Carteret Mayor Delivers State Of The Borough Speech

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Mayor Dan Reiman

CARTERET—This week, Carteret Mayor Daniel Reiman delivered his annual State of the Borough speech.

He highlighted some of the accomplishments of the past year, including the opening of the long-awaited Robert Wood Johnson Fitness and Wellness Center at Carteret, the completion of the pier extension as part of the plans for a future marina at Waterfront Park, as well as the reduction of long-term bond and total debt.

Here is the full text of Reiman’s speech as prepared for delivery:

We often talk about building a better Carteret. A Carteret about which we can all feel pride in having played a part in creating. A place to live, to work, and to raise our families.

Confident that the place we have chosen to call home is the best place it can be because we as a community have worked together, to build a better quality of life for all.

Building a better Carteret is not just a slogan. It is about committing our administration to taking consistent actions that will improve the lives around us.

It has a value that transcends the simple meaning of the words. It is the culmination of the efforts of all of our team and our residents to make life in our Borough better and safer for each and every one who choose to call Carteret home.

During my time as Mayor, you have allowed me to share my vision of a better Carteret with you and have given me your support in countless ways that have allowed us to make our vision a reality.

It is my tremendous honor to commit to you that my administration and I will continue to work to add to the accomplishments of the past few years and share with you our continuing vision for a better and brighter future.

We’ve promised that we would do more with less. We have streamlined local government – we’ve controlled expenditures and improved the quality of services provided to our residents.

Through fiscal discipline, dedication, and resourcefulness in the form of creative public/private partnerships, shared services, the consolidation of departments, and aggressive grant-seeking we have kept our promise.

Over the past 12 months alone, we secured over $11 million in grants and donations bringing our total to over $80 million during my administration.

Property Taxes have remained stable, the size of the Borough workforce has been reduced by close to 20%, and Municipal debt has been reduced dramatically. Our long-term bond debt which was $22 million when I became Mayor is down to only $4.5 million today – an 80% reduction in long term debt – and the Borough’s total debt and general obligations have been reduced by over 27 percent, a cut of over $8 million dollars. Today the Borough owes significantly less money than it did a decade ago and not many public or private entities can say that.

Our debt reduction policies were recognized when Moody’s, a leading credit rating company, assigned Carteret its coveted A1 credit rating. Our upgrade came only a few days after the United States governmental credit rating was downgraded for the first time in our nation’s history.

In explaining its decision, Moody’s, in their words, pointed to “the Borough’s strong financial position supported by strong management, and expanding tax base,” and went on to acknowledge our aggressive efforts in the area of redevelopment as a defining contributing factor.

This rating is the result of conservative spending and even more conservative borrowing and a program of sound, long term financial planning. It is also the result of our efforts to find revenue independent of the need for increased property taxes. In fact, this year I will introduce a 2012 CY budget which is below our 2011 and 2010 budgets, and over $1 million less than 2009 CY budget.

While our fiscal policies have helped to stabilize municipal taxes, it has been our pro development policies that have led to the economic and private sector growth that have expanded our tax base, from an assessed value of $1 billion to just over $2 billion. Thanks to this growth, the tax board ordered revaluation will not be as harsh on our residents as first anticipated;

3500 homeowners will see significant reductions in the amount of property taxes they pay. Thousands more will see no impact to their property taxes. And while the revaluation will result in a number of property owners receiving increases, the new development we have attracted to Carteret has helped to significantly soften that blow. And let me say this, I urge any resident who was negatively impacted by the revaluation to go to the Borough website or to visit our finance department in person to obtain information on how to file an appeal, and do so by the May 1st deadline. While the so-called tax professionals at the state, will tell those whose taxes are going up that you have been underpaying for 20 years – I challenge that typical bureaucratic wisdom and say that we are all overpaying.

But if you believe your assessment is flawed or the value is overstated, then you must file an appeal to reduce it. For our residents watching at home, let me say again, the deadline for appealing the new valuations is May 1. If you believe that the new assessment is flawed or overvalued then I implore you to protect your rights and file an appeal. (pause)

As we engage in local improvements and new projects, we consistently seek to bring in outside sources of funding and make sound capital investments, rather than further committing our town to debt as has been the habit of the previous administration. This is reflected in our credit rating; it is reflected in our stabilized tax rate, and has certainly been reflected within our commercial corridors.

Our fiscal policy has ushered in an economic expansion which is illustrated by the new development and our Borough-wide growth.

This past year, we saw Wakefern Corp., the parent company of Shop Rite Supermarkets, the largest retailer cooperative in the U.S., become the latest business leader to recognize the many benefits of locating their facilities to Carteret. Wakefern has settled into its new 1 million square foot facility within the IPORT-12 development, a 135 acre site that sat idle for 40 years and was the home of abandoned landfills. Because of the actions of this administration, it is now a hub of economic growth.

