May 20, 2020

Council Takes Another Look At its Goals and Priorities

By Anne Levin

Due to demands created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Princeton Council is taking another look at its list of goals and priorities for this year before making a final decision on what is realistic to pursue, and what to defer. The governing body is planning to bring back the list as a resolution and vote on it again at its next meeting, which is Tuesday, May 26 at 7 p.m.

“Our priorities have changed with the pandemic hitting us,” said Municipal Administrator Marc Dashield at the Council’s May 11 virtual meeting. Dashield has asked directors of different governmental departments to revisit goals and priorities established early in the year, he told Council. Among the issues created by the pandemic are the moving of confidential materials from the police department to the municipal court, and improving technology to accommodate the number of issues that must be dealt with remotely.

Mayor Liz Lempert mentioned reviewing the regulations that businesses in town may encounter when they are cleared to reopen, to make sure some flexibility is built in. Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros talked about parking space requirements, and what is needed to change from one allowable use to another. “We’re looking at what other types of regulations we can change to help streamline the processes that exist right now,” she said.

Council President David Cohen referenced re-envisioning the use of streets, curbs, and sidewalks to accommodate social distancing, especially in light of restaurants that want to have outdoor dining. Other goals mentioned included training and maintaining an adequate number of people doing contact tracing to contain the coronavirus outbreak, and ensuring there is adequate housing and resources to socially isolate or quarantine those who have either tested positive for the virus, or come into contact with someone that has tested positive.

Councilwoman Leticia Fraga said that a priority should be making everyone aware of the assistance and resources that are available to those who need them, since not everyone has access to social media. Lambros suggested putting that into the communication plan to discuss how to get to the next level.

Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser talked about the number of uninsured or under-insured residents in town seeking health care for children. That, plus the huge increase in demand for services due to the virus, has made having a local clinic in town a priority. “We could do it at a relatively low cost, and have tremendous impact,” he said. “It’s all about the walkability. The access to medical care is a real problem for a lot of individuals working multiple hours of the day. It’s difficult to get them over to the hospital in Plainsboro.”

There was also mention of having an urgent care center established in town. Lambros said interest had been expressed by an urgent care provider before the virus took hold, but they have not gotten back to her. Councilwoman Mia Sacks said she knew of a provider that was interested in opening an urgent care center in Princeton. Grosser said the health department would be able to partner with an urgent care center in some fashion. “It’s a plus,” he said. “We could work something out.” Lempert said that getting an urgent care center up and running by the end of the year was doubtful, so the idea might be worth deferring until the following year.

Lempert asked Council members to take another look at the issues they have been working on, and get back to Dashield with how much progress has been made on them, breaking them up into what can still be accomplished this year and what cannot.