DIRECTOR'S MESSAGE FOR 2001
FREEHOLDER DIRECTOR DAVID B. CRABIEL
JANUARY 5, 2001
A COMMITMENT TO SERVICE
My distinguished Freeholder colleagues, Reverend Clergy, staff, other elected officials, and citizens one and all of Middlesex County-"The Greatest County in the Land":
Once again, with sincere thanks to my Freeholder colleagues for their expression of confidence in me, I have the great pleasure and the unique opportunity to lead our County government into a new year. I do so with a strong personal commitment to service on behalf of the citizens of our County, which I know is shared by my Freeholder colleagues. I know it is also shared by the hundreds of County employees who, together, work hard to make Middlesex the most desirable county in which to live and to work in our State.
Traditionally, Freeholders entrusted with the responsibilities of the Directorship use these remarks to review the accomplishments of the year just past and to commit the Board to an agenda of progress for the New Year. While I, too, will follow that format, my primary thrust will outline an ambitious agenda that springs from my strong sense that we have earned the confidence of the people of our County. I believe the fact that incumbent candidates representing our political party won election two months ago with record pluralities is a tribute to, and an endorsement of, the work we do here.
I congratulate re-elected County Clerk Elaine Flynn and I congratulate my Freeholder colleagues, John Pulomena and Jim Polos. All of them are now beginning their second terms as elected County officials and they do so with a clear mandate to devote their energy and their skill to County service. We welcome them back. I commit myself to their support in the pursuit of their service to you and I invite their full participation as we struggle with the decisions in public policy so necessary to move our County forward.
It is noteworthy that County Clerk Elaine Flynn won re-election with a plurality exceeding 65,000 votes and that Freeholders Pulomena and Polos won reelection by an average plurality of 58,000. Once again, I consider their mandate to be a tremendous endorsement of this County administration.
Many people say that the taxpayer cost of government at every level is the best barometer of the quality of that service. While I do not necessarily agree with that generality, I believe your Board of Chosen Freeholders does, in fact, have an excellent record in terms of the County tax impact. In the year 2000, we actually cut the County equalized property tax rate following six years of actual reductions in the County tax levy. And, I am proud to say, we look forward to another year - this year of 2001 - to again continue our record of property tax stability while assuring the highest quality and quantity of County government services.
Middlesex is the third most populous county in one of the most densely populated states in the nation. We have the third highest disposable family income of any county in the country, facts that reinforce my contention that we are an extremely desirable place to live, to work, and to play. I believe county government plays a significant role to assure that truth.
We work hard to enhance the quality of life for all the citizens of our county. This commitment emerges when we look at the many assets our County provides such as parks, recreational programs, Middlesex County College, our Vo-Tech School system, a continuing program of infrastructure improvements and our commitment to neighborhood enhancement.
This Board actively seeks ways to find progressive and innovative ideas to expand upon these assets and to make them available to even more of our citizens.
Each of your Freeholders has a direct responsibility for a significant Department of our government. And this is a foundation to build upon.
The Department of Human Services, led by Freeholder Jane Z. Brady
- This Department offers a full range of services providing for those unable to fully serve themselves.
- During the year 2000, the Juvenile Detention Center was rated by the Juvenile Justice Commission as one of the best operating facilities in the State of New Jersey. Additionally, the New Jersey Department of Education, in conjunction with the Juvenile Justice Commission, cited the Juvenile Detention Center's educational program as the best such program in the State of New Jersey.
- The Office on Aging initiated two new programs. The first was the Jersey Assistance for Community Caregiver (JACC), which provides a broad range of in-home services and support, which will enable individuals, who would otherwise be forced into nursing facilities, to remain in their homes. The second program was the Caregiver Assistance Program, which provides in-home services to people over 65 and younger individuals with disabilities who qualify for Medicaid.
- A major accomplishment is the building of a very much-needed 10,000 square feet addition to the Raritan Bay Mental Health Center in Perth Amboy. The Department of Parks & Recreation led by Freeholder Stephen J. "Pete" Dalina.
The Department of Parks & Recreation led by Freeholder Stephen J. "Pete" Dalina
- We are proud that our County parks are the best in the State.
- The Parks Department is presently developing a passive nature study area at the Raritan Bay Waterfront Park in Sayreville and South Amboy, 1.3 miles of walk/bikeway and waterfront restoration at the Old Bridge Waterfront Park in Laurence Harbor and cleanup of the Sewaren Peninsula in Woodbridge.
