NEWS, SPORTS, COMMENTARY, POLITICS for Gloucester City and the Surrounding Areas of South Jersey and Philadelphia

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GIVING TREE A GREAT SUCCESS

Gloucester City Mayoral Address for 2012

By Mayor William James

 

071307_2158_GloucesterC1_1As we move forward into the new year, 2012, this administration realizes the need for local  government to refocus and aim towards becoming more self sufficient, through the identification of new opportunities to share services, by aggressively seeking new sources of revenue and by closely monitoring all cost saving opportunities for rates of success or failure.    

 

With reductions in state aid the inevitable future, it remains our inherent responsibility to provide Gloucester City’s taxpayers with the best possible services within a reasonably presented budget and the daunting and intense work on this year’s budget began a few months ago. 

Department heads have submitted budget requests and are individually meeting with the administration and finance committee. These submitted budgets are being examined line item by line item, keeping in mind the state mandated 2 percent cap and its’ implications on day to day operations throughout the city. 


 

Only items such as Capital related 5 year infrastructure and or equipment related projects and Health benefits are excluded from the 2 percent cap, but the steadily increasing cost of health benefits continues to have a crippling and uncontrollable effects on all local government budgets. 

 

Gloucester City is not alone in these difficult economic times and your elected officials are not sitting back feeling sorry for themselves or crying to the state for bailouts. 

Instead we are remaining positive and are aggressively pushing forward with redevelopment projects that will make us more self sustainable community in the future. 

 

We realize that not everyone is welcome to change and or the risks associated with project development, but projects such as the redevelopment of Chatham Square, the redevelopment of Freedom Pier and the redevelopment of the Southport area are absolutely necessary if we are going to sustain during these difficult economic times and embrace the inevitability of future self reliance. 

 

Regarding Chatham Square/Meadowbrook Mews, the construction is continuing and we have just entered into a public private partnership with ITT Institute of Technology in an effort to develop a new target oriented marketing plan.

 

The Institute and the City are excited with this new no cost approach where the Institutes student population all across the nation will support the King of Prussia campus in the development of a new Marketing plan with emphasis on the excellent location, access to major roadways and bridges, the workmanship and the pricing as it relates to the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area and the ongoing Medical Building projects and Medical School Construction in Camden City as well as nearby Rutgers University.

 

Regarding Freedom Pier, the initial purchase of the Schooner “Northwind” was followed up by the mandatory stabilization of the pier and the required Department of Environmental Protection Agency Permits.

  After the permitting application process was competed, work immediately commenced and was competed on schedule, addressing as always, several unforeseeable change order and associated costs. After the stabilization was complete, work on the Green Acres and Blue Acres pedestrian walkway and boat docking facility began and is not half competed with all necessary approvals in place.

  The pier now is pedestrian accessible with a new lighted walkway, benches, trash receptacles and ornamental fencing.

 

In staying on course with the master plan for the redevelopment of the pier and agreement was made with Otts, a successful south jersey restaurant to build an establishment on the end of the pier.

  Work has been ongoing for over a year on this project and advances in infrastructure and building design have been competed and after almost 30 years of talk the actual construction preparedness is underway. This project will be a high water make for the eventual revitalization of our riverfront and the adjoining King St. corridor.

 

Regarding the Southport area of the city, this once industrialized, 150 some acres, of contaminated but extremely valuable land has long sat unaddressed for some 20 years.

  When the industry closed down we lost hundreds of jobs and valuable tax ratables that once sustained our community. The Department of Environmental Protection issued NFA’s or No Further Action letters to the entities who contaminated the soils in the area.

  This meant that the area could be fenced and forgotten forever and has been for two decades. The properties located in the Southport area include, CBS/Viacom, BP/Arco, GAF, Ampec, Vanguard Vinyl and Gloucester Point.

 

The previous administration and this administration were intent on not allowing this practice to continue and applied for and were granted the status of a Brownsfields Designated Area which entitled us to Hazardous Discharge Site Remediation Funds (HDSRF) in the amount of $5 million per year to conduct investigation and develop Remedial Action Work Plans (RAWP) as well as paying for 75 percent of the necessary cleanup prior to any redevelopment.

  The project was moving along smoothly until a few months ago when the DEP pulled all project funding due to cutbacks in the State Budget.

 

We continued to remain positive and have been aggressively pursuing end users for the properties and identifying ways to lawfully acquire the properties while at the same time holding the property owners responsible for the contamination and cleanup of the individual sites.

 

We are continuing with our efforts to acquire the BP/Arco site for the Organic Diversions project which includes the construction of a 30 million dollar compost and energy creation facility that will turn this unused portion of town into a job creating and green energy producing new tax ratable.

  We will aggressively move forward down this path of applying pressure where needed and in good faith negotiate when the sounds of reasoning and responsibility reaches the ears of these multimillion dollar responsible parties.

  As we move along with the aforementioned redevelopment projects many other projects are also at the top of our priority list.

 

The replacement of the Gloucester/Brooklawn Bridge began in December and will take over a year to complete. The contract calls for an interconnection of water supply between both communities and access between communities throughout the construction.

