Here’s details of why Kahn’s Crossing bridge needs replacement

July 28, 2020: The terminal condition of Kahn’s Crossing pedestrian bridge stems from deterioration along one of the support beams from water infiltration, according to May 2018 report from borough engineer Maser Consulting.

Brainy Boro Blog obtained the report through an open records request.

Maser recommended closure of the bridge and complete replacement, rather than repair, based on the inspection report. The borough closed the bridge in 2018 and has since been applying for Department of Transportation grants to help fund the $190,000 to replace the bridge.

The cost appears to only include the same type of bridge with galvanized and painted steel, but not removal, erection and installation, the Maser report said.

So what went wrong?

Water was able to infiltrate inside the east support beam which runs under the platform, called a stringer, which did not have closure plates, the report said. That resulted in internal rusting along the length of the east stringer, as well as at the center splice connection along the bottom of the stringer, including on splice plates and splice plate bolts, the report said.

Kahn Pedestrian Bridge Structural Follow-up Report – 5.15.18

Inspectors also found external rusting and deterioration along the west stringer, which was less significant than the internal decay on the east beam, the report said. Though here as well, inspectors found deterioration at the center splice connection.

The original manufacturer of the bridge, Contech Engineered Solutions LLC, also assessed the state of the bridge and came to the same conclusion as Maser.

“Since the rust is occurring on the inside of a closed tube steel, the full extent and degree of the rust cannot be completely seen nor definitively determined,” the report said. “The unknown amount of deterioration and rust on the inside of the stringer’s bottom chord has made the bridge’s structural stability extremely uncertain.”

I’m still not clear what exactly happened to allow water inside the east stringer. Was there a design flaw, construction mistake, simply wear and tear over time? We’ll keep digging.

BTW, there’s apparently been a bridge at the end of Graham Avenue since the 19th Century, after the Lehigh Valley Railroad cut out the land for its railroad. David Thomas, the owner of a large plot of the southwest section of the borough at the time, had the first bridge built at Graham Avenue for his convenience, according to the summer 2007 issue of Nannygoats, the newsletter of the Metuchen-Edison Historical Society.

Metuchen cuts $94k in budget requests in pandemic-battered economy

July 15, 2020: Metuchen borough staff took an ax to the budget this year to control costs as revenues dried up in the pandemic downturn.

A budget was ready in March, but once covid-19 hit, it had to been done over, and over again. The result was cuts of $8,000 from Metuchen Media, $14,000 from the fire department, $25,000 from the police department, $10,000 from streets and roads and buildings and grounds, $16,000 from sewers and $11,200 from forestry.

Ultimately, the borough cut about $94,000 from the original budget to adjust to the battered economy.

In the end, Metuchen staff presented its 2020 fiscal year budget at the council meeting this week that calls for a property tax increase for residents of 4.5 to 4.6 tax points. For a property valued at $200,000 in the borough, the tax increase, including borough and school taxes, would be $284, according to Borough Administrator Melissa Perilstein, who made the budget presentation Monday.

(County, municipal and school budget costs determine the amount of property tax to be paid. A town’s general tax rate is calculated by dividing the total dollar amount it needs to raise to meet local budget expenses by the total assessed value of all its taxable property. An individual’s property taxes are then calculated by multiplying that general tax rate by the assessed value of his particular property. Because of New Jersey’s strong “home rule” concept of government, the State does not participate in the making of local budgets, nor does it receive any of the property taxes collected.

From Borough Finance Officer Rebecca Cuthbert: To calculate a tax point: Municipal total rate x total ratables /100 as compared to municipal total rate + .01 x total ratables /100. A tax point is the amount that a .01 increase in the tax rate equates in dollars.)

The budget is proposed at $22.25 million, a decrease of $492,784 from last year. Borough Council will hold a public hearing on the budget at the Aug. 24 meeting.

“This was  collective effort,” Perilstein said. “We went back to everyone and said, ‘please look at your budgets another time and let [us] know what you can do without. We’re lean and mean for sure.”

The tax increase will be offset by the borough using $1.6 million in surplus funds, the same amount of money used last year. This will leave the borough with about $3.5 million in surplus, said Cuthbert.

Metuchen also is getting an infusion of $500,000 from the Parking Authority, down from $1 million last year. The borough is budgeting $1.4 million in state aid, which is still a question. “From everything our CFO is hearing … the state is not looking to touch aid at this point,” Perilstein said.

