BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater Mayor Dan Hayes recognized the work of the township throughout 2017, citing the plans for a number of new businesses and acknowledging the township’s strength and quality of life during his state of the township address Monday.
“My administration continues to lead with the vision we set just six short years ago,” he said, “achieving a quality of life in Bridgewater that is the exemplar of other communities.”
He said he is grateful for the honor and privilege of serving as the town’s mayor.
“The state of the township is strong, and the future is bright,” he said.
Hayes said Bridgewater’s economy is strong, and continues to gain strength by leading the region in new business development, particularly in life sciences such as with the new Nestle Health Science offices in the New Jersey Center of Excellence.
“We are able to attract companies large and small,” he said.
Hayes said the township boasts excellent schools, housing stock and retail and recreational opportunities. He said Bridgewater is fast becoming a biotechnology and medical hub, as evidenced by BioNJ holding its fifth annual CEO Summit in town, and he thanked BioNJ’s Deb Hart for her ongoing advocacy and support of life sciences in Bridgewater.
Hayes, who has also represented the NJ Mayor’s Life Science Committee in Washington, spoke glowingly about iconectiv, formerly known as Telcordia, which recently saw 500 employees welcomed to its new home at the Somerset Corporate Center.
In addition, Hayes cited the Chimney Rock retail center, which will open such new stores as Whole Foods and Nordstrom Rack later this year. He said the 30-year-old Bridgewater Commons Mall remains a strong and viable retail entity, as do hotel properties within Bridgewater’s boundaries, including Hampton Inn and Suites and the Days Inn on Route 22, along with the under-construction AC Hotel at the Somerset Corporate Center.
“The hotel industry continues to see Bridgewater as an attractive market,” he said.
Hayes noted five key initiatives in which Bridgewater is set to continue to grow, namely demonstrated fiscal leadership; land for work, living and play; innovative infrastructure investment for future success; essential services delivered with a resident-first manner; and being guided by principles.
Under demonstrated fiscal leadership, Hayes said, the administration’s primary goals were to maintain low municipal taxes, and to be fiscally prudent and also utilize partnerships. He added that evidence of that is Bridgewater’s AA+ bond rating by Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings in 2017.
Hayes also praised the township’s work with vendors and collaborating with surrounding municipalities, including the expanding Shop Bridgewater local property tax credit program that offers a free savings card to both residents and non-residents alike.
Hayes cited Bridgewater’s land use matters, including the attractiveness of the municipality as a suitable location to work, live and play. He said land use matters, both large and small, affect the town’s residents, and those applications which went before Bridgewater’s planning and zoning boards in 2017 had to take the town’s residents into account.
“Bridgewater will be prepared to handle the increased pace,” he said of the new year.
The Center for Excellence application is due to be heard by the planning board this year, to redevelop the former Sanofi research site, Hayes said. In addition, he said, the township sought to gain and manage new open space last year, including the prized acquisition of the 110 acres of Camp Cromwell in conjunction with the Somerset County Freeholders, after the property was vacated by the Boys Club of New York.
“Both the council and I were delighted we could complete this acquisition in 2017,” Hayes said of the myriad recreational opportunities the property will afford residents, including facilities on the site that were recently renovated.
An ad hoc committee has been formed to study the entire property, and a formal plan will be presented to the council some time this year.
Hayes also pointed out that Bridgewater has settled all of the township’s affordable housing obligations through 2025, and he thanked township attorney William Savo and partner Alex Fisher for their efforts in that settlement. Besides boasting sufficient affordable housing stock and already-built affordable units, Hayes said, the township has assisted its residents who were in need, including the creation of a housing rehabilitation program.
Concerning infrastructure investment, Hayes said Bridgewater is committed to maintaining and repairing its roads, especially those which have essentially reached the end of their operational lives. The township resurfaced more than 14 miles of its roadways in 2017, although others which were built just 20 to 40 years ago will require immediate attention in the coming year.
The township is also committed to improving its sanitary sewer system and its relationship to stormwater management, while improving neighborhood roads, with the sewer utility utilizing both cash reserves and capital funds to do so in 2018. The municipality will also continue to partner with New Jersey American Water Supply to replace aging water lines in Bridgewater, with NJAW also investing $65 million to improve the Polhemus Road water treatment facility.
Hayes also expounded upon the town providing essential services to its residents in an effective, efficient and timely manner, including the use of shared services to both lower costs and provide greater efficiency. He cited the professionalism and proficiency of both the township’s police and code enforcement departments, and also mentioned the opening last year of a Route 22 park-and-ride lot with Coach USA that allows for direct bus service from Bridgewater to 42nd Street in New York City.
“We espouse several guiding principles,” Hayes said of the fourth initiative, which he added encompasses inclusion and embraces diversity, while being resourceful, active and transparent.
Hayes spoke of how health and human services director Chris Poulsen, who died suddenly in December, embodied those principles.
“He served as many people as he could reach,” Hayes said. “His loss is deeply felt.”
Hayes also said that Poulsen left behind a humble legacy of service, including programs ranging from the farmers market to Turn the Town Teal and Recycling Superheroes.
“In the year ahead, we will stay true to the principles Chris embodied,” Hayes said.
Hayes said that in the coming year, his monthly “Evenings with Dan” program will remain in place to allow Bridgewater residents to discuss matters important to them in a relaxed public forum. He said he looks forward to again working with the council, other officials, the private sector and town residents, and also thanked the members of the American military for their continued service, defense and sacrifice.
“In the year ahead, I pray your fortunes are many and your misfortunes few,” Hayes said.