August 27, 2014

Police Hire First Two Officers Since Consolidation

Princeton Council Monday night approved the hiring of two police officers, marking the first addition to the Princeton Police Department since the former Borough and Township consolidated in January 2013. In a unanimous vote, the governing body made the appointments of Dashawn J. Cribb, 25, and Donald Stephen Mathews, 36, official.

“They represent a very bright future for our department,” Chief Nicholas Sutter said at a press conference earlier in the day. ‘“Some of us older people in the department look at it as a legacy.”

The vote was among several items on the agenda. The town’s engineering director Bob Kiser told Council that AvalonBay, the developer of a 280-unit rental complex at the former site of Princeton Hospital, is planning to begin demolition of the smaller buildings near the parking garage on Thursday, September 4, the day after the developer holds a public meeting with neighborhood residents. Council and AvalonBay agreed to a revised developer’s agreement last week. Demolition is expected to take about four months.

The governing body approved numerous resolutions and held public hearings on several ordinances. Reports were given on affordable housing, education, and efforts by a citizens’ group to make the installation of a pipeline on the Princeton Ridge environmentally sensitive and safe.

Mr. Sutter said that the recruitment process for officers began last year. Candidates took written tests and physical fitness exams. After interviews and background checks, the process was narrowed down to 144 before another round of interviews. The town’s Public Safety Committee took part in the final decision.

Mr. Cribb is a graduate of Trenton High School and Montclair State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and justice studies. He coaches Pop Warner Football, is a youth mentor, and a volunteer at the Girls and Boys Club of Trenton. Mr. Mathews graduated from Bordentown High School and Richard Stockton College, and was a member of the Mansfield Township Police Department from 2002 until being hired by Princeton. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in Mansfield after completing three-and-a-half years of service.

“They are from two professionally and personally diverse backgrounds, which is really what our department is about,” said Mr. Sutter. “It’s good for the future that there is a mix of people in the department.”

Councilwoman Heather Howard praised the two new hires for “the diversity and breadth they’ll bring to the force,” adding that they were hired now because of some upcoming retirements and the need to preserve the size of the police force. The officers will be sworn in at the next Council meeting on September 8.

Ed Truscelli, executive director of Princeton Community Housing, delivered a status report to Council about the organization, which counts 466 rental units and four other locations among affordable housing residences. Mr. Truscelli urged Council to consider properties — a parking lot on Franklin Avenue across from the former Princeton Hospital site, and another on North Harrison Street, which will be vacated by Princeton Fire & Rescue Squad (PFARS), as sites for more affordable housing.

“These are opportunities we should seriously look at,” he said. “There is a distinct and significant need for affordable housing in this community, and this would seem to be the perfect opportunity. We’re ready to partner, ready to assist.”

Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane delivered his first report to Council since taking over from Judy Wilson last January. He stressed the importance of providing access to computers and electronics for all students, about six percent of whom do not have email or computers. “Those students fall further and further behind,” he said. “We’re in the process of brainstorming ways to increase that electronic access.” Councilman Lance Liverman suggested contacting the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has assisted similar efforts elsewhere.

Mr. Cochrane made reference to a demographic study that projects public school enrollment rising only modestly over the next five years. Grade-by-grade enrollment predictions show growth in pre-kindergarten to grade five relatively flat, while middle school enrollment could peak in year three but decrease in year five. “The real sticking point is high school,” he said. Enrollment was at 1,471 students in the last school year, an increase of about 252 from a decade ago.

The study estimates that enrollment will peak at 1,611 during 2017-18 before falling again to 1,543 the following year. “We will continue to monitor these numbers and make sure there is enough room for our students,” Mr. Cochrane said.

Barbara Blumenthal of the Princeton Ridge Coalition told Council that the group is focusing its efforts on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection rather than the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure safety and sensitivity to the environment during the Williams Transco company’s gas pipeline expansion. FERC’s recent environmental assessment showed that the proposed project would have no significant impact on the Princeton Ridge, a finding that members of the Coalition strongly disagree with. The final date for commenting to FERC is September 10, and Mayor Liz Lempert said Council would put consideration of a response to FERC on the agenda for the September 8 meeting.