Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 43
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
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Revenue, Health Department, Police Officer Suspension Spur Borough Council Talk

Dilshanie Perera

Reports by Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Sandra Webb, Health Officer David Henry, and Borough Police Lieutenant Sharon Papp drove the dialogue at last Tuesday’s Borough Council meeting.

While Borough expenditures remain on track for the year, with 72 percent of the proposed monies, or $18,393,596 spent by the end of the third quarter, the Borough has seen only 60 percent of its revenue realized, according to the Borough’s 2008 nine-month Revenue Report.

The Borough projected that $25,264,213 would be collected in revenue over the entire year, but at the end of the third quarter only $15,202,707, or 60 percent instead of the projected 75 percent, has been garnered.

The shortfall is due to a divergence between some of the projected numbers, and the realized returns, including parking utility surplus, a donation from Princeton University, New Jersey state aid, payment by the Township for joint services, interest on investments and deposits, and a payment of $211,765 by the Princeton Theological Seminary.

The report states that the anticipated operating surplus from the parking utility was $1.1 million, whereas only 45 percent, or $500,000 has been received. Likewise, Princeton University’s expected contribution totals over a million dollars, but as of September 30, only $250,000 had been realized.

While state aid is greater than expected regarding uniform construction code fees, which total $640,789, energy receipts tax and consolidated municipal property tax relief have yet to be granted.

Noting that the Princeton Regional Health Department is “constantly looking for opportunities to fund public health” while also being “committed to reducing the burden on the Borough and Township” and to “enhancing community partnerships and relationships,” Mr. Henry said that simply by virtue of being a regional agency, the department has saved “close to three million dollars over the past 10 years.”

The Borough and Township Boards of Health and Health Department have been active since 1880, and were joined together as the regional health agency for the Princetons in 1976, according to Mr. Henry.

The report detailed public health-related happenings in 2007, among them the beginning of the Congo case concerning the mauling of landscaper Giovanni Rivera by a German shepherd; a prostate health screening program; and the outlining of a pandemic flu outbreak plan. Goals for 2008 include finishing the Community Health Needs Assessment survey, completing the cat and dog census, resolving the “trash issues” in downtown areas, and achieving a 50 percent hybrid vehicle fleet. In 2007, the department’s one hybrid vehicle reduced overall fuel consumption by $800.

Regarding community partnerships, Mr. Henry assured Council that the Health Department would continue its relationship with the hospital and is “looking to piggyback on their programs while they’re still here and after they’re away.” The hospital is to leave a community station and health education center in town after it moves to Plainsboro, Mr. Henry remarked.

The monthly police report saw questions by Council members regarding the suspended police officers, and frustrations regarding pay. Lt. Papp reported that one officer, Sergeant Kenneth Riley, was charged and released from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s office; a hearing is scheduled for the end of October.

After an internal affairs investigation in February, Sgt. Riley and two other Borough Police officers, Sgt. Kevin Creegan and Patrolman William Perez were suspended with pay. When Sgt. Riley was indicted by a county grand jury last month, his pay was suspended.

Council member David Goldfarb acknowledged that the delay is in the Prosecutor’s Office, which sees cases throughout Mercer County, and that the Borough has “no choice but to sit and wait and pay until they consider the case.” He characterized the process as “a system that is broken and needs to be fixed.”

“This is costing our taxpayers in hard economic times,” Council member Barbara Trelstad remarked, suggesting that a letter be sent to Governor Corzine. Mayor Trotman agreed to send one.

Council member Roger Martindell argued that the issue of the suspended officers “really should be front burner” and that the “questions should be identified and resolved …. This case is still under investigation eight months later; how much longer will it take?”

Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi agreed, saying, “I share your frustrations” but adding that there is a “constant push at this end” to resolve the case as soon as possible. Now that Sgt. Riley has been released from the Prosecutor’s office, Borough staff are, he said, “inquiring as to whether a suspended officer could be taken off the road to handle administrative work.”

Currently, “we’re paying them to sit at home, and that’s an outrage,” Mr. Martindell said.

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