman Kevin Wilkes, who are currently seeking the endorsement of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO). The PCDO will meet on Sunday, March 25 to endorse a candidate for mayor and decide which of the 10 Democrats vying for council seats to approve.

Meanwhile, the Princeton Republican Committee is seeking potential candidates for both mayor and council, as well as membership in the new Committee, which will be chosen from each of the 22 new voting districts in Princeton in the June primary. Chairman Dudley Sipprelle has issued a statement urging interested parties to contact him at or (609) 497-740.

In addition to Ms. Moore, the Democrats running for seats on the combined council, which will begin governing the consolidated Princeton in January 2013, are current Borough Council members Heather Howard, Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, and Roger Martindell; Township Committee members Bernie Miller and Lance Liverman; and newcomers Tamera Matteo, Patrick Simon, and Scott Sillars.

Ms. Matteo ran an independent home and design store in Palmer Square and later in Princeton Shopping Center, for more than 10 years. Mr. Simon serves on the Princeton Joint Consolidation/Shared Services Study Commission, and Mr. Sillars is vice-chairman of the Transition Task Force.

Julia Sass Rubin, Lisa Levine, and School Board members Molly Chrein and Andrea Spalla were among the participants at a Statehouse meeting organized by Save Our Schools last week “to highlight the $3.6 billion underfunding of public schools by the state since 2010, including $715 million in Governor Christie’s proposed 2013 State Budget.”

Governor Christie’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget also proposes changes to the school funding formula that would result in permanent funding cuts to districts that educate low income and non-English speaking students. These changes would mean a permanent reduction of more than $1 million for Princeton. The cuts will affect both the traditional public schools and the Princeton Charter School. Ms. Sass-Rubin said that this year’s budget has been unofficially dubbed “the reverse Robin Hood budget.”

Princeton Regional Schools believes that it has been underfunded by $1,689,548 in FY 2010; by $3,702,597 in FY 2011;Кand by $1,616,146 in 2012. Including proposed FY 2013 loss of $1,508,595, the total loss is $8,516,886.

Ms. Spalla reported that she spoke at last week’s event “not as a Board member, but as a private citizen. I felt that it is important for members of the press and the public to understand that the failure to fund schools at the levels set by law in the School Funding Reform Act affects all children around the state, including here in Princeton.”

“I don’t think people have a clue about how badly underfunded their schools are,” agreed Ms. Sass-Rubin several days after the event. “And they certainly don’t know about the budget cuts, which specifically target poor and immigrant children.”

The new budget, Ms. Rubin-Sass emphasized, would disproportionately affect low-income districts, and communities of color. She likened the governor’s change to the funding formula to someone saying that “since cancer patients die at much higher rate than people who have warts, the solution to narrowing that gap is to take away funding for cancer treatment.”

“I suspect many politicians in Trenton are trying to obfuscate the complexities surrounding school funding in order to drive a political wedge between urban and suburban voters, rich and poor voters, even between regular public school and charter school parents,” said Ms. Spalla.

In her comments at last week’s event, Ms. Spalla said that Princeton “is not the uniformly wealthy community that many believe us to be. We count among our students significant percentages of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch and English-language learners.” She said that underfunding in recent years and, in particular, this year’s budget formula pose a serious threat to the progress of eliminating the achievement gap among students. And, she added, “it is quite simply impossible for any school district to maintain achievement levels, much less raise them, while being starved of the funds necessary to do so.”

Ms. Sass-Rubin encouraged residents to call their legislators to let them know that these numbers, which are going to “devastate districts,” are unacceptable.

The 15 districts represented at last week’s event came from all over the state, and included urban, suburban, “some wealthier, some poor,” reported Ms. Sass-Rubin. “All of them are hurting.”

“We are all in this together, and it’s crucial for people to realize that,” added Ms. Spalla.

Save Our Schools is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of parents and other “concerned residents” who believe that “all New Jersey children should have access to a high quality public education.”

March 7, 2012

Following four lengthy meetings spanning the past three months, Princeton’s Regional Planning Board last Thursday approved the Institute for Advanced Study’s proposal to build faculty housing on land it owns bordering the historic Princeton Battlefield. The Board voted unanimously for the plan, which was amended with modifications suggested at a previous meeting by historians James McPherson and David Hackett Fischer.

But Bruce Afran, attorney for the Princeton Battlefield Society, which vigorously opposes the plan, said the organization will appeal the decision. “The Planning Board was really just the opening skirmish,” he said Tuesday morning. “The main fight to preserve it is only just starting.”

Mr. Afran said he is preparing to challenge the Institute in light of a 1992 settlement agreement in which they gave up the right to build on the land bordering the Battlefield. In addition, he will ask the Department of Environmental Protection to reopen a letter of interpretation about the existence of wetlands on the site. “It is smack on top of wetlands,” he said, claiming that two separate surveys, in 1990 and 2011, indicated that this was the case. “This is illegal under state and federal laws and we will go to court on that.”

Christine Ferrara, senior public affairs officer at the IAS, said Mr. Afran misinterprets the agreement between the Institute and the Township. “Especially according to one member of the Planning Board, who was involved at the time of the settlement, his interpretation is incorrect,” she said. “Now, the colleagues on the Board have concurred. It is very clear-cut, in our view.”

Numerous residents of the neighborhood surrounding the IAS have spoken in favor of the plan in recent months, while Battlefield Society members have said it will desecrate the site of General George Washington’s counterattack and first victory against the British in the January 3, 1777 Battle of Princeton. The 15 faculty homes, eight of which are townhouses, will be located on seven acres, with an additional 10 acres adjacent to the Park to be preserved as public open space.

“Every vote in favor of the Institute’s plan is a vote against American history,” said William Tatum III, a scholar at the David Library of Washington Crossing, Pa. Battlefield Society member Brian Kovacs echoed Mr. Tatum’s views, calling approval of the proposal “misguided reasoning” and “an act against our heritage.”

Among those sympathetic to the proposal was Didier Fassin, the Institute’s James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Sciences. “This is an intellectual community, and to build an intellectual community one needs proximity,” he said, referring to the Institute’s preference that its scholars should be housed on site. Homes in the surrounding neighborhood have become too costly for faculty members, the Institute has said.

Mr. Afran’s claim about the existence of wetlands is based on a survey commissioned in 1990 by the IAS when it wanted to build housing on a different section of its property. That survey showed wetlands in the area where the housing approved last week is to be built, he said. The same person who did that survey was hired by the Battlefield Society last year. She found the same evidence of wetlands, he said.

“The Institute knew about these wetlands all along, but they concealed it,” Mr. Afran said. “The wetlands feed right into the Stony Brook and Lake Carnegie and our drinking water supply.”

The approved housing is to be built behind a buffer zone. According to the plan’s modifications, that buffer will be moved away from the edge of Battlefield Park and put directly behind the homes, shielding them from view and maintaining open space. The amendments also call for a path to be installed through the Institute property, with interpretive signage at the northern end about the Battle of Princeton; providing public access to the buffer zone; and reducing the size of one of the houses.

Before voting, members of the Planning Board expressed sympathy with both sides of the issue. But ultimately, the Institute plan won out.

“So many times, objectors who come before us have financial gain [as their purpose],” said Janet Stern. “Here, we have passion and zeal, and I’m wrestling with a lot of it …. Given that the Institute does own the land and that it does have the legal right to build …. I would support the application.”

Peter Madison said the application had to be viewed not just from an emotional point of view, but from a legal standpoint. The Battlefield Society would likely appeal a vote in favor of the proposal, he said. “But I believe if this application would go to court, I think the application has a much stronger case. So I will vote in favor.”

Mildred Trotman said, “As sympathetic as I am to supporters of the Battlefield, given all the information we have been given and the history of this project that goes back years and years, I feel confident supporting it.”

In a written statement, Institute Director Peter Goddard said the IAS was “immensely pleased” to have received approval. “This plan not only enables us to maintain the essential residential character of our community of scholars, but it will also enhance the Princeton Battlefield Park, which the Institute helped create and expand. We plan to work with others to promote the improvement of the interpretative materials in the park so that visitors might gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the Battle of Princeton. We look forward to partnering with local, state and regional bodies to that end.”

Mr. Afran said yesterday, “The hurdles against the Institute are immense at this point.”

Princeton Borough Council last week voted to approve a request by AvalonBay, the developer of the University Medical Center at Princeton’s soon-to-be-vacated site, for rezoning. With Jenny Crumiller casting the only dissenting vote, the Council weighed in 5-1 to recommend the proposal to the Planning Board.

Numerous residents of the hospital’s neighborhood were on hand to express their concerns about the rezoning, which would allow AvalonBay to have higher density and fewer affordable housing units in the rental community it is under contract to build on the site. The existing hospital building would be demolished as part of the plan. AvalonBay is set to take over the property after the UMCP moves to its new complex on Route 1 in Plainsboro May 22.

“Adding 44 units arbitrarily, just so the developer can make more money, seems like a breach with the community,” said Ms. Crumiller, who was applauded by residents in the audience. “We are ready for the developer, we want the developer to come in. We should stick to the 280 units. All they have to do is the site plan.”

Leighton Newlin, chairman of the Housing Authority of the Borough of Princeton (HABOP), also criticized the proposal. “We should not allow more units, 280 was what we agreed upon,” he said. “What are we losing? We are losing the opportunity to have low, low income housing so that we can preserve the cultural diversity of our community.”

