Lambertville could face tough year

Some municipal services could be cut.

By Linda Seida, Staff Writer
   LAMBERTVILLE — The city will face a tough budget year in 2008 that could result in a loss of some services, but officials say they are dedicated to maintaining the city’s high quality of life.
   That was the message from officials during the New Year’s Day reorganization when new Councilman Wardell Sanders was sworn in, and longtime Councilman Steven Stegman also took his oath of office.
   Mr. Sanders is president of a health plan association. He is a former deputy attorney general for the state Department of Banking and Insurance.
   A Lambertville resident for eight years, he called the city “a remarkable place to live,” with tolerance, diversity and beauty.
   ”I think we have a very special place,” he said. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”
   Mr. Stegman is entering his 10th year in office. New Year’s Day, he was re-elected as council president. He first became a councilman in 2000 when he was appointed to fill an unexpired term.
   In his annual state of the city address, Mayor David Del Vecchio pointed out Lambertville’s accomplishments in the past year and goals still to be attained in 2008.
   In 2007, the city became the site of the state’s first civil union.
   ”We made history that night and made a statement to the world that Lambertville is a city where understanding, tolerance and love trump everything else,” Mayor Del Vecchio said. “I can hardly think of another time when I was prouder to say that I was from Lambertville.”
   Also last year, the city installed a permanent “snack shack” at Ely Field, purchased open space for preservation on a hill behind the field for more than $1 million and installed drainage improvements on Cottage Hill and Music Mountain.
   ”While I can’t say that 2008 will be as history making, I can report that Lambertville enters this new year in excellent condition, and it will only improve in the next 12 months,” Mayor Del Vecchio said.
   This year, with funding from the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, the city will reconstruct George Street from Church to York, Quarry Street and Kline’s Court.
   The mayor also vowed to make it safer for pedestrians to cross Route 165 with the installation of a new traffic light. Also, the city plans to complete drainage projects on Cottage Hill and begin work on Highland Avenue.
   Also planned for this year is the expansion of the recycling program to include plastics at no additional cost to taxpayers, the mayor said.
   ”Even though Lambertville is a city, we are, in essence, a small town community with small town roots,” he said. “And in today’s world, we often forget that. I want 2008 to be a year of strengthening our community bonds.”
   The city will begin making the Justice Center available for “family fun” community events such as movie screenings.
   On a more serious note, the city is working on remedies for the flood-prone Swan and Ely creeks. Lambertville is in the process of obtaining permits for a pump station and floodgates for Swan Creek, and the city is awaiting federal approval for a portable pump station and floodgates on Ely Creek, the mayor said.
   Lambertville also will pursue a green future. The mayor said the city will purchase the most energy-efficient products, increase recycling rates and attempt to lower fuel consumption.
   Mayor Del Vecchio said, “Our city is strong, but we can become stronger. Our community bonds are tight, but they can be tighter. Our environment is clean, but we can do more to lead by example.”
   In February or March, the mayor and the City Council will introduce a new budget for the first time under the state’s new 4 percent cap.
   ”Our goal will be to maintain the quality of services our residents already enjoy with minimal impact on property taxes,” Mayor Del Vecchio said. “We enter this year with the lowest property taxes of any municipality in Hunterdon County with its own police force, and we fully intend to keep it that way.”
   Each council member addressed the audience. During her turn, Councilwoman Cynthia Ege said 2008 will be “one of the hardest years for our budget.”
   She said it’s possible the tough budget choices will lead to cuts in services although no specific cuts were outlined.
   Councilman Ron Pittore said he is impressed with the dedication of the city’s employees and volunteers, especially Clerk Lori Buckelew and Public Works Director Paul Cronce.
   ”Every meeting we have, Paul and Lori get something else to do,” Mr. Pittore said. “I don’t know how they continue to do what they do.”
   Mr. Stegman praised the efforts of Mayor Del Vecchio. He called the mayor “fiscally responsible” and said he is dedicated to making sure people still can afford to live in Lambertville even while improving the city with numerous projects.
   Mr. Stegman said, “There isn’t a street you can walk down in Lambertville that you can’t see the result of something that happened under Dave’s leadership.”
   Also during the reorganization, the mayor and council honored outgoing Lambertville Free Public Library board of trustees Chairwoman Leanne Parks for her years of service.