Statement by Freeholder Christopher Rafano
County Reorganization Meeting

 

January 4, 2002

I would like to welcome all of the family, friends, and well-wishers who are here today to help me celebrate my re-election as a member of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Representing the 750,000 residents of Middlesex County during 2001 was a challenging and rewarding experience. My sense of accomplishment for all that we did last year was, unfortunately, tempered by the deep sense of loss we all shared following the events of September 11. This sense of loss was, in turn, mitigated by the deep pride that I felt for the unselfish efforts of hundreds of Middlesex County police, fire, EMT, Emergency Management and HazMat personnel who assisted in the rescue and recovery efforts in New York City.

Everyone in Middlesex County should be proud of these brave men and women and the substantial efforts made by Middlesex County to assist our neighbors in New York during their time of greatest need.

While the terrorist attack on September 11th overshadowed many of the accomplishments of our County Government during 2001, they were, nevertheless, substantial.

In my own Freeholder Committee of Law and Public Safety we implemented an Integrated Law Enforcement System to help our police agencies electronically share information to assist them in making our streets safer. I must commend our Sheriff and Prosecutor for their involvement in making this happen. We began a program of video arraignment, which has been expanded to include several municipalities. This program allows inmates at our correctional facility to be arraigned and participate in other Court functions without the need to transport them between the facility and the Courthouse. This program not only saves money, but it allows police officers to continue their duties rather than provide taxi service for inmates. We also expanded our computerized Emergency Notification System, started by Freeholder Pulomena, which enables us, with the push of a button, to immediately notify residents of emergency situations.

An Adult Substance Abuse Program was instituted in our Adult Correction Facility to help reduce drug-related repeat offenses. A Labor Assistance Program was developed to provide a sentencing alternative for our Judges to allow selected offenders to perform useful public services rather than be incarcerated. The County has been able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars on the cost of incarcerating these individuals. An Inmate Labor Program has provided valuable service to the county as well as 16 different municipalities, while at the same time offering inmates a chance to earn their keep. The Middlesex County Adult Correction Facility was found to be in 100% compliance with State Inspection Criteria for the 8th consecutive year. There is no other facility in the State that can boast of this accomplishment.

At the end of 2001, we entered into a contract with the Federal Government to house federal inmates in our facility. This contract will provide additional revenue of approximately $5.1 million annually to help reduce the cost of operating County Government for our property taxpayers.

The Fire Training Academy has added several new courses and we have purchased a Fire Safety Trailer to teach our children how to respond in the event of a fire.

We created the first Emergency Management Cadet Corps. in the State of New Jersey and one of only a handful in the country. Our young cadets learn the importance of emergency services and, at the same time, are required to maintain a high grade point average. The Consumer Affairs and Weights & Measures Departments have returned nearly $340,000 to aggrieved consumers throughout the County. And we are now on-line so that consumers, who want to research a company or file a complaint with our office, can do so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We also took steps to be prepared for future emergencies. We updated the Middlesex County Emergency Plan ahead of schedule, including the annexes relating to bio-terrorism and terrorism, and established a County-wide chain of notification in the event of a serious warning or incident of bio-terrorism. We purchased cases of School Emergency Crisis Kits to be distributed to schools throughout the County, along with the finalized report from the County Task Force on School Violence.

I believe we have taken substantial steps to take advantage of technology and to make our whole approach to law and public safety more professional and more cost effective. I firmly believe that it is important for government to continue to improve and I commit to you that I will work to do so during my next term.

We must stay ever vigilant in making sure our citizens have an efficient and effective government and stay ever mindful of the services they deserve. In conclusion, I would like to wish everyone a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year.


Thank you!