Fanwood Mayor Colleen Mahr reflected on 2013 accomplishments and set forth priorities for the New Year in her 10th State of the Borough address at the council's annual reorganization meeting.
Mahr began by thanking the community for their continued trust and support and acknowledging all those who volunteer for the borough.
"We have all worked very hard together in 2013 and come out ahead," said Mahr. "We had a really good year."
The mayor listed some of the past year's accomplishments, including: "rec programs bursting at the seams," the paving of four major roadways, improvements at Forest Road Park, a "facelift" for the Fanwoodian, and "a few more steps into the information age" with the ability to accept credit cards at borough hall and online registration for rec programs.
"In 2013, we also said goodbye to a blighted lot on corner of Terrill and Midway, the former Rocco's," said Mahr. "This year we're going to be seeing a really great project go there – commercial space on first floor and upstairs will be apartments that will serve developmentally disabled individuals from Union County. We are delighted to find the right partners for that lot."
Mahr says her focus for 2014 is on sustainability, especially in light of rising costs.
"We want to sustain our resources, our businesses, and sustain our infrastructure and quality of life," she said. "To do that we do need to keep reinventing ourselves."
Mahr says creating the 2014 budget will be no easier this year, with healthcare costs alone seeing a nearly 8 percent increase.
"We need to watch our pennies and you have very good stewards
up here that sit with me to make sure we get it right," Mahr said, before pointing to the Fanwood Crossing development that's helping to balance the budget.
"What I see is increased foot traffic, a number of new jobs we have created, retail options that have come in," she said. "We have to sustain that and we will sustain that."
Coming up in 2014, will be the ability to make property tax payments online, and construction on Fanwood Crossing II beginning Thursday, Mahr added.
The mayor also vowed to "complete the lengthy discussion on merging the police departments" this year, saying she believes a merger does make sense and will help the borough's sustainability "if we have a willing partner."
Mahr also pointed to the library as a priority for 2014, with a focus on improving services, finding alternative funding and revitalization of the physical facility. She noted that the library is already working on improvements with a newly redesigned website, new logo, revised hours and their "Close the Gap" fundraiser.
"They gave themselves a $10,000 goal and already reached $7,500," the mayor noted, adding that the council has created a subcommittee to work directly with the Board of Trustees at the library "because that's how important the library is to us."
The mayor closed by reflecting on the things that "make Fanwood special," including events like the Santa's recent ride on a Fanwood firetruck, the new Memorial Day concert, summer camp, the annual 5K that supports rec programs and more.
"It did my heart good to see we were acknowledged as one of best towns in NJ and as one of best places to raise a young family by New Jersey Monthly," she said.
Also at the reorganization meeting was the swearing in of returning Councilwoman Kathy Mitchell and first-time Councilman Tom Kranz. The council elected Russ Huegel as 2014 council president.
The mayor also performed several other swearings-in, including the Fanwood Fire Department and Rescue Squad leadership, returning Judge Susan McMullen, new public defender Erik Frins, Jennifer Coppock-Huegel to the Library Board and Amy Boroff to the Recreation Commission.