Pennington Council addresses fire inspection costs, public works, and police department upgrades

At the Pennington Borough Council meeting July 5, Mayor Jim Davy invited Borough resident Ryan Fraser to speak about the costs of the required fire inspection when selling a home. Fraser expressed his frustration that the Hopewell Fire District has not resumed in-person inspections of residential homes. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fire Safety Bureau changed its procedure and in-person inspections were paused. Residents were then required to “self-certify” unless they had a hardwired system. In that case, the inspection required a licensed electrician to inspect the system.

Fraser’s frustration stems from the fact that the inspection fee has remained the same although the requirement of hiring your own electrician has increased the inspection cost for homeowners in the Borough. Davy stated that the Borough contacted the Hopewell Fire District to find out when inspections would resume.

“I don’t have great news on this but it’s interesting,” Davy said.

“As you all know, we have an inter-local services agreement with Hopewell Township whereby Hopewell Township provides fire safety bureau services to Pennington,” stated Davy. “One little aspect of those services is that the bureau does fire safety inspections on the sale of a home. So, when you’re selling your home, the owner of the home has to apply for the fire safety inspection, pay that fee, and the inspector comes and conducts the inspection and you receive certification.”

In his conversation with the Director of the Fire Safety Bureau, Davy said, the new process saves the Bureau so much time that they intend to continue the self-certification process for at least the time being. Davy told the director that there should be a “nexus between the amount of time you spend on a fire inspection review and the fee.” The director told him the fees are set by the State. Davy stated that he intends to confirm that with the State.

“He did indicate to me that they are saving a lot of money and collecting the $45 fee but not spending anywhere near the amount of time that they were spending on these inspections,” said Davy. “And again, the homeowner is left with not only the $45 fee but also the cost of a licensed electrician $150-$200. And the reason why they’re not going to relieve the homeowner with a licensed electrician is because they have seen where homeowners who have a certified their own inspection have missed things.”

Public Works Now Chaired by Nadine Stern

“I have between the last meeting and this meeting, become the Chair of Public Works,” stated Council member, Nadine Stern. “The first thing I want to do is thank Chico Marciante for his many years as Chair and for helping me get started on this committee. Luckily, he is staying on the committee because his background and wealth of knowledge is immeasurable and absolutely critical.”

Stern reported that the Public Works Committee is reviewing projects on the 2018 Asset Management Plan for the Borough, which was developed and submitted to the State that same year. The two projects are West Delaware, Burd, and Academy and Franklin Road Phase 2. 

Stern reported that the East Welling project is in its final stage. Tree and grass work still needs to be completed but is delayed due to the drought. The West Franklin and Knowles project is in the design stage and is in discussion, including at least one public meeting with residents. Another neighborhood meeting on that project will be scheduled prior to going to bid, according to Davy. A paving project on Baldwin and Baldwin Court is in the grant application stage.

Police Department Upgrades

Chief of Police, Douglas Pinelli, reported that Officer Daniel D’Ascoli completed training in the installation of child seats and that his department has taken delivery of much-needed new Watch Guard cameras and new body-worn cameras.

A resolution authorizing new handguns for the Pennington Police Department was presented. 

“The weapons we currently have, handgun service pistols, are at their end of life. They are 18 years old and it is extremely difficult to get the 40 caliber rounds right now due to supply-chain issues.”

“9mm is readily available and we will be saving $250 per case on the cost of a case of rounds,” stated Pinelli. “They are taking a very reasonable trade-in value for the weapons we have.”

Council voted unanimously to approve the resolution.

Mayor Davy closed the public meeting to enter a closed session to address a land acquisition, an Open Space attorney-client privilege matter, a conflict of interest matter, the status of PILOT litigation, and an attorney-client privilege cannabis issue.

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