By Thomas A. Arnone
As the freeholder liaison to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, and on behalf of The Board of Chosen Freeholders, we are pleased to report that at its Sept. 24 meeting, the NJTPA Board approved Monmouth County’s application for a competitive grant.
Monmouth County successfully applied for a $225,000 grant for this project through the NJTPA’s 2013 Local Safety Program. The project will improve pedestrian safety and overall operation of the intersection of Shrewsbury Avenue and West Bergen Place/Dr. James Parker Boulevard in Red Bank.
Improvements will include: The replacement of the existing fixed-time traffic signal on overhead wire with a modern signal that features vehicle detection capabilities, a battery backup, and 12” LED signal heads; high visibility crosswalks; push button-activated pedestrian countdown signals; pavement markings, signage and striping; and ADA-compliant curb ramps. The Local Safety Program (LSP) specializes in cost-effective, “quick-fix” solutions that can make an immediate impact on their target areas. The announcement of this grant is tremendous news for both the Borough of Red Bank and for Monmouth County.
Speaking of announcements, I will be continuing with an educational initiative I launched last year where I go around the county visiting schools to speak about county government and about the many wonderful opportunities Monmouth County has to offer.
Recently I visited with the students of the Midtown Community School in Neptune. It was such a pleasure interacting with these bright students. What a wonderful job they did engaging themselves in conversation regarding county government during the question-and-answer portion of my visit. It is truly a rewarding experience for me to be able to provide the students with a little background on the extraordinary county we live in. My next stop is the Ocean Township School, where I will be speaking to students in six of their classes.
If anyone is interested in having your school scheduled for a visit, kindly contact my assistant Darlene Di Leo at 732-431-7396. She will be able to provide you with available dates and answer any questions you may have regarding this educational initiative.
Lastly, the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders would like to thank the teachers of this great county for all you do in your efforts to provide a high level of education to our Monmouth County families. We look forward to working with you in an effort to achieve educational excellence.
More great news for Monmouth County is the expansion of one of the county’s most successful shared services. We, the board of chosen freeholders, would like to announce the department of public works and engineering has just added the Red Bank Fire Department to its long list of municipal partners having their vehicles and equipment repaired at the division of fleet services. This new agreement will provide servicing of 17 trucks and emergency vehicles from the Red Bank Fire Department resulting in a savings to Red Bank taxpayers as well as reducing down time for the fire department. Currently, the division of fleet services is providing preventative maintenance and repairs for more than 60 fire trucks and emergency vehicles from various municipal fire departments, including Asbury Park which has already seen a 40 percent reduction in repair costs for their fleet.
But the savings associated with municipalities using county shared services in no way stops there. On Friday, Sept. 14, the freeholders, in conjunction with the county tax board, held a shared-services presentation to discuss the Monmouth County Online Tax Appeal System. This presentation was conducted for top county officials throughout the state. Union, Hudson, Somerset, Atlantic, Gloucester and Bergen counties all had representation. This is a first of its kind in the state and Monmouth County is serving as a statewide model in this field. The presentation was extremely well received and attendees had their interest peaked when learning that this shared service allows for cost savings, streamlined operations, increased efficiency in government and reduction in waste. Currently, almost all Monmouth County municipalities participate in this shared service, but we continue to welcome additional growth.
And speaking of growth, this past week freeholders in a collaborative effort with the Monmouth County Economic Development team conducted our 79th Grow Monmouth presentation. It was prepared and delivered to Freehold Township. The program was well received by Freehold Township, as it has been in the past, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the township to help retain and grow jobs. One way in which freeholders intend on doing this is through the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy project (CEDS). This week consultants met with the steering committee to explain the process and outcomes of the project. The consultants also began doing one-on-one interviews with representatives of business, education and community groups.
There is an advisory committee meeting scheduled for Oct. 10, and all are encouraged to participate. The meeting will be at 6 p.m. at the AG building on Kozloski Road.
There is still more great news for Monmouth County. The board of chosen freeholders announces Sloan Kettering will be opening a new facility in Middletown. This fantastic news brings along with it some 260 new jobs coming to the county with an average salary of $124,000. The board could not be more pleased with the amount of job possibilities this is going to create.
Because creating job opportunities is a primary focus for the freeholders it came as no surprise that the annual job fair held Friday, Sept. 21, at the police academy was attended by some 1,400 job seekers. There were 100 businesses, all of which had active job openings. Of the 1,400 job seekers present, many of them commented that they had interviews and/or job offers as a result of this event. The job seekers certainly came prepared, and I believe it was in part due to the workshops that were hosted by the division of workforce development that were designed to prep the job seeker with resume writing and how to prepare for the actual job fair.
An event of this magnitude could not have happened without the support and expertise of the wonderful staff here in the county. The board of chosen freeholders recognizes and appreciates all the groups who were so instrumental in making this job fair such a huge success. County employees from public information, buildings and grounds and the division of workforce development all banded together and joined forces in a collaborative effort that truly exemplified the cooperative spirit that is Monmouth County.
Additionally, the staff and recruits at the police academy welcomed both the county and the customers and did a tremendous job in maintaining a constant safe flow of traffic both outside and inside the facility. These efforts certainly aided in ensuring the event ran as smoothly as it did. Clearly a lot of preparation had gone into creating this event and although the turnout far exceeded our expectations – we were ready! Congratulations to everyone involved, and on behalf of The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, thank you for working with us in our efforts to continue to make Monmouth County the place you want to be!
Thomas Arnone is the Monmouth County freeholder deputy director.