In 2011, CHADCO, our non-profit housing corporation, completed the long-awaited George Lisicki Veterans homes. Our efforts have provided needed affordable housing for returning veterans and war heroes. This facility also has an array of green technologies including roof top solar panels and solar hot water tanks that generate nearly all of the electricity and hot water needed for these units at an estimated savings of $6 thousand per year in energy costs.

In 2012, we will continue to aggressively pursue the revitalization of Washington Avenue, and a recently approved 10,000 square foot Medical Arts Building will start construction. It will bring vital new health services to our residents and play an important part in emphasizing Washington Avenue’s value as a destination for businesses and consumers.

2012 will also see construction begin on the new Investors Bank. The project is one of many public-private partnerships established to revitalize vacant and underutilized brownfields and greyfields.

Our land lease with Investors which will generate over $100,000 per year in revenue and will bring in over $4 million during the term of the agreement.

Just a few weeks ago we witnessed the grand opening of the new ASA Apple facility on Roosevelt Avenue. It seems like just yesterday we had the groundbreaking for this state of the art distribution center.

The site, a designated brownfields, formerly hosted Foster Wheeler, a fabrication facility that operated in the industrial district before closing in the 1960’s.

This redevelopment project, lead by Frank Cardaci and the Frank Greek Development Co., provided union construction jobs, and another 75 permanent jobs through the long-term operation of the facility.

ASA Apple is one of many port based businesses that have grown with Carteret and become a part of our local business family. With this major expansion of their business and a new 250 thousand sq ft home will come additional tax ratables and long-term job growth. This is a prime example of redevelopment where abandoned industrial property is being transformed to the benefit of our residents and business owners.

When we first pledged ourselves to revitalize our deteriorated business districts – to breathe life back into vacant store fronts, there were those who said “that it can’t be done.” When we set out to revitalize neighborhood parks while introducing fresh new resources for recreation – when we committed ourselves to a better infrastructure, better community programs – and to tackle environmental challenges that previous administrations had deemed unconquerable – we heard the same misgivings.

And when we proposed a 42,000 sq ft, $14 million fitness facility to be constructed and managed through a unique public/private partnership – when we said it could be funded at zero cost to our local taxpayers, implementing the latest, state-of-the-art design and equipment – some said that could never happen – our team answered, through action and results, the same way we always have – “by tackling the project head on and getting the job done.”

Today, one need only look across the street at the newest addition to our town center – produced through years of planning, negotiations, grant-seeking, and most importantly, creative, outside-the-box-thinking.

In November last year, it was my pleasure to unveil and officially open the Robert Wood Johnson Fitness and Wellness Center at Carteret. Bringing unparalleled healthcare experience and professional staffing, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Fitness and Wellness Corporation have joined us in the latest of our unique public/private partnerships. RWJ has helped make our facility above and beyond the traditional exercise gym, raising the bar on quality of life standards here in Carteret; and I am proud to say that this facility was built with 100 percent union labor.

Carteret saw the continuation of our Road Improvement Program with 19 local streets repaved this past year alone.

We also completed $1.5 million in improvements to the two major intersections, along our Peter J. Sica Memorial Highway.

In the coming months we will undertake major reconstruction of the Roosevelt Avenue/Minue Street/Post Boulevard intersection at the base of the turnpike bridge in West Carteret. When completed, this $3 million plus project will result in a significant widening of the intersection and clearly defined, dedicated turning lanes that will ease traffic congestion. This project will be funded through an agreement where 65 percent of construction costs are covered by Middlesex County and the balance by our non-profit business partnership and state transportation grants with zero dollars from our local residents.

Our commitment to building a better Carteret also includes a commitment to our environment.

For example, the Fitness and Wellness Center utilizes state of the art technology for renewable energy which uses a heat exchanger to capture the hot air that heats the pool to heat the entire facility.

As part of my administration’s efforts to create a greener Carteret, we have sought out opportunities to practice environmental responsibility on a local level, and we have worked to include our residents and businesses as partners in our efforts.

From smaller initiatives such as distributing tens of thousands of energy efficient light bulbs and reusable grocery bags; to larger efforts such as installing green technology in municipal buildings, Carteret has risen to meet the challenge of creating a sound environmental policy. We have been proud to go green, and to lead others in this direction. In 2011 we took strong action toward continuing to meet this challenge:

We have expanded our fleet of hybrid vehicles. Today, the Borough now operates a dozen hybrid vehicles, ten of which are used in our police department alone. At an estimated yearly savings of $5,000 per vehicle, this program will save taxpayers $60 K annually for years to come, and with current and future gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, I think we can all appreciate not just the financial benefits, but the reduction in carbon emissions as well.

