ELIZABETH, NJ — The Union County freeholder board met December 19 for its final meeting of the year.

Standing with Jersey City

A moment of silence was held at the start of the meeting to honor the victims of this month’s Jersey City Shooting. Four people, including Jersey City Detective Joseph Seals, were killed in the shooting December 10.

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“[Detective Seals] played a pivotal role in the Jersey City Police Department’s Cease Fire Unit, which is responsible for getting guns off the street,” Freeholder Chair Bette Jane Kowalski said. “Also, in the store where the shootings happened were Mindy Ferencz, a wife and mother of three children; Moshe Deutsch, 24 years old, who was studying to be a rabbi; and Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, who was an immigrant from Ecuador, a father and a husband who worked in the store.”

The board approved a resolution expressing condolences to the families of the four victims.

Citizenship Classes

The board approved a $245,000 contract with We Are One New Jersey, Inc., of Trenton, for social and human services, including classes for those applying for citizenship.

The program offers classes for the citizenship test, assistance with green card renewals, and legal referrals, said Deputy County Manager Amy Wagner, who leads the county’s economic development department. Over the four years of the program, 2,500 people have either taken a class or requested information about the program, Wagner said.

Wagner said that 442 people in Union County have applied for citizenship this year, and 167 of them have since become U.S. citizens. Last year, 376 applied for citizenship, with 149 of those becoming citizens, Wagner said.

Wagner explained the program only helps those who are in the country legally.

“We do not help anyone that is not here legally. We can’t. It’s not part of the program,” she said. “We can refer them to places that might be able to help them, but we cannot provide services.”

Hospital Training Program

The board also allocated $30,000 in funding toward the county’s Project SEARCH Program. As part of the program, students with disabilities from the Union County Educational Services Commission complete coursework in the morning and work half-days at Overlook Hospital in the afternoon. Nine students are enrolled in the program this year, Wagner said.

“This is the third year of the program, and every year, everyone has gotten a job,” Wagner said, adding that not all job placements are full-time. “It’s a really amazing program, and to meet them in the beginning of the school year, and then see them at their graduation, it’s remarkable the progress that they make and the pride that they feel. And some of these young people might never have had an opportunity at a job had someone not given them a chance like this.”

The funding will cover the cost of uniforms, transit fares, and transportation training, Wagner said.

Next Meeting

The board’s 2020 Installation and Reorganization Meeting will be held Sunday, January 5, 2020, at 12:00 p.m. The meeting will be held in the Courtroom of the Honorable Assignment Judge Karen M. Cassidy at the Union County Courthouse, located at 2 Broad Street, Elizabeth.