HAMILTON, N.J. -Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes helped celebrate the first anniversary of the Mercer County Connection today as he hosted an "Open House" at the satellite office with other County officials.
Hughes was joined by Mercer County Sheriff Kevin Larkin, County Surrogate Diane Gerofsky, County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello, and County Freeholder Pat Colavita at Mercer County Connection in Hamilton, where business has been brisk in its first year.
More than 13,000 customers have visited the Connection since it opened at the Acme shopping Center on Route 33 in Hamilton on March 29, 2007.
"The County Connection has been a tremendous success here and has really exceeded our expectations for what we thought it could be," said Hughes. "We've had thousands of people come through these doors to get help, to get access to information, or to use our community meeting rooms. It was designed to extend County government services to more residents, and it has done exactly that."
The free, four-hour "Open House" featured officials and representatives from 15 different County offices: the Clerk's Office; the Sheriff's Office; the Surrogate's Office; County Administration; Mercer County Improvement Authority; the departments of Parks and Recreation, Housing, Emergency Management, Consumer Affairs, Economic Development and Sustainability, Human Services, and Mosquito Control; the Mercer County Geriatric Center; T.R.A.D.E.; and Mercer County Community College.
Throughout the day, each offered information on the services it provides to visitors and handed out application forms for County-run programs. Free County identification cards were also created for senior citizens.
In its first year, the County Connection processed more than 4,000 passports, distributed 1,500 recycling buckets, performed 500 notaries, held countless community meetings, and offered free help to Medicare beneficiaries and free tax assistance.
In addition, the Connection was home to several community drives-including March of Dimes, Operation Open Arms, Project Little Soldier, and a U.S. flag collection for decommissioning-and held routine free workshops for a variety of groups, from veterans to gardeners.
"I have met people from all 13 municipalities who have utilized the County Connection and have had great experiences," said Colavita. "This location is a testament to the commitment of the County Executive and the freeholder board to bring County government to people's doorsteps."
Larkin, whose office has held workshops at County Connection to outfit residents suffering from Alzheimer's disease with tracking bracelets as part of Project Lifesaver, said the satellite office was ahead of its time.
"The way of the future is regional government. This office is proof that making everything this County has to offer easier to obtain is a great idea," Larkin said.
The Open House was also held to commemorate National County Government Week April 6 through April 12.