Setting the record straight on proposed Two Rivers bike lanes
By Tom Arnone, Monmouth County Freeholder
Freeholder Tom Arone
Now that summer is here, the kids are out of school and the beaches are open. We know a few things are certain while living in our beautiful Monmouth County – sand will find its way into the house, barbeques will be plentiful and many of us will give in to ice cream cravings on the boardwalk. As residents we will also witness a significant increase to our population as our tourism season gets into full swing. With this population surge, we will also see an increase in cyclists and pedestrians sharing the roads with motorists throughout the county.
I urge you to be aware of the statewide “rules of the road” and other specific rules in your municipality for whatever mode of transportation you choose. This is especially important when traveling on primary and secondary roads that are highly used, like those without designated bike lanes or sidewalks. It is extremely important for all of us to be diligent when sharing roads so they are safe for all users– pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists – as safe travel for all is of the utmost importance.
Baby…it’s cold outside! We’ve experienced near record lows this year. With these freezing cold temperatures comes additional problems besides just trying to stay warm – the low temperatures in combination with precipitation and other weather conditions causes havoc on our roads. The County Public Works Department has been very busy the past few months, ensuring that county roads are safe to travel on by pre-treating and plowing on a consistent schedule and staying ahead of the accumulation. By pre-treating our roads, the snow and ice begin to melt as soon they hit the asphalt and also makes plowing easier and much more efficient.
In addition to keeping the County roads safe, our Public Works Department has been helping municipalities throughout our county as well through our County Shared Services program. We have recorded cost savings across several municipalities by providing plowing services as well as access to the pre-treatment solution. There are many outstanding projects currently in the upstart stages in the Shared Services arena.
Recently a Mayor’s Luncheon was held in Belmar for the purpose of giving Belmar businesses a forum to meet and discuss tourism and how it benefits businesses at the Jersey Shore. I was happy to attend and join Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty in greeting the local business owners and to share with them what the County Tourism Division does to promote the industry. The luncheon was held at Ollie Klein’s Waterside Café located on River Road in Belmar.
Additionally, we are currently working toward entering into a shared services agreement with Hightstown to utilize the Monmouth County Vehicle Wash facilities. This is yet another approach to help reduce costs and redundancies in the delivery of public services, while adding some additional revenue for the county to help offset our operational costs. Because Hightstown already has a shared services agreement with Roosevelt Borough for trash collection which is hauled to the Monmouth County Reclamation Center, it makes good sense for them to utilize the county vehicle wash facilities as a value added shared services while they are in the area. Howell Township has just been added to our MODIV property tax assessment shared services system. This system has been recognized for innovation and excellence in public service by the Harvard Kennedy School and Moody’s Investor’s Service for its role in streamlining the delivery and implementation of the tax assessment process. Certain municipalities have seen savings of up to 65% through this shared service.
With summer right around the corner The Monmouth Ocean Development Council is preparing for the 2014 Summer Kickoff to the Jersey Shore. It will be Wednesday, May 21, 2014 on the boardwalk in Asbury outside McLoone’s Supper Club. I will be joining Grace Hanlon, Executive Director of Travel & Tourism State of NJ and Freeholder Joe Vicari of Ocean County as the guest speakers.
Monmouth County 2014 Tourism Season/Arts Partnership are true partners in that they both support businesses large and small in Monmouth County. They play an important role in building and sustaining our economic vibrancy. The Arts and Tourism partnership helps to enhance the quality of life throughout Monmouth County. Monmouth County is home to 2,080 arts related businesses. These businesses employ 5,803 people.
The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders supports the MOCO Arts and Tourism partnership. We encourage our visitors and residents to visit our museums, theaters and our film, architecture and design companies as well as our beaches, boardwalks, historic sites, parks and attractions.
Visitors to Monmouth County spent $2.2 billion in 2013, up 5% over visitor spending in 2012, with Monmouth County seeing about 5 million visitors a year. There are over 32,000 people employed in tourism related jobs in Monmouth County.
As reported last week, The Board of Chosen Freeholders have begun pairing up with the local municipalities and conducting Business Roundtables as a means of helping small businesses promote themselves within Monmouth County. As liaison to the Department of Economic Development, I attended the first of these roundtables which took place in the Borough of Matawan. I partnered with Matawan Mayor Paul Buccellato to host the first Grow Monmouth Business Roundtable event. The department of economic development identified and invited businesses from Matawan to join us to discuss what makes doing business in Matawan great and what can be improved. The mayor and I were joined by Assemblyman Rob Clifton and Senator Sam Thompson. I am very pleased to report that 35 people were in attendance representing some 27 businesses. In the next couple of weeks we will be hosting roundtables in the Township of Hazlet and also in the Borough of Manalapan.
In keeping with promoting small businesses within MonmouthCounty, our third annual Made in Monmouth event has been scheduled for Saturday, April 12th. We are again partnering with MonmouthUniversity for the event. We encourage all businesses that make a consumer product in the county to show and sell their products, free of charge, at the event. Made in Monmouth is open to the public free of charge. We invite everyone to attend and to take advantage of the opportunity to buy the multitude of great products that will be available.
The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders continues to support and promote the Grow Monmouth Façade Improvement Program. The program makes grant funds available to help improve the look of privately held commercial buildings throughout Monmouth County. The façade improvement program which is the newest initiative under our Grow Monmouth program uses HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) Community Development Block Grant funds that were de-obligated by grantees to help privately held commercial buildings, located in HUD eligible areas, improve their business façades. Representatives from the county’s department of economic/development recently assisted me during a presentation for the façade improvement program that was given to the Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce. In the next few days there will be a check presentation to Jim Smith, owner of Smittex Sportswear in Keansburg who will be utilizing the funds towards the purchase of a new awning. Mr. Smith will be receiving $1,845.00 for the purchase of the awning. For more information about the Grow Monmouth Façade Improvement Program please contact the Monmouth County Department of Economic Development at 732-431-7470 or visit the Grow Monmouth section of the County website at www.visitmonmouth.com.