2023 Bernardsville Mayor’s Address
2023 Bernardsville Mayor’s Address
First, I’d like to congratulate Chad and Jena on winning a second term on the Council. I look forward to continuing to work with you both. Secondly, I am humbled and grateful to the Bernardsville voters for allowing me the opportunity to continue as your mayor for another four years.
The annual Mayor’s Address is my opportunity to reflect on last year’s accomplishments, to thank all our employees and volunteers who make us all look good, and to set our plans for the new year.
2022 was a transitional year for many of us. After more than 2 years of coping with the pandemic, we’ve begun to adapt to the changes it brought to our lives and our community.
So first, some of the highlights:
For the first time in two years, we were able to hold our Memorial Day Parade and the enthusiastic crowd that turned out made us aware of how much it had been missed and how much our residents wanted to celebrate together.
Enrollment in our recreation programs skyrocketed. For the 2022 budget, we anticipated the revenue for program fees would be $112,000. However, the actual revenue was $219,445 – an increase of $107,445. The community pool enrollment also exceeded our expectations.
We clearly heard the community’s request for enhanced recreation facilities and trails and Phase I of our Master Recreation Plan is underway. Concept plans for the Polo Grounds pavilion and utility upgrades have been received. The pickleball courts are 99% complete and we are grateful to the Somerset County Commissioners for the $200,000 grant for that project. A trails committee has been working hard to improve and develop the trails in our recently acquired open space.
Thanks to the efforts of the Recreation Department and The Mayor’s Wellness Campaign Committee, Bernardsville achieved an Up-and-Coming Healthy Town designation.
Eight roads were milled and paved in 2022 and over the past four years, the Borough has repaired almost 18 miles of roadway. The bid was awarded for the much-needed improvements to Bernards Avenue with work to begin in the spring. Bids have been advertised for the reconstruction of Grove Street, Maple Street Extension, Lower Garibaldi Street and Mine Avenue. We received a $250,000 grant for sidewalks on Boylan Terrace and West Street, which will connect to the Boylan Terrace Pedestrian Walkway to the train station.
A non-profit 501(c)3 Law Enforcement Foundation was created, and the volunteer board has already raised $90,000 to support police and community relations.
The Borough’s collaboration with Downtown Bernardsville has brought a vast array of activities and events for our residents and I am honored to be a member of their board.
I’ve lost track of the number of ribbon cuttings I’ve done this year. It is exciting to see new businesses seeking out space in our community. While many towns have seen businesses close, the majority of ours have continued to grow and thrive.
In 2022, our Police Chief Kevin Valentine retired. His contributions during his tenure in the department have been too numerous to mention, but I will say that under his leadership, our Office of Emergency Management is the best in the County and probably one of the best in the state. We look forward to working with our new Chief, John Remian, and based on his record with the department, we know the Borough is in good hands.
Looking forward to 2023, we expect the walking path to the train station to be underway. Working with Downtown Bernardsville, a parklet will be created at the train station by the end of the path to honor Ed English, who committed so much time and love to the Farmers Market there. We also look forward to the History Tour markers project that will provide residents and visitors with an inside look at the history of our community. Also, we’ll begin planning the Borough’s centennial celebration.
At the Polo Grounds, we will finally have a building with public restrooms and a proper kitchen, a walking path and improved lighting,
The Council will be reviewing the redevelopment plan for the Palmer properties and plans to provide opportunities for public input. I, along with the Council, am committed to redevelopment that honors the historical and aesthetic nature of our downtown. Our goal is to create a downtown that is safe and pedestrian friendly, provides public gathering spaces, and improves traffic flow. 2023 will bring a new tenant and much-needed renovations to the train station building and a new business to the old Audi dealership.
In 2023, we will be hiring a new borough administrator, I am sorry to say. Tom will be retiring in April, and we wish him well, but he will definitely be missed. His leadership and organizational skills have significantly improved the day-to-day operations of the Borough. His expertise in planning and his communication skills have been a tremendous asset to the Council and the community.
Finally, I want to thank all our employees who have provided endless service to our community and all our volunteers who so willingly give their time and expertise to improving our town. The theme that runs through all our accomplishments is collaboration and I am grateful for all the departments, boards and organizations that have supported our efforts to make Bernardsville a wonderful town in which to live and work.
The next year will continue to be an exciting, challenging, and busy time and I invite all our residents to join us as we move forward. There are many opportunities for everyone to share their ideas, time, and talent. It is my hope that together we can continue this positive momentum to make Bernardsville a community that we are all proud to live in and to call home. I wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.