2018 Mayor's Town Address
My Fellow Residents and Friends: Good afternoon and Happy New Year 2018!
I wish to acknowledge the dignitaries in attendance –Senator Bucco, Sheriff James Gannon, Freeholder Cabana, Reverend Clergy, Judge Maenza, Elected Officials, and Past Members of the Board of Aldermen.
It is my high honor to be here, as it is every year, to celebrate our progress and reaffirm our commitments to you, to our Town and to one another.
As President Kennedy stated, “Things do not just happen. Things are made to happen.”
On that note, I want to acknowledge the many people who work so hard each and every day to make our Town a better place to live, work and play. Let me start with the members of the Board of Aldermen: Mike Picciallo, Bill O’Connor, Tom MacDonald, Cindy Romaine, Jim Visioli, Carolyn Blackman, Steve Toth, Ron Camacho -- please join me in giving them a round of applause.
I also want to acknowledge and thank our valued Town officials who work tirelessly to bring my, and this Board’s, vision into reality for the residents of this Town: Town Administrator, Deputy Clerk, Department Directors, Representatives from the Police and Fire Service and all Town Employees.
I want to especially acknowledge our Town Clerk, Marge Verga, who is retiring at the end of January after 25 years with the Town. Marge, thank you for your many years of service and for your loyalty, hard work and dedication. May the years ahead bring you joy and relaxation. Congratulations on your retirement.
Marge, you are leaving behind a great legacy and big void. We are lucky to have Tara Pettoni to step into the role of Municipal Clerk. Tara, although you have only been here for three years, you have stablished yourself as competent, professional and hard-working and you deserve to hold this position.
While we are losing a strong woman, leader and mentor to retirement, it is my honor to welcome a new leader and mentor to the fold. Today, I will swear in the Honorable Cecilia Guzman as Presiding Judge of the Municipal Court. Judge Guzman will serve as Dover’s First Hispanic Judge and First Female Judge. I am proud to contribute to her trailblazing and pleased to welcome her to Dover - a community she knows exceptionally well.
I would also like to thank the community partners who are integral to the Town’s work. Nonprofits, clergy, civic leaders -- many of you we work with on a weekly, if not daily basis, and we appreciate your passion for our Town.
On New Year’s Day, we have the opportunity to reflect on the past and establish goals for the year ahead. This was a year of continued progress, accomplishment and transformation. In 2017, we embarked on the Year of the Youth, in which we engaged in many activities geared to our most precious resource and up and coming population. Under the tutelage of the Department of Economic Development, Community Affairs and Recreation, these activities included:
- The establishment of a Youth Council- whose members represent academic, athletic and faith based groups
- Our First Youth Soccer tournament for our U-13 players
- A Youth Town-wide clean-up throughout all 4 wards
- The First annual Touch a Truck Event with more than 20 vehicles
- Monthly game board and craft nights
- Extended summer hours at Crescent field
- The revival of the Mayor’s Basketball tournament
- The first Dover Little Theater youth group
- The first Ciclovia (Bike Rodeo) with more than 15 stations
- Breakfast and lunch for 130 children in our Summer Program—plus a free trip to One World Trade Center for all the Summer program participants
- The first annual Free Book bag giveaway, which included more than 1000 book bags filled with school supplies; and
- A Polar Express movie night for 200 children
We not only met, but exceeded our goals and expectations for 2017 and the focus on our Youth, like our Seniors in 2016, will not end because the calendar has turned.
My, and this Board’s, priority to you over the years has been to remain vigilant of the bottom line and fiscally responsible in every action we take. Today, we reaffirm to continue:
- to do more with less,
- to cut where possible,
- to look for outside of the box revenue streams; and
- to keep any increases to a minimum.
I am proud to report that our Town’s finances are stable, strong and our financial outlook has never been more optimistic. For my twelfth consecutive year as Mayor, this Administration has delivered a balanced budget, below statutory caps, with increased municipal services and minimal tax implications. Dover continues to lead Morris County with the lowest taxes of any full service community and it has strongly maintained its Standard & Poor's 'AA' credit rating. We will continue to work hard towards attaining a AAA rating.
