August 22, 2012

Council and TTF Meetings Are Focused on Fine Points Of Consolidation Process

Updates on municipal office moves and regulations for the newly united police force were the focus of the most recent meeting of Princeton Borough Council. On August 14, the governing body heard from administrator Bob Bruschi about which offices will be located where and when, and from Borough Police Captain Nick Sutter and consultant Frank Rodgers about how the merging of the Borough and Township police departments is progressing.

The following night, the Transition Task Force (TTF) talked about transition costs while hearing updates from various committees involved in overseeing consolidation, which takes effect January 1, 2013.

Mr. Bruschi reported that the biggest changes in the consolidation of offices will be to the police department and the administrator and clerk’s office in the Township municipal building. “We expect to start shifting municipal offices in September, and hope to have everybody in their final office locations by mid-November at the latest,” he said. “This may exclude the police because we will need to get the [Township] building ready for doubling the employee population. That is KSS’s priority.”

KSS Architects is the firm hired to determine the best use of Borough Hall and the Township Municipal Building in the newly consolidated Princeton. The architecture firm was paid $27,000 for the first phase of the project. The second phase, which involves physical changes inside the two buildings as offices are reorganized, has been approved by Borough Council and Township Committee. KSS is being paid $38,000 for that portion.

Mr. Bruschi said that the affordable housing, historic preservation, and zoning offices might be among the first to be relocated. “The most important thing is to get people moving, both logistically and from an employee morale standpoint,” he said.

Mr. Sutter and Mr. Rodgers, who is with the Rogers Group, discussed the updated rulebook for the newly merged police department. “This is a very important document,” Mr. Sutter said of the rulebook, which is being updated to meet national and state standards. “It will be the foundation of department operations.”

Councilman Roger Martindell questioned the section of the rulebook dealing with the acceptance of gifts and gratuities. Mr. Martindell said the wording was not clear enough in its restrictions of officers accepting any gifts, loans, fees or gratuities. The issue has come up before, when officers were receiving free food from a local restaurant. “There should be a line drawn, and it should be a very bright line,” he said.

Mr. Sutter and Mr. Rodgers said they would look into the wording to possibly make it more specific.

Also at the meeting, Councilwoman Barbara Trelstad reported that a gardener has been hired to clean out the beds at Harrison Street Park. “We have had a considerable loss of plant material and we won’t be replacing it, but we will have a reassessment in the fall,” she said. The gardener, who works four days a week and is employed by the Borough, has done some transplanting and will continue that work in the fall.

At the Transition Task Force meeting, Task Force member Scott Sillars reported that $59,000 of the $149,000 budgeted for consolidation has been spent so far, not including the $38,000 for KSS Architects. A complete overview of the costs will be presented next month, he said. “The taxpayers are going to want to know what the costs are,” said Task Force member Jim Levine.

In discussions of merging the two communities‘ traffic and transportation departments, there was some disagreement on just how to proceed. While some members advocated putting some of the current responsibilities of the traffic safety departments into the newly combined public works department, others did not agree.

“Combining them is a huge mistake,” said Anton Lahnston, who is not on the Transition Task Force but chairs the Consolidation Commission and was in the audience. “Don’t combine the pedestrian bike and traffic and transportation departments, because they serve very different purposes. A lot of people in this community are very passionate about bikeways. I think you’re killing something that’s very important to this community, and you’ll hear about it.”

Transition Task Force member Hendrix Davis also said, repeatedly, that he is not in favor of such an action.

Near the close of the meeting, Borough Mayor Yina Moore reported that she and Township Mayor Chad Goerner are working on a new logo for the town, “rather than hiring a $50,000 branding firm.” The logo is being developed in conjunction with the Arts Council of Princeton.