RARITAN, NJ - They kept hearing a consistent call for change, and now they are looking to keep Raritan first for all residents, according to newly elected Raritan Mayor Charles McMullin in his state of the borough address at the Jan. 3 reorganization meeting.
McMullin was sworn in as the new mayor during the meeting.
“We learned (during the campaign) that citizens had a desire for change,” he said. “It is our intention to keep Raritan first, and it is time to take action with the entire council.”
In his address, McMullin said it is difficult to report on a borough that he has only served as mayor of for a few minutes. But, he said, there are a few things he knows for sure.
“I have reviewed the financial books, and the finances are in good condition,” he said. “The town is fiscally sound.”
In addition, McMullin said, he can report on the views of the borough as held by the residents themselves.
First, McMullin said, he believes the Gannett lawsuit should never have happened.
In 2009, Gannett newspapers made OPRA requests for municipal payroll records in a non-PDF electronic format, and the borough said it would cost $1,100 in fees because Raritan does not maintain the records in that format.
“It should not have been allowed to escalate hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove a point,” he said.
At the reorganization meeting, the council approved a resolution to hire special council that will be charged with, among other things, resolving the lawsuit as quickly as possible.
Councilman James Foohey was the lone vote against hiring the special council, which is also scheduled to handle other litigation and land use actions in the borough. Foohey said that land use situations should be handled by the planning board attorney, since it comes before the planning board anyway.
For all other situations, Foohey said, he believes they should be handled by the borough attorney, rather than paying a separate council.
Aside from this, McMullin said, many residents spoke of buildings that are not maintained in the borough, and how something should be done by council to improve them. He said he is planning to put action on the Jan. 12 agenda to move forward with maintaining the aesthetics of the borough.
McMullin said he has a goal of enhancing the recreational nature of the riverfront, particularly in areas where there is a flooding problem.
“I want to acquire riverfront property as open space,” he said. “The county has done extensive work on acquiring properties, and we seek to make open space projects a reality.”
In addition, McMullin said, he will do his best to attract development that is consistent with the character of Raritan, while also working with the council to bring back events like the annual Raritan Riverfest.
Also at the meeting, new council members Bryanna Danyluk and Zachary Bray were sworn in.
“I hope that we prove worthy of the time and faith you put in me,” he said. “I am excited to begin working with fellow council members, the mayor and professional staff in the borough.”
Councilwoman Denise Carra was chosen as the council president for 2016.
“I am excited about what the new administration means to Raritan,” she said.
Foohey reflected on the past year, saying that one major accomplishment was getting the meetings televised. The borough also recently got permission to share a Fios channel with the school district to televise the meetings to more homes.
“Raritan has always been a great place to live,” he said.
Overall, McMullin said, he is excited for the year ahead.
“I am looking forward to working with the council to reinvigorate Raritan to shine again,” he said.