Four years ago, I began my first term as mayor of this wonderful Borough. Life was good, everyone was prospering financially and we were all riding high.
A year or so later, the global economic meltdown began and the riding wasn’t so high anymore.
The plans we had in the Borough to move forward to build a new public safety building had to be shelved and we entered into a period of difficult financial burdens on many levels. State aid to the Borough was slashed at the same time that costs and expenses for things like health insurance, pension benefits and other costs beyond our control skyrocketed.
This Administration worked hard to minimize tax increases while maintaining the services that our residents have come to expect. In fact, Kenilworth continues to provide services like garbage pickup, bulky waste pick ups and sewer fees in their tax base while other towns have been forced to eliminate services and pass the costs on directly to their taxpayers.
We saw a sea change in our police department with the retirement of several officers, including Chief William Dowd. New Chief Ken Grady has gone to great lengths in his short tenure to modernize the department. With the Chief’s guidance a new Computer Dispatch System was put in place to replace one which was more than 20 years old, written in a computer language that isn’t even used anymore and which was desperately needed by the Department. Better yet, the Chief was able to acquire the expensive program at no cost to the Borough.
The Chief has also made accreditation of the department a priority, an achievement which will lower insurance costs and modernize the department.
This Administration has replaced uniformed officers with civilian dispatchers, placing those officers on the street where their profession and training best suit them. That was a change that was long overdue and which will greatly benefit the residents of this Borough.
Although it was not economically feasible to construct a new public safety building, we did expand the police facilities by acquiring the building adjacent to the municipal lot and converting it into offices for the detective bureau. This allowed us to remove the trailers that the detectives had occupied for years and helped to alleviate the space crunch in police headquarters. While not a final solution for the space issues, the move will allow us to ride out the financial storm until the Borough is in a position to afford a better solution.
Even the weather was a nightmare in 2011, including Hurricane Irene and her devastating flood, the Halloween snow fall and even an earthquake. Despite these unprecedented weather events and their aftermaths, through the tireless efforts of the members of the Kenilworth Volunteer Fire Department, the Police Department and the DPW, the Borough recovered relatively quickly.
While other towns struggled to recover from the flooding or left their residents to fend for themselves after the snowfall, the members of our Police and Fire Departments and our DPW worked long hours to see that the Borough was quickly back in service. This Administration recognized the needs of our residents and acted to meet them, including scheduling pick ups in the areas hit the hardest during the flooding as soon as possible after Hurricane Irene. After the snow fall the members of the Fire Department and our DPW were again called upon to work hour upon hour to clear fallen limbs quickly and efficiently. Halloween was not postponed in the Borough of Kenilworth.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants have been obtained over the past four years for many purposes, including infrastructure improvements and energy saving upgrades at all of our municipal facilities. Some of the renovations at the new detective bureau are being funded by grants which we have obtained. Computer equipment throughout Borough Hall has been upgraded for much needed and long-overdue modernization. Borough Council meetings may be viewed on three cable channels and over the internet. A new web site will be unveiled in the next few weeks providing more information to the public at the click of a mouse.
I am extremely proud to have been a part of the creation of the September 11th memorial. I am even more proud of my fellow residents who came out in force to commemorate the lost lives on the tenth anniversary of that horrific day.
Although I am hopeful that 2012 will bring positive economic change to our country and our Borough, the days ahead remain challenging. Manufacturing activities at the Merck Campus will be phased out by the end of this year. On the positive side, the new R&D facility is anticipated to open at the same time.
I have had meetings with Merck representatives to discuss redevelopment of the site and will continue to make that a priority of this Administration, as well as the development of the Borough as a whole.
I would like to congratulate Scott Klinder and Anthony DeLuca on their election to council. I would also like to thank Councilmembers Brian Joho, Fred Pugliese, Scott Klinder, Pete Corvelli, Sal Candarella, Kevin Leary and Toni Giordano for all of their hard work and dedication in 2011.
Last but certainly not least, I want to thank all of those who have supported me and have confidence in me. I have worked very hard with council to do the very best for the Borough and look I forward to serving you again as Mayor.
I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. May God bless the United States of America, the Borough of Kenilworth each of you and your families.
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