Hopewell Township Committee discusses health officer, budget

Hopewell Township Municipal Building (photo: M. Galioto)

The Hopewell Township Committee gathered at a special meeting Monday night to discuss the budget, as well as a resolution authorizing a shared services agreement between Montgomery Township and Hopewell Township for interim health services in light of the recent resignation of Hopewell Township health officer Robert English.

From a budget standpoint, Committee member Kuchinski said that he wants to ensure that there is funding for a replacement health officer. If there is, a position will be advertised, Kuchinski said, though he recognizes that there is a high demand for health officers in the area. “It’s very difficult,” said Kuchinski. “There are a number of open health officer positions across Mercer County right now.” 

Especially in the event of a potential global health crisis, New Jersey requires that Hopewell Township have a health officer in place, Kuchinski explained. He also recognized that the previous health officer handled many additional duties not statutorily part of the job. Kuchinski said he intends to add a second part-time health inspector into the 2020 budget. 

“We must have a health officer, so I endorse this resolution” said Kuchinski. 

Mayor Kristin McLaughlin agreed with the resolution for temporary shared services with Montgomery reasoning that Montgomery already services Hopewell Borough and Pennington Borough. “Our population very much is intertwined with those two boroughs and it just makes a ton of sense,” said McLaughlin.

Kuchinski spoke later about bond interest payments, stating that they have been brought down from $1.6 million to $1.4 million, and now finally $1.2 million in this year’s budget. Kuchinski will also address details regarding the Committee’s contact with the Bond Council in future budget meetings, as they become available. 

“We’re starting to see fruition of all those efforts to bring down debt,” said Kuchinski. 

Finally, Committee member Julie Blake requested two separate small allotments to be earmarked, should they be needed, in the coming year. For the Historic Commission, she asked for $1,000 to be set aside in the budget if needed to be added to the previously approved $15,000 saved from the sale of historic books over the years. These funds will be used to restore the Hart’s Corner Schoolhouse at the corner of Scotch Road and Pennington-Washington Crossing Road.

Blake also requested $2,000 be earmarked for the Community Assets Committee. As Blake explained to MercerMe later, this committee is an ad hoc committee of diverse non-profit, school, and government members who have joined together to address issues of mental health in our community.

She stated at the budget meeting that the Committee was formed in reaction to the rise in opioid overdoses in Hopewell and everywhere, particularly focusing on recent high school graduates and senior citizens, who may need greater access to services than currently seem to them to be available. The goal, Blake said, is to find a way of both funding the assets in the community and expanding and amplifying the outreach in the community. One of those outreach vehicles, she explained, may be an “asset map” so that anyone in need can easily find a source of assistance. “These groups sound really interesting,” commented McLaughlin.

Finally, during the public section, Hopewell Township residents neighboring  the Middle and High Schools expressed their concerns regarding water drainage to their homes from school property. Members of the Committee indicated that staff would look into it. 

The next meeting will be Monday March 9 at 7pm. 

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