Organization Comments by Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little
2012 Organization Comments by Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little
I want to welcome all of you here today and wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year.
As this Board organizes for the New Year, being given the opportunity to serve as Director for 2012 is truly an honor and I thank the Board for their support.
This Board also congratulates our colleague Freeholder John Bartlett on being named Deputy Director for 2012. Freeholder Bartlett begins his 33rd year on this Board today and we look forward to working with him in this New Year, making certain the citizens are well served by their County government.
And, we would be remiss if we didn’t thank our outgoing Director, our colleague and friend Freeholder Joe Vicari on the fine job he did serving in this position last year. He made the job seem effortless while all of us sitting at this dais know that it is not.
Joe served this Board and the people of our County with honor and distinction.
And, we want to commend Joe on his re-election and congratulate him as he begins his 11th three-year term on this Board. His efforts have helped countless citizens in Ocean County to have a better life. What a wonderful legacy he has given us. We also want to acknowledge the Vicari family for being here today. We know how important all of you are to our good friend.
As we begin 2012, this Board looks to the bright possibilities of the New Year, but we also continue to see the difficult challenges that lie ahead. The fundamental benchmark of this Board continues to be anchored by our conservative fiscal approach to county government. This Board of Freeholders and our dedicated county staff remains committed to providing quality services for our citizens at the most affordable possible cost for our taxpayers. Unlike the out-of-control spending in Washington that has buried our nation in $15 trillion in debt, under the leadership of our Deputy Director Freeholder John Bartlett, Ocean County will continue to live within its financial means. We will balance our budget, and we will meet the state’s 2 percent budget cap. That is our commitment to the taxpayers of Ocean County.
As a result of the Board’s sound fiscal policies, the county enters 2012 with a AAA bond rating – the highest possible.
We have been able to maintain this bond rating while we have seen state and federal ratings begin to drop. This rating helps us secure the best interest rates possible so we can save money for taxpayers and advance important projects that affect the quality of life here in Ocean County.
While we continue our conservative approach to our finances we will make certain to provide the best possible programs for our citizens.
For instance, in the New Year, Veterans Services will have a greater presence in the southern part of the county providing assistance from the Ocean County Southern Service Center in Manahawkin. Our veterans, more than 60,000 strong living in Ocean County, deserve quality services and access to our programs is key to providing them with the help they have earned.
This Board will continue to work with our Ocean County Board of Social Services, our Department of Human Services, and our Board of Health, to make sure these agencies have the resources to help the most vulnerable and needy in Ocean County.
These are difficult economic times and we certainly are understanding of that. These agencies and their dedicated staffs make every effort to provide for those citizens who are in need. And, our taxpayers are investing upwards of $50 million to $60 million for these services for our most vulnerable, poor, needy, homeless and elderly residents.
This Board of Freeholders works cooperatively to protect the environmental future of Ocean County.
Our Engineering Department, under the direction of Freeholder John Kelly along with our Planning Department are continuing the work of preserving and protecting Barnegat Bay. We are closely working with the state to implement Gov. Christie’s 10 point plan to protect the bay, which truly is an environmental jewel enjoyed by all citizens of New Jersey.
Ocean County’s open space program, under the leadership of Freeholder Bartlett and administered under the Natural Lands Trust Fund Advisory Committee will continue to preserve environmentally sensitive lands – actions that also help to protect the waterways and overall environment in Ocean County.
Since establishing the Ocean County Natural Lands Trust Fund and the Farmlands Preservation Program, we have preserved nearly 13,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands, and over 3,300 acres of farmlands. Ocean County is comprised of 408,000 acres of land. Including lands preserved by the federal government, state government, the Pinelands Act, our preservation programs and local governments, about 223,000 acres or 60 percent of Ocean County’s land is permanently protected as open space. This is an enduring legacy of the Board and the people of Ocean County for our children and for generations to come.
Our county will also continue to protect our natural resources and groundwater through our award winning recycling program under the leadership of Freeholder Jim Lacey.
Freeholder Lacey with the Department of Solid Waste Management has worked tirelessly to make certain Ocean County has the most convenient and efficient recycling program possible for our residents. The efforts have paid off not only with benefits to the environment but economically through our recycling revenue sharing program. Ocean County has returned more than $12 million in recycling revenue sharing to our towns and taxpayers.
This Board also looks forward to working closely with Freeholder Vicari in providing vital services for Ocean County’s senior citizens.
With more than 160,000 seniors calling Ocean County home, under the leadership of Freeholder Vicari, we pledge to make certain that home delivered meals will continue, nutrition sites will remain open and our Office of Senior Services will work to assure that Ocean County is a great place to retire.
This Board thanks our professional staff and all our county workers who oversee and implement all of our programs and services especially because of the fiscal constraints that are in place including a reduction in staff and budgetary cutbacks. Their work is not easy and yet each and every day these dedicated workers serve the citizens of Ocean County with professionalism and care. To our County Administrator Carl Block, to our directors and to all of our staff - from our Ocean Ride bus drivers, to our road department workers, from our park’s staff to our law enforcement agencies and from our switchboard operators to our mail room, this Board deeply appreciates your service to Ocean County.
As we begin the New Year, this Board of Freeholders and our citizens remember the brave Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen serving our nation around the world. Their efforts to protect our freedom and to keep our Country safe allow us to be here today to celebrate our democratic process. We have a responsibility to serve them as their elected officials with dignity and honesty for the sacrifices they have made.
Finally, Every year brings a new set of challenges and this Board is ready to meet those challenges. Our commitment remains providing affordable government services for Ocean County taxpayers. With this approach Ocean County will continue to be that great place to live, work, raise a family and retire.
May God continue to bless Ocean County and may God bless America.