Believe it or not, the holidays are upon us. We’ve been extremely fortunate as the weather has been mild thus far, allowing many of us to continue to enjoy the outdoor activities we love to do throughout our beautiful county – from the beaches and parks, to local tree and menorah lightings, to shopping in our beautiful downtowns and local shopping centers.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to shop local, I encourage all of you to do some this holiday season when buying gifts for your loved ones. I was happy to join our Lieutenant Governor, Kim Guadagno, on Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving), along with my fellow Freeholder, Serena DiMaso, on a tour of several local businesses in the Red Bank region. We were pleased to see these businesses thriving on that start to the holiday shopping season, as well as the crowds we saw on the bustling sidewalks throughout the downtown.
It’s a proven fact that independent and locally-owned businesses recirculate more revenue locally. The spending done by a local business to operate (including inventory, utilities, equipment and salary to employees) directly impacts the economy within our own community. In addition, the indirect impact happens as employees and business owners spend their income within our local economy, recirculating dollars through their earned money.
What an incredible fall season we have experienced thus far. The weather has been extremely kind, allowing us to enjoy the amazing landscapes Monmouth County has to offer. I hope that you attended some of the fall events and festivals held in our beautiful county parks and at our beaches, and also those coordinated in your hometowns. The leaves have changed and that means after leaf collection is completed, the county will begin to prep for the upcoming winter season. We are already collecting salt and materials to safeguard our over 1000 miles of roadways when the inclement weather presents itself. The county will be ready as always.
In the meantime, you may have noticed our red trucks mobilized throughout the county as the Public Works and Engineering staff have been busy the past few months, working hard to enhance the infrastructure and efficiency of our roadways, bridge and culvert structures, traffic signals and natural resources.
I know there is much speculation recently on the integrity of the Assessment Demonstration Project and I want everyone to know that we hear you and we will support your inquiries. Earlier this year, I along with my fellow members of the Board of Chosen Freeholders asked Matt Clark, Monmouth County’s Tax Administrator, to hold a meeting for all the municipalities to explain the details of the Assessment Demonstration Project. It was our understanding that attendees left feeling more comfortable with what they heard and understood the benefits of the program. As a result of the close working relationships we have throughout the County, numerous Mayors have contacted the Freeholders with concerns over the uncertainty of this program and the recent negative media coverage surrounding it. While we all did our best to alleviate those concerns, we also understand the difficult position it puts most of them in. After the events the past few weeks, without making judgements on the program, its administrator or county tax board members, we believe it may be best to put this program on hold until all questions are answered and the Mayors can explain the long term tax benefit to the residents of Monmouth County . It is our hope that the timeline of January 1 will remain intact while these issues are vetted, as it gives the municipalities the ability to budget for the following year’s tax appeals. It is our hope that you continue to stay informed and aware of the tax assessment program through your municipality or at the County level.
After a very long period time and with many notable road blocks and obstacles, I, along with a great team of my colleagues, including Senator Jennifer Beck (R-11), and Neptune Committeeman Randy Bishop, am so happy to announce that the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT’s) Office of Maritime Resources has awarded the bid to complete the Shark River dredging project. The project’s contract was awarded to Mobile Pumping & Dredging Co., of Chester, PA.
This huge step forward is a result of years of work coordinating with the many agencies that have authority over this project. After being involved in this project for more than fifteen years as Mayor of Neptune City and now as a member of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, I am personally very happy to see this project finally begin. I have worked with other officials throughout the years whom were also very passionate about this project, including Tom Catley, former Mayor of Neptune Township, as well as other past mayors of the surrounding towns and those in office today. The County has long continued to work cooperatively with these local officials, as well as state and government agencies to move this dredging project forward.
This is a large project, with approximately 106,000 cubic yards of material to be dredged. With cooperation from the Monmouth County Reclamation Center, which is able to accept and reuse the dredged material, and the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders providing funding, we have made this project a reality. Not one part of the Shark River project was easy or simple, but we found a way to accomplish this.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Office of Maritime Resources has awarded the bid to complete the long awaited Shark River and Shark River Spur Dredging Project to the low bidder, Mobile Pumping & Dredging Co., of Chester, PA. MPD’s bid of $7,649,817.50 was $1.8 million lower than the next closest bidder.
The State of New Jersey will contribute over $5 million to the project. Monmouth County will contribute $1.1 million and Neptune Township has committed $450,000. Belmar, Neptune City and Wall Township are expected to share the remaining costs of the project, according to a statement isssued by Senator Jennifer Beck, Freeholder Tom Arnone and Neptune Township Committeeman Randy Bishop. Beck said the project will start this year, “if all the stars align,” and will be completed by the end of 2016.
