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Vol. LXV, No. 5
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
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Council Split on Pool Funding, Will Need Four Votes to Pass

Dilshanie Perera

After almost four hours of presentations, comments, and debate, Borough Council introduced an ordinance for the funding of its portion of the Community Park Pool redesign up to a maximum of $2,053,500.

The 3-3 split, in which Council members Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, and David Goldfarb cast their votes in favor of the introduction of the ordinance, and Roger Martindell, Barbara Trelstad, and Council President Kevin Wilkes voted against it, was broken by Mayor Mildred Trotman, who supported the project.

The vote is the first step in a process that could lead to the passage of the ordinance, thereby signaling a commitment by the Borough to fund its share of the project, which would involve a renovation and redesign of the pool complex at Community Park. Princeton Township has already passed a corresponding ordinance that would fund two thirds of the project.

Additionally, the Princeton Parks and Recreation Fund has committed to raising $1 million in donations that will go directly toward the renovation of the pool, thereby reducing the amount that the Borough and Township would need to contribute. Other funds raised would contribute to keeping attendance costs low. The Fund’s main objective is to assist in raising funds for capital projects highlighted in the Joint Recreation Board’s 2008 Recreation and Parks Master Plan.

Tensions at the meeting centered on the cost of the renovation, design elements, and the inability to proceed without an indication of the Borough’s support for the project.

Mr. Martindell characterized finances as his main concern, supporting funding $100,000 “to get things running” but only agreeing to $1 million, “with a further pledge to $2 million” once the debt management plan and revolving fund have been adequately discussed.

Agreeing with Mr. Martindell, Mr. Wilkes noted the “wide range” of the costs for the pool complex, with the pools themselves which range from $3.9 to $3.1 million depending on materials, or $1.6 million if a full renovation but not replacement were to occur. Construction costs for the building range from $1.9 to $1.3 million, with a complete repair of the existing buildings to cost approximately $700,000. Likewise, site work could range from $530,000 to $340,000, he said.

“We need to move forward cautiously,” Ms. Trelstad agreed.

“I find it disturbing that this process has been going on for two years and to throw out the debt management plan is a red herring,” Ms. Butler countered. “We’ve got to introduce this and move on.”

Mr. Goldfarb spoke in favor of the ordinance and the “work that has been done,” saying that “all parties involved have acted in good faith.”

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi pointed out that “the cost for the Borough, in terms of scope, is no more than [last year’s] Mercer Street project.” At $1.5 to 2 million, the cost will fit within the debt management plan, he said.

“It’s all about making priorities,” Mr. Bruschi continued. “It’s really not a hard decision if you break it down.” He also noted that once the ordinance is introduced, the balances can be cancelled anytime.

During the meeting, Recreation Board member Thomas Zucosky presented a general overview of the proposed pool complex, urging the Borough to vote in favor of funding. He noted that the project cost, which was initially proposed at $8.7 million, was scaled back to $6.1 million, with estimates that the bids will actually come in at $5.5 million.

“The pools are in dire need of repair,” Mr. Zucosky said, noting that health and ADA compliance was questionable.

Built in 1967, the Community Park Pool has seen declining membership in recent years, particularly after the economic collapse in 2008. Mr. Zucosky pointed out that those who had discontinued their membership in 2009 cited some reasons for leaving: the need for more shade, more activities for teens, a transitional pool for younger children, and more seating around the pool.

Additional community-wide input regarding new pool complex designs has been addressed in the current plans, Mr. Zucosky said, elaborating upon amenities like zero-depth entry in the children’s wading pool and in the family bay that is attached to the main 50 by 25 meter swimming pool. Maintaining the green space and moving the buildings back while installing the plumbing and maintenance system underneath the structures are all part of the latest plan designed by Brandstetter Carroll Inc.

Project Manager Deanna Stockton, who is the design engineer for Princeton Township, explained that the the pool design is an “evolving process,” and that plans had changed since the proposal appeared before the Planning Board last July. Alterations include a smaller “family bay” area attached to the main pool, and smaller administrative and management buildings. The existing changing rooms, which are approximately 2,700 square feet, will be reduced in size by 700 square feet.

Bid alternates involving the materials used to build the pool will consider full concrete pools; a half-concrete, half-stainless steel hybrid; and a Myrtha construction, which involves a PVC-lined stainless steel pool.

Already, approximately $400,000 has been expended on the current plans. Ms. Stockton emphasized that “time is of the essence,” since prices may escalate the longer they wait to send out the bids and request proposals. The most recent plans reduce the size of the buildings by about a total of 2,000 square feet, and at $130 per square foot, it represents significant savings.

“In order to be under construction by September 6, we need to put out the bid by May,” Ms. Stockton said, adding that plans and design agreements have to be completed by early February.

Chair of the Princeton Parks and Recreation Fund Peter O’Neill observed that given the importance of the pool to the community, “we cannot fail.”

“Perfect is the enemy of good,” Mr. O’Neill said. “The current design is a very good one. If it is not perfect in the opinion of some, we still must move on.”

Township Committee member Lance Liverman called the pool a “jewel in the social fabric of the Princeton community” where “anyone is welcome,” underscoring his support for the project.

Ronald Berlin of the Ad Hoc Committee formed by concerned residents and parties interested in the pool complex urged that the design remain “rooted in the values of the community” and “keep the buildings simple, rustic, and camp-like,” in addition to maintaining the affordability and accessibility of the space.

Also on the Ad Hoc Committee, Ellen Randall characterized the plan as leaving many unanswered questions about liability issues, what the community really wants, and whether membership will actually increase given the changes.

Resident Henry Singer cautioned the Borough to “make a decision on funding the pool,” because “if you equivocate, the schedule will make the decision for you.”

Though the Mayor could legally break the tie to introduce the ordinance at last week’s meeting, the final adoption of the ordinance must pass with at least 4 votes from Council members, with the Mayor not allowed to vote, even in the event of a tie.

The vote on the adoption of the ordinance is scheduled for Tuesday, February 22 at Borough Council’s 7:30 p.m. open public meeting.

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