On Tuesday, Chatham residents had only one municipal question to consider: whether or not to approve sports betting in New Jersey. Residents in Princeton Township and Princeton Borough had another issue to vote on that Chatham residents can relate to: whether or not to merge the two towns into one.
The measure passed by a 3-to-2 margin and will go into effect on 2013, opening the door for other bordering towns (or "doughnut towns," as The Star Ledger calls towns where one is completely surrounded by another) to likewise consider a merger.
In Chatham Borough, this issue was discussed — but hardly debated — in the League of Women Voters' Candidates Forum last month. The four candidates present all supported keeping the borough independent from other districts, saying they had spoken with very few, if any, residents who favored the notion. In the debate, then-Mayor Nelson Vaughan said the borough is "surrounded by towns that are a lot larger than us, and any merger between us would mean that we are a junior partner."
When the Chatham Township Committee met Thursday night, Committee Member Bailey Brower, Jr. congratulated the Princetons on the merger vote and said it set a mandate for the Chathams. Other committee members, as well as members of the public, spoke up in favor of merging the towns, but said they have not felt the same enthusiasm from the borough. In the words of Committee Member Kevin Tubbs, "it takes two to tango."
The two towns share a recreation department and a library and school system. They also share a municipal court, along with Madison and Harding. Both have their own governing committees (the borough has six voting council members and one mayor who has a tie-breaking vote, and the township has five voting committee members with a mayor chosen by the committee), their own administrators, police departments, public works departments, garbage and recycling collection contracts and water and sewer systems.
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