Commissioner Rebecca L. Williams becomes Vice Chair; Commissioners Angela R. Garretson and Christopher Hudak begin new terms; Commissioner Lourdes M. Leon begins first full term; Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi and Sheriff Peter Corvelli begin new terms.
Commissioner Alexander Mirabella has been selected as Chairman of the Union County Board of County Commissioners for the second year in a row, announcing a series of initiatives for 2021 under the title, “Union County Rising.”
Chairman Mirabella announced the new initiatives at the 165th annual reorganization meeting of County Government. The reorganization was held virtually for the first time in history, and the installations and swearings-in were held live on the steps of the historic Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth. The meeting also marked the first meeting of the newly-named County Board of Commissioners, replacing the title of Freeholder.
During the meeting, Commissioner Rebecca L. Williams became Vice Chair; Commissioners Angela R. Garretson and Christopher Hudak began new terms; Commissioner Lourdes M. Leon began her first full term and also became the first Latino woman elected to the Board; and Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi and Sheriff Peter Corvelli began new terms.
This is Mirabella’s sixth term as Chairman, having previously served in 2001, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2020.
During his speech, Mirabella called for a moment of silence in honor of those who died from COVID-19, then added:
“Union County was dealt a severe blow by the pandemic in every way socially, economically and physically,” he said. “Yet, we did what we always do when faced with tough times: We came together, we helped each other, we healed each other, and we must now move forward.”
The “Union County Rising” initiatives are:
*Vaccinations: The County of Union is finalizing plans to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to its residents, and is ready to begin vaccinations as soon as they arrive. Having administered COVID-19 tests throughout Union County, the infrastructure is in place to allow for a transition to a vaccination program immediately. Union County will be providing vaccinations according to the priorities established by the State of New Jersey.
*Dispatch expansion: The Department of Public Safety has begun work on the expansion of the Union County Regional Dispatch Center. This is an important shared service handling emergency calls for the County, and many other agencies.
*The former Juvenile Detention Center in Linden: The County is planning to repurpose it as a Fire Academy, to train firefighters throughout the County.
*“Union County Means Business for all initiatives:”
1.) The Union County Economic Development Corporation has started taking applications for its VIP Virtual Incubator Program. This is limited to minority and under-served populations;
2.) The Entrepreneurship as a Second Chance (ESC) program is to be held in April/May. The focus will be on Union county registrants, and the UCEDC is accepting applications now. This will be training to assist individuals explore business ownership;
3.) The “Open for Business Initiative,” which is designed to help underserved small businesses stay open and save jobs through the UCEDC;
More information the above UCEDC programs is available online at ucedc.com.
4.) Project Fresh Start: The County’s Human Services Department will provide mobile shower and laundry service for people in need and the homeless, and it will roll out this year.
5.) The reboot of the Union County Foreclosure Task Force, which was created to help those in need after the financial crash in 2009. In its new form, the Task Force will also include tenants at risk of eviction.
6.) The Office of LGBTQ Affairs will work with the National and NJ LGBT Chambers of Commerce to develop a virtual jobs fair with accepting businesses that value LGBTQ diversity in the workplace and offer affirming working environments where all are welcome.
7.) In line with this, the County is working with UCEDC to develop an “Open for Business – Open for Everyone: Diversity and Inclusion Symposium” for business owners, managers and entrepreneurs. Upon completion of the LGBTQ+ diversity and inclusion training program, businesses will be invited to sign the “Open for Business – Open for Everyone” pledge and receive a window decal or sticker to post at their establishment.
8.) The Office of LGBTQ Affairs will work with our Parks Department to develop plans for a unique LGBTQ+ inclusive and welcoming space for all to enjoy at Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield.
*Parks Department announcements:
1.) Continuation of drive-up concerts and movies in the spring;
2.) Work should be completed by summer on the newly renovated Ulrich Pool in Rahway;
3.) A new turf field and baseball facility at Snyder Avenue will be completed in Berkeley Heights in the spring;
4.) The County will begin construction of a new outdoor riding ring for those with disabilities at the Watchung Stables. The ring should be completed by the end of the year;
5.) The County will complete the master plan for the Clark Reservoir in the next few months;
6.) The County plans to transform County property on Cushing Road into a working farm, as part of a unique educational opportunity for students at the Union County Vocational-Technical School District in Scotch Plains.
*The County anticipates a groundbreaking on one of Union County’s largest and most important economic development projects ever — the construction of two new County office buildings on West Grand Street in Elizabeth. The plan is to consolidate employees from the current Administration Building and several other leased facilities into these two new buildings. By financing through the Union County Improvement Authority and eliminating leases, the County will save $120 million over 30 years.
Mirabella concluded his speech with a call to action.
“I said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m proud of each County employee, who in their own way, enabled us to continue providing essential County services while managing new challenges brought on by the pandemic, including testing, tracking, tracing, emergency food distribution, and CARES Act grant programs,” Mirabella said. “We are facing formidable challenges this year, but I know that together we will rise above all. Together, we can, we must, and we will get over the pandemic and move Union County forward.”