“America is too great for small dreams.” Ronald Wilson Reagan
Freeholder Tom Arone
2014 is coming to a close and I find myself reflecting upon my year as Freeholder of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders. I am very conscious of the tremendous support Monmouth County receives from each of the municipalities and residents. I receive phone calls and emails daily from members of local governing bodies as well as from informed conscientious residents. Through this open door policy which is how I choose to run my office, it is apparent that just like me we all share a common interest; and that is to continue to create new ways to maintain Monmouth County as one of the most wonderful places to live. Your unending support has helped me and the rest of The Freeholder Board accomplish many great things, and I would personally like to thank all of our local governing bodies along with our residents for the part each played in making 2014 a great year. Being mindful of the exemplary leadership of not only my fellow Freeholders but of each and every municipal governing body, I consider myself blessed to be working amongst so many hard working individuals whose main goal is always what is in the best interest of the residents.
Monmouth County is made up of an array of dedicated, accountable and knowledgeable people comprised of all those working in the offices and schools to those maintaining the roads in and around the county and everything in between. Each and every one of them takes on the responsibility of getting a job done and doing it right. For that I recognize and am thankful for all county departments for keeping Monmouth County as beautiful and safe as it is, and for making it the most desirable county to live- in the State of New Jersey.
Our Grow Monmouth Façade Improvement Program continues to be popular. We are still accepting applications and approving projects to help businesses improve the look of their building. We could not be more pleased with how the program is going. As part of the Grow Monmouth Initiative this past weekend there was a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of Little Dog Brewing, a microbrewery located on Steiner Avenue in Neptune City. Along with Mayor Brown, I was happy to attend and cut the ribbon at the brewery’s opening. The Grow Monmouth Business Roundtables will be continuing after the holidays. I look forward to getting back out to discuss the needs of Monmouth County’s business community.
We continue to assist our municipalities with ensuring the safety of Monmouth County and its residents. A few ways in which this is accomplished is through the upkeep of county roads as well as the upkeep of traffic signals. There was a traffic signal activation ceremony conducted a few days ago at the intersection of County Route 40A (Memorial Drive) and Evergreen Avenue in the Boroughs of Neptune City and Bradley Beach. The Activation Ceremony marked the completion of this much anticipated project. As liaison to the Department of Public Works and Engineering, I am happy to have been able to be a part of it from its inception through fruition.
The 1st Annual Pound the Pavement for Purple 5K Run/ 2 Mile Walk for Pancreatic Cancer was held Saturday, November 1st and was a tremendous success despite the unpredictable weather conditions presented by Mother Nature. In fact, I believe the cold temperature along with the wind and rain only contributed in helping to make this race not only a memorable one but an extremely positive and inspirational experience.
First and foremost on behalf of Neptune Township Committeeman Eric Houghtaling and me, we would like to thank everyone who worked so diligently on putting this race together and ensuring its success. To begin with, a tremendous thank you to the outstanding joint committee mostly comprised of Neptune Township and Monmouth County employees, namely Michele Narciso, Tiffany Bailoni, Sandra Petersen, Carina Santos, Mike Zarro, Fred Rummel and Darlene Di Leo. Thank you also to Gail Temple and my wife Chickie Arnone who also worked hard on the committee. All of these people were instrumental in helping Committeeman Eric Houghtaling and me bring this effort to fruition.
UPDATE: August, 27, Curley pulls nursing home sale resolution
Freeholder John Curley called this morning to say that he has pulled his resolution to sell the Monmouth County owned nursing homes from this week’s agenda. County CFO Craig Marshall is on vacation. Curley wants Marshall available to address all of the financial concerns regarding the proposed sale. Curley expects to reintroduce the resolution in September.
Reductions in Medicaid payments for long term care under the Affordable Care Act have led to increasing deficits at Monmouth County’s two government owned nursing homes.