Our pledge to the residents of Dover is that this financial outlook will continue in 2018 and beyond.
Amazing things are happening no matter where you look in Dover today and redevelopment has always been a priority for my administration. We have worked tirelessly and 2017 was the year that these redevelopment efforts started to bear fruit.
Many years ago, we had the foresight to redevelop a contaminated landfill in North Dover. The land laid fallow and the site generated no ratables for the Town. We leveraged the value of the land towards the cleanup and redevelopment of the property and today, the site boasts two fully occupied hotels and a Fed Ex shipping and distribution center. In 2018, a Cube Smart Storage Facility will break ground and be added to our tax rolls.
In early 2016, the Town was approached by a Developer Nick Tsapatsaris to remake and remodel the Guenther Mill on King Street. In early 2017, the Agreement was finalized and as we speak, that building is being transformed into market rate housing and flexible space with new windows, a repointed façade and a pedestrian plaza on King Street.
We have partnered with Pennrose Developers to redevelop two town lots into a mixed use market rate project and a veteran’s housing complex. The Veteran’s Project is slated to break ground in 2018.
Most impressively, in June, Meridia Transit Plaza broke ground on a $57 million project that is slated to open in early 2019. When completed, this transformative project will add 214 units of market rate housing, accessory streetscape and a public pedestrian plaza that will function as a Town center.
In the upcoming year, our team will remain steadfast and hard at work, leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to attract new business, redevelopment and new ratables to Town.
On the horizon in 2018 is our most exciting project yet. The Town has entered into an agreement to purchase the Berkeley College Building on the corner of North Sussex Street and Blackwell Street. We will relocate our New Town Hall there and finally consolidate all of our municipal offices under one roof. You will finally have the town hall that you deserve. Our current town hall will continue to be used for police, fire and municipal court and the new town hall will anchor the downtown area.
In addition to these Redevelopment efforts, the Town implemented numerous Capital Improvement Projects throughout the year. These projects, administered through the Department of Engineering, Planning and Zoning, included:
- The 2017 Small Cities Grant, which was comprised of First Street, Second Street and Byram Avenue Roadway Improvements
- Randolph Avenue Roadway Improvements
- Thompson Avenue and Legion Place Roadway Improvements
- A Town Hall Generator; and the
- Rutgers Street Bridge Replacement Project
Perhaps most impressively, we invested nearly $2 million in Blackwell Street Streetscape Improvements, which included stamped concrete sidewalks, flowering cherry trees and tree grates, state of the art light posts and LED lights, nostalgic holiday decorations and a wireless mesh network for speakers and a future camera system.
As a complement to redevelopment and new business attraction, our Code Enforcement Department, along with the Department of Public Works, led the efforts to keep Dover vibrant and beautiful. Code Enforcement:
- Identified nearly 900 locations with property maintenance violations.
- Performed nearly 500 C of C inspections for change of tenancies and sales of properties; and
- Performed approximately 2,823 total inspections.
Following suit, the Department of Public Works continues to implement my vision to ensure our Town is kept clean and pristine. I am proud to say that our Town has never looked finer. In addition to daily maintenance and upkeep, the Department:
- Crack sealed 30.4 miles of roads
- Elevated and trimmed approximately 80 trees
- Replaced approximately 500 feet of sidewalk
- Installed new lighting at Overlook and Hurd Parks
- Planted an adornment of shrubs and roses to complement the Hurd Park pavilion
- Repaired, replaced and installed 153 road signs
- Repaired or cleaned over 260 catch basins
- Purchased a new Garbage Truck, Utility Truck, Leaf Vacuum, Front End Loader, Tree Chipper and Sewer Camera
Aside from beautification and maintenance of our Town, protecting our natural resources and precious assets is of the utmost importance. The Dover Water Department began a large scale meter change project to reduce estimated readings. The project replaced many old and outdated water meters in our service area with new meters that can be read remotely by radio signal. In doing so, the entire Town can be read in a few days and billing will be streamlined and uniform for residents.
