Freeholder Chairman Scanlon Announces “Right Priorities for Union County” In Initiatives During 154th Annual Reorganization
Freeholders Sullivan, Kowalski, Sheriff Froehlich, County Clerk Rajoppi Begin New Terms Freeholder Carter Begins First Term
UNION COUNTY COURTHOUSE, ELIZABETH—Freeholder Chairman Deborah P. Scanlon today announced a series of initiatives entitled “right priorities for Union County” that are designed to help children and families, while continuing programs in place to jumpstart the economy and help those in need.
Scanlon, a resident of Union, was selected as Chairman for the second time in her Freeholder career at the 154th annual reorganization meeting held in the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth. Scanlon was previously Chairman in 2003.
Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, of Union, County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi, of Union, and Freeholders Daniel P. Scanlon, of Elizabeth, and Bette Jane Kowalski, of Cranford, were sworn in to new terms. Linda Carter, of Plainfield, was sworn in to her first term as Freeholder. Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, of Fanwood, was appointed Vice Chairman of the Freeholder Board.
Freeholders also voted to fill numerous positions on county advisory boards and to adopt the board’s 2011 schedule and procedural rules.
THE RIGHT PRIORITIES FOR UNION COUNTY
Scanlon announced a set of five initiatives, and a continuation of economic development and governmental policies creating jobs, providing tax relief, sharing services, and assisting residents impacted through the previous downturn. The new initiatives will be done at little or no added expense to taxpayers, and some are funded through existing grant money.
First, building on the success of the child immunization clinic in Elizabeth, Scanlon announced the County will open a new facility in Plainfield to better serve children in the western end of the County. The children’s immunization clinic in the County’s Park Madison building will be opened using existing resources, she noted.
Second, Scanlon announced the County would work with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension program to develop a targeted childhood obesity program through Rutger’s “Get Moving, Get Healthy” program that would be brought into schools and Parent Teacher Associations.
As her third initiative, Scanlon announced the County would work with the Union County Prosecutor’s Office to develop a DVD for distribution of the UCPO High Tech Unit’s cyber bullying and internet safety presentation that it makes at schools.
“The internet and modern technology have changed the landscape of parenting,” Scanlon said . “On a regular basis, we witness the horror stories that result from cyber bullying and from the contact our children have made with others through the internet.”
Scanlon’s fourth initiative creates an Advisory Board for the Prevention of Youth Violence to oversee, implement and sustain Christopher’s Program. The Board will consist of stakeholders involved with youth.
This past year, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders partnered with the New Jersey Superior Court to introduce Christopher’s Program, an intensive effort to help prevent gang violence. The program was created and spearheaded by Freeholder Nancy Ward and won an award for its effectiveness.
As her fifth and final initiative, Scanlon announced a pilot program that would enable high school students to see real-world applications of their studies in County Government.
For example, the County would offer students in environmental classes the opportunity to experience our leaf composting operation at the Houdaille Quarry, and sociology and gerontology classes the opportunity to observe caring at Runnells Hospital.
In other areas, Scanlon announced the County instituted the “Union County toolkit” which in part, ensured this year’s budget would be within the two percent cap.
“Having a Union County “toolkit” in place long before it became fashionable in Trenton helped,” Scanlon said. “We took a number of steps that have saved us approximately $7.7 million in the past few years. These savings will continue this year as well.”
Scanlon also mentioned the County’s pending implementation of the long-term $276 million tax relief plan for Union County. The plan, which is unique to Union County, cuts, cuts waste disposal costs for all and shares the revenues with municipalities.
“(Municipalities) will realize 12-14 dollars a ton in savings, just for continuing in the plan, and all others will realize savings from a reduction in tipping fees from $64 per ton to $61 a ton,” Scanlon said.
Participating municipalities like Elizabeth saves $700,000, Union saves $300,000, Plainfield saves $250,000 and Summit saves $100,000.
Scanlon also announced the County is moving forward on “Go Green” environmental initiatives with a new recycling endeavor, as well as the installation of new solar panels throughout the County, and a $4.9 million “green jobs” grant to retrain workers.
In the effort to help municipalities augment their recycling programs, the County will present Recycling Enhancement grants to all 21 municipalities. The program is paid for through a grant from the State Department of Environmental Protection. The grants are designed to help municipalities reach a 60% recycling goal.
“Having the right priorities for Union County also means sparking economic development, and creating hundreds of jobs,” Scanlon said, pointing to projects such as the new Union County College School for Nursing which opened in Elizabeth and the new downtown Elizabeth parking deck and commercial building, which is under budget and under construction.
Recently, the County announced that it would work with the City of Elizabeth to retain Wakefern, one, one of the County’s largest employers and Elizabeth’s largest taxpayer, which threatened to leave.
“We responded with $44 million in Federal stimulus bonds that will enable Wakefern not only to stay, but also expand and create hundreds of new jobs,” Scanlon said. “(About) $25 million of that came from money the state wasn’t using.”
Finally, Scanlon spoke about Union County’s leadership role in sharing services, which has saved municipalities millions over the past several years.
“County Governments are well positioned to become centers for sharing services,” Scanlon said. “Again, we’ve been ahead of the curve. Union County is now a state leader in shared services.”
Scanlon pointed to the success of the shared services agreement with Fanwood to provide emergency dispatch services to that community, saving residents almost a quarter million dollars over a three-year period, and the launch of the pilot “EMS” ambulance service in April to help local squads respond to emergencies on weekdays when volunteer levels are low.
Finally, Scanlon announced the County is sending an invitation to every local elected official in the County to attend a summit on Wednesday, February 2nd designed to explore new areas of shared services.
The purpose of the summit will be to identify areas of immediate need and potential savings in our municipalities, and establish the Union County Shared Services Coalition which will meet throughout the year to plan long term shared service initiatives.
“We believe the right priorities have set Union County on a path to long-term recovery,” Scanlon said. “Now is the time to press forward with bold and innovative leadership that improves our economic condition and quality of life.”