An online petition opposing the zoning, at, had 92 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon. Residents are concerned that the high density of the AvalonBay plan will change the character of the neighborhood and cause traffic congestion. The developer wants to put in 32 to 40 units per acre. Joe Bardzilowski, who organized the petition, said during the meeting that this density is higher than other AvalonBay rental communities.

Resident Peter Marks argued against giving AvalonBay bonus density, urging the Council to consider affordable single family housing as an alternative to the apartment complex. “This is probably the most valuable [land] in Mercer County,” he said. “Understand, please, that this is not the only alternative on the table.”

If passed by the Planning Board and then given final approval after being returned to Council, the plan would allow greater density without proportionally increasing the number of affordable housing units in the apartment complex. Current zoning allows 280 units, with 20 percent designated as affordable.

But AvalonBay wants to build 324 units, while lowering the percentage of affordable apartments from 20 to 17 percent. This would require rezoning. The Borough usually requires 20 percent affordable units in new complexes. AvalonBay has argued that the development would still have more affordable units than the industry standard of 15 percent.

The developer would build nine units as “workforce” housing, which could rent to households, possibly set aside for Princeton residents, with incomes between about $40,000 and $98,000. These rents would be less than the market rate units, which would range from $1,600 to $3,200 a month. Council members suggested including emergency and fire workers in this group.

Bret Rubin, a representative of AvalonBay, said the company will soon submit a full concept plan, including results of traffic studies and environmental impacts. The five members of Council who voted to recommend the company’s plan said they did so as a way to move the project forward and to consider the additional data AvalonBay submits to the Planning Board.

Describing it as “a remarkable work,” because it is based on only a one percent increase from last year, the Princeton Regional Board of Education approved a tentative total operating budget of $75,607,106 for the 2012-13 school year. With the inclusion of total grants and entitlements ($4,267,340) and repayment of debt totals ($4,512,325) the total budget comes to $82,386,771. The local tax levy on the projected budget will be $67,926,798.

“Although our state aid increased, it increased by only $100,000,” reported Superintendent Judy Wilson at last week’s Board of Education meeting. “We were certainly hoping for more.” She noted that even with the additional money, the district’s reinstatement of the aid lost in the spring of 2010 was still at only 54 percent.

Following approval by the County and State, area residents will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed budget at public meetings at the end of March. Ms. Wilson said that details of the budget will be posted on the District’s website in the coming weeks. Residents of the Borough and the Township will get to vote on the budget at the upcoming April 17 election.

It was noted that the budget does not provide for building improvements or new technology, and, later at the meeting, Finance Committee member Dorothy Bedford reported on the withdrawal of money from the District’s capital reserve account for improvements in building safety and security. The installation of solar panels is also being explored in an effort to reduce cash outflow for energy expenses, she said.

Candidates who filed for election to the school board by the February 27 cut-off date include Borough residents Dudley Sipprelle and Martha Land, who will be vying for two vacant seats along with current president Rebecca Cox, who is running for reelection. In the Township, where there is one vacancy, only one candidate, Patrick Sullivan, came forward to to run. Area residents will be voting for new school board members as well as a new budget at the April 17 election.

Describing “teacher evaluation” as “a hot topic in our nation,” Ms. Wilson reported that the District has received new guidelines “to work our way through during the next 18 months” until implementation in September 2013. “Stay tuned,” she counseled, noting that there will be “a lot of information” and “a lot of work.”

Patrick Lenihan, Supervisor of Visual and Performing Arts, presented a very well received presentation on District programs in visual arts, drama, dance, and music. “Participation in an arts program is critical to every student,” he observed. The District’s “special relationship” with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra was noted with particular appreciation.

February 29, 2012

With only nine months to go before consolidation of Princeton Borough and Township becomes law, the Transition Task Force has moved into high gear. The group has formed several subcommittees and scheduled a packed roster of meetings through the end of November.

The Communication Subcommittee was to meet this morning, February 29, while the Personnel Subcommittee is scheduled to gather this evening at 5:30 p.m. The Finance Subcommittee met last week. “We talked about a potential budget. We also discussed working together on our municipal budgets for 2012,” said task force member and Township Mayor Chad Goerner in an email. “The committee also discussed adding several more resident members and will propose these members at our next full task force meeting.”

That session is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. in the main meeting room of the Township Building. Task force and subcommittee meetings are posted on the website of the Center for Governmental Research, at

Whether all of these meetings should be open to the public was a topic of lengthy discussion at last week’s task force session. While chairman Mark Freda urged that as many as possible be held in public, member Jim Levine questioned whether all of the subcommittee meetings should be open to the public.

“I don’t think the public is served to have all the ideas out there being discussed if they are not ultimately going to be recommended,” he said. The subcommittees make recommendations to the task force, which in turn suggests actions to the Borough Council and Township Committee. Mr. Levine suggested that meetings be open to the public when the discussion reaches a certain level, after the subcommittee has had a chance to work on issues “without having to pull any punches with anything distracting to employees and the public.”

Task force member Linda Mather did not agree. “I don’t want lawsuits over this,” she said. “We should abide by the Open Public Meetings Act for all our work.”

Mr. Goerner, who also served on the consolidation commission, commented that the commission’s subcommittee meetings were always open to the public. Task force member Bernie Miller said he didn’t think all of task force subcommittee meetings should be held in public. “Some discussions are very sensitive,” he said. “There has to be some shield.”

Ultimately, the task force voted to follow the Open Public Meetings Act for both its full meetings and the sessions of its subcommittees. Also at last week’s meeting, the group voted to recommend that the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) be hired as project consultant, and that attorney William Kearns be hired as its lawyer. Both recommendations were approved Monday night, February 27, at a joint meeting of the Borough Council and Township Committee.

Based in Rochester, N.Y. CGR served as consultant to the consolidation commission. They will be paid up to $62,000 to help the task force with project management and staff support.

Mr. Kearns is a senior partner with Kearns, Reale & Kearns in Willingboro. He is the general counsel for the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and co-chair for the League’s Legislative Committee. The task force had to hire its own attorney because it is not permitted to use municipal attorneys for legal advice. Three attorneys were interviewed for the job.

Sharing the podium in the main meeting room at Township Hall Monday evening, Borough Council and Township Committee members approved professional services agreements for the Transition Task Force, the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), and attorney William Kearns.

Offering a “brief status report and update” on work being done by the task force, Township resident and Task Force Vice-Chair Scott Sillars reported that the group has been “fully engaged” with a “very active schedule since its inception in January.” (See the related article on the page one.)

The task force, which is comprised of 12 members (five voting members and one alternate each from the Borough and Township), is charged with facilitating the process of merging the two governments and the services they provide in anticipation of consolidation, which will take effect January 1, 2013.

Mr. Sillars said that CGR, which had made a favorable impression as advisors to the Consolidation Commission, would again provide project management support by creating a website, implementing public forums, assisting in creating timelines, identifying goals, and setting priorities, while maintaining the momentum that began with the work of the Commission. The new $62,000 contract with CGR is their entire fee during the process.

Retaining an independent legal counsel, Mr. Sillars said, would give the task force an opportunity to obtain legal counsel independent of the Borough and Township attorneys. Mr. Kearns’s fee is $150 an hour, with a $40,000 cap. His previous experience includes serving as counsel to the League of Municipalities, as well as participation in consolidation projects elsewhere.

In an effort to clarify the roles of all of the attorneys with respect to the task force, Committee and Council members endorsed an amendment that included Township Mayor Chad Goerner’s suggested wording, noting that the task force will be able to use the two municipal attorneys on approval from an appropriate administrator, Jim Pascale in the Township, Bob Bruschi in the Borough.

In conversations before the vote to retain Mr. Kearns, Council members Jenny Crumiller and Jo Butler spoke in support of creating and voting on an additional amendment to clarify the attorneys’ roles for the task force. Others noted that the task force had not specifically asked for such clarification. “This is why we’re consolidating,” commented Mr. Goerner during the conversation.

Members of both governing groups expressed concern about public safety issues in response to the task force’s suggested “hiring moratorium” in both municipalities. It was agreed that the question of coverage and possible collaboration would be brought before the two police departments and the Public Safety Committee for their recommendations, and that any non-police openings would be be discussed by both the Borough and the Township before they are filled. “We need to send a message that we are coordinating,” observed Borough Council member Roger Martindell.

The arrival of Brooks Brothers on Palmer Square next fall is not the only change planned for Princeton’s downtown. A women’s accessory store and some shuffling of spaces are also in the works. On Witherspoon Street, a tenant has been signed for the old Lahiere’s restaurant, but just who that tenant is remains to be revealed.

“I can’t comment on that,” said Jeffrey M. Siegel, president of ML-Seven, the real estate firm that owns the building, where renovations have been underway for the past few weeks. “The tenant will be making an announcement when he’s ready.”

Brooks Brothers, which will move into the 6,130-square-foot space being vacated by Banana Republic, is known for its line of conservative collegiate clothing, primarily for men. “David [Newton, vice president of Palmer Square Management] has been in discussion with them, back and forth, for some time,” said Anita Fresolone, Palmer Square Management’s marketing director. “They were waiting for the right space to present itself, and with Banana Republic vacating, it came up.”

