Home » Pennington Council Reviews $87M Referendum, Honors Local Leader

Pennington Council Reviews $87M Referendum, Honors Local Leader

by Lynn S. Robbins

The Hopewell Valley Regional School District referendum and the Eileen M. Heinzel Memorial Arboretum were at the top of the agenda at the May 6 Pennington Borough Council meeting.

School Board seeks approval for building improvements and expansions

Hopewell Valley Regional School District (HVRSD) superintendent Dr. Rosetta Treece gave a presentation on the District’s Capital Referendum, up for public vote on September 17. 

The District is seeking approval for school improvements at a projected cost of $87 to $87.5 million with a property tax impact in the range of $500-$575 annually. Treece said that state aid would cover about 25 percent of to the total cost.

Covering all seven schools in the District, the plan would restore and renovate aging facilities, replace obsolete and failing heating and cooling systems, shore up building integrity to protect against extreme weather, and create additional building space, thereby eliminating the need for holding classes in trailers. Assistant HVRSD Superintendent Robert Colavita said the use of trailers is potentially unsafe for children when walking to and from the trailer and school building.

The additional building space would include 10 classrooms for Bear Tavern Elementary and six classrooms for Toll Gate Grammar School. Treece said another need for additional classrooms is increased student enrollment from families that have recently moved to the District and an expectation for more students based on new housing construction.

Treece cited reasons for approving the referendum, namely that it would allow the District to plan ahead and avoid the higher cost of a “repair as we go” approach; and it addresses the increasing need for special services, helps maintain reasonable class sizes, and improves student safety.

Council president Catherine Chandler said that an approved referendum would make the District eligible for state aid to cover repairs and upgrades that would not be available otherwise.

Commenting on the timing of the announcement, Council member John Valenza said that in the future, Valenza wants Pennington Borough to be included in planning discussions before a referendum is issued.

See the referendum website at HVRSD Bond Referendum (google.com) for more details on the proposals and a Zooml for the May 16 webinar. An in-person community forum is also planned for early September. 

For more details on the referendum project costs, see the MercerMe article HVRSD Insights: demystifying the proposed $87M referendum – MercerMe.

Eileen M. Heinzel Memorial Arboretum

Mayor James Davy and Council members passed a resolution naming Pennington’s arboretum “The Eileen M. Heinzel Memorial Arboretum.” Eileen’s husband Paul Heinzel and daughter Kristen Elizabeth were present to witness the tribute. 

Acknowledging her pivotal role in the creation of the native plant arboretum, Davy read from the resolution. “In 2017, as Borough Administrator, Eileen helped initiate a public collaboration with the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FOHVOS) and others toward the creation of an arboretum on the lands of the Toll Gate School.”

Davy recognized Eileen’s accomplishments in several roles, including her position as Borough Administrator (2014-2022) where she served “across the entire span of local government responsibilities, ranging from public works and the water utility to trees and solar energy, from renovation of Borough Hall and support for the Police Department and its officers to acquisition of open space and leading, with community participation, the development of the Pennington Library’s first strategic plan.”

Each Council member voted an enthusiastic “yes” to the resolution, and Colavita praised Eileen for her work and thanked the Council for the dedication. Chandler announced a clean-up day at the near-completed arboretum in June and a formal dedication planned for 2025.

Upcoming Pennington Events and Notes

Engaging the public to promote healthy communities

Board of Health Chair Steve Papenberg discussed the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) which identifies ways health departments can work with hospitals and community groups. The plan uses surveys and sponsors events to engage the public. 

To learn more about the Board of Health and upcoming events, visit: Upcoming Events | Hopewell Township, NJ (hopewelltwp.org)

Master Plan 2025

Borough Administrator GP Caminiti said the Master Plan is moving  forward, and the Borough is coordinating its efforts with County and State offices. The current document can be read on the Borough website: Master Plan 2025 (Under Development) | Pennington, NJ (penningtonboro.org).

Memorial gazebo approved 

Council adopted the ordinance to accept a donation from the Pennington First Aid Squad volunteers for a memorial gazebo at the corner of Broemel place. Valenza cast the only no vote, stating that the money to be used for construction was originally intended to provide first aid services to the Borough.

Pennington Day is almost here

Council member Nadine Stern announced Pennington Day, which takes place Saturday, May 18, 10 am- 4 pm, along South Main Street and East Curlis Avenue. 

The event features live music, a kids zone, a quilt show, a 5K race, and food concessions including barbeque, pizza, strawberry shortcake, funnel cake, and much more.

Money raised from vendors will provide community grants to local non-profits and civic groups, schools and municipalities  Learn more at MercerMe: Pennington Day returns for its 43rd year – MercerMe and at the Pennington Day website.

Memorial Day events

Council member Charles Marciante announced two upcoming events: 

  • Memorial Day Concert, Sunday, May 26, 6 pm, Howe Commons
  • Memorial Day Parade, Monday, May 27, 11 am, Main Street 

The next Borough Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 3, 7 pm.

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MercerMe is the only hyperlocal, independent, online news outlet serving Hopewell Valley in Mercer County, New Jersey.

Contact us: [email protected] 

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