in 2020 State of Robbinsville Township Address
That is how Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried opened this year's “Pay It Forward” event via video on Tuesday, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit contact and social gatherings.
Since March, the sixth incarnation of the groundbreaking initiative generated over $50,000 for the "We Love R'Ville Neighbors" campaign to help individuals and families in need both before, and after the impacts of the coronavirus. Mayor Fried began by thanking healthcare workers and first responders everywhere.
"Your dedication to humanity during this crisis has been otherworldly, and something none of us will ever forget," he said.
Since 2015, “Pay it Forward” events have raised close to $350,000 for local individuals, families and organizations.
The Berkshire Bank Foundation was this year's title sponsor with a $10,000 grant.
"Berkshire has always been an amazing community partner, but their collective performance throughout this crisis and all the financial challenges that have come with it have been next level," Mayor Fried said. "We thank them from the bottom of our hearts."
With Berkshire Regional president Jeannine Cimino appearing via video, Mayor Fried announced an unprecedented eighth straight year of either flat or reduced municipal taxes, which account for 20 percent of a residents' overall tax burden.
"It is undeniable that our efforts to stabilize our tax rate has helped prepare us for the current crisis, as we have allocated $200,000 to our Office of Emergency Management for personal protective equipment and supplies. Robbinsville went from having one of the fastest rising municipal tax rates to perhaps the most stable in all of New Jersey. We will continue investing in our infrastructure, including working very closely with Hamilton Township on necessary improvements to the wastewater treatment facility that serves both towns."
With the aging sewer utility is dire need of improvements, Mayor Fried and Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin jointly announced on May 15 that a rate increase of $85 for Robbinsville residents, and $78 for Hamilton residents, would be needed beginning with the October 1, 2020 billing cycle. The increase must be approved by both town Councils. Rates for non-residential entities also will increase. A rate study shared by Hamilton and Robbinsville will be conducted to ensure each town pays its fair share over the long term. Hamilton and Robbinsville have two of the lowest sewer rates in Mercer County.
Mayor Fried also thanked the Robbinsville School District for also keeping taxes flat, while giving a tip of the cap to teachers and the administration for quickly and effectively converting to remote learning back in March. He also addressed this year's graduates.
"To the distinguished Class of 2020, congratulations on your many accomplishments," the mayor said. "Nothing, not even the chaos of the past three months, should diminish your sense of pride or sense of resolve as you make your way in this new world order. I am proud of you. Your parents are proud of you and the Robbinsville community is proud of you."
Not surprisingly, COVID-19 and the response to the ongoing pandemic was a recurring theme.
"My prime objective since realizing all of us were in the cross hairs of this virus is to get through it without losing any of my residents. Tragically, science had other ideas and we mourn the passing of five (now six) cherished members of our community. That is why we stepped up to offer our municipal building parking lot as a test site so hundreds of people can gain peace of mind … or a path forward to recovery. That is why we stepped up to secure more than 20,000 protective masks – first for our seniors – then for anyone in need. That is why we stepped up to shut down the physical plant of our government buildings – and still barely missed a beat when it comes to providing both essential and non-essential services. I appreciate all the emails comments and texts of support. So does my staff. The reassurance that we are all in this together has helped me be a better man, and a better leader. We speak to several residents every day and understand the fear – the fear of what we know and the unknown when it comes to this invisible enemy."
Mayor Fried also addressed the long road to recovery.
"The process forward will be confusing, imperfect, and we will make mistakes. My best advice is do what you feel is right for your family. Stop worrying about what other people are doing. Be humble and kind. We cannot walk a mile in anyone else’s shoes, so let’s try to be more understanding. Remember, this virus does not care whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Moderate or Independent. Rich or poor. It does not care about the color of your skin, what religion you practice or your race. We need to be responsible and respectful. When it comes to issuing definitive guidance, we need to remember the virus is making the rules. This may be the land of the free, but freedom can be messy and we will not always agree with choices people make. Advocating for an individual’s freedom while they are doing or saying things we disagree with is the rub. The bottom line is we need to be smart about the choices we make. We’ve come too far. Deciding we are bored with this virus is not the reason to open up, and we must keep practicing good hygiene by hand-washing and keeping your hands away from your face. We will likely be wearing protective masks in public places for a while. Some people have to go back to work, and our small businesses must do so to survive. We are writing this playbook as we go along and no one person has all the answers. "
The mayor also touted the continued success of the C.A.R.E. Program, which served as the fiscal sponsor of this year's SOTT address.
"C.A.R.E. is working at a 74 percent acceptance rate because we were willing to try, and thankfully our residents trusted us enough to give us the latitude to do what is necessary to succeed," he said.
In addition to announcing a six figure reduction in Township debt and more than $200,000 allocated for personal protective equipment (PPE), Mayor Fried once again touted the Township's relationship with its residents and other municipalities.
"What makes politics in Robbinsville different is we have a relationship with our residents," Mayor Fried said. "They trust us and allow us to take chances other towns may be unwilling to take. Our residents, businesses and certainly the coronavirus have helped us redefine what it means to lead. Leadership is when something is not your responsibility … but you make it your responsibility anyway. In particular, I’d like to recognize Mayor Martin and East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov. We meet on average for a half hour every day since the start of this crisis and it has been an honor to work with two incredibly smart and dedicated neighbors. I really appreciate their friendship and unwavering support."
To contribute to this year's "Pay it Forward" via Facebook CLICK HERE. To contribute via Paypal CLICK HERE. Contributions by check can be sent immediately to the Mayor's office made payable to: "C.A.R.E." and mailed to:
Township of Robbinsville/Office of Adminstration
2298 Route 33, Robbinsville, NJ 08691.