Union reorganization meeting recognizes efforts of township in the past year

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UNION, NJ — New Union Township Mayor Manuel Figueiredo was ushered in at Union Township’s reorganization meeting on Saturday, Jan. 1, as he was nominated chairperson of the Township Committee. Suzette Cavadas was nominated vice chairperson of the Township Committee and deputy mayor, while former Union Mayor Michele Delisfort was sworn in for Township Committee.

The accomplishments of the township were highlighted at the reorganization meeting, including providing testing for COVID-19, vaccinating residents and hosting booster clinics townshipwide; providing food distributions for seniors and other residents, in partnership with Union County and Meet the Need; performing health check calls and transporting seniors; welcoming more than 20 new businesses and investing in the community; offering modern living options to residents; welcoming the Children’s Specialized Hospital, a state-of-the-art new RWJBarnabas health facility; celebrating Kean University’s designation as New Jersey’s first urban research university and the installation of Lamont O. Repollet as Kean’s 18th president; unveiling plans for the new Union Public Library, which will feature a performing arts center; and hosting more than 30 events throughout the year, both virtual and in person.

After being sworn in, Figueiredo thanked those who supported him and recognized Delisfort, who had served as mayor for three years. He also discussed the impact COVID-19 had on the township.

“The fact that we can’t be together to celebrate the start of the new year reminds us that, despite 22 months of fighting back from the COVID-19 pandemic, we still have work to do,” he said at the meeting. “Today, we are virtual, and we will continue to stay virtual for the Township Committee meetings until it is safe to return in person. This is a good opportunity for me to urge all of you to get vaccinated, get your booster, continue wearing masks and social distance whenever possible. Together, we can ensure that 2022 is a safe and healthy year for everyone.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to acknowledge the efforts of our Union Health Department, our health officer, Marconi Gapas, and the Union County COVID task force,” he continued. “Throughout the year, they have tirelessly coordinated testing, messaging, outreach, and, ultimately, the administration of a vaccine and booster. The Health Department staff is knowledgeable, responsive, and a great resource to the town administration, our residents, the county and the state. Our current COVID-19 numbers are a total confirmed cases of 9,712. Estimated recoveries to date is 8,750, with 95 total deaths. In April, we held a memorial for the victims and we heard so many heartbreaking stories of residents taken far too soon from us. Later this spring, we will plant trees in commemoration of those residents lost to COVID. As mayor, I can assure you that the township and our health partners are working together to help families get through this recent wave and come out stronger.

“Despite the challenges, we continue to build COVID resilience. To date, we have approved a total of $890,000 to those businesses that have applied for the American Rescue Plan small-business relief grant program. Congratulations and thanks to those who benefited from this program. Through this grant program, we can continue to mobilize our share of federal recovery dollars to provide grants that will help our businesses continue to stay open and bring back their staff while rebuilding stronger.”

In addition to the projects that are happening within the township, such as a townwide bike-share program; renovations at Rabkin Park with a new artificial turf field for soccer, football and baseball; and additional improvements on Route 22, Figueiredo announced the start of the township’s most aggressive public safety road initiative to date, called S.P.E.E.D 2022 — slowing vehicles, protecting pedestrians, engaging the community, encouraging proper driving and dedicating resources to saving lives.

“The initiative includes new speed-reading signs on our busiest streets, with new pedestrian signage and crosswalk lines in our business center and a more focused enforcement throughout our town,” Figueiredo said. “We will also partner with local organizations to begin an anti-speeding campaign to remind motorists to slow down. If you are speeding, driving aggressively and putting people’s lives in danger, you will be pulled over and you will get a ticket. I am also pleased to announce that we will hire additional police officers this year to continue the great work of our dedicated police department.”

During the meeting, township attorney Daniel Antonelli thanked everyone who donated to the Union Food Pantry, instead of providing flowers for the meeting.

“Normally, when we are in person, the dais is dressed with beautiful floral arrangements from many individuals but, unfortunately, being virtual this year, it was decided it would be a good idea instead of providing flowers to provide donations to the township of Union Food Pantry,” said Antonelli. “In closing, I look forward to 2022, as the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for all of us. From my family to yours, I would like to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year.”