As we move into the New Year, we reflect back on some prominent highlights of 2012. Keeping finances a constant focal point, our fiscal standpoint at year end was strong, with a flat tax rate and no increase to our municipal tax rate. Taxes in Secaucus remain the lowest in the county, due in part to constantly finding new sources of revenue including construction fees, which have exceeded one million dollars for the second consecutive year. We also continue to collect over $600,000 per year in special assessments. These funds are used to pay down municipal debt. Since this administration took office, the debt has been decreased by two million dollars per year. We project the ratable base will increase by more than sixty million in 2013, a sign of a strong healthy community.
Taking a look at some departments, we are pleased to say that the police department is currently operating at the highest level of staffing in 30 years. There have been eight new patrolmen hired within the last year. Combine that with the utilization of the County Sheriff’s Department patrolling the Harmon Meadow area, our officers are freed up for more efficient coverage of residential neighborhoods.
Similar to the police department, the fire department is also at the highest staffing level in the last decade. The Secaucus Fire Department is one of the last volunteer departments to exist in this area. In addition to membership growth, the department is expecting a new rescue truck which would be housed at Engine 2/Rescue 1. We will soon be receiving bids on a new firehouse at Washington Hook and Ladder on County Avenue, which would be fully funded by Impact Fees charged to Xchange. The fire department will also receive a state of the art fire safety trailer through a $68,000 federal grant. The trailer would also simulate natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we are working closely with FEMA and other recovery agencies. In fact we requested $1.3 million from FEMA for public assistance as well as $5.4 millio for mitigation improvement projects to prevent future flooding from severe storms. Areas targeted for public assistance are Acorn Street Pump, Koelle Tide Gate, Recreation Center, Mill Ridge Ball Fields, Schmidts Woods, Smit Park and the North End Berm. Hazard mitigation locations are the Born Street Pump Station, Plaza Center, Tenth Street, Koelle Blvd, Gail Place and Valley Court.
When we took office in 2009, the town was operating with only one ambulance day and night. We immediately acquired two and now have a contract with Meadowlands Hospital and currently have three full time ambulances available 24/7. We negotiated this vital service at a savings to the community of more than $800,000 per year.
As you travel through town you can’t help but notice the considerable roadway improvements we have made to many of our local streets. We have undertaken the largest road improvement project in the town’s history with a concentration on main arteries including County Avenue, Paterson Plank Road, and Centre Avenue, which were all paid through county and state grants. For the first time many forgotten secondary streets such as Laurel Court, Lucht Place, Mutillod Lane, Helen Street and Blanche Street and Myrtle Avenue were addressed. Plans are underway for Walter Place, Sparman Place, Mansfield Avenue, Central Lane, Lausecker Lane, and Fischer Avenue to be repaved this year.
Safety is always a priority for our young people as well as all our residents. As these streets are being repaired, we are making a concerted effort to upgrade crosswalks, add illuminated signs and dedicated drop-off sites at the schools. In response to the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, security has also been heightened in our schools, including cameras and an increased police presence.
Additionally, every playground and park continues to be upgraded to meet or exceed current safety standards. The park at Gail Place featuring a water park and a dinosaur theme will be completed by spring. The park is fully funded by the environmental fee charged to those that drive to the Dinosaur Park at Laurel Hill. Snipes Park, a passive park along the river, has been refurbished through a grant from Hartz Mountain. It features a new dog park and adult exercise stations. Trolley Park, also located along the river has been funded through a grant from PSE&G and will feature a children’s Pirate Ship. The pocket park on 9th Street and Schmidts Woods are slated for reconstruction in the spring. Lastly, for the first time every section of Buchmuller Park will be totally reconstructed through a $1.6 million county Open Space grant. This grant will include synthetic turf on the Little League Field, new bocce ball courts, basketball courts, tennis courts as well as a new children’s playground. Aesthetically, Buchmuller Park will be landscaped and include updated lighting, walkways, paths and playground surface. A beautiful fountain at the entrance will make it a welcoming gateway into our community that we can all be proud of.
We look forwarded to continuing these exciting projects and many more for another successful year. Investing in our community is an investment in our future. As always, you are encouraged to contact my office with any concerns or ideas at (201) 330-2005.