Woodland Park, N.J.- As we close out 2016 and begin 2017, I want to thank the employees and volunteers who make our great Borough run efficiently each and every day. From the staff at the Municipal Building, to the Public Library, the DPW workers and our Police officers, we appreciate your dedication and the jobs you do in service to our residents. To our volunteers with the Fire Department, First Aid Squad, Boys and Girls Club, school groups, scout packs, the American Legion and the many others, we value your time, the sacrifices you make to ensure our safety, and what you do to ensure that our community has all the activities, events and opportunities that make this town a great place to live and raise a family!
The Council and I are proud of the accomplishments we have seen in 2016. We have worked as a team, debated various issues and made the best decisions for the Borough.
In the past year together, we have seen great improvements here in town:
- Recreational improvements to Rose Place and Zaccaria Parks began over the summer. This is a $1.1 million dollar investment that will be paid through the local Open Space Trust Fund. This is the largest single park improvement effort in the history of the Borough, and we look forward to hosting various programs including our summer camp there this year.
- Our 2016 Road Re-Surfacing Program was coupled with the PSE&G Energy Strong Program and resulted in a significant paving effort. The Dowling Estates, parts of the First District and other areas were paved curb-to-curb. Only two streets needed to be paved from the curb to the midway point in the roadway. In addition, through a Federal CDBG grant, both Ray and Radcliffe Avenues were re-surfaced.
- At the end of 2016, the Council authorized the purchase of the new Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, also known as Scott Packs. This will provide our Fire Department with current equipment as the packs in use are set to expire. This Council has made the safety of our first responders a top priority. Equipment like this along with Fire and Police vehicles will be funded prospectively in part through the new revenue from the recently installed billboard next to Route 80.
- Along those same lines, our Police Department deployed the use of body cameras in order to both protect the public and our officers while on the job. This new technology is a benefit and assists in real time recording events which are often open for interpretation during investigations.
- From a flood mitigation standpoint, the Borough was quite proactive in conjunction with the Passaic Valley Regional Flood Board.
- Our Community Rating System was re-certified, which aids our residents in lowering their flood insurance premiums.
- Just today we have the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission cleaning along the shores of the Peckman River in both our town and Little Falls.
- The Army Corps of Engineers re-instated the long term Peckman River mitigation project and the preliminary plan was presented to the Regional Flood Board just last month.
- The Borough has now removed six homes which had severe repetitive losses during flood events. One was on Radcliffe Avenue and five on Bergen Blvd. These demolitions were all paid for through various State grant programs.
- In response to five suicides in town last year, and various addiction-related police calls where Narcan needed to be administered, I appointed a Stigma-Free Task Force. With the help of our Library Director, Linda Hoffman, who assisted in forming the group and taking the early lead, the group, under the leadership of Jaclyn Luker and Tracey Amato have been trained in Mental Health First Aid and are already planning an array of proactive events in 2017 to help raise awareness.
- 2016 kicked off the #WPReads campaign at the Alfred H. Baumann Public Library. The program was a tremendous success with 200 children enrolled in the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Program and half of those children approaching the 500 mark. Usership is up and on January 9th the Library will continue their efforts with their Winter Program. Please know that the #WPReads campaign will be ongoing beyond 2017.
- From a development standpoint, the Borough has seen some new, smart development. This includes the new over-55 building being built on Lower Notch Road, the expansion of the Woodland Park Range, the Popeye’s near Best Buy and the addition of AndThat! By Christmas Tree Shop and World Market at the former A&P site which is slated to open in July.
- In 2016, we lost our former Mayor John Ciborski. John was a positive voice for our community both during his time as Mayor and through the past year. His calm, yet frank and matter-of-fact advice is something that I know many mayors who sat in this chair before me, and including me, came to rely on. God bless you John and thank you!
- 2017 has many things in store for Woodland Park! The following list is just a sample of what we will see in the coming year:
– the grand opening of the newly-renovated Rose Place Park and Zaccaria Park will be celebrated. The Recreation & Community Relations Committee will host a grand opening ceremony this spring.
– the ground breaking of our McBride Avenue Streetscape project, which will be funded through a series of State and County grants totaling $530,000.
– after many drafts and reviews, thanks to the efforts of Rita Pascrell, Gary Holloway, Kevin Galland, Kathryn Gregory, Richard Briglidoro, Felix Esposito and Arlene Kazmark, we are finally prepared to introduce our new zoning ordinances in conjunction with our Master Plan.
– a newly-designed Borough website is in construction. Tom Minnella and Council President Holloway are spearheading the project which should be completed by mid-year. Mr. Minnella designed the current website in 2003, when it was state-of-the-art. He has done a steller job maintaining content over the years, but it is time to develop a newer, more user-friendly site.
– our video equipment which broadcasts our public meetings will be updated through a renewed cable franchise grant provided by Optimum.
– additional improvements to Memorial Field which will include the addition of restrooms and snack stand upgrades, with funds from the local Open Space Trust Fund.
– the start of the Elizabeth Lane, Old Orchard and Oak Ridge Road sanitary sewer and water line project. Easements are still being negotiated; however, DEP permits have been applied for. We understand the challenges in this neighborhood with regard to failing septics and with well water.
– two new playgrounds for Charles Olbon School, one with specialized equipment for special needs children. This project will also be funded through the local Open Space Trust Fund.
– the re-design of the memorial trees and plaques at Memorial School which are dedicated to residents who were killed in action while serving in the military.
– the installation of new street signs honoring those who served our Country in the military.
– continued advocacy for sound barriers along Route 80, for full Verizon Fios installation in the Borough and to save our reservoirs along Rifle Camp Road.
Finally, please know that the Borough Council and I look forward to working with all our residents to make 2017 another great year for Woodland Park. As always, if you have any questions, concerns or ideas for our town never hesitate to contact me! And, I wish you a happy and healthy New Year!