Excerpts from the State of the Borough address by Mayor William Pikolycky on Jan. 2:
(For the complete transcript of the mayor's remarks, see ShoreNewsToday.com.)
I am honored to report to you my 30th State of the Borough of Woodbine, on this second day of this New Year, while wishing my best for the rest of the season — with Orthodox Christmas Day (also known as “Little Christmas”) and Los Tres Reyes, the Feast of the Three Kings, yet to be celebrated.
We continue to hold the line on the local purpose tax rate, and expect to do so in the year ahead as Woodbine continues to have one of the lowest local municipal property tax rates in the state of New Jersey.
This is due, in large measure, to the financial successes the borough has achieved in securing millions of dollars in regional, state, and federal grants and loans over the past year for community development, housing, and economic development activities that are contributing to the high quality of life for our residents, businesses, public institutions and visitors.
I want to take a moment to reflect on 2019. This has been a year (of) many unpresented accomplishments which are transformational and will have a positive impact on the socio-economic fabric of the borough for decades to come.
So much of what I have worked on along with council over these many years has positioned the borough of Woodbine to yield significant dividends. I will elaborate more in my remarks. But for now numerous projects are worthy of mention that are either under construction, under design, nearing completion or have a strong likelihood of being funded in the very near future. They are listed here in no order of priority as they all play a role in the borough’s continued managed, responsible growth:
• A new fire pumper
• South Jersey Gas’s grant to leverage USDA’s application for dual band 700 mhz radios for fire and emergency
• Funding for comprehensive remediation of the former Hat Factory and landfill properties
• A community solar array for the former landfill
• Continued funding for improvements to Woodbine Airport
• The introduction of an aviation services company at the airport
• The completion of a multi-year renovation program for our Head Start Center
• The final phases of funding for the EcoPark
• The pending application for $400,000 for construction of an all-inclusive playground on a grand scale for persons with disabilities
• The approval of over $4 million to construct phase one of a multi-year sanitary sewer project
• A $5 million water system project (including $1 million pending)
• road, drainage, and other infrastructure improvements
• Just as important, we have recently completed an updated Master Plan, which will tie together many of these initiatives. More on that to come.
Consider the fact that for a small community in the Pinelands, this is a considerable agenda. This is only possible because of the borough’s deliberate approach to comprehensive planning combined with our ongoing efforts to engage partners at the local, state, and federal levels who recognize Woodbine’s proactive stance and success in implementing projects. It is because of this that these agencies continue to approve grants for Woodbine.
In effect, our success reflects positively on their decision to fund projects in Woodbine because they produce results! I am grateful to our partners and committed to continue to reward their confidence in our hard work with continued positive outcomes for our community.
The borough is gearing up for our participation in the 2020 census. I strongly encourage all residents to respond to the Census. It is a civic duty to be counted and may be beneficial when the Borough is seeking its share of Federal grants.
We continue to focus on a number of issues, concerns, and opportunities to improve the quality of life and the economic climate in Woodbine and encourage managed responsible growth to preserve the sustainability of our rural setting in the Pinelands with equal regard for our community’s future. I’ll touch on some of the opportunities afforded the borough later in my State of the Borough remarks.
Our tax collection rate remains strong, currently approximately 97%.
One of many positive outcomes of our concerted efforts over the past year is Woodbine’s ratable base, which continues to grow as new businesses locate in town and existing businesses expand and upgrade
Out of every tax dollar collected by the borough, approximately 15 cents ... remains with the borough, with the balance distributed to our school district and to the county.
Woodbine again realized savings through our record of safety with the Joint Insurance Fund as well as from the JIF dividend that saved us considerably on our premiums.
Woodbine’s Standard and Poors Global Ratings remains strong.
The borough continues to participate in shared services and public/private partnership opportunities.
Our tax assessor and certified financial officer come to us under shared services from Sea Isle and Avalon, respectfully.
Woodbine has been working with the Cape May County freeholders/Economic Development Office to designate Woodbine Municipal Airport as a site for an Integration Pilot Project for Unmanned Aircraft Systems — colloquially known as “drones” — following several successful Emergency Management drone tests previously implemented at the Woodbine Municipal Airport.
This collaboration has resulted in a significant development for Woodbine Airport, which will have considerable economic spin-off both at the airport and for local businesses and regionally. Very shortly, I look forward to introducing a firm that will be locating at Woodbine Airport. Their work in aviation and unmanned aircraft product development, sales and services will be transformative and expand Woodbine’s general aviation base to an aviation technology industrial base. Over the years, Woodbine Municipal Airport and its Business Park have developed the infrastructure to accommodate this company and many more like it.
