SOMERVILLE, NJ - Mayor Dennis Sullivan offered an upbeat assessment of the borough's ongoing redevelopment and predicted continued good fortune in 2019 and beyond during his New Year's Day speech at the annual reorganization meeting held in the auditorium at Somerville High School.
"Somerville continues to grow and adapt to the change that is inevitable in our state, our nation, and the world, from an early industrial center, to a retail destination, to a seat of government, to a host community for governmental, legal, medical and other professional services, and finally to its current status as a regional restaurant Mecca," Sullivan said.
"Somerville has always been able to provide people with the opportunity to succeed in business, and more importantly,to live and raise a family in a town second to none. That opportunity continues today as we begin 2019," he added.
Councilmen Tom Mitchell and RanD Pitts, both of whom were re-elected in November, were each sworn into three-year terms by their former colleague Steve Peter, now Somerset County Clerk.
Granville Brady, Borough Council president, was reelected by his colleagues to serve in that capacity again in 2019 by unanimous vote.
Sullivan presented a proclamation to Larry Cleveland as 2019 Citizen of the Year. He has served on the Planning Board for 20 years, the Environmental Commission for 16 years and is Scoutmaster of Troop 83.
"He is always willing to help," Sullivan said.
Jason Kerestes was sworn in as the new chief of the Somerville First Aid Squad, with Frank Starz taking the oath of office as Deputy Chief of EMS and Michael Lapotasky taking the oath as Deputy Chief of Rescue.
The Borough Council also approved the nine new members of the Downtown Somerville Alliance, the merchant-driven organization that has been restructured as a non-profit agency to operate independent of the Borough Council. The DSA will have its own reorganization meeting Jan. 7 to elect its new officers.
The nine members include Rick St. Pierre, the only holdover who was the DSA president through last year and owner of Verve Restaurant, Bar & Bistro, 18 E. Main St.;Tony Brokenborough, co-owner of Creative Chocolatez on Division Street; John Flores, who had run unsuccessfully for a seat on the Board of Education last year; Mark Aziz, manager of the Stickley-Audi store on West Main Street; Jenn Pearson, a mortgage broker with Wells Fargo, 92 E. Main St.; Iris Frank, partner in Village Brewing at 34 W. Main St., set to open in February; Michael Kerwin, a Somerville resident and president and CEO of the Somerset County Business Partnership; Councilwoman Jane Kobuta and Kevin Sluka, borough administrator.
The text of Sullivan's speech follows:
"Honored guests, friends, and residents in the audience, and those watching at home on 'Ville TV, welcome to Somerville’s 110th year since her incorporation. It is my honor and privilege to report on the state of the borough as we once again open Somerville’s history book and begin to write the next page in her ongoing success story.
"Somerville continues to grow and adapt to the change that is inevitable in our state, our nation, and the world, from an early industrial center, to a retail destination, to a seat of government, to a host community for governmental, legal, medical and other professional services, and finally to its current status as a regional restaurant mecca.
"Somerville has always been able to provide people with the opportunity to succeed in business, and more importantly,to live and raise a family in a town second to none. That opportunity continues today as we begin 2019.
"There is optimism everywhere you look in Somerville. You can see it in our established neighborhoods, where proud homeowners are constantly adding new shrubs, fresh paint, and value-enhancing additions.
"You can see it in the new homes popping up on once-empty lots and in older homes being rehabilitated all over town. you can see it on Main Street, where private investment in new or restored properties is bringing new businesses, jobs, energy, and tax revenue to Somerville’s commercial tax base, and you can see it especially by looking at former abandoned industrial sites on South Bridge Street and Fairview Avenue, where new residences will soon replace sterile, ugly, and dangerous vacant lots that negatively affected neighboring property values and the overall quality of life in our town. investment capital is drawn to areas of opportunity, and investment capital has found Somerville.
"This year promises to build on the accomplishments of 2018. We look forward to ground being broken at the long-awaited train station project, as well as on West Main Street and Kirby Avenue. Once these properties come on line, the substantial revenue they generate will help to continue the borough’s aggressive efforts to maintain and improve Somerville’s infrastructure.
"We remain committed to timely and systematic road and sewer repairs, street tree replacement, the restoration of Southside Park, and continued care for our unique Borough Hall landmark.
"Our major focus this year, however, will be on developing a comprehensive plan for our new emergency services complex on Gaston Avenue. Once we determine the scope of the project and a tentative budget and timeline, we can begin to identify funding sources that will allow demolition and construction to begin.
"The building will not appear overnight, but when it does open, we will be able to sell no longer needed borough land to return those properties to the tax roles.
"As always, quality essential services remain a trademark of Somerville. Our highly-trained and dedicated police department is on call twenty-four-seven to keep us safe, and the new young officers added over the last few years bring an enthusiasm and sense of community policing to a very difficult job.
"I know they would appreciate a wave of thanks as they drive by on patrol. Our Borough Hall staff is always there to help the public in navigating the sometimes confusing paperwork that government is so good at creating, and our public works department is always ready to handle whatever mother nature throws at us. Let’s all hope for good weather in 2019.
"The spirit of volunteerism continues to be the lifeblood of Somerville. Our fire department, along with the first aid and rescue squad, fire police and CERT teams put the health and safety of their neighbors above their own lives and families in dedicating their precious time in training for and responding to critical emergencies and staffing borough events that could not happen without their efforts.
"Please continue to support them in whatever way you can. And I would be remiss not to mention the other countless volunteers that contribute to our borough fabric; scout masters, coaches, literacy tutors, and members of borough, church and civic groups. We all know that it takes a village, and we have one of the best villages anywhere.
"Before I close, I’d like to say a few words to the Borough Council seated with me today. You have been given a tremendous responsibility by the voters of Somerville, and I look forward to working with you to meet the challenges ahead. Together we have a combined 59 years of elected service to Somerville, and I know that we will call on our collective experience to make good decisions as we move Somerville forward. As my hero Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” May we all be up to the test.
"As we leave here today to pick up the daily routine of life in the new year, let us continue to reflect on what Somerville means to all of us - a place to live, work, play, learn and love. Let us rededicate our best efforts to serve our town and each other as one big family,12,000 members strong. May God continue to bless Somerville and all who live here, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.