Banana Republic will relocate to Princeton Marketfair in West Windsor. In mid-March, a women’s accessories store will open in the Palmer Square West space previously occupied by Terracycle, Ms. Fresolone said. “They don’t want to reveal their name until they open.”

Other changes on the square involve expansions and refittings. Luxaby Baby is moving down Hulfish Street to larger quarters. “They are adding a line of maternity clothing, which I think will be a very nice draw,” the marketing director said. The Paperie will relocate from its store next to the Mediterra restaurant to the former Pierre Deux space, also on Hulfish Street. “They’ll have a clean rectangle in that space, which from a merchandising perspective will be a nice fit for them,” Ms. Fresolone said.

The changes leave two vacancies on the square. “But there is always interest,” said Ms. Fresolone. “I’m excited for spring and for all our changes, because everything is for the positive.”

February 22, 2012

“MARY WATTS’ STORE”: As part of its observance of Black History Month, the Historical Society of Princeton is exhibiting paintings by artist Rex Gorleigh at both its Bainbridge House site and at Updike Farm.

Two members of the Board of Education, Township resident Mia Cahill and Borough resident Charles Kalmbach, whose terms are up this year, have chosen not to run for reelection in the upcoming April 17 election. A third, Borough resident and School Board President Rebecca Cox, has confirmed that she will run again.

While Board secretary Stephanie Kennedy reported that (as of press time), the Board has not received any applications for either of the open seats, Ms. Cox said that she is “in discussion” with several potential candidates. The “Board Candidate’s Packet,” delineating requirements for board membership and application procedures, is available on the Princeton Regional Schools’ website. The deadline for applying is February 27.

Ms. Cahill, a lawyer, was twice elected to the school board and has served since 2006. Her current committee responsibilities include chairing the strategic action plan committee, and serving on the personnel committee. Mr. Kalmbach, director of continuing education and vice president for strategy at the Princeton Theological Seminary’s School of Christian Vocation and Mission, has served a single term since his election in 2009. Mr. Kalmbach currently chairs the finance committee, and is a member of the external affairs committee and negotiations team.

“It’s been a great privilege to represent my neighbors in the Borough and to work with members of the Board of Education for the last three years,” said Mr. Kalmbach in a recent interview.

In response to a question about why he has chosen not to run again, Mr. Kalmbach went back to his original reason for joining the board, which, he said, was “to address major issues that were looming in the area of finance.” Under his stewardship, the finance committee has helped the Board to come up with balanced budgets in the face of state caps that have limited the district’s ability to raise revenue; large expenditures (e.g., health care, the charter school, and providing for special needs students) over which the district has no control; and a loss of reserves to the state.

“I’ve never in my years of business seen a situation like this,” said Mr. Kalmbach as he enumerated these obstacles. “Coming forward with a balanced budget every year has been an extraordinary accomplishment.”

Mr. Kalmbach also lauded the district for responding to the call for increased transparency. “I’m told that we are one of the half-dozen districts in the state that actually meets (twice a year, in point of fact) with its outside auditor to make sure we are in compliance with state regulations and doing what is right for the community.”

Now that the Board has completed an analysis of the amount of money the charter school receives ($4.5 million) and what they believe it actually would cost to educate its students ($1.35 million), Mr. Kalmbach suggested that his successor look at “what the charter school is giving back to the town in return for its investment.” The April 17 election will be the last time that Board members representing the Township and the Borough will run. After January, 2013, individuals will be elected by the residents of the consolidated municipality.

Other current members of the Board of Education include Vice President Tim Quinn, a Borough resident whose term expires in 2013; Township resident Dorothy Bedford, whose term also ends in 2013; Afsheen Shamsi, a Township resident whose term expires in 2014; Township resident Molly Chrein, whose term will be up in 2013; Dan Haughton, a Township resident whose term expires in 2014, and Borough resident Andrea Spalla, whose term will be up in 2013.

After listening to two hours of testimony last week from representatives of NJ Transit, Princeton University, the citizens’ group Save the Dinky, and the public, New Jersey’s Historic Sites Council opted to table an application filed by NJ Transit. The transportation agency is looking for a resolution that would grant conditional approval to remove 460 feet of historic train tracks leading to the Dinky train station.

The Historic Sites Council advises the Department of Environmental Protection about matters of historic significance.

As a private body, Princeton University, which owns the Dinky station buildings and rider platform, is not subject to the panel’s recommendations. But NJ Transit needs the approval in order to remove the public transportation easement to the site. The University wants to build a new terminal 460 feet south of the current buildings, which would be turned into a restaurant and cafe as part of its $300 million arts/transit project.

Bob Durkee, University Vice President and Secretary, told the panel that historic preservation is a priority and that the station buildings would be treated with respect. “Our goal is to maintain these buildings and repurpose them to serve as a cafe and a restaurant,” he said. “They are gorgeous buildings and we’re excited to make use of them in new ways.”

But Save the Dinky, a not-profit group made up of local residents opposed to the relocation of the station, is currently suing the University, saying it does not have the legal right to move the station. “There are feasible alternatives to this,” Virginia Kerr, a member of Save the Dinky and an attorney, told the panel. “The application is premature.”

Borough Mayor Yina Moore and Borough Council members Jenny Crumiller and Jo Butler were among the others who spoke out against the relocation plan. Also testifying against the proposed move were three officers from the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers. Borough resident Chip Creider was the only member of the public to urge the Council to approve the application. “This is a contentious political issue and I urge you not to get sucked into the whirlpool,” he said of the opposition.

Council member Margaret Nordstrom was puzzled by the contentious situation. “What would possess you to move this forward without the support of the mayor and Council?” she asked. Fellow panelist Constance Greiff said that since the matter is under litigation, the Council should wait until legal matters are resolved before recommending action.

The Dinky train tracks have linked Princeton Junction with Princeton Borough since 1865. The current station dates from 1918. It is considered historically significant not only because of its design, high quality materials and construction, but also because it continues to function in its original form.

EMERGENCY MEASURES: Panelists at a recent meeting of Princeton Future were, from left: Jamie Chebra of Capital Health, Dean Raymond of Mercer County, Dann Dingle and Pam Hersh of the University Medical Center of Princeton, Paul Ominsky of Princeton University, Princeton Borough Police Lieutenant Robert Currier, Frank Setnicky of PFARS, Bob Gregory of Princeton Emergency Services, and Mark Freda of the Transition Task Force.

Coping with storms such as last year’s Hurricane Irene and other emergencies was the focus of an open meeting held at Princeton Public Library last Saturday by Princeton Future. About 50 people attended the forum, which began with presentations by representatives of local police and fire departments, hospitals, and first responders, and concluded with brief breakout discussions led by the representatives.

Preparedness was a recurring theme. Paul Ominsky, Princeton University’s Director of Public Safety, used the example of Hurricane Irene to illustrate how important it is to plan ahead. “We met several days before the storm,” he said, which averted major disruptions. The 30 volunteer firefighters who come from the University’s staff, as well as the students who work with PFARS (Princeton First Aid & Rescue), were part of “a pretty seamless system,” he added. “We’re actually the third police department in town. We have sworn campus police officers, a dispatch center, communications officers, security officers, a fire marshal, and an event staff of 22 retired police officers. The University tries to be self-sufficient so that we’re not taking up municipal resources.”

The widespread use of mobile phones and constantly improving technology has considerably changed the system of emergency response, said the forum moderator, Bill Metro. Unlike with land lines, mobiles don’t indicate a caller’s location. So those fielding the calls have to take the time to ask where the emergency is happening. “There is a greater volume of calls coming into 911 dispatchers, because so many people at a scene might be calling at once,” he said. “In some ways, 911 centers are going backwards in terms of efficiency. But they’re doing the best they can.”

The speakers described emergency management at different levels, starting with the local officers and moving to the county, state, and federal departments. Dean Raymond, Mercer County Emergency Management Coordinator, also stressed the importance of personal preparedness. Individuals should have an emergency contact who can care for pets and keep an eye on the house should a medical emergency arise.

The consolidation of Princeton Borough and Township will improve response to emergencies, more than one of the presenters said. Frank Setnicky of PFARS said the number of calls for assistance has increased by about five percent each year. “We know it will increase more in 2013, but there is no way to know how much,” he said, referring to the opening of the University Medical Center at Princeton’s new facility on U.S. Route 1 in Plainsboro.

Pam Hersh, vice president for Government and Community Affairs for Princeton Healthcare System, which operates the hospital, stressed that the move will not clog traffic on the highway, as many fear. Since 70 percent of those served by the hospital come from areas on the other side of Route 1, an extra turning lane has been added to the Harrison Street exit, and the hospital has paid for a system that will allow responders from PFARS and Princeton University to change the traffic light during an emergency, the transition is expected to go smoothly, she said.

Dann Doyle, Director of Security and Emergency Management at UMCP added that all of the hospitals in the county, including the new Capital Health facility that recently opened in Hopewell Township, have made an effort to coordinate with the use of emergency equipment. “Yes, we compete,” he said. “But behind the scenes, I’ve got each of these guys on speed dial.”

February 15, 2012

When the New Jersey Department of Transportation introduced plans last month to temporarily close the Route 1 jughandles at Washington Road and Harrison Street, Princeton business owners were among the most visibly upset. The idea of curtailing access to town for up to three months, starting in mid-March, was met with incredulousness and some mild hostility.

