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Hightstown 2012: A Year of Intense Action With Little Actual Results

A resident's recap of Hightstown 2012 highlights. How the residents step up and the local government once again failed to live up to its public promises.

As 2013 begins, we should reflect on what happened during the past year. Progress made, along with the accomplishments and disappointments. The economy was tough for most of the people we know and our hopes and dreams were somewhat restrained by the needs of those around us and our attempts to help when and wherever possible. We were reminded that hope and faith in a better tomorrow was what kept some of our neighbors going. And without real hope for improvement the road forward is very difficult if not impossible.

During the storm, which was going to flood Hightstown out of existence once and for all, we learned that better preparation and some luck are all that we needed to stay dry and intact. While the power went out in some parts of Hightstown, neighbors ran cables from their generators to help one another. In some respects, the storm brought neighbors together, and that is usually very good as long as they are not gathering to burn down the townhall or your home.

We came together several times to show through a fair, parade or other events that community spirit is high and pride in Hightstown remains strong.

What also happened is a list of failures and lost opportunities, which we need to reflect on. The Borough Hall Complex remains empty with no public timetable released for rebuilding. All major commercial property development plans and approvals are still among the missing. Some demand discussions on the “Vision for Hightstown” while we fail to take action for another year on the REALITIES of Hightstown. 

The Bridge Project went from Community Involvement at $75,000.00 to a need for taxpayer infusion of an additional $150,000.00. We have bonded another million or so this year and still have the outstanding bonds for the hurricane, which have not been paid off by the insurance company or FEMA. We have an administration, which is proud that it has stalled the council from any meaningful action to improve Hightstown for yet another year.

As residents, taxpayers and concerned citizens, our wish for 2013 should be that during the January 7 Reorganization Meeting the council presents or declares a formal 2013 Action Plan for Hightstown along with a timetable for implementation which must be kept. Have each member declare their support or opposition to the plan. They should also publicly resolve to reject calls that previously side tracked their plans while continuing to remain open to constructive public comment. 

In 2012 the council’s opponents wrongly accused it of both secrete meetings and of wasting time with public meetings concerning the Borough Hall Complex. In 2013 the council should dedicate itself to tangible results and not just redoubling its efforts. Hightstown should not go another year without solid progress and results. You cannot improve Hightstown without a real plan. Keep Hope Alive.

I have always supported public plans and open government. I have also openly
opposed the Mayor and Borough Administrator as obstructionists dedicated to the destruction of Hightstown. Let them prove me wrong through their actions in 2013 and I will applaud them publicly.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