Carole Mattessich, who spearheaded this initiative with Cape May County, is now director, Smart Airports & Aviation Partnership, with the National Institute of Aerospace. Congratulations, Carole, and special thanks to you for all you have promoted for Woodbine!
I want to extend my special thanks to Carole for her work in promoting aviation throughout the county and especially here in Woodbine and for her help in introducing the aviation company targeted for Woodbine Airport.
We continue to work with the county engineer on improving traffic safety including traffic calming. Scheduled for this spring is improvement of the intersection of County Routes 550 and 610 with the replacement of the four-way stop by a roundabout. Reconstruction of 550 from Washington to Madison Avenue is also under design.
The New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Master Plan has established a vision for New Jersey as a place where people choose to walk or bicycle with confidence and a sense of security; where both activities are a routine part of the transportation and recreation systems.
The Department of Transportation has taken steps to fulfill this vision through the adoption of a Complete Streets Policy through which the department commits to the planning, design construction, maintenance and operation of facilities that will provide for the safe access and mobility of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users of all ages and abilities.
To assist in fulfilling this vision, and to facilitate the implementation of capital projects that fulfill the safety and access needs of pedestrians and bicyclists; the department has created the Local Bicycle/Pedestrian Planning Assistance Program. Under this program, the department has retained the services of several consultants with expertise in local bicycle and pedestrian planning.
The services of these consultants are provided at no cost to counties and municipalities that demonstrate a need and desire to undertake planning activities that will lead to capital improvements to benefit the nonmotorized transportation modes.
Previously, Woodbine was awarded a transportation planning grant (the result of which is referred to as “The Baker Study”).The borough has cited recommendations in that study which has placed us in a strong position when applying for subsequent transportation and infrastructure grants, including streetscape, sidewalk and curbs to school, bikeways and numerous traffic calming and related programs which resulted in accomplishing the majority of the then-suggested improvements.
I am pleased to share that we have made application to update our Local Bicycle & Pedestrian Planning under this Assistance Programming.
We are pleased to report that, with partnership with DCA’s (Department of Community Affairs') Local Planning Services, we have formally adopted our updated Master Plan. This well-thought-out plan charts a clear course for the borough’s continued revitalization and growth. It also sends a powerful message to retail business and industry that Woodbine is a community built on solid principles for managed responsible growth. An application for the next step, which is the preparation of new zoning ordinances embracing the new Master Plan, has been submitted to DCA and is awaiting formal approval.
Several months ago, Nexamp and the borough entered into an initial agreement to develop a 10 MW community solar farm on its former municipal landfill site. I am pleased to announce that the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has awarded the 10 megawatts to construct the solar array on the landfill.
Woodbine's was one of only three projects approved in the region out of 255 submissions statewide and by far the largest in terms of MW capacity among the three projects.
The project will bring a new revenue source to the borough and an opportunity for area residents and businesses to save money on their monthly electric bills while adding a clean, renewable energy source to the local grid.
The idea of repurposing an otherwise unusable landfill site and bringing renewable energy into the community in a way that will benefit both Woodbine and the community at large is very exciting. We will be working closely with Nexamp to develop the solar plan for the site as well as obtaining the necessary approvals to make this project a reality.
After completing a proposal solicitation for solar developers, we decided that Nexamp was the right provider for this opportunity.
This addresses a long-term goal of my administration.
Nexamp owns and operates dozens of community solar farms around the country, offering a community solar program that enables residents to subscribe at no cost to a share of a local solar farm rather than installing solar panels on their own home.
Because many people may not have a roof suitable for solar panels, may rent their home or apartment, or may not have the resources to purchase solar panels, community solar makes clean energy accessible to anyone. By enrolling in a solar farm, consumers are able to reduce their regular electric bill and support renewable energy at the same time.
This year will mark the seventh (and perhaps not-yet final) year of Woodbine serving as a distribution site for the state’s Tree Recovery Program. Woodbine is in the process of updating its Forestry Management Plan, for a twenty-first year.
As you will see in my remarks, the borough continues to be aggressive in its pursuit of grants from NJDOT, NJDCA, NJDEP, NJ Economic Development Authority, USDA, and FAA. Projects include: airport upgrades, streetscape, roadways, drainage, water and sewer, infrastructure, traffic calming, right-of-way, sidewalk, bikeway, recreation, and related activities and solar energy.
