Organic waste recycling, local business growth and community involvement are all among a list of goals for Lawrence Township in 2015, according to Mayor Cathleen Lewis.
2015 marks the final year of Lewis’s 2-year term as mayor. The extended mayoral term—until 2011, the council voted on a new mayor each year—has been a benefit, Lewis said, because it allows each mayor to spend more time seeing goals and projects come to fruition.
“A year is always going to be too short to impact the change you’re trying to make and to build some of the relationships that you need,” Lewis said, noting that she hopes to use her second year as mayor to continue many of the goals and efforts set forth in 2014.
On March 1, Lewis will see one of her own projects from 2014 come to fruition with the beginning of the township’s first curbside organic waste pickup program. Lewis first proposed the idea at the beginning of her term in 2014, and has spent the past year promoting the program with the goal of having 300 households sign up to participate.
While the township has not met the 300-mark, there were currently about 220-230 households signed up as of press time, and the vendor had agreed to start the program, Lewis said. For a fee of $17 per month, each household that signs up will receive a recycle bucket. However, the first 300 to sign up will pay a discounted monthly rate of $12 due to a grant for the program.
Lewis also noted that households can share the recycle buckets to reduce costs. Residents can sign up through a link on the township website, lawrencetwp.com.
Community involvement has also been a major goal for Lewis and the township throughout 2014, and though Lewis noted that community participation will always be something the council strives to encourage, the past year has also yielded results.
“The tree lighting had more people than I’ve ever seen there,” she said. “The Colonel Hand march was packed. Those are all good indicators of projects I think are important in trying to get the community more involved.”
Outreach in the business community has also been an ongoing effort.
In September, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced that it would be building a second site in Lawrence.
“That’s great, not just as an indicator that business likes to come to Lawrence, that they’re investing in Lawrence, but I think it’s going to be great for a lot of the small businesses,” Lewis said, “because all those (Bristol-Myers Squibb) employees—some will be employees who are already here, but some will move from other BMS campuses, so they’ll all need to find places to go to lunch or meet for coffee.”
The groundbreaking for the new BMS campus, set to be built on Princeton Pike at the I-295 Interchange, will likely taking place in the spring, Lewis said.
Meanwhile, construction is currently underway at a number of other locations in the township.
At Mercer Mall, a sign had just gone up for the new addition of Nordstrom Rack. Farther down U.S. 1, Mrs. G’s was in the process of completing renovations to its new, permanent location next to Worldwide Flooring. At the former Mrs. G’s site, construction had begun on the future shopping center, expected to feature a McDonald’s, TD Bank and Wawa as well as additional retail space. Improvements to the intersection of U.S. 1 and Bakers Basin Road are also planned. Across from the former Mrs. G’s site, construction continues on a new AAA building, previously the location of Party City.
Continuing south in Lawrence, the empty site next to Lawrence Lexus is set to become the home of Auto Lenders, a used car dealership for certified used automobiles. Lewis said it was important to note, though, that the dealership will look like a new car dealership and operate under the same requirements as any new car dealership.
Lewis also noted that the new management company of the Lawrence Shopping Center was working on addressing some fundamental issues with the property in preparation to bring in new tenants. The owners also plan to install a new roof for the entire shopping center.
Overall, Lewis said, 2014 was a good year for the township, starting with the township revaluation at the beginning of the year.
“Once the revaluation was done and the budget was struck for 2014, the average tax bill was down $21,” Lewis said. “Not that many towns got to say their taxes went down, so that’s a good thing.”
And, though the budget for 2015 is still a few months away from being finalized, Lewis expected to see municipal taxes remain stable.
Looking ahead to the upcoming year, Lewis also hopes to explore other ways that communication and planning ahead can keep Lawrence Township in a good position several years down the road, including exploring more opportunities for cost saving and cost sharing.