B.Bennett January 02, 2013 at 11:49 AM
Agree with you on the borough administrator - Theokas - needs to go....never was qualified and don't know how he got the job - don't know much about Kirson other than he doesn't want to be Mayor and can't wait to get out - again nothing was done and think you will write this again January 2014 - nothing gets accomplished in Hightstown - don't have to list everything as most people living here know what hasn't been done -
Eugene E Sarafin January 02, 2013 at 06:10 PM
A myopic viewpoint in a town with a myopic Borough Council and one without a clue as to in dealing with complex problems best portrays the remarks presented by a total obstructionist to Hightstown's future. Having lived in the area for over seventy five years and here in Hightstown near fifty years I have seen the results of stupid myopic decisions. For example, in 1969 the mayor of Hightstown wanted 6 of 9 council seats for the borough as a result of a merger vote with East Windsor passing. At the time there were 5,000 people in Hightstown and 10,000 in East Windsor. The merger vote passed in Hightstown and failed in East Windsor. So we now pay double East Windsor's municipal tax for Hightstown's municipal services. Then in 1979, Mayor and Council rejected joining in a Municipal utility authority with East Windsor so we now have water/ sewer bills double East Windsor's. The failure to merge police services with East Windsor already costs us one and a half times what it would have been with a merger. What has been done, obviously unknown to little result author is the simple everyday things that get done such as water and sewer service, public safety enforcement, road repair, snow removal, refuse removal, tax collections, public health inspections, and the listing goes on and on. What the actual results writer wants ignores the reality of the market place an d promotes a horrendous mistake that totally lacks vision of Hightstown's future and well being.
Eugene E Sarafin January 02, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Theokis is totally qualified and B. Bennet has absolutely no qualifications for anything except to hide behind a pseudonym and give us the benefit of his/her ignorance. Everything gets accomplished in Hightstown which is obvious. What doesn't get accomplished is the absurd, idiotic moves proposed by Gibbons, Bennett and some members of Borough Council that shows a total lack of vision and a continuation the historic mistakes made by the myopic, ignorant, and delusional in local government.
Eugene E Sarafin January 02, 2013 at 06:51 PM
The necessary improvement at the moment is to house the borough employees in a rented facility that is adequate for their performance of their work. One and one half years for a council of the stupid to temporarily house borough employees in an adequate facility because of their desire to keep such services in our borough hall flood plain with ridiculous decisions is indicative of their muddled brains and lack of foresight. Five council members and their director, J.P. Gibbons of Patch comment fame and government critic fear the loss of Hightstown as some kind of ancient historic site where Washington and Lafayette relieved themselves while discussing battle plans, will lose its identity without a Borough Hall. Prior to 1961, Borough Hall was on the second floor of a building next to Scott Caster's photographic studio. We are going to pay dearly for their inability to think with foresight as to Hightstown's future needs. I don't think our Historic Peddie school or local residents will change their Hightstown address if Borough hall is elsewhere located. Locating Borough Hawaii should be considered.
Eugene E Sarafin January 02, 2013 at 07:30 PM
East Windsor has possibilities if it were larger.
Robert Langdon January 02, 2013 at 08:07 PM
Visions and realities of Hightstown are mixed metaphors that require mere observations rather than actions when no actions are required as reactions to some unknown action that Gibbons proposes. His demanded action is to locate Borough Hall in a flood plain. His demanded action is to create some artificial conceptualization for the Minute Maid property and Rug Mill site that will bring in unimaginative developers to create a ratable(s). Where is Harry Potter when you need him? It is the Gibbons' fantasy land that he creates in his desire for results yet wants reality.He even has council members believing in his fantasy Borough with the municipal building in a flood plain surrounded by a moat of ratables created by his vision of new our historic village aptly renamed East Princeton. But we do have a Borough Council in a fantasy land because they have become characters in a fantasy, totally ignoring and realities. JP Gibbons is the Pied Piper of Hightstown that leads council members instead of our children to his fantasy of reality.
JP Gibbons January 02, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Mr. Langdom should visit reality and not live in his fantasy Borough where nothing gets done and those who attempt to get results are considered Pied Pipers. Oh it appears he is just doing that in the current HIGHTSTOWN. If wanting the commercial properties to become as productive and tax generating as possible is wrong I want to be wrong. What is your vision of Hightstown or are you opposed to everything. Tell us all how you suggest improving the borough with a real plan of action for 2013. I and all of Hightstown await your grand plan and vision for tomorrow and beyond.
JP Gibbons January 02, 2013 at 09:02 PM
