SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ - The Township of Scotch Plains held its first council meeting of 2016 on Tuesday, reorganizing with 33 new resolutions.
Mayor Kevin Glover opened the night, delivering the annual Mayor's Message listing accomplishments of the past 12 months and presenting challenges that the new year brings. He also proposed that Councilwoman Rose Checchio be appointed as Deputy Mayor -- a move that met unanimous approval from the council.
"I’d like to reiterate to you a phrase I’ve used since my first days as a public servant, that some say is a part of my DNA. We can do better," Glover said. "Well, today I take great pleasure to present the 2016 Mayor's State of the Township message to tell you: We did."
The mayor said the township and its finances are being well managed by Municipal Manager Al Mirabella and his professional staff. He listed the following among his successes in the past year:
a zero percent municipal tax increase that coincided with an upgrade of Scotch Plains' municipal bond rating (a positive reflection of the township's creditworthiness);
improved communications with citizens through significant upgrades to the township’s website, SPTV, social media outlets and emergency radio station 530 AM;
reorganization of the Office of Emergency Management in order to better serve the community during crisis situations;
the purchase of a new fire truck that enabled Scotch Plains to retire a 30-yr-old vehicle;
a revamped Department of Public Works management team led by new DPW Director Joe Timko that resulted in efficient and cost effective leaf removal and road resurfacing projects;
implementation of a shared service agreement for police, fire and rescue squad emergency dispatch services with Union County, which Glover said "will improve and enhance this critical service, and save our taxpayers approximately $1,000,000 over the next 5 years;
a shared service agreement with Fanwood for the replacement of an aged and unreliable senior citizen bus;
successfully securing $400,000 in grant money from the County, State and Federal government agencies -- money that will be used to upgrade and improve recreation facilities, install an emergency generator at the North Side firehouse, and pay for the restoration of the historic Shady Rest Clubhouse.
Glover also lauded the work of the Cultural Arts and Special Events Committee, chaired by his wife, Joanne.
"I believe it has a positive impact on our community, This past year we held more and bigger events, including our annual Memorial Day Parade and Concert, the Mayor’s Charity Gala, Easter egg hunt, Scotch Plains Day, and the Scotch Plains annual Holiday Celebration," the mayor said. "We added Friday Family Night at the Movies, two classic car shows, an art show, a Halloween event, and celebrated the lighting of the menorah on Hanukkah."
Glover, who is up for re-election this year, believes that these events brought much needed foot traffic, served to support local businesses, and provided family entertainment, while promoting downtown Scotch Plains as a good place to do business.
Among the challenges for 2016, Glover listed:
- evaluating and identifying shared service opportunities to save tax dollars;
- developing a budget that addresses immediate needs and long-term goals and objectives;
- maintaining the township's infrastructure that "has for too long been neglected" and minimizing costly repairs and capital replacement costs;
- retaining a professional downtown planner that will bring ideas and recommendations to improve and build on recent downtown successes;
- restoring the former Terry Lou Zoo site and transforming the vacant township property into a park for all to enjoy;
- initiating a 5K-health run to benefit breast cancer awareness that will take place on the weekend of the Scotch Plains Day Fall Festival;
- bringing the Memorial Day Concert “A Tribute to Heroes” to be performed for the first time in Scotch Plains at the Alan Augustine Park adjacent to Town Hall; and
- celebrating Independence Day with a 4th of July fireworks display to take place at the Scotch Hills Golf Course.
"In 2015, I outlined many goals and objectives that I believed would move our township forward, while addressing our citizen’s needs," Glover stated. "I can enthusiastically say that promises made have been promises kept."
"Serving as your Mayor is a privilege and an honor. Let there be no doubt, I remain confident and optimistic about our Town’s future."