- Three soccer fields were improved in Thomas Edison Park, the bikeway and related facilities in Johnson Park were also refurbished. Two handball courts were constructed in Thompson Park.
- The Middlesex County Cultural & Heritage Commission was honored during the year 2000 with a Citation of Excellence by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Commission's Folk Life Program was designated a Local Legacy by the United States Library of Congress.
The Department of Engineering & Planning led by Freeholder Camille Fernicola
- Middlesex County today is one of the few counties in New Jersey that is in full compliance with State regulations regarding underground storage tanks.
- There are presently 100 active traffic signals under design in the County Engineer's office.
- Middlesex County was successful in reaching its 74% target rate for responses to the Census 2000 questionnaire, far exceeding the national rate of 67%.
- The County Bicycle-Pedestrian Plan is being updated to promote a friendlier and safer environment for pedestrians and bicyclists.
- Middlesex County continued to maintain a 60% or better recycling rate during the year 2000. This year, the Division of Solid Waste Management held a consumer electronics drop-off event at the Middlesex County College.
- In the last 12 months, 678 acres of additional Open Space have been acquired by the County's Open Space Acquisition Program, making a total of 4,166 acres preserved. Also during the year 2000, 825 additional acres have been placed under contract for purchase. Additionally, we are presently negotiating contracts of sale for 225 more acres in Highland Park, Milltown, Monroe, Old Bridge, Sayreville, and South Plainfield. The original goal of 7,000 acres of additional Open Space will be achieved in a reasonable period of time.
The Department of Public Works led by Freeholder H. James Polos
- During the year 2000, Middlesex County entered into Interlocal Agreements to resurface municipal roadways for the municipalities of Cranbury, Helmetta, Highland Park, Milltown, South Amboy, and South Plainfield.
- Child Safety Seat Awareness seminars were conducted and an Older Adult Traffic Safety Program (OATS) was created to help older adults increase their awareness concerning vehicular and pedestrian safety.
- The County has developed an Integrated Pest Management Policy to protect the environment and avoid the indiscriminate use of pesticides and herbicides.
- We have also created a Downtown Business District Improvement Fund to help our municipalities.
- The County developed and began to distribute the Middlesex County Task Force on School Violence Kit to help manage crisis situations, which may occur in our schools.
- And we created a crime prevention program in the Department of Highways and Bridges -Middlesex County on Patrol. (M.C.O.P.)
The Department of Public Health and Education led by Freeholder John Pulomena
- We have the "Best in the State" County College and Vo-Tech school system.
- The County Vocational and Technical High Schools broke ground for a new, technically enriched high school in Perth Amboy.
- We opened the new Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technology on the campus of the Middlesex County College, as part of our Vocational and Technical High School System.
- The Tech 2000 Program was introduced; this program provides an up-to-date computer for every classroom in every public school throughout the County.
- The Public Health Department has been conducting passive and active surveillance, as well as educational programs, to help fight the spread of the West Nile Virus.
The Department of Law and Public Safety led by Freeholder Christopher D. Rafano
- A Cadet program was established as part of the County Office of Emergency Management. This program will allow young people, ages 14 to 21, to volunteer their time to assist neighbors with emergency services during periods of crisis or natural disaster.
- A Labor Assistance Program was established during the year that would allow a day-labor sentencing alternative for Municipal Courts.
- Middlesex County was able to recruit a new Medical Examiner.
- The Office of Emergency Management obtained a $1 million mitigation grant from the N.J. Department of Community Affairs to help alleviate damage left by Tropical Storm Floyd and the resulting floods.
- Working together with Freeholder Polos and the Public Works Department, the Public Safety Building, and the new State-of-the-Art Family Courthouse were both put into service during the year 2000.
And the Department of Administration and Finance led by myself as Freeholder and Director
- We were able to eliminate more than 50 County positions in an effort to downsize County government, saving over $2.6 million in the 2001 Budget.
- The County equalized property tax rate was reduced, an act that followed six consecutive years when we were able to actually cut the tax levy.
- As liaison to our Middlesex County Improvement Authority, I am proud of its record of accomplishments. And, our Middlesex County Utilities Authority seldom gets recognition for the major role it plays in protecting our environment through its proper disposal of solid waste and sewage.
- In October we established and activated the Middlesex County Web Site. (www.co.middlesex.nj.us)
- We entered into a Partnership Agreement with Middlesex County Improvement Authority and the Sayreville Economic Redevelopment Agency to undertake the clean up and redevelopment of the National Lead site in Sayreville, and appropriated $19 million in capital funds for that project.
