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Princeton To Welcome New Government Complex

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John Kanelis
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Crews are working to finish a massive city hall project set to open in December in Princeton.
Credit John Kanelis

Princeton City Manager Derek Borg could be excused if he cannot quite get rid of the smile that creases his face.

After all, he is overseeing a fundamental change in the way City Hall operates, starting with the venue where the wheels of local government will keep turning.

Princeton is in the midst of a big-time construction project that by the end of 2021 will bring virtually all of city government under a single roof. What’s more, the city will be providing services in a municipal complex built with a sort of symbolism that illustrates the city’s commitment to “transparent local government.”

The Princeton municipal complex is under construction. The city issued $20 million in certificates of obligation to build the complex that will sit along the north side of U.S. Highway 380 about a quarter-mile east of Princeton High School. Borg said the new complex will comprise about 47,000 square feet, or about seven or eight times the space the city uses at its current City Hall site.

“You have to remember, too, that we’re going to bring virtually all our agencies under one roof,” Borg said.

He ticked off the departments affected by the move: the police department will have offices in the new complex; the fire department administrative offices will relocate to the new site; parks and recreation will operate at the new site; so will utility billing, the city secretary, the city manager and the city council be headquartered in the new digs.

“Bringing everyone together improves efficiency and provides for better communication” between various departments, Borg said.

The city decided to locate its new municipal complex a good distance from the downtown district for a couple of reasons, Borg said. One was that the owner of the site gave it outright to the city, which made that location a seriously good financial bargain, Borg said.

Another was that there can be no commercial development along the right-of-way between the complex and the highway, according to Borg, who said the area just north of 380 contains wetland that the city will develop into green space for the public to enjoy. Borg noted that the “topography” of the site makes it conducive for wetlands and park development, which is part of the city’s overall plan for the complex.

Mayor Brianna Chacon can hardly contain her excitement at the prospect of moving into the complex. She said the city plans to erect a Christmas tree on the grounds this year, noting that the complex might not yet be completed fully until perhaps early January. That doesn’t matter to the mayor. “You bet I’m excited,” she said.

The symbolism about the construction of the complex? It lies in the amount of glass the city is using, offering a salute to the “transparency” the city is pitching for the way its government should operate. According to Borg, the glass “builds in a feeling of transparency, which is how government should work.”

Chacon agrees, saying the city “has to operate with transparency.”

“I absolutely love what we’re doing there,” she said of the project, noting that the city intends to offer the public ample space to use the municipal grounds. She said the city intends to provide computer work stations – both inside and outside the structure – for residents to work.

The city manager said the municipal complex is merely part of what the city has planned for its immediate future. The Princeton Economic Development Commission approved grants for businesses downtown to spruce up their storefronts, Borg said. Moreover, the city intends to develop Yorkshire Street from 380 north into the downtown district; it will be widened into a boulevard, he said, along with Second Street from Highway 380 into the downtown district.

The city also plans to receive bids soon on a massive street-widening project along Myrick Lane south of Highway 380, also while widening Beauchamp Boulevard to Myrick.

All eyes are awaiting the moment for the end of construction of a municipal complex that well could signal a new identity for a city on a rapid growth trajectory. Indeed, Princeton got some expected, but still staggering news, from the Census Bureau: Its population virtually tripled between the 2010 and 2020 census. The 2010 Census put the population at 6,807 residents; the 2020 Census pegs the population at 18,338.

Thus, we see the city manager, the mayor and all those who serve the city’s exploding population working diligently to get ready for the big move. Yes, they all are smiling broadly these days.

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, also is a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is retired but is still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.

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