HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-7) invited the mayors of towns in his congressional district to a breakfast meeting at the Bridgewater library on Saturday to find out what it is that they each want for their towns, and how Washington might help.
Hillsborough Mayor Doug Tomson, a Republican, brought along a shopping list of projects and needs as he said he would do at the township's annual Reorganization earlier this month when he was elected mayor by his Committee colleagues.
One of those items is a freestanding senior citizen activity center that Tomson envisions being built on Mountainview Road on property owned by the township, similar to the 14,000 square-foot Somerset County senior center in Bridgewater on East Main Street.
Tomson noted that when Mike Ferguson, a Republican, was the congressman representing the Seventh District, he was able to secure federal funds to help create the space and programs for senior citizens in the township's municipal building. Ferguson is now the township administrator in Bridgewater.
The Hillsborough mayor is hoping Malinowski can mimic Ferguson's success.
Tomson is set to visit Malinowski's district office in Somerville sometime in the next few weeks to further discuss the need for the senior center.
"Regardless of party affiliation, Republican or Democrat, people in elected office don't hesitate to do what is best for Hillsborough residents," Tomson said, "And that's the way it should be."
Tomson is also interested in securing federal transportation dollars for projects on Route 206, including the 4.5-mile bypass expected to be completed later this year, and the Brown Avenue extension, for which the township just received $500,000 from the state Department of Transportation for engineering studies.
The Brown Avenue extension, included in the Somerset County Master Plan, will include a new roadway from Roycefield Road that will tie into the Midpoint Logistics Center, rerouting heavy truck traffic off Duke Parkway West while eliminating the traffic tie ups that occur at the entrance to Midpoint when trucks and buses enter and exit the complex during the day.
There is no traffic signal on Route 206 at the Midpoint entrance. The Brown Avenue extension - there is a traffic signal where it intersects with Route 206 - is expected to remedy that safety issue and eliminate the snags at the uncontrolled entrance to Midpoint, Tomson said.
The $500,000 appropriation was released by the state last Thursday, with several elected New Jersey officials from both parties reaching out to Tomson.
"This is all about public safety and it's only going to get worse," Tomson said.
Callers included Republican State Sen. Tom Kean, Minority Leader of the Senate; state Sen. Kip Bateman, (R-16), and Democratic Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker (D-16) and Roy Freiman, (D-16).
"They all said the same thing: 'What can we do to help,' " Tomson said. "It's refreshing to know."
With completion of the long-awaited bypass nearing, the mayor said the township will be looking for help to reshape the current Route 206 into a less-traveled Main Street that could support a "downtown" district with shops and restaurants along the roadway.
"Hopefully we can get some money for that," Tomson said.
Malinowski represents 74 municipalities in six counties - including all of Hunterdon County and parts of Essex, Morris, Somerset, Union and Warren counties.
Though Tomson is determined to push for the needs of Hillsborough, he acknowledges there is competition for every federal dollar.
"We're competing not only with the other towns in the Seventh District and New Jersey, we're in competition for every grant and appropriation with Detroit, Los Angeles, Alabama; what we have to do is figure out how to raise our hands higher. That's where we rely on our congressional leadership," Tomson said.
"I will not leave any stone unturned to get more money for Hillsborough. That is my committment," Tomson added.