NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ- There is $1.56 million in county grants earmarked for New Brunswick arts and entertainment.

In his “State of the County” address last night, Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios highlighted the grants to the Crossroads Theater Company, the George Street Playhouse, the New Brunswick Culture Center, the American Repertory Ballet and the State Regional Arts Center – all in the Hub City.

 “Each of the organizations will enhance their programming and develop ways to engage new audiences,” Rios said.

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The freeholder director outlined many other priorities, such as a new “powerful” emergency radio system – a $9 million upgrade.

“The state-of-the-art communication enhancement provides seamless communications between County Emergency Management and law enforcement offices and municipal fire, police, EMC and public works agencies,” he said. “The county is offering municipalities the opportunity to join the system at no cost, saving participating towns millions of dollars because they will not have to build their own infrastructure. It is a system that is not only more reliable and effective, but will save our taxpayers money.”

Rios also underscored Middlesex County’s recent announcement, earning certification from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homeless, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the federal Department of Veterans Affairs for reaching “functional zero” for Veterans’ Homelessness.

“We have the infrastructure and systems in place to ensure that any veteran experiencing or at risk of homelessness will get the support he or she needs to quickly obtain a permanent home,” he said. “I am so very proud of all our efforts and thank all our staff, volunteers and partners who made this possible.”

Noting the reduction in the overall county tax rate of half a cent per $100 of assessed value translated into approximately $20 in savings per year per household.  Increasing the use of solar power also brought energy costs down to save $1.5 million annually. Eliminating rental office space and eliminating warehouse space also saves county taxpayers $2 million.

“We are in the process of now consolidating more offices into shared and owned space, and anticipate an additional savings of $156,000 per year,” Rios said, noting the “sound fiscal policies” of his fellow freeholders.