In addition to radio reads, the system now allows us to run leak reports, which will help reduce bills and conserve water. In all, over 3,000 water meters have been upgraded to radio remote meters.
Additionally, the Dover Water Department:
- Responded to over 2,000 service requests,
- Over 1,000 utility mark-outs
- Replaced 5 Fire Hydrants and installed numerous hydrant markers
- Installed a new 10 inch water main on Warren Street
- Repaired and upgraded our pumping facilities to improve safety, redundancy and reliability, thus reducing emergency call-outs, emergency water main repairs and outages.
Finally, the Water Department is in the process of developing a comprehensive water master plan. The master plan will help to prioritize water system improvement projects and get them completed in an efficient and cost effective manner.
The ultimate goal of any smart town or city is to improve infrastructures while minimizing costs, foster innovation in different industries, and improve the quality of life for its citizens. Smart towns and cities also have an obligation to improve its residents’ health and welfare.
In 2017, the Health Department, which operates as a shared service with the Township of Mount Olive, and the Boroughs of Wharton and Mount Arlington, helped keep our residents fit, happy and healthy. This Department:
- Organized and operated the Second Annual Mayor’s Health and Wellness Fair, which was an overwhelming success.
- Managed a Vital Statistics Program that issued 1,250 birth, marriage & death certificates.
- Issued 750 Garbage & Recycling violation notices.
- Conducted 204 Inspections of Retail Food Establishments.
- Implemented a Public Health Nursing Program that monitored communicable diseases, audited school immunizations and conducted immunizations and flu vaccinations for Dover Seniors and at risk residents; and
- Conducted a Rabies Vaccination Clinic for Dogs & Cats (Nov 18): 108 dogs & 18 cats vaccinated; 126 total.
No elite or well-regarded municipality in the State of New Jersey can claim that status without having a highly functioning and successful public safety operation. It is my, and this Board’s, reoccurring commitment to not rest until this Town is included on such lists. Our public safety operations continue to make great strides towards highly functioning and successful.
The Dover Police Department continued its transformation into a more structured, functional and modernized law enforcement agency. This was achieved by implementing new policing strategies, hiring new officers, filling supervisor vacancies by promotion, employing new policies/procedures and programs, acquiring new equipment, obtaining advanced training and restructuring the command staff.
Effective today, the Town is hiring five new police officers.
Police Officer Boris Sanchez
Police Officer Juan Concepcion
Police Officer Jarrod Dillard
Police Officer Robert Fenske
Police Officer Francisco Aragon
Four of these officers have already successfully completed basic training at the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy. In addition to cost savings, they will be on the streets immediately.
In November 2017, one new police officer was hired to replace a recently retired officer. This officer came to the department highly trained with several years of experience, and therefore did not need to attend the six-month long police academy training. As a result, he has begun patrol duties immediately.
Police Officer Alexander Echevarria
Several new Class II Special Law Enforcement Officers were also added to the police roster this year. There are presently three Class II officers assigned to the patrol division, enhancing law enforcement efforts directed in the downtown area with foot patrols.
It is also my pleasure to introduce the newest Captain in the Dover Police Department.
Captain Justin Gabrys
Most impressively and of worthy note is that all of these officers were hired through attrition at no additional costs to the taxpayer.
In 2018, the Dover Police Department will continue to transform into a highly functional and professional organization. This will be achieved through the following measures:
- Drafting and implementing new operational and administrative policies/procedures, and acquiring relevant, meaningful training.
- Continuation of proactive policing strategies, such as directing officers to spend down time clearing open arrest warrants, conducting directed traffic enforcement operations, DWI patrols and actively targeting known offenders engaging in ongoing criminal conduct.
- Increased community policing deployments that deal consistently with quality of life concerns and interact with the public, business community and civic groups.
- Fostering positive working relationships with the faith-based community. There are almost 30 such entities in Dover serving the community.
