FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios
Middlesex County Freeholder Board Reorganizes
Freeholder Director Rios Calls 2014 ‘Year of Opportunity’
JANUARY 5, 2014 -- During his Director’s Message, Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios today briefly reflected on 2013, paid tribute to longtime Freeholder Stephen J. Pete Dalina, and laid out an aggressive agenda for 2014.
“Middlesex County is ready to seize new opportunities because we are building on a strong past and are not afraid to challenge ourselves to perform even more effectively,” said Rios, Middlesex County’s first-ever Hispanic American Freeholder Director. He was sworn into office by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez as Rios’ family joined him on stage.
“Truth be told, I never thought I’d ascend to this post and become the first Hispanic American Freeholder Director of Middlesex County,” Rios said. “For that, I must thank my parents for their love and support and belief in the American dream. I must thank my wife, Micki, my daughters, granddaughters and son-in-law, for without them and their sacrifices, I could never hold public office.”
Freeholder Blanquita B. Valenti was sworn in to her fourth term on the Freeholder Board, and Freeholders Kenneth Armwood and Charles Kenny were sworn into their first full terms. Sheriff Mildred S. Scott was sworn in for her second term as Middlesex County Sheriff by Middlesex County Assignment Judge Travis L. Francis.
Just before Rios was elected by his Freeholder colleagues to hold the Director’s post for 2014, he introduced Woodbridge Mayor John E. McCormac to offer a tribute to longtime Freeholder Stephen J. “Pete” Dalina, of the Fords section of Woodbridge.
McCormac’s speech, which offered a glimpse into the personal and public life of Freeholder Dalina, was accompanied by a photo montage. Dalina’s family, including his wife of 61 years, witnessed the tribute. Dalina’s son, Richard Dalina, who now holds the Council seat vacated by his father when he ascended to the Freeholder Board, tearfully accepted a Resolution from the Freeholders.
Rios began his speech by highlighting the Board’s 2013 achievements, including retaining the County’s Triple A Bond rating and making investments in infrastructure and technology to safeguard County residents, bring efficiency to daily operations and lower the cost of running government.
“These are great accomplishments indeed, but we should never be content to rest on our laurels. In fact, I am calling 2014 Middlesex County’s Year of Opportunity,” he said.
Key initiatives for 2014 include:
- The introduction of a robust and dynamic County website. Users will be able to complete online payment and registration for programs; fill-out grant and program applications; reserve picnic groves; contact elected officials, view Freeholder meetings and even access resources and assistance through a live chat component.
- The County, working with the Middlesex County Improvement Authority, Edison Township and the JFK Health System will further its plans to transform the historic Roosevelt Care Center into independent, affordable apartments for our senior citizens, answering the growing and changing health care and housing needs of our residents.
- Implementing early voting opportunities by implementing an Ease of Voting initiative.
- The expected completion of the Open Space purchase of the 23-acre Visco Property that lies within the environmentally sensitive Dismal Swamp. With this addition, the County’s holdings within the pristine and important conservation area will increase to more than 100 acres. The County’s Open Space inventory totals 7,500 acres.
- The transformation of property across from the Perth Amboy Vocational-Technical High School into an active recreational area, complete with playing fields.
- Implementing the “Partners in Care” initiative to help employees prevent or address chronic diseases, while at the same time reduce the County’s health care costs. This program is running simultaneously with the Employee Wellness pilot program, aimed at helping employees raise their quality of life through smoking cessation programs, nutrition and exercise coaching and other lifestyle changes. Based on the performance of these types of programs within the private sector, the County anticipates a 20 percent reduction in health care costs once the programs are fully implemented.
- Rehabilitating the Brainerd Lake Dam in Cranbury and replacing a bridge along Clinton Avenue in South Plainfield.
- Reconstruction and improvements to River Road in Piscataway; Stelton Road through Edison and Piscataway; Route 516 in Old Bridge; and Woodbridge Avenue through Edison and Woodbridge.
- Construction is planned to begin in the spring on the long-awaited 1.86-mile New Brunswick Bikeway project, which will connect Rutgers’ Cook and Douglass Campuses to Rutgers’ College Avenue Campus via a dedicated bike lane. The $8.2 million estimated project cost is eligible for up to $7.8 million dollars of Federal Aid.
- Establishing a trades’ apprenticeship program to expand and develop an in-house workforce with skills in specific areas such as HVAC, Plumbing and Electric. The Registered Apprenticeship Program provides opportunities for Vocational School students seeking high-skilled jobs, whose productivity and knowledge will increase due to on-the-job learning from an assigned County mentor and related technical instruction.
- Also on the horizon, Middlesex County College is constructing two buildings on its campus: First, the College was awarded $14.8 million dollars in competitive grants to build and equip a new Academic Science building that will house additional instructional and lab space for science programs; second building, a Center for Student Services, will enable students to conduct their enrollment process at one counter instead of making multiple stops. The Freeholder Board allocated $3.4 million in capital funds for the science building project and $6 million for the second building, Rios said.
- Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Middlesex County Vocational-Technical School district, the oldest County Vocational-Technical School district in the nation.
- Begin to change the local human services delivery system. The changes are based on findings from the comprehensive Middlesex County 2020 Needs Assessment completed in 2013, which will assist the County in prioritizing programming and funding in the future.
- A complete redesign of the Network Operating Center within the Emergency Operations Center at the Middlesex County Fire Academy is being planned. The County is investing millions of dollars in communications technology and realigning the physical layout of the operating center to enhance preparedness, response and recovery.
Rios concluded: “We are fortunate to have a Freeholder Board that is committed to raising the quality of life here in the County and who is dedicated to safeguarding the well-being of our citizens. We have built strong and vital relationships with our municipal, state, federal and private-sector partners, and as a result have been able to innovate, create and move forward. Because of this, our boundaries are endless.”
Caption: The Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders held its annual Reorganization Meeting on Sunday, January 5 at Middlesex County College. Pictured from left: Freeholder H. James Polos, Freeholder Charles Kenny, Freeholder Blanquita B. Valenti, Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios, Freeholder Deputy Director Carol Barrett Bellante, Freeholder Charles E. Tomaro and Freeholder Kenneth Armwood.
Caption: U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (right) swears in Ronald G. Rios as Freeholder Director of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders as Rios’ wife, Micki holds the Bible during the Board’s Reorganization Meeting on January 5.