UNION COUNTY, NJ — Union County Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen has announced a comprehensive series of initiatives for 2016, entitled “One County, One Community” that includes new announcements for economic development, transportation, public safety, seniors, veterans, education, parks and environmental programs.
Bergen, a lifelong native of Union County and a resident of Springfield, was selected as chairman of the Union County Freeholder Board at the 159th annual reorganization meeting held in the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth.
He began serving his first full term as freeholder in 2013; this is his first term as chairman of the board.
County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi and Freeholders Bergen, Alexander Mirabella and Mohamed S. Jalloh, were sworn in to new terms.
Freeholder Sergio Granados was appointed as vice chairman. Freeholders also voted to fill numerous positions on county advisory boards and to adopt the board’s 2016 schedule and procedural rules.
Bergen’s initiatives for 2016 are listed below.
• “Move, Connect, Grow” addresses Union County’s transportation infrastructure, and includes the completion of the Transportation Master Plan; the continuation of the Infrastructure Grant Program to emphasize municipal road pavings; the creation of new bike paths; continued advocacy for the expansion of a one-seat train ride to NYC from Union County’s suburbs, and for the construction of the new Gateway Tunnel project.
• “Union County: At Work and Play” includes new loans for small businesses through the Union County Economic Development Corporation; the creation of more job opportunities through the Union County Workforce Innovation Center which is continuing to grow; ribbon-cuttings for the new Warinanco Park Skating Rink and the expansion of the Watchung Stables; the announcement of two major golf tournaments; advocacy for Union County College to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing; the completion of the expansion of the Union County College campuses in Cranford and Plainfield; and the expansion of the county’s Library Grant Program.
• A “Union County App,” will be developed to help users stay informed and safe with the almanac of information and real time data it will feature.
• “Union County Means Green” would create a green seminar for businesses; education and outreach through the county’s Recycling Bureau to schools; and a new Community Garden Grant program for new and existing gardens. The Freeholder Board will also continue its advocacy for Rahway River Flood Mitigation efforts.
• “UC HERO” assists veterans; partners with the Workforce Investment Board and Union County College to assist vets with a variety of programs, including employment services, training and job fairs; encouraging businesses to hire vets; and connecting vets with social services.
• The “Year of the Senior” includes announcements for the “Seniors in Motion” program,which provides vans for senior transportation to the county’s municipalities, and the Senior Focus Program, which assists municipal senior centers with repairs and improvements.
• The Union County Division on Women will be created; this is a one-person advocacy and referral office on issues impacting women.
• A series of public safety announcements will be put in place, including: new GIS system that will actively assist first responders in emergencies; “Fire Mutual Aid Radio project,” an effort to equip the county’s 20 fire departments with compatible radios to promote communication during emergencies; the installation of cameras in various county parks; the Sheriff’s Office will continue to train for active shooter response at our county facilities to better protect our employees and the public.
• The creation of a regional animal shelter would provide municipalities with a consistent level of animal control services and promote humane treatment. The shelter would provide adoptive services and be run by the county with volunteers. Plans should be in place and unveiled this summer during “Bark in the Park” at the Union County Dog Park at Echo Lake. The board voted on a measure to move the project forward at the reorganization meeting.
Summing up, Bergen said: “Taken as a whole, ‘One County, One Community’ initiatives are not only designed to create a vision and game plan for 2016, but also to challenge us to do better for our community.”