Township-borough rift on financing goes public

Councilman claims borough is owed ‘millions’ on pump station; township administrator issues rebuttal

By Nick Norlen
Special Writer
   The retirement of debt service for a sewage pumping station has become a persistent point of contention between the Borough of Princeton and Princeton Township, according officials of both municipalities.
   The pumping station on Mount Lucas Road was built during the 1980s so that sewer flow could be transferred from a Montgomery Township treatment plant to the Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority.
   Councilman David Goldfarb, the borough’s representative on the joint sewer operating committee with the township, said Tuesday that the township owed the borough “several million dollars” because the joint sewer rehabilitation fund maintained by both municipalities was tapped to do the construction.
   That claim was disputed Thursday by Township Administrator James Pascale, who said the township financed and built the pumping station “solely on our own and paid for it 100 percent.”
   He added, “Mr. Goldfarb has been given report after report” to support the township’s contention.
   Mr. Goldfarb’s comments came as the council was preparing to approve a bond ordinance appropriating $500,000 for the sewer rehabilitation trust fund, an action unrelated to the construction of the pumping station. But Mr. Goldfarb took the opportunity to note that the township is receiving revenue from fees paid by users of the pumping station and should be sharing that revenue with the borough because the principal has been paid off on the original project.
   Mr. Pascale said, however, that the township is still paying off the interest on the pumping station construction and would not begin sharing revenue until the debt is retired.
   Referring to Mr. Goldfarb’s complaint, Mr. Pascale said, “The taking of positions like that, which are untenable, is adding stress to township-borough relations.”
   The two officials were in agreement on one point, however. Both acknowledged that Mr. Goldfarb has repeatedly raised the issue in meetings of the joint sewer operating committee and has been rebuffed.
   ”This issue has been raised with the township, and the township is clearly delaying in the hope that the borough will just sort of go away,” Mr. Goldfarb said. “Frankly, I’m not content to discuss it quietly anymore.”
   Mr. Pascale agreed that Mr. Goldfarb had made the claim “countless times” and been repeatedly informed of the township’s position.
   Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi said Tuesday that the only correspondence between the two municipalities on this issue has been from the Sewer Operating Committee.
   ”The latest I heard is that now (the township is) charging interest against this somehow, so that the payoff date has been somewhat delayed,” Mr. Bruschi said.
   During the council meeting on Tuesday, Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman directed Mr. Bruschi to work with Mr. Goldfarb and Borough Attorney Michael Herbert to draft a summary of the situation.
   Mr. Goldfarb said the issue should be “presented in front of all five members of the Township Committee.” He added, “There are members of the Township Committee who believe that the borough has somehow been unfair to the township. I’d like to show them that, in this instance, the township has been unfair to the borough — and it involves a great deal of money.”
   He complained that Mr. Pascale had been “basically just putting us off,” noting that the township has also requested that the borough review minutes of meetings during the 1980s to see if there had, in fact, been any agreement to use funds from the sewer operating fund to build the pumping station.
   ”There’s no record of us having done so,” Mr. Goldfarb said, adding that it was unlikely that the borough would have entered into such an agreement.
   But according to the township’s view of the situation, the reason there is no such agreement on record is that funds from the joint fund were not used to finance construction of the pumping station.
   Because of that, Mr. Pascale said, there is no reason for the township to begin sharing revenue from usage fees associated with the pumping station until the debt is entirely paid off.
   But Mr. Pascale said the township wasn’t entitled “to keep the first dollar” of the revenue. “The point is that they were never entitled to any of it.”