Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried’s annual State of the Township address has become somewhat of a tradition in town—each year, Fried delivers his address at a gala fundraiser in support of a local individual, cause or family. With this year’s contribution, Robbinsville has raised $350,000 since 2015.
It looked a little different this year, though, as Fried spoke virtually from the municipal building due to COVID-19 precautions.
The township originally planned to put funds raised from this year’s State of the Township address toward a general fund—We Love Our R’Ville Neighbors. He said the pandemic only cemented the need for it.
“So many local families were in need of support even before we ever heard the word coronavirus—families such as the Semmels, the Areneos and the Dorans, among others,” Fried said. “The more than $50,000 raised since March will be part of the We Love Our R’ville Neighbors fund managed by the CARE Program, and it will make a real difference in our community.”
Coronavirus was a recurring theme in Fried’s address.
“My prime objective since realizing all of us were in the crosshairs of this virus is to get through it without losing any of my residents,” he said. “Tragically, science had other ideas, and we mourn the passing of five cherished members of our community.”
Fried thanked healthcare workers, first responders and township staff and thanked township council and the school district for a smooth transition to remote services. The township also provided 20,000 protective face masks to residents and offered the municipal building’s parking lot as a COVID-19 test site.
He cited business administrator Joy Tozzi and senior center director Renee Burns as “instrumental” in converting the Robbinsville Senior Center into the township’s COVID-19 relief hub, where personal protective equipment, food and donated supplies were collected and distributed.
Fried encouraged residents to be “responsible and respectful” as the state gradually continues to reopen.
“The bottom line is we need to be smart about the choices we make,” he said. “We’ve come too far. Deciding we are bored with this virus is not the reason to open up, and we must keep practicing good hygiene by hand-washing and keeping your hands away from your face. We will likely be wearing protective masks in public places for a while.”
As far as other township news, Fried touched on the recently demolished Windsor School. The majority of the property will be converted into open space featuring a natural playground. He also announced that the township recreation department has relocated to the old Miry Run spot, and that the township will soon break ground on a new athletic facility where the pool once sat.
“The bottom line is we need to be smart about the choices we make,” Fried said. “We’ve come too far.”
In development news, the Wawa coming to the old National Pools and Spa site at Route 130 South and Meadowbrook Road is still set to open this fall, Fried said.
The new Project Freedom Village is currently under construction and ahead of schedule, Fried said. That development, along with the township’s acquisition of the Mercer Mobile Home Park, helps Robbinsville fulfill its affordable housing obligation through 2025. Fried also announced in the address that the mobile home park has been renamed—it will now be known as Newtown Village.
Fried also touted the township’s CARE opiate intervention program, which is currently operating at a 74 percent acceptance rate.
“Being the first town to implement an opiate intervention program and telling our law-abiding residents that we are going to stop putting people in jail for possession of heroin was a little scary,” he said. “The CARE program works because sending people to treatment is five times less costly than sending them to prison—and almost no one comes out of prison better off.”
Municipal taxes will remain flat for the eighth straight year under this year’s budget. That stable tax rate, Fried said, allowed the township to allocate $200,000 to the Office of Emergency Management for personal protective equipment and other supplies.
He also said that Robbinsville will continue to work with neighboring Hamilton to make improvements to their shared wastewater treatment facility. Fried and Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin recently announced a joint increase in sewer taxes to help pay for vital infrastructure upgrades.
“The proposed $85 annual increase per-household will help stabilize the sewer utility in the short term,” Fried said. “A rate study shared by Hamilton and Robbinsville will ensure everyone pays their fair share over the long term. This infrastructure is not only vital to our residents and businesses, but it is also a public safety issue.”
Fried says he continues to work closely with Martin, as well as East Windsor Mayor Janice Mironov, meeting with each almost daily since the coronavirus crisis started.
“It has been an honor to work with two incredibly smart and dedicated neighbors,” Fried said. “I really appreciate their friendship and unwavering support. Thank you to all the residents and local businesses for doing your part. We understand how difficult the past few months have been, and we will be there for you every step of the way during the slow, steady march to recovery. We will get through this together.”