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I want to welcome everybody here today and thank you for coming out on such a cold day.
Today in addition to our re-organization, we welcome back to veteran Councilman, Burt Heeren and John Wassberg, gentleman congratulations and welcome back.
In years past, my annual New Years Day has been, at various times, a challenge to research and a challenge to write (theres even a chance -- a very small chance mind you -- that some of you may have found one or more of these speeches a challenge to sit through). Some have been too long -- or so Ive heard (Of course NO political speech is ever too short). Some have been overly-bureaucratic, while others have been longer on vision than detail. This one seeks to equalize both.
How can anyone look back on the past 12 or 13 months in Hasbrouck Heights, and not have a thousand things to say? Except for the fact that this is a speech -- Id have to say the past year has left me speechless.
Still, every speech has its challenges. But this year, for this speech the challenge is not what to talk about -- but what to leave out.
Listen to this: Since we last met, Police Chief MIKE COLINERI AND CAPTIAN BILL CASTIGLIONE have worked hard to obtain a\grant in the amount of $375,000.00 for cops in schools, not only do we now have more cops on the street, but we now have them in schools. With the addition of these 3 additional cops, our department is at its all time strength. I could do 30 minutes on this issue and its benefits. But I wont. Theres too much to talk about.
Since we last met, through the good graces of former Mayor /Assemblywoman Rose Heck, we received a legislative grant in the amount of $255,000.00 for communications upgrades, improvements to our police firing range and improvements to our parks, once again we thank you Rose for all you help.
Since we last met we responded to numerous complaints over the horrific mail delivery in Hasbrouck Heights over the summer of 2000 and brought the postmaster to our meeting. As a direct result changes were made including bringing the letter carriers back to Hasbrouck Heights vastly improving mail delivery.
As a result of the horrific plane crash in December of 1999 we were one of founding communities of the municipal coalition to band together to protect the people who live near Teteboro Airport. We have also opposed their proposed expansion and supported with assemblywoman/former Mayor Heck in her efforts to keep the airport in check.
Since we last met, we were saddened by the loss of our long term director of recreation director Andy Fientuch and recently honored his memory by participation in the Bergen county Heart Walk in raising over $2,000.00 in his name. On a brighter note Andys assistant Danielle Scipioni has done a wonderful job in her short time as our recreation director. She has instituted many new programs, and has been one of the sparkplugs in revitalizing the Anti Drug Council.
In the year 2000, we kept our municipal government running with temporary offices on the Boulevard, although extremely cramped we have managed to get our jobs done under these difficult circumstances. Many thanks first to our municipal employees and for their patience during this time and to our landlords Michele Meile for the use of the temporary building. The Fire Department began the year in the Kundert motors site through the good graces of Bill Kundert and recently moved to temporary quarters I at the Hamilton Avenue Site. Again thanks to our fire department for their patience and continued professionalism in their duties under these extreme circumstances.
The Hasbrouck Heights Police Department has been in trailer across Hamilton Avenue and has made the best of their temporary home while attending to their duties throughout town.
As you can see, the Masonic Organization has been extremely generous to our community in many ways and has stepped up again in allowing our meetings and the municipal court to use their facility We thank them many times over for their care and concern for this community.
In the year 2000, the council authorized the repaving of Wood Street, Cleveland Avenue from Terrace to the Boulevard, Kipp Avenue from the Boulevard to Wood Street and Collins Avenue from Rt 46 to Coolidge Avenue. We also received a NJ State Grant for repaving Ottawa Avenue from RT 17 to Burton Avenue, Kipp Avenue from the Boulevard to Terrace and Hamilton Avenue from the boulevard to Terrace.
As Mayor, Im proud of each and every one of the accomplishments I just listed. Any three or four of those things would constitute a successful and productive year and make us proud of the work of this council. And all of them taken together could be fashioned into a truly remarkable New Years Day Address Address.
But the year 2000 was such a watershed year for Hasbrouck Heights, that none of those accomplishments made even the first cut of the speech. Not enough time -- and too much to talk about. It was simply one remarkable year.
