OF 2019 STATE OF ROBBINSVILLE TOWNSHIP ADDRESS
The fifth incarnation of Mayor Dave Fried's groundbreaking initiative generated over $65,000 in both monetary donations and non-perishable goods for MSF, which feeds hundreds of children annually throughout Mercer County and elsewhere.
Robbinsville Township and its Hydroponic Farm partnered with MSF about a year ago, and the Township has donated hundreds of heads of organically-grown lettuce to the food bank to distribute to those throughout the area suffering from food insecurity.
The Robbinsville community, led by Township employees as well as the Boys' and Girls' Scouts, also conducted an extensive food drive that filled a Bohren's Moving & Storage truck with donations and was presented to the organization at the end of the evening.
Since 2015, “Pay it Forward” events have raised over $300,000 for local individuals, families and organizations.
TMI Trading Company, also known as the dumpling factory in the Matrix Business Park, again was the top contributor with a $25,000 sponsorship. Berkshire Bank donated $10,000.
With Berkshire Senior Vice President Jeannine Cimino once again serving as emcee, Mayor Fried was proud to announce an unprecedented fourth consecutive municipal tax cut, marking the seventh straight year of either flat or reduced taxes. Municipal taxces account for 20 percent of a residents' overall tax burden.
"Coming up with a good budget every year that adds services, cuts taxes and still finds a way to invest in the future with infrastructure is not easy," Mayor Fried said. "Do you know what is easy? Spending money you don’t have. That takes absolutely zero talent. Do you know what is hard? Balancing a budget."
The theme of this year's address was "Big, Scary Goals," and the mayor knocked it out of the park with a 20-minute address. He reminded the capacity crowd of all the new initiatives Robbinsville has been willing to try in order to succeed at the highest level, including the consolidation of a fire district, the elimination of an MUA, eliminating lifetime health benefits for new hires, instituting a hyper-aggressive open space policy, the Community Addiction Recovery Effort (C.A.R.E.) and the purchase and implementation of a Hydroponic Farm, among others.
"As both the mayor and as an entrepreneur, I am constantly trying new things," he said. "If you get everything right all the time, you are not trying hard enough. If you are not failing your goals are not big enough. Failing is the key to success. I also wanted to stress that elected officials are not role models. We are leaders. There is a big difference. Coaches, teachers and parents? Those are role models. Elected officials are not perfect people. I certainly am not. But if I am doing my job right I am constantly listening and learning. In Robbinsville we have been successful because we put ourselves out there, and we are willing to fail in order to succeed. We set big, scary goals."
With the acquisition of Miry Run in March, Mayor Fried has now preserved more than 1,100 acres since taking office in 2005 - the most in Mercer County. He also thanked Mercer County, specifically County Executive Brian M. Hughes, for its help in securing both Miry Run and Washington Woods in 2016.
"We asked our residents to raise taxes on themselves to secure more open space and they were willing to invest in our future. By doing this we worked together to make a substantial dent in residential development and steady school enrollment to keep taxes from skyrocketing," he said.
The mayor also touted the success of C.A.R.E., which he described as a "major gamble."
"Being the first town to implement an opioid intervention program and telling our law-abiding residents that we are going to stop putting people in jail for possession of heroin was a huge risk," Mayor Fried said. "Everyone could have bashed us for it, but it was the right thing to do and a risk we were willing to take. Sending people to rehab is five times less costly than sending them to prison, and almost no one comes out of prison better off. C.A.R.E. is working 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."
In addition to touting 7 million square feet of ratables at a value of a quarter billion dollars since taking office, Mayor Fried also highlighted Robbinsville's transparency and willingness to work with residents and other municipalities.
"We don’t hide from our residents and we don’t hide at Council meetings," Mr. Fried said. "We take questions and give those residents answers in real time. When there is criticism to be taken, we take it. That is the difference between us and other municipalities."
Very special guests Marci and Seymour Josephson were seated at the mayor's table and received a prolonged standing ovation for their courage, dignity and strength in the face of the unspeakable loss of their daughter, Samantha on March 29.
"We will never forget Samantha's name and we will make sure it lives on by reminding others using ride-share services to ask "#whatsmyname?"