PRINCETON: Condition of public works facilities continues to be a topic of concern among officials

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Constructing a new public works facility on River Road could cost anywhere from $11 million to $12 million, as Princeton officials have to decide whether to go that route or repair existing DPW facilities around town.
Current facilities are “totally insufficient” and inadequate, according to a consultant the town hired. The municipality has to store most vehicles and equipment outdoors exposing them to the elements; employees have to go to multiple locations to get the equipment and vehicles they need to do their work; and management and staff have to work out of trailers, at a location on John Street.
“We’ve been dealing with this for as long as I have been an elected official,” said Councilman Bernard P. Miller, who has been in government for 14 years, at Monday’s council meeting. “And I’m sure that it goes back earlier than that.”
He is opposed to delaying a decision for future town officials to decide, and said he said the time had come to get a “facility that addresses the weaknesses” found in the consultant’s report.
Last month, Mayor Liz Lempert said the town needs to decide in 2017 what to do, either build a new facility, likely on River Road, or renovate old ones. She said past Princeton officials have delayed any improvements with the thought they would build a new facility and therefore could not justify the cost of renovations.
Municipal director of infrastructure and operations Robert Hough, in a report at Monday’s meeting, said the town has looked at various operations.
“And I think it’s just something that, as a group, we need to, I hate to say it, make some decisions,” he said. “Even a no decision is a good decision because it gives us direction as far as where to go and what to do.”
Mr. Hough said the “ probably the best thing” would be to build a large facility to store equipment on River Road and improve DPW facilities on John and Harrison streets, in a solution that buys the town time and delays a bigger decision on building a centralized facility.
“But we should at least make those improvements now so they can work in a reasonable and more efficient way,” town administrator Marc. D. Dashield said at the meeting.
“Both facilities, if we’re going to stay in them though, I have to be honest with you, they need repair,” Mr. Hough told the governing body. “They need things done at them.”
At the same time, he said that in the coming months, the town needs to “make some decisions and move forward as far as what would be either the long-term or certainly a five-to-10-year fix on some of those facilities.
“We do need some improvements,” Mr. Hough said, “if we’re going to stay at our two locations.” 