ELIZABETH – Staying connected with the community, adding mental health programs and services, as well as cultural enrichment and recreation will be the focus of the Union County Board of Commissioners in 2022.
Commissioner Rebecca L. Williams announced the initiatives at the county reorganization meeting on Thursday where she was chosen as chair of the board. Commissioner Christopher Hudak was chosen as vice-chairman.
As part of the “Connecting our Community” initiative, Williams said the county is developing a county-wide all-inclusive fiber optic ring funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.
She said it would be completed in three phases, with the first two phases scheduled to begin in early 2022 regarding connectivity between county buildings and the park system.
The third phase will add municipal buildings and police departments to the network. When complete, the lifespan of this fiber optic network is 20 years and will help bridge the digital divide to better ensure public safety and the overall reliability of the network, Williams said.
To improve the links for mental health and wellness, Williams will work with the county social services department on additional programs and services.
Citing that many have experienced the stress, anxiety and heartache of isolation during the pandemic, Williams said residents’ mental and emotional well-being is key moving forward this year.
To bond through cultural enrichment and recreation, Williams said a series of programs will be introduced to help define Union County as a community. She said there are plans for an arts and cultural theater development program for emerging playwrights to expand their work with staged readings, hiring of actors and rental of facilities, such as the Union County Performing Arts Center.
She said a ribbon cut is planned for the opening this year of an all-inclusive area at Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield. The park will feature a playground with intergenerational attractions, traditional play equipment and aural and musical expression and the first meditation maze in Union County.
An intergenerational community engagement program is also planned where young people can work with older people on different projects.
“Social connection for those who are particularly locked in is extremely important to the health of our senior population. And as I mentioned earlier, throughout the pandemic, I have recognized the importance of maintaining relationships and not to be isolated, ”Williams said. “The simplest things like phone calls, writing cards, virtual hospital or home visits could change someone’s mental health and this project would be great to include our most vulnerable population. “
In a private installation ceremony ahead of the reorganization meeting, Commissioners Alexander Mirabella and Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded were sworn in for their next term and James E. Baker Jr. was sworn in for his first term as Commissioner.
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Suzanne Russell is a late-breaking reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, the courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please register or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Union NJ County officials plan to tackle growing mental health issues