Less than two weeks later, the DOT announced that the pilot program was being postponed until August 1. Welcome news to business owners, the deferment came about two days after representatives of the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA), joined by representatives of local government, Princeton University, and the University Medical Center at Princeton, traveled to Ewing Township to meet with NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson about their concerns.

It was this united-front approach, combined with careful planning, that got the message across, say those involved in the effort. It began just after the DOT had made its presentation about the proposed jughandle closings. PMA president Carly Meyer gathered members in a meeting room at the Bank of Princeton to voice their concerns. Borough Commissioner Kevin Wilkes was also invited to that meeting, held just after the DOT’s information sessions in West Windsor and Princeton.

“We made a list of problems and I agreed to reach out to the transportation commissioner,” Mr. Wilkes said. “I had had experience with him last year in working out the Memorandum of Understanding (with Princeton University), and I knew him well enough to send him an email asking for a meeting. He immediately replied and said ‘Of course, no problem.’”

The group, which also included David Newton of Palmer Square Management; Chris Hanington of Princeton Shopping Center; Pam Hersh of University Medical Center of Princeton; Lori Rabon of The Nassau Inn; Jack Morrison of JM Group; Jan Weinberg of Weinberg Management; Barry Weisfeld of Princeton Record Exchange; and Karen Jezierny and Kristin Appelget of Princeton University, prepared a draft of points to be considered. “It was like a position paper, circulated around to make sure everybody’s concerns were outlined,” Mr. Wilkes said. “We sent it to the commissioner ahead of time, so they knew what we would be talking about. I don’t feel it’s useful to go into a meeting like that and surprise them with a bunch of gripes.”

On a conference call the day before the meeting with the commissioner, the group rehearsed who was going to say what. “We did another quick run-through the day of the meeting, when we got there,” Mr. Wilkes said. “We walked in the door at 8:30 and were probably out by 9:50, and it went very well. We didn’t know when we left what would result, but the Commissioner called within an hour to talk about actual strategies. The one he was most willing to try was a postponement. By Thursday afternoon, he made the announcement.”

Mr. Wilkes said that the group had alternately suggested closing Washington Road’s jughandle while leaving the Harrison Street one open, or possibly doing the experiment for only four weeks. The reasoning that seemed to convince the commissioner to defer the pilot program was that the opening of University Medical Center of Princeton’s new complex on Route 1, which is set for May 22, would interfere with the baseline data they were trying to collect.

Mr. Newton, who was among the most vocal at the DOT’s original information session, said he was pleased with the outcome of the meeting. “The Commissioner and his staff were very gracious with us,” he said. “They listened to our concerns, and we listened to them. They really do have an enormous problem on Route 1 between Alexander and Scudders Mill Road. We came up with the idea, and they kindly agreed to wait and see what impact there is going to be after the hospital moves. The one thing we left with is that we would like to be included in helping them work out the longer term solution to the problem.”

Ms. Hanington said the collaborative approach was the key. “The Princeton Borough and Township merchants joined together several years ago for exactly this purpose,” she wrote in an email. “By the time this Route 1 closure issue came up our association was much more than just a marketing group. We are truly a united community …. I am proud of our ‘battle victory‘ but really our work on this has just begun.’”

Ms. Rabon told the DOT Commissioner that the March-to-May closing of the jughandles would adversely affect those who have already planned weddings and other functions at the Nassau Inn during that time. “I wanted to make sure that hotels and banquet halls both downtown and along Route 1 have an opportunity to alert their guests,” she said. “They were really good about listening. We’ve got 1.3 million visitors that come downtown [a year], and it’s important to make sure we communicate with the DOT about this. They are promising to continue to work with us so we can get the messages out. This was a coming-together of PMA members with government, where you don’t always find such a willingness to listen and cooperate.”

The fact that the group spoke “in one voice, low on emotionalism and high on fact,” made the difference, Mr. Wilkes said. “We’re not saying they shouldn’t do the test at all. We’re saying that the way it is presently proposed might cause more harm than good. We want to work together with them. We have to entertain the possibility, even if we think it is remote, that the test will work out for everybody. We need to be open to empirical results.”

The Princeton Regional Board of Education made three particularly significant decisions at its “special” meeting last Tuesday evening. Board members unanimously approved a contract already ratified by the Princeton Regional Educational Association; unanimously chose to keep board elections in April rather than moving them to November; and, in a five-to-four vote, selected “Princeton Public Schools” as the new name for the district.

“We believe this is a fair contract for teachers, taxpayers, and the community at large,” noted Board President Rebecca Cox in her comments about the new agreement. It “comes within the tax-cap restrictions over its three year term and addresses the main concerns of the union and the Board.”

The new contract will be effective retroactively from July 2011, and runs through June, 2014.

In the first year of the contract, teachers will be frozen in their position on the salary guide, except for longevity, and will receive a cash payment based on a degree level that starts at $1,250. The second year’s increase of 2.78 per cent “takes into account higher health care contributions as mandated by the state, as well as the union’s desire to maintain the current salary guide structure,” said Ms. Cox. The third year’s increase of 2.5 percent, she added, “is offset by the phasing out of our two most expensive health care plans, which will cease to be offered after June 2014.”

“Reducing the overall cost of our health plans has been a goal of the district for many years because of the unpredictable nature of the increases from one year to the next,” noted Ms. Cox. “As part of the negotiations process and estimation of the overall cost of the contract, we have projected annual increases of 10 percent.”

Emotions ran high during the Board’s discussion of whether or not to move elections to November. A November election would have precluded an opportunity for residents to vote on the school budget. The benefits of a larger turnout for November elections and cost savings of approximately $40,000 were offset by members’ concern that political issues might cloud perceptions of school elections.

“I believe it is healthy for us as members of the Board to have to present the budget to our neighbors instead of hiding behind state-issued caps,” said Charles Kalmbach, whose prepared comments for the evening have been posted on the Board’s website

Mr. Kalmbach noted that district initiatives, such as the current PowerUp campaign, are successful because citizens have direct knowledge of school finances and the choices the school board makes. As the economy recovers, he noted, “boards once again will have meaningful choices to make.” He described the attempt to hold a “non-partisan” election simultaneously with a general election” as “a charade.”

Ms. Cox concurred with Mr. Kalmbach’s displeasure at state controls, citing the “new rules” issued “every day” that “erode local control.”

“Princeton’s Board has a long-standing belief in local control and has a history of opposing state measures that have had the effect of pushing aside the interests of citizens and their elected officials in favor of expedience,” added vice-president Tim Quinn.

School Superintendent Judy Wilson acknowledged that moving the election was a “complex” question with many “layers,” including changes in polling places as a result of consolidation. In response to her comment about rules that would distinguish the appearance on the ballot of school board questions from other races in November, Mr. Kalmbach said that “prescribing how the typeface on the ballot should look is mismanagement.”

Noting that she was “one of the more fiscally conservative members of this Board” as well as the only “veteran of a partisan election,” Dorothy Bedford said that it was difficult for any candidate to really be heard amid the “airwaves full of messages” that surround November elections. Saying that she had come into the meeting that evening “thinking we would be safe with a November election” she reported that she had been persuaded by other board members that “that this might not be the right time.”

Ms. Wilson noted that “this is not a one-time window,” and that there will be other opportunities to revisit the question. As a result of keeping the April date, the expiration dates on school Board members’ terms will remain the same. This year’s election is scheduled for April 17.

A new name for the district was necessitated by the fact that, after consolidation, the schools will no longer comprise a “regional” district. Although the change was not required until January 1, 2013, school administration wanted to have the new name in place for the start of the next fiscal year in July of this year so that they could begin to incorporate it on an updated website, printed documents, banking transactions, etc.

The choices for the new name boiled down to just two: Princeton School District and Princeton Public Schools. An online survey elicited 537 responses from students, staff, parents, and other residents who showed a slight preference for using “Princeton School District.” The spirit implied by the word “public” ruled the day, however.

There will be a public budget workshop on Wednesday, February 22, at 7 p.m. at the Valley Road building. The next Board of Education meeting, which is rescheduled from February 21, will be on February 29 at 8 p.m. at John Witherspoon School.

A recent outbreak of what appears to be norovirus, a gastrointestinal flu, is keeping Princeton and Rider University cleaning crews busy.

“Since January 29, we have seen a total of about 140 students with symptoms of gastroenteritis,” reported Princeton University Spokesperson Martin A. Mbugua at the beginning of the week. “The University has taken a number of measures to try to contain the spread of illness, including increased cleaning of bathroom facilities, and alerting members of the campus community through health advisories about the cases of illness and the need to take appropriate hygiene precautions to limit the spread.”

“The number of reported cases of norovirus among students continues to decline,” reported a Monday update from Rider University, where over 100 cases were originally reported. “We have had a total of 11 reported cases from Sunday morning, February 12, through Monday February 13 at 2 p.m. None of these were sent to the hospital.”

Apparently in response to suggestions that Rider should have been more aggressive in reacting to the outbreak, the update noted that local, county, and state public health officials “supported Rider’s decision to hold classes and events as scheduled.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes norovirus as a “highly contagious” viral infection that may be called by other names, including viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu, and food poisoning. The CDC notes that there is no vaccine to prevent the infection and there is no specific drug to treat people who are experiencing the diarrhea, vomiting, and/or stomach pain associated with the illness. “Most people get better within one to two days,” the CDC reports, although “dehydration can be a problem among some people, especially the very young, the elderly, and people with other illnesses.”

