Saturday, January 7, 2017

Mayor James' Annual State of The City Address - January 5th, 2017

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and enjoyed the holiday with family and friends. As we enter the New Year there are a lot of great things to look forward to.  The continuance and improvement of free library programs, the continuation of city beautification projects, playground improvements and rubber mulch placement for safety, the completion of marina dredging, much needed sea wall repairs, working with a new developer of a Freedom Pier restaurant, working with a new developer for Chatham Square redevelopment, working with developers for Southport renewal and job creation, the groundbreaking for Organic Diversions in Southport, a springtime auction of city owned properties, painting of City Hall, ratification of a new Master Plan, negotiations to place billboards by the Walt Whitman bridge to bring in much needed revenue, the construction and opening of Royal Farms at Rt 130 and Market St., Construction of a new salt barn at the Public Works facility, new roof and HVAC at the City Community/Senior Center, new exhaust system for the Fire Department bays, and more.

This year we will be hiring a new superintendent of our Environmental Utilities department.  We want to thank outgoing superintendent Fred Schindler who has served our community for many years with dedication and pride of our excellent state of the art treatment facility and the introduction of brine that we now make and sell to eight surrounding communities.  We will also be replacing our retiring tax collector Joanne  Marone Eddy  who through the years has supervised our tax department with innovation, consideration and great success.  We will also be replacing an already retired Fire Chief Brian Hagan who served our community for 25 years as a paid firefighter and many more years as a volunteer. The entire Hagan Family have traditionally been involved in the fire service and we thank them as they continue serve our community. We continue to look for young men and woman to become volunteer fire fighters and remind them that historically this is a great stepping stone towards a fulltime career in the fire service.

Our Police department continues with it’s Community Policing Program under the New Chief of Police Brian Morrell.  They continue to work with our Housing Department in strict enforcement of our associated ordinances against bad landlords, bad tenants, bad homeowners and bad businesses who disrupt the quality of life in our neighborhoods.  So far we have revoked rental licenses of 30 landlords in town and have issued several more conditional probation orders that are monitored on a daily basis. Our police officers are now equipped with body cameras, we thought of this acquisition as a priority to protect our officers and the community they serve especially in these difficult and dangerous times. In discussions with the Chief he has made it clear that they have already been effective in the internal investigations where officers were unjustly accused of abuse of power and assault by individuals looking for out of court settlements with our insurer. This in the past has been a problem affecting departmental morale and is also detrimental to holding down costs of insurance premiums.  The department also continues to monitor and investigate the scourge of opiate and heroin distribution and addiction that plagues our entire society.  The importance of educating our youth as to the dangers of substance abuse cannot be overstated and the availability of “successful” rehabilitation facilities should be a concern of every American citizen as this disease knows no social borders.

Our Fire Department continues with it’s block inspections and smoke detector distribution and installation as well as running educational programs for community youth and Fire Safety Month activities.  The department is also involved in several of our Celebration Events and Memorial Services.  The fire department also is the backup Medical Response when the ambulance is not available, responding as trained EMT’s.

We have developed a list of all our vacant and abandoned properties and have passed the necessary resolutions and ordinances, registration fees and fines to aggressively deal with the owners and the banks who are ultimately the responsible agents for this neighborhood blight.  This situation which started a decade ago affects every community across the country and is detrimental to the quality of life and property values in every neighborhood. If a residence suddenly becomes vacant in your neighborhood please contact the Housing Department or the Police Department and make them aware so it can be documented and investigated before the property deteriorates beyond repair, bringing down your property value with it.  This year alone through property cleanups and grass cutting 70,000 dollars in liens were placed upon these type properties throughout the city.  We have completed the legal work necessary to take several houses along Market St. in the area of the new school which will be ready for resale in 2017 to homeowner only through deed restrictions.