“After over two decades, there has finally been a bid awarded to dredge Shark River. Notably, The National Marine Fisheries only allows dredging work from July 1st to December 31st, so I’m happy to see this monumental step taken forward, which, if all the stars align, will allow dredging to begin this year. None of this could have been possible without the work of Freeholder Tom Arnone and Committeeman Randy Bishop, working together in a bipartisan fashion with every state, county, and local stakeholder to make this project happen. While the State is investing more than $5 million, the project couldn’t have moved forward without the assistance of Monmouth County, which is accepting the material at its landfill and helping to fund the trucking. In addition, a number of surrounding municipalities have preliminary agreed to share in the cost of the project” said Beck.
I can’t believe I am saying this, but summer has slipped away before our eyes. While the calendar does not officially declare autumn until September 23, the unofficial end of the season is Labor Day, when our beaches officially close, lifeguard towers are put away and the school doors open. As most of us locals know, some of the best beach and park days are still ahead of us, as September and October provide us with the perfect weather to continue to enjoy these gems we are lucky enough to call home.
The 2015 summer tourism season went extremely well, as we were blessed with great weather – modest temperatures and very little rain; in addition both the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays provided us with an extra two weeks of the season.
I am extremely happy to hear that most beach towns are providing initial reports that badge sales were up over last year, with some reporting the 2015 season as a record year. Asbury Park has already reported that beach badge sales were up 21% over last year and Belmar has already exceeded their final total number from 2014. Spring Lake officials have reported that beaches have been crowded all season and the shops on 3rd Avenue are doing record business. Long Branch not only reported record crowds at Ocean Fest, but has continued to experience a packed beach and boardwalk all summer, with all Pier Village shops and restaurants doing very well.
NHL Star Trevor VanRiemsdyk, a CBA graduate, brought the Stanley Club to Middletown on July 30th
What an exciting few weeks for Monmouth County! We are making history and people around the region are taking notice. The weather has been incredible – which means our beaches, restaurants and attractions are packed and in turn, economic rewards for the community.
We even got a visit from the Stanley Cup. Trevor VanRiemsdyk, a defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks and Middletown native, attended a ceremony in his honor at Middletown Arts Center on July 30. Hundreds of fans from the area turned out for this exciting event, where Mayor Stephanie Murray awarded Trevor a key to the city, and myself, along with my fellow Freeholders, dedicated the day in his honor, marking Thursday, July 30, 2015, as Trevor VanRiemsdyk Day.
And let’s not forget history making at the William Haskell Invitational. With a record setting crowd at Monmouth Racetrack, nearly 61,000 people came out to see triple crown winner, American Pharaoh. Officials said that is was the largest crowd in the 145-year-old racetrack’s history, with the previous single day attendance record, 53,638, set at the Haskell in 2013. We can now say that Monmouth Park, rich in its own traditions, is part of national horse racing history as well.
The newly constructed West Front Street Bridge, also known as the Hubbard Bridge, will be closed to motor vehicle traffic from 6 a.m. on Wednesday August 12 through Wednesday August 26, according to a statement by Freeholder Tom Arnone.
The bridge connects Middletown and Red Bank over the Swimming River. It will be open to pedestrian traffic during the two week period.
The purpose of the closure is to allow utility workers to move overhead power lines off of the old bridge to newly constructed underground facilities, and to the contractor to reconstruct intersections on both the Red Bank and Middletown sides of the span.
Arnone said the other option was to have the contractors work in stages, over a twelve week period, which would have kept the bridge open but slowed traffic considerably for three months. The chosen schedule, made in consultation with elected and administrative officials in both Red Bank and Middletown, will allow the bridge to reopen prior to the Labor Day Weekend and before the start of school.
“This schedule allows motorists to make adjustments to their travel plans for two weeks,” Arnone said.
The Oceanic Bridge, the span that connects Middletown and Rumson over the Navesink River, will be closed overnight starting at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday August 9 through Monday morning August 10 at 6:30 a.m.
The bridge will be closed for needed work on the bascule span, according to a release from Freeholder Tom Arnone.
“Unfortunately, the work on the moveable section of the bridge must be performed while the bridge is closed to public use,” said Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone. “We are closing the bridge at the tail end of the weekend to reduce the impact on businesses and local commuters.”
Summer is in full swing and I hope everyone is out there enjoying the beautiful weather we’ve been having. An annual tradition here in Monmouth County is the County Fair. The 41st Monmouth County Fair was a huge success with thousands of residents attending over the five days it was held at the East Freehold Fairgrounds on Kozloski Road.
Monmouth County is the gateway to the Jersey Shore, and you will find more than 50 miles of beaches, revolutionary history sites, nationally recognized parks and golf courses, outdoor dining experiences for all tastes and plenty of places to spend the night. The Monmouth Park System offers over 30 park areas to explore, please go out and enjoy all our beautiful county has to offer.
While we are on the topic of outdoor activities you can enjoy throughout our County, I would like to take a moment to address several concerns within different regions, including the Shark River dredging and the two-river area bike path.