Two nights before the joint meeting, the council majority passed the resolution, without the support from the two remaining council members and the mayor, barring the administration from awarding contracts or making expenditures relating to redevelopment that exceed $3,"150 before review.
With the $200,"000 bond ordinance unanimously approved December 17 for continued funding for redevelopment, Councilmen Charles Morgan, George Borek, and Council President Will Anklowitz said they simply wanted to see more controls put on the money. Councilwomen Heidi Kleinman and Linda Geevers and Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh, the resolution’s most adamant critic, said the resolution would create a sense of distrust between the council and administrative staff.
Morgan had mentioned a draft of the resolution during the December 17 meeting, and explained the resolution would amend a 2005 resolution that sets bid thresholds at $21,"000. While he originally set those thresholds at zero, it was changed during the January 7 meeting to $3,"150. “We passed a resolution in 2005 adopting those thresholds, meaning that the administration need not go out to bid for up to $21,"000 and can basically spend cash without coming to council,” said Morgan. The 2005 resolution is in keeping with the thresholds authorized by Gov. Jon Corzine during that year, and allows the administration to award contracts for anything underneath that threshold. This resolution would amend that prior resolution, “meaning that if there’s going to be any expenditure for redevelopment, we should have a conversation on that before it’s happened,” Morgan said at that meeting.
Morgan emphasized the need for discipline and checks and balances when it came to going forward with redevelopment. “The motivation here is not to create bureaucracy,” Morgan said on January 7. “The motivation is to take a little extra effort on how we’re spending our money on redevelopment.”
When the idea was first brought up December 17, Morgan and Anklowitz reiterated that the resolution wasn’t meant to suggest any wrongdoing on part of anyone in the administration, including Township Administrator Chris Marion and Hsueh, but instead it was meant to ensure there would be no duplication of services, particularly when it comes to administration and council members alike, who separately call the professionals, including the planning and township attorneys, to ask questions about redevelopment. Instead, Morgan suggested, the resolution would establish a point person so that, for example, two council members or administrators aren’t calling the same professional separately to ask the same question, and causing the township to be billed for that extra time.
“One of the very interesting problems we’ve noticed is that there’s a tendency of folks — for all of us — to feel free to call (planning board attorney) Gerald Muller and ask a redevelopment question or call Mr. Herbert,” he said, “asking the same question over and over again. We’re spending serious money we don’t need to spend. So one of the ideas here is perhaps a point person who would be selected.”
During the discussion on January 7, Kleinman said she didn’t feel the resolution set the right tone, pointing out there are different ways to perform checks and balances on redevelopment money, including setting up the number of meetings it has already done to discuss the issue, creating good agendas, and putting out guidelines the council feels are important. “I really want to see that in 2008, the administration and the council work together with the planning board to move the project forward,” she said. “I don’t think that this helps the problem.”
Geevers said she felt the council had good communication and working relationship with the administration, including council discussions with the administration at numerous meeting regarding costs associated with redevelopment, and the resolution “goes a little bit too far.”
Councilman George Borek suggested at the January 7 meeting that instead of a resolution, the administration submit a monthly document listing all expenditures. Morgan said, however, the council was already receiving such a document. “Whether we’re getting it promptly or in sufficient detail is a separate question, but it still doesn’t answer the question of how we manage this proactively,” Morgan said.
At the same time, council has no interest in having to approve minor expenditures, like postage, so the threshold was raised to $3,"150, Morgan said.
Township Attorney Mike Herbert did suggest that the council could opt to simply write its professional contracts in a much more detailed and specific, with fiscal controls and benchmarks to ensure that if a contractor “exceeds those benchmarks, he won’t get paid.”
Geevers hinted at the same idea, saying she saw more of a problem with how the council follows through with its contractors. “You hire the contractors, and then you have an issue with them, and you don’t bring them in, whether it’s an open session or executive session to discuss their work, and to go over what issues we have to and to give them direction. We don’t do that, and that to me can be more in line with some wasteful spending. That’s probably my biggest bone to pick.”
