Freeholder H. James Polos
Announces the 2002 Middlesex County Downtown and Business Improvement Fund Grants

The Middlesex County Downtown and Business Improvement Fund initiated a year ago by Freeholder H James Polos will be awarding grants of $750,000 to 13 municipalities in the county at tonight's Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting. In establishing this annual program in 2001, the goals of Polos and the Freeholders was to provide communities with a financial opportunity to stimulate economic development in their business and downtown areas as well as to set the stage for the potential of improving their commercial tax ratable base so as to try to reduce the tax burden on homeowners.

"This type of financial support for municipal projects which is not available through the state, helps towns in the county pursue needed restorations and provides seed money to start projects which then opens the door for funding from other sources as well," pointed out Polos in advance of tonight's meeting.

In applying for the funding support, Polos said each community is required to present formal plans for the proposed improvements or revitalization projects. There is a 10% limitation on use of these funds to develop the plans. Qualifications for the grants are geared to streetscape and public space improvements or public facade or building renovations.

Polos identified the township of Plainsboro as receiving the largest single grant of $78,750 this year, while grants of $68,630 each were awarded to South Brunswick, Spotswood, Piscataway, Highland Park and Jamesburg. The other towns that will receive grant monies are Dunellen, Helmetta, New Brunswick, South Amboy, South River, Carteret and South Plainfield.

Last year the largest single grant went to South Amboy for $100,000 as part of the Broadway special design district renovation and was earmarked for creation of a parking lot on First Street to meet commuter needs involving use of both train and ferry service to Manhattan. That project is underway and is part of the overall restoration of the South Amboy waterfront area.

Polos, as the former Mayor of Highland Park, said he started this program because he was well aware of the needs that municipalities face and that often these projects are tabled because of shortage of funds. He noted that another example of the benefits of last year's funding was the upgrading of Washington Avenue in Carteret with the use of $75,000. This year, armed with another $59,600, Carteret plans on giving a facelift to Roosevelet Avenue.

In reviewing the municipal requests, Polos said that 20 communities had sought funding with requests that more than doubled the $750,000 available. "The criteria followed in the awards process" said Polos, "is establishment of the viability and importance of the project to the given town, potential for creation of employment and a demonstration of need." The estimated improvement value of the projects now being funded is nearly 2.1 million dollars.

The program has been hailed by the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce as well as the New Jersey Alliance for Action whose president, Philip Beecham expressed, "we are very pleased that Jim Polos came up with this concept which has helped many towns in the county as well as the county itself."