We have asked our industrial and commercial partners to follow our lead, and so we recently officiated at the opening of the second largest roof-mounted solar panel array in the state at the White Rose facility. The new system will allow White Rose to significantly reduce its own carbon footprint through the production of clean energy. The system supplies the vast majority of the electric power needs for the White Rose facility.

The course we have chosen in this area requires that we take strong, affirmative action to balance both the economic and environmental interests of our residents.

We have worked in cooperation with our industrial and commercial partners to find ways to clean up contaminated industrial sites that sit vacant and unproductive.

Recently, Soil Safe, a Maryland based recycling company, announced plans to remediate and cap the long abandoned and hazardous wasteland, left behind by Cytek Industries.

This property, the single largest unutilized industrial tract in the Borough of Carteret, was operated by Cytek from the 1930’s until the 1970’s. They used the site as a compound of man-made ponds to dump millions of gallons of hazardous materials, including cyanide, and over 2 million tons of alum sludge, were dumped from its operations across the river in Linden. The site has sat vacant since being abandoned in the 1970’s.

In its present condition, it is estimated that over 25 million gallons of hazardous runoff remain unchecked and unmitigated, leaching into the Rahway River each year and this must stop.

The Borough has sought for decades to return the property to economic viability but all efforts have failed due to the extensive level of contamination and tremendous geotechnical challenges.

For the past few years, Borough engineering and environmental experts have worked with Soil Safe to develop a plan that is both economically beneficial and environmentally responsible.

This project meets those goals. Of the 125 acres, 45 acres of wetlands along the Rahway river will be preserved forever, as will an additional 55 acres of uplands, leaving 25 acres of the property that will be returned to economic viability. The project will virtually eliminate the run off of contaminated groundwater into the Rahway River, it will cap and contain the brownfields site, and upon completion of the remediation, we estimate it could create up to 100 union construction jobs in the buildout phase of the development.

Despite the misstatements and outright distortions by a few extremist environmental groups, this project will utilize only non-hazardous materials, comprised of recycled fill and aggregate.

I am happy to report that the Middlesex County Solid Waste Advisory Committee recently gave its stamp of approval to the project by a vote of 19-0 and I urge the Middlesex County Board of Freeholder’s and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to do the same.

My administration has made the revitalization and enhancement of our parks system a top priority. I have always believed that Carteret residents deserve the very best recreational facilities that can be offered, and that’s why over the past few years, we have made over 38 million dollars in park improvements. And 2011 represented another huge step towards reaching our goal in the revitalization of our park infrastructure with over $1 million in improvements to Sullivan Field at Carteret Park.

We believe that it is essential that we offer premier recreational opportunities for all of our Carteret residents. To that end, we have recently secured an additional $1.1 million dollars with which to further enhance Carteret Park.

A portion of these funds will be used to create the town’s very first children’s spray park, an addition sure to make summer an even more enjoyable time for our youth. Perhaps the best example of the revitalization of our parks system is the ongoing $10 million transformation and restoration of Joseph Medwick Park in West Carteret.

This 85 acre county-owned park is the largest park in Carteret and will be home to football, soccer, and baseball fields, as well as playgrounds, tennis courts, and several multi-purpose play areas, along with passive recreational trails. Let me thank the County Freeholder Board for their commitment to this project and thank them on behalf of all our residents for their substantial investment in the complete restoration of this vital asset. It is my belief that the quality of our system of parks has a direct impact on the quality of life for our residents

In 2012 we will continue to build a better parks system and recreational programs, and find ways to expand the variety of opportunities available to our residents.

We will soon enter into a lease with a local church to utilize their long vacant school building. Through a long term lease, the Borough will take over several classrooms and a gymnasium, which will be made available to youth and adult groups for indoor sports programs and events, and the classrooms will be utilized for community, health and educational seminars. This agreement will provide a long term lease and dollars for the church while also helping the Borough to expand our recreation and educational offerings.

With the addition of a new Fire Boat acquired through a Port Security grant we will see new security enhancements along our Waterfront area. 100% funded with Federal monies, our career Fire Department received a 27-foot fire-fighting boat, valued at $300K. This will allow our Fire Department to respond to any water-based emergency along our 1 mile stretch of waterfront.

I am excited to announce that this year the New Jersey State Police will be making Carteret the permanent home of its Marine Police Barracks.

The state police will lease a parcel of land owned by the Redevelopment Agency to construct a new facility adjacent to Waterfront Park, which will be a major component of the Borough’s future marina.

There, they will berth a dozen state police boats in the waterfront cove adjacent to our new pier extension. In addition, to having this vital marine security, the Sate will be paying the Borough Redevelopment $80,000 Agency dollars a year to lease the Borough’s land and dock its vessels here.

So, we will not only be supplying an important government service, but will be receiving a new source of revenue at the same time.