Revenues are also being anticipated in the form of $662,264 for fees, permits and licenses, $600,000 in delinquent tax collection and $368,148 in grants and other sources of funding.

The borough, like probably every municipality in New Jersey, was hit with unanticipated pandemic-related costs, Perilstein said. Metuchen spent around $102,000 on covid-19 related expenses for things like building sanitization, cleaning products and infrastructure upgrades to better protect employees such as plastic partitions. The borough is hoping for reimbursement from Middlesex County for such pandemic related costs, Perilstein said.

Municipal Court revenues are expected to decrease $175,000 to $200,000, according to the budget document.

The largest slice of the budget flows to salaries and wages for police and public works. Money also flows to things like debt service (15 percent of the total budget), sewage treatment, pension costs and professional services.

“We were very cognizant of the fact [that] these are tough times, we wanted to maintain services, maintain what people have come to expect … and be cognizant of the fact there was a major economic event that occurred, which impacted our revenues,” Perilstein said. “That was a big piece of how do we maintain this equilibrium with appropriations versus revenues, because you’ve got to come out even somehow, costs are still increasing even though our revenues decreased.”

Updated July 16 with information about how tax points are calculated. 

Boro applies for grant to replace Kahn’s Crossing pedestrian bridge

July 8, 2020: Metuchen government has proven its dedication over the years to making the borough a more pedestrian friendly place. Officials have long sought and received money through grants and other funding sources to help make borough streets safer for walkers.

With this kind of dedication to pedestrian safety, it’s unfortunate, and curious, that one of the borough’s premier pedestrian bridges remains closed after being judged unsafe during an inspection in 2018.

Kahn’s Crossing connects Graham Avenue across the Greenway trail gap. Graham is one of the most historically significant streets in Metuchen and attracts pedestrians strolling the neighborhood or heading to the train station from the southwest section of the borough.

(Full disclosure, I walked Kahn’s Crossing daily as a train commuter to NYC).

 

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The borough engineer in 2018 found during a routine inspection that the bridge had rusted through, according to Mayor Jonathan Busch. The engineer determined the bridge was not repairable and needed replacement, Busch told me over email.

Complete bridge replacement would cost $190,000, Melissa Perilstein, borough administrator, said. For the third year in a row, Metuchen applied for a state Department of Transportation grant to fund a portion of the cost to replace the bridge, Perilstein said.

In March 2018, the borough awarded Maser Consulting (the borough engineering firm) $9,500 to design a repair plan for the bridge, according to minutes from the March 19 2018 borough council meeting.

Later that year, the borough applied for the state Department of Transportation grant for the bridge reconstruction project. The borough submitted the same grant in July 2019.

This is not the first time the bridge has closed, apparently. I’m no historian, but some simple internet research found that the bridge was named for a former environmental commission member Donald Kahn, who died in 2006. Kahn worked to have the bridge re-opened and was honored for his efforts by having the bridge named after him, according to a 2006 issue of Nannygoats, the newsletter of the Metuchen-Edison Historical Society.

I have a few questions: what happened to the bridge? Why did it fall into disrepair and was that the result of some sort of design flaw or construction error? If so, who was responsible? I put the questions out and if I get answers I’ll update the blog.

If you know anything, hit me up here or on the Facebook page.

Metuchen to review police use of force policies

June 23, 2020: Metuchen is forming a commission to study the police department’s use of force policies as part of a broader, national push to push back against law enforcement violence and racism.

Mayor Jonathan Busch announced the formation of the commission at the board meeting Monday. The commission will be led by Rev. Ronald Owens, senior pastor of New Hope Baptist Church.

“We’re grateful that here in Metuchen our police department is one of the best in the state with respect to its record, the statistics show it as well, and certainly when you compare it locally to other departments, there’s not even a comparison,” Busch said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t still look at ourselves and take a hard look at what we do.”

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Torrance Police Department motorcycle officers roll out.

As part of the effort, Busch signed the “Mayor’s Pledge” from My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, an initiative of former President Barack Obama’s Foundation. The pledge commits signers to review use of force policies, engage the community by including a range of perspectives as part of the review, make the findings public while seeking feedback and ultimately, reform use of force policies.

Other details of the commission were not available. Busch said other members of the commission, as well as its specific focus, will be disclosed over the next few weeks.

