Freeholder Vice Chairman Angel Estrada Sworn in; Freeholders Granados and Kowalski begin new terms; Freeholder Williams begins first full term; Union County Surrogate James S. LaCorte begins new term.
Freeholder Alexander Mirabella has been selected as Chairman of the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and announced a series of initiatives for 2020 under the title, “Union County 2020: Inclusion, Safety, and Outreach,” aimed at upgrading the County’s public safety infrastructure; supporting entrepreneurship, career development and education; and working for the equal rights and dignity of all Union County residents.
Freeholder Chairman Mirabella announced the new initiatives at the 164th annual reorganization meeting of the Freeholder Board, held in the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth on Sunday, January 5.
During the meeting, Freeholder Angel G. Estrada of Elizabeth was selected as Vice Chairman. Freeholder Sergio Granados of Elizabeth and Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski of Cranford were sworn in for new terms. Freeholder Rebecca Williams of Plainfield was sworn in to her first full term, having served a partial term in 2019. Union County Surrogate James S. LaCorte was sworn in for a new term.
This is Mirabella’s fifth term as Freeholder Chairman, having previously served in 2001, 2006, 2009, and 2012.
Mirabella took note of challenges that lie ahead, pledging that the Freeholder Board will continue to support initiatives that strengthen the Union County community.
“With that in mind, this year my Chairman’s Initiatives aim at supporting the pillars of strength that define our community: our beautiful neighborhoods, our wonderful can-do spirit, and the rich diversity of our citizens,” said Mirabella.
The “Union County 2020: Inclusion, Safety, and Outreach” initiatives are:
Keeping Union County Safe and Secure
- Expansion of the Union County Regional Dispatch Center, a shared service handling emergency calls for County and regional response units as well as medical centers and municipal responders. The Dispatch Center launched in 2012 with a half-dozen municipalities on board. Currently the facility handles calls for 14 municipalities and two medical centers along with six County and regional units, and usage is expected to grow.
- Distribution of new fire radios, a shared service enabling municipal fire departments to communicate more effectively with County responders during emergencies. Under this program, Union County will distribute a total of 62 radios to seven municipal fire departments: Clark, Fanwood, Garwood, Hillside, Kenilworth, Mountainside and Plainfield.
Union County 2020
- Partner with Union County College, Kean University, municipalities and many other “complete count” committees dedicated to ensuring the highest possible participation in the 2020 Census. Union County has also recruited high school students to help engage the public through the UC-STEP youth development and leadership program.
- Commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which provided voting rights to women.
- Repurpose County property on Cushing Road to serve as a working farm created and run by students at the Union County Vocational-Technical School District in Scotch Plains, connecting the campus with important trends in urban agriculture and the farm-to-table economy.
- With the assistance of Union County’s grant writer, launch a new online Grant Portal to help municipalities find grant opportunities.
Union County Means Business for All
- Partner with the Union County Economic Development Corporation on programs that focus on women, minority, veteran, and LGBTQ businesses.
- Explore a partnership with Union County College for a new Business Trades Apprenticeship program.
Union County Cares
- Partner with the international Prevention Access “Undetectable = Untransmittable” Campaign in support of efforts to eradicate HIV and end HIV-related stigma. The Union County Office of LGBTQ Affairs will work with the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation to spearhead the effort, which includes advocates in almost 100 countries across the world. Governor Phil Murphy has also signed New Jersey on to the campaign.
- Launch new “Fresh Start” initiative will provide mobile bathing and laundry service for people in need.
- Adapt indoor riding ring at Watchung Stable for wheelchair accessibility.
- Review signage at Union County parks and public recreation facilities to help ensure access and inclusion for all visitors.
In addition to the Chairman’s Initiatives, Union County will continue ongoing work and launch other new programs.
Among the highlights for public recreation, work will progress Master Plan for the reservoir in Clark, and new turf fields will open later this year at Snyder Avenue Park in Berkeley Heights, Madison Avenue Park in Rahway, and Oak Ridge Park in Clark.
In addition, this summer a new pilot program bringing the County’s popular summer camps from the Watchung Reservation in Mountainside to Warinanco Park in Roselle. Other projects include the addition of an audio feed to the Peregrine Falcon Cam in Elizabeth, and a full slate of programs at the Trailside Nature and Science Center leading up to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22.
“I would like to take a moment to, in advance, to recognize our entire Union County team of employees for their diligence, professionalism, and dedication to public service,” said Mirabella in closing. “I’m proud of each County employee, who in their own way, contribute to all our collective success. Thanks to their efforts in years past, we are all looking forward to a brighter future.”