February 15, 2012

Public Input Is Integral to Task Force Mission As Team Members Discuss Ways to Achieve It

On February 8, at the second meeting of the Transition Team Task Force charged with shepherding Princeton Township and Borough through consolidation, some members expressed differing views as to how many of their sessions should be open to public input. Dorothea Berkhout commented that because the team will make recommendations to the Borough and Township, rather than decisions, she was not sure it qualified as a public body under the Open Public Meetings Act. Colleague Brad Middlekauff added that it may be less efficient to solicit public input at every meeting. Team member Jim Levine suggested forming a committee to keep the public informed.

However, Chairman Mark Freda said that keeping the proceedings public was an integral part of the team’s mission. “The message to me by the majority of the people has been clear. We will do the absolutely best we can to perform this process in public,” he said. “Public participation in this process is critical.”

Township Administrator Jim Pascale said that according to the Township attorney, the task force must conduct its business in public, since it is a public body. The only exception would be if a topic under discussion legally falls within the parameters of an executive session. Bernie Miller said the group should “think about what is legal and what is the public’s perception of what we’re doing. This cannot be done behind closed doors.” The group agreed they should find an attorney, but in the meantime ask the governing bodies to amend its resolution so that they can make use of the attorneys for the Borough and Township.

In other action at the meeting, the Task Force agreed to form several subcommittees in the areas of personnel policies; public safety and merging police departments; public works, engineering and recreation; and finance. While the finance committee is already full, the Task Force is looking for volunteers to serve on the other four, and several more are expected to be named in coming weeks.

The personnel subcommittee held its first meeting on February 13. The future of Princeton’s municipal employees, 18 of whom will lose their jobs by the consolidation deadline of January 1, 2013, was the focus of the meeting. Currently, Township and Borough employees have different benefits regarding sick leave and pay increases. It was suggested that the periodic pay increases that Township employees receive based on longevity be grandfathered in.

To express interest in serving on a committee, send a resume and cover letter no later than 5 p.m. Friday, February 17 to either: Linda McDermott, Township Clerk, 400 Witherspoon St., Princeton, N.J. 08540, or lmcdermott@princeton-township.nj.us, or Delores Williams, Borough Deputy Clerk, 1 Monument Drive, Princeton, N.J. 08540, or dwilliams@princetonboro.org.