Mr. Sarafin is very knowledgable about the history of Hightstown and I would defer to his life expereinces except that he will sometimes misrepresent them. I am very glad that my comments have resulted in Gene submitting several of his own so far. A prime example of misrepresentation is his statement that Mr. "Theokis is totally qualified". He has no governmental or educational qualifications for the position, his practical experience is the OJT he has received over the past year in this position. How can that make anyone "totally qualified" if you are honest in your assessment. Mike is more qualified now then when he took office by the OJT he has received. I sometimes enjoy Gene's public comments at Council meetings because he has many valid points to make. My problem with his replies to my letter is that he is pushing the party line about the location of the Borough Hall Complex and qualifications of Mike. AS I have heard several times at Council Meetings, the insurance company will pay for almost the entire reconstruction of the Borough Hall Complex if it is built on the current site. The flood zone issue has been proven to be a design and enginering issue which would be addresed during the rebuilding process. Those are the solid facts for this issue.
JP Gibbons January 02, 2013 at 09:03 PM
The Mayor and others have fought for over a year to buy the Lucas property and relocate the complex there including the Public Works Department. They have delayed critical information requested by the Council and forced the Council to do a lot of its own fact verification including the insurance and FEMA claims. In the past 6 months the Council has come together to make decissions and move projects along. The projects are going nowhere because the Mayor and Administrator are obstructing them in every turn. If this statement is false since it is in written here I challange the Mayor or Administrator to file legal action against me and let us all see what is produced during the DISCOVERY portion of that action. Truth is the first positive defense. The time I want to return to is when opposing sides could listen to each other and work it out
Robert Langdon January 02, 2013 at 10:35 PM
A debate between Gibbons and Sarafin would need some specifics such as: Resolve that the location of Borough Hall is significant to the future development of Hightstown or Resolve that there are immediate uses for the two large commercial properties that will occur instantly with no added costs or impact to the Borough. Also Resolve that the elected members of council have education and experiences related to governmental issues before taking office. As to my plan of action for 2013 awaited by Mr.Gibbons.it will be the plan of the planning board and the business organizations of Hightstown with economic interests that will present a well thought out realistic plan without actions that would be detrimental to our future development. My opposition is to building a municipal complex with police facilities, a jail, a court, municipal offices and council chambers when the insurance money can be better employed in a facility with a multiple purpose design for future needs in a merged community.
Eugene E Sarafin January 02, 2013 at 10:57 PM
There are two views of what and where we are going and how we should proceed along with JP Gibbons' opinion of misrepresentations by me and qualifications of the Borough administrator. First Mike Theokis brings the experience of serving on Borough council, managing his own business, and a college degree as well as a football player with team credentials. the only on the job training he is receiving is dealing with a paranoid, ignorant, arrogant, unenlightened mix of council members who don't do their homework but know more than the experts they employ. these are facts not misrepresentations.
JP Gibbons January 02, 2013 at 10:58 PM
Again you fail to acknowledge that the insurance company is required by the terms of the policy to replace what was lost not build you and the Planning Board what they want where they want it. Secondly, I am sure Gene and I both would love to have you join us for an open honest discussion of the plans for Hightstown. You would have another chance to give the GHEWIP position based on their studies and said to represent the entire Downtown Business Community which is bull. Elected officials are determined to be qualified by the fact they are elected. Paid professional are expeced to have solid education or actual experience as qualifications. Want to try again?
JP Gibbons January 02, 2013 at 11:17 PM
Thank you Gene for clarifying what you mean by "Totally Qualified" when refering to Mike Theokis. You failed to mention that he did not complete his term on Borough Council. As you know, there is a major difference between being responsible for public money and assets or your own. You can throw away your money but should not do the same with taxpayer money. That is why many business ventures go out of business or just fail outright. Solid management is critical to the success or failure of both public and private operations.
Eugene E Sarafin January 02, 2013 at 11:35 PM
It is the Voices of Hightstown party line to plow ahead with putting a replacement Borough Hall, court. Council Chambers , and police facilities with a cell block to restore the fifty year old facility to its grandness when it first opened in 1961 on the site of a former auto repair garage and under the leadership of Mayor Milton Cunningham who battled the spendthrifts in accomplishing the task. It is the voices of GWIP. Downtown Hightstown, the Borough Planning Board, local business person, and citizens with foresight that say take the money and buy or rent a facility not in a flood plain, and one that has other uses for future needs. They see no commanding reason to locate the municipal offices downtown or uptown as the primary reason to do so. JP Gibbons is promoting his view of Hightstown and its municipal offices with his proteges on Council and providing editorial opinions in the Patch and else where to further his agenda of status quo and myopia. I buy the opinions of my fellow citizens serving on committees and boards as to the location of a municipal building.

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