The evening’s agenda was light, but the Lambertville City Council meeting Thursday went longer than expected due to the perennial city parking issue, in this case dealing with a series at the Lambertville Hall on Bridge Street.
Michaela Murphy, Director of Education at the Bucks County Playhouse, introduced four storytelling events that would take place at the Hall on one Friday each month from September-December.
Lambertville Hall, formerly a Baptist Church, had been running the workshops capped at 49 people per session. This resulted in multiple shows per evening to meet the participant and audience demand, with Murphy indicating some nights went “really late” because of the cap.
Murphy had gone in front of the planning board previously, and the Hall was allowed to host up to 150 people, which was estimated to impact of about 75 parking spaces each of the four days.
Many council members expressed reservations over parking, which has been an issue with the property since its transformation.
One resident of Jefferson Street mentioned that Friday Fireworks brings in “a lot more people than 150,” to which Mayor Julia Fahl agreed and responded, “that’s almost an inarguable point.”
City lawyer Primitivo Cruz added language to the resolution for the Hall to work with the city to “assess possible parking impacts,” and this version was passed.
The dates of the workshops are Sept. 20, Oct. 25, Nov. 22 and Dec. 13.
During the first reading of ordinances, Fahl recused herself from the discussion to join a local community energy aggregation program due to a potential conflict of interest with her employer. Councilwoman Elaine Warner headed this period and acted as council president with Beth Asaro’s absence.
This is not the first time the city has done energy aggregation, but it is different from the South Hunterdon Renewable Energy Cooperative (SHREC) used before.
Warner had worked with resident Michael Heffler on this effort to join the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative (HAEC), which had around 8,000 households in the last quarter and, according to Heffler, saved residents $150,000 in energy costs. He suggested that more New Jersey towns on the proposed PennEast pipeline route are discussing joining and cited “lower costs and greater amount of renewables.”
Heffler noted that, like in the past, residents of Lambertville would be automatically enrolled once in the new energy program, but have the choice to opt out. A household will also have the option to increase or decrease the percentage of their monthly bill they would like dedicated to renewable energy. On behalf of the city, Concord Engineering will look for attractive market rates, place a bid, and if the rate is favorable, agree to a contract term. The city has more information about the co-op on their website.
A public hearing on the ordinance will be held on Thursday, Sept. 19.
In other business, Fahl thanked resident Art Legere for his work on the Shade Tree Ordinance, which passed unanimously.
In his portion of the meeting, business administrator Alex Torpey encouraged residents to watch the Facebook Live video he did with the mayor, as well as mentioning the new plastic bag recycling program with the Trex Company.
Torpey then revealed that 24 percent of the budget annually currently goes to debt service, and said that best practices are around five percent.
“If we continued spending at the rate that we were spending from capital projects, by 2025 that 24 percent would become 38 percent,” he said.
The status of the curbside composting program has some “exciting potential local options,” according to Torpey, and they are ordering stickers and bungee cords with plastic hooks for the third cans.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, three residents who have lived near the Swan Creek asked about the status of the ongoing flood mitigation project there. Resident John Franzini said, “This project has been urgent for fifteen years,” while also highlighting the status of the Ferrellgas property near Lambertville Station as a barrier to moving forward with the State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Fahl thanked Franzini and his wife for their past work on the issue, and said she is working to setup a public meeting with state DEP experts on the issue to “better educate the public on what the steps are beyond just the land acquisition, because that is just one in multiple steps that would have to come to get this project to fruition.”
Lastly, new parking meter rates will go from $1 an hour to $1.25 an hour on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 28.