Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 44
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
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Public Engagement Is Key for Consolidation and Joint Services Study Commission’s Progress

— Dilshanie Perera

The public meeting held at John Witherspoon Middle School last week was the first major interaction between local residents, members of the Consolidation and Joint Services Study Commission, and the consultants from the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) hired to conduct the study.

Commission Vice Chair Valerie Haynes said that the goal was to begin “building an open and ongoing dialogue with the community,” provide citizens with insight as to what the commission had achieved so far, and introduce them to the website.

The site, located at, offers residents a way of sharing their opinions and suggestions about consolidation, shared services, and the general process by which the study is unfolding. News, data, and events are all posted to the site as they become available, so it will be an archival resource for the community as well.

Citizens are encouraged to sign up for the site and to interact with the commission and consultants through the virtual interface, in addition to attending monthly meetings, which are all open to the public.

Though 30 people were at last week’s meeting, and as of last Thursday, 15 were signed up for the website, Ms. Haynes expects the numbers of local residents participating to increase as the study moves forward.

“Everyone felt that this was a positive meeting, and that we achieved what we wanted to achieve,” Ms. Haynes noted, reporting that residents brought up concerns ranging from problems of governance and contact with local representatives in a consolidated community to leaf collection and zoning at the borders between the municipalities.

Last week also saw the regularly scheduled meeting of the commission wherein the subcommittees that were focusing on particular aspects of consolidation and shared services, including the public works and police departments, finance, public engagement, and full consolidation, explained their paths forward.

Each subcommittee, which is comprised of three to four members of the commission, will use data gathered by the CGR as well as an analysis of public opinion, and a thorough understanding of the various departments and their internal operations to come to conclusions about their specific subject areas.

“There are a lot of dynamics that you can’t reduce to a chart,” Ms. Haynes explained.

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