We will continue with our roadway and infrastructure repair program and this year report overlays on the following streets, Oriental Ave, Hickman Ave, Miller Ave, Weston Ave, Hudson St. and the 900 block of Somerset St.  Needed Infrastructure replacement was also completed in the 300 block of Hudson St., Water St. for future Southport Development and Freedom Pier for future development.  This year we have infrastructure and overlay plans for 5th street by the new school, Brown St. between Chambers and Essex and the 900 block of Paul St.

We have a new Trash Collection Company at a savings of 75,000 dollars over the life of a new contract and are very satisfied with the way they transitioned to a new city.  If you do have complaints please forward them to the Public Works Department.

We have two new playgrounds one at Martins Lake and one at Cherry St.,  compliments of Camden County Grants for which we are very thankful and this year will rubberize the area around the playgrounds at Hudson St, Thompson Ave. and Walnut Ave.

With the assistance of the New Jersey Tree foundation over 50 trees were planted at Proprietors Park and Martins Lake. The new fountain light at Martins Lake was also another great addition that enhances the area during evening hours.

This year during the spring, summer and fall we will be using our city wide public address system to notify everyone of our curfew hour.  In a new effort to address curfew violations no excuses will be acceptable with the implementation of this new program.

We want to congratulate Rick Chubb and Thermoseal for their investments and improvements to their facility as well as congratulating Tom Page and Tom Monahan with the opening of a great Chubby’s Steakhouse at Monmouth and Burlington and P and B beauty school for their parking lot improvements at King and Monmouth Sts.

We continue to work along with the Economic Development Committee and the UEZ to look for ways to market the city of Gloucester City.  We will continue to solicit new business to town, improve upon what business is already here and to assist new businesses in whatever way we can to make their investment in our community a smooth and welcoming experience.

We have developed a committee to prepare for the upcoming 150th Anniversary Celebration of our City, The Committee has been working for the past 6 months developing fund raising and event planning for 2018, this is very exciting and I want to thank all our volunteers involved, when anyone was asked to help everyone accepted.  The committee is quite diverse in age and politics so anyone who wishes to help out please contact either Joe Hargeshiemer or Councilman Dan Spencer.

2017 will also be a year of historical significance with the September opening of our new Middle School on Market St. This state of the art facility has been a long time coming but through a lot of hard work by a lot of people over the years it has finally come to fruition.  There are surely too many people to thank here but they know who they are and I’m sure they will be recognized at a later date.  This school will begin the regeneration of the surrounding neighborhood and will be the lifeblood of the youth of our community for many, many years to come.

We continue to plan Celebrations events for the year Saint Patricks Day with Saint Marys Parish, Easter. Little Miss and Mister, Gloucester Day, Memorial and Veterans Day Ceremonies, 4th of July parade and fireworks, and Christmas. I want to thank all of our volunteers associated with these events and look forward to working with you again this year.  As we always do, we invite anyone who wishes to help during any of these events to contact the City Clerk for contacts and or meeting dates and locations.

I also want to thank Jimmy Waters for all his hard work in bringing the summer concerts to Gloucester City Proprietors Park this summer.  The performers were excellent and enjoyed by many out of town visitors and Gloucester residents alike.  The park and the riverfront are one of our most precious jewels and it was great that Jimmy had the idea to showcase it. The Arts and Cultural Society ran by Mary Lou Adams also takes advantage of the Park every year with great displays of art, poetry readings, crafts and great music, we appreciate her organizations efforts as well.

In closing I want to thank all of our Department Heads and their staff for all their service to our community over the past year it has not gone unrecognized and Mayor and Council appreciate all you do.  I also want to thank all of our volunteers who have worked our Celebrations Events, our Beautification Projects, our planning and zoning boards, our Board of Health, our feral cats program, our Library Board, our School Board, our Historical Society, our Arts and Cultural Society, our Zero Tolerance Board, The Mayors Advisory Committee and all other volunteers and coaches who give their time and service for the betterment of our community.