Distinguished Guests, Families and Friends: Happy New Year and best wishes for a Healthy and Prosperous 2018.
This year, 2018, marks the 70th Anniversary of Raritan Borough as a municipality. However, our town’s history extends back over 300 years to 1683 when the British Royalty deeded to John Robertson a 660-acre plot of land known as Rariton.
One-Hundred and Eighty-Five years later, Raritan Town was officially created by the NJ Legislature on April 3, 1868. Fast-forward another 115 years, the NJ Legislature authorized Raritan to become a fully independent Borough by legislation passed on May 12, 1948.
I’d like to recognize Raritan’s First Mayor Rocco Miele as well as our First Borough Clerk Nick Esposito and Judge Algar who were very instrumental in Raritan becoming an independent Municipality.
It has been said that “What we call the present is given shape by an accumulation of the past.” On this basis, I want to thank all previous mayors and councils and all the people who served on various boards and committees throughout the years.
Today it is our turn and our responsibility to shape the future of Raritan. I look forward to working will all elected and appointed officials to put “Raritan First.” I thank them and all the many people who volunteer on the many boards and committees for their willingness to serve. We could not do it without our citizens stepping up to share their time and talents.
During my First State of the Borough address I made the analogy that Raritan was like a candle under a Bushel Basket and the Governing Body, Administration and people of Raritan will work to remove that Bushel Basket so Raritan could shine once again. Two years ago, we were mired in litigation, several structures were in absolute disrepair and our local economy was beginning to recover from the Great Recession. The time was right, and we embraced revitalization to get Raritan back on track.
Last year in the “State of the Borough” address, we identified nine specific initiatives. Happily, the Governing Body in cooperation with Somerset County and NJDOT has completed or made great progress on every initiative.
Quick update on our progress in 2017:
- Raritan Renew: All five sites specified in 2016 address have been demolished or in the process of significant Other sites have been identified and the renewal process continues.
- Improve Housing and Property-related Ordinances – Our initial mission was accomplished and the results are very visible throughout the Borough. Notwithstanding, there remains more work to do on improving our quality of life in
- ReAlignment & Extension of First Ave/202 Jug Handle – Meetings and dialogue I am encouraged that NJDOT is currently in design to relocate the jug handle. It is our hope and expectation this design is completed in 2017, and construction bids in early 2019. Once again, many thanks to Senator Doherty and Al Gaburo for working with NJDOT, Somerset County and our Governing Body on this initiative.
- Adjustment of First Ave traffic flow: First Avenue is a County road and I’d like to thank Somerset County for excellent cooperation with the Borough to facilitate traffic light adjustments under their jurisdiction and supporting Raritan’s Governing Body’s formal request to NJDOT to reconfigure the State’s traffic Light at First Ave and Route Also, special thanks for repaving the entire length of First Ave.
- Restart Firehouse Preservation – Attention was given to the original grant to preserve Raritan’s first The exterior work phase is materially complete and interior design work has started. The Governing Body selected a new Architect for this remaining work. The Raritan Historic & Cultural Committee and Fire Department representatives are working with the Architect on the interior phase of the project.
- Senior Citizen Housing – The Governing Body approved an area (former sewing factory and Rescue Squad lots) along LaGrange Street as a Redevelopment Area and specifying its use as Senior Citizen The Planning Board studied the area and determined that it was in need of redevelopment. The Updated Master Plan incorporates such changes.
- Return of Washington School property to Raritan. Remediation and demolition of this structure are complete and the Washington School Monument is under Many thanks to the Somerset County Freeholders and their very professional staff.
- Security and Veterans Memorial Park – The design and construction of Veterans Park in under a year is quite an amazing This addition to the
County Park System in Raritan is truly the realization of decades of planning by many and a special thanks to the Somerset County Parks Commission and our Freeholders. In 2017, Veterans Park was actively used during the Basilone Parade, Raritan’s Veterans Day services, and the County’s Wreaths across America service. This is a magnificent memorial tribute to Veterans!
- Establishment of a Linear Park – This parcel of land along the Raritan River between Route 206 and Nevius Street Walk bridge is planned as a future park area in conjunction with Somerset Material progress has been made, but there are still issues to be resolved.
I’d also like to mentioned some other material initiatives and events that occurred in 2017:
- Municipal Street repaving and installation of experimental speed control Paving included: Sherman Ave, Bell Ave, Southwick Street, Victoria Street and east portion of Railroad Ave. Experimental Speed Humps are located on Sherman and Bell Avenues – and so far, so good – they appear to be working as planned.
- Plant and Property improvements to Raritan Mall – These improvements were completed in late 2017 in a cooperative effort between the Borough Officials, RAIT Financial and our Municipal Unfortunately, this effort was just not sufficient for Stop & Shop to remain. Hopefully, these site improvements will make it easier to attract a new anchor store and associated tenants.
- NJ Transportation Planning Authority $1,000,000 grant of Federal Funds to Raritan Borough – Raritan received considerable funds for pedestrian-friendly access along Anderson and Thompson Street from our Train Station to our Also included are Nevius Street and the westerly portion of Orlando Drive for ultimate connection across Nevius Street Bridge to the North Access Gate of Duke Farms.
- Resolution of the so-called Fair-Share litigation – We aggressively worked and resolved the litigation instituted last summer against Raritan Borough and Raritan Planning This legal albatross brought to a ‘head’ the entire COAH issue that has been festering for decades. Its resolution has thankfully put an end to the COAH recurring expenses that spanned many years. The Public and Private sectors now have certainty in Raritan.
- Last but not least, I want recognize the extraordinary commitment by the Planning Board member and professionals to Raritan during 2017. Many may not be aware that Planning Board scheduled double sessions in 2017 in response to building applications They ‘stepped up’ in meeting frequency and personal home study to act upon multiple major applications that have substantial economic significance to our tax base and positive economic impact on our downtown businesses.
Our look forward in 2018 is defined by the following:
- Completion of the unfinished projects previously discussed,
- Managing through the disruptive transition from project approvals to completion of construction,
- Carefully planning for the challenges of managing expenses as we await the anticipated tax revenue from these approved projects
- Selection and implementation of labor saving smart technology to control expenses while improving services to our residents and businesses
- Restart of the planning process for new Police and Fire Facilities as Block 81 progresses from paperwork and drawings to
- Revitalization of our downtown as the spillover economics of these projects accrue to our local economy
- Integration of our Train Station and weekend parking availability with Duke Farms
- Continue to explore initiatives to improve Raritan’s Quality of Life for the people who live and work in our town.
I congratulate the 2017 Governing Body on a successful year and I am looking forward to working with Raritan’s 2018 Governing Body.
Our Events Committee has been busy planning a series of programs and events throughout 2018 to celebrate our 70th anniversary. I urge you to come out to these events, to meet your neighbors, and to celebrate together as we see Raritan beginning to shine bright.
– Mayor Charles McMullin