FREEHOLDER DIRECTOR DAVID B. CRABIEL
2002 STATE OF THE
COUNTY MESSAGE

 

October 17, 2002

 

2002 was a year in which the Middlesex County Administration made substantial improvements both in the efficiency of government and in the level of services offered to our residents. For example, with the help of Freeholder John Pulomena the county, as part of the Tech 2000 program, distributed 763 computers to classrooms K through 12, public and private, throughout Middlesex County. This brings the total for the first two years of the Tech 2000 program to 1,434 computers placed in classrooms throughout the county.

With the help of Deputy Freeholder Director Stephen J. “Pete” Dalina we are about to dedicate the Level Playing Fields, an athletic complex offering recreational opportunities to the physically and mentally challenged, the only one of its kind in the country.

With the support of Freeholder Jane Brady, we have created an Advisory Committee to Study the Feasibility of a mixed-use barrier-free living facility on the Project Freedom model.

The county has made significant strides in the area of farmland preservation and open space preservation with the help and dedication of Freeholder Camille Fernicola.

The residents of our county are safer today thanks to the efforts of Freeholder Christopher Rafano and the Office of Emergency Management which, in cooperation with the County Health Department, has substantially upgraded our preparedness to deal with various forms of potential terrorism.

The county recently held an inspirational concert for the benefit of the surviving families of 9/11 victims, and unveiled a unique prescription drug plan, which will help our seniors meet the rising cost of their medication – both the suggestions of Freeholder H. James Polos.

Lastly, during 2002 we have been able to develop a plan for Roosevelt Care Center, which is not only cost effective for our property taxpayers, but will also substantially improve the quality of life for our residents. This plan has so far met with approval from all of those involved with the Roosevelt Care Center community.

During the next few minutes let me highlight some of the accomplishments of the various Freeholder Committees and report on the current status of several ongoing projects.

I will begin with the Freeholder Committee of Engineering and Planning chaired by Freeholder Camille Fernicola:

 

 

COUNTY ENGINEER

        “Bicycle Safe” drainage grates are being installed at all locations on county roads, which do not presently have them.

        All dams throughout the county have been inspected by Middlesex County Engineer’s office. Middlesex County will be the first county in the state to have all dams in complete compliance with the New Jersey Dam Safety Act.

        In 1999, Middlesex County had 15 bridges on the state list of structurally deficient bridges. This was the lowest number of bridges of any county in the state, which had more than five bridges. Six of those bridges have been replaced, one bridge is under construction, and six bridges are under design for replacement in the immediate future.

        There are currently 16 traffic signals under construction (8 new signals plus 8 upgraded signals). Additionally, 86 traffic signals are under design (23 new signals plus 63 upgraded signals).

        Construction has begun on the Green Brook Flood Control Project. The bridge connecting the Borough of Middlesex with Bound Brook has been replaced and raised. Levees, a pump station, and property buyouts are currently underway.

 

PLANNING DEPARTMENT

        The Planning Department has updated the county Bicycle Guide, the county Bicycle Pedestrian Plan, the county Transit Guide, and the county Transportation User Guide.

        A Comprehensive Traffic Signal Analysis and Study of Southern Middlesex County has been completed. This analysis includes design recommendations for improvements to current and future traffic conditions at various locations in Monroe, South Brunswick and Cranbury.

        Under the Urban Forestry Program, tree planting grants totaling $14,382 were awarded to Dunellen, Milltown, South Brunswick, Edison and Old Bridge.

        Under the Farmland Preservation Program, applications for nine farms have received approval for state cost-share grants. The county purchased the development easement for a 54-acre farm in Monroe and the County Agricultural Board approved three new applications for farmland preservation.

DIVISION OF SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT

        For the year 2000, the latest year for which the statistics are available, Middlesex County, for the second year in a row, ranked first of all the counties in New Jersey for both percentage of waste recycled (65.3%), and actual tonnage recycled (1,497,168 tons).

        The year 2000 was the sixth consecutive year Middlesex County has exceeded the State Recycling Goal of 60%.

        Nearly 1,000 county residents have delivered over 107,000 pounds of consumer electronics to drop-off sites, as part of the county’s Consumer Electronics Drop-Off Program.

        During the year 2002, the county implemented the CFC Reimbursement Recovery Program, which provides reimbursement up to 75% of the cost for all properly performed and documented refrigerant containing appliances. Nearly 1,400 refrigerant containing appliances have been property evacuated under this program. This program is designed to prevent a release of ozone depleting CFCs into the atmosphere (CFC is chloro-fluorocarbon/refrigerant).

HOUSING AND COMMUNTIY DEVELOPMENT

        230 new affordable senior citizen apartments were completed in three towns with HOME funds.

