Pennington Borough moving towards more public participation

Pennington Borough Council met on November 7, 2022, via Zoom and began by discussing a proposed change to the public comment period during the meetings.

“For many years and up to tonight, it has been the practice of the Borough Council to have a public comment period at the beginning of each meeting for people to address items that are on the agenda,” explained Mayor Jim Davy. “They state their name and address for the record and they have a limit of three minutes.”

That rule may now be changed, allowing members of the public to address any issue at the beginning of each meeting, not just subjects on the agenda. The previous rule required people wanting to address an issue not on the agenda, to wait until the end of the Council meeting before they would be allowed to speak. Now, the public will be allowed two minutes per person to speak on any issue at the beginning of the meeting. Additionally, a second public comment period will allow each person three minutes to address any issue at the end of each meeting.

Davy announced several new appointments and changes to the Environmental Commission, the Shade Tree Committee, and the Open Space Committee.

Environmental Commission: Timothy Schwartz is moving from regular member to an alternate position; Jim Fuger is moving from Alternate 1 to an unexpired term ending December 31, 2023; and Dan Rubenstein was appointed to an unexpired term ending December 31, 2022.

Shade Tree: Jaye Berman was appointed to unexpired term ending December 31, 2023.

Open Space: Nancy Fishman will serve as the representative from the Environmental Commission for an unexpired term ending December 31, 2023.

Davy reviewed proposed changes to Sked Street Park: “Their proposed improvements,” he said, “are to extend the walkway, replace the walking path for public safety, extend the path to meader throughout the Park, update playground playground to ADA standards, install covered area over the existing park benches or a stand-alone gazebo, and install additional park benches.”

Council President Kit Chandler expressed concern at the use of Open Space funds for projects such as Sked Street.

“We have got the parks system using Open Space funds, we have got the arboretum using the Open Space funds, and god forbid we actually use the Open Space funds for any open space,” stated Chandler. “I feel that Council is approving these expenditures sort of here and there, not seeing the complete package.”

She continued: “I don’t know if anyone on Council knows how much we spent in Open Space funds between the arboretum and Kunkel Park last year because they were presented to us piecemeal. I have suggested that all uses of Open Space funds be presented to the finance committee so Council can take a look at the total use of Open Space funds instead of a piecemeal approach.”

“I have no objection to that, but I just want to point out that the Open Space fund very clearly is meant for this kind of park improvement as well,” stated Council member Nadine Stern.

Council member Chico Marciante stated that the Kunkel Park project was not piecemeal. And, said Marciante, Pennington has more than $500,000 in the Open Space fund.

Davy stated that the Sked Street park project is only in the concept phase and that quotations would be gathered as the project entered the planning phase. He added that more funds were coming.

“There is $500,000 left in the fund, $34,000 coming from the State for the arboretum, and whatever we get as reimbursement from Green Acres for the African cemetery,” Davy said. “It increases each year by $50,000.”

“You are talking about quality of life in Pennington,” stated Marciante. “We have the money. This is something that is good for the residents of Pennington. How can you not want to spend money that is put aside for recreation and open space?”

“Kit I agree with you,” said Council member Kati Angarone. “I would feel like a more informed voter if I had the information that Kit asked for.”

“I agree with you as well Chico,” Angarone added. “It is important, and this is close to home. All the open space we use is used by the residents.”

Council agreed to present an accounting of Open Space funds that have been spent thus far to the the Finance Committee.

The next Pennington Borough Council member is scheduled for December 5.

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