Metuchen is forming the commission as the nation takes a hard look at its law enforcement and the disproportionate violence visited by police on the black community.

The killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on his neck sparked nationwide protests. Floyd and other deaths such as Breonna Taylor has spurred hard questions about how much force is appropriate, especially when it comes to unarmed people.

Owens and Metuchen police Chief David Irizarry did not return requests for comment Tuesday.

 

NJ revenue/expense gap worst in US

Nov. 26, 2018: New Jersey’s finances are deplorable, as has been the case for many years — even worse than Illinois, which is saying something.

According to fresh recent from Pew Charitable Trusts, NJ pulled in revenues of about $60.3 billion and spent about $71.7 billion in fiscal 2017. This deficit is not unusual for the Garden State, which has run a deficit for 15 years, the study said.

Add this to the fact that NJ Transit is literally crumbling before our eyes, and it doesn’t bode well for the future. Check out the article here.

The comprehensive review by the nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trusts places New Jersey dead last among the states when it comes to maintaining fiscal balance, which is raising enough revenue on an annual basis to cover expenses for the same given year.

Parking Authority board fires employee for alleged theft

Dec. 13, 2017: Metuchen Parking Authority Commissioners on Tuesday terminated the job of employee Arthur Mohr Jr. for alleged theft, Vice Chairman Ed O’Brien said.

The parking authority held an emergency meeting Tuesday night to discuss operations and a personnel issue. The board of commissioners went into closed session. Afterward, O’Brien explained the board’s decision.

He said Mohr has been accused of theft of funds and time. The board next week will review a plan to improve procedures and address Mohr’s former responsibilities. Mohr was a full-time employee responsible for maintenance of parking lots, meters and equipment and enforcement of stickers in parking lots and meter collection, Borough Administrator Jay Muldoon told BBB.

Details of the accusations against Mohr are unclear. I contacted Metuchen PD and will update when and if more information becomes available.

UPDATE: Police Chief David Irizarry declined to comment citing an ongoing investigation. Parking Authority released a statement today:

The Metuchen Parking Authority announced today that one of their employees has been arrested and charged with two counts of theft from the parking authority.

Arthur Mohr, 53, of Spotswood, who was employed by the MPA since 2007, was charged with two counts of theft for working an extensive amount of time less than he was required as a full time employee and for stealing US currency coins, which belonged to the MPA.

Edmund O’Brien, Vice Chairman of the Metuchen Parking Authority, immediately suspended Mohr without pay from his employment with the Parking Authority. Mr. Mohr was terminated as a result of the actions by the Metuchen Parking Authority at the special meeting held on December 12, 2017.

The Parking Authority has been shrinking since transferring many operational responsibilities to Nexus Parking Systems, which runs the Pearl Street parking facility. Earlier this year, Council approved removing full-time Parking Authority Executive Director Thomas Crownover for a part-time business manager. The Authority shrunk from five employees to three.

 

 

 

New Governor must confront pension time bomb

Dec. 8, 2017: The incoming administration of Governor-elect Phil Murphy — to which ex-Mayor Pete Cammarano is becoming chief of staff — will have an immediate crisis on its hands. Just like the last New Jersey governor.

That is figuring out how to fix the state’s $76 billion public pension system. New Jersey, like every other state, has a huge public pension fund that ensures retirement security for around 769,000 active and retired state workers like teachers, cops and firefighters.

The pension system, comprising seven different retirement funds, is one of the most underfunded pensions in the country. A bi-partisan commission tasked by outgoing Governor Christie pegged the system’s unfunded pension liabilities at $90 billion. The state Treasurer’s office says unfunded pension liabilities are $36.5 billion. This means the pension is somewhere between $36.5 billion and $90 billion short of funding all its future obligations.

Metuchen contributes to the state pension fund. The borough for 2017 budgeted a contribution of $1,032,478.16 to two funds in the state system, Public Employees’ Retirement System and the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System of New Jersey, according to the budget.

Unfunded pension liabilities increase for a few different reasons, including and most importantly the state shirking its obligations to put money into the system. New Jersey has been notoriously bad about contributing to the pension, well before the disaster of the Chris Christie regime. This year’s budget shows Christie funding 50 percent of its actuarially determined contribution — which is supposed to ramp up in subsequent years.

