2015 State of the Town Address
2015 State of the Town Address
Mayor James P. Dodd
As I contemplate the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, our community can have great pride in our accomplishments in the past year and for our future plans in the coming year.
One such area includes strides in my comprehensive plans for economic development and quality of life. Perhaps the biggest news is about redevelopment of our municipal parking lots located in our historic business district on Sussex and Dickerson Streets. As you know, one of our Town’s greatest assets is our downtown, which is enjoying a visual and economic renaissance under the requirements of our Form-Based Code. To keep that momentum moving in the right direction, I am proud to say that through an open process the Board supported me by unanimously voting on a resolution to appoint a conditional redeveloper for the parking lots. It is important to recognize that this proposed project is not a “development” project; rather it is a “redevelopment” project, which means that we are not eliminating green spaces. To the contrary, we are replacing outdated and unattractive asphalt surface parking and restoring this area where historically buildings existed.
This redevelopment project replaces buildings that our downtown lost to the “Urban Renewal” program of the 1970’s, which failed miserably in our community. Under Urban Renewal, the beautiful buildings that once occupied the land where the surface parking lots currently exist on Dickerson Street were demolished due to the misimpression that our Town would benefit from their removal. To the contrary, when we lost those buildings, we lost the vibrancy of the businesses and people associated with them, we lost beautiful period architecture, which added to the charm of our downtown, we lost much needed retail and office spaces, and we lost the buildings off our tax rolls. The proposed redevelopment plan, which is architecturally compliant with our Form Based Code for the Historic District, and our National Register of Historic Places application of 1982, includes approximately 226 upscale luxury units. The first floor of the project includes public parking to replace the spaces lost on the surface lots and non- residential rentals will be available on the first floor.
Increased revenue from the project will support our efforts to keep our property taxes the absolute lowest of all full-service Morris County Municipalities. Not to mention, the beautification of the redevelopment area, along with the consumers who will be occupying the residential spaces that will help with the ongoing economic revitalization of our downtown area. Moreover, the visual, psychological, and physical effects of living with a beautified and revitalized downtown will enhance the quality of life for all our residents and visitors. Future plans include redevelopment of other underutilized municipal property and news on those projects is forthcoming
Another area of great pride for our community came in our quality of life, specifically in recreation. In 2014 we completed renovation of our King Field Baseball and Softball Complex, which is part of my comprehensive plan for recreational space redevelopment, organization, and management. The renovation was possible in part due to a very generous grant that Major League Baseball awarded to our Town based on our proposed plan. Thanks to the diligent efforts of our Town employees, we were able to reconfigure some areas in the Complex to accommodate different age groups of participants. From my perspective, it just makes good old-fashioned common sense to keep all levels of play in one area as families with multiple children in different levels can stay in one place and not have to split up or travel from one side of Town to another. The benefits of having all levels of play in one area are numerous; however, one advantage worth mentioning is that younger players will have the chance to see higher level of play and accepted standards of sportsmanship modeled for them by the older children, which is the true purpose of recreational sports.
The next phase of our plan for meeting the recreational needs of our community includes replacing the aging and unsafe baseball field on Second Street with a beautiful youth soccer field. This field will be across the street, but in the same area, as our multi-purpose turf field where we currently hold Dover Recreation sponsored soccer and football. Future plans for our emerging “Soccer-Football Complex” include the addition of a concession stand, public bathrooms and bleachers.
I am also proud to report that as promised in my 2014 State of the Town address, we completed a full renovation of the playground at JFK Park replete with safe, state of the art equipment, and future plans for this park are forthcoming. At Hurd Park, we completed a painstaking restoration of our Town’s beloved pavilion and will continue to enhance the beauty of that area by installing new landscaping this Spring. The restoration included replacement or refurbishment of every detail from the large classically inspired columns to the intricate dental moldings. The other big restoration project of 2014 was the building that houses the Dover Free Public Library, which was damaged by one of the recent severe weather events. The Library building was another project where we demonstrated respect for our past by insisting on restoration of the original character of that architectural gem.
