Good evening and welcome to our first council meeting of an exciting new year.
It would be easy to think that the hotel area redevelopment project was our 2016. But that would overlook much other good work that took place. Beside the hotel, here are some other things that happened:
The Capner and Allen Streets road project was completed, including replacing the sewer and water lines under the roads. New sidewalks and curbs were also installed.
The Flemington Community Partnership began operation on July 1. Some of its activities included the beer garden, fall decorations, holiday decorations, coupon books, and creating their budget and plans for their first full year of operation in 2017.
Our $1M streetscape grant progressed on schedule. It will improve Main St. between Bloomfield Ave. and Mine St. The design work is done, final plans are under review by state and federal agencies, and bids are out for construction. We expect construction to be done over a three-month period beginning in June.
The gas station property on Main Street is finally ready to go on the market for sale. During the year, we had to do some more soil sampling and work through details of the agreement with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, which holds a large lien on the property. We are finally ready to seek a buyer who will be able to put the property back to good use.
The Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce completed its purchase of the historic Large House on Main Street. They have already replaced the roof, and other renovations are well underway to restore both the outside and inside beauty of this historic gem. We look forward to full occupancy by early 2017.
The Lone Eagle Brewery opened in July and has been doing a great business. They are attracting new people into town, and sometimes you have to wait to get through the door. Congratulations to Todd Becker and Bob King for their hard work and success.
Our police department worked with HART TMA to conduct a Streetsmart Pedestrian Safety Campaign. Results showed measurable improvements in such behavioral traits as cars stopping for pedestrians in marked crosswalks, drivers and pedestrians using cell phones, and pedestrians darting out in front of vehicles outside of crosswalks. The campaign received awards from both HART TMA and the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.
The Global Ag Redevelopment Committee finished its initial work by creating a redevelopment plan for the area. The plan will begin the council and planning board review process early this year.
The borough has a new police chief, Jerry Rotella. We look forward to more focus on community policing while acknowledging that we are fortunate to already have a police department that is well regarded by the community.
The borough got a new web site early last year. We have added content and can get new information such as public announcements or meeting agendas posted in as little as two hours. The site is now operated by a professional web hosting company rather than borough council volunteers.
While not an official town function, we have helped to rally the town around our Olympic hopeful speed skater, Kimi Goetz, and raise funds to keep her on track toward the 2018 Olympic Games. Please keep up your support for Kimi; it is making a difference.
Finally, after many years of declining economic vitality and two failed redevelopment attempts, we have a solid opportunity to make a bold move in a new direction. That move is backed by a redeveloper with the financial resources and development knowhow that have been missing from past and present alternatives. One of the lessons from Roger Brooks’s visit to Flemington is that we must move beyond the Lindbergh trial being our showpiece attraction. By asking that simple question “how has that been working for you?”, Mr. Brooks put the trial in a different perspective. It is but one component of a rich and interesting history of Flemington, a history that also includes railroads, factories, agriculture, architecture, and so much more. We must adapt to changing times.
No change comes without some risk and some debate. That debate is part of a democracy. We have welcomed the debate, and every single person who wanted to speak has done so, some more than 20 times. I do believe that folks who do not live in the borough, once they have had their say, should step back. The people of Flemington must decide their own future. Our residents do not go into other towns to force their meetings out of their town hall, file expensive lawsuits over technicalities, and set up panels to interview their candidates for local office and tell their residents how they should vote. We expect the same courtesy. Notwithstanding the outside influence, we will continue to advance what we believe is the best interest and opinion of the local residents whom we are elected to serve.
Looking ahead to 2017, we anticipate resolution of the hotel-area project, a new owner and productive use of the Main St. gas station property, redevelopment prospects for the Global Ag area, construction of the streetscape project, reaching new sewer and water agreements with the NJ DEP, and benefitting from the first full year of operation of the Flemington Community Partnership, including a branding program. All of these should keep our town moving forward, and all are significant, major projects.
As we leave 2016 behind, it is our custom to enter the new year with hope, optimism, and firm resolve to secure a bright future and build on our achievements. Let’s make it a great year!
Phil Greiner, January 3, 2017