In his annual State of the Village address at Monday’s Board of Trustees meeting, Mayor Francis Murray credited his renewed focus on promoting downtown businesses as well as improved communication among village officials and employees for many of the successes of the past year and provided a short list of goals for the coming year.
Included in the objectives for the year, Murray said, is to find the best way to modernize the village’s firehouses and police stations, address parking shortages and to renovate more roads. Murray added that among the projects he hopes to attract funding for this year are improvements to the power plant, renovations of Park Avenue, Village Avenue and Roxen Road in the business district and the restoration of Village Hall.
Much of the mayor’s speech was centered on the accomplishments of his first 18 months in office.
The change in village parking regulations, which now allow free parking downtown after 6 p.m., is drawing people back to the village and helping businesses grow., Murray said. “Members of the Chamber of Commerce of Rockville Centre praised us and proclaimed that this single act saved our village’s downtown from losing its appeal,” he said. “The sustainability of our business district is paramount to the health and well-being of our village. The business community knows they have a mayor and board who understand their needs.”
Murray listed a number of businesses that had opened during his tenure, including the Key Food supermarket and Kashi restaurant on Sunrise Highway, and Za Pizzeria on North Park Avenue. He also noted a number of businesses that have recently expanded, including George Martin, on North Park Avenue, and Lakeview Mercedes, on Sunrise Highway.
Among the projects planned for this year, Murray said, is the construction of a new family restaurant, Bonefish, replacing the old RKO Theatre, and a new, as yet unnamed Italian restaurant on Merrick Road.
There have been more than $1 million worth of façade improvements downtown since he took office, Murray said, which included the Best Western hotel on Sunrise Highway.
Better communication with its employees, as well as with the school district, is a priority for the village this year, Murray said. “In order to bolster morale in village departments, we renewed training programs and reinstituted the Employee Recognition Luncheon,” he explained, “which has opened dialogue between the board and employees.”
He added that the expansion of the parking lot at Fireman’s Field by 52 spots marked a period of greater cooperation among the school district, the village and the Fire Department. “We are now sharing each other’s resources in an effort to save energy, time and money and serve our community better,” Murray said. “We will be resurfacing the Fire Department’s training track in the spring. I also committed to beautifying the west end of the park with new landscaping.”
The Parks Department, under the umbrella of the Public Works Department, has renovated many of the village’s athletic fields, Murray said. Barasch Field was resodded, as were the infield and parts of the outfield of Hickey Field, while Tighe Field received new topsoil and sod. Work is also planned on Lister, Bligh and Kettler fields.
Murray credited much of the success of the village to grant writer Kathleen Murray, who was hired at the beginning of his term, as well as an outside grant writer. According to the mayor, the village has received more than $3 million in grants in the past 18 months.
Murray also thanked employees for their hard work in restoring the village to normalcy after Hurricane Sandy.
“I am so proud of the work we have done in our first year and a half,” Murray concluded. “We have been extremely busy, we have been energetic and creative and will continue to be. Our village is working together, and so many of our residents, including our children, are volunteering to keep Rockville Centre a wonderful place to live, and I applaud you all for that effort.”