~ 2021 Mayor’s Reorganization Speech ~
I want to start by thanking Jonathan Heller and Juergen Huelsebusch for their hard work and dedication to the Township for what was a particularly challenging year in 2020. No one could have prepared for what was to come early in 2020 but you both led us through a difficult time successfully.
I, too, want to take a moment to thank all of those who make Readington go throughout the year. Our Police Department, Fire Departments, our Rescue Squad, our CERT team, Emergency Management, the Department of Public Works, our Recreation Department and ALL of our municipal employees who work so hard for our community every day. In addition, all our volunteer boards, committee and commission members, our attorneys, planners, engineers, and advisors who help all of us make Readington the place we call home. All these folks have navigated, shifted and altered what they previously knew as normal to deal with the unprecedented times we saw in 2020.
I have been asked if I have a specific agenda for 2021 a few times. My agenda is to work with everyone I just mentioned to make decisions in the best interests of our residents and businesses, to work to solve old problems and to start work on new ones as they arise. I often say, the role of the Township Committee, very often, is to be problem solvers for Township issues. I am happy to report that we have a great team to do just that. I view my role as the chairperson of the Township Committee with each member bringing their unique talents to the table. It is my job to leverage those talents into results for our community. Our Administrator, Rich Sheola, has suggested convening a goal setting meeting for the Township Committee for 2021. I am in favor of this idea and have requested that he schedule such a meeting for January.
Many issues carry over into 2021, of course. We continue inching closer to an agreement with the ownership of the Gables and old Whitehouse diner ownership on Route 22 to improve that area, we are engaged in the stormwater management issues on the Farm and Regency properties, our property tax revaluation is pending completion, we are studying our zoning in the business districts on Route 22 that will bring improvements there and provide more of a sense-of-place. We will continue to provide quality services that taxpayers expect to receive for their property tax dollar; maintenance of our roadways, a safe community, beautiful parks and open spaces, a healthy environment, a stable business climate, a government that works for the community and much more.
We will continue our arduous work to meet our State mandated Affordable Housing obligations. Readington has worked hard to come up with the least impactful solutions for the most recent rounds while providing quality housing opportunities that blend into the community. This body recently sent a resolution to our State representatives imploring them to do their jobs and take back ownership of this process and to provide municipalities with workable solutions for the next round which begins in 2025.
We have lowered the debt significantly by paying more for capital improvements up-front, thereby, requiring less bonding. We have removed the Solberg Airport debt from our obligations. Readington will continue to defend its decisions and protect its residents from unwarranted development interests. And, of course, we will find our way back to the normal life that we all enjoyed prior to COVID.
Hopefully, before the end of the year, our country and our Township are in a position to allow for us to return to the Municipal Building for in-person public meetings. But, for now, we will need to continue in a safety-first manner until guidance from doctors, scientists and other experts tell us otherwise.
Many of our businesses that rely on public congregation such as restaurants, retail and entertainment venues have been severely impacted by COVID and the restrictions that have been required to reduce the spread and protect the public. Our schools are not able to conduct in-person learning in the normal manner. Many have lost loved ones, have known someone who has contracted the virus or have contracted it themselves. We have all felt the impacts. I urge everyone to continue to follow the defined safety guidelines and protocols until further treatments and guidance are available for everyone.
Personally, I am truly honored and humbled to serve as Mayor in the town in which I grew up. My parents moved our family from Middlesex County to Readington over 40 years ago. Three generations of Albaneses now live in this town. I am quite certain that my parents had no idea that the shy kid they were bringing to town would one day wind up in this position. I think I can speak for everyone I previously mentioned that we do this FOR the Readington community and that has never more evident to me than it is today.
The dawn of a New Year, the changing of the calendar, is thought of as a fresh start with new beginnings. That has never rung truer to me, and I’m sure, for most of you, than this year. My hope is that our residents and businesses and life in general for all Americans can return to normal this year. Until that time, Readington Township will continue to assist, guide and be nimble enough to help everyone get through this difficult time to the best of our collective abilities. Better days are ahead, and I look forward to sharing them with all of you.
Mayor John Albanese