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In Your Opinion: Mayor Kramer Declares State Of Township As ‘Good’

By Mayor Phil 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 this council, staff and citizens of Franklin.  All of these contribute to the wonderful community in which we live.

The Police Department

Let me start with our police force, the accomplishments of which are literally too numerous to mention, but I’ll name a few:

  • The Chief accepted an award on behalf of the department from NOBLE, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives for the ethnic diversity of the force and the Chief’s work in the minority community.
  • Our court system also shows diversity in our judges and prosecutors.
  • Our officers have received the 200 Club Valor Awards for preventing an attempted robbery, residential fire rescue and saving the life of a middle school child.
  • Typically a department qualifies to send one person to the FBI National academy every seven years.  We’re about to send our second in three years.
  • We have an accredited police department when only 20% of departments are accredited statewide.
  • We continue to dedicate three officers to our school system.
  • The summer youth police academy continues to grow, now involving 40 children a year.
  • We have opened the Hamilton St. community police relations office and are adding a supervisor position.

The Library

Our Library moves forward as well.  We have increased shared services with the town and are working on more.  We renegotiated a new lease for the southern branch which will save tens of thousands of dollars.  Meanwhile we’re working on the acquisition of land so we will be able to own our own building rather than rent.  Talk is moving forward on a northern branch as well. In the last year alone the Library has:

  • had ¼ million visits.
  • 523 programs for children.
  • 679 programs for adults.
  • Over 20,000 people attended these programs.
  • There are now over 200,000 volumes in the collection.
  • With a circulation approaching ½ million per year.

And while there are growing pains, the Library has begun to televise the monthly board meetings, increasing the openness of government.  The sewage authority is also moving towards televising their meetings.

The Recreation Department

I’m proud of the achievements of our recreation department for:

  • Teaching 172 residents to swim
  • Engaging 470 children in summer camp
  • Providing mentoring and leadership skill development to 200 local teens
  • Generating $60,000 in prevention grant funding
  • Operating 35 programs for our active adults at the Community/Senior Center
  • Serving a total of approximately 9000 residents in approximately 200 programs, 160 of which are for children.
  • Participating in the creation of an ordinance creating Smoke Free Parks
  • Conducting the annual fireworks for 1000s of residents.

Citizens are noticing our progress in paving roads.  This has long been championed by councilman Vassanella. We have been playing catch up for the last seven years and are looking forward to being caught up in another 2 to 3 years.  As we do this we are decreasing our reliance on bonding thus saving the township money in the long run.  And we’re beginning Councilman Wright’s long awaited sidewalks project which will encourage walking and provide added safety to our children. We are also improving safety by installing a local emergency broadcast radio station.

Thanks to Councilwoman Sherman Franklin Day now serves over 10,000 people introducing them to the township community and providing support to the food bank.  Canalfest which is largely a private undertaking with township engagement now serves over 3000 people and also contributes to the food bank.  While the food bank is a separate organization the township frequently reaches out to provide support.

Again with the leadership of Councilwoman Sherman we embarked on economic development.  This is a priority so that our township can continue to thrive in the future and sure up our tax base.

Councilwoman Francois is moving Franklin towards her longtime dream of a youth center in the northern portion of town.  I am hopeful this will incorporate a northern library branch.  I applaud her continuing efforts towards this endeavor.

Councilwoman Robinson is concentrating on improving our transportation infrastructure and youth mentoring.

Councilman Chase continues to drive us towards environmental responsibility and acquisition of open space. He continues to fight the state and other obstacles between use and a fix for the Little Rocky Hill water main.

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.

We have built Middlebush Park which services both our youth and adults and we are building Catalpa Park.  We are also fixing our existing parks:

  • Resurfacing the Inman and Williams Park Tennis Courts; the Williams Park Basketball Courts
  • Fixing the sprinkler park at Williams
  • Construction of 2 new basketball courts at Delar Park and a new picnic pavilion at Consovoy Park.

Open Space

In recent years we have preserved over 400 acres of land preventing the building of nearly 600 homes.

Until recently the township waited until we heard of land for sale or we were approached. That changed two years ago when I asked the manager to actively seek out properties.  He then approached the mission at Consolata leading to our greatest acquisitions since I’ve been involved with the township. Not only are we acquiring the land at a discount of 1.5 million dollars but the acquisition prevents over 500 of the 600 homes from being built and we are hopeful it will lead to a YMCA coming to Franklin.  I’m also hopeful buildings on this property can be used to move our schools forward.

We’re very proud of councilman Onyejiaka who is the first elected West African immigrant in the United States.  Because of him we were honored by a visit from a Nigerian King and the councilman has brought us to international recognition by speaking at the United Nations not once but twice.

The township has never worked more closely with our school board.  We are providing the environmental center to the school district and they have restarted the environmental education program.

The financial modeling which I instituted, along with the courage of Council to make tough choices, the hard work of the manager and staff and the sacrifice of both citizens and employees has brought this Township from a situation where we were within 2½ years of running out of money to the point now where we have a comfortable fund balance, significantly low debt and a double A+ bond rating.  All of which has enabled us to not increase our tax levy this year and maintain a budget which remains lower than the 2009 budget. In fact, this year’s budget is lower than last year’s budget.

The financial state of the Township is very good. I caution, it is now incumbent on council, staff and our bargaining units to keep it that way.  It has taken hard work and sacrifice to get us here and it will take the same to keep us here.  Now is not the time to spent money recklessly.

Finally I’d like to point out three advancements within township made by efforts of citizens and our youth.

  • The first, Alex Kharazi has strengthened the bonds in this town through the interfaith council.
  • The second is the progress made by Foday Mansary and Dauda Mansary in moving our West African Community forward.
  • The third is the contribution of the Girls high school basketball team.  We recognize you because you are the state champions but we admire you for the dedication it took to even compete at that level.

Again the state of the Township is good. We have many challenges ahead but this Council has moved us all forward and I’m honored by the privilege of working with them.

 

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