By Matthew Sockol
FREEHOLD – This year, Freehold Borough officials are engaging in a participatory budgeting project which will allow residents to decide how $200,000 of the 2017 municipal budget will be spent.
On April 10, members of the public had the opportunity to present their ideas for projects toward which the $200,000 could be allocated.
The Freehold First Aid and Emergency Squad, which serves Freehold Borough and Freehold Township, is seeking devices for heart emergencies.
As an all-volunteer organization, the squad is funded through donations. According to Capt. Jeremy Hoffman, donations have been declining and that has made it difficult for the squad to acquire equipment.
The squad is seeking five LUCAS chest compression system devices, which provide automated cardiopulmonary resuscitation. According to Hoffman, if the equipment is purchased, the squad’s ambulances will each have one device on board.
The cost of the five devices is $117,500, according to Hoffman.
The first aid squad is also seeking five automated external defibrillators that would be placed throughout the community. The total cost would be $11,000, according to Hoffman.
Representatives of Downtown Freehold, which produces events in the borough’s downtown district, proposed three projects.
Jeff Siegel of QuestUpon, a developer of augmented reality mobile apps, spoke about the organization’s first project – an interactive tour of Freehold’s history for mobile devices.
Siegel described augmented reality as placing a three-dimensional object over real space. It uses a smartphone’s camera to project on-screen images, the same technology seen in the Pokémon Go game.
By hovering a device over locations in the borough, an individual would be able to see what the locations looked like in the past. The interactive tour would also provide historical information, quests to be completed and coupons for businesses, according to Siegel.
Siegel said he believed the interactive tour would increase the number of visitors to town and benefit businesses. According to Siegel, the project would cost $25,000.
Also proposed by Downtown Freehold were additional street lights and a free public wi-fi system.
Jeffrey Friedman, Downtown Freehold’s business advocate, said additional lights on Broad, Court and Mechanic streets would increase comfort and access to parking spots for residents and visitors. Each street light would cost $8,000.
The free wi-fi system, according to Friedman, would not only benefit members of the public, but also provide aid to emergency services.
Friedman reasoned that the wi-fi system would give emergency personnel access to cameras and allow them to send out alerts to mobile devices. Implementing the system in the downtown district would cost $50,000.
Friedman said the two projects could be done in stages to avoid using too much of the allocated $200,000.
The Lake Topanemus Commission proposed two projects at Lake Topanemus Park: a fisherman’s dock and a pedestrian bridge.
According to Chairman Roger Kane, the proposed dock is 30 feet long and 8 feet wide. When needed, the dock can be stored in a shed. It would cost $6,000.
The pedestrian bridge, according to Kane, would be located by the lake’s dam. Kane said the bridge would increase safety in accessing the dam by allowing pedestrians to avoid vehicular traffic. The bridge would cost $18,500.
Lake Topanemus is in Freehold Township, but is owned by Freehold Borough.
Businessman Carl Steinberg proposed the placement of what he described as a prominent Freehold Borough identification sign at Elks Point. Steinberg said the sign would cost between $50 and $100.
Resident Rob Hubela of Schiverea Avenue proposed a project to deal with a sewer issue that is occurring near his home.
According to Hubela, about 20 homes on the street do not have access to a sewer. To fix the issue, Hubela suggested implementing a high power pressure hose. The cost of the project would be $30,000.
Kathy Mulholland, an employee of the Freehold Public Library, suggested an expansion of the library to add wheelchair accessibility to the building. Mulholland said she was representing herself and not the library when she suggested the project.
The deadline for project ideas to be submitted was April 15. After all of the ideas are vetted by the borough’s professionals, a final list will be placed on a ballot. All residents age 14 and older will be eligible to vote on the approved projects, according to Councilman Ron Griffiths, who presented the idea to the governing body.
According to Griffiths, the vote will take place in late May or early June and the announcement of the winners will be made in mid-June. The allocation of the $200,000 will be determined by the number of votes each project receives.