UNION COUNTY, NJ - The 159th annual Union County reorganization meeting was held on Sunday in Judge Cassidy’s court in the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth.
Among the distinguished guests were Congressman Leonard Lance, 7th Congressional District, Congressman Donald Payne, Jr., 10th Congressional District, and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson-Coleman, 12th Congressional District, in addition to a host of Union County mayors and legislative leaders.
After the invocation, County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi and Freeholders Bruce H. Bergen, Alexander Mirabella and Mohamed S. Jalloh (last year’s chairman), were administered the oath of office for new terms.
Freeholder Bergen was sworn in as Chairman of the Freeholder Board, and Sergio Granados was sworn in as Vice Chairman. Bergen a lifelong native of Union County began serving his first full term as Freeholder in 2013. This is his first term as Chairman of the Freeholder Board.
Freeholder Chairman Bergen announced a comprehensive series of initiatives for 2016, entitled “One County, One Community” that includes new announcements for economic development, transportation, public safety, seniors, veterans, education, parks and environmental programs. Bergen recalled the words of Golda Meir who said “I never did anything alone. Whatever was accomplished . . . was accomplished collectively.”
Bergen then added: “This Freeholder Board succeeds because we are a team that puts commitment to others and the community above individual interest.”
Bergen’s initiatives for 2016 are as follows:
- “Move, Connect, Grow” addresses one of Union County’s greatest assets—its transportation infrastructure, and includes the completion of the Transportation Master Plan; the continuation of the Infrastructure Grant program to emphasize municipal road repavings; the creation of new bike paths; continued advocacy for the expansion of a one-seat train ride to NYC from Union County’s suburbs, and for the construction of the new Gateway Tunnel project.
- “Union County: At Work and Play:” This initiative includes new loans for small businesses through the Union County Economic Development Corporation; the creation of more job opportunities through the Union County Workforce Innovation Center which is continuing to grow; ribbon cuttings for the new Warinanco Park Skating Rink and the expansion of the Watchung Stables; the announcement of two major golf tournaments (The PGA Championship will once again be at Baltusrol Golf Course in Springfield and the 96th annual NJ State Golf Association Open Championship will tee off at the Galloping Hill Golf Course in Union County—the first time ever at a public course); advocacy for Union County College to become the first community college to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing; the completion of the expansion of the Union County College campuses in Cranford and Plainfield; and the expansion of the County’s library grant program.
- Development and creation of the “Union County App,” to help users stay informed and safe with the almanac of information and real-time data it will feature.
- “Union County Means Green:” This initiative would create a green seminar for businesses; education and outreach through the County’s Recycling Bureau to schools (“Talkin’ Trash” program); and a new “Community Garden Grant” program for new and existing gardens. The Freeholder Board will also continue its advocacy for Rahway River Flood Mitigation efforts.
- Several announcements, including the “UC HERO” program assisting Veterans, and the “Year of the Senior,” and the Union County Division on Women. In announcing the programs, Bergen quoted the late Hubert Humphrey who said: “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
“UC HERO” partners with the Workforce Investment Board and Union County College to assist our Vets with a variety of programs, including: employment services, training and job fairs; encouraging businesses to hire-a-Vet; and connect our Vets with the social services they may require. The “Year of the Senior” includes announcements for the “Seniors in Motion” program, which provides vans for senior transportation to the County’s municipalities, and “the Senior Focus program” a grant program which assists municipal senior centers with repairs and improvements. The creation of a Union County Division on Women which will be a one-person advocacy and referral office on issues impacting women.
- A series of Public Safety announcements, including:
*A new GIS system that will actively assist first responders in emergencies;
*The “Fire Mutual Aide Radio project,” an effort to equip the County’s 20 Fire Departments with compatible radios to promote communication during emergencies;
*The installation of cameras in various County parks;
*The Sheriff’s Office will continue to train for active shooter response at our county facilities to better protect our employees and the public.
- Last, the creation of a regional animal shelter that would provide municipalities with a consistent level of animal control services and promote humane treatment. The shelter would provide adoptive services and be run by the County, with volunteers. Plans should be in place and unveiled this Summer during a new event “Bark in the Park” at the Union County Dog Park at Echo Lake. The Board voted on a measure to move the project forward at the reorganization meeting.
Summing up, Bergen noted: “Taken as a whole, “One County, One Community” initiatives are not only designed to create a vision and game plan for 2016, but also to challenge us to do better for our community.”