State of the Borough
2020 State of the Borough
Pastor Van Dyk, Rabbi Woll, Council President, Council Vice President, Members of the Council, dignitaries, friends and residents of Hawthorne.
Each year it is my privilege to speak to you at this, our first meeting of the year, and deliver the State of the Borough Address. But this year feels very different from the last. The end of each year and the start of the next always brings a mix of fond remembrance of things now past and the anticipation and excitement of that which is yet to come. The end of 2019 brought with it change that will shape our Borough for years to come. And yet, as I address you at the start of 2020, there is a sense of great hope for our future as we welcome in the new decade.
The passing of our dear friend, Councilman Garry Sinning, leaves a void in our hearts and minds that will be there for a long time. He was a part of the fabric of the community and an excellent steward for the Borough of Hawthorne. Along with our old friend, Hank Van Ry, he becomes the second Councilman to die while serving the people of Hawthorne. By the end of this month the Council will act to appoint someone to fill the big shoes Garry leaves behind. Three excellent candidates have been nominated, and I look forward to continuing the work of the Borough with his successor.
It is also strange to look at the dais and not see my friend John Bertollo sitting there. John served on this Council for 16 years and we had a wonderful partnership throughout. While John is gone from the Council, I have made sure he is not done with public service. I have enlisted John, and he has readily agreed, to serve as Chair of a newly formed Public Events Committee. One of my proudest accomplishments as Mayor has been the recognition of those who have served our country, some paying the ultimate sacrifice in the process. The Public Events Committee will work to bolster events that recognize those patriots like our Veteran’s Day Service, Memorial Day Remembrance, and Street Corner Dedications. Our annual Memorial Day Parade and even our holiday Tree Lighting will benefit from fresh ideas. As we begin to prepare for our 125th anniversary in 2023, I have also asked Shirley Shortway, who co-chaired our 100th anniversary celebration, to join with John to begin preparations, and I look forward to our work together.
While John leaves the Council this year, I am very excited to welcome Rayna Laiosa as our new Second Ward Councilperson. Rayna has been an instrumental figure in my Administration, leading our Environmental Commission and Green Team for many years. Through her dedication we were one of the first municipalities in the State to earn Silver Status from Sustainable Jersey. I am excited to work with Rayna as she brings new perspectives and great enthusiasm to the Council that will no doubt energize us all.
The close of 2019 also brought news that after 95 years the Hawthorne Press was ceasing publication. While I understand the reasons for closing the doors, I don’t think Linda will ever realize the impact she had in Hawthorne. Whether it was parents checking out the honor roll, keeping up on youth and high school sports, or looking for their children in the pictures printed in the paper, it was a must-read. Local elected officials read her editorial each week to find out whether we were praised or criticized for what we did or didn’t do. Linda kept us honest, always looking out for the community, and never afraid to express an opinion. The closing of the Press, like the loss of so many small-town papers, represents the end of an era for us all and something that cannot be replaced.
In the Winter of 2019 we averted a potentially tragic event when a Bobcat operated by one of our DPW workers, Don Turner, Jr., fell through a footbridge crossing Route 208, landing on a truck owned by Hawthorne Mechanical Contractors and carrying two of our residents, Pat O’Dell and John DesLauries. While all suffered serious injuries, it could have been so much worse. We are so very grateful. The bridge is now rebuilt and reopened and we continue to hold all three members of our community in our thoughts as they recover.
The end of 2019 brought good news to our town as well. I was proud to read that Hawthorne was listed as a hidden food gem on NJ.com. I have always touted Hawthorne as a town filled with great restaurants and free parking to add to the appeal. Whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner, Hawthorne has so many great dining options, and I am pleased that the rest of the State now knows what we already knew for years. We saw long-time businesses like Bender’s and Kirker’s close their doors and yet new businesses like the Celtic Corner and the soon to open Blackjack Mulligan’s have filled the void.
In 2019 I formed a committee of citizens to advise me on ways we can improve our Municipal Pool. It has been a worthwhile endeavor. We have implemented some of their recommendations and are committed to continuing to find ways to improve this great facility. The pool grounds saw the renovation of our tennis courts and the construction of restrooms and a new walkway at the Bandshell. We were treated to some phenomenal performances at the Bandshell in 2019 and are looking forward to still more in the coming year. We celebrated the 11th anniversary of Hawthorne Day in style and were joined by over 5,000 friends in a true celebration of community.