        88 new affordable senior citizen apartments began construction with HOME funds.

        Middlesex County applied for and received $3,588,000 in CDBG and HOME funds to be used for educational, recreational, and transportation services provided to over 20,000 senior citizens and disabled residents; financial assistance to non-profit organizations assisting 50,000 county residents; accessibility improvements to six public facilities; park and street improvements in low-income neighborhoods in eight towns; and building improvements at Kiddie Keep Well Camp, serving needy children and senior citizens year-round.

Next, let me describe some of the accomplishments of the Freeholder Committee on Human Services chaired by Freeholder Jane Z. Brady:

DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES

        The Office on Aging serviced approximately 30,000 seniors, disabled residents, and caregivers, nearly doubling the number of clients assisted the prior year. Using nearly $300,00 in Federal funding, the Office on Aging has also established several new programs providing service for caregivers, translating informational materials into various languages and providing medical supplies and durable medical equipment for vulnerable seniors and physically-challenged residents.

        The Division of Children’s Services, utilizing a Title II-B grant, developed a series of informational brochures targeting high risk behavior by youth, including depression and suicide, teen violence, juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, and drug and alcohol abuse. 40,000 of the brochures will be distributed during the 2002-2003 school year.

        The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services conducted outreach to families affected by 9/11, first responders, and displaced workers residing in Middlesex County. Additionally, the division serviced nearly 250 Middlesex County children with special and emotional needs.

        The Division of Social Work Services provided indirect victim assistance, including emergency basic needs and counseling/behavioral health services for county families, which had an immediate family member killed or seriously injured on 9/11, employment lost or cut back as a result of 9/11, or mental health or substance abuse issues related to 9/11.

EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING

        Learning Libraries have been established in New Brunswick and Perth Amboy to provide job search tools, as well as internet access to post resumes, research jobs, and obtain labor market information, interviewing guides, resume writing assistance, and information on job training programs.

        A program to provide working mothers with computerized, home-based training has been established.

        Utilizing grant funds from New Jersey Transit, a program to provide temporary transportation to low-income clients for training, job search, interviews and employment has been established. This program serves 828 residents with 14,227 rides.

        In partnership with other service agencies, training is now being provided targeted to high technology jobs.

RARITAN BAY MENTAL HEALTH CENTER

        The Middlesex County Mental Health Clinic has been successfully consolidated into the facilities of Raritan Bay Mental Health Center in Perth Amboy. This consolidation has eliminated the need for duplicate support services.

YOUTH SERVICES

        Middlesex County Youth Detention Center continues to serve as a model for youth detention facilities around the country. During the past 12 months, officials from the States of Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and New York have visited the facility, as well as representatives from the New Jersey Counties of Camden, Burlington, Union, Salem and Bergen.

        The Youth Detention Center is the only detention center in New Jersey approved as a G.E.D. testing site by the N.J. Department of Education. 17 residents have received G.E.D.’s while detained at the facility.

        Middlefields Group Home recently attained Medicare Provider status and no longer requires matching funds from county property taxpayers.

The Freeholder Committee of Law and Public Safety chaired by Freeholder Christopher D. Rafano has also been very active during 2002. Some of the accomplishments of this Committee include:

COUNTY CLERK

        Tax maps are now available via computer in the Clerk’s Office. The mapping system including major and minor, filed and unfiled sub-division maps is now available on-line and over the internet.

COUNTY COUNSEL

        The Environmental Prosecutor has collected in excess of

$2 million in fines and penalties from individuals and corporations, who have violated environmental laws.

        County Counsel’s office has collected in excess of $800,000 as part of the bail bond forfeiture process during 2002.

DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS

        During 2002 this department received 1,158 written complaints, returned nearly $250,000 to consumers through refunds and exchanges, and obtained $8,290 in fines. In addition, $67,713 restitution to consumers is pending through court action and an additional $23,450 in fines and costs is expected to be received by the county.

WEIGHTS & MEASURES

        This department generated $32,000 in fines during the first nine months of 2002 by scanning bar codes of various commodities in retail stores and supermarkets.

PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE

        Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan implemented the Middlesex Out Reach and Education (M.O.R.E.) program to provide citizens with community-based educational awareness and informational programs.

        The Prosecutor’s office has received 1,145 guns, as part of its Firearm Surrender program.

        The Prosecutor’s office purchased 22 specially equipped bicycles for municipal police patrols.

        The office arrested 218 individuals for drug-related offenses and confiscated $232,730 in cash, eight late-model vehicles,

2 kilograms of cocaine, 2,242 decks of heroin, 225 pounds of marijuana, 1,000 ecstasy pills, 56 bottles of ketamine, and 100 vials of injectable steroids. The Fugitive Unit, during the last 12 months, apprehended 627 fugitives.

