Options Are Unveiled For Municipal Complex

Town Topics
17 December, 1986

Options Are Unveiled For Municipal Complex
Barbara L. Johnson

Township Committee got its first look at various possibilities for combining and expanding police, municipal m court and Township offices with 2 with a new firehouse Monday night.

The options are included in a lengthy report prepared by Short & Ford architects for the Facilities Study Committee. This committee was appointed by former Township Mayor Winthrop S. Pike to study the adequacy of present municipal facilities in relation to the needs of the Township offices and departments. Such a study was one of the key recommendations of the Governor’s Management Improvement Program for municipalities (GMIP) in which Princeton Township participated two years ago.

The recommendation to build a new firehouse in the Township in place of the Chambers Street location of Engine Co. No. 3 was one of the factors which spurred the study. This recommendation came out of the Shand study of all three fire companies and their needs and has been endorsed by the fire department.

By arrangement with the Board of Education, the Township renovated portions of the former Valley Road School for municipal offices and meeting rooms. Questions have been raised over the years as to whether the Township would be better served in more energy efficient quarters which it owned and could air condition and make accessible to the handicapped.

Moreover, the Police Department is operating in what it feels to be cramped and inadequate quarters in the former Township Hall. The Facilities Study Committee, chaired by Committee Woman Carol Wojciechowicz, conducted a survey of all those needs in relation to existing structures.

Two Wet Months

Those sloshing sounds you hear as you walk on a lawn that appears to be made of mud are there for a good reason: the ground is very wet. November was about twice as wet as normal, with rainfall measuring 7.44 inches compared with an average November rainfall of 3.59 inches. And by the end of the first two weeks of December, it had already rained a total of 3.2 inches. The normal rainfall for the whole month is 3.75 inches, so we’re way ahead of the game.

Meteorologist Anthony Broccoli at the U.S. Department of Commerce Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Forrestal says he doesn’t think the abundance of rain has long-term implications, but feels it’s beneficial because it replenishes reservoirs.

However, he cautions that the wet weather tends to keep the ground saturated, and if the pattern continues it could lead to increased chances of flooding. “Unless we get a prolonged dry spell, the chance of future flooding will be increased with heavy rain,” says the meteorologist.

There was a lot of rainfall last November: 7.28 inches to be exact. But the winter that followed was very dry. last December, for example, only saw 1.7 inches of rain.

Jerry Ford of Short & Ford, the architectural firm engaged to assist in the study, outlined six different possibilities. All are focused on the Witherspoon Street-Valley Road corner where the present Township facilities were considered and rejected, because the area is the “most appropriate” for a municipal complex and is perceived as such.

The plan most favored by the Committee is one that incorporates police, fire, municipal court and Township offices in a new building that would replace the old Township Hall police station and extend across what is now a parking lot. Taking advantage of a slope in the terrain, parking for about 170 cars would be provided in a one-story underground structure, Mr. Ford said.

The complex would total more than 52,000 square feet and would be built in two stages, with the police, fire and municipal court portion being built first on the Witherspoon Street corner. Then the existing police station could be demolished and replaced with the rest of the building for Township offices. The cost is estimated at $14.5 million, allowing for inflation over the three year period it would take to complete the entire project. The Facilities Committee favors a complete new building because it would be far less disruptive to present police and township offices than attempting to renovate and expand the Valley Road building, which is owned by the school board.

In addition, there are costly problems involved in bringing that building up to code while it is being occupied. Mr. Ford said this option would be a difficult one to contract. However, he concluded by saying that all the options are possible, and each one can be built. There was some discussion of whether to build an 11,600-square-foot firehouse independently of the municipal complex, rather than incorporating it within. To do so would require locating it in the parking lot on the Witherspoon Street side of the Valley Road building. This land is owned by the school board, and acquisition might involve lengthy negotiations with that board, it was suggested.

Committee took no action, other than to say it would con-tact the Borough for an ap-praisal of the Chambers Street Firehouse, the sale of which is expected to help defray the cost of a new facility.

In other business, Committee learned that the Township has received a recycling award from the state in the amount of $6,904.73. Township Engineer Robert V. Kiser reported that the amount of paper and glass brought to the recycling shed at he Shopping Center has been rowing by 25-30 percent each fear. and The past year continued that trend. He estimates this is 15 percent of the total waste stream.

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