LOOKING BACK: Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan issued her Year in Review this afternoon, calling 2012 a year of “continued innovation, consolidation and cost cutting.”
“Overall, 2012 represented ongoing progress in my administration’s efforts to implement our plan to downsize county government and create efficiencies that will lower the burden on taxpayers without sacrificing services,” Donovan said.
“We looked critically at the way county government was operating prior to my election as County Executive and we found numerous ways to reduce waste and redundancy,” she explained.
“Some of the changes we created in 2012 were big ticket items that will save the county millions and some were small innovative changes that will add up to considerable savings over time,” Donovan added.
She cited several specific areas:
“One of the biggest savings initiatives for 2012 and the future is the county’s ongoing real estate consolidation initiative,” Donovan said. “Bringing the county health department from East Ridgewood Avenue in Paramus to One Bergen Plaza in Hackensack will increase efficient operation of the health department and has freed up the Paramus building to become the new home of the county police department.
“The move saves the county the enormous cost of building a new police headquarters as was envisioned by the previous administration that was willing to spend upwards of $45 million for a new home for the county police. Moving the police to an existing building in Paramus will be done at a fraction of the cost and it will allow the county to sell the existing county police headquarters on Zabriskie Street in Hackensack for millions of dollars next year. When the sale is completed the City of Hackensack will get a sizable property back on the tax rolls.
“Moving the health department to the county administration building and the police department to Paramus was an especially smart move,” the county executive said. “Not only does the county gain efficiencies in operation of both departments, but the new police home is centrally located in the county, which allows quicker response times to emergencies.”
“Additionally, the Bergen County Law and Public Safety Institute in Mahwah has attracted more participants to it public safety training program, increasing revenue to the county by 21 percent or $160,000.
“The ongoing real estate consolidation initiative has saved the county thousands of dollars in rental, utility and maintenance costs,” Donovan said. “The county closed a small storage warehouse in Garfield for a savings of $23,000 a year, auctioned an unused residential home for $190,000, and recently leased out available, open office space to the Bergen County Housing Authority for $186,000 per year.”
“Over the past two years the county has reduced its vehicle fleet from 1,163 vehicles to 892 cars and trucks. Unneeded vehicles were auctioned off in 2011 and 2012, bringing in nearly $500,000 in revenue,” Donovan noted. “The county’s reduced vehicle inventory combined with the implementation of a policy against taking county cars home has realized a more efficient and effective use of fuel and less frequent need of maintenance.”
“One of the more innovative programs in 2012 was the energy procurement plan for all county facilities and the creation of an energy cooperative buying program that is open to all 70 municipalities,” the county executive said. “The savings in energy use for 2012 was approximately $600,000 for the county and $400,000 for the 14 participating municipalities.”
“The county continued its ‘green initiatives’ in 2012 with the installation of solar panels on the parking deck of One Bergen Plaza, the roof of the prosecutor’s offices in Paramus, the parking lots of the community services building in Paramus and the public safety complex in Mahwah,” Donovan said.
“All projects were funded completely with New Jersey Energy Department grants and will save the county approximately 15 percent on its electricity use at each location,” she said. “The county also utilized grant money to replace all lights in the One Bergen’s parking deck with LED efficient bulbs. The change will save approximately $30,000 a year in utility costs replacement labor costs.”
Donovan said her administration “instituted a shared service agreement with Teterboro, whereby the county police patrol parts of the tiny borough that is bisected by Route 46, which is home to several county facilities. In exchange for the police service, Teterboro paid $100,000 to the county in 2012.
“This shared service agreement saves Teterboro approximately $150,000 a year on policing.”
The Board of Chosen Freeholders last week approved a three-year extention of the shared service agreement.
“Ten senior centers were moved to the county human services department from the community development department, embellishing the work done for seniors in the county and incorporating more nutrition sites and community events into the county’s senior program,” Donovan said.
“To help seniors stay safe,” she added, “the county departments of Health and Emergency Management contributed to the county’s newsletter an advisory specifically for seniors titled ‘Getting Prepared, Staying Safe for National Preparedness’ month in September.
“The advisory included information on safely sheltering in place with helpful tips for ready to eat food that is in packaging seniors can open without an electric can opener,” Donovan said. “In the case of evacuation, information included how to prepare a ‘go-kit’ specifically for seniors needs, especially the importance of keeping prescription drugs up to date and a list describing any medical issues first responders may need to know.”
“The county parks department completed a number of projects that increased enjoyment of county facilities for residents and increased revenue,” the county executive said. “Tops among the parks department’s accomplishment of 2012 was the construction of the Overpeck Park bridge on Fort Lee Road. The bridge, which allows motorists and pedestrians easier access to the rebuilt park, was completed for $5.4 million less than the previous administration had bonded for the project.
“Improvements at the Orchard Hills Golf Course in Paramus were well received by golfers and resulted in greater use of the facility and increased revenue at the course to more than $812,000 by the end of November.
“Overall revenue for the parks department increased by 15.15 percent in 2012 while costs of personnel was reduced by $670,000 due to restrictions on overtime and a decrease in the workforce,” she added.
“The parks department completed the Pascack Brook Park pathway system, relocated the Ridgewood dog park, and hosted its first Bergen County Fair and Fall harvest Festival at Overpeck Park,” Donovan said. “The county is planning on making this an annual event.”
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