Hsueh said he felt the form of government the council had — established by the Faulkner Act — already established a system of checks and balances, and warned the resolution could hurt the redevelopment process. “I think only when we have that kind of trust that we can do it together,” he said. “To me, it just shows there is no trust between the administration and the council and the planning board. Don’t get into the micromanaging of everything. This is going to discourage the corporations from getting involved and affect the morale of the administration.”
He pointed out that the council has always had access to information regarding expenditures and has had to approve of them before, and that it would continue to do so.
“So I don’t think this changes the administration’s practice, if we set it at $3,"150,” Anklowitz said.
That wasn’t the only time that night that Hsueh voiced his opposition to council action regarding redevelopment. On January 7, the council also passed a resolution providing guidance to the West Windsor Parking Authority, with regard to roles and responsibilities for parking in the redevelopment area. The measure, this time, drew unanimous council support.
The resolution calls for the parking authority to immediately initiate a meeting with the planning board to ensure the Davies and Madden contract addresses the needs of both the authority and the board, and to coordinate a negotiation of a contract that meets those needs. It also asks it to specify the number of parking spaces West Windsor residents need currently and in the future, and to develop criteria with respect to parking garages for West Windsor commuters and day trippers. It also calls for the parking authority to recommend daily pass solutions for WW residents, and strategies, such as a land swamp, to take advantage of the land owned by NJ Transit near the train station. The council also advised in the resolution that the parking authority provide a plan for temporary parking during construction on the parking garages.
Kleinman said the resolution came as a result of the joint council and parking authority meeting last month, where residents told horror stories about their experiences at the train station. “I think the parking authority was looking for some direction from us, something documented, so this is really about documenting the dialogue.”
Hsueh, however, said he though the resolution should be put off until after another joint meeting is held. “To make the parking garage happen, and parking spaces available for West Windsor residents, the key is still working together.” He said whatever is decided with regard to parking, “we have to make sure all of this will blend into the whole design of redevelopment for the whole area.”
He said he understood the priorities and agreed with the priorities, but “in the absence of all of the other (factors), you’re not going to be able to get there.”
“Let’s try to get a good conversation before we come out with all these resolutions,” he said. “You can keep coming out with one or two resolutions a week, but I don’t think it’s going to help to move this project forward.”
Kleinman said she disagreed. “I’ve sat in at a planning board meeting; I’ve sat in at a parking authority meeting,” she said. “I’m hearing the exact same needs. We’re trying to tighten our belt. We’re trying to get the best consultant to give us the information that we need, and maybe the best way to do this is to share a consultant.”
Said Hsueh: “All I’m saying here is why do you want to come out with resolutions everything you want to communicate with the planning board or parking authority? I don’t disagree with a lot of the things you say here. I just want to make sure we try to work together in a spirit of cooperation instead of everything you want something, it’s a resolution. No wonder you need a meeting every week for four or five hours a week.”
In the remaining months of 2007, the council had circulated various resolution drafts to provide more direction to John Madden and Gary Davies in their proposals for studying the redevelopment area, in addition to the guiding principles passed over the summer.
The move accommodated the $200,"000 approved by council to move forward with the redevelopment process, which has stalled since the summer. In that resolution, the council ended up selecting the Hillier plan with 500 residential units, including Council on Affordable Housing obligations, “as a means to begin discussion about the needed road infrastructure components,” in response to the consultants’ statements they needed to start with at least one scenario.
In other business during the meeting, resident Pete Weale, infamous for bringing illegal signs he’s collected from around the township to council meetings — even causing controversy in October, when he placed 150 signs around council chambers, causing Morgan to walk out and halting the meeting until Geevers was able to get there to make a quorum — brought a collection of “Single?” signs to show council members.
“I would like to see some enforcement of our existing laws,” he said. “I just want to get rid of this stuff so that when I walk to the Penns Neck circle — it looks like it’s a different country over there — I really want it stopped. I’m here in the spirit of revisiting an old issue to try to kick thing off in 2008 so i don’t have to come in here and do this again.”