Christie also proposed earlier this year using proceeds from New Jersey state lottery ticket sales to fund the state pension.

In the absence of state funding, pensions try to make up shortfalls through investment return. That is a risky strategy dependent on the market — in good years that works but in recessions that strategy goes backward. Public pensions set a long-term target rate of return — in New Jersey’s case its 7.65 percent, recently reduced from 7.9 percent. This past fiscal year, the system beat that target, returning 13.07 percent, driven by strong performance in equities.

In the current low interest rate environment, New Jersey like other public pensions have to pursue riskier strategies to generate enough of a return to meet their obligations. This strategy pushes the pension fund to put money into strategies like private equity and hedge funds.

Since 2005, New Jersey’s pension system has been one of the more innovative investors to private equity. The return has been strong, but with that return comes high fees. In fiscal 2016, New Jersey paid $132.3 million in private equity fees and expenses — its most expensive asset class. For that cost, private equity returned 6.27 percent for fiscal 2016.

Murphy campaigned on a populist platform that included divesting the pension fund from private equity and hedge funds. It’s not clear how the system would accomplish that, being that investors in pension funds can’t simply extricate themselves like public stocks. Exiting private equity would take years and could involve losing money by selling too soon.

It’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out. But unquestionably, stabilizing the retirement system must be a priority for the incoming administration.

 

Mayor Cammarano officially resigns; County Democratic Committee to float replacement names

Dec. 5, 2017Mayor Pete Cammarano officially resigned effective midnight Dec. 5, he announced at the Borough Council meeting Monday.

Cammarano is joining the administration of New Jersey Governor-elect Philip Murphy as chief of staff. “I just want to address what could perhaps be the worst kept secret in Metuchen,” Cammarano joked as he discussed his decision.

Cammarano thanked Council and staff members. “I consider you all very true public servants and very good friends. The seven years on the Council and my two years as mayor have been nothing but wonderful experiences,” he said.

“I think we’ve accomplished a great deal and we’re on the brink of completing but we have a lot more to go. Metuchen really is on the rebound and I’m really happy I could play a role in helping to create that.”

Democrat Cammarano was elected Mayor in 2015, replacing Thomas Valhalla who didn’t run for reelection. His tenure coincided with major changes in the borough, including major redevelopment downtown, the opening of a Whole Foods supermarket and the creation of the Metuchen Downtown Alliance. 

Cammarano served on Council from 2008 to 2014, when he was replaced by Reed Leibfried. He has worked in state government before, serving as Governor Richard Codey’s chief of staff and deputy director of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg’s 1994 re-election campaign.

Cammarano told me he slightly knew Murphy from his time in state government.

The Democratic County Commission will meet and choose three people to serve as Cammarano’s replacement. The committee then submits those name to Council, which chooses the replacement. That person then serves out Cammarano’s term until the election in 2018 — and can run again if he or she wants to complete Cammarano’s term, which is up in 2019. That County Democratic Committee is expected to meet this month.

 

Election 2017: Q&A With Council Candidates Menziuso, Lebar

Oct. 25, 2017: In anticipation of the November Borough Council elections for two seats, I put together a list of questions and sent them to each candidate. Candidates Richard Menziuso and Daniel Lebar sent in their answers. As a reminder, my Q&A with Democrats Reed Leibfried and Todd Pagel is posted here.

Menziuso’s and Lebar’s answers are presented together and lightly edited for clarity.

richardmenziuso

Richard Menziuso

1.) How has the borough done so far on downtown redevelopment?

Menziuso: I am not sure why this question should be limited to “downtown” redevelopment. How have we done on redevelopment? That depends on the goals we are pursuing. If the goal has been to increase the density of the population, we have done well. Several hundred new apartments have been built or are slated to be built in the near future in the downtown proper and just steps away from the downtown.

If the goal for the town was economic or commercial growth or stabilization of the tax rate, I think our success is much less clear. Certainly, the addition of Whole Foods, a major upscale market, in the downtown is a win.

Successful redevelopment, though, isn’t just adding a high-end supermarket or constructing some fancy-pants apartments for wealthy hipsters or empty-nesters. Our master plan for the town requires that we focus on maintaining and protecting the residential nature of the town. Successful redevelopment follows a plan which encompasses the residential, economic, commercial, and infrastructure improvements designed to encourage long term sustainable residential and economic viability.