SURROGATE’S OFFICE

        The Surrogate’s office produced $518,076 in revenues.

        The Surrogate’s records have been computerized and are now available via the internet.

        More than 1,300 clients have been served at six satellite offices maintained by the Surrogate. The Surrogate’s office has conducted speaking programs and distributed more than 5,000 copies of informational material to county residents.

MEDICAL EXAMINER

        The Medical Examiner’s office has investigated 1,119 cases reported, performed 255 autopsies and 153 external examinations.

ADULT CORRECTIONS

        This department received a perfect state inspection report for the tenth consecutive year.

        A Community Services Program has been implemented as an alternative sentencing option. Selected inmates perform community services and labor projects, as part of day sentences, on Saturdays and Sundays. Over 225 offenders will utilize this program in 2002.

        A Clean Community program has been implemented in which specially selected inmates clean up litter and debris along roadways and in parks.

COUNTY FIRE MARSHALL

        This department received a Fire Safety/Sprinkler House Trailer with a Weather Smart Package to help teach children how to respond to home fires, hurricanes, or tornadoes.

        The Middlesex County Fire Academy has entered into an agreement with Middlesex County College, which will allow participants, past, present or future, in various fire-training courses at the Fire Academy to receive college credits toward a degree.

        The Fire Academy presently has internet access in each class-room and is in the process of installing a satellite system to become a distance learning center.

        The Fire Academy has offered special classes in Incident Response to Terrorist Bombing and Law Enforcement Response to Weapons of Mass Destruction. Over 750 emergency service and law enforcement personnel have attended these classes.

OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT

        A Bio-terrorism exercise involving a simulated incident of small pox was conducted.

        School Crisis Kit cases were distributed to schools throughout the county.

        An Auxiliary Police class, two classes in 911 Dispatch, and two classes of E.M.D. Dispatch were graduated.

Now, let me highlight some of the accomplishments of the Freeholder Committee of Parks and Recreation chaired by Deputy Freeholder Director Stephen J. “Pete” Dalina:

PARKS & RECREATION

        Old Bridge Waterfront Park, Phase I, was completed including walk/bikeways, boardwalks, fishing piers, concession stand with maintenance building, and police substation from Cheesequake Creek to Margaret’s Creek, a distance of 1.3 miles.

        The master plan for Old Bridge Waterfront Park, Phase II, has been completed. This project is similar to Phase I and extends Phase I by one mile, from Margaret’s Creek to the Monmouth County line.

        Engineering and design work has been finalized for the South Amboy Waterfront.

        The design and permits for a passive nature study area in the Raritan Bay Waterfront Park are in the final stages of preparation.

        The Level Playing Fields, a barrier-free athletic complex for the physically-challenged, is scheduled for completion during the next 30 days.

        The engineering for 100 acres of active recreation facilities in John A. Phillips Preserve Park is completed.

        The master plan has been completed for the boat ramp and restoration of all facilities in Donaldson Park.

 

CULTURAL & HERITAGE COMMISSION

        A monograph entitled Portrait of a Century, funded by the New Jersey Historic Commission, and highlighting the last 100 years of Middlesex County history was published.

        The Commission received a Citation of Excellence from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

        Architectural plans are under development for the restoration of the Indian Queen Tavern, which is part of East Jersey Olde Towne Village.

The Department of Public Health and Education, which is chaired by Freeholder John Pulomena, should be proud of many accomplishments, which include the following:

PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENT

        A state grant was obtained in the amount of $434,000 to perform community preparedness planning for bio-terrorism and other outbreaks of infectious diseases.

        A countywide Emergency Notification System was established.

        A Community Preparedness Task Force was created to develop planning to respond to terrorism, bio-terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, cyber terrorism, and mass fatalities.

 

MOSQUITO EXTERMINATION COMMISSION

        Commission employees worked more than 1,000 hours of over-time in an effort to protect the residents of Middlesex County from exposure to the West Nile Virus.

        The Commission worked cooperatively with county agencies to maintain and improve waterways throughout the county. This was done to reduce both the mosquito population, and the use of pesticides.

        The Commission worked with the Division of Solid Waste to remove illegally dumped tires, which serve as breeding sites for mosquitoes which transmit West Nile Virus.

EXTENSION SERVICES

        Educational programs and resources were provided for over 500 landscapers and farmers.

        Ten 30-minute television episodes were created for New Jersey Network Public Television.

        Educational information was provided to over 7,500 Middlesex County residents through Master Gardner volunteers.

        The 2001 4-H Holiday Shopping Day provided an opportunity for 178 needy parents to obtain gifts for their children during the holidays.

