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In Your Opinion: Mayor Kramer’s State Of The Township Address

By Mayor Philip Kramer.

Citizens of Franklin, I’m pleased to tell you the state of the township is good.  I am very proud of the accomplishments of the council, staff and citizens of Franklin. I want to emphasize, with few exceptions, these are not my accomplishments but accomplishments of the whole community.

The Police Department

We recently underwent a change in leadership in our PD with a new Chief, and I like to say I still believe we have one of the finest forces in the state. Some of the major accomplishments include:

  • One officer received the highest level award for valor as presented by the Somerset County 200 Club, the State PBA and the State Chiefs of Police.
  • A Sergeant received the Leadership Award and was the Valedictorian of his class from Command and Leadership School.
  • A Lieutenant graduated from the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia.
  • In response to the school shootings around the nation, our police force is working seamlessly with the School District to greatly enhance the security and safety in our schools.
  • Coordination between Council, Police, the District and the Board of Education has led to an additional School Resource Officer as well as a plan which will allocate at least one additional officer to each school.
  • Last year our PD was re-accredited by the NJ State Chiefs of police. Only 20% of departments across the state earn this honor.
  • We were recognized by National Public Radio as a national model for community policing.
  • Our summer youth Police Academy has become the model for the State.
  • Our court system shows diversity in our judges and prosecutors.

The Library

Our Library moves forward.  A northern branch will be included in the Lewis Street Youth center. While our purchase fell through for land for a Library owned building for the southern branch, plans still advance towards that goal which will save tens of thousands of dollars a year. In the last year the Library has

  • 23,000 registered borrowers
  • A circulation approaching 370,000
  • Over 780,000 volumes in the collection
  • There are almost 600,000 digital items available (ebooks, audiobooks, music, movies, comics, and television).
  • We are once again offering a summer concert series
  • The summer reading programs had 529 participants who read almost 20,000 books.
  • The Library continues to televise the monthly board meetings, increasing the openness of government.

In that vein the sewage authority at my prompting and Councilman Galtieri’s hard work has begun to televise their meetings. We will soon be televising the majority of civilian committee meetings.

I’m proud of last year’s achievements of our recreation department:

  • Teaching 152 residents to swim
  • Proving a safe open swim atmosphere for 319 residents at Williams Pool
  • Engaging 544 children in summer camp
  • Providing mentoring and leadership skill development to 200 local teens
  • Generating $60,000 in prevention grant funding
  • Providing 13 programs for residents with special needs
  • Serving a total of approximately 9000 residents in approximately 200 programs, 160 of which are for children.
  • Rebranding our Senior Citizen programs as “Forever 55” and offering over 40 programs
  • Expanding the F.Y.I. program to include Friday Night Hoops to 40 teens
  • Coordinating the annual fireworks for 1000s of residents
  • Coordinating the Franklin Day Festival for approximately 20,000 attendees for which of course we also thank former Councilwoman Sherman.

We continue our progress in paving roads.  This has long been championed by councilman Vassanella. This year we will be paying for paving with cash saving tens of thousands of dollar on interest on bonds.

We are accomplishing Councilman Wright’s long-awaited sidewalks project which encourages walking and provides added safety to our children.

Our local emergency broadcast radio station is almost complete and will provide information to citizens when they may most need it.

Canalfest, which is largely a private undertaking with township engagement, now serves over 5,000 people and also contributes to the food bank.  While the food bank is a separate organization the township frequently reaches out to provide support.

Included in Councilwoman Francois’ many accomplishments, I’m particularly proud of her work to spearhead building the Franklin Youth Center.  As the Founder and Leader of the Franklin Youth Initiative, I am proud of the work she continues to do with the Youth, and of her involvement with the planning, rezoning, marketing, and the revitalization of the Hamilton Street Business District.

Councilwoman Robinson is concentrating on improving our transportation infrastructure, youth mentoring and has demonstrated an unwavering commitment and dedication of leading and living the mission and vision of Franklin.

Councilman Chase continues to drive us towards environmental responsibility and acquisition of open space. His fight for the Little Rocky Hill water main fix will soon end in victory.  His work toward the renovation of the Kingston School and sub-leasing it to the Yinghua International School has attracted new residents to the area.

Councilman Prasad has kept us aware of recreational needs that acknowledge how these needs change over time. Both Prasad and Chase lead our effort at thwarting the compressor station in the southern part of town.

The Gazebo project lead by Bill Grippo and the Cultural Arts Committee was started just a few months ago, yet it is slated to be finished within two months.

We will soon begin building Catalpa Park and continue to fix our existing parks

Councilman Onyejiaka has been diligently pushing for a portion of the buildings at Consolata Missions to be used as a local Community Center.  He has also been working with police to lower crime in the third ward and reducing car-on-deer accidents in town.

Speaking of Consolata Missions, we continue communication with the YMCA in attracting them to build on the newly acquired property.  Much of this is owed to Councilman Wright and Deputy Mayor Robinson will soon take the initiative in advancing that plan in the near future.

Councilman William Galtieri has brought us all back to school on construction issues and infrastructure. The old hands on Council are learning from the Councilman who uses a backpack.

Taxes

Township growth together with the budget increasing so little since 2009 will actually lower the municipal portion of property taxes on the average home in Franklin for the second year in a row.  Let me repeat, the average homeowner will pay less in municipal property taxes for two years in a row.

Open Space

All of council shares in the additional preservation of over 150 acres of open space this year.

Affordable Housing

Call it affordable housing, fair share or COAH — the Township has received Court approval of our “fair share plan” to address the Township’s obligation to provide affordable housing.

This is due to the Township’s proactive approach and because of it the Township will not need to rezone any properties to meet additional affordable housing obligations (unlike many other towns).

This approval by the Court protects the Township from builders remedy lawsuits for the next 8 years.

I cannot stress enough how significant this fact is.  Many towns are up against a huge obligation which will affect their taxes, zoning, schools and traffic for years to come. We didn’t merely dodge a bullet, we skillfully, strategically and methodically avoided the gun fight.

At the NJ conference of Mayors, at least 25 percent of the discussion was about this issue and while other Mayors were listening intensely and squirming in their seats, I was answering constituent email wondering what these other towns had been doing for the last decade.

The Future

In the future this council will strive to fight the growth of taxes because the cost of living is one of New Jersey residents’ biggest challenges. We will continue to push for economic growth as we are doing along Hamilton Street and Davidson Avenue. Youth, seniors, education and open space preservation will remain priorities.  We will work with non-government organizations to maintain a safety net for those in need. We will strive to sustain a police force which reflects our population and treats them will the respect that all people deserve. And will continue to fight for our citizens and for all citizens in the region to prevent compressor station 206 from ever breaking ground.

 

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