Marion said the township’s Department of Public Works is charged with removing the signs, which it does during daily routines. “There are certain vendors and certain organizations that do not abide by rules and regulations,” Marion said. “While we try to do our best to enforce existing ordinances as well as clean up the messes of these signs,” it may take a day or two for public works employees to get to various sections of the town to remove signs as they are reported.
Marion also said the administration is in the process of hiring an assistant zoning officer for enforcement purposes, which should help fix the problem. Township land use division manager Sam Surtees said township officials are not able to issue fines directly to violators, but that they have to be cited and brought to the municipal judge to go through a trial process. “The problem is that it’s tough to find an address and name and cite it on the summons,” Surtees said.
Morgan said he felt the township should start to issue citations to show people that West Windsor is serious about enforcement. He also said residents can filed their own complaints about the signs. Herbert also said the township could use some surveillance and work with the municipal prosecutor for a maximum fine for sign violations, which could be $1,"250.
During the January 7 meeting, the township hired an interim township engineer, Robert Korkuch, of ACT Engineers out of Robbinsville, and approved an agreement with former engineer James Parvesse to provide his services in the transition period. He left the township in December to work as the engineer in Lawrence.
A small ceremony was also held to swear in Patrick McCormick and Brian Gallant, who received promotions with the West Windsor Police Department. McCormick was promoted to lieutenant, and Gallant was promoted to Sergeant.
During the December 17 meeting, the council approved a 30-year general memorandum of agreement with the West Windsor-Plainsboro Soccer Association setting forth the responsibilities of both parties at four of the township’s fields, each of which come with their own separate memorandum.
The soccer association wanted to see what type of guarantees — including monetary — the township could give the association regarding continued use of township fields, before it invested large sums of money in them (The News, November 2). The association suggested that if the township, for whatever reason, needs to take away the use of the fields in the future, it would be compensated for the money it spent on them.
The general memorandum states that both parties will meet 90 days before the expiration to negotiate a renewal, but allows for either the association or the township to opt out of the agreement in any of those years, provided it give 12-months notice to the other side. But if the township opts out early, it agreed to pay a “termination fee” based on “the parties’ best estimate and a fair and reasonable calculation of the value of the association’s contribution to the fields built by the association under this agreement and owned by the township.”
The general agreement also requires the association to submit a detailed list of costs for improvements to the soccer facilities and requires the association to provide financial information relating to its activities, contributions, and expenditures. The termination fee would be based upon the association’s annual submission of its costs from the previous calendar year. The memorandum also sets responsibilities for both parties when it comes to their respective field maintenance duties.
The separate agreements for Zaitz Park, Conover Park, and Community Park, each last five years, with the parties agreeing to meet 90 days before the expiration to negotiate a renewal. The language describing the termination fee is also reiterated in those agreements.The association is looking to install lights at Zaitz Park, on Southfield Road — which is already used exclusively for soccer. The association wants to improve the field surface and possibly install an irrigation system at Conover Park on North Post Road.
A separate agreement was also approved for Duck Pond Park on Meadow Road, a recreational site that has not yet been developed, where the association wants to create soccer fields. The township built an access drive, part of the parking area, and storm water detention basins in 2004 to facilitate its development. While estimates are still undetermined, it could cost around $2 million. The agreement for this park is set for 30 years.
The council also awarded a $144,"413 contract to Everett H. Thorne Co. Inc. of Howell for the Schenck barn renovations and repairs to the shed area. The company was the lowest of six bidders for the project.
It also approved the purchase of a 1000 GPM Triple-Combination Custom Fire Pumper/Rescue Unit at a price of $347,"167 from Kovatch Mobile Equipment Corporation for the Princeton Junction Fire Company; the purchase of a 2008 Dodge Durango for the police department at a price of $22,"305 from Warnock Automotive (doing business as Warnock Fleet); and three 2008 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors for $57,"028 from Hertrich Fleet Services, also for the police department.