MIDDLESEX COUNTY COLLEGE

        As a result of grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Johnson & Johnson, the college was able to double the size of the nursing program. The nursing graduation classes of 2001 and 2002 reported a 100% passing rate in the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.

        College enrollment grew 12% during 2002.

VOCATIONAL SCHOOL

        An American Airlines Academy was established at the Perth Amboy Vocational School. This academy trains students to serve as reservationists.

        The Performing Arts Program has been selected to have a

3-year affiliation with the Paper Mill Playhouse. Participating students will eventually produce and perform an original presentation at the Playhouse.

        The new Perth Amboy Vocational School is under construction and is scheduled to open in October of 2003.

        The Vocational School now offers a Virtual Learning Academy providing low cost internet access programs, which can be tailored to the needs of individuals or businesses.

        The Vocational School system now offers low cost internet services to school districts, public and private, throughout the county.

        The Vocational School has received a grant which will be used to create the Construction Trades Training Program for Women and Minorities to prepare women and minority workers to qualify for apprenticeship in organized labor areas.

The Freeholder Committee of Public Works chaired by Freeholder H. James Polos was responsible for the following accomplishments:

HIGHWAYS & BRIDGES

        Thirty-six resurfacing projects for six municipalities and three county agencies were completed. An additional 33 resurfacing projects for three additional municipalities are scheduled for completion during 2002.

        Safety procedures have been upgraded with the purchase of various types of safety equipment. Training has been provided in proper flagging procedures, proper fork lift operations and proper procedures for working in confined workspace areas.

        This department responded to 64 emergency calls during 2002, as well as one snow emergency with an accumulation of approximately four inches.

        The department sponsored a mini Drunk Driving Course utilizing fatal vision goggles and golf carts in the parking lot of East Brunswick Vocational School for students ages 16 and up.

        The Middlesex County on Patrol (M.C.O.P.) Program was initiated. As part of this program, department employees on the road are trained to report suspicious activities in order to help keep neighborhoods safe. A total of 73 M.C.O.P. calls were received and dispatched to local police.

DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC PROPERTY

        By performing construction services in-house, utilizing county personnel, this department performed 9 projects saving the county $158,500.

Let me conclude by describing some of the accomplishments of my own Committee of Administration and Finance.

COMPTROLLER/CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER

        We have been able to maintain a Triple A bond rating with a “stable outlook” from both Moody’s and Standard & Poors bond rating agencies.

        Through a system of sub-line-item budgeting we have established tighter budget controls to ensure fiscal responsibility in the operation of County Government.

PURCHASING DEPARTMENT

        We have expanded the Middlesex County Cooperative Purchasing Program to include 17 of the county’s 25 municipalities.

        We have established a prescription drug plan for seniors and disabled citizens of the county. This program should be in place by January 2003.

        We have begun discussions with all of our neighboring counties to create efficiencies through joint purchasing and shared services.

        We are about to implement a program that will permit County Government to accept certain payments by credit card.

INSURANCE

        During 2002 the Division of Insurance has recovered $38,348 on behalf of the Department of Highways & Bridges for traffic signals damaged by motor vehicle accidents.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

        This department received two awards for the Economic Development publications “Welcome to the Heart of New Jersey” and the “Middlesex County Business and Economic Profile”.

        The department hosted a series of seminars dealing with

E-commerce.

        The department hosted a World Trade Center Business Assistance meeting to discuss assistance available to businesses affected by the tragedy at the World Trade Center and to establish a service network for businesses wishing to

re-locate to Middlesex County.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

        The Integrated Law Enforcement System has been placed in service by the Prosecutor’s office and is being evaluated by the Sheriff’s Department.

        The county is providing video conferencing and arraignment for County inmates, as well as inmates required to appear in several of the Municipal Courts in the County.

        An internal county e-mail system has been implemented.

        The Information Resources Management Commission has completed its preliminary report for a countywide computer network linking service provider agencies throughout the county.

        As indicated earlier, 763 new computers have been distributed through the Tech 2000 Program to classrooms K through 12, public and private, throughout the county.

I think it safe to say that this list of accomplishments by the Middlesex County Administration during 2002 is an impressive one. I commend the Freeholder Committee Chairpersons and their staff for their diligence over the last 12 months.

While this report may be a milestone in the progress of this County Administration, it is not intended to indicate that we have completed our task. The business of providing good County Government to our 750,000 residents is an ongoing one. It is only by continuing hard work and commitment that we will be able to maintain Government of the highest quality for our residents at the lowest possible cost for our property taxpayers. It is only by continuing hard work and commitment that we will be able to maintain Middlesex County as the Greatest County in the Land”!

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