I am pleased report that the freeholders/Open Space Board have approved Phases II and III to complete our Open Space EcoPark.
Since receiving county open space grant funding of approximately $2 million for all three phases of this project, the county’s Creative Placemaking criteria have been adopted. Creative Placemaking is a form of ‘branding’ for all county-funded Open Space Program projects. As such, the county has invited application from the borough to insert into the design of all three phases (including work already completed in the first phase) creative elements. The engineer is preparing a cost estimate for inclusion in the application, which will enhance the overall visual quality of the borough’s EcoPark, which will soon be part of the county’s park system.
USDA continues to provide funding for the Food Distribution Site at our Public Safety Building. To date, over $50,000 has been approved in grants for this facility. An application is being prepared for submission to USDA for a third phase of this project to fully exploit this facility’s use potential. The goal is to create the proper setting and equipment for our faith-based community to offer nutritional resources for the needy in our community and the surrounding area. In addition, this building doubles as our Public Safety/Emergency Management Center, assisting with Emergency Management operations throughout Cape May County.
With regard to public safety, we have received numerous grants from AFG, USDA, and DCA for our Fire Department to upgrade both equipment and purchase a state-of-the-art pumper truck valued at over $450,000 at no cost to the borough or the Fire Department.
We have submitted an application through the NJEIT program for a $100,000 water system asset management grant. If approved, the study will provide a blue-print and compelling evidence of need for future requests for public funding to maintain the highest quality standards for our water treatment and distribution facilities.
We are working with the Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority and the state Department of Human Services to implement a sanitary wastewater collection system. This is another example of the partnerships Woodbine has established with state and county entities.
The availability of USDA grant and loan funding totaling $4 million will enable the borough to construct the first phase of the public sanitary sewer system, a critical initial step in the ultimate provision of sewer service throughout the developed areas of the borough over the next several years.
The project will not only provide adequate public sanitary sewer service for the borough’s population, but also to ensure that the operational capacity of the Woodbine Developmental Center, a state-operated facility for developmentally disabled persons, can continue to be a viable resource. The first phase of this project, which is estimated to cost $4.8 million, has been approved by USDA Rural Development.
We are embarking on a $4 million grant and loan program for water improvement system which was recently approved by USDA. As a result of the borough’s concerted efforts over the last two years, it appears the borough will be eligible to apply for a grant of $500,000 and a principal reduction loan of $500,000 for additional critically needed water system improvements. This will represent significant leveraging of State Infrastructure Trust (I-Bank) funding with federal USDA funding for a total $5 million capital project.
It should be noted that the I-Bank funding will also provide a major cost saving component; namely, zero percent construction financing for the entire $5 million project.
Woodbine is a rural community by definition and thus eligible for USDA Rural Development’s programs to address the same issues that larger urban areas contend with. We extend our sincere thanks to USDA. As you can see, USDA Rural Development has been an extraordinary partner with the borough and has worked tirelessly to make available grants and very low interest loans, without which these projects could not have occurred.
Currently, we have six USDA applications in progress:
• Emergency radios
• First responders’ command vehicle
• Public Safety Building/Food Bank
• Head Start building
Our Head Start building, serving both Early Head Start and Head Start (ages 6 months up to kindergarten), has undergone considerable renovations totaling over $450,000 utilizing grants from DCA Small Cities Program and USDA.
Gateway Community Action partnership manages and operates the Head Start program and has also contributed to some of the site work and signage to properly recognize the actions of Borough Council over a decade ago when council named the building the Martin Luther King center. Our thanks to Gateway for their continuing support.
We continue with improvements to our Municipal Airport and Airport Business Park consistent with the borough’s Airport Master/Layout Plan. The borough’s new Master Plan includes reference to the Airport Plan especially as it relates to development opportunities at the Business Park (“land side”) of the airport and the adjacent former F & S Landfill, which is a declared Redevelopment Area.
The borough has been able to continue to carry out improvements to the airport’s air side components including runways/taxiways, and supporting infrastructure per the Airport Layout Plan. This is only possible with the support of the Federal Aviation Administration and New Jersey DOT Aviation Bureau. Total funding this past year was approximately 1$ million.
