2014 was challenging for the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders, but there was good news too, according to Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari.

Ocean County Freeholder Director Joe Vicari/photo by Dianne DeOliveira, Townsquare Media

Faced with  $20 billion dollar loss in Rateables from Sandy, Vicari said storm recovery continued to be an obstacle over the past year, as well as getting residents back into their homes. He noted that will be a long-term goal heading into 2015.

"It's very, very difficult for a lot of people because of the federal regulations and getting the federal monies, as far a getting clear directions from [Federal Emergency Management Agency] FEMA how to elevate their homes and what direction to follow," said Vicari.

Despite the ongoing obstacles from Sandy, the Freeholder Board achieved many accomplishments.

"We stabilized taxes. Ocean County is still one of the most desirable places to live. It's affordable. We have a AAA bond rating," Vicari pointed out.

In September, Ocean County was notified by bond rating houses that its bond rating reached the highest rating possible – AAA stable outlook - with the revision from a negative outlook in 2013 by Moody’s Investor Services.

“Maintaining this AAA bond rating speaks volumes about the experience of this Board of Freeholders and is a testament to the entire county government, each department working to make certain this county remains financially stable and able to withstand any emergencies that may come its way,” Vicari added.

Vicari also said his focus in 2014 also was to make sure core services were provided to the County's 600,000 residents.

“Our seniors can access assistance from the Office of Senior Services. All citizens can access helpful information at our libraries and all of our consumers are protected by the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs,” Vicari said. “Our park system is second to none and our roads are well-maintained.”

Through November, Ocean County provided 164,750 home delivered meals to its seniors. In addition, it served 44,236 meals at its congregate nutrition sites.

“These meals are a lifeline for our elderly residents, many of whom live alone and have a difficult time making meals,” Vicari said  “This program has a profound impact on the quality of life for our seniors here in Ocean County. More than 160,000 seniors call Ocean County home.”

The County also continued to closely work with Joint Base – McGuire, Dix, Lakehurst in order to provide support for the base and make stronger community ties.

“It’s important we maintain and grow strong relationships with the base and let our businesses know that the Joint Base is essential to our country’s security and our economy,” Vicari said.

Vicari touted Ocean County for continuing to be the best place to live, raise a family, work and retire.

“We are very proud of the quality of life we provide for our citizens," he added.