Helmetta's main landmark is the large, abandoned Helme Products Inc. plant that sits adjacent to the Camden and Amboy Railroad line running through town (map showing Helmetta on a Camden and Amboy Railroad route). The mill began producing snuff in the 1880s. On February 23, 1900, the mill was bought by the American-Sniff Company in a merger with Helme Products Inc., but the merger was dissolved in 1911. In 1925, the mill became the largest of its kind in the world, and by 1934 it employed 400 people. In 1986, the mill was bought out by American Maize-Products. Finally, in 1993, it was purchased by Swisher International, and operations were moved to Wheeling, West Virginia. It has remained inactive since.
The G. W. Helme Snuff Mill District is a classic example of a late 1800s mill town. The district consists of the George Washington Helme snuff mill, housing for employees, accessory buildings, St. George Episcopal Church, Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, and Helmetta Pond, which at one time served as a source of power for the mill. About 115 buildings were originally in the district, which was named to the New Jersey Register of Historic Places on February 1, 1980, and to the National Register of Historic Places listings in Middlesex County, New Jersey on August 15, 1980.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the borough had a total area of 0.907 square miles (2.349 km2), including 0.850 square miles (2.201 km2) of land and 0.057 square miles (0.148 km2) of water (6.32%).
The borough borders the Middlesex County municipalities of East Brunswick Township, Monroe Township and Spotswood.
The 2010 United States Census counted 2,178 people, 891 households, and 596.1 families residing in the borough. The population density was 2,562.9 per square mile (989.5/km2). The borough contained 920 housing units at an average density of 1,082.6 per square mile (418.0/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 88.61% (1,930) White, 3.95% (86) Black or African American, 0.09% (2) Native American, 4.87% (106) Asian, 0.00% (0) Pacific Islander, 1.15% (25) from other races, and 1.33% (29) from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 7.53% (164) of the population.
Out of a total of 891 households, 27.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.5% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.1% were non-families. 26.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 5.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.97.
In the borough, 20.8% of the population were under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 31.7% from 25 to 44, 30.8% from 45 to 64, and 9.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.3 years. For every 100 females the census counted 93.6 males, but for 100 females at least 18 years old, it was 90.2 males.
The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $80,690 (with a margin of error of +/- $4,944) and the median family income was $96,875 (+/- $8,073). Males had a median income of $63,625 (+/- $7,838) versus $48,333 (+/- $6,040) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $36,941 (+/- $2,537). About 3.4% of families and 3.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.8% of those under age 18 and 3.2% of those age 65 or over.
As of the 2000 United States Census there were 1,825 people, 746 households, and 495 families residing in the borough. The population density was 2,153.6 people per square mile (829.0/km2). There were 769 housing units at an average density of 907.5 per square mile (349.3/km2). The racial makeup of the borough was 93.15% White, 2.41% African American, 0.22% Native American, 2.41% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.88% from other races, and 0.88% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.32% of the population.
There were 746 households out of which 33.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.7% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.6% were non-families. 25.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.01.
In the borough the population was spread out with 22.1% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 44.1% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 6.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 98.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.2 males.
The median income for a household in the borough was $60,125, and the median income for a family was $64,659. Males had a median income of $47,604 versus $33,929 for females. The per capita income for the borough was $26,668. About 3.2% of families and 3.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.2% of those under age 18 and 1.8% of those age 65 or over.
Helmetta is governed under the Borough form of New Jersey municipal government. The governing body consists of a Mayor and a Borough Council comprising six council members, with all positions elected at-large on a partisan basis as part of the November general election. A Mayor is elected directly by the voters to a four-year term of office. The Borough Council consists of six members elected to serve three-year terms on a staggered basis, with two seats coming up for election each year in a three-year cycle. The Borough form of government used by Helmetta, the most common system used in the state, is a "weak mayor / strong council" government in which council members act as the legislative body with the mayor presiding at meetings and voting only in the event of a tie. The mayor can veto ordinances subject to an override by a two-thirds majority vote of the council. The mayor makes committee and liaison assignments for council members, and most appointments are made by the mayor with the advice and consent of the council.
As of 2016, the Mayor of Helmetta Borough is Independent Christopher Slavicek, whose term of office ends December 31, 2019. Members of the Helmetta Borough Council are Council President Peter Karczewski (I, 2018), Noreen Carolan-Genthe (I, 2016), Ronald Dzingleski (I, 2016; appointed to serve an unexpired term), Sewell Peckham (I, 2018), Joseph J. Perez (I, 2017) and Joseph Reid (I, 2017; appointed to serve an unexpired term).
In January 2016, Ronald Dzingleski and Joseph Reid were appointed to fill two of the three vacant council seats.
In April 2016, the Borough Council selected Noreen Carolan to fill the term expiring in December 2016 that had been held temporarily by Brian Hackett who had in turn been appointed to fill the seat held by Yvette Bruno.
In 2014 a recording of a police officer telling a cameraperson stating that he has the constitutional right to take video that he doesn't "give a damn" about constitutional rights was made public. In response, the city government proposed an ordinance banning video and photography inside public buildings without a permit.
