Happy New Year Everyone. I am extremely pleased to have been selected as Freeholder Director for 2016. It is an honor once again to represent the board in this capacity. Last week at our annual county re-organization meeting I had an opportunity to briefly review my department’s accomplishments; ones that I believe have provided significant income to our county as well as savings to the taxpayers.
First I would like to thank my family for their support along the way as well as my, fellow Freeholders for their continued dedication to our county. In addition, I would like to wish all our Mayors best of luck as we begin the New Year.
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.
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.
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.