- A site and architect has been selected for the Middlesex County Veterans' Memorial.
- The County held an auction for the sale of the surplus County Annex in North Brunswick, realized revenue of $1.2 million and placed this valuable property back on the property tax rolls.
- In 2000, the Middlesex County Children's Commission, chaired by Mary Varga Crabiel, produced an updated version of its Children's Medical Services Directory for the year 2000, and the Commission was designated by the State of New Jersey as the New Jersey KidCare Outreach Agency for Middlesex County. During a 12-month period, the Commission doubled the number of eligible children enrolled in the New Jersey KidCare Program to almost 7,000.
- We continue to maintain our County's Triple A Bond Rating, a fact that assures the lowest possible interest costs when the County and our municipalities and school boards borrow money. For instance on our Bond & Note sale yesterday, our interest rates were more than 10% below the estimate of our financial advisors.
- The year 2000 saw Middlesex County continuing in its effort to place the residents of Roosevelt Care Center under qualified private management, into two brand new State-of-the-art extended care facilities. Our present goal would be to replace the existing former tuberculosis hospital with at least two brand new 180-bed extended care facilities where the residents of Roosevelt can have the peace of mind and quality of life they deserve.
GOALS FOR THE YEAR 2001
And now, we look ahead at the year 2001, a year of great challenge and opportunity for us all
- A major priority, finalize a permanent solution for Roosevelt Care Center.
- Continue the cleanup of the Raritan River, a major dream of mine, including the National Lead property in Sayreville. We also intend to plan for the dredging of parts of the Raritan River.
- During 2001, we will begin to place computers in classrooms throughout the County as part of the Tech 2000 program. Hopefully, this program will serve as an incentive for school districts to provide Internet connections in those classrooms and for teachers to receive training in the use of technology in the classroom. Our goal is for all of the school children of this County to have access to state-of-the -art computers, as well as the educational advantages available through Internet access.
- We will expand the County web page so that residents can file applications and receive services electronically, including the ability to pay fees electronically by credit card.
- We will implement the interconnections developed by the Information Resources Management Commission to maximize the efficiency of our service delivery agencies throughout the County.
- We have the opportunity to make Middlesex County the Technology Center of the United States. We have taken an important step by opening the Academy for Science, Mathematics and Engineering Technology to train our workforce of the future.
- Under the leadership of the Mayor of the Borough of Sayreville, the Garden State Technology Center recently commenced business in the closed Keebler Cookie Factory, (formerly the Sunshine Biscuit Company). This former manufacturing facility will now house a fiber optic telecommunications center to service the advanced needs of the telecommunication industry.
- This Garden State Technology Center, together with the extensive business community of Middlesex County, can serve as a magnet to draw other high-tech investors and employers to Middlesex County. And, the Information Resources Management Commission will lead this program for the County government.
- The Middlesex County Veterans' monument will be designed and constructed by Veterans' Day 2001. And the Fountain in Roosevelt Park will be restored to its original beauty.
- I would like to see an ice skating rink for recreational skating constructed in Johnson Park. And soccer fields will be added to Fords Park on property being acquired by the Township of Woodbridge.
- The old Court House will be renovated and the old 13-story County Administration Building will be made useful and productive again.
- I am proposing the creation of a recreational facility that will allow our children who suffer from severe physical or mental disabilities to have the same access to team sports such as baseball, football and soccer as their physically able siblings and friends.
We have many parks and ample recreational facilities, but some of our children aren't playing simply because they can't.
In Roosevelt Park, we have a barrier-free playground. I am proposing that capital funds be provided this year to design and build barrier-free athletic fields, including benches and restrooms, for team sports, so that physically and mentally challenged children can have the opportunity, with assistance, to play baseball, football, and soccer rather than just watch others play.
Every child in our great County should be able to experience the fun and excitement of competing in team sports, and every parent should be able to enjoy the thrill and enjoyment of watching them as they do it. One possible name for this facility could be "The Level Playing fields".
I find that the great challenge in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.
In millenniums past, Middlesex County has been well served by a solid, modern foundation that we can use to build upon as we enter the new millennium.
I am confident that within our County we will use the combined talents of the leaders and citizens of our 25 communities to build upon that foundation and to create the infrastructure of the 21st Century. We will use this new foundation and infrastructure as our bridge to the third Millennium. Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is a process; working together assures success!
Happy New Year to one and all!
David B. Crabiel
January 5, 2001