Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo gave his annual address at the borough council's reorganization meeting on Tuesday morning and detailed some of the obstacles the borough overcame in 2012 and some of the projects and challenges it will face this year.
"It is fitting to look back and assess the issues and accomplishments of 2012," Tarantolo said.
He said balancing the 2012 municipal budget was difficult, but that it only resulted in a "slight tax increase.
"The closing of our open space fund helped our surplus situation by adding $850,000 to offset our tax obligation."
He said the completion of the Route 35-36 intersection is a "major improvement over what had previously existed."
The completion of Husky Brook Park was another accomplishment Tarantolo mentioned during the meeting.
"It satisfies our objective of having a formal park in each of our four municipal quadrants," he said. "The park has been subject of many positive comments by those who have had the opportunity to use it."
Tarantolo said the acquisition of the right-of-way for the widening of Wyckoff Road between Route 36 and Route 35 has been completed and that he envisions the project starting in early spring.
He also applauded the efforts of borough personnel who helped prepare for and clean up after Hurricane Sandy hit the area in October.
"The municipal response to Sandy was an effort we should all be very proud of," he said. "Our emergency services and our public works department did an outstanding job and we got through one of the worst storms of our time with minimal adverse impact, both physically and economically."
Tarantolo added that the 42 familes displaced by Hurricane Sandy will be moving into McGill Circle of Fort Monmouth soon.
"We just had a discussion with FEMA, and those families will be moving in toward the end of January and we accept them with open arms and we welcome them into our community," he said.
The fact that the borough was unable to acquire Fort Monmouth's Mallette Hall for use as a new borough hall was a disappointment for Tarantolo.
"That acquisition would have solved our space problem and given us an outstanding facility in the heart of what potentially could be Eatontown's new town center located on Fort Monmouth's main post," he said.
Tarantolo said 2013 will be filled with "potential highlights and challenges," and described many of them during Tuesday's meeting.
He said it is "absolutely critical" for the borough to address its "space problem and the associated security deficiencies that exist in borough hall."
"Easy access to our employees by the general public concerns me when we see the events of Newtown, Conn., Virginia Tech, the Colorado theatre massacre, to name a few," he said. "We must address our particular situation and ensure that we are not the target of some irrational, similar action."
"I classify this project as our number one priority in 2013," he added.
The mayor said the borough still faces budget challenges because of its "dwindling surplus.
"We should explore the possibility of selling borough-owned property that is currently not generating any tax revenue and use those funds to beef up our surplus," Tarantolo said.
Tarantolo said there are two Fort Monmouth properties that reside with Eatontown's borders that are part of its Phase 2 property disposition, Suneagles Golf Course and Howard Commons. He said both properties will be RFP'd in the late winter of 2013.
He said a new developer is interested in developing Old Orchard Country Club and that the plans will be discussed at the Eatontown Planning Board meeting on Jan. 21.
"We pledge to keep those residents potentially impacted by any such development apprised of any issues and will not make any decisions without addressing their concerns," he said.
He said several traffic projects that have been discussed between the borough, county and New Jersey Department of Transportation will be pursued in 2013.
"The Wyckoff Road-Route 71 traffic signalization and the widening of the intersection of Wyckoff Road, Route 36 and Route 35 would serve as a nice complement to development of the Old Circle Mobile Home Park which appears to be ready for site plan approval in February," he said.
The borough's ownership of Industrial Way West will likely be relinquished to the county, which already owns Industrial Way East, the mayor said.
The redesign of Exit 105 in Tinton Falls will have an impact on the borough, but Tarantolo said there are "several shortcomings" with the project that must be addressed to make sure that impact is not an adverse one.
The mayor closed by saying the borough should apply for a New Jersey Department of Community Affairs grant to have a planner investigate the feasibility of creating a merged plan for the development of the Eatontown's downtown area and Fort Monmouth's proposed town center concept.
"We engaged this effort back in 2004 and our plan development was interrupted by the Fort Monmouth closing announcement," he said. "Our Pride in Eatontown Committee has already started the process to look into this."
Be sure to click the links within the story to get more information about each of the mayor's points.