What has been done on South Main in the last decade? The last two decades? Why is the southerly gateway of our town less worthy of the Borough Council’s attention than the two blocks north of the train tracks?

There is a great deal of construction and activity in our “downtown,” but we have no clear plans to accommodate more traffic, more sewage, more police, more ambulance, and more fire services that such development will demand. Successful redevelopment is more than just bricks and mortar. It is more than increasing taxes on downtown properties to fund the MDA. It is a coordinated long-term plan, staged to minimize disruptions and maximize the potential of the town.

The bottom line? We have taken some positive steps ahead for which our past and current mayors and council members deserve credit. We hopefully will continue to move ahead without any roadblocks (no pun intended). However, there are numerous significant infrastructure improvements needed for long term success of our town’s development. These elements need to be addressed.

Lebar: Jury is out, net effect of Woodmont, especially, Borough’s infrastructure burdens, if it helps or detracts from legacy Main Street storefront marketability.

2.) What is your vision for Metuchen?

Menziuso: Metuchen is the reason my family and I moved to New Jersey from Brooklyn. We visited the town. We liked the feel of a real Main Street and the sense of community. We moved here because it is a family-friendly, small town with character. It is diverse, with people of different religions, races, political views and economic income. That diversity is important to me and to my family.

I envision an economically prosperous town, but a town that remains affordable for people from a wide variety of economic backgrounds. I want carpenters and mechanics, artists and teachers, professors and police officers to be able to live here. I want lawyers and doctors and accountants and stockbrokers, too. My father is a Union master carpenter, my uncle is a noted architect, I work as an accountant for international corporations. We have all known success and I understand the value of hard work. I appreciate the skills of craftsmen, the value of art, the inspiration of beautiful structures. I appreciate the richness of life in a diverse and respectful community.

Metuchen is a great town because of its multi-dimensional diversity. The economic, cultural, spiritual, racial, artistic and political diversity in town enriches all of our lives.

My vision for Metuchen is to protect and cultivate its diversity, to enhance its sense of community, and to continue to give opportunity to residents for generations to come. We need lean and efficient government to provide necessary services at reasonable costs. I do not want our seniors sent packing because property taxes continue to climb. I do not want the cost of living to drive those of modest income to flee our town or our state. I do not want to see this community become a mere outpost for the wealthy.

Lebar: I never bought into Princeton as Metuchen’s development model – more like Cranford, Summit.

3.) What should the borough do about the firehouse?

Menziuso: It is discouraging that our government did not consistently ensure the structural integrity of our firehouse over the last several decades. Frankly, there should have been a complete renovation of the existing firehouse or the construction of a new firehouse years ago. But there is little use in worrying about what decisions were made in the past. We are where we are.

We need to plan for a new firehouse in a location suitable for the Borough’s needs. Whether that location is in the center of town, near Liberty Street, or in the farthest corners of our community, we need to continue our search with all deliberate speed. Our fire department has had talented leadership and dedicated members for years, we must pledge our support to our bravest citizens!

Lebar:  Firehouse Committee needs an architect on board experienced in such facilities to appropriately guide its work, arrive at solution accommodating all stakeholders. In meantime, existing facility must be reinforced to forestall risks to personnel and equipment.

daniellebar

Daniel Lebar

4.) Should Metuchen try and lower its debt load? Or does it make sense to take on more debt to get projects like the firehouse done?

Menziuso: Is there choice at this point other than full outsourcing to a neighboring city like Edison? Metuchen can take on more debt and finance this project but my main concern is that we are careful to not repeat the past mistakes with how Borough Hall was built and financed. Still today we have sewer pump issues that impact both Borough Hall and the Metuchen Library. We need to be smarter and sometimes that takes some more diligence and time. As I said earlier, fix the problems now that are known to ensure an optimal outcome – a firehouse built to last, an efficient and environmental-friendly infrastructure that will mitigate operational costs, and a proper location that will get through the traffic to save lives.

Lebar: Metuchen has prodigious and growing ‘job jar’ of capital needs that must be redressed. So long as ‘debt cover’ (ratio of tax levy to debt load) remains relatively stable (low interest debt keeps pace with levy’s organic increase, older, more costly debt retired in expedited fashion) Borough shouldn’t be hurt in process.

5.) Are taxes too high in Metuchen?

Menziuso: YES.