In addition to those shared services already mentioned, our long-term relationships with federal, state, and county agencies have resulted in our obtaining recurring grant funding for much needed and planned community and economic development projects. We are successful because of the value we place on these funding commitments and do so by carrying them on-time and on-budget with positive outcomes for our community.
I would like to take this time to thank our federal and state legislators and county officials who, by recognizing our needs and the importance of our efforts, have assisted us in obtaining this necessary funding by endorsing and supporting these projects that have contributed to Woodbine’s managed, responsible growth.
This is especially so with the aviation sector.
Our county library branch serves as a resource for many forms of media and as a focal point and gathering place for members of the community, young and old alike, who find this a safe zone as well as an educational and informational resource. For example:
• Still popular are the annual spring herb demo and autumn decorating with nature demo, both of which have become a local branch tradition.
• In addition, the county continues to have numerous free children’s and “teen and tween” programs at our branch.
The New Jersey Safe Routes to School Resource Center and NJDOT Recognition Award Program recognizes municipalities and schools (public, private, or charter) for their SRTS efforts. Woodbine Borough and the Woodbine Elementary School were among the 24 South Jersey schools recently recognized by the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and NJ Safe Routes to Schools as recipients of the 2019 NJ SRTS Recognition Program.
Winning municipalities and schools are recognized for their commitment to enabling and encouraging children to bike and walk to school.
Recipients implement walk and bike to school events, adopt supportive policies, obtain backing from local constituents, and/or use survey tools to evaluate existing conditions for walking and biking to school.
I am pleased to note that Woodbine Elementary School has continued to participate in International Walk to School Day.
Our Sustainable Jersey Green Team continues to work towards the goals of sustainability and were honored at this past year’s League of Municipalities. I thank them once again for all their hard work and effort.
We have been successful in the past with the Clean Energy Program, having upgraded our municipal buildings through the energy assistance program, which provided a grant for 70%. We also received a Sustainable Jersey grant to match the remaining 30%, for a total of $100,000 in grant-funded energy improvements.
Clean Energy is now making available another opportunity by which we can potentially make our streetlights more energy efficient.
We also continue to hold our annual rabies vaccination clinic, supporting the health of our pets.
Our Recreation Commission continues its efforts in the community sponsoring programs such as the Spring Egg Hunt, Trunk or Treat and, this past year, the Holiday Parade as well.
Our local AARP Chapter continues its work in our community as does our Boy Scout Pack and Troop 77
Woodbine Municipal Alliance, funded through the county, continues its anti-drug, tobacco, and other substance abuse outreach throughout the community, with assistance from volunteers from many sectors of the community.
We thank all those involved with this program as I also invite those interested to attend the quarterly meetings and assist in these all-volunteer efforts.
I again thank the federally-funded Pathstone for its involvement in our community in assisting seniors through its training program. I thank all those who have participated in our community under this program, especially those in our municipal buildings.
We recognize the Chamber for their commitment to promoting activities that will support business retention and new business attraction and also thank them for the generous donation they made to CASA. I thank the Greater Woodbine Chamber of Commerce and congratulate them on the immense success of their eleventh annual car show, even larger than in the past. Please check out the Chamber website.
Our Governmental Access Television channels 97 and 22 continue to provide public service announcements for the borough community, allowing us to notify residents in an enhanced format that complements our borough website.
As I stated earlier and feel it is worth repeating, the borough collects a total tax of approximately $2.8 million dollars. Of that amount the borough only keeps approximately $410,000, which is less than 15% of the total. Thus only 14.5 cents out of every tax dollar collected remains in the borough budget. The school receives 70.3 cents out of every dollar collected (over 70%), for a total of $1,992,836, and the county 15.2 cents, a total of $428,685 (approximately 15%).
Our ratable base remained stable during 2019 and our tax collection rate remained stable, due to the diligent practices of our tax collection office.
Through best management practices and shared services, Woodbine has continued to cover municipal needs without any additional tax burden.
Additionally, we continue to successfully obtain grant funding from federal, state, and other sources, allowing us to leverage our municipal funds to the fullest extent possible.
The borough continues to promote and ensure the quality of life, health, safety, and welfare of our present and future residents in a fiscally responsible manner.
I would also like to express my appreciation to the Borough Council, our appointed officials and members of our boards and commissions, first responders, shared service partners, borough professionals, dedicated dorough employees, and all those committees who volunteer and lend their experience, time, talent, and dedication to the improvement and sustainability of our fair borough. My personal thanks to all of you and the very best in this new decade.