  The replacement of roadway and infrastructure on Monmouth Street between Broadway and Brown Street including a railroad jack and bore and crossing replacement. This will not only eliminate the existing flooding that occurs in the area but will also reconnect the water supply loop that has been capped off on both sides of the railroad for years without public knowledge.

  This project was determined a pressing issue based on the recommendation of our environmental utilities department head Fred Schindler. Construction will start in the Spring.

  The replacement of railroad crossings at Essex, Hudson, Monmouth and Koehler Streets along with infrastructure repairs where necessary.

  The interior and exterior painting of our southern water tank which is near completion.

  The continuation of our Broadway Streetscape project, moving in both directions from the existing improvements towards the end goal of completing the entirety of Broadway.

  The creation of a new playground on Park Avenue in the Highland Park section of town with the assistance of Saint Mary’s Parish donations of playground equipment and a developers designated escrow account, a long needed playground and recreation area is being designed for the vacant city owned land between the old Highland Park school and the lake area.

  Continuation of our traffic slowing and safe routes to school initiative that has proven very effective in the reduction of accidents and injuries in the areas of our parks, playgrounds and schools.

  The continuation of distributing the city informational calendar.

  The continuation of our monthly grant monitoring program.

  Continuation of our Housing stock monitoring and enforcement program in which 13 landlords will be subject to a hearing this month for disruption of neighborhoods. Governmental revocation of their right to rent properties in town is to be considered as one of many newly established alternatives.

  This initiative was developed through the combined efforts of the Police department the Housing department and Mayor and Council.

  The development of a brine manufacturing process and solution application process that we will also make available as shared service with other communities. By applying the liquid brine solution to roadways previous to snow conditions we will not only lessen the impact of additional salts and sand to our storm water system but also save on the costs to acquire salt and sand and make the roadways less hazardous for those travelling through our city during times of bad weather.

  We are working to relocate the Gloucester City food bank which was recently displaced due to a church closing. This is an important resource in these difficult economic times and several possible solutions have been identified.

  The continuation of our hands on approach of the Welsbach cleanup at our Johnson Blvd ball fields shows that by communicating with all the involved parties and by including them in the planning and decision making processes, great strides can be made and an end product that is now the envy of all south jersey municipalities can be attained.

  We will continue with this approach throughout the work at the ponytail league and little league fields which has already begun and we will fully support the ideas and wishes of the leagues representatives who we know have only the best interests of our children in mind.

  We are continuing to meet with the county regarding the disrepair of county roads in town especially Jersey Ave and the 8000 and 900 block of Hudson Street. And while we harp on them about their neglect we continue to address our own roadways and have developed a prioritized list of those streets in need of repair.

  This year we have addressed, Atlantic Street, 7th Street, Paul Street, Marlborough Avenue, Holly Avenue, Thompson Avenue, Klemm Avenue, Park Avenue, Francis Street, and the Municipal parking lot.

  With the assistance of a state grant we have conducted an energy audit of all city owned buildings which was a necessary step in applying for funding to address the rising costs of heating and cooling the buildings. We are identifying those changes and repairs that will make the most impact as it relates to saving energy and money.

  Just this year we installed new energy efficient lighting and air conditioning at the Police Administration building, new energy efficient air conditioning at city hall all at no cost to the city.

  This past year we were able to acquire a new trash truck, street sweeper and police car that were paid for with 80% UEZ funds. We also acquired a new front end loader, a new bucket truck and a new crane truck at the Environmental Utilities Department.

  Along with these investments, a new HVAC system was needed and installed at the library, new overhead doors were installed at the Fire Department, new rugs were installed at the Police Administration building, new security cameras were installed at the marina and freedom pier and improvements and upgrading were completed at the Chestnut Street pumping station.

  We have implemented a new city wide drug testing policy for all city employees.

  In tune with the governor’s newly established “government best practices rules” we have created a pay to play ordinance consistent with state rules and regulations on campaign fundraising.

  We have a new trash removal contractor who we signed a five-year agreement with that will save $700,000 over the term of the contract.

  Placed between a rock and a hard place, we privatized our ambulance service and are extremely pleased with both the service and the associated saving of over $600,000 a year.

  Right now we are five police officers short of what we had four years ago and finance has given the authorization to replace two of the desperately needed officers. This will occur in the very near future and this administration will again go on record stating we have no interest in a countywide police department.

  We continue with our efforts to improve the celebrations in town and with the assistance of many dedicated volunteers the costs to do so has been driven down dramatically.

  The approach here is to get as much bang for your buck as you can and we are doing that by also engaging in private/public partnerships with local businesses and organizations.

  Our ongoing efforts to clean up our entryways continues with a special shout out to Mickey Glassman and Joyce Calzonetti the job their group did in the fall and over this past holiday was truly remarkable.

  In closing I’d like to thank all of our volunteers and advisory group members for their commitment to making Gloucester City a better place to live and I promise that Mayor and Council will do everything in their power to assure we achieve that goal which is common to us all.

   

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