I recently toured our new water plant. It’s an impressive facility. People look at the plant and say it’s a beautiful building, and it is, but I’ve heard many comments over the past months questioning the extravagance and appearance of the plant. I question it myself. It’s the most impressive building for miles around, but personally, I’d rather this description be attached to a building built with private funds versus one built with public money specifically tied to Princeton taxpayers.
Being accountable to residents regarding the management of their tax dollars is important to me. It was a promise made when running for the city council. For various reasons I didn’t support this plant being built, and as construction began and progressed, it became apparent it was more than expected. So the following in the spirit of a promise made.
Attached to the plant is an office building. Within this building is a 745-square-foot room. The four walls surrounding this room are reinforced concrete block. The ceiling is concrete as well, hidden by panels. The south and west interior walls are windowless, yet the same exterior walls have seven, high-quality double-hung windows with grids. The windows are decorative only. Look through the glass and you’ll see nothing but concrete. The room is a concrete bunker. I was told that in the event of a city emergency, the room will be used as a command center.
I asked Farnsworth, the project engineer, how much this room cost, and while I’m OK with the front brick facade of the water plant, which faces south, I also asked the cost of the brick and block work on the east, west and north side of the plant, as well as the cost of the arched windows. In response, Farnsworth and Vissering Construction require the city to pay $6,750 to answer these questions. They knew when coming up with this figure that the city wouldn’t pay it ... and to pay for information that should be at our disposal is ludicrous. It seems they don’t want us to know the figures. Regardless, I think the cost for this room, and it’s hardening, as they refer to all the concrete, and the block and brick work to three sides of the water plant and the arched windows is likely as extravagant as the appearance of the water plant itself, and it’s all being paid with water rates and fees.
Last week I received a call from a resident senior citizen. It’s not the first call received on this subject, just the most recent. She’d received her utility bill. She said it used to run about $55, but now it’s regularly about $100, and she finds it difficult to pay. She specifically mentioned the water plant. She wanted to know what I could do to help her. This is a tough call to take, tougher still when there are no easy answers. This is our water plant, and hopefully we can someday justify its size, extravagance and cost.