We all Recognize that illegal apartments can reduce the quality of life of our neighborhoods, so last year we instituted a new initiative encouraging residents to “Know the Code,” in the form of advisory mail-outs providing residents with an overview of residential construction code standards.

This “zero tolerance” program will help stave off illegal housing, and send the message that this administration says “NO” to residential overcrowding, “NO” to overcrowding of our schools, “NO” to increased sewer and sanitation problems, and “NO” to diminished community safety and the subsequent strain on our emergency services. Homeowners with illegal apartments will face fines of up to $2,000 per day – we will not tolerate absentee landlords attempting to cash in while they overburden our local government and put our residents and first responders at risk.

Last month, my office was pleased to announce that Carteret has received an upgraded fire protection rating by a national “Insurance Service Organization”. The rating is a significant upgrade from the classification previously given to the Borough, and is the highest safety ranking in the town’s history. This could help save homeowners thousands of dollars on homeowner insurance renewals annually.

Some time ago, we enacted new regulations requiring local industrial companies and businesses to pay their fair share of our sewer costs. To date we have invested millions of dollars into upgrading our sewer system infrastructure, while providing qualifying residents and veterans with the only municipal sewer rebate program of its kind in the state.

Our “Sewer Rebate Program,” has provided over $500,000.00 in rebates for our seniors, veterans, and disabled residents. It is my pleasure to announce that we will be continuing to offer these rebates in 2012.

Last year we began to offer homeowners our first Sewer Loan Assistance Program through the capital fund. In an effort to assist our residents with the potentially significant costs to repair or replace their private sewer laterals, I directed the finance department to develop a loan program to allow qualifying homeownwers to finance pre-approved plans for sewer repairs, for up to 20 years and this year we will allocate an additional $100,000 for this low interest loan program.

This past week we announced that the Borough will acquire a third public transportation vehicle through NJ Transit’s grant program. Funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, this new $80,000 8 passenger van, will allow us to continue to provide localized Senior & Disabled Transportation Services, for our residents.

We have started to see signs of an improving economy – falling unemployment rates, and increase in new construction, but no matter where you look, it is obvious that times are still tough and working families are still struggling. Unfortunately, Governor Christie has turned a blind eye to the needs of the working class and instead has chosen to throw his lot in with the millionaire class.

At every turn, he has chosen to execute policies that amount to the largest money grab in state history.

His decision to co-opt more than 700 million dollars in energy tax receipts, originally intended to provide property tax relief to towns in order to balance his state budget that contains income tax cuts for his millionaire base, is unconscionable.

Carteret residents have been particularly hard hit by Christies harsh economic policies.

In addition to the four and one half million dollars in education cuts Carteret had previously suffered at the hands of the Christie administration, the Governor last year continued his attack on Borough taxpayers when he unilaterally devoured the Urban Enterprise funds paid into the program by local businesses.

These funds, which were to be used to ease the burden on borough taxpayers instead went to provide tax cuts to the Governor’s millionaire friends. The wholesale elimination of this UEZ program will cost the Borough $2 million a year in benefits for the next 15 years. I would like to acknowledge and thank our legislators (Vitale / Wisniewski / Coughlin) for fighting the good fight, and uphill battle, to protect our working class families and communities in Middlesex County.

With signs of an improving economy we recently announced the completion of 130 luxury residential units as part of Kaplans “Gateway at Carteret” redevelopment project. Phase III of the project will soon break ground, and in 2012 we will see the continuation of the area’s revitalization with the introduction of mixed-use development from Terminal Avenue to Pershing Avenue, and from Roosevelt Avenue to Larch Street.

100 new residential units and approximately 8,000 square feet of commercial space will help establish a new “downtown” destination for residents, along with a 200 car, 4 story parking deck, that will accommodate the arrival of new businesses and consumer spending.

Our administration has established an economic climate favorable for private businesses as they seek to grow here in Carteret.

To these ends, the Hampshire Group has recently demolished the long abandoned Pathmark office building and will be soon begin the construction of a 260,000 square foot facility, finally putting to use a long underutilized portion of Carteret. This administration has always been a staunch proponent of the use of union labor and I am happy to announce that Hampshire Group has joined us in our commitment to using only our most qualified, highly trained craftsmen for this project. Our future Carteret will be built with the support of unionized trades, and not on the back of working class men and women.

Together, these achievements represent more than just increased quality of life; they represents the spirit of a people whose vocabulary does not consist of “We can’t,” but rather “We can and we will!” It represents a dedication to the utilization of the limitless potential of Carteret. Most of all, it represents a belief in the hope for a better tomorrow.

… And so, it is with great pride that I can stand here before you and report that the State of the Borough of Carteret is STRONG and GETTING BETTER.

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