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Township Committee, Police Eye New Law to Keep Streets Clean

Matthew Hersh

A new law that went into effect Monday in Princeton Township aimed at keeping roads clean of leaf piles and other debris will be "aggressively enforced," officials said.

The impetus for the law came last year when the Township was faced with dealing with revised state storm water regulations aimed at improving ground and drinking water. A major component of those regulations is to keep clear inlets and drains that often trap debris that could infiltrate the water supply. The new storm water mandate went into effect last Friday.

The Township's changes to its road collection program are focused mainly around two elements that restrict materials from being placed closer than 10 feet to any storm water inlet and prohibiting materials being put out more than one week before the scheduled collection.

In the past, officials said, there had been problems with landscapers and homeowners putting out brush on an weekly basis.

Township Engineer Robert Kiser said because many residents may be used to the former monthly collections, enforcement would be pivotal and that non-compliance would result in a fine.

Sgt. Thomas Murray, who is also the Township's traffic safety officer, said that violations would be met with mandatory court appearances, but fines would be determined on a "case-by-case" basis.

Unlike previous ordinances, the new law allows police to enforce the removal of obstructed roadways and to contact Public Works to remove the items.

"We can take care of it immediately," he said.

But as far as fines for not following the rule, which could go upwards of $100, Sgt. Murray said the goal was not to be punitive.

"The ordinance is meant to have everyone work toward 100 percent compliance," he said. However, Sgt. Murray said, repeat offenders would be handled differently than one-time rule-breakers.

When Township Committee began deliberating revisions to the brush and log collection program last summer, the issue of enforcement was pivotal. A somewhat common practice of landscapers, whether they are cognizant of it or not, is that debris is not always necessarily placed in front of the property on which their are working. That could make it difficult to identify who is at fault for a violation.

But a major part of establishing the rule throughout the municipality is an education campaign that will inform residents of the pick-up changes. At a news conference Monday at the TV 30 studios on Witherspoon Street, Township officials attempted to launch the education process.

"We have been trying for a long time to get the public to understand the need for something like this," said Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand, citing public safety issues.

"These require us to be more diligent about how we treat material that could get into the storm water run-off," said Township Deputy Mayor Bernie Miller, calling debris that finds its way into a road's right-of-way "unsightly and unsafe."

Public Works Superintendent Donald Hansen said under the new rule, landscapers will be required to pay a $10 registration fee to the Township before it begins any work and that the Township was reaching out to area contractors to inform them of the new rule.

"When they come in, they're going to get the information," he said. "But that's the problem we had in the past where we'd clean up an area and it was not necessarily the residents who put [the debris] out, but the landscapers put it out."

Mr. Hansen added that there is a composting facility on Princeton Pike in Lawrence Township through which he has contacted landscapers to inform them of the new requirements.

For pick-up, the Township has been quartered into geographic segments: northeast; northwest; southeast; and southwest. Section I, the northeast quadrant is being picked up this week. Section II, the southeast quadrant will begin pick-up starting Monday, April 11; with Section III, the southwest quadrant, on the week of April 18; and Section IV, the northwest quadrant, on the week of April 25. Each quadrant will have three subsequent pick-up weeks until the early fall.

A newsletter has been sent to all Township homes and complete information is available on the municipal Web site.

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