Communications saw progress as well. As I am sure that you are all aware, my core values include public access to information, transparency, and equity, so access to information is very important to me. At no other point in human history has there been so many ways for us to communicate with one another. However, as we learned from the severe weather events of the last few years, most of the communication methods mentioned rely upon sources that can be wiped out or strictly curtailed during a storm. Leaving residents to guess about Town news is simply unacceptable, especially in case of emergency.
For all of these reasons, as I conferred with the Board of Aldermen to re-think public access to information and we collectively agreed to obtain and regularly use the new “variable message boards” available for public viewing in front of Town Hall and at JFK Park. These message boards will be operational at all times and will be utilized not only for benign announcements for Town related information, but shall also be up and running with portable generators during times of emergency providing vital information for residents who cannot access to news any other way. This is just one more example of how your governing body takes your concerns and your safety very seriously.
We likewise take pride with our personnel. I would like to welcome Donald Travisano our new Town Administrator to our community. As I promised in my 2014 State of the Town Address, we hired 4 new police officers and new firefighters as well. We also promoted Anthony Rosario to Fire Code Official after Richard Cloughley retired earlier this year. We will be expanding our DPW Department to more fully meet the needs of our community by hiring additional new workers this year. While she will be missed here in Town Hall, we are promoting Lisa Newkirk to the Recreation Department after many years in the administrative office. In her new position, she will be organizing all of our recreation activities for our youth and seniors alike, and also doing public outreach as well.
Another piece of good news is that our Health Department is now back in Town Hall where it belongs, after forced relocation due to storm damage to the downstairs offices. It was inconvenient for our residents to have to travel from one side of Town to another to conduct daily business with Town officials and inefficient for Town operations. Were very happy and proud to have them back!
In terms of my ongoing progress with my comprehensive plan for fiscal responsibility, I say that Dover can take pride in being a strong community. We accept our challenges as opportunities. Even though I am confident that we have succeeded in setting the foundation for long-term fiscal sustainability while fulfilling our statutory responsibilities and preserving and even expanding upon municipal services when many municipalities are simply cutting back; rest assured, we will not rest on our laurels. To the contrary, we will continue to implement efficiencies, contain costs, seek sustainable revenue enhancements, share services, keep our taxes the lowest of any full service Morris County community, and limit our debt.
Regarding infrastructure, this year we will allot additional resources for milling and paving some of our worst streets, as the severe storm events of past years have taken a toll on our municipal streets. After vocalizing my concerns about the State’s abrupt closing of the Prospect Street Bridge, New Jersey Transit making progress on fulfilling their responsibilities of putting that project out to bid and completing it in a timely manner. I will continue to keep you updated on this very important public safety concern as information becomes available.
I want to recognize and thank each one of your Alderman, who work very hard for the residents of our community, and for supporting all of my initiatives I mentioned here today, without their support none of this would be possible. I speak on their behalf and my own, when I also say thank you to the residents of our community who supported our Aldermen in the last elections and by doing so provided me with the opportunity to continue to work with them for the betterment of our Town.
In closing, I want to reassure everyone that there is much to have pride about in our future because, as I have said many times before, Dover is not just about what municipal government is doing. It is really about the people who, with great pride, call Dover our hometown. It is about the cultural diversity that unites us instead of dividing us. It is about the parents who choose to raise their families here. It is about our close knit neighbors who hold annual block parties. It is about our family movie nights in JFK Park. It is about our annual senior citizen picnic that continues to expand each and every year. It is about the abundance of recreational, educational, cultural, gastronomical, and spiritual opportunities available in Dover. It is about the hundreds of volunteers who give so generously of their time and talents to serve on municipal boards and committees, coach and guide our youth in sports, scouting, and other activities. It is about our senior citizens, many of whom contributed to making Dover what it is today and now stay because Dover is simply a great place to live. All of these things form the social fabric of our community, bind us to our history, and makes us strong. Dover is the Town; the people make it a community. I have great faith in the strength of the Town because I have great faith in the strength of our people.
As you can see, the pride is back in Dover! As always, it honors and humbles me to serve to you as your Mayor. Thank you and Happy New Year!