While there is no specific treatment for norovirus, adults infected with it may want to use an over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medicine. These are not recommended for children and babies. Everyone, however, is encouraged to drink water to prevent dehydration.

The infection, which is often associated with cruise ships, is believed to be spread by eating or drinking contaminated liquids; touching surfaces or objects that carry the virus, and then placing the hand in the mouth; and by sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils with an infected person. Hand-washing and, when soap and water are not available, the liberal use of hand sanitizers, appear to be the order of the day. By Monday, bottles of Purell had been placed on service desks all around the Princeton Public Library.

So far, so good: the outbreak appears to be limited to the Princeton and Rider campuses. “I can’t say we’ve that seen any cases,” said Pediatric Group doctor John Cotton. At Princeton Regional School (PRS) District offices, Cyd Trumbo said that they too had not had any reported cases of stomach flu, although a new link (“What is Norovirus?”) was added to the PRS website over the weekend.

“Knock on wood we have not been hit hard yet,” reported Princeton Senior Resource Center Director Susan Hoskins. “Hopefully people know to stay home when they feel ill. We have hand sanitizer available throughout the building and encourage people to use good public health prevention practices.”

Other advice for those who are anxious about contracting norovirus includes carefully washing fruits and vegetables, and thoroughly cooking oysters and other shellfish. Those who are already infected should not be involved in any food preparation. Both Princeton and Rider reported that dormitories and other buildings were undergoing careful cleaning and that food services were on alert.

The outbreak was not completely unexpected, according to Mr. Mbugua. “University Health Services plans for an increase in volume every February, since that is frequently a time when utilization of our services increases, so we have adequate resources to handle the number of students that we have been seeing,” he reported.

February 8, 2012

The Borough and Township have agreed to delay investing in capital projects and to postpone equipment purchases until the two municipalities are consolidated, said Township Mayor Chad Goerner at Monday’s Township Committee meeting. Consolidation will be finalized January 1, 2013.

In the meantime, Mr. Goerner said, the Borough and Township have agreed to work together to ensure that both will be financially in good shape for the merger. Both will be adopting budgets that will finance transition costs over five years, while a one year state grant covers more immediate cash outlays. The next meeting of the transition team will be Wednesday, February 8, at 7 p.m. in Township Hall.

Township Committee members present for the Monday evening meeting included Lance Liverman, Deputy Mayor Liz -Lempert, and Mr. Goerner, who wished absentees Sue Nemeth and Bernie Miller “a speedy recovery so that they can join us at our next action-packed meeting.”

Reports at this week’s session included Ms. Lempert’s description of recent meetings that have given area residents a chance to express their concerns about the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) pilot project to test jughandle closures at Harrison and Washington Streets, ostensibly to relieve traffic congestion on Route 1. The coming move of the Princeton Medical Center to the other side of Route 1 adds to this concern. “Hopefully the DOT will hear us,” Ms. Lempert commented.

Also, this week Township Committee approved an ordinance to amend the code regarding taxicab licenses. Township Attorney Ed Schmierer explained that the new law is in compliance with recent state legislation that sets a minimum requirement for taxi drivers’ liability insurance, and requires them to undergo background checks at their own expense.

In response to a request from Princeton University security, Township Committee also approved an ordinance that will decrease the number of parking spaces and improve sight distance on Alexander Street. Township Engineer Bob Kiser reported that the new ruling had been reviewed by the Traffic Safety Committee.

Appropriations for sidewalk construction on both Grover Avenue and Roper Road were also approved at the meeting. Mr. Kiser noted that residents of each neighborhood will probably continue to discuss which side of the street to pave beyond the public hearing date of February 27.

Committee member Lance Liverman offered a “heads up” on “family dinner week,” which is scheduled to take place in Princeton from April 15 through 22. Local businesses and restaurants will be cooperating in this effort to encourage family members to dine together.

A hirsute Mr. Goerner and Freeholder Andrew Koontz will be guest-tending bar at this year’s “longbeard” competition at the Alchemist and Barrister on February 28. Proceeds of this year’s event will go to Derek’s Dreams, an organization dedicated to raising the awareness of ataxia telangiectasia, a hereditary condition characterized by progressive neurologic problems that lead to difficulty walking.

With the naming of Mark Freda as chairman and Steve Sillars as vice-chairman, the Consolidation Transition Task Force is ready to start planning the merging of the two Princetons. The group held its first organizational meeting last Wednesday and will meet again tonight to tackle such topics as an early retirement program for municipal employees, the proposed hiring of KSS Architects to figure out space planning for merging offices, and other consolidation-related matters.

More than 60 people were on hand for the initial gathering, which was switched from a meeting room at the Township Building to the larger, main meeting hall. Borough Mayor Yina Moore and Township Mayor Chad Goerner led most of the discussion, but will defer at tonight’s meeting and in the future to Mr. Freda, who is a former Borough Council member and emergency services director of Princeton Borough. He and Mr. Sillars were unanimously elected by the task force.

The task force has an initial budget of $50,000, contributed equally by the Township and Borough, for such expenses as hiring independent auditors or consultants. With a preliminary report due April 10, time is short. “This is a very, very aggressive schedule,” said Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi, in his opening summary of the task force’s duties. He and Jim Pascale, who is the Township administrator, said they have been meeting with department heads since consolidation was approved by the voters last November.

The two administrators divided their findings into three areas: organizational charts, transition costs, and the savings that can be achieved through consolidation. Mr. Pascale said that the department heads had been able to find ways to save costs. “There are many hidden costs that need to be addressed,” Pascale said. “From the color of police cars and deciding what to do with that, there are all kinds of costs along those lines as we transition into one community. Department heads have made a tentative list of issues.”

The hiring of an architect firm, specifically KSS, which designed the Municipal Building, was recommended by the administrators to do the space planning involved in merging the offices of the municipalites. “Our goal number one is to start putting bodies in offices in Township Hall, Borough Hall, and the recreation complex,” said Mr. Pascale. “We will need expertise. I met with KSS. Bob is comfortable with KSS. We don’t have a lot of time to go out and solicit bids.”

The money for the services of an architecture firm, estimated at $28,000, would not come from the $50,000 transition budget, but from the money put aside for transition costs. “We don’t have time to have an RFP (request for proposal),” said Mr. Bruschi. “We’re not trying to shove KSS down your throats, but the Township is comfortable with this.”

Task force member Jim Levine urged that the suggestion be tabled until he and his colleagues have had time to consider it. “Moving forward with KSS seems like the cart is way before the horse,” he said. “It just feels like we should have more input.” The group agreed to table the question of hiring KSS until tonight’s meeting.

The members of the task force were urged by several to “follow the road map” established by the Consolidation Commission, which was formed last year to study the consolidation proposal. “I don’t want the task force to get the idea that we’re here to re-invent the wheel,” Mr. Goerner said. “Follow the model of the consolidation commission.” Aaron Lahnston, who chaired the commission, echoed that request. “Be true to the plan,” he said, during the public comment section of the meeting. “The voters voted for it.”

The early retirement incentive program is another priority, Mr. Pascale said. “The consolidation report eliminated 18.5 positions. The law that created the ability to consolidate also has a provision where you can humanely reduce the size of staff through an early retirement program.”

An application must be filed by the Borough and Township with the State of New Jersey to obtain estimates on the cost of an early retirement incentive program. “We might not want to consider the program once we see the numbers,” said Mr. Goerner. “We need to look at the issue from a cost perspective, understanding what other options are available. This is the key critical issue before we move forward.”

During the public comment section of the meeting, Jefferson Road resident Kate Warren asked whether the municipalities must accept bids for the architecture contract. Mr. Bruschi replied that since the contract is considered a professional service, it is exempt from the rules that govern public bidding.

Township resident Henry Sager urged the task force to create “a plan for a plan. It needs to be very clear what you can do as a task force,” he said, adding that differences in work cultures will need to be considered as departments are merged.

Mr. Lahnston urged the task force to consult members of the consolidation commission. “We want to support you,” he said. “Please use us. Call on us. We want to help.” He also recommended that the task force use the commission’s consultant, Center for Governmental Research (CGR), as its project manager.

Kristin Appelget, Princeton University’s director of community relations, offered to provide resources and information. “If there is a subcommittee on town and gown, we’d be interested,” she said.

The task force will hold its public meetings every other Wednesday starting tonight, at 7 p.m., in the municipal building. The group’s term expires June 30, 2013.

A traffic control system that gives emergency vehicles the ability to change a red light to green has been purchased by the University Medical Center at Princeton. Known as Opticom, the program will help Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS) and Princeton University Public Safety vehicles rush patients through the intersection of Harrison Street and Route One to the new hospital complex, which is scheduled to open in May.

The remote-control-operated system, which is in use in neighboring municipalities, gives squads the ability to change the light at Harrison Street, from which they can then pull onto the highway and turn immediately into an access road that leads directly to the emergency room of the hospital.