Helmetta is located in the 12th Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 18th state legislative district.
New Jersey's Twelfth Congressional District is represented by Bonnie Watson Coleman (D, Ewing Township). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Cory Booker (D, Newark, term ends 2021) and Bob Menendez (D, Paramus, 2019).
For the 2016–2017 session (Senate, General Assembly), the 18th Legislative District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Patrick J. Diegnan (D, South Plainfield) and in the General Assembly by Robert Karabinchak (D, Edison) and Nancy Pinkin (D, East Brunswick). In May 2016, Diegnan was chosen to fill the vacant seat of Peter J. Barnes III, who left the Senate to become a judge on New Jersey Superior Court, while Karabinchak was chosen to fill Diegnan's vacant Assembly seat. The Governor of New Jersey is Chris Christie (R, Mendham Township). The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is Kim Guadagno (R, Monmouth Beach).
Middlesex County is governed by a Board of Chosen Freeholders, whose seven members are elected at-large on a partisan basis to serve three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with either two or three seats coming up for election each year as part of the November general election. At an annual reorganization meeting held in January, the board selects from among its members a Freeholder Director and Deputy Director. As of 2015, Middlesex County's Freeholders (with party affiliation, term-end year, residence and committee chairmanship listed in parentheses) are Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios (D, term ends December 31, 2015, Carteret; Ex-officio on all committees), Freeholder Deputy Director Carol Barrett Bellante (D, 2017; Monmouth Junction, South Brunswick Township; County Administration), Kenneth Armwood (D, 2016, Piscataway; Business Development and Education), Charles Kenny ( D, 2016, Woodbridge Township; Finance), H. James Polos (D, 2015, Highland Park; Public Safety and Health), Charles E. Tomaro (D, 2017, Edison; Infrastructure Management) and Blanquita B. Valenti (D, 2016, New Brunswick; Community Services). Constitutional officers are County Clerk Elaine M. Flynn (D, Old Bridge Township), Sheriff Mildred S. Scott (D, 2016, Piscataway) and Surrogate Kevin J. Hoagland (D, 2017; New Brunswick).
As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 1,399 registered voters in Helmetta, of which 403 (28.8%) were registered as Democrats, 264 (18.9%) were registered as Republicans and 731 (52.3%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There was one voter registered to another party.
In the 2012 presidential election, Democrat Barack Obama received 50.4% of the vote (463 cast), ahead of Republican Mitt Romney with 48.1% (442 votes), and other candidates with 1.4% (13 votes), among the 925 ballots cast by the borough's 1,372 registered voters (7 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 67.4%. In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 52.1% of the vote (557 cast), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 44.9% (480 votes) and other candidates with 2.0% (21 votes), among the 1,069 ballots cast by the borough's 1,438 registered voters, for a turnout of 74.3%. In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 56.2% of the vote (587 ballots cast), outpolling Democrat John Kerry with 42.3% (442 votes) and other candidates with 0.6% (8 votes), among the 1,044 ballots cast by the borough's 1,382 registered voters, for a turnout percentage of 75.5.
In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 71.7% of the vote (503 cast), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 26.1% (183 votes), and other candidates with 2.3% (16 votes), among the 718 ballots cast by the borough's 1,374 registered voters (16 ballots were spoiled), for a turnout of 52.3%. In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 67.5% of the vote (476 ballots cast), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 25.4% (179 votes), Independent Chris Daggett with 4.4% (31 votes) and other candidates with 2.0% (14 votes), among the 705 ballots cast by the borough's 1,402 registered voters, yielding a 50.3% turnout.
All public school students from Helmetta attend the Spotswood Public Schools, with the districts having been consolidated after a July 2009 decision by the New Jersey Department of Education that merged Helmetta into the Spotswood district. Students from Milltown attend the high school as part of a sending/receiving relationship with the Milltown Public Schools.
The Spotswood Public Schools serve students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade. As of the 2014-15 school year, the district and its four schools had an enrollment of 1,523 students and 149.9 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 10.2:1. Schools in the district (with 2014-15 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics) are G. Austin Schoenly Elementary School for Pre-K to 1st grade (257 students), E. Raymond Appleby Elementary School for grades 2-5 (459), Spotswood Memorial Middle School for grades 6-8 (316) and Spotswood High School for grades 9-12 (735).
As of May 2010, the borough had a total of 8.79 miles (14.15 km) of roadways, of which 7.28 miles (11.72 km) were maintained by the municipality and 1.51 miles (2.43 km) by Middlesex County.
The major thoroughfare in the borough is Main Street (County Route 615) which connects with Monroe to the southwest and Spotswood to the northeast. Main Street is largely known as Bordentown-Amboy Turnpike between Jamesburg and South Amboy.
The New Jersey Turnpike (Interstate 95) is accessible at Exit 8A in neighboring Monroe Township.
An analysis of speeding tickets issued over an 18-month period between 2011 and 2013 showed that 222 tickets were issued in that timeframe with only two given to borough residents, which was cited as supporting claims that the borough's police department is unfairly targeting non-residents.