Lambertville, N.J., Mayor Julia Fahl can’t stop thinking big.
A standing room only crowd of nearly 200 people filled Lambertville Public School’s multi-purpose room Friday, Jan. 31, for the mayor’s annual State of the City Address.
Fahl said that although Lambertville is at a financial crossroads and facing tough choices, the way out is to engage community input and try to solve the problem sooner rather than later.
“We must take direct action to widen our tax base.” According to Fahl, the city is holding $13 million in current debt. “We are at a tipping point in our city’s history.”
She said there is a lack of space in the library building and city hall, and the infrastructures of both are crumbling. “Our police building is sinking into the ground,” Fahl said, adding that the floor is separating from the building. She estimated about $10 million in deferred maintenance costs.
Fahl said governing body and staff have spent much of the past year “taking stock into where we stand” as a city. “How do we care for our aging, but beautiful city?”
She announced a plan to sell the police building as well as address the city’s affordable housing obligations, but did not offer further details. There have been discussions regarding the sale of the City Hall and library buildings as well.
Fahl announced the possibility of building “a new community hub for our city,” which would consist of centralizing the police station, city hall, library and the ACME Screening Room. “Nostalgia cannot supersede function,” Fahl said.
“This is not a final plan. We are in a moment where we can expect big things.”
She said residents could learn more at the city’s community fair, which was held the following morning.
That information, which outlines the problems facing Lambertville, is also expected to be available on the city’s website.
Fahl said there have been more volunteers serving the city than at any time in recent memory. “Our city thrives on the backs of our volunteers.”
She also thanked city staff and promised a happier and healthy workforce as part of a “more holistic approach.”
She said the number of governmental body meetings has doubled since she became mayor a year ago. “We set a high bar to make this city and every single person who calls it home proud,” Fahl said.
She added that Lambertville residents have high expectations and it’s time to “invest in long-term decision making.”
The mayor said one of her goals is to “make our city a better place to live.”
“We want what’s best for Lambertville,” Fahl said.
The delivery of the State of the City address was a departure from many previous addresses that were embedded in regular city council meetings and usually poorly attended. Residents applauded throughout the address and gave Fahl a standing ovation after her final words.
“Let’s get to work,” she said.