While this and other efforts by the Medical Center to address traffic issues related to its move from downtown Princeton to Plainsboro are appreciated by some, others remain concerned that access to the emergency room will be compromised. Those not using PFARS to transport someone to the hospital in an emergency could be caught in backed-up traffic with tragic results, they say.

“There is concern that has been presented in the community,” said Township Mayor Chad Goerner. “The initial response to allow for the light changing is a step in the right direction, and we’re going to have to evaluate and make improvements where we can. The ideal situation would have been to have some greater infrastructure improvements,” he added, referring to the Penn’s Neck Bypass, which was proposed a few years ago but abandoned due to environmental concerns. Resurrecting that project would cost upwards of $200 million that the New Jersey Department of Transportation currently does not have.

Access from Princeton to the hospital’s emergency room is among the topics likely to be discussed at an upcoming open meeting of Princeton Future. The community organization will gather in Princeton Public Library’s Community Room on Saturday, February 18, at 9 p.m. for a discussion of emergency management. Representatives of the hospital, Princeton University, Capital Health Systems, PFARS, and Princeton Borough Police will serve on a panel addressing storms and hurricanes, isolation and power outages, preparedness, hazards and threats, and other issues.

“We’re in trouble here, and getting to the hospital, though they’ve done their best, will be a problem,” said Sheldon Sturges, a member of the council of Princeton Future. “We basically need that bypass, but nobody has the money for it now. If one of the outcomes of all this chat between well-meaning people is to figure out how to make sense of the increasing congestion we are facing, then that will be something positive. We need to work together and figure these things out.”

Among those serving on the panel at the Princeton Future event is Pam Hersh, who is Vice President for Government and Community Affairs for Princeton Healthcare System. Ms. Hersh, who has been working on the access issue for the past six years, says that turning onto Route 1 from Harrison Street has already become easier since the NJDOT added a new lane between Eden Way and Route 1, from which it is possible to turn left or right.

“Thus, at the new intersection, it is now possible to go left to the new hospital from two lanes,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Since the completion of the project on December 31, 2011, the backups at Harrison have disappeared. The wait time at the worst rush hour time periods is no more than 1.5 light changes.”

Ms. Hersh added that the reduction in congestion on Harrison Street has been measured with current traffic levels coming out of Princeton. Once the hospital relocates, “… it is moving closer to 70 percent of its patients and employees,” she wrote. “Therefore, traffic volumes coming in and out of Princeton should be reduced, thus making access from Princeton to Plainsboro via Harrison Street even better than it is now.”

The DOT’s recent information session on an experimental closing of the Route 1 jughandles at Harrison Street and Washington Road, starting in mid-March and lasting possibly through May, did not go over well with members of the community. Yesterday, February 7, a group of Princeton officials, merchants, and representatives from Princeton University met with the DOT to ask for a postponement (see box on page 10).

At area organizations such as Princeton Senior Resource Center, the DOT project has inspired increased concern about the upcoming relocation of the hospital. “I think it’s on a lot of people’s minds, and the DOT’s plan to do this now just ramped up the anxiety level,” said PSRC director Susan Hoskins. “The worry about the move reminds me of when the [Princeton Public] library closed down to renovate, and people got all wound up about how it was going to be impossible to get to the library when it was temporarily in the Princeton Shopping Center. Then after it happened some people found it was actually easier. But at the same time, there were people for whom it did become harder to access.

“The same thing might happen here,” Ms. Hoskins said. “But the reality is that it will be harder for some people. We’re making sure that the Crosstown, which is door-to-door car service, will go there. It has been available until now for rides within Princeton. We’re working to ensure that it will be there for people who need it to go to the new hospital.”

Frank Setnicky, who is the director of PFARS, said the emergency squad has been testing the times of rides to the new hospital from different parts of town. “We’ve gone all different routes at different times, and we will be able to get there,” he said. “We will never cross Route 1 against the light. With Optimum, we can clear traffic and get right through. It is something for all of us to get used to, but we think it will work.”

But not all rides to the emergency room are provided by emergency vehicles. “Many people use emergency services without using the EMT’s,” said Ms. Hoskins. “Say your kid is bleeding, you just want to get him to the hospital as quickly as you can so you jump in the car to drive him. That could be a problem getting through.”

Ms. Hersh recommended that anyone with a real emergency call an ambulance rather than driving a patient to the hospital. “Ambulances can always get through the traffic plus EMT’s and medics save lives,” she wrote. “But it will only take minutes to get to the new hospital even if you self drive — which again is not recommended in a real emergency.”

February 1, 2012

An information session about next month’s experimental closings of two Route 1 jughandles brought more than 70 area residents to Borough Hall last Wednesday evening. Department of Transportation officials, who also gave a presentation in West Windsor last week, were faced with an agitated crowd who wanted answers to their questions, and not necessarily in the forum that the DOT intended, which was to answer questions one-on-one.

“Frankly, I don’t need to be pushed into a corner by you guys thinking you know better than us,” said David Newton, vice-president of Palmer Square Management. “I have no idea how you can spring this on us without first talking to the business community.”

Mr. Newton, who was applauded by others in the room, was one of several residents and business owners to express displeasure at the the DOT’s plan to close the jughandles at Harrison Street and Washington Road for up to 12 weeks. The closure is an experiment to see if it would lessen the backups of vehicles waiting to drive through the interchanges in the morning and evening rush hours, when the buildups regularly slow the flow of traffic in the right lane and reduce the road’s capacity.

New Jersey Transportation Commissioner James S. Simpson told the crowd that as a Princeton resident, he understands their concerns. But the traffic problem is such that it needs to be addressed. “If the trial is a complete disaster we will pull the plug,” he said. “But you’ve got to give it a chance.”

Simpson added that he has met over the years with five mayors as well as officials from Princeton University and Princeton Healthcare to discuss the project. “Our modeling says this is a done deal,” he said.

Drivers going north on Route 1 would no longer be able to make a U-turn or a left turn into Princeton using the jughandles. Alternatively, they would need to turn off at Alexander Road, or proceed north to Scudders Mill Road and double back.

Borough Mayor Yina Moore asked the DOT officials if they were considering the environmental impacts of the congestion undoubtedly to be caused by the experiment. One resident asked why the data from last year’s closing of Alexander Road for road construction could not be used, but was told this was not the same type of situation. Another person asked whether there were alternative solutions to the problem.

Among those commenting on the proposal after the meeting was Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner, who said that Route 1 is a highway meant for heavy traffic use.

“This proposal essentially will turn Faculty Road and Alexander Road into significantly higher receivers of traffic congestion — with Faculty Road being forced to serve as an alternative north/south route,” he said in an email. “Princeton should not be forced to take on the consequences of this action and instead the DOT should look at long term Route 1 intersection improvements that result in a holistic compromise for all surrounding communities. Instead, they are trying to tie a band-aid on a traffic problem that has the potential to result in significant consequences for our community and our businesses. This better be just a ‘test’ with open-minds at the DOT that hear the voices of our governing body, our institutions, and our residents. We have not and will not be silent — I can tell you that.”

Bob Durkee, vice president and secretary of Princeton University, said the DOT’s experiment will slow already busy traffic to and from the campus, particularly at the intersection of Faculty and Washington roads. “We have been expressing our concern and will continue to express our concern,” he said. “I believe they have now decided they are going to continue this experiment into June, and that will overlap with our reunions and graduation. We hope they will really look hard at what they learn from the experiment, and that means collecting data at multiple times. And we hope they will approach it with an open mind. This will probably be a significant inconvenience for people trying to get to work at the University, and for visitors and alumni.”

The choice between an April or November election and a prospective name change for the Princeton Regional School District (PRS) were the focus of the Board of Education’s Tuesday evening meeting last week.

As a result of new legislation, every municipality in New Jersey must decide whether or not they want to keep school board elections in April, or move them to the November general election. Superintendent Judy Wilson noted that time was of concern in reaching a decision on the question, since an April election would mean filing petitions by February 29.

The fact that Princeton will be a consolidated entity in January of 2013 adds complexity to board discussions, she continued. Since it will no longer be a “regional” school district, Ms. Wilson explained, it will be necessary to change PRS’s name. (While the high school’s arrangement with Cranbury will not change, it is not defined as a “district.”) The new name will be incorporated into the current revamping of the district and individual schools’ websites.

Vice-President Timothy Quinn made clear that the name change will not lead to additional expenses for the district. “The district will use every sheet of existing letterhead before the name change must take effect on January 1, 2013, and there are no signage considerations,” he said.

Superintendent Judy Wilson observed that the naming options are very limited, with Princeton Public Schools and Princeton School District standing out as two viable possibilities. It was noted that the word “public” in “Princeton Public Schools” may complicate the picture if it subsumes existing and future charter schools in the municipality.

Arguments for moving to a November election include sharing the overhead costs associated with running an election with other municipal departments. The district now pays around $40,000 for each April election. Of equal or perhaps greater consideration is the fact that voter turnout is significantly less in April than in November. The statewide average for April is approximately 11 percent, with Princeton showing a slightly better 14 percent. It was estimated that Princeton voter turnout in November, especially in a presidential election year, could run upwards of “80 or 90 percent.”

In the event of a November election, current school board members coming up for election will be asked to serve an additional eight months, through the end of the year. Board members, who currently represent the Borough and the Township, would serve out their terms and be replaced by candidates elected “at large” by the new municipality. The number of board members would remain at nine, each serving a three-year term.

