Monmouth County, NJ Commissioner Director Tom Arnone addresses State of the County
🔴 Monmouth County municipalities can help each other save money.
🔴 Monmouth County Ferry Services take shape.
🔴 Investigation underway into voting machine error that impacted Ocean Township school board race.
There is a new way for municipalities in Monmouth County to save on the cost of certain capital projects and other services.
During his state of the county address on Thursday, Monmouth County Commissioner Director Tom Arnone says a new shared services municipal assistance program -- in effect this month -- will help out towns and the county, especially here in difficult economic times.
Monmouth County Shared Services
This is an expansion of shared service agreements and services the county has had prior to 2023.
"We put a plan together, a robust shared services program that has worked out, not just for the county, but for the 53 municipalities. We are the model of shared services, we have a plan -- yes, people are following us right now -- for years, we were the only one with a shared services coordinator, now, we're seeing people follow what we do," Arnone said. "At the end of the day, our goal, simple -- business model goal -- bringing revenue to us, the larger component at a lesser cost to the municipality and let the municipality save on that cost, we gain the revenue, put it back into our budget -- it's a double savings, it's one tax bill."
The Monmouth County Shared Services Municipal Assistance Program will help towns share the costs of projects and services such as street sweeping, snow cleanup operations which include plowing and salting, tree trimming, vehicle repairs, and materials and labor costs.
When it comes to requesting assistance on road projects, be sure to get all the information that would be needed to move forward.
"The one thing we tell our municipalities is please, please get a price, know that this is a cost savings to you," Arnone said.
Monmouth County Economy in 2023
There is optimism for local economies in Monmouth County in 2023 even in the face of economic uncertainty.
Commissioner Director Arnone explains that they’ve been balancing all kinds of costs for things like capital projects but being fiscally responsible has put them in a good place to still get work done this year.
"We have to continue to work hard to make sure that we can make that budge stay affordable with the challenges that are about to happen," Arnone said. "There was a plan with us, and it wasn't just let's cut with some sort of creative type budgeting, we broke everything down, we brought our utilization of our funds down, -- all those things will be a betterment to the county in years to come as long as we keep on track with a very strategic plan."
The goal is to always make the county budget affordable for towns and taxpayers while still being able to get work and projects completed.
In 2022, Monmouth County’s adopted budget was $474-million dollars.
Monmouth County Government changes ferry service provider
The negotiations regarding a contract for ferry services from Monmouth County to New York City and back again between the county and NY Waterway became tense and ended up in court.
Ultimately, a judge denied the request of NY Waterway who was seeking to prevent Seastreak Ferries from taking over that route and deal with Monmouth County, according to previous reporting by the Asbury Park Press.
Seastreak now won the deal and is under contract with the County of Monmouth, according to previous reporting by NJ Advance Media.
To clarify what happened during the negotiations, Monmouth County Commissioner Director Tom Arnone addressed all of this as well during this State of the County.
"We switched providers for our ferry system this past year, but, I want to be clear when I say that -- that was a decision we stayed strong on," Arnone said.
"It was a bid process, and the bid process went out and it was decided on by the courts. There were a few things that were tweaked in that -- let me be clear here, the cost of the contract was up, but the previous contract was 20 years old and you tell me that you are going to buy fuel 20 years ago, the cost 20 years ago, the labor 20 years ago is the same that it is today. We were not able to open that bid, so we don't know if it was any different than what this one is here. We knew it was going to be increased a little, we had to make sure that we had the service the same or better, which I feel comfortable that vessels are newer, they're larger, they're faster, but we did have one glitch there -- the ridership being picked up in Jersey City that the other provider provided that this one did not."
That is about to change coming up soon though.
"I'm happy to say at the end of this month, that will now happen again," Arnone said.
Ocean Township School Board Race Under Investigation
There are investigations underway as multiple agencies from the State Attorney General and Board of Elections to the local level in Monmouth County after a reported case of voting machine error that affected a school board race in Ocean Township that went undetected for two months, according to the New Jersey Globe, who reported as well that in one particular race Steve Clayton defeated Jeffrey Weinstein by 20 votes in November but a recount shows that Weinstein is winning by one vote.
The Monmouth County Board of Elections is reportedly looking to ask a judge to order a recount, according to NJG.
On Wednesday, Monmouth County State Senator Vin Gopal issued a statement calling for an investigation into this matter.
“Reversing the outcome of a race over two months after the election is completely unacceptable and creates an opening for questions about the integrity of elections in Monmouth County, and the state,” Senator Gopal said in a written statement. “Monmouth County, and the state, owes voters complete transparency on how these errors occurred and what steps are being taken to ensure they never repeat. A full investigation of all processes of the County Clerk and Board of Election, in addition to anything relating to the elections process needs to happen immediately.”
Election Systems and Software is the vendor and provider for Monmouth County elections.
Monmouth County Commissioner Director Tom Arnone in his State of the County address didn't want to dive into specifics but offered some clarity on the situation.
"For anyone to say that they are demanding an investigation or the involvement of authorities is, quite frankly, a day late and a dollar short. The Monmouth County Elections Office has been working with the State Attorney General's Office," Arnone said.
"I want to be clear here, the provider (ES&S) that the county has purchased has taken responsibility and they will take responsibility there. I'm calling for a meeting with the Election Systems and Software and the company has acknowledged a problem with their software to talk about how and why this is happening with their election software system so that Monmouth County can be sure the issues are fixed. Please know that Monmouth County is leaving no stone unturned to fully get to the bottom of this and to make sure that it never happens again."