MIDDLESEX COUNTY REORGANIZATION MEETING
JANUARY 7, 2011
“Middlesex County: Building A Brighter Future
on a Foundation of Success”
My distinguished Freeholder colleagues, members of the Clergy, Judiciary, State, County and Local officials and friends, it is with great honor that I welcome you to the 2011 Reorganization of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Today, we begin building a brighter future on a foundation of success.
Our record of achievements once again received the approval of Middlesex County voters. We have made history with the election of Middlesex County’s first female Sheriff, my former Freeholder colleague, Millie Scott. With Millie’s departure, we welcome former Edison Township Council President Charles Tomaro to the Board. Charlie, congratulations. I look forward to working with you in serving the people of Middlesex County.
You cannot talk about service to Middlesex County without mentioning our former Sheriff, the longest-serving sheriff this county has ever had, Joe Spicuzzo. Joe, the people of Middlesex County owe you a debt of gratitude for the many years of protecting their safety and well-being. The programs you began in the Sheriff’s Department have advanced the safety of our residents and for that you are to be commended.
I extend my sincere thanks to my Freeholder colleagues for the confidence they have placed in me once again to lead our County Government into a new year.
I pledge to you that this Middlesex County government will embrace the challenges and opportunities that 2011 will bring. I firmly believe that no county in the state is better positioned to come out of the national financial crisis better than Middlesex County.
The County economy showed signs of growth in 2010. We ranked Number One in New Jersey with a total of nearly $883 million in newly authorized construction. Projects such as the New Brunswick Gateway, Princeton Medical Center and Edison Town Square are taking shape. This will ensure new jobs will be created for 2011 and beyond. The County will be investing in our communities by allocating more than $65 million in low-interest federal loans to redevelopment projects such as the Wellness Center project in New Brunswick. This project alone will create 350 construction jobs and about 370 permanent jobs. The Transit Village project will bring to downtown New Brunswick a full-service, 50,000-square-foot supermarket and state-of-the-art hospital-based fitness and wellness center. Serving as a transit hub, it will connect commuters and students with New Jersey Transit and Rutgers University transportation options. Middlesex County has been aggressive in pursuing these federal low-interest loans to stimulate growth and to bring jobs to the County. We pursued the federal loan dollars in the same way we sought $13 million dollars in federal stimulus grant funds for infrastructure and $2.5 million in stimulus funds to retrain displaced workers. Through these efforts, Middlesex County is laying the foundation for sustained economic growth and a reduced unemployment rate.
With all this said, the County is in the second phase of an economic development study that will be completed this year and stimulate long-term stability and growth in Middlesex County.
Middlesex County has always been at the leading edge of offering quality programs and services at costs our taxpayers can afford. 2011 will be no different. However, we must fundamentally change the way we do business. This can only be achieved by changing the management structure that oversees the daily operation of county government. This means starting at the top. Ultimately, this will drive operational efficiencies to all levels of our organization. We will reduce our costs by at least $2 million in 2011. Based on an analysis done over the past 6 months, I am directing the County Administrator to begin immediately the implementation of this initiative. We must lead by example. We must set the bar. We must lay the foundation for future generations.
With this as our goal, our 2011 initiatives will unfold.
We will start by enhancing the safety and well-being of our residents. I am proud to say that we are prepared, but must continue to be steadfast in our commitment to the safety of our residents. Under the leadership of Deputy Freeholder Director Ron Rios, we will ensure more effective and efficient emergency communications by encouraging our municipal partners to join our state-of-the-art 800 MHz radio system. The County’s emergency radio system will not only improve radio communication in each individual town, it will save municipalities millions of taxpayer dollars as they prepare to comply with pending FCC mandates. By joining our system in this Shared Services opportunity, municipalities will avoid the costly overhaul of their existing systems. I urge our municipalities to partner with us on this extremely important initiative.
We will be working aggressively to establish a Shared Services agreement with Mercer County for youth services as we have done with Somerset and Monmouth counties that have generated millions of dollars in revenue for Middlesex County.
In 2011 we will continue our dialogue to establish a Shared Services arrangement with the Federal Marshal’s Service to house federal inmates in our Adult Corrections Center. This agreement should generate over $4 million dollars in new revenue for the County.
The Middlesex County Fire Marshal’s Office will start Uniform Fire Safety Code inspections for a growing number of municipalities in 2011, beginning with the Boroughs of Dunellen and Middlesex. This is another Shared Services program that will provide critical savings to our municipalities.
