By JENNIFER AMATO
NORTH BRUNSWICK — Choosing a creative approach to his State of the Township address, North Brunswick Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack presented a series of tweets about how his hometown fared in 2016.
“Great things are happening in North Brunswick. Efficiency and foresight, which I think are the trademarks of this council, are keeping quality of life high. Exciting things are happening. Double exclamation point,” Womack said to begin his address on Feb. 6.
Mentioning each township department individually, Womack again welcomed new Business Administrator Kathryn Monzo and thanked her for a smooth transition, while also lauding department directors for their continued hard work and dedication.
He mentioned the continued AA+ bond rating and “unfailingly favorable audits” the Finance Department has worked to achieve.
Using a movie poster graphic, he discussed “Affordable Housing: Escape From Litigation,” noting that North Brunswick was proactive in settling its affordable housing obligations prior to a court ruling.
Other items credited to the Department of Community Development include hiring a part-time code enforcement officer to handle property maintenance; replacing sewer lines along Six Mile Run at the expense of New Jersey Transit; improving $3 million worth of roads; hosting community-wide yard sales; and fully revising Chapter 352 of the town’s water utility ordinance.
Through the work of officials, the Planning Board and the Zoning Board, a Holiday Inn Express, QuickChek, Courtyard by Marriot, Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille, two medical arts buildings and an expanded Walmart are in order; approval for a train station at the MainStreetNB transit village has been received per the Federal Railroad Association’s 2017 Strategic Plan; and $16 million in capital improvements were made at the Crescent Apartments, formerly known as Oak Leaf Village.
“For the kind of town we are, this, I believe, is excellent planning, excellent development,” he said.
Womack then cited the reopening of Veterans Park, which had been closed for years due to soil contamination. The park on Roosevelt Avenue now boasts a veterans memorial and associated brick pavers, three new playgrounds, a handball court, a tennis court, walking trails, multi-purpose fields and improved safety surfaces.
Also through the Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Services, streets display secondary signs for veterans; the North Brunswick Community Garden at the Pulda Farm is blossoming; health and exercise programs have expanded at the North Brunswick Senior Center; and youth sports organizations are staying active.
Focusing on safety initiatives, Womack credited the Department of Public Safety with reporting a 5 percent reduction in crime in 2016. The first phase of supervisory restructuring went into effect while also bringing manpower up to 82 officers.
Womack said the department is beginning its accreditation process while trying to move toward online police reports.
The department has also acquired surplus military equipment to offset the budget, such as riot shields, ammunition boxes, a vehicle and backpacks. That coincides with increased training in officer safety.
In addition, Class III Special Officers will be located inside township schools.
Sewer and water infrastructure improvements were completed last year by the Department of Public Works, as was getting new equipment for the Sanitation Department and bidding on a new municipal garage.
Employees under the auspices of the municipal clerk’s office were responsible for the redesign of the township website, handling rabies clinics and pet licensing and processing election results during a presidential year.
In addition, Womack helped institute the North Brunswick Human Relations Commission.
“North Brunswick is absolutely committed to welcoming, nurturing and respecting all of our residents, with no exceptions,” he said. “We are a very diverse town and that is probably our greatest strength, the people.”
Another great strength is township volunteers, according to Womack; firefighters and rescue squad members are “true community heroes.”
“They give so much to our well-being. And it cannot be overemphasized how their volunteering helps all of us to keep our taxes down,” he said.
In the same vein, Womack said the council will ensure that there are minimal tax increases while keeping residents safe and offering a high quality of life.
Looking forward, the township will collaborate with the North Brunswick Board of Education in order to increase quality education while being responsible to taxpayers, Womack said.
“We do believe we are a town that’s on the right track,” he said.
Contact Jennifer Amato at firstname.lastname@example.org.