ACCEPTANCE SPEECH - MAYOR ANNA COLUMBUS
Acceptance Speech - Mayor Anna Columbus – January 2, 2024
Many thanks to my colleagues who have entrusted me to be Mayor of Branchburg. As your Mayor, I will always be accessible and totally transparent in my words, actions, and decisions. You will always know the reason behind the actions as they will be good for the community as a whole.
I would like to mention some of the issues I believe we should address or continue to address in 2024. These include the flooding issues in North Branch. Hopefully, the township can work with the State and Federal agencies to develop a program to help the residents in this area whether it be a buy out or raising the houses. I may be asking for the moon, but it’s possible. Another important issue is deciding on the best use for the Advance and Pizzo properties. The voters voted in favor of purchasing these properties via a referendum, to prevent the development of warehouses, and now the township needs to find a reasonable use for the properties. Also, the residents on Lehigh Avenue require the township’s assistance with reinstating the quiet zone and preventing the train horn from blowing. The township has allocated up to $300,000.00 to negotiate and work with the Federal Railroad Association and Norfolk Southern railway to make the necessary improvements to reinstate the quiet zone. In addition, the municipal building, which was built in 1990, needs some refurbishing. Our computer systems need some upgrading, and I would also like to see the senior room at Whiton Hills carpeted and painted. This room is used for many senior club events which have been enhanced tremendously by our Senior Coordinator Audrey Henry. Finally, I would like to address the Fair Share Housing issue. Our community has become overrun with houses and the building is not our choice. We are a community that would like to have open fields, which is evident by the purchase of the Caruso property on South Branch Road. However, we will be mandated again in 2025 to build more housing. We have not yet finished building under the last round of Fair Share Housing obligations and we will be battling again on behalf of the residents.
Also, I would like to thank our Police Department, Fire Departments, and Rescue Squad for their quick response to all emergencies. Many members of our emergency services are volunteers, and it is so difficult today to get volunteers. Thank you all for giving of your time. In addition, I would like to thank all our staff including Township Administrator Greg Bonin, Director of Finance Diane Schubach, and our Township Clerk Maggie Schmitt, they are all second to none.
And in closing, I would like to thank David Owens, it was a pleasure to work with you. You always kept me informed. As a Township Committee, we all work together. We usually agree on important matters, however, sometimes we disagree, but eventually we come to a solid conclusion. This is a great group, and we are all happy to be working for the residents of Branchburg. Thank you for selecting me as Mayor this year, and I will not disappoint any of you.