25 January, 1984
It’s Budget Time in Borough and Township,
And No End to Requests for More Money
Katherine H. Bretnall
Princeton’s $92,000 aerial fire truck, one year overdue on required maintenance, was damaged in last Friday’s fire and is now out of service … fire companies gave up inspecting
downtown and Shopping Center stores years ago for lack of manpower and according to one comment “businesses are getting away with murder” … the floor in the Chambers Street
firehouse is so weak that last year’s chief ordered a fire truck removed and sent to the Chestnut Street house (the floor is now being tested by engineers) … the Township, rapidly developing, still has no firehouse … fire-fighters do not have enough protective gloves to
go around …
At last Saturday’s first session on budgets shared by Borough and Township, officials heard a plea from Mark Freda, a member of Hook and Ladder, for money to solve these problems.
Borough and Township officials will meet again this Saturday — 9:30 am., Borough Hall, to continue joint budget discussions.
Meanwhile, the Borough’s new mayor, Barbara Sigmund, expressed dismay at what she has seen of Borough budgeting procedures, referring to “a budget by evolution.” There is still no bottom line budget figure, she said, adding that nobody knows whether the Borough is over, under or at its state-imposed cap.
The Township, she pointed out, already knows that it is $8,467 over its cap.
So far, no dates have been set to continue last week’s Borough budget discussions. Mayor Sigmund said she will ask for another set of dates at this Thursday’s meeting.
Highlights of Saturday’s three and one-half hour Borough-Township meeting:
• All agree Princeton needs a full-time planner, and $17,500 has been tentatively agreed on as the first six months’ salary.
• Except for paramedics’ salaries, all First Aid Squad expenses are met by contributions. Princeton University makes “a very limited, almost embarrassingly small contribution, considering the services we provide; the Medical Center gives no money but allows the day crew to work in the emergency room, benefiting Squad and hospital.” (Mark Freda).
• Many library staff who have been there several years, are now earning about what the entry-level salary is elsewhere.
• Although Corner House handles “a tremendous number” of out-of-town cases (Mayor Winthrop Pike), these municipalities still do not contribute a proportionate amount.
• The Sewer Operating Committee may be asked to get an outside contractor instead of hiring a crew of three to do continuing sewer repairs.
“Violations of the fire code are known,’* declared Borough Council member Irv Urken, “but there is no bite to our bullet. And businesses are getting away with murder. Every three years in January after a major snow, we have a major fire — the Benson Building, Hulit’s, Value Fair — and we’re now one year overdue. After one major fire, we told the owner he was in violation and he just laughed.”
Fire companies would like an inspector. Officials discussed whether the salary could be
met by imposing fees on those inspected. Township Administrator James Pascale suggested getting Mercer County to do inspections in the second half of the year, after a new state law goes into effect, but Council member Peter Bearse remarked “county … [Fragment Missing]
Mr Freda explained that thorough preventive maintenance for trucks costs $300 to $400. The aerial, which takes several days to service, should be cared for semiannually, but has been neglected “for several years” for lack of funds.
‘The Township pays 64 percent of the fire budget,” deputy mayor Gail Firestone reminded the group, “but we still don’t have a firehouse, and the Township is developing rapidly. We want a very serious addressing of Township needs.”
Plea for Library. John Huntoon, of Borough Council, gave a lengthy plea for the library, urging more than the budget shows for books and telephones and enough to keep the library open Thursday evenings, winter Sunday afternoons and summer Saturday afternoons. The library is asking $706,476.
It was Mr. Huntoon who gave the salary figures, after Township Mayor Winthrop Pike had pointed out that the library budget shows 7.5 percent salary increases, while Borough and Township municipal budgets show only 6.5. Municipal governing bodies have no control over library line items.
“We’re over our cap already.” Mayor Pike warned. “We have sewer problems, roads that are vastly under-maintained. We have only one pie and we must carve it up among everyone.”
Friends of the Public Library announced gifts of over $100,000 (see “Topics of the Town”) but Mr. Huntoon said “It’s a PUBLIC library, and cannot be run on donations from the Friends.”
Library director Robert Staples said increasing fines was not productive because people simply stopped using the library if fines went too high.
For several years, the Borough has vetoed a full-time planner but it agreed this year. Although Township Committee member Richard Schoch protested that the 14-member Planning Board is too large, he drew no support for reducing it. Two Council members — Richard Woodbridge and Peter Bearse — said the board isn’t representative enough of the community as it is.
It was suggested that the planner might also be assigned to be the Environmental Inspector desired by the Joint Environmental Commission.