Under the leadership of Freeholder Valenti, we will continue to work with municipalities and non-profit organizations to end homelessness in Middlesex County. We made significant strides toward this goal in 2010 by establishing the Homelessness Trust Fund, a permanent funding source dedicated to combating homelessness. And in working with our partners, we helped create homes in Highland Park and in Carteret for our veterans.
In the area of Education, Freeholder Barrett Bellante will work closely with our County College as we implement our County Education Stimulus Program, establishing a private-public partnership to offer at least 100 adults who have been out of work for 6 months or more a full scholarship to Middlesex County College so they may gain the education and skills to retool for the job market.
In 2011, we will welcome our 22nd municipal member, Middlesex Borough, into our Public Health Services program, saving money for County and Borough taxpayers.
Also in the area of health care, our work is moving forward on an initiative to help our aging population stay healthy and active using a coordinated continuum of care. Doctors’ offices, various treatment centers, adult day care and out-patient rehabilitation will join the quality long-term care offered in Middlesex County. This initiative will be enhanced further when we open later this year a new, LEED-Certified, 180-bed, long-term care facility in Old Bridge. We will dedicate this new facility in honor of our long-time friend David B. Crabiel.
The health and well-being of our employees is paramount. That is why we are working on plans with Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and other health care facilities to start a pilot project to keep our employees healthier, and as a result drive down our health care costs.
This program will be modeled after a program used by the Boeing Corporation that resulted in a 10 to 20 percent savings in their health care costs in less than a five-year period. This demonstrates Middlesex County’s willingness to look to the private sector for innovative programs that will ultimately save taxpayer money.
In the area of Transportation, under the leadership of Freeholder H. James Polos, we will be debuting the seventh Middlesex County Area Transit Community Shuttle, which will offer reliable, safe and affordable transportation to residents of South Amboy and Sayreville.
With Freeholder Stephen J. “Pete” Dalina leading the way, we are excited that work has finally begun on the rehabilitation of Medwick Park in Carteret. I am confident that once complete, this 83-acre jewel will be reclaimed for use by our residents and especially the youth of our community, who will no doubt enjoy the playing fields, playground and walking paths that will be built there. And, I promise you, we will continue to pursue our goal of preserving 10,000 acres of open space by 2012.
As we continue to work to reduce our energy costs, I am pleased to announce that Middlesex County College has just received several proposals to construct a 5.2 mega watt solar project on campus. We anticipate the price for power could be as low as 2 cents per kilowatt hour – an outstanding savings for the College, which currently pays 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour. This price is one of the lowest prices bid for solar power in the State. It is expected that Middlesex County College will save more than $10 million dollars in energy costs during the 15-year program.
We want to recognize the successful efforts of our College Board of Trustees, administrators and professionals to lower the College’s energy costs. In line with this effort, the Freeholder Board will be accelerating the next phase of this program that will include other County facilities.
In pursuit of utilizing the most recent technological advancements in serving our residents, we will be accelerating the implementation of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology throughout County operations. It will touch and improve every aspect of county government: from planning and engineering, emergency services, law enforcement, parks and recreation, public safety, health and housing. This collaborative strategy across all departments and agencies will result in our ability to deliver services at new levels of effectiveness and efficiency.
We will work closely with the State of New Jersey in 2011 to push for e-signatures. By enabling the use of electronic signatures to formalize resolutions and other government documents, we streamline the approval process, cut down on reams and reams of paper and decrease the need for a facility to house years of paper records.
Middlesex County has always set a course for responsive, efficient government that embraces technological advances to reduce costs and provide quality services.
You have seen the fruits of these labors over the years: We’ve incorporated state-of-the-art techniques in park design and material to reduce maintenance costs and extend the life of our facilities.
We are going from relying solely on power plants to using solar and other alternative energy sources to reduce our costs and decrease our carbon footprint.
We’ve taken advantage of new technologies, leaving behind clipboards and manual chart keeping and moving to electronic devices, to enhance patient care at Roosevelt Care Center.
We are now looking to replace the rolls of blueprints, outdated maps and stacks of paper reports with GIS technology that can bring dynamic, up-to-the-minute information to our employees at the click of a mouse so they can better plan and coordinate services.
And we will work to reduce paper and the need to store years of government paperwork in a warehouse by embracing more computer-based applications, like our new Legistar meeting system. This will help us make government less cumbersome and more transparent to the people we are elected to serve.
Our challenges are many, our opportunities are great and our resolve is strong.
As Vince Lombardi said: “We are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But in the process we will catch excellence.”
We cannot and will not stop our pursuit of excellence when it comes to serving our community. Our pursuit must be relentless. It is what our residents deserve and it is how we ensure that Middlesex County remains the Greatest County in the Land!