What does that mean for Secaucus?
A total of $33 million that the NJMC now has, which includes the $25 million infusion, will allot $14 million for support to local towns like Secaucus. This includes necessities like flood relief. Fourteen million will go to environmental stewardship (another good thing since Secaucus has the largest amount of wetlands and opens space out of all 14 municipalities); and $2.5 million will go toward increasing economic strength in the Meadowlands District (something that municipalities can only benefit by as a whole).
"I've been living with these issues, like saving open space and flood control problems, since 1992," said Mayor Dennis Elwell. "This money ensures that municipal aid will continue for the next four years."
Director of Public Information for NJMC Chris Gale said the money can go to projects such as the restoration of Anderson Creek Marsh near the west end of Meadowlands Parkway. He added that there is $11 million in direct grants for main street improvement programs, $390,000 for senior citizen programs and arts programs, $200,000 to purchase municipal equipment (which includes flood control needs), $500,000 for transportation and traffic plans, and $2.5 million for flood control and storm water management to be used throughout the 14 districts, to name a few.
"Some of these improvements go hand in hand," Gale said. "Restoration of wetlands isn't just for animals. Building up the wetlands gives you better flood control."
Town Administrator Anthony Iacono said the "avalanche of funding would surely benefit a town already on the cutting edge of quality of life."
"You have to understand that the money is a tax relief for residents, since the funding for many of these projects will not come out of their pocket," said Iacono. "If you tie it into projects in progress, like open space, restoration and flood control, it can only help make a great place better."
He mentioned restoration projects like the Secaucus Wetland Enhancement site near Secaucus High School and the continuing Riverwalk near Mill Creek Point.
There are two projects under development by the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce that fit into the wider scope of the surrounding areas. The Jobs Opportunity Center is assessing job needs throughout the region. Large and small employers are being studied. The project will help businesses throughout the 14 districts especially by supplying a web-based platform for employees and employers, career counseling and internships for area youth.
Chamber Chief Executive Officer Jim Kirkos said the project is especially significant when large-scale projects like Xanadu, EnCap Golf Course and other destination projects begin operation. He said the center would keep the ball rolling during the hiring transition period when these mega-businesses open.
Kirkos said the Employment Center would not only list available jobs but also fill the holes in any possible employment gaps.
"During the shuffling of employees within the hospitality segment, there would be no voids from existing businesses to keep employees and fill positions," he said.
The money would also enhance the Meadowlands Liberty Convention and Visitors Bureau. Kirkos said the CVB area businesses attract tourism dollars by marketing the region and enhancing spending by identifying on a websites on the Internet and special kiosks throughout the region.
"Tourists are better able to access information on what there is to do in the area," said Kirkos. "It helps fill up hotel rooms and places like Harmon Cove, restaurants and outlets. The positive impact for the community would be tax revenue and increased job opportunities."
How the funding came about
Originally, the landfill funds were for closing and monitoring fees, and were paid by municipalities and other dumpers. Now Cherokee Investment Partners, LLC, a North Carolina environmental risk management firm with an office in East Rutherford, will be sealing off the landfill as part of the Phase One of the EnCap golf course development.
Sarlo lobbied to secure the fees that had been held in escrow so they could be used in the NJMC's MAGNET (Meadowlands Area Grants for Natural and Economic Transformation) program. The plan funds the goals set out on NJMC's master plan.
"It's not every day you can recycle landfill money and reinvest in economic and environmental development," said Codey. "Our goal is to make the Meadowlands the sports and entertainment Mecca we always have thought of it as."
This is significant for municipalities in the NJMC district because the language introduced into New Jersey's 2006 state budget by Senator Sarlo, the funds are being released, as Cherokee will be using its own funds and be backed by an insurance policy to close the landfill.
"NJMC helped make today a reality by suppling the back up documents to get the money we deserved," said Sarlo. "The district hopes to serve as a model for other states."