- Collaboration with incoming Morris County Sheriff James Gannon to address the heroin/opioid epidemic through coordinated education, enforcement and intervention efforts.
- Continued partnership with the Dover School System. Adding educational programs on drinking and driving along with interactions with the police.
- Community Programs such as internet safety for students and parents.
This year we will unveil a Police Chaplaincy Program, which has proven to be a hugely successful model in many municipalities across the nation. An advanced element of community policing, the Police Chaplaincy Program will create a partnership with various faith-based leaders in Dover, who will respond and assist police and other law enforcement agencies in their approach to the community.
The goal is to have Police and Clergy working together during times of crisis or incidents to form a more comprehensive response to those in need. Furthermore, the faith-based leaders will perform tasks of a more emotional, social or spiritual nature, while the officers handle those tasks that are of a law enforcement nature.
Under the direction of Public Safety Director Dan DeGroot and Deputy Chief Anthony Smith, I am honored to announce that Pastor Leonel Robles will serve as the Senior Chaplain, Reverend Rod Perez-Vega will serve as a Chaplain, Johnury Triunfel will serve as a Youth Chaplain and Michelle Espada from our Department of Community Affairs will serve as the liaison to the program.
The Dover Fire Department remains vigilant, equipped and ready to meet every emergency. Under the leadership of our Public Safety Director, the Department has commenced rebuilding the supervision and management structure in both the Uniformed (Career) Division and Volunteer Division.
The DFD has retained The Rodgers Group, a private organization renowned for accrediting and professionalizing public safety agencies, to develop modernized policies, procedures and guidelines to better manage staff and govern operations within the Fire Department.
With the declining numbers of volunteers in Fire Departments nationwide, the Town of Dover has hired three new firefighters in the Uniformed Division, effective today, to increase the day to day abilities and effectiveness of the department to better serve the citizens of Dover. This will ultimately be achieved by ensuring there are two career firefighter/EMTs on duty 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
In cooperation with the Police Department, the License Department spearheaded my quality of life task force. The department licensed and enforced various categories from garage sales and vendors and peddlers to taxis and limos.
If you have noticed, the obstruction of traffic on Blackwell Street by limos and taxicabs, licensed and unlicensed, has been greatly reduced. Through enforcement and consistent administration, the total active number of authorized vehicles (Limo and/or Taxi) in Town now stands at 67, down from 220+ from over 2 years ago, a nearly 70% reduction in the fleet. These results were achieved through the kind of outside the box thinking required to tackle a problem of this magnitude.
In prior years, we launched yearlong initiatives focusing on a critical idea or segment of our population, but I believe this year is going to be the best thus far, because I believe in Dover. My belief is rooted in the fact that as you travel around Town, you cannot help but see the extraordinary progress, smart growth and economic opportunity that we continue to build together.
Our forward momentum, with a nod to our rich history and traditions, are at the heart of what makes Dover so special. We are boosting our stature in Morris County and beyond.
Today, we launch a year-long initiative called ‘D.O.V.E.R. BIZ,’ which stands for Downtown. Opportunities. Vision. Engagement. Revitalization.
Community engagement is a cornerstone of any effective revitalization effort and early ingredient in building a strong downtown and local business district. Our first initiative will be to establish a Historic Downtown Business Improvement District in order to create a clean, safe, vibrant and diverse environment for everyone who spends time in the area – current residents, business owners, visitors and tourists alike.
By creating the BID, we will engage all members of the community in an opportunity to develop a vision for the community’s future; take advantage of outside funding; create incentives for redevelopment and encourage investment in the community; and make it easier for interested businesses and developers to invest in the community in ways that support the community’s long-term priorities.
While we are connecting and revitalizing the business people in our community, we will simultaneously look to revitalize the brick and mortar exteriors of our businesses. We will achieve this through incentives by creating a Building Façade Improvement Program.
We will encourage local businesses, through tax abatements, to make exterior improvements in order to enhance the appearance of their buildings; attract customers and visitors; and demonstrate the economic vitality of the community.
