Union County scores among highest in statewide poll of urban
counties in quality of life; residents least likely of all to move out
UNION COUNTY–Union County residents are happy with where they live and say their communities are safe. They rate their county’s cultural activities, public schools, and public transportation options as top notch. They rate their County as fifth best in providing job opportunities and are also the least likely to move from where they live, according to a statewide poll conducted by Monmouth University.
Overall, Union County scored 7th highest among all 21 New Jersey Counties in the Garden State Quality of Life index released this week by Monmouth University. In comparison to its urban neighbors, Union County doubled the score of Essex County, while also besting nearby Hudson, Middlesex and Passaic Counties in the index.
“This is an affirmation of quality of life initiatives that are central to this Board’s governing policy,” said Freeholder Chairman Deborah Scanlon, who pointed to improvements in public safety and homeland security, as well as improvements in parks, recreation and cultural affairs programming.
“We frequently talk about ‘having the right priorities’ for Union County,” Scanlon said. “Part of having the right priorities is the courage to resist making cuts in certain areas that would damage our quality of life.”
Union County has worked to preserve more than 300 acres of open space, recently open new parks in Berkeley Heights and Clark, and funded the renovation of dozens of athletic fields through its Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund.
The County also worked to recently renovate the Union County Arts Center in Rahway, which has become a regional venue for world-class and local entertainment.
Union County maintains its popular Summer Arts Program that includes free movies in the parks, and free summer concerts, and marquee concert events such as Rhythm and Blues By The Brook in Plainfield, and the Union County Fair featuring MusicFest in Clark.
“Over and over again, the people who attend these events tell us how much they enjoy them and ask us to keep them going,” said County Manager Alfred Faella, a former Parks and Community Renewal Director. “In these times when more folks choose to take a ‘staycation’ or remain at home, public parks programming and recreation grow in importance.”
The County also continues to fully fund the Union County Prosecutor’s Office in its crack down on drugs, and gang violence throughout the area, while providing millions in Homeland Security funds to local first responders, including the County’s HAZMAT and SWAT team which responds in critical situations.
“By giving law enforcement agencies the staff support and the tools they need to fight crime, we have made Union County a safer place to live,” Scanlon said.
In efforts to bolster employment, Union County has also opened two state-of-the art One-Stop facilities, which offers employment training and referral services, in the eastern and western ends of the County.
The Freeholder Board, Scanlon added, has placed an emphasis on creating new jobs through economic development projects including the recently-opened Union County College Trinitas School for Nursing, and the soon-to-be opened parking deck/commercial facility in Midtown Elizabeth. The County also worked to retain Wakefern, one of the County’s largest employers, and assist it to expand and create dozens of new jobs.
At the same time, Freeholder Angel Estrada also credits the County’s success in developing its Shared Services initiative, which has saved millions through efforts to identify and execute governmental opportunities.
“We meet regularly with our municipal leaders to identify new areas, and improve efficiencies in current programs we are sharing,” said Estrada, who chairs the Freeholder Committee on Shared Services.
Some highlights have included:
- Fanwood Dispatch—Last year, the County announced it is providing emergency dispatch services to the Borough of Fanwood saving residents almost a quarter million dollars over a three-year period. The Fanwood dispatch went “live” last September and the transition has been successful. It is anticipated that use of this service will be expanded as several municipalities have already expressed interest in participating.
- EMS—through talks with municipalities, the County identified an urgent need to provide umbrella coverage during times of shortages and launched a pilot ambulance service to help local squads respond to emergencies when volunteer levels are low.
Union County, through its Union County Improvement Authority, also became one of the first counties statewide to launch a countywide Solar Energy project that will save local governments and municipalities on its energy bills.