As we move into this new decade we will see the Zoning ordinance that was finished in late 2017 and tweaked during the last two years introduced and adopted. This will mean that the Planning Board will have to re-examine and re-adopt our Master Plan and preparation work is already under way. I will also be asking the Council this year to amend our Zoning Ordinance to allow for drive-thru coffee shops. This will allow either or both of our Dunkin Donuts, as well as any new coffee business, to have a drive thru, improving their economics and making life for our residents a little more convenient.
New businesses continue to come to Hawthorne. Each month the Planning Board hears new applications for occupancy approval. I am continuing to work with the owner of 300 Lincoln Avenue to rent the storefronts as well as the Shotmeyer family to bring new tenants to the closed gas station on Lincoln Avenue. My Economic Development Committee meets monthly to discuss ways to make Hawthorne attractive to businesses.
After going through the economic downturn at the end of 2009, we have been witness to continued growth in our tax base and have a strong economic outlook moving forward. We have an outstanding bond rating and have reduced the number of properties under tax appeal from over 150 six years ago to just one. Part of our economic success has been careful management of our budget. Planning the 2020 Budget began months ago and we remain committed to keeping the tax increase under 2%.
There are a few people who make my job easier and are invaluable to the day-to-day operations of the Borough. I am speaking of my Administrator, Eric Maurer, my Borough Attorney, Mike Pasquale, my CFO, Laurie Foley, my Borough Clerk, Lori Fernandez, my Administrative Assistant, Ellen Brogno and my Borough Engineer, Dr. Steve Boswell. I want to thank them for their dedication and hard work, and working with me to make Hawthorne a great place to live, work and play.
As I say each year, I am pleased to be the Director of Public Safety for Hawthorne. Our Police Department, under the leadership of Chief McAuliffe, continues to be one of the best Departments in the State of New Jersey. They continue to excel at community policing with programs like ROAR, the junior police academy and the adult police academy.
In an era where volunteers are hard to come by, Chief Speranza and the Hawthorne Fire Department continue their great service to this community, keeping us safe from fire and other disasters. The members of the Fire Department are to be commended for their volunteerism and commitment. We are excited to take delivery of a new tower truck for Company Two this year. My Administration is committed to providing state-of-the-art-equipment for the safety of our residents and our volunteers.
Our volunteer ambulance corps members, under Chief Houtsma, continue to devote thousands of hours serving our residents. We have finalized a new agreement for mutual aid for times when we cannot get an ambulance on the road. Early results are very favorable. It is particularly gratifying to see so many young people who grew up in this town now serving as volunteers in our emergency service organizations. The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well in Hawthorne.
Our DPW under the leadership of Bob Scully and Ron Gonzalez works to keep our infrastructure, water, sewer and roads up to snuff. Congratulations on leaf season and let’s hope there is not too much snow to plow.
Dria Lobosco and our Shade Tree Commission continue to work hard planting and caring for the Borough’s shade trees. The Arbor Day Foundation, under their Tree City USA program, has recognized Hawthorne for 27 years for excellence in urban forestry management. I am proud of what our Shade Tree Commission does for our town.
I am particularly proud of our employees in Borough Hall. Our message is clear. We strive to tell our residents what we can do for them, not what we cannot, and we follow those words with hard work and a positive outlook. I challenged our workforce to bring customer service to the forefront and they have responded. I couldn’t be happier.
Lastly, I want to thank the Council for being a cooperative partner in getting the Borough’s business done. Egos and personal agendas go down and meeting the needs of the residents go up. I am blessed with a great Council and expect the relationship to continue.
I am beginning my 12th year as Mayor after 11 years on the Council. I realize that the only Mayor I knew growing up in the Hawthorne, Mayor Bay, served 40 years. It is a record that will probably never be broken but I am proud to be the longest serving Mayor since Mayor Bay. 2019 brought challenges yet rising to meet those challenges is what we in Hawthorne do best. I am proud of our past and all we have accomplished and excited about our future and all that lies before us. I look forward to a truly great year and thank the residents of this town for your support, dedication and commitment to making this a truly great community.
God bless you, God bless the Borough of Hawthorne and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.
Mayor Richard S Goldberg