Some things I wont dwell on, because youve heard it all before. You have heard my good government speech. Ive sat here time and time again in praise of this wonderful municipality. You also know by now that, in the Borough of Hasbrouck Heights, we look for professional solutions, with the advise of competent professionals such as Ralph Chandless our Boro Attorney, Michael Kronyak our Borough Administrator, rose Sees our Boro Clerk our engineers, architects and planners, not political fixes. Theres simply not a Republican or Democrat way to fix a pothole. Theres the right way and thats what were doing. And youve heard me sum it all up by saying government is about people serving people. We do our best to serve you and make the difficult decisions that result in professional solutions.
Youve heard all of that -- and all of that is still true.
And there are other things I wont be talking much about because theyre just the way we do business. As always, the Boro of Hasbrouck Heights continues to do an extraordinary job of making the most out of limited resources. And we continue to take exceptionally good care of our "core" services: police, fire, health, sanitation, health and streets.
As we enter the new millennium, I am pleased to report that the boro of HH is in sound financial condition. Five years ago, our municipal taxes on the average house were $1,673.10 and year 2000 taxes were $1,784.25 an average increase of approximately 1% per year which I am very proud of. The Boro also generated a surplus of approximately $1,000,000.00 in the year 2000 which is used to offset this years budget. This was done despite yearly labor increases in excess of 3% and includes major capital spending for road improvements, and purchases of equipment such as a repaving of many streets and new Vacuum Truck for the DPW in the year 2000 alone.
In ways that will be felt and appreciated for generations to come, the tragic fire of December 1999 will have a constructive and positive change on our boro forever.
Last year, the Council worked harder than ever to restore government and work towards the future. The Building Committee composed of Councilman Pepe, Councilman DiPisa and myself together with Michael Kronyak, Ralph Chandless and our Architect Anthony Iovino met at least weekly and the council met at special meetings monthly. At the same time we were also negotiating with a mostly uncooperative insurance carrier and as announced last year, we settled the Building Portion of the claim for in excess of $4,500,000. We still have pending the personal property and expense portion of the claim which we estimate to be in excess of an additional $1,500,000.00.since we are still accumulating expenses as a result of the fire, this will remain open for some time. I commend Councilman Pepe and Councilman DiPisa, the members of the committee for their time and dedication to this project.
After dissemination of information, many public hearings and meetings with residents the council chose to proceed with the library/Senior Citizen Building on the Boulevard joined by the administration with Police/Fire and the Court at the Hamilton Avenue site. This project is envisioned to be a catalyst to the revitalization of the Boulevard and a much needed upgrade for our public safety services well into the new millennium. I am proud to tell you, that we estimate construction to begin this year.
We will also be presenting the Master Plan Review and Boulevard Revitalization Plan to the public for hearings in the next few months. We hope to move ahead on this project with the help of state and federal grants as soon as possible. We will jumpstart this project by implementing new colonial Lamps Posts replacing the "Cobra Street Lights" at the circle.
We have expanded in areas in which we excel and can generate revenue such as the addition of 911 service to Wood Ridge to our already existing service of Teteboro. We plan to downsize government by eliminating the Zoning Board. We say thank you to the members of the Zoning Board who have served the residents of this boro so well over the years and wish the Planning Board well with its additional duties. This will certainly streamline our government, save taxpayer dollars and make applying to the board easier. I wish to thank Planning Board Chair Henry Dobbelaar for initiating this process and Zoning Board Chair Bob Searle for the difficult task of making a decesision recommending the dissolution of the Board in which he serves. This shows high caliber of our residents/appointed officials we have by putting this boro first above their personal interest. U commend both Mr. Dobbelaar and Mr. Searle in their determination for the betterment of this Boro.
This year I am proposing that we look at additional borough services in which we excel in order that we can contract out to other towns, such as Police, DPW, Garbage and Recycling to create additional revenue streams to sustain our low taxes.
Thank you to Councilwoman Verastro and Councilman Link for an excellent job on Zoning by streamlining the Site Plan ordinance, and recommending the hiring of an additional property maintenance officer, Pat Vella who is a welcome addition to our team.
