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Township Committee Discusses Sidewalks; New Contract for Police

Ellen Gilbert

Assessment confirmation of sidewalk repairs done on Sycamore Road and Riverside Drive was the focus of the only public comment at Monday’s Township Committee meeting.

Sycamore Street neighbors John Respess and Rosalyn Dayan both expressed displeasure with the 50/50 arrangement under which property holders share the cost of sidewalk repairs with the Township. Both noted the absence of sidewalks in front of houses across the street, and the heavy foot traffic in front of their own. “It’s a public asset,” said Mr. Respess, who suggested that the notion of paying for repairs in front of one’s own house may date “back to colonial times,” but is no longer viable.

A new, four-year contract for Township police was announced at the meeting. “We have agreed to a four percent salary increase in each of the four years, which keeps us under the state-mandated cap and in line with area police settlements,” said Mayor Phyllis Marchand. The contract will run from 2008 through 2011. Deputy Mayor Bernie Miller, who was part of the Township’s negotiating team, noted that they “negotiated medical insurance givebacks in the form of higher medical deductibles and co-pays which will lower the overall cost of the contract to our taxpayers.”

Ms. Marchand and Mr. Miller both complimented the Policemen’s Benevolent Association for completing negotiations in-house without the need for legal counsel and avoiding binding arbitration, which would have cost both parties thousands of dollars in legal fees. “Our taxpayers and the PBA membership both benefit from the good working relationship that we enjoy, said Ms. Marchand.

The Mayor read a proclamation declaring May 18-24 “Public Works Week” in the Township. She commended Superintendent Donald R. Hansen for the “extraordinary” department he leads, and encouraged the public to become acquainted with the issues and contributions of public works employees, who are responsible for snow removal, road repairs, sewers, and other health and safety concerns.

Public safety came under discussion again when Mr. Miller pointed out that a resolution to support a “State Police Communication Network” represented one of several instances of the state divesting itself of an expense it used to cover, and putting the burden on local municipalities. The Township will now have to pay $400 a month for a dedicated computer line that facilitates contact between the state and local authorities.

The committee passed an ordinance approving the extension of parking restrictions on Guyot Avenue in front of John Witherspoon Middle School to 7 p.m. (they are now 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.), in response to a request from the Princeton Regional School District, which noted the interference of cars with buses transporting children to and from after-school activities. A public hearing on this measure will be held on June 9.

It is hoped that drivers of trucks weighing more than four tons will think twice about traveling on Mercer Street as a result of another ordinance passed Monday evening, raising the penalty for overweight vehicles driving on the street’s old stone bridge from $50 to $1,000. Patrol Officer Kim Hodges was credited with the idea for the increase, which will also receive a public hearing on June 9.

The 2008 budget, which will be presented at the June 9 meeting, is near completion according to Township Administrator James J. Pascale, who described the year-long process that went into creating and fine-tuning it. The request that departments remain at or below their 2007 budgets was, he said, met for the most part, and input from the Finance Committee and other members of the Township Committee was reflected in revisions. Other changes may be necessary when the state budget is announced.

The advent of warm weather was reflected in announcements by Ms. Marchand, who encouraged everyone to attend the May 24 Memorial Day Parade on Nassau Street, and Committeeman Lance Liverman, who reminded people that it’s time to sign up for Community Park pool membership.

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