It was a quick meeting for members of Lawrence Township Council last night (Jan. 3), lasting only about 16 minutes, but in that space of time they managed to cover a variety of topics, including the 2012 municipal budget, a proposal to ban left turns onto Wayside Lane from southbound Route 206, the possibility of creating a pedestrian path over or under Interstate 95, and a suggestion to start future council meetings a half-hour earlier.
Township Manager Richard Krawczun advised Mayor Jim Kownacki and other council members that “a lot of discussion” will likely be needed about his recommended municipal budget for 2012 and also the budget for 2013.
“Under the Faulkner Act, as a council-manager form of government, I am required to provide to the council a recommended budget by your second meeting in January,” Krawczun advised. “The statutory dates have been extended. The [State of New Jersey] Local Finance Board is extending the recommendation date from Jan. 17 to Feb. 3 and adoption from March 20 to April 20.
“At this time it is still my intention to provide to the council a recommended budget at your next council meeting [on Jan. 17] because I think there is going to be a need for a lot of discussion, not only about the 2012 municipal budget but going forward and considering 2013,” Krawczun said. “We really will need to cover two years simultaneously during this year’s budget review. So I thought it may be helpful to provide that document to you at the next meeting.”
Krawczun also advised council that members of the Lawrence Township Police Department will begin going door-to-door to meet with residents of Wayside Lane “to seek their opinions and feedback on whether or not southbound traffic on Route 206 should be prohibited from making a left-hand turn from 206 onto Wayside Lane.”
Krawczun said members of the township’s Public Safety Advisory Committee last year discussed the possibility of making such a change to the traffic pattern as a way of improving safety in that area, which is near the intersection of Route 206 (Lawrence Road) and Eggerts Crossing Road.
“Before we proceed and introduce an ordinance we thought we want to get feedback from some of the residents who live on that street, Krawczun told council. “We thought it would be helpful for us to understand their concerns and whether or not they would support such an ordinance if it was to come before council.”
“It’s a question of public safety,” Krawczun told Lawrenceville Patch after the meeting. He said it is not uncommon for drivers to make a right turn on red onto Route 206 South from Eggerts Crossing Road and then try to beat northbound traffic by making the immediate left onto Wayside Lane. “It’s a lot of traffic movement in a very condensed space.”
He said the discussion over banning such turns onto Wayside Lane from Route 206 South are unrelated and “coincidental” to to the intersection of Route 206 and Eggerts Crossing Road as a result of a petition the township made to the state Department of Transportation after a .
Krawczun said last night that the state DOT has not provided the township with an updated timetable as to when the speed limit will be lowered and intersection improvements made.
Krawczun handed out a copy of a letter police will provide residents of Wayside Lane. The letter urges residents wishing to make their opinions known to contact Lt. Thomas Ritter at (609) 844-7116 by Jan. 12.
Krawczun further advised council that the township administration has submitted a grant application to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation and Community Development Initiative requesting $45,000 in funds “to study the feasibility of creating a connection for the either over or under” Interstate 95.
The pedestrian and bicycle path – which follows the old right-of-way used by the Trenton-Princeton Traction Co. trolley line that provided passenger service between Trenton and Princeton until 1940 – is split in half by Interstate 95, with one side coming to an end at the highway’s edge behind Rider University and the other side being interrupted by the highway near the intersection of Denow Road and Melvina Drive.
A bridge or underground passageway reuniting the two sides would allow pedestrians and bikers from the southern half of Lawrence Township to access the in the northern half of the township, while giving those trail users from North Lawrence a way to enjoy the southern half of the Johnson Trolley Line as it heads into Ewing Township.
Any discussions regarding the possible costs of such a project are premature, Krawczun said, because engineers first must determine if such a link is physically possible in that area of I-95. He said the DVRPC likely won’t decide on the fate of the township’s grant application until the spring at the earliest. If the grant is approved, the entire feasibility study would cost an estimated $56,500, with the remaining $11,500 provided through “in-kind” services by the township, he said.
After proposing that future council meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. instead of the current 7 p.m. start time, Mayor Kownacki asked his fellow council members their thoughts on such a change.
“It would put us in line with a lot of other municipalities that start at 6:30 and it’s just something I think would be good,” Kownacki explained.
Councilman Greg Puliti was ill and not in attendance, but Councilwoman Catherine Lewis and Councilmen David Maffei and Michael Powers offered no objection, save for Powers suggesting that the council remain flexible in allowing public comment at meetings because some residents who work in New York City or otherwise have long commutes might not be able to get to meetings on time.
“I would just ask if we do move it to 6:30 and someone does come and miss public participation – because we do it at the beginning – that we would have some flexibility in terms of that,” Powers said.
Council members debated about formally moving the public comment period from the beginning of future meeting agendas to the end of meetings, but eventually decided to leave public comment in its current agenda position and monitor what effect – if any – the time change has on meeting attendance and public participation.
A resolution authorizing such a meeting time change is expected to be voted on at the council’s next meeting on Jan. 17. The public portion of that meeting will actually begin at 8 p.m. because council members need to interview several candidates for the township’s planning and zoning boards during closed session.
Also during last night’s meeting, council members approved 14 resolutions and welcomed David Roskos as the new township attorney. Roskos, a member of the Trenton-based law firm of Sterns & Weinroth who has previously represented Lawrence Township’s planning and zoning boards, replaces Michael W. Herbert, who .
Krawczun also advised Lawrenceville Patch after the meeting that on Brunswick Pike is still on track to take place this month.