Mayor: More businesses needed to preserve borough


Staff Writer

Metuchen Metuchen METUCHEN — Attracting new businesses to town will be a primary goal in 2006, Mayor Edmund O’Brien said.

He reminded the crowd attending the recent Borough Council reorganization meeting of the importance of preserving the borough.

“Traditional Main Street, the train station and our schools are the three factors that need to be preserved; if one falters, all of them will falter,” O’Brien said.

Investors must be proactive in providing a receptive business climate or be left behind in what is a very competitive environment, he said.

“The most important question for residents is probably how the issue of the vitality of the downtown affects the taxes residents pay,” said O’Brien. “The answer to that question is that the well-being of the downtown is directly related to the residential property taxes that all residents pay.”

The train station needs constant monitoring, he said.

“Metuchen currently boards about 3,400 commuters on a daily basis, and while that may seem to be a substantial number, it will need to grow if we expect to keep our excellent service,” O’Brien said.

Metuchen is in competition with other communities on the Northeast Corridor for train service, but this competition is about to intensify, he said.

“The key to this challenge will be to add riders without adding cars and congestion to our town,” O’Brien said. “Both the downtown and the train station will demand that pedestrian traffic increase over the coming years.”

The third factor is the school system.

“Both the school system and the municipality will need to see ratable growth that is consistent with the character of our community if we are to at least stem the tide of tax increases that are principally the result of the way in which state aid is distributed to both the school system and the municipality, which in my mind is unfair,” O’Brien said.

The mayor is also concerned about the population drop in town.

“Our population today is substantially less than it was in 1970, but we do not realize it because while we declined by 3000 people, principally because of the change in our household size, our surrounding neighbor increased by 30,000,” said O’Brien.

“Therefore, I am proposing a community-wide dialogue on these issues in the coming year, so that as a community we all understand the challenges we face and the options that are available to meet those challenges,” he said.

The community dialogue will begin in the coming months.

Thomas Vahalla and Timothy Dacey were sworn in to office by state Sen. Barbara Buono, and the council elected Richard Weber, who is in his second term, to serve as council president for 2006.

“I look forward to working with everyone, and since I haven’t been on every commission, I look forward to learning,” Weber said.

He also reminded everyone to feel free to approach him with any questions.