Another consideration for the board and the community is that an April election would give voters a chance to vote on the annual school budget; a November election would not, leaving it up to the Borough and Township this year, and the consolidated entity in the future. In selecting the month in which they want to have the election, school boards will be making a four-year commitment.

Ms. Wilson also noted that consolidation into a single municipality takes effect in the middle of the school district’s fiscal year. As a result, residents will be paying the respective tax rates in the Borough and Township for six months, and one blended tax rate set by the County Tax Assessor after January 1.

Although Ms. Wilson said that there would be “no determinations” regarding the name change or election date change that evening, some board members weighed in on the issues. Molly Chrein expressed concern about the “partisanship” that might spill over into a November school board election that coincides with other races. In response, Ms. Wilson noted that ballot specifications for the school race ensured that they would look significantly different from anything else that appears on the ballot. She also reminded listeners that school board members take an oath not to make decisions on partisan issues.

School board member Daniel Haughton argued for a November election, saying that it would result in a “better alignment of board members and the budget process.” Describing it as “one more step in taking away local control of schools,” another board member, Charles Kalmbach, expressed concern about the loss of “accountability” that would occur if the elections are held in November.

Discussions of these and other issues are continuing on the board’s Facebook page.

The board also agreed that the impact on school enrollment caused by the 300-plus new housing units that will be built at the current hospital site, and the faculty and graduate student units that are planned for the old Merwick site, could be significant.

Among board president Rebecca Cox’s announcements at the beginning of the meeting was the recent tentative contract agreement reached with district school teachers in the Princeton Regional Educational Association (PREA) and the school board. Pending ratification by PREA members, the board will vote on the contract at a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 7.

Following a nearly four-hour hearing in front of the Regional Planning Board last Thursday night, the future of the Institute for Advanced Study’s proposal to develop faculty housing on land adjacent to Princeton Battlefield Park remains undecided. Based on testimony from witnesses, opponents of the plan now say that less than half of the site could be legally built upon, while proponents disagreed.

Though billed as an opportunity for the public to comment, the meeting was dominated by legal arguments and examinations by attorneys representing the Institute and the Princeton Battlefield Society. The Battlefield Society opposes the project, saying the land should not be disturbed because it was the site of General George Washington’s counterattack and first victory against the British during the 1777 Battle of Princeton.

The Institute wants to build 15 residences for faculty members on land that it owns next to the Park, behind a buffer zone of deciduous and evergreen trees. The project would sit on seven acres and permanently preserve 60 percent of the tract as open space. But a witness examined by Battlefield Society attorney Bruce Afran said that the IAS has a legal right to build only six houses on the property.

Russell Smith of Hopewell Valley Engineering cited setback rules, wetland buffers, and various restrictions that might apply to the zone, stating that the IAS neglected to take them into account before presenting their plan. “The end result of that [analysis] produced six buildable lots,” he said, “six dwelling units that could be built in this cluster.” Cross-examined by IAS attorney Christopher Tarr, Mr. Smith admitted that the analysis was based on his interpretation of Princeton ordinances, which differs from the interpretation of the project’s designer, architect Robert Hillier [a Town Topics shareholder].

This was the third meeting of the Regional Planning Board in three months to be devoted to the housing proposal. As with the previous meetings, there was a capacity crowd of supporters for both sides of the issue. The Institute wants to build the development because housing in the neighborhood of Springdale Road and Mercer Street has become too costly to purchase for faculty. The housing cluster would include seven single-family homes and eight townhomes, as well as a new road and stormwater retention basin.

Before a grilling by Mr. Afran about the concept plan, Mr. Hillier called the project “a good way to plan, a good way to preserve green space, and, frankly, a good way to encourage clusters.” He used examples of previous clusters he has designed, including The Glen, which contains more than 50 percent green space, and Pond View, which protected its neighboring wetlands.

Among those to speak against the housing plan was Glenn Williams, a senior historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History and a trustee of the Battlefield Society. “It is not the intention of historic preservation to save every blade of grass on a battlefield,” he said. “It is the intention of historic preservation to save the historic acreage of a historic battlefield.” A battlefield is “a classroom, a laboratory,” he continued, adding that the National Park Service has designated the Princeton Battlefield as a “priority one” for being endangered.

Residents who spoke in favor of the plan included architect William S. Greenberg, a former chairman of the Township zoning board. “I urge you to reach beyond the rhetoric and make your determination on the merit” of the proposal, he said, adding, “It isn’t a particular piece of ground, but what occurred there.”

The next meeting of the Planning Board to be devoted to the housing proposal is February 16.

January 25, 2012

Early last December, Princeton Borough Council proposed the formation of a Transportation Corridor Special Improvement District [SID] in the area extending from Nassau Street down University Place to the Township border. Concerned about how this measure would affect local businesses, the Princeton Mechants Association [PMA] wrote letters to local newspapers requesting that the discussion be tabled until they had an opportunity to examine the issue more closely.

Members of PMA had a chance to learn more about the proposal and share their views on the subject at a meeting yesterday, January 24, in the Princeton Public Library’s Community Room. Borough Councilman Kevin Wilkes and Princeton University Director of Regional and Community Affairs Kristin Appelget were among those to informally address the more than 50 PMA members in attendance about how the SID would work.

“The purpose of today’s meeting is to share information,” said Mark Censits, one of PMA’s directors and the owner of Cool Vines store, at the beginning of the session. “The goal is for PMA to accurately represent the opinion of its members.”

Special Improvement Districts are organization, management, and financing tools used by local businesses to provide specialized services that complement existing municipal government services as part of a revitalization plan. Princeton Borough has looked into the formation of such districts in the past. SIDs have been established in such communities as Westfield, Newark, New Brunswick, and Jersey City. Proponents of the Princeton proposal said it would use assessments of non-residential properties to fund improvements in the new district such as crosswalks, bridges, tunnels, and light rail service.

Borough Council’s proposal for the SID was supposed to be formally introduced at a meeting last month, but was moved off the agenda and then expired at the end of the year. It is expected to be brought up again.

“The topic is back out there, and the board wants to have a position if need be,” said PMA board member and Princeton Shopping Center general manager Chris Hanington, after the meeting. “A lot of the merchants in our organization are not Princeton residents, and they might not read the local papers and know about this,” she said. “We wanted to get the information to them. That’s what PMA is all about.”

As it was first described last month, the proposed district would be managed by a seven-member district management corporation called “Princeton on the Move” [POM]. The non-profit group would be composed of the mayor, business administrator, a Borough resident, a business or property owner, a representative of the merchants’ association, and a business or property owner from Nassau Street between Vandeventer Avenue and University Place.

Nearly 36 properties, most along University Place, would be included in the district. Residential properties would be exempted. Most of the sites are owned by Princeton University. The anticipated assessment during the first year would be no more than $90,000.

Mr. Wilkes told the PMA members that a SID would not replace, but rather augment, existing services. It would be specifically focused on the potential extension of the existing Dinky transit line, with multiple stops.

Borough Council members Jenny Crumiller and Jo Butler, who attended the meeting, also commented about the issue. “You should all be concerned,” said Ms. Butler, who is opposed to the SID. “You’d have merchants on Witherspoon Street making decisions about East Nassau Street.” She added that a transit system with multiple stops could be a problem resulting in decreased ridership and inconvenience for those who currently ride the Dinky train. Ms. Crumiller commented, “The best decisions are democratic, and I don’t like adding a layer of bureaucracy.”

Mr. Censits spoke about his experiences with a SID in Westfield, where he has had a store since 2007. At the time the SID was formed, the town had a vacancy of approximately 40 percent. But it was substantially revitalized, recruiting such retailers as Trader Joe’s and holding fairs and festivals. Despite its success, Mr. Censits says he believes the SID has outlived its usefulness.

Architect Joshua Zinder asked if the SID would potentially benefit Princeton University, disproportionately to others.

Jim Sykes, president of the Princeton University Store, said he was having trouble understanding how a transit-related SID would serve the store’s interest. “We already pay $150,000 in property taxes,” he said. “Why would we be asked to pay an assessment?”

Mr. Wilkes responded that a transit stop adjacent to the store would bring more customers. Mr. Sykes countered that most of his customers are students who walk from campus. “To us, it seems this is maybe a little premature,” he said.

At its Monday evening meeting, Township Committee modified and then approved a resolution establishing a Transition Task Force. Other Township news this week includes Mayor Chad Goerner’s recent announcement that he will not seek election as mayor of the consolidated Princetons in 2013.

“Having served for almost six years, I have achieved everything that I set out to accomplish when I first ran for office in 2006,” said Mr. Goerner, who is 36 years old. “I will instead serve the remainder of my term as mayor and guide the town through a smooth transition without any political distraction.”

Mr. Goerner commented that he really had two full-time jobs: one as a vice-president of the Swiss global finances services company, UBS, and the other as Township mayor.

This balancing act, along with a potential interest in starting a new business led him to “step back a bit” and “take a hiatus.” He did not preclude the possibility of returning to politics, however.

“I never had a plan to be mayor for decades,” Mr. Goener observed. “When I first ran for Township Committee in 2006, I had set a goal of consolidation, increased transparency, and fiscal responsibility. We’ve accomplished all of those things and more.”