The improvements will conform to our form based code, historic designations, applicable zoning and use requirements.
In keeping with our business friendly mantra, we will focus on developing new programs, activities and events to enhance and support our local businesses. These will include: Quarterly working business meetings; Business to Business Meet and Greets; and Expansion of our relationship with Morris County EDC.
To showcase our Historic Downtown and introduce the world to our many great outstanding existing restaurants, coffee shops and local businesses, we will support our current assets by establishing: A Holiday window decorating contest; Restaurant week; A Scare crow decorating contest; and A First Night Festival and Ball Drop.
As a community rich in history and tradition, it is imperative that we plan for the future, yet honor and respect the past.
I am pleased to announce the kick-off a Hometown Heroes Banner Program.
Banners will be hung along Blackwell Street from Memorial Day through Labor Day. This program will honor veterans and active duty service members — both living and dead — from the Town of Dover and each banner will feature an individual's photo, name and branch of service. Companies, organizations and families can sponsor the banners.
This program will be coordinated through our Department of Community Affairs and the deadline for submission is early-March.
As an accent to revitalization, we will be establishing the Downtown Dover Farmer’s Market, which will help build community sustainability through the farming and production of local food by local farmers for feeding local people and visitors to the region.
Historically the center-pieces of urban planning, markets provide a space to purchase fresh, affordable products that reflect the diversity of a community and region. Furthermore, the very nature of the buying and selling process creates a level of socialization non-existent at a regular supermarket, transforming farmers markets from just another place to buy food to an engine for community life.
For those interested in urban food access, markets represent an important strategy in the efforts to bring affordable, healthy food options to every demographic and socio-economic level in the community.
Since the Board of Aldermen and I established a new Economic Development, Community Affairs and Recreation Department, we have been working on meeting with local and regional organizations to partner and establish a working relationship that can help and empower all the residents of Dover.
Our goal is to collaborate and utilize our collective resources to improve the quality of life for all Dover residents. One of the ways to achieve this goal is to work with faith based organizations. I hosted a special “Meet and Greet” with all the members of Dover’s faith based organizations this past summer. In addition to getting to know each other a little better, we shared ideas, programs, services offered and discussed how we can all work together to strengthen Dover families and our community.
Our next step is to work with a Faith Based Advisory Committee that will share with us thoughts, concerns and suggestions straight from their members. We are confident this is the beginning of a wonderful partnership and dialogue to create a network geared towards improving the lives of all our residents. I am honored to announce the members of the advisory committee.
Reverend Rod Perez, Chairman
Pastor Fred Becker
Pastor Maria E.Leon
Pastor Charles Perez
Pastor Jaime Rodgerson
In previous New Years’ Day speeches, I spoke about our responsibility to our past, to our present, to our future, and to one another. We have worked hard to keep those responsibilities not only on our minds, but to make sure that they have a handprint on our heart.
We have continued to cultivate a culture of inclusion, business opportunity and job growth, which will become hallmarks of the Town of Dover. We are always working to make sure that opportunity and prosperity are shared by people who were raised in Dover, or have come to Dover.
The strength of our Dover family has always been our diversity and multiculturalism. Whether white collar or blue, black or white, rich or poor, gay or straight, male or female, child or adult, Latino or other, you have always been welcome as an important part of Dover. This is not a Dover for SOME; this is a Dover for ALL.
If you were at the Meridia Transit Plaza groundbreaking, you heard me say the following. It is appropriate to restate it.
Today, we no longer accept “Oh… you’re from Dover.” It’s no longer OK to hear things like “Dover? Why would you want to go there?” Dover has always been a special place. For those of us who live, work and play here, it’s time for us to share our little secret with the outside world.
As always, I am honored and humbled to serve as your Mayor.
Thank you and may God continue to bless the Town of Dover and the United States of America.
Mayor James P. Dodd
View the Mayor's Past Messages.
Mayor James P. Dodd
Town of Dover
37 North Sussex Street
Dover, NJ 07801
Tel.: (973) 366-2200 ext. 1144