Calling for a new era of partnership between the county and municipalities in Hunterdon County, Jeff Kuhl of Raritan Township was unanimously elected County Board of Commissioners Director and sworn in by Congressman Tom Kean, at the Board’s January 2nd Re-organization meeting, held in the Historic Courthouse in Flemington.
Kuhl, a former Mayor and Township Committeeman, proposed leveraging the County’s financial strength to create two $1 million funds for the distribution of grants to municipalities for infrastructure improvements and parks and recreation development, without affecting the county tax rate.
Kuhl stated, “Having served on a local governing body, I know that our municipal governments are the ones on the front lines in protecting the quality of life and keeping Hunterdon County a great place to live.
That is why I am proposing policy goals in 2024 for what I am calling a new era of partnership to assist and support our local governments, with the goal of building a stronger future for all residents of the county.”
Kuhl said the County Commissioners plan to continue to freeze the county tax rate at the 2018 level again this year and to continue the County’s pay as you go, no debt policy.
Kuhl said he would work with the Board’s Budget Committee to establish a $1 million set aside of funds to be used for infrastructure municipal grants to aid in various road projects, safety signage, stormwater management, and many other municipal projects.
Additionally, Kuhl said that the Board would work together with the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee to develop a local parks enhancement program for grants to municipalities.
The new Board Director also noted, “Preserving land has been and will continue to be a priority for the Board of Commissioners. The County has preserved 484 farms, covering 36,579 acres of farmland over the years and additional acreage is in the pipeline for preservation in 2024.
But to quote what Commissioner Zach Rich was told by a farmer last year – preserving farmland is great, but we must also act to preserve the farmer. That is why the Board needs to further assist farmers by challenging some of the onerous state restrictions on farming.”
In closing his remarks, Kuhl told the assemblage, “I am the 6th generation of my family on the same farmstead in Raritan Township. And I have been a lot of places in my life, but I have never been anywhere else that I would want to call home but Hunterdon County, God’s country as my father called it, and I am sure many of you feel the same.”
Susan Soloway, elected Deputy Director by the Board, said “As a former Mayor and Township Committee member in Franklin Township, I share Director Kuhl’s local government experience and belief that our local officials are on the front lines in ensuring the quality of life in our communities and that the County has a responsibility to support those efforts.
I am 100% behind these policy goals and look forward to working with all our colleagues to bring about the new era of partnership with those leading the way at the local level.”
During the Re-organization meeting, County Commissioner Shaun C. Van Doren of Tewksbury Township was sworn in to a third term on the Board of Commissioners, with the oath of office administered by County Clerk Mary Melfi.
A former Mayor and Township Committee member in Tewksbury, Van Doren will continue to serve on the Board’s Budget Committee and pledged, “To continue the conservative fiscal policies that have ensured County government operates efficiently for the public.”
The County’s new Surrogate, Heidi Rohrbach of Clinton Township, also took the oath of office, which was administered by retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Jaynee LaVecchia.
Rohrbach said, “As Surrogate I will ensure that the Office will serve all the people of Hunterdon County with the highest level of faithful and selfless service.”
Kuhl, Soloway, and Van Doren are joined by Commissioners John E. Lanza of Raritan Township and Zachary Rich of West Amwell on the five-member Board of County Commissioners.