The John L. Montgomery Care Center in Freehold and the Geraldine L. Thompson Care Center in Wall are owned and operated by Monmouth County’s government. Property tax payers have been subsidizing the long term care of the elderly, disabled and infirm residing in these facilities for decades. From 2007 through 2013 the cumulative deficit funded by Monmouth property tax payers was about $40 million. Despite cost cutting measures and union givebacks, the combined deficit this year is on track to exceed $13 million plus the cost of repairs and capital improvements required to keep the facilities in compliance with state and federal regulations, due to cutbacks in the amount that Medicaid pays for patient care under ObamaCare. 98% of the patients at Montgomery and Thompson are insured by Medicaid.
Freeholder John Curley has been pushing his colleagues on the all Republican Board of Chosen Freeholders to sell the nursing homes for years. Every time the issue gets traction or public attention, patients in wheelchairs and staff members of the nursing facilities show up at Freeholder meetings and plead with the Freeholders not to sell the facilities. The patients’ stories are heart wrenching. The declarations of love for their patients by the staff members are moving.
Monmouth County Freeholder Candidate Larry Luttrell partying with a model and squinting like Frank Pallone in Atlantic City in February, 2013. facebook photo
If you’re a Monmouth County Democrat thinking about a career in government, working on Larry Luttrell and Joe Grillo’s freeholder campaign could be hazardous to your ambitions.
Luttrell and Grillo told the Asbury Park Press that the fact that Freeholder Director Lillian Burry’s 2011 campaign treasurer, Bill Bucco, was given a raise and a promotion after three years in a county administrative job where he streamlined operations and found $200,000 in revenue due the county that was never collected is “politics at its worst.”
I must have missed their press release condemning Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s new job as a “consultant” with ties to South Jersey Democratic Boss George Norcross, which Preito somehow manages to do while collecting six figures from his three government jobs.
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.
Beck: Federal and State Agencies Haven’t Approved Drying Sites
Governor Chris Christie told his Town Hall gathering in Belmar yesterday afternoon that the dredging of Shark River is being held up because the municipalities along the river and Monmouth County can not agree on a destination for the dredge spoils to be dumped.
The issue has gathered increased public attention in recent months due to a massive fish kill in the river last May. 310 tons of dead fish were removed from the shoreline of the estuary that feeds into the Atlantic through the inlet between Belmar and Avon-by-the-Sea and extents 11 miles through Neptune and Wall Townships.
In answering a question from a man who identified himself as Bob from Wall, Christie said that he supports the dredging, fought for money from FEMA to pay for the dredging and would impose a solution on the county and municipalities if he had the authority to do so. He said he had been briefed on the issue three weeks ago.
Maybe the Governor remembered a briefing from a different dredging project when answering Bob’s question.
Both the Monmouth County and Neptune landfills are willing to take the dredge spoils, according to Senator Jennifer Beck. The river hasn’t been dredged, Beck said in a phone interview last night, because over the last two decades various federal and state agencies have rejected every proposed location for the dredged materials to dry before being moved to their final disposal site.
At the last meeting of the Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Board authorized an award of bid for an asphalt recycler for the Department of Public Works and Engineering. This equipment will allow the Divisions of Bridge and Highway to take waste asphalt from construction projects throughout the year and turn it into high quality hot mix, re-using it for road repairs. This will reduce our disposal and operating costs, along with being environmentally friendly. The cost of the recycled material is 75% less than the cost for new material.
Last year the county spent over $150,000.00 for cold mix, base material and disposal of waste material. As an added benefit, every ton of asphalt the county recycles will benefit Freehold Township in the amount received from the State of New Jersey in their tonnage grant.
Senator Cory Booker is lending his star power and fund raising prowess to the Democratic Freeholder candidates who are looking to unseat Freeholder Director Lillian Burry and Deputy Director Gary Rich in November.
Booker is headlining a July 25 fundraiser for Larry Luttrell and Joe Grillo at the Wall Township home of Gary and Linda Faraci.