We saw a number of changes around Ocean County in 2016 from major population growth to economic change, but with 2017 already underway Freeholder Director Joe Vicari lays out some of the goals for this year.

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Population growth, the economy and our environment are just some of the changes rolling over from 2016 but heading into this year Vicari one of his goals is to ease the fears residents may have on being able to afford living here.

"We have the largest road system, there's a lot of things to do but I think it's so important to tell the people of Ocean County that we will make it affordable," said Vicari. "I'm not going to have any major tax increases."

They need to be smart about what they are allocating funding towards, he adds, so that future generations of families in Ocean County aren't burdened with a similar tax rate.

The war on drugs in one of New Jersey's most ravaged counties may be at the top of priorities for this year and Vicari explains that they will continue relying on their strengths to find addicts the help they need and lock up the drug lords.

"Fortunately for us, we have Prosecutor Joe Coronato working with our Sheriff Mike Mastronardy and they're very in touch with what's taking place," said Vicari. "We work very closely with all of the schools and police departments in all of Ocean County."

He adds that they need to continue to be proactive in their approach to eliminate any current of future drug problems, but if someone is in need of help they won't be denied.

Another issue affecting Ocean County and the shore is the health of Barnegat Bay and other shore waterways.

"Barnegat Bay is extremely important to us just like the 44-miles of ocean that we have in Ocean County," said Vicari. "We have the most ocean in the state of New Jersey and we have to protect that."

Vicari explains that a lot of the water we consume in Ocean County comes from ground water so we need to do our part in keeping the waterways healthy.

Traffic congestion continues to be a headache for many drivers who call Route 9 their passage way, and Vicari explains that before endorsing a candidate in this years Governors race this may be a topic to ponder.

"The first thing that we should do before anyone is supported, whether democrat or republican...(is ask) 'what are your plans for Route 9 throughout all of Ocean County?' "

The counties population in the winter 580,000 people, Vicari adds, but in the summer that number rises to 1,300,000 people making transportation especially important for drivers in this community.

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Contact Reporter Vin Ebenau at 848-221-8100 or at vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com