Mr. Goerner’s current assignments include membership on the Library Board of Trustees, the Historic Preservation Commission, the Tax/Finance Committee, The Consolidation Commission, the Transition Task Force, and the Transit Force.

Consolidation was probably the number one goal on Mr. Goerner’s to-do list, and he expressed satisfaction at having participated in efforts that lead to the municipalities’ willingness to become one entity. These included, he said, writing op-ed pieces on consolidation and developing the proposal to study it under the Local Option Municipal Consolidation Act. Acceptance of the proposal led the way to the creation of the Joint Shared Services and Consolidation Commission.

As a member of the Commission, Mr. Goerner chaired the finance subcommittee “and campaigned tirelessly for consolidation once it was placed on the ballot.”

“The towns approved consolidation by a significant margin and we established a repeatable process for other towns,” he added. “Princeton will serve as a model for towns across the state.”

His goal now is to “seek a smooth transition to a single governing body in 2013.” After that, he said, it would probably be a good idea to have “new people come forward” to serve on the new governing body.

Mr. Goerner described the current governing body on which he has served as “a fantastic group of colleagues and municipal staff. I have been proud of what I have accomplished and it has been an honor to serve my community.”

Consolidation was on the minds of Township Committee members at its Monday evening meeting, when they approved an amended version of a resolution establishing the Transition Task Force. The first meeting of the task force will be held on Tuesday, January 31, at 7 p.m. in Township Hall.

While Township representatives to the team had already been approved, the committee fine-tuned the wording of several sentences in the resolution.

Citing the potential for “structural problems,” Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert questioned the resolution’s directive for one person from each municipality to serve as co-chairs of subcommittees. Successful subcommittees on the Consolidation Commission, it was noted, had a chair and a vice-chair, rather than co-chairs. It was suggested that the wording of the current resolution be changed so that the task force itself will decide on the model they want to use. Another proposed change to the resolution is the addition of words that will provide for additional meetings if needed. Borough Council will be asked to concur with these changes.

Princeton Township representatives to the Transition Team include residents Dorothea Berkhout, executive director for administration at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University; Linda Mather, president of Beacon Consulting Associates and League of Women Voters moderator; and Scott Sillars, president of Isles E4 and chair of the Citizen’s Finance Advisory Committee for Princeton Township. Miller Investment Management senior executive Gary Patterson will serve as an alternate member.

Elected officials from the Township include Mayor Chad Goerner and Committeeman Bernie Miller. Both served on the Consolidation Commission as well and are expected to provide a liaison between the two groups.

Other business at Monday night’s meeting included approval of an ordinance to appropriate $2,550,000 for the rehabilitation of the Township sewer system. Township engineer Bob Kiser reported that Grover Avenue, Battle Road, and Roper Road are among the streets scheduled for work. The public hearing for this ordinance will be on Monday, February 27.

Taxi drivers in the Township will be asked to provide background checks and have insurance that is in compliance with a new state law if an ordinance introduction approved on Monday evening is approved at a public hearing on Monday, February 6.

Sue Nemeth announced that the Sewer Operating Committee had elected a new chair, former Borough Councilman David Goldfarb. Ms. Nemeth will serve as vice-chair. She also reported that pool renovations are “moving along at a brisk pace,” and that bricks with family names to be placed at the site are for sale.

Designs for a residential community on the site of the former Merwick rehabilitation center and its neighboring Stanworth complex were presented to the Regional Planning Board on Thursday, January 19. This was a concept hearing, so no vote was taken. Residents of the surrounding neighborhoods were given an opportunity to comment, and several voiced concerns about safety and already existing runoff issues.

Princeton University is developing the site off Bayard Lane for faculty, staff, and their families, with 20 percent devoted to affordable housing available to low-and-moderate-income local residents. Those units would be spread throughout the complex rather than isolated in one section, developers told the Planning Board.

The plans call for the existing Stanworth homes to be rebuilt and expanded. The University built the complex in the late 1940‘s to house faculty and staff. The adjacent Merwick site, which the University purchased in 2010 from Princeton Healthcare System when it was announced that Merwick was moving to Plainsboro, will be all new construction. The old building was recently demolished.

The Georgetown Company of New York City is the developer for the project, and Torti Gallas and Partners of Maryland are the architects. Sustainability and the maintenance of existing trees and green space are key features of the plan. Architect Lawrence Antoine said the challenge and design directive was to try to mix the different housing into a cohesive form. “We will pick up some of the massing standards of the existing Stanworth,” he said. “There will be similar massing in different-sized buildings.”

The first phase of the project is expected to begin with the nine-acre Merwick site. Plans call for 128 units within two-story townhomes, two-story multifamily stacked units, and three-story apartment buildings. The University expects to open the complex in the fall of 2014. The 17-acre Stanworth site, which is Phase 2 of the construction, will include the redevelopment of 198 units in two-story townhomes and two-story multi-family stacked flats. The existing 154 units will be demolished, and the new construction will be on the footprints of the old, when possible, in order to preserve as many trees as possible.

Previous to that, Stanworth will house graduate students who will vacate the Hibben-Magie complex while it is being redeveloped. Stanworth will then be emptied for construction, with faculty and staff scheduled to move in during the fall of 2016.

A large, wooded area would back up to homes on John Street. It is on that street, and on Leigh Avenue, that drainage problems already exist. “It’s a pretty serious problem,” said resident Hendricks Davis. “Indeed, a river runs from it and through it.”

Edgar Lampert, vice chairman of the Georgetown Company, acknowledged the problem and said all of the piping on the site will be replaced. “But still, there are challenges with the runoff to Leigh Avenue,” he said. “Our consultants are looking at that.”

Plans call for the main entrance into the housing complex to be the same as it was when the rehabilitation center was there. Traffic in and out is estimated to be approximately 21 percent less, according to consultant Georges Jacquemart. But residents of Cleveland Lane, which is opposite the entrance road, expressed doubt at the figure and concerns about safety.

“It’s a dangerous intersection,” said Debbie Morrison, who lives on the street. “I was hit by a car there in 2009.” Her husband Jack Morrison urged the developers to consider installing a flashing walkway. Other residents of the surrounding neighborhoods suggested such considerations as widening the sidewalk on Bayard Lane, minimizing exterior lighting, and making sure that future redevelopment plans of the YWCA and YMCA are kept in mind.

January 18, 2012

“LOUDER, PLEASE”: Keynote speaker Bob Moses encouraged youngsters to proclaim the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution at Princeton University’s Martin Luther King Day program. (Photo Courtesy of the Princeton University, Office of Communications, Denise Applewhite.)

Bob Moses, currently a Distinguished Visitor at the Center for African American Studies, was this year’s keynote speaker at Princeton University’s Martin Luther King Day celebration. The program, which took place on Monday afternoon in Richardson auditorium, examined the role of education in achieving civil rights as participants encouraged listeners to continue Dr. King’s “journey.”

President Shirley Tilghman cited U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s belief that “education is the civil rights issue of our generation.”

Mr. Moses is credited with creating “a pedagogical revolution” with his Algebra Project (see, and he did something pretty revolutionary at the Monday program. Asking all the teen-agers in the audience to join him on the stage, Mr. Moses led them in what he described as a “we the people” session. The goal was to demonstrate the belief “that every child has a right to a quality education to succeed in this technology-based society and to exercise full citizenship.”

In an earlier skit leading up to the recitation, a young black man named “Jimmy Crawford” tried to help a black woman register to vote, without success. Minutes later when Mr. Moses asked the 50-plus youngsters on stage who Jimmy Crawford worked for, their resounding response was “the people of the world.” To emphasize his belief in getting “Jim Crow out of education,” and the importance — and appropriateness — of using the Constitution as a tool to achieve that goal, the Harlem-born activist then led the youngsters through the Preamble. “It doesn’t say ‘we the press,’” he told them. “It doesn’t say ‘we the Supreme Court.’ It says ‘we the people.’”

Members of the audience on Monday afternoon included Congressman Rush Holt (D-12); Mercer County Freeholder Andrew Koontz; and Township Committeeman Lance Liverman.

In her opening comments, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity Michele Minter introduced the educational focus of the program by citing “dismal” statistics and the on-going presence of inner-city “drop-out factories.” This year, she noted, marks the 55th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas “by the brave and steadfast young people known as the Little Rock Nine.”

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” Ms. Minter observed, citing Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

This year’s Journey Award for Special Achievement went to senior Sandra Mukasa, who was described as “a bold and dynamic leader.” Since her arrival in 2008, Ms. Mukasa “has not been shy abut working to create an environment that is welcoming and safe for students who are part of the LGBTQ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, Queer] community.”

Introducing sociology and international affairs professor Miguel Centeno, this year’s recipient of the Journey Award for Lifetime Service, Ms. Tilghman spoke of his work as a founder of the Princeton University Preparatory Program in 2000 (PUPP), a mentoring program for disadvantaged high school students. After ten years, evidence shows that PUPP alumni have college retention and graduation averages above national averages. and have attended some of the best schools in the country, including Princeton.

Some youngsters had an opportunity to return to the Richardson stage when the winners of the annual visual arts, literary, and video contests were announced. Students had been asked to submit original writings, artwork, and videos that focused on “the importance of a quality education as a foundation for success throughout life.”

Well-received musical interludes at the beginning and end of Monday’s program were provided by the Ewing-based New Perspective Jazz Band.