HomeVoorhees NewsTown hall on the move?

Town hall on the move?

By ROBERT LINNEHAN | The Voorhees Sun

The Voorhees Town hall may have a new location as early as 2011. The Voorhees Committee approved an ordinance last week to construct new town hall facilities at the Voorhees Town Center and open it to the public next year.

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The new facility would be located directly adjacent to the Macy’s grand entrance. The town hall’s entrance would be on the first floor of the town center and be located on the second floor of the facility.

Mayor Michael Mignogna revealed that the idea came from a public hearing four years ago when a resident suggested moving the town hall to the center. The Committee has been investigating the possibility since, he said, and this is the most opportune time to undertake the construction project.

It would be a tax-neutral plan, Mignogna said, with no net increase of local municipal taxes. The possible sale of the current facility, historically low interest rates and construction costs lend itself to the timing of the move.

The total cost of the project will likely be $6.1 million, he said. The administrative portion of the existing complex has been appraised at $2.5 million.

He said that the completed Town Center will generate approximately $438,000 in additional local tax revenue annually.

The proceeds of the sale of the existing property combined with the new tax revenue generated will cover the cost of the project with no local tax increase for the project, he said.

“This is the first step in creating something that Voorhees has never had, a downtown,” Mignogna said.

“Our employees have been working out of antiquated, inefficient and obsolete offices. Our employees have been working out of trailers for the past two decades.”

For the past 21 years, the planning, zoning and construction offices have been housed in “temporary” trailers at the town hall site.

It will also be a step toward making Voorhees a “greener” place to live, Mignogna said. The township will save money on energy costs and will reduce its carbon footprint by 40 percent per every square foot of the new municipal building.

Resident Cherie Lattiere praised the project after the meeting. It’s a sign that the township is moving forward and taking its employees into consideration, she said.

“I think it will be great. You have to move forward,” she said. “I think it will also be a good, psychological boost for the township workers.”

Joseph Coradino, president of services for Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, said the new project would create 85 temporary construction jobs and an unknown number of permanent jobs.

It’s the type of project, he said, that will help draw in new commercial businesses to the Town Center. It should also bring more visitors to the Town Center as well, he said, improving on the 3,000 visitors a month average from 2009.

PREIT owns the Town Center.

“This will be a convenient hub for municipal business, shopping, and dining in the township,” Coradino said.

Several township residents — who were also members of local unions — praised the project and urged the committee to move forward with the new town hall.

Creating jobs in the township would help everyone, said Don Morgan, a resident and member of IBEW Local 351.

The project, he said, supports the local economy and increases the level of service for Voorhees residents.

“I support the town hall Town center project. I don’t want our township employees working in deplorable conditions. It also opens the township up to possible lawsuits,” he said. “This would really support the local economy as well.”

This is not the first time the township has discussed moving or constructing a new town hall. Resident Steve Silverman referenced a project that was developed and discussed in the early 90s that was dubbed the “Taj Mahal” project by residents.

Mignogna shed some light on the project, revealing that in 1990 the Committee explored an extravagant town hall option that would have cost around $7 million.

“In 1990, the township explored building a new municipal complex that was significantly larger and architecturally more dramatic than what will be at the Town Center,” he said. “The 1990 plans called for a new, separate 67,000 square-foot complex with a 2,300 square-foot lobby and 3,600 square-feet of offices for six administrative staff employees.”

This project is more streamlined at 40,000 square-feet and will be housed on the second floor of the existing mall portion of the Town Center, he said. The administrative offices will be situated in only 1,600 square-feet.


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