Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes delivers his annual State of the County address Jan. 16 at the Hyatt Regency Princeton in West Windsor. 
Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes delivers his annual State of the County address Jan. 16 at the Hyatt Regency Princeton in West Windsor.

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Hughes: Let’s begin dialogue aimed at solving Trenton High woes

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. - Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes said during his annual State of the County address Jan. 16 that his administration would open a dialogue with state and city school officials to help facilitate a solution to the severe structural problems plaguing Trenton Central High School.

Hughes, who delivered his address to an audience of more than 500 business and government leaders during a luncheon sponsored by the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce at the Hyatt Regency Princeton, said everyone should be working toward the common goal of ensuring that all children have a proper learning environment.

“I’m confident that Mercer County can find a revenue-neutral solution that is practical and fair, just as we were able to achieve with the Trenton School District’s Daylight-Twilight School,” he said. “The reality is private academies, charter and parochial schools are not an option for all, so it is our duty to ensure that the 1,900 students at Trenton Central High receive the educational opportunities they deserve.”

Construction of Daylight/Twilight High School, which opened in 2008 and provides alternative educational programs tailored to adult students, was funded and overseen by the New Jersey Schools Development Authority. The project co-developers were the Mercer County Improvement Authority and the Trenton Demonstration School Development LLC.

Hughes noted that Mercer County has “solved other seemingly unworkable problems such as Petty’s Run,” the historic archaeological dig next to the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton that was nearly buried and back-filled several years ago, and called for his administration to “open a dialogue with the State, the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, city school officials and the concerned legislators” regarding the dilapidated 81-year-old TCHS building.

The County Executive, who was giving his 10th State of the County address, also pointed to continued signs of economic growth, saying “the state of our County is strong, and our outlook is even stronger.”

He said that in addition to some welcome news being delivered by private development, Mercer County expects to receive a significant economic boost from tourism dollars generated by a number of marquee events that will bring tens of thousands of visitors to the Capital region this year, beginning with the Feb. 2 Super Bowl in North Jersey.

“Some of the folks flying into the area for the Super Bowl festivities will be using Trenton-Mercer Airport,” Hughes said. “They’ll be staying at local hotels, and dining and shopping here in Mercer County. We’re excited to welcome all of them into our region.”

The other special events Hughes cited will take place in and around Mercer County, including the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in June and the Ironman triathlon in September. The Special Olympics, for which Trenton-Mercer will serve as the host airport, is expected to attract about 3,500 athletes, 1,000 coaches, 10,000 volunteers and 70,000 family, friends and spectators.

“This is a tremendous honor for us,” Hughes said of hosting the national Special Olympics, which -- according to the MidJersey Center for Economic Development – could mean a $116 million boost to the Central Jersey economy. “It’s a great opportunity for us to show people from all over the United States that when it comes to hospitality, Mercer County is second to none. We’re thrilled to be working with the Special Olympics organization on this great event.”

Hughes outlined some of the commercial development – either under way or soon to break ground – that will create jobs and give the County an economic lift. These include the Amazon mega warehouse in Robbinsville due for completion this spring; two hotel projects on Route 130 in Hamilton; construction of a Costco discount store on Quakerbridge Road in Lawrence; redevelopment of the Mrs. G’s site on Route 1 in Lawrence; and renovation of the Ellsworth shopping plaza on Princeton-Hightstown Road in West Windsor.

“Make no mistake, we’re still feeling our way through a difficult economy,” Hughes said. “But there is considerable economic activity taking place throughout the region, and that’s certainly a positive sign.”

The County Executive noted that Mercer County has a 5.3 percent unemployment rate, third lowest among counties statewide and 2.5 points below the New Jersey rate.

“From all the data I’ve seen, our economic future is bright,” he said.

Hughes also touched on Frontier Airlines’ rapid expansion at Trenton-Mercer Airport over the past year, which led the County to renovate its 40-year-old airport terminal, and Ewing Township’s approval of a Parkway Avenue Redevelopment Plan that paves the way for the creation of a town center near the airport.

Looking back on his 10 years as County Executive, Hughes said he has stuck to certain fundamental principles that he promised would guide his administration, including a “commitment to integrity and the highest ethical standards” and ensuring that “Mercer County government was a responsible steward of the public trust.”

“I am proud of our success in upholding the highest principles of good government, particularly our promise of bipartisanship and proven ability to collaborate with our constituent mayors, no matter what side of the aisle,” he said. “With your help, I pledge that we will continue to live by those principles each and every day.”

Hughes’ speech was attended by many elected officials and other dignitaries, including State Sen. Dan Benson, State Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, Mercer County Freeholders Ann Cannon, Anthony Carabelli, John Cimino Pasquale “Pat” Colavita, Samuel Frisby Sr., Andrew Koontz and Lucylle R. S. Walter, Mercer County Sheriff Jack Kemler, Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami-Covello, Deputy Clerk Walker Worthy, Mercer County Surrogate Diane Gerofsky, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph Bocchini Jr., Mercer County Community College President Patricia Donahue, and Mayors Shing-Fu Hsueh of West Windsor, Steven Kirson of Hightstown, Cathleen Lewis of Lawrence, Vanessa Sandom of Hopewell Township and Bert Steinmann of Ewing.
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