The library, which is the heart of our town was truly like a lady in waiting during the year 2000. While they went about their business, they patiently watched events unfold with regard to the location of other facilities adjacent to their site. President of the Library Tom Verrastro, Library Director Michele Miullo and staff have been busy with record attendance at programs such as the Childrens Room Summer Reading Game. The existing library building is one of the most utilized public buildings in the boro and last year was no exception, it even acted as the temporary Wood Ridge Library while that structure was renovated. The Boro in conjunction with the Library Board will be applying for library construction grant funds the Library Construction Bond Fund authored by Assemblywoman/Former Mayor Rose Heck.
Welfare Director Lee Kulakowski, our longest serving employee, has done a great job with little funds and has guarded the publics money against fraud and sought economy (with such programs as finger imaging) with compassion, when she supported keeping the program local.
I have to mention our Municipal emergency /Management Coordinator, Dr. Roger Szanto who is supported by a staff of volunteers. Dr. Szanto busy with his duties, worked out of his own home as there was simply no room to house his office in our temporary buildings.
The Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department had another busy year in 2000 in responding to over 1600 calls. They volunteer their time and are there for us 24/7 and we thank them all for their volunteer service. This year we will be replacing the Departments oldest apparatus, a 1977 Pumper. We say thank you to outgoing Chief Monahan and welcome Chief Artie Knoblock, First Assistant Chief Bob Tommasy and Second Assistant Chief Joe Taylor.
Before the end of 2001 we would like to ensure the financial security of our Fire Fighters and work with the chiefs to get LOSAP on the ballot for a referendum.
In the past five years, we have done a tremendous job of beefing up our police department and streamlining its organizational structure. Last year we hired three new patrolman. But now its time to take it to the next level by increasing not only the number of officers but also increasing their efficiency. Through the use of civilian dispatchers, we will have even more cops on the street. With new cameras to be obtained from a grant, the safety of our police officers will be enhanced.
We must also look to the future, by "High-Teching" the Hasbrouck Heights Police Department -- we can multiply the efficiency of our entire police force by five to ten times.
Why should we do this? Because with my digital pager, I have access to more information on my belt -- than our police officers have access to in their squad cars. And thats wrong. As mayor, I make a thousand decisions a day -- but do you know how many of those decisions are life and death? None. A police officer also makes a thousand decisions a day -- and do you know how many of those are life and death decisions? Too many. And thats why they deserve all the information we can afford-- and thats why we need to do this.
At the same time, I believe the rest of Borough Government should enter the new millennium with new technology. All Borough offices should be a network, all borough employees should be trained and participate in continuing education on computers. This well result in efficiencies of communication and delivery of services to the people we serve.
In the year 2000, we completed the improvements to the play area at Meiers Park and the Field at Woodland Park despite some problems should be playable by spring of this year.
I believe that we should aggressively pursue acquisition of new parkland, contiguous to or within our borders to improve the quality of life in our town and insure open space for future generations. Right now there is grant money available from the state and county for this purpose.
The Board of Health under President Andrew Paparozzi and registrar Marilynn DeRussey continues with its core activities and had a busy year. Residents increased their use of The Child Health Conference taking advantage of preventative health care.
The HHDPW continues its excellent job of clearing our streets as evidences today. My praise is always confirms at times like this when I ride through neighboring towns and view the poor job of snow removal. In addition to their regular duties, last year they worked tirelessly to get the borough offices moved and up and running. In the year 2000, the Department planted almost 200 new trees in town and we will continue to increase our plantings yearly. We congratulate Bob Heck, Jim Schnieder and all the DPW employees for a job well done
In closing, Our mission in the year 2001 must be to keep moving forward. The future is full of promise and will serve to unite us. We on this council believe that the best years for our beloved boro of Hasbrouck Heights are yet to come.
God Bless you and God Bless Hasbrouck Heights, HAPPY NEW YEAR.
you for visiting our hometown. Come back soon!