Middlesex freeholder director promises strength, compassion, innovation in 2016

Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said Middlesex County has set an aggressive agenda for 2016, focused on enhancing services, programming and efficiencies.

“2015 was a productive year for Middlesex County, which for a 12th year, retained its Triple A bond rating and continued to enhance programming and build the infrastructure needed to better our roads, schools, parks and technology,” Rios said during his director’s message at the reorganization meeting of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders at Middlesex County College in Edison on Jan. 6.

“But now, now it is time to focus on 2016.”

Chief among the announcements made was that work would begin this spring on the renovation and transition of the historic Roosevelt Care Center building in Edison. The 84 apartments to be built will offer affordable, independent options for senior citizens. Health care service also will be part of the campus. Veterans will have preferred status for 25 percent of these units.

Rios said the county invested $9 million in capital improvement funds to upgrade its 800-megahertz emergency radio system in 2015. This robust upgrade provides seamless interoperability with all county agencies, municipal police, fire, and emergency medical services.

“We will offer our municipal partners a shared services opportunity to join the county’s new radio system. This could save millions in tax dollars for those who choose to join us,” he said.

“We are also turning to advanced technology to enhance the way we provide services to our residents.”

The county is creating an online, searchable Community Services resource directory that includes a map feature. Users will be able to search for services they or their loved ones need and where these services are available. Services can be searched according to population or need.

“For example, if you are a veteran in need of housing, or you have a child with a disability or you have a parent who needs home care, you would search for the specific resources you require,” Rios said. “Providers will be mapped and listed so you may make the best decisions for yourself or loved ones.”

The county’s map-based Business Portal, which offers site-specific information on commercial property throughout the county, has been enhanced, and this year the tool can be used on a computer, a tablet and even a smartphone.

The county’s website, www.co.middlesex.nj.us, will include features this year that will enable users to schedule and pay for flu and pneumonia shots and pay for park permits or fees.

Doing business with the planning and engineering offices will be made easier as the county will begin accepting online payments for engineering and planning specifications.

Rios said Middlesex County College and the Vocational-Technical Schools have created new curriculum and degree programs to better meet the demands of today’s job market. Among the new offerings are public health and gaming and animation degree programs at the college.

The Vocational-Technical Schools are offering pre-engineering and manufacturing technology, which will include mechanical technology, electronics, and pneumatics and hydraulics. Rios explained the schools have been working with industry partners, who advised the district on the curriculum needed to develop and replenish a skilled workforce.

This year, the county expects to enter into contracts for the purchase of additional property in the environmentally sensitive Dismal Swamp in South Plainfield.

“Our history enthusiasts will be happy to hear that we also are pursuing the preservation of the 105-acre Story Farm in Monroe Township,” Rios said. “The farm falls within the ‘Road to Monmouth’ historic corridor. We would not only be saving precious open space, we would be preserving an important piece of our nation’s history, as the Story Farm played a role in the Battle of Monmouth during the Revolutionary War.”

He also announced that construction will begin on the county’s Perth Amboy Waterfront Park project later this year.

Starting this spring, Rios said he will invite the mayors and the county’s state legislative contingent to quarterly meetings to update them on the progress made “and to discuss how we, as a team, can better meet the needs of our residents.”

“As you have heard, we have built an aggressive agenda for 2016. It is my sincere belief that not only will we meet these challenges, we will exceed them. I know this because we have an innovative and dedicated county workforce that carries out these initiatives. We also have strong municipal and community partners who share our vision.”

As part of the reorganization event, Rios, Freeholder H. James Polos and County Clerk Elaine M. Flynn took their oaths of office prior to the regular freeholder meeting, as each was re-elected to another term in November.


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