#b#Support PSE&G’s ‘Energy Strong’#/b#

Now that summer has arrived, it is once again “down the shore” time in New Jersey. Our damaged beach communities have rebuilt and rolled out the welcome mat. It is inspiring and heartening to see how our towns — not just at the shore but across the state — have recovered from the damage of Superstorm Sandy.

As chief executive of an organization that provides housing and care to some 3,500 seniors across New Jersey, it is my job to look to the future. And so, while most of New Jersey is largely back to normal or soon will be, I am uncomfortably aware that a new hurricane season is already here. Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and even the October snowstorm in 2011 have shown us our vulnerability to storms that seem to be growing more severe.

At Springpoint’s 23 New Jersey communities, Superstorm Sandy taxed our resources while also bringing out the best in our employees. At many Springpoint communities, staff worked double shifts, even going so far as to stay in the buildings overnight to be on hand for whatever residents might need. In some cases, those employees worked despite knowing their own homes were at risk.

Most of our residents were spared the worst of the storm’s cold, dark, and isolation. But complications from a power outage took a toll on more than 300 residents in our building for low-income seniors in Asbury Park. These residents were forced to vacate their homes for an entire month.

These scenes from Superstorm Sandy are vivid reminders of how much we rely on electricity, not just for comfort and convenience, but for health and welfare. This is especially true for the most vulnerable among us, including older people. With this in mind, we began working with the leadership teams at each of our communities to assess all aspects of service and care that were disrupted by the storm. We are committing the necessary resources into our communities to best prepare for future weather events like Sandy.

At Springpoint, we firmly believe in investing today for the future of our communities and our residents. That is why we support PSE&G in its “Energy Strong” initiative as it seeks to create a more resilient power grid, one that can withstand harsher storms. This kind of infrastructure improvement would be welcomed not just by our residents but by seniors throughout the state.

To view the bigger picture, “Energy Strong” is an investment in all of New Jersey. The improvements will have far-reaching, long-lasting benefits for New Jersey, supporting the state’s economy by creating 5,800 jobs — all without asking customers to pay more. A strong, stable energy grid also gives our state an advantage in attracting good employers, thus keeping our economy healthy. That’s good for everyone.

At Springpoint Senior Living, we have done all that we can do to keep our residents safe and comfortable when the next storm arrives. We encourage the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to permit PSE&G to do the same. We strongly hope that the BPU will approve PSE&G’s “Energy Strong” proposal.

Gary T. Puma

Puma is president and chief executive officer of Springpoint Senior Living, based at 13 Roszel Road.

#b#Help for Seniors#/b#

New Jersey has the second oldest population in the country. They need help. They need care. And the people who care for them need help too.

Currently, there are 1,750,000 caregivers who provide 1 billion hours of unpaid care each year for friends and loved ones in New Jersey. These caregivers provide care to an estimated 72 percent of older people, not in institutions, but in their homes. They are your friends, family members, neighbors. You may well be one too.

The Caregiver’s Assistance Act, S2515/A3404, sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross and Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt would provide a much-needed helping hand through a modest tax credit to help cover related expenses. What will this mean to caregivers? The “average” caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home while spending 20 hours per week providing unpaid care to her mother for five years. This would provide modest, but meaningful financial relief. Two thirds of caregivers are women and more than 68 percent of care recipients are women. These caregivers certainly deserve some recognition. It’s the least we can do.

Lilyan Cralle

AARP Advocate Volunteer

#b#Q&A on Valley Road#/b#

As signatures continue to mount for saving Valley Road School and putting the question on the ballot, a couple of other questions deserve immediate answers.

First, is there any asbestos in the building? No, according to the inspection and sampling that Valley Road School-Adaptive Reuse Committee (VRS-ARC) and the Valley Road School Community Center Inc. (VRSCCI) commissioned some time ago, there is NO asbestos in 369 Witherspoon Street. There is horsehair in the walls, but no asbestos.

Secondly, will you be looking for municipal funds for the renovations? NO, we will be seeking private donations. In fact, we will be saving taxpayer money that otherwise would be required to demolish the building, an estimated $350,000 to $450,000.

Thirdly, where will VRSCCI get the funds? We have had many indications of strong interest from members of the community. We also have had considerable interest from Valley Road School alumni, many of whom live outside of Princeton. In addition, we intend to seek support from the supporters of the nonprofit organizations that become tenants, and we will also seek funds from investor partnerships.

One prospective tenant has already expressed interest in being an investor partner. We are also looking at funds from the Economic Development Authority, which has recently financed projects for nonprofits similar to ours. And finally we have plans for exhibits in the building that illustrate the history that Valley Road School has presided over and that we think will interest potential donors.

Dan Thompson

Member, VRS-ARC

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