UEZ PROGRAM SAVED-Howard Clark, Gloucester City UEZ Director was questioned last Friday about the status of the UEZ program in the state and here in Gloucester City. Because of the state budget deficit Governor Christies had proposed to freeze all UEZ spending in the 32 districts in the coming fiscal year effective July 1. Clark said Christie and the legislature reached an agreement recently to keep the program alive.
“Under the agreement $48 million was set aside for the zones to share for already approved shovel ready projects”, said Clark.
State Senator Jeff Van Drew, D-1, told the Daily Journal, a Cumberland County newspaper, that changes are certain for the UEZ, and the overall impact on the state's 32 designated zones remains unclear, but the good news is the state won't end the UEZ program as some initially feared.
Van Drew was asked by The Daily Journal : How much of that $48 million, if any, would be available to cities that relied on UEZ funds to cover the salaries of public safety personnel. Last year, Vineland and Millville combined had set aside roughly $3 million in UEZ funds for police and fire salaries.
Van Drew said the impact likely would vary by community, but cities may be able to use some UEZ funds to cover those public safety costs.
Clark said it’s also unclear how much UEZ money each city could receive for new development projects.
Previously, the money available to each Urban Enterprise Zone came from a portion of the sales tax revenue each zone generated. Cities that collected more sales tax had more money available to reinvest in economic development projects.
Clark said under the proposed changes, all sales tax revenue instead would go to the state's general fund to help fill New Jersey's multibillion-dollar budget gap.
State treasury spokesman Andrew Pratt said the final plans are still being worked out, and full details about the changes in the UEZ program should be available before the budget is approved this month.
MORE STATE PROGRAMS SAVED-NJ 101.5 radio reported Governor Christie and the Legislature identified $74 million in additional cost-savings within the budget that will make it possible to restore funding for several key programs: Funding For General Assistance: $21,995,000; Supplemental Security Income/Personal Needs Allowance For Community-Based Developmental Disabilities Clients: $10,282,000; Personal Assistance Home Care : $9,669,000; Education Services For Blind Children: $20,000; Adult Medical Day Care: $2,379,000; Sheltered Workshops for People with Disabilities: $3,000,000; Respite Care: $800,000; Hagedorn Psychiatric Hospital: $6,370,000; NJ After 3 Program: $3,000,000; NJ STARS Tuition Scholarships: $1,000,000; Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Opportunity Program: $1,300,000; New Jersey Cultural Trust: $4,000,000 and the Center For Hispanic Policy: $1,400,000; the State Commission of Investigation $3,539,000.
TEAR THOSE HOUSING PLANS UP--Gloucester City Mayor and Council passed an ordinance this past Thursday designating the Southport area for industrial use. Because of the environmental problems in this location it cannot be used for housing without years of remediation work. Clark said the City has been talking recently with people looking to build a solar wind farm close to the Delaware River. One possible location would be the defunct Gulf and Western site at the foot of Water Street.
Clark said too that the City is continuing the talks with Chilean fruit company representatives. Those talks began last year. The company is looking to build refrigerated warehouses on the old Amspec Chemical grounds, Water Street and the Delaware River. The City purchased the property in 2009 for $5 million.
Remember in 2006 the Democrat incumbent candidates promised to build 3000 new homes on this same industrial area. Never once during that campaign did they mention the 10 or more years that would be needed to clear up the environmental problems before any residential homes could be built. Once in office the James administration learned about those environmental concerns. Over time they began to lean towards building a light industrial park that would provide jobs for local residents. When this will happen is anyone’s guess.
WHAT’S UP DOC! Asked about the one day liquor license for The Tavern on the Edge at Jersey Avenue and 4th Street Clark said this was granted so the owners could work out some “kinks”. After that one day it will shut down and reopen in the fall, Clark said.
As for what is happening with the old Quality Furniture Store, South Broadway and Center Street, Clark said it will be a Family Dollar Store. He didn’t know when it would be opening.
DO YOU REMEMBER?-Two years ago the City of Gloucester City announced a tent canopy restaurant would be erected on the former Coast Guard Pier. But studies showed the wind was two strong for a tent. So in June 2009 the City announced plans to build a 5000 square foot to 7000 square foot restaurant in the same area. Plans were suppose to be ready by September 2009 and construction was to start early 2010. And so I ask the age old question once again, why has every other community in this area been able to build homes and restaurants on their waterfront and all Gloucester City does is talk about it. Longtime residents have been waiting for 30 years (since 1980) for this dream to come true.
We are preparing our June Cheer and Jeer column for publication next week. If you have any suggestions send to BillGCN@verizon.net
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