FREEHOLD — The new year saw Freehold Borough Mayor Michael Wilson tell those who attended the borough’s reorganization meeting on Jan. 4 that it is his “wish and prayer that the inspiration of this time of year can one day soon lead to peace and tranquility among our neighbors, our country and even our adversaries.”
Wilson’s annual message also focused on change in the United States and touched on the upcoming inauguration of Presidentelect Barack Obama.
“We stand on the verge of the promise of change throughout our great land,” the mayor said. “New leadership in Washington will bring with it a renewed sense of purpose to all of us who have undertaken the noble cause to serve, whether it is on the federal, state, or local level.”
The mayor added that this “new year of promise” is also marked with the administering of the oaths of office to Councilman Michael DiBenedetto and Councilman George Schnurr. The mayor said both men have a clear vision of the borough’s future. He said DiBenedetto and Schnurr, along with the other members of the Borough Council, share his passion and love for the town.
The mayor reviewed the events and improvements that have taken place in the past year, beginning with the resurfacing of Center Street.
“On the heels of this major improvement, the newly created Neighborhood Pride Committee has embarked on a program to help make minor repairs to some of the homes along the street,” Wilson said. “The proudest achievement of this endeavor is that it is all being done with many volunteers whose simple passion is to make our town shine.”
This year has every opportunity to be just as busy, according to the mayor. Wilson said the town will resurface Sheriff Street, Conover Street and Ward Avenue this summer. He said officials will be making application for grant funds from the state Department of Transportation Trust Fund for the improvements to Sheriff Street.
Wilson said that as is customary with all road projects in Freehold Borough, he has instructed the town’s professionals to meet with residents at the appropriate time so that the residents have a chance to provide input in the design stages of the project.
“This input is most valuable,” Wilson said.
The mayor also referred to the fact that the town has been notified that it has been awarded a Community Development Block Grant.
“With these funds, the borough will continue the revitalization of its downtown by installing brick sidewalks on Court Street. This project will also include tree planting and safer crossings at intersections,” Wilson said. “These improvements are the logical next step in our downtown resurgence.”
The mayor also referred to the reconstruction of the American Hotel on East Main Street. He said there will be “no more of a profound punctuation mark on our downtown than the reopening of the hotel.”
The new American Hotel is expected to house a catering facility, a restaurant and 22 hotel rooms, according to Wilson. He said the building will be “the social hub for western Monmouth County.”
The mayor also addressed the economic difficulties facing the nation. Wilson said the “deplorable economic conditions” have affected all regions of the country.
“Most of what we see has happened on Wall Street. However, we don’t have to go too far to see that Main Street is affected as well,” he said. “As we begin our preparations for our annual budget, we have a daunting task to balance declining revenues from all sources and expenditures for the services that are demanded from our citizenry. In the end, I am sure that we will strike a financial plan that will achieve this balance.”
Wilson said is hopeful that New Jersey’s leaders will seek input from local officials before making any decisions concerning financial aid.
State officials in Trenton last week indicated that as they seek to deal with budget issues on the state level, municipal aid and school aid to Garden State communities and school districts could be reduced.
“Nothing can be done well unless we work together as a team. We owe this to you. Fractious governing often leads to inefficient government,” Wilson said.
The mayor ended his annual speech with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: “We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”