Franklin Human Relations Commission Tackles Community Development and Mental Health Initiatives

The Franklin Human Relations Commission recently convened to discuss an array of initiatives aimed at bolstering community development and addressing issues such as mental health, healthcare access, and the impact of new developments. Among the topics, the “Arrive Together” program emerged as a groundbreaking initiative designed to provide alternative responses to mental health crises. Deputy Mayor Ed Cunic highlighted this program’s significance.

The commission also focused on a partnership with Zufall Health Center to offer medical care on a sliding scale, which includes a permanent location in the pipeline for the Hamilton Street campus. Another discussion point was the renovation of Middle Bush School for pre-K education, funded by the township, with program costs covered by the school board through grants. The commission explored addressing a substantial increase in healthcare costs for municipal employees by considering a move to self-insurance, potentially partnering with the school board’s existing Health Center.

Allocating funds from the American Rescue Plan for water main replacements and sewer projects was presented as a strategy to alleviate residents’ financial burdens. The commission’s efforts to establish a YMCA in the area through a land swap with the board administrative complex were discussed, touching upon potential funding sources and collaboration opportunities with local schools. In addition, the commission celebrated the opening of a new library branch near Franklin Park School, which was made more cost-effective by the Board of Education selling the land to the library and securing grants for building the facility.

A traffic study in the BNI Zone was brought to attention to assess the impact of increased development, particularly warehouses, on community life. A health impact study was also mentioned, which focuses on disparities in life expectancy across different wards, examining factors such as income and air quality, and emphasizing the importance of healthcare access. The commission plans to explore transportation challenges, including a potential micro-mobility study to address limited public transportation options in the town.


The meeting also featured discussions on the integration of walkable communities, addressing challenges such as the lack of sidewalks and transportation accessibility, and the necessity for private investment in community facilities like the YMCA. The potential appointment of Michelle Peterson as an HRC commissioner was acknowledged.

The conversation shifted to the Kmart reapplication, addressing the need for variances and the potential effects on the town’s retail landscape. There was a focus on the complexities of redevelopment, parking issues, and the displacement of residents. The meeting also tackled concerns from fourth ward community members about gentrification, poverty, and the impact of new apartment buildings on the neighborhood. These discussions encompassed the closure of the rent leveling board, eviction concerns, and the challenges faced by low-income residents in securing affordable housing. The transition of the Franklin Township Housing Authority to a new entity and its implications for residents in need was also discussed.

The commission delved into the need for mentorship and job performance support for the youth, debating the establishment of training programs or creating transportation options to access training programs. The potential establishment of a Training Center for job skills and driving certifications in the H Street area was proposed. The conversation also covered the AR program, aiming to prevent arrest and escalation, and its potential expansion in the township. The limitations of the designated “youth center” and the impact on the community center were debated, along with the possibility of partnering with Raritan Valley Community College for job skills programs.


Finally, the commission discussed the proposed Hometown Heroes project, which involves displaying flags to honor military service members. The project would require council approval and the commission discussed the potential costs for the town and families involved. Additionally, there was a suggestion to recognize the native population that existed before the town’s establishment and the possibility of naming streets after veterans. The meeting also made mention of upcoming events like Black History Month and a Tamil celebration, along with a call for poll workers for upcoming elections.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Phillip Kramer
Human Relations Committee Officials:

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