We recognize that Raritan Township will become a more populated and more diverse community with a variety of new housing being built specifically for renters, older adults and income challenged residents. In the last 2 years (2018 and 2019) Raritan Township issued 450 building permits. This is more than the number of permits issued in the previous 10 years. This is unprecedented growth. That is why we want to ensure that development always improves our community, and that our community receives appropriate public services from the Township.
To anticipate and meet the needs of current and new residents, we propose to establish a Social Services position to administer services for Raritan Township residents with questions or issues related to housing, mental health, employment, childcare, Lifeline, Home Energy Assistance and other human service needs. There are other communities in Hunterdon County who have a social needs administrator assisting residents with these types of concerns. Raritan Township does not.
Without a dedicated administrator our residents’ needs are not fully met or they are completely unfulfilled because we do not have anyone who has the credentials or resources to provide assistance for this segment of our community.
Responsible Community Growth also means development is planned and performed in accordance with the Township’s Master Plan and Open Space Plan. These plans, reconfirmed last year, reflect the Township’s vision and include objectives such as limiting growth to existing sewer capacity, promoting smart growth policies, and committing additional resources to achieve established Open Space goals.
Finally, we propose to work with owners of empty or neglected storefronts and properties to understand how the Township can revitalize business opportunities or how the vacant buildings can be repurposed to benefit our community.
The Master Plans are the blueprints for Responsible Community Growth. Kent Davis and John Dawson intend to use these blueprints
to ensure the future of Raritan Township reflects the values and priorities of its residents today.
With fewer newspapers and reporters, information about Raritan Township’s activities and plans is less readily available. Yet we have more channels to broadcast Township information and promote connectivity with residents than ever before.
It’s time to bridge the gap of information accessibility and transparency.
Last year the Township responded to 594 Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests, spent over 1,920 hours addressing them, and $10,000 in litigation and settlement costs (through December 13, 2019). This year, the Township already paid at least $17,000 to settle OPRA litigation.
The growing requests and increasing costs to manage information accessibility are signals that the Township’s public relations need improvement. We propose the Township take a more transparent posture that will prevent hundreds of OPRA requests each year by making disclosable information about the budget, planning, police, and Committee actions readily available on the Township website.
John Dawson and Kent Davis are experienced project managers who recognize program challenges like the Township’s OPRA management, and have the organizational tools to remedy situations like this.
You have probably seen the recent announcement from the non-profit, Save the Children, naming Hunterdon County as the safest county in the country to raise a child. After meeting a milestone like this, we have the luxury to ask for more value from our Township in addressing quality of life public services.
While we applaud the Township’s fiscal responsibility, we also believe our elected officials should offer the opportunity to expand “quality of life” services that have become standard in some municipalities. These services lead to a more meaningful connection between residents and the Township. The average property tax bill in Raritan Township in 2019 was $10,152. Of this amount, residents paid on average, about $1,200 to Raritan Township. We want to know, are Raritan Township residents satisfied with the services they receive for $1,200? And, what services do residents expect from a high-performing township?
For example, at some point, most residents are going to need to dispose of a bulk household item, yard debris, or a Christmas tree. Many towns provide these services seasonally, but in Raritan Township, residents must pay an extra fee and transport these items to the recycling center.
Or consider the Township’s approach to Open Space funding: of all New Jersey municipalities with dedicated Open Space funding, Raritan Township is in the bottom 20% as measured by resident funding rate - each household pays approximately $30/year on average. With additional support, as recommended in the 2019 Master Plan, we could improve the connectedness of our greenspaces and make Raritan Township a destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Finally, after experiencing the social isolation imposed by COVID-19, we need a real, physical forum to connect with one another as neighbors in a shared space. We love Community Day - it brings us together once a year in Lenape Park. But, we believe residents want more frequent opportunities like this. We propose to work with businesses to develop a more regular communal activity, space or series that highlights Raritan Township destinations like the new leisure and athletic facilities along the Minneakoning corridor.
Kent Davis and John Dawson believe in Raritan Township’s potential to improve all residents’ quality of life by improving our community and public service offerings.