HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - The Baby Boomers are growing older, and many of them are choosing to stay in town rather than flee for homes in states that are more tax-friendly, according to Mayor Doug Tomson.
Anecdotally, their numbers continue to grow, according to the mayor, and though the township offers a wealth of services for its seniors, there's inadequate room to accommodate their needs.
"They're not going anywhere, and we want a spot for them in town," he said.
The solution? Build a full-service senior wellness center, similar to the one opened one year ago in Bridgewater by the Somerset County Freeholders, a 14,000 square-foot one-story building adjacent to the county's Adult Day Center
The two buildings and services provided has created a senior campus adjacent to TD Bank Ballpark, home of the Somerset Patriots.
Tomson said he's got a perfect site for the building - somewhere on the 400 acres of township-owned property on Mountainvew Road that is adjacent to the sprawling sports facility owned and maintained jointly by the township and Somerset County.
There would be plenty of room for parking - one of the problems that now exist when the township's two active senior citizen clubs meet at the township's municipal center on South Branch Road, according to Tomson.
"When they meet, there's no place left to park," Tomson said, explaining that the parking situation is exacerbated by those attending municipal court sessions held during the day, as well as employee parking and library patrons.
"We've been talking about this since I was mayor in 2015," Tomson said. "We've looked at several options."
- Eliminate one of the soccer fields on the township-owned tract adjacent to the municipal building; that suggestion was rejected because the property was purchased with Green Acre funds provided by the state, which requires the property be used for open space or recreational opportunities;
- Build a multi-story parking garage. That was rejected for two reasons, according to Tomson. It would be too expensive and such a structure would not blend with the township's aesthetic.
"Mountainvew would be a great spot to build a senior center," Tomson said. "I had a chance to take a look at the senior center in Bridgewater and it's a beautiful facility for seniors to come to, they've got a nutritional program, social events, cultural events, it's a great place for them to go during the day and night. We need something similar to that."
The county does maintain and operate a much smaller senior nutritional center down the road from the township's municipal complex.
The biggest obstacle is finding the money to finance the facility.
Tomson said he has had a preliminary discussion with an aide to Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-7th) about securing federal funds. The congressman has scheduled a meeting with the mayors of towns in the Seventh District, and Tomson said he will speak directly with Malinowski and ask him for help. He also expects to speak with state Sen. Kip Bateman, R-16th and Democratic state Assemblymen Roy Freiman, a Hillsborough resident, and Andrew Zwicker.
"This is something all levels of government should want to participate in," Tomson said. "The money is out there somewhere." Tomson added, "we just have to go out and find it."