State grants Helmetta an additional $100,000 Grant awarded for general municipal improvements

State grants Helmetta an additional $100,000
Grant awarded for
general municipal improvements

By Nicole C. Vaccaro

Helmetta is $100,000 richer, in a manner of speaking, thanks to a grant compliments of state Sen. Peter Inverso (R-14).

Last week, Mayor Frank Hague was notified by Inverso’s office that a line item would be inserted into the state budget appropriating an additional $100,000 for the borough to use however it saw fit.

"We’re extremely happy about this," Hague said. "To receive a grant with no restrictions as to how it will be used gives us the opportunity to address a number of problems in town in one shot."

While the grant is not technically secured until the borough receives a letter of confirmation, the mayor has already expressed some of his plans for the money. Among those are new radios for the police department, as well as a public computer system.

"Many times, the radios either don’t work or cut out while officers are on a call," Hague said. "And that is just unsafe."

"Officers cannot afford to lose contact with one another, especially if and when backup is necessary," he added. "New radios will help us avoid unnecessary safety risks."

In addition to the police department’s improvements, the mayor would like to see some minor road projects completed.

"Residents have been complaining for quite some time about the potholes on Erickson Avenue, and so I’d really like to take care of that for them," he said.

The mayor also suspects that some residents will want a portion of the money to be used for correcting the well-water problem; however, he maintains that it is a homeowner-specific concern that the municipality is under no obligation to rectify.

"If we were to assist homeowners with this, what happens next? Maybe a resident will demand that we pay for his new roof," Hague explained.

"This is not coming from me, but representatives at the state and county levels as well," Hague added.

Hague said that he has spoken with U.S. Rep. Rush Holt’s office regarding this matter and "was assured that their water poses no immediate threat warranting state or borough intervention."

However, Peter Yager, Holt’s press secretary, could not confirm Hague’s conclusions.

"I can only tell you that we found there to be no direct federal role in solving this problem," Yager said. "Our primary responsibility is to act as a facilitator and that is what we’ve done, taking the information we were given and making suggestions based on that."

Yager also denied having any knowledge of the residents’ claim that there are high levels of radium in their water.

"I have seen no evidence of that, nor any county report," Yager added. "If such a report does exist, I haven’t seen it and would need to before deciding our next course of action."

While the problem is being investigated further, the mayor has expressed his willingness to assist the 16 residents who use well water systems any way he can, such as making phone calls to government officials.

In fact, the mayor believes there are special low-interest loans available through the county for those homeowners looking to upgrade their water systems, but who aren’t able to afford it.

While nobody from the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders was available for comment, Yager said there may be county assistance programs, although he is not sure of the specifics.

"If this is true, a solution to this problem may be no further away than the time it takes to fill out a loan application," Hague said. "It’s just going to take some incentive and cooperation on the part of homeowners and this council in order to get the ball rolling."

"We will find a way to correct this problem," he added.