Hopewell Township Deputy Mayor Blake 2017 Welcome Speech

As a complement to Hopewell Township Mayor Kuchinski’s speech from last week’s Hopewell Township Reorganization Meeting, the following is the speech presented by Deputy Mayor Julie Blake, touching key initiatives for 2017, including a proposed community center and issues regarding bulky waste pick-up:

I would like to reiterate all of the Mayor’s acknowledgements and express my own gratitude for the dedication of all those who work for the Township: elected officials, employees, first responders, volunteers, and citizens who have done so much to support our community.

I would also like to thank Mayor Kuchinski, Paul Pogorzelski, our Township Administrator, and each and everyone in the bi-state region who has worked tirelessly these past few years to fight the PennEast pipeline. This threat to our environment on both sides of the Delaware has brought out the best of our citizens. When I see what this coalition of environmentalists, scientists, activists, and residents has achieved and continues to do, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

I would also like to thank my family for their support of my work here and in all that I undertake.  My husband, David, and my two children, Eben and Eva, have been both generous and kind.

I am excited to get to work this year. As the mayor detailed, we have made headway on reducing costs, working with the schools and boroughs to share services, and moving forward on the selling of Pennytown.

Yet there are still challenges ahead, including how best to keep Hopewell’s rural beauty as we create new spaces for Affordable Housing. While we are still waiting for our precise numbers, we have made progress in planning for our Affordable Housing. Just recently, the Planning Board moved to change the Master plan on the East side of Scotch road and thus allow for a continuing care facility that includes affordable units as well as mixed use inclusionary housing.

In addition to this issue, we also will continue to make progress on several new initiatives.

In September, we proposed a new Community Center with an Aquatics Center and Senior Center. We are in the research stage and have had the pleasure of meeting with officials from both boroughs, Capital Health, the YMCA, the Recreation Foundation and others.  We have recently had the opportunity to visit several facilities. As we look at different models for both a community center and senior center, we will be asking for the community’s input. For example, this year we will be surveying our senior residents about how to make the facility fit their needs. As we start the 2017 budget process, we will be dedicating money for the design costs of this new center. And even as we take steps to ensure that these centers be built, we will set aside money to maintain and improve the current Senior Center on the Pennington site.

Communication is another area to improve. My goal for the New Year is to embrace new technologies and, at the same time, revive the best of what we miss when we go digital:  face-to-face contact and mailers.

We have already paid for and will be moving forward with a much needed new Hopewell Township website. Through this new website, we will be able push out more information to the community rather than having residents hunt for information. We will also use Have Your Say Hopewell Twp, a new program capable of pushing out information as well as surveying our residents.

In order to increase our person-to-person contact, we will re-establish regular Mayor’s/Deputy Mayor’s hours, every other week with options for both day and evening hours.

In addition, we are exploring the possibility of sending a quarterly newsletter to every residence in the community. We have many residents who do not have access to or do not use the internet regularly, and it is our responsibility to find ways to reach everyone.  There are many excellent models for newsletters from our neighboring communities that help remind residents of what is coming and how their local government is serving their needs.

Finally, we must continue to search for ways to save money while continuing to improve services for our residents:

Bulky Waste Pick up will be resumed this year.  We are working towards a new drop-off option as well as a pick-up option for our residents.  We will be announcing additional details shortly and anticipate resuming service this Spring.

With this new budget, we are creating a new reserve fund for snow emergencies.

We will all benefit from a fund that will build up over the years that can pay for more difficult cycles.

In that same vein, saving over a period of years in flush times to pay for the expenses of multiple retirements, we should have designated reserve fund for that as well.

We have several initiatives in the works, including the Environmental Commission’s Solar Challenge Program, which enables residents of Hopewell Valley to determine if solar is right for them and to get a low-cost, pre-vetted offer to convert to renewable energy. We are committed to fight against redundant fossil fuel pipelines like PennEast and we also are going to help usher in the next generation of sustainable energy production here in the Valley. I hope you will join me and our Environmental Commission in supporting our Solar Challenge.

In addition, we are exploring an Energy Aggregation program that will benefit all residents who currently access electricity through PSE&G and JCP&L. We will be reaching out to residents with more information soon.

I am proud of what Hopewell Township Committee has accomplished this past year and I truly believe that 2017 will be an exciting one – we will see progress on the Community Center and Senior Center, the restart of our Bulky Waste pick up program, we will have better communication, and a responsible budget.   Thank you for your support and working with us to make a better Hopewell Township.

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