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Results of Hopewell Township’s online survey, aimed to gauge interest in a community center, were revealed earlier this month at the Committee meeting. Specifically, Hopewell Township is “considering the construction of a new community and senior center to replace the existing senior center in Pennington Borough

which is scheduled to close at the end of 2017,” according to the Township, it hopes to use the survey results to “determine whether or not to create a new senior and/or community facility that could serve all residents of Hopewell Valley.”

While Hopewell Township sponsored the survey, Zeldis Research Associates, Inc., a local market research firm, analyzed the data and made a presentation to the Hopewell Township Committee upon completion of the survey.

In total, 509 area residents (age 30 and older) participated in the survey, 22 of whom opted to take the survey in paper form rather than online. Results are non-binding and are intended to serve to inform the Committee in this exploration. (For survey homepage, see http://www.haveyoursayhopewelltwp.org.)

When asked about general interest in a center, 60% of respondents said they were interested in a new center serving the community, 28% said they might be interested, and 10% said they were not interested. The results showed that, in general, older respondents were significantly more likely to express interest in a new center.

Of the 60% who said they were interested in a new center, 57% of those individuals preferred a multi-use facility with a pool, as well as a separate entrance and dedicated space for a senior citizens. The results indicated that interest for a multi-use facility was favored by all age-groups but was most heavily favored by those in the 30-59 age group, at 70%. Of those who said they wanted a new center, 27% wanted the center without a pool and 12% wanted only a stand-alone building designed and used solely as as senior center.

When asked about location preference, survey results showed that the community is divided fairly evenly between the two possible locations: 1) near the Pennington Circle/Route 31 adjacent to Shop Rite; and 2) Scotch Road area adjacent to Capital Health. Respondents over 60 years of age, those who reside in “Princeton/Pennington and Titusville,” and those without children were more likely to prefer a Scotch Road location, according to the presentation materials.

“It could be put in either of those two locations with pretty good confidence,” said Zeldis, who explained that two-thirds of respondents preferred to see construction begin in under 2 years.

More than half of those interested in a center preferred a per-use fee and a quarter preferred a monthly membership. Questions also explored potential membership numbers and fee acceptability. More than 60% of respondents indicated a willingness to pay a one-time tax levy of .01 per $100 of assessed value to support a new center.

With regard to interest in services and activities, the survey inquired about current activities and interest in potential services and activities for a new center. Those who expressed interest in the center were most interested in fitness programs/activities and educational programs but were least interested in health and wellness activities, recreational activities, and social programs.

“It is clear that Hopewell residents prefer a multi-use facility with or without a pool and a separate entrance and dedicated space for seniors — and this is true across all age groups,” said Zeldis. “Either location would appear to be adequate, but older residents prefer Scotch Road.”

During public comment, Hopewell Township resident Harvey Lester questioned the small number of participants and the survey’s reliability. “Isn’t the implication that 95% of the target audience is so disinterested in a community center, that they did not even bother to answer the survey? Isn’t the implication that 95% in the Hopewell Valley don’t want a community center?” posited Lester. “As for the glowing responses of the seniors, but isn’t the committee aware that the Senior Advisory Board’s [position]?”

In response to this concern, Zeldis explained sample error and also said, “To say that 95% of the people didn’t take it and are therefore not interested in any of them is practically silly. There is only a certain number of people who will do certain things and in my world you have to incentivize people to take surveys.”

“This is for informational purposes only and we’ll reach out to the Boroughs to tell them what we’ve learned,” said Committee Member Vanessa Sandom, acknowledging Pennington Mayor Anthony Persichilli in the audience.

“I think the results are pretty clear and it is helpful to break it down by age group because there are some nuances that we should look at,” said Township Mayor Kevin Kuchinski, who also explained about possible County funds available for the project. “It is pretty clear from these results is that residents want action.”

To view the presentation, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7Oxffuebcw&feature=youtu.be

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