ELIZABETH—Freeholder Chairman Christopher Hudak announced a series of initiatives for 2014 on Sunday that included the creation of free Wifi in several county locations, and programs addressing gun control, economic development, planning, recreation, health and wellness.
Union County would also become the second governmental agency in the nation (after Jersey City) to ask that potential vendors who wish to sell guns to the county’s law enforcement agencies answer socially responsible questions on gun safety.
“Union County residents are tired of waiting for meaningful gun laws,” Hudak said. “And so is this Board. This Freeholder Board does not have the authority to regulate firearms. But we do have the ability to do business only with responsible vendors of guns and ammunition.”
Hudak, a resident of Linden, was selected as Chairman of the Union County Freeholder Board at the 157th annual reorganization meeting held in the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth. This is his first term as Chairman.
“As we gather here today in the midst of a national recovery, there are still many who need our help and much left to accomplish,” Hudak said. “As the theme of our initiatives for 2014, we pledge to provide ‘Strong Government and Strong Services’ needed to keep Union County moving forward.”
Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, Freeholder Linda Carter (immediate past chairman), of Plainfield, and Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski, of Cranford, were sworn into new terms. Freeholder Sergio Granados, of Elizabeth, was sworn into his first term, and Freeholder Mohamed S. Jalloh of Union, was appointed Vice Chairman of the Board.
Freeholders also voted to fill numerous positions on county advisory boards and to adopt the board’s 2014 schedule and procedural rules.
Hudak outlined his priorities:
“STRONG GOVERNMENT AND STRONG SERVICES:”
— Focus on economic development projects creating new jobs and “Union County 2030.” a multi-level planning endeavor. The new developments include: the new Family Court building, expansion/renovation of Union County College’s Cranford and Plainfield campuses, and the expansion of the Vocational Technical School’s West Hall building in Scotch Plains. “Union County 2030” involves the creation of new plans and surveys addressing sustainable development, storm infrastructure resilience, transportation, and economic competitiveness.
“We will (also) push the expansion of the Raritan Valley Midtown Direct Service as a critical economic development component,” Hudak said. “And we will focus on identifying and storm vulnerabilities and fixing them. With strategic planning Union County will be “stronger than the next storm.”
— “Turf and Build” which announces four new turf field installations and recreational improvements, including lights and track installations. The projects will be rolled in over the course of the next few years at Warinanco Park in Roselle; Mattano Park in Elizabeth; Madison Avenue Park and Rahway River Park in Rahway.
— Union County Knows HOW—Health, Opportunity and Wellness—which is aimed at increasing health awareness Countywide. The County will partner with Overlook Medical Center in events that involve free health screenings, inoculations and information distribution. The County will also promote health awareness among its employees through the introduction of an Office Work Challenge weight loss program, wellness fairs and more.
— Increase social media and webpage outreach. Open an Instagram social media site (instagram.com/unioncountynj) and revamp the county webpage to improve navigability and include a section so users may subscribe to periodic information on county services.
— Create free Wifi at six county locations including: Wheeler Pool in Linden, Ulrich Pool in Rahway, the County Clerk’s Office in Westfield, Warinanco Skating Rink in Roselle, Trailside Nature and Science Center in Mountainside, and possibly part of Nomahegan Park.
“Imagine surfing the web pool side at Wheeler park during those lazy summer days; posting videos of your child’s first ice skating lesson or hockey game at Warinanco’s skating rink; checking your email while waiting for your passport picture at the Clerk’s office in Westfield on a Saturday; using your cell phone at Trailside Nature and Science Center to explore the center and get information about the exhibits. All this and much more will be possible as we develop this new initiative and continue to bring residents the services they want and deserve,” Hudak said.
— Ask gun vendors wishing to sell guns to the county socially responsible questions on gun control and conduct a second countywide gun buyback program through County Police.
In announcing the county’s efforts with gun vendors, Hudak acknowledged Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (in attendance) for his leadership on the issue. Hudak also pointed out the need for gun reforms, as in the 13 months after Newtown, more than 35,000 Americans have died from guns.
Some questions the county may ask gun vendors include:
- What do you do to combat illegal gun trafficking and illegal gun crime?
- Do you sell assault weapons for civilian use?
- Do you agree not to sell certain models of firearms for civilian use?
- Do you fund research related to gun violence and smart gun technology?
Hudak announced the county would once again offer a countywide gun buyback program, building on the success of last year’s effort.
Hudak noted the county led the state with the largest decrease in crime–a 12 percent drop for 2012. He also praised the county’s efforts through Public Safety shared services to assist municipalities—this included the fire mutual aid system and the county’s dispatch service.
Finally, Hudak also added the county would continue several previous Freeholder initiative programs, including UCSTEP, a unique program promoting positive youth development through topics such as civic engagement. Hudak said the county would add an effort by Support 4 Soldiers, a group that participated in UCSTEP and won the project competition to the county’s initiatives for 2014: The group will set up collection points at high schools throughout the county and other locations to gather supplies to send to active military personnel.
The other items Hudak said the county will continue are Union County Means Business, and the Sensory Friendly Theater program offered at the Union County Performing Arts Center in Rahway.
“As you can see, it takes teamwork to provide strong government and strong services,” Hudak noted in closing. “So I call on you to join together–my colleagues, our workers, residents and the many partners and friends in this room today. Any great change or improvement rarely comes as the result of an individual effort.”
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