Lebar:  SCHOOL portion of tax bill (about 80 percent) is egregious, together with ever-increasing municipal and county burdens ‘straw breaking oppressed taxpayers’ backs’ all across the Borough. Metuchen must continue to fight for receiving its fair share of municipal aid while taxpayers must demand Board of Education officials continually examine and implement substantial administrative streamlining and other cost-saving measures.

6.) Metuchen is currently fighting to force developers to conform to zoning code, particularly on size of structures on properties, What is your view on this?

Menziuso: The zoning code should not be a negotiating position. Properties are subject to zoning regulations. There are certainly times when a variance can and should be given due to the unique characteristics of the property, the surrounding properties, or the intended use of the property. Otherwise, the zoning board should not have to “force developers” to conform to the code. If we begin to give variances as a matter of course, we of course will create problems as developers will be able to find examples where similar requests were made and variances given.

Bottom line – we need to give our zoning board the discretion to give variances, but requests for variances need to be scrupulously reviewed.

Lebar: Borough Code already includes two separate ‘design standards’ provisions which, on their face, appear to have Borough-wide applicability, address situation if utilized by land use boards.

7.) Should Metuchen be more pedestrian and biker friendly? If so, how can the borough make this happen?

Menziuso: Yes. Metuchen should be made more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. To do that we must first solve some of the vexing traffic issues in town, which may be exacerbated by the increased population density downtown. We have requested and obtained grants in the past for improved crosswalks and bike lanes and walking trails. What happened to those? We took the grant money, but did not adequately plan for maintenance and upkeep of those improvements. Remember flashing crosswalks? Bike lanes on Woodbridge Ave? Raised “concrete” brick intersections along South Main? Ill-fated bollard lights, bump-outs and islands along Main? We need to commit to these improvements and to be tenacious in their upkeep.

Lebar: Pedestrians require conscientious attention to sidewalk and road crossing integrity. Bike accommodations require establishment, implementation of ‘complete streets’ best practice policies following intensive study what works, what doesn’t.

8.) Free question — anything else you want to say as part of your campaign?

Menziuso: In this local election, I respect my opponents and want to protect their dignity. Though I disagree with them on some points, I believe they are good people. Like me, they are offering to use their time and talent to hopefully make our town a better place. I wish them the best of luck in all things.

Unfortunately, some in town have tried to reframe my positions to those one might hear from divisive voices in Washington, DC or Trenton. I am not sure if the goal is to cultivate divisive politics, to distract people from my campaign, or if they are simply ignorant of my positions. I hope that voters will see through these distortions.

I am the first to admit, I am no silver-tongued politician. I am a CPA. I am a husband and a Dad. I am your neighbor. I am a thoughtful person who was raised in a place of great cultural and religious diversity. I respect people. To be characterized as close-minded or intolerant is outright offensive and insulting. There is nothing further from the truth.
I moved to Metuchen because it had many of the same desirable qualities of my former home, Brooklyn. But Metuchen also had a small town, tight-knit community. I am here because my family and I want to be here.

If my opponent’s supporters believe I am in lock-step policies with DC and Trenton, they are mistaken. If they believe I stand for divisiveness and shun diversity, they are sadly and seriously mistaken. If they believe my integrity is for sale in order to win a seat on the Borough Council, they are mistaken.

I ask you to look at the current composition of our Council. We have six devoted council members. They are each individually good people, but they all come from the same party and share common philosophies. Do you want Borough Hall to continue to echo six “Ayes” for every motion made? For every resolution proposed? For every ordinance on the table? Do we want our council members tethered to a single party? If so, can we fairly expect anything but lock-step politics and policies?

If you want new ideas and contributions to the Council, I am ready and able to work together to find meaningful solutions. I believe in Metuchen. I believe in the development of our downtown. The Chamber of Commerce has done great work for decades for our downtown businesses. The now-defunct Development Commission worked fastidiously to direct and control our development. Our Arts Council has partnered with various groups to sponsor innumerable events to keep our downtown alive, and stoke our artistic passions. The MDA is now up and running and hopefully we will see great things out of that initiative. But underneath it all, we cannot forget the dedication and sweat equity of our small business owners who anchor our community on Main Street. It is time for our local government to widen its focus to residents and areas beyond the downtown. I am ready to plan ahead.

Lebar: Recent health challenges compel focus on ADA design issues, widespread deficiencies.