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‘We are nowhere near finished’

Mayor discusses projects near completion, on the horizon in Monroe

Courtesy of Monroe Township
Long-awaited intersection improvements at U.S. 322 and Fries Mill Road are underway, after a groundbreaking ceremony with local and state officials at the Monroe Township site on Jan. 30.

Monroe Mayor Gregory Wolfe and his team hit the ground running when he came into office last year.

And they are not stopping.

“We are looking forward to a very fast paced, busy and active 2024 and we are not wasting any time to get started,” he said. “In fact, we have not stopped since stepping in the door back in January of 2023.

“Although we have accomplished some goals in 2023, we are nowhere near finished,” Wolfe added. “In 2024, Monroe Township looks to accomplish more goals and will continue to work towards making (Monroe) even better than it already is, for all our residents.”

Wolfe took time to look back on what was accomplished in 2023 and touch on a number of projects in the works for the new year.

“This new administration has the philosophy of being proactive and getting ahead on many things.” he relayed. “Our goal is to continually update and properly maintain our investments to reduce costs in the future and ultimately save our taxpayers money.”

Emergency services

The Monroe Township EMS was disbanded in July, after a lost of about $1 million dollars in 2022.

“We now utilize the Gloucester County Emergency Medical Services that tax dollars have been paying for since their inception,” Wolfe explained. “Following the changeover, we have seen a much-needed savings to the taxpayers, but more importantly, we have seen a decrease in response times and more coverage, which is ultimately saving more lives.”

U.S. 322 and Fries Mill Road

Intersection improvements at the site of the two roads are expected to be finished this year

While serving as council president, the mayor said he was able to broker a crucial 2022 meeting with former State Sen. Fred Madden and the Gloucester County Commissioners, to discuss the long-awaited, long overdue project that began in 2006 and has been stalled since.

“Since that meeting, the project has seen much progress in 2023, and although there have been some delays over this past year, the project should be completed in the summer of 2024,” Wolfe reported. “The completion of this project will provide much-needed relief to motorists and residents in that area.”

Wolfe said the project has already brought new businesses to Monroe, such as the recently approved Heritages Dairy Store at the intersection. He plans to host other meetings with prospective businesses and developers who want to come to Monroe Township.

Upgrades at town hall

“In 2024, we will complete our renovation and upgrade project at the town hall,” Wolfe noted. “The entire courtroom was renovated over this recent holiday break, including fresh paint, carpet, flooring, as well as all new seating for attendees. This same room is utilized for our Monroe Township Council, planning board and zoning board Meetings and was a much-needed upgrade.

“We are also making upgrades to the sound system, to include video, so the township can either livestream or record all our meetings and upload to our digital platforms so residents can stay up to date on township business,” he added. “Our administration wants to be even more transparent moving forward and include everyone in what is going on, and the completion of this project will assist in making that happen.”

Williamstown Fire House

“In 2024, Monroe Township will begin a long overdue, complete demolition and new construction of our Williamstown Fire House located on Main Street, in the heart of the township,” Wolfe said. “The project has been in the plans for over 10 years, involving many different administrations, but the project has never seemed to come to fruition.”

The mayor acknowledged that the building aged quickly, lacked proper maintenance and upkeep and is now in disrepair. The building also no longer conforms to current construction code, laws or standards for a functioning, full-time firehouse.

“Through the years, Monroe Township has been very fortunate to have an all-volunteer fire department, and we are very thankful for all those volunteers,” Wolfe emphasized. “Eventually, we may have to explore a career fire department, which will require the firehouse to be up to the current building code, laws and standards.

“We want to ensure that we set this township up for continued success in the future, while also ensuring our firefighters are properly staffed, equipped and in a safe environment.”

Amphitheatre Park

“Another project that we will initiate in 2024 is to partner with our Open Space Committee, seek out grant funding, and possibly fund a project to upgrade our parks and construct an amphitheater at a new park location,” Wolfe said. “This township has various Green Acres properties that for years, we have not been utilizing properly, according to Green Acres requirements.

“We want to ensure that Monroe Township is doing its part and in compliance with all Green Acre requirements, and we have socialized the idea of an Amphitheatre Park over the last few months, and it has gained much positive attention,” he added. “The project is in the beginning stages, but the project would be similar to the one in Washington Township. This project would allow Monroe Township to host a wide variety of events and allow residents to come together throughout the year and simply have some fun.”

Roads program and municipal bike trail

“We are also looking to continue to make upgrades to infrastructure in Monroe Township with our roads program that we have budgeted in excess of $1.7 million for in 2024,” Wolfe said. “We have instructed our township engineer to be aggressive and play catch up.

“The township has always been behind a year or two on the road program, but this year we are quickly catching up and should be paving roads with this year’s 2024 budgeted monies instead of previous years. This means more roads are being paved over 2023 and 2024 than in previous years in Monroe Township.

“We have approximately 48 square miles with many different roads that need repair, but again, we are getting to these roads more quickly than ever before.”

Monroe recently received a grant to pave and repair portions of the municipal bike trail, as well as the installation of a raised crosswalk located at the bike trail and Whispering Woods Drive.

“The township has seen an increase in traffic accidents and speeding complaints,” Wolfe pointed out. “The raised crosswalk will also be accompanied with increased signage and speed control signs alerting motorists. This project will be initiated and come to completion sometime in 2024.”

Seniors and Finn’s Friends

“We will continue to make upgrades for our seniors and provide quality services and programs for them,” Wolfe said. “Our seniors are some of our most precious residents, as they have taken care of us for many years, now it is our turn to take care of them. Our community affairs department will continue to work with our seniors and keep them active in 2024, on an everyday basis.”

In the new year, the township is also seeking grant money and partnering with a local non- profit, Finn’s Friends, to design and install a state-of-the-art, all-inclusive park for children with special needs.

“The park proposal is to be installed behind our Pfeiffer Community Center and could be the first park of its kind in Gloucester County,” the mayor said. “Monroe Township Council will host a public meeting in the upcoming weeks to approve the grant application, which would then be submitted for consideration and approval. Our hope is that Monroe Township will receive the grant and the project will be initiated sometime in 2024.”

In closing, Wolfe said his administration is always searching for ways to become more efficient.

“We have some great minds between our administration and council members, who are all working well together and coming up with unique ideas on how to cut our costs,” he said. “We have done a great job over the last several years with installing solar energy and finding other ways through utilities and various other sources to cut our operating costs, but we must continue to find more unique ways to cut our drastically rising costs.

“Monroe Township is rapidly growing due to new residential developments being built all over town, which most were approved many years ago, but were never built back then,” he added. “Now that the demand for housing is here, the developers are now constructing all these new homes, which comes with a lot of demands on this township.

“Unfortunately, we cannot stop this development, but we can try to get creative to get the best bang for our buck.”

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