April 26, 2023

Council Votes to Pass Municipal Budget, Works on Resumption of Farmers Market

By Anne Levin

At its meeting on Monday evening, Princeton Council approved the 2023 municipal budget, which will lead to an increase for the average Princeton taxpayer of $279 for the year.

The budget calls for $72.47 million in spending, about $1.27 million more over the previous year. The increase comes from higher costs for things like health care and waste management, among other issues.

A work session on the Princeton Farmers Market revealed that, subject to Council approval, the market will return to Hinds Plaza in June. The weekly gathering of fresh food vendors, farmers, and customers, founded in 2009, was moved to such spots as Franklin Avenue and the Dinky train station lot during the pandemic.

“Many of the vendors and farms have been with us since it opened,” said Jess Morrison, vice president with the JM Group, which runs the market. “We are very excited to hopefully bring it back to Hinds Plaza.”

Parking, as usual, is an issue. Trucks from participating farms, which need to unload produce throughout the day, have to be located close to the site. Market manager Natalie Fiorino told Council there are six trucks from local farms. She also requested that the town allow 20 spots for vendors in the Spring Street parking garage, adjacent to Hinds Plaza.

Deputy Adminstrator/Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton said staff is in the process of preparing an agreement for this year’s market, something that hasn’t been done in the past. The agreement will be brought to Council at its May 8 meeting and will include information about parking. “We have been talking about some different locations for different vehicles, understanding that certain farm trucks need to be close,” she said.

There are six spaces on the Hinds Plaza side of Witherspoon Street that could accommodate about four of the trucks; another three across the street could be for two more. Any larger vehicles that don’t fit in the garage could be parked on Paul Robeson Place, Stockton said.

Members of Council suggested parking in the Griggs Corner lot across Witherspoon Street, in Palmer Square, or in the Westminster Choir College lot a few blocks away.

Fiorino said she expects about 22 vendors to take part in the market, which would be similar to past participation. Many are return vendors; others are new. The market would also accommodate live music and special events such as blood pressure screenings. The market is targeted to run through November 16.

In a presentation updating Council about Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC), director Drew Dyson said that a strategic plan has been completed since the last time he appeared before the governing body, and the organization has met 100 percent of its capital campaign. PSRC has expanded its programs and services more than 65 percent over the last few years, specifically delivering its lifelong learning programs online, in person, and in hybrid format, Dyson said.

There has also been a dramatic increase in exercise and fitness programs, Dyson said. More than 125 people have taken pickleball lessons during the last several months. The technology lab is another area that has become extremely popular; support groups and case management have also increased. The opening of PSRC’s new building on Poor Farm Road, augmenting the existing Suzanne Patterson Center, has been a significant factor.

“We purchased, renovated, and opened the new building,” Dyson said. “We are one of the first in the country to develop a hybrid senior center, and I have been doing presentations about it across the country. It showcased the value and worth we ascribe to the senior population.”

Resolutions were passed by Council adopting the municipal emergency management basic plan; authorizing continued use of a portion of Community Park South for a temporary dog park until May 5, 2024; and authorizing submission of a substantial amendment of the 2022 Community Development Block Grant Program annual action plan in the amount of $284,943.

Council issued proclamations establishing National Library Week and honoring retiring municipal staff members Vikki Caines and Jeffrey Opalski.

The next meeting of Council is Monday, May 8 at 7 p.m. in Witherspoon Hall.