Mayor J. Brooke Hern delivered his annual message during the New Providence reorganization meeting on Monday night, highlighting much of the borough’s progress in 2012 and expressing an optimistic outlook for 2013.
From a shared dispatch center with Summit to a plan that will improve the conditions of the borough’s recreational fields to the first consumption liquor license going out to bid this month, Hern said the borough’s ongoing progress will ultimately strengthen the quality of life for residents while saving tax dollars and improving services.
“Our progress is the result of a collective effort of our elected officials, local businesses, borough employees, and many volunteers,” Hern said to a packed Council Chambers in Borough Hall. “It’s the result of careful analysis, community involvement, transparency, and deliberations. Open debate, sometimes disagreement, but always consensus.”
Two years ago, the Oakwood Park referendum was defeated by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. This left the borough with the opportunity to find another way of improving athletic fields and facilities, which have been worn down by years overuse, Hern said. So, Council began developing a plan to address all fields in need of repair.
“Both sides of the debate came together behind the common goal that we all shared all along,” Hern explained. “Today, this council has a plan that will begin this spring with substantial improvements to baseball and soccer fields at Hillview Field on Central Avenue. Our fields are overused and we are addressing that not by focusing on a single field, but by developing a town-wide program that relies upon improvements to several fields.”
When developing the improvements for Hillview Field, the mayor noted that the council consulted with nearby residents and sports organizations that utilize Hillview Field.
“Each subsequent stage of field improvements throughout the borough will be developed and implemented with the same high-level community involvement,” he said.
A few days ago, Hern said he signed the agreement, which was previously approved by council, to create a shared state-of-the-art emergency dispatch center with Summit, which will be housed in Borough Hall.
“Funded with the help of a $1.7 million dollar federal grant, the dispatch center will meet all new requirements imposed upon the borough, and will increase safety and effectiveness in the dispatch of police, fire and rescue squad services,” Hern said.
Since New Providence and Summit are owners of this dispatch center, which is expected to be operational in 2013, Hern said both towns have the capacity to become a service provider to other towns, which could reduce costs for borough taxpayers.
In November of 2011, voters approved a referendum that allows for the sale of four consumption liquor licenses in New Providence.
Since then, Hern said the council worked very carefully to create an ordinance that now governs the type and operation of restaurants that will be able to serve alcohol in New Providence.
“We aggressively marketed the first of four licenses that will go out to bid this month, and our efforts have generated considerable interest by reputable restaurateurs who have already experienced great success in other communities,” Hern said. “Bringing quality restaurants to our town will put more people on our sidewalks. It will increase business for everyone and it will lift our local economy to new heights.”
Superstorm Sandy — New Providence Employees and Volunteers
Hern said the hard work and dedication from borough employees and volunteers can be seen throughout the year, but truly came to light during and after Sandy.
“The night of the storm, our police officers, fire department and rescue squad risked their own safety to ensure that our residents remained safe,” the mayor explained. “In the weeks that followed, our emergency personnel and countless volunteers worked tirelessly to help their fellow residents.”
Hern said the new emergency generator, which powers Borough Hall and the Rescue Squad, allowed employees and volunteers to set up and staff a 24-hour shelter and warming station, which served the needs of hundreds upon hundreds of residents.
“Time and again, we have seen that the vitality of our town is the product of the people who serve it, and that is why New Providence is such a great community,” he said.
Hern said 2013 will bring many challenges, some of which are not yet known. However, he said the borough is prepared for both the expected and the unexpected.
“We’re prepared to aggressively tackle our next budget to make sure that we can deliver services and hold down property taxes. We’re prepared to improve conditions on playing fields throughout the borough. We’re prepared to move forward with new and creative shared service programs, including a new emergency dispatch center,” Hern said. “We’re prepared to issue our first consumption liquor license and bring new businesses to our town, and we’re prepared for the unexpected because we’ve made certain that our police, our fire and our rescue squad are well trained and well equipped to respond when needed.”
Hern said he is proud to say that New Providence has a responsible municipal government that makes decisions that reflect the values and visions that the community shares.
“As I’ve said before, I want every employee and every volunteer to know that you are appreciated and that it’s because of your collective effort that New Providence is today poised to realize its full potential as a thriving community,” Hern said. “I still believe that our best days lie ahead and I hope that each of you continues to join the efforts of this council to make New Providence even better than it is today.”