Hopewell Township Continues Community Center Conversation

    The Hopewell Township Committee discussed next steps for a potential Hopewell Valley community and senior center at the April 9 meeting.

    The discussion began with a presentation from market research specialist Ken Zeldis, of Zeldis Research, on his results and methodology regarding the Township’s 2017 survey investigating Hopewell Valley-wide interest for such a facility.

    The online (and hardcopy available) survey was conducted by the Township between May 9 and June 6 of 2017, in which 508 Valley-area residents, age 30 and older, participated. Of those 508, 228 were seniors age 60 and older.

    “Administering the survey was the required step to unlocking the senior focused funds. We have completed that step and have the data to show our residents are enthusiastic about the need for a new facility,” stated according to Committeewoman Kristin McLaughlin, in a letter to the editor of MercerMe in February 2018.

    Mercer County has funds of 1.5 million dollars that the Township will be able to use for the senior center portion of a facility, plus another set of funds of an additional 1.5 million dollars for the active recreation portion, McLaughlin explained.

    As previously reported by MercerMe, Zeldis found that 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.

    Zeldis also explained the types of samples available for surveys, including the “convenient sample” which was used in this case.his methodology and defended the validity of the survey’s sample size.

    In reviewing the validity of the sample size, Zeldis said, “The dispersion is good among zip codes and there was a decent number of seniors. If you take a look at any poll that is done nation-wide, they don’t use more than 1000 people b/c once you get past 1000 people you may as well talk to the entire population.”  Zeldis also indicated that the sampling error rate for this sampling is in the 5-6% range and that the results of this survey are consistent with random sample studies done in 2008 and 2009.

    At the April 9 Committee meeting, representatives from the Hopewell Valley YMCA, CEO Doug Pszczolkowski and board president Ryan Kennedy, shared their own survey results from past studies conducted to identify community need for a senior and/or community center. The Y indicated that their findings are consistent with those of the Township’s.

    “Eight years ago, we paid for and did an extensive design competition for another site that has another use on it in Pennington,” said Kennedy. “From that, we have a lot of data about what goes into a center.” 

    Kennedy explained that the YMCA, as part of a national organization, has access to resources to aid in the process of a creating community facility, including the evaluation of features and amenities people would be willing to pay for and the type of fee structure that should be used.

    “Thank you for continuing the fight for this,” said Township Deputy Mayor Julie Blake. “I grew up in a town of 80,000 people with a north community center, a south community center, a YMCA, a Jewish community center, as well as a senior center. It was the most enriching experience — it was an integral part of my life — an important social outlet as well as community building experience.”

    As for next steps, in a letter to the editor in February, Committeewoman McLaughlin outlined the Township’s progress toward a new senior and community center:

    • reserved capital funds in the budget last year to design the new center;
    • reserved seven acres of land along Washington Crossing Pennington Road in the Zaitz tract for the new Center;
    • conducted a survey of Valley residents showing strong community support for this type of project
    • toured many different types of senior, community, and fitness facilities to learn about popular services, management issues, and operating models.

    At the Committee meeting, McLaughlin explained that she will continue to “reach out to as many groups as possible to access needs and interest.” Further, the Township will explore the operating model with the goal to “get it done in service to the community and a fiscally responsible way,” explained Mayor Kevin Kuchinski.

    By the the time public comment was permitted, Zeldis was no longer in attendance, and was therefore unable to answer questions regarding the survey.

    Former Committee member Todd Brant spoke about sampling and age clusters and stated that he would have liked the chance to ask questions of Zeldis. 

    Another member of the public questioned the weight of the survey, citing a prior MercerMe article, that reported that the results were“non-binding.” The resident also questioned the “self-serving sample of people who have enough of an interest who participate” in the survey.

    “I have every intention of bringing public conversations to bear and, right now, we have the opportunity to build infrastructure on one site,” said Deputy Mayor Julie Blake. “We want to know what people want, as we get closer to the details. Kristin [McLaughlin] is making sure the people who are participating in a community center know they are welcome to be part of the conversation so… then the players will be part of the table as well.”

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