Top stories from 2012

Here’s a look at some of the top stories from Voorhees in 2012.

January

To kick off the New Year, Mayor Michael Mignogna was sworn into his ninth year on the Voorhees Township Committee and his seventh year as mayor.

Mignogna was nominated by each member of the committee to serve again as mayor. His brother, Stephen, swore him in at the meeting, as two of Mignogna’s hildren stood by his side.

Mignogna said the first order of business was to take a look at how the township can reduce spending while generating income.

He said the township has made significant progress in recent years to pare down the budget.

Mignogna said the main areas of cost savings have been realized in staff reductions and efficiencies throughout town hall.

Gov. Christie made a special visit to Voorhees in January.

Hundreds of residents from Voorhees and neighboring communities came out in full force to see Christie at his first town hall event of the year at the Voorhees Town Center.

Christie spoke to the crowd, which packed the lower level and second-floor balcony, near the township’s municipal offices, reiterating the message he had delivered the previous day in his State of the State address, citing the need for job creation, balancing the budget and proposing to reduce the income-tax rate statewide by 10 percent.

Once Christie opened the floor up for questions and comments from the public, residents from Voorhees and Cherry Hill quickly let the governor know how they felt about a proposed charter school coming into their community.

Christie signed legislation that would allow school board elections to be moved to November.

Christie initially proposed the legislation in May 2010 and garnered bipartisan support in the legislature. His reasons for signing the bill were to encourage a higher voter turnout and to help school districts save money by combining school elections with the general election.

February

Residents voted to approve the Voorhees Fire Department’s $7,466,965 budget by a margin of 469–397 on Feb. 18, Chief Jim Pacifico said.

The 2012 budget is under the 2 percent state-mandated cap.

The budget was slightly less than last year’s nearly $7.5 million budget.

In a close race, residents also voted to send Thomas Hanney and Barbara Silary to the Voorhees Board of Fire Commissioners.

Hanney and Silary both got 448 votes.

The two other candidates — Vaughn Vandegrift and Kurtis Stroemel — received 438 and 431 votes respectively, Pacifico said.

Pacifico said he appreciated the residents who turned out for the weekend vote.

“I thank them very much for keeping the fire department on track,” Pacifico said.

With dozens of members of the Voorhees Township Police Department present, Mignogna swore in Charles Fowler and Daniel Stark as sergeants at during a meeting in February.

The committee then shifted its focus to hashing out the details of a new citizen’s budget advisory committee.

Earlier in the caucus session, Committeeman Michael Friedman said the group reached a compromise about who would sit on the citizen committee.

Friedman said he wanted four residents on the committee, but other members of the township committee said they wished for an open citizen group, allowing any interested Voorhees taxpayers to get involved.

“We reached a compromise so all the citizens of Voorhees could have a voice,” Friedman said.

Committee members chimed in, stating their satisfaction with the group being open to all residents.

“We all agree we’re about transparency,” Mignogna said.

March

Voorhees Schools Superintendent Raymond Brosel had been on the move, delivering budget addresses to interested parents and community members at the district’s five schools.

Brosel highlighted monetary figures and points of interest to a group of parents recently at E.T.

Hamilton School, stating major teacher cuts are a thing of the past.

Last year, he said, 12 teaching positions were cut from the budget, adding up to 24 overall staff cuts. This year, the district is not proposing any staff cuts, he said.

If the notorious landfill on Staten Island that took in most of the rubble from Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 attacks has a vision to transform its 2,220 acres into a productive and beautiful park, so, too, can Voorhees Township.

Just off of Centennial Boulevard, spread out over 37 acres, sits the former Buzby Landfill, which reached capacity in 1972, endured dozens of lawsuits over misuse, changed hands from the Buzby brothers to RCA and General Electric and was purchased by the township in 1978 for $1.

After a few years of visioning and planning, the Rutgers University Department of Landscape Architecture presented its vision for the site, after listening and taking feedback from community leaders, residents and elected officials.

April

Those who knew Tom Love well said he poured his heart and soul into his family.

He and his wife, Susan, raised four kids in Voorhees — Sarah, Emmalee, Tylor and Stephen.

When his sons picked up baseball at a young age, Tom was first in line to pitch in.

An accomplished athlete himself, Tom received many accolades while playing basketball at Camden Catholic and later at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

And after sharing much of his own time with baseball and the community, residents found their own way to honor Tom, who died on April 9, 2011, at the age of 51, after having been diagnosed with lung cancer just three months prior.

May

Three Voorhees police officers responded to a call they will never forget.

Officers Nicholas Gruber, William Walsh and Daniel Scheets were on duty when police assistance was needed at the Avalon Court Complex.

The three were told to look for the suspect in a silver Nissan with a front rainbow tag.

Knowing the suspect was armed and dangerous, the officers noticed the vehicle parked off to the side of Centennial Boulevard. Police presented themselves to the suspect and told the man to surrender.

After encountering the three officers, 39-year-old Dr. Giocondo Navek of Williamstown took his own life.

Just minutes before, he had shot and killed Dr. Payman Houshmandpour near Centennial Boulevard, officials said.

Police Chief Keith Hummel, along with Mayor Michael Mignogna and Voorhees committee members, honored the three officers at a township committee meeting before dozens of officers, friends and family members.

June

Officials from Virtua held a community question and answer session for neighbors and nearby business owners to discuss future plans for the old hospital.

The hospital was rendered useless and closed for business last May, when Virtua opened its doors to patients at the new hospital located off of Route 73.

At the meeting, Virtua staff announced work was set to begin on Monday, June 4 to remove the old hospital building, along with the helicopter hangar and helipad, the former Summit Surgical Center and the office building at 1 Carnie Boulevard.

Voorhees Township had gone without a property reassessment for 19 years, until 2006, when Camden County required the township to do so.

But in the years that followed, the housing market continued on a downward spiral.

The reassessment process is mainly governed by the state and county, said Township Administrator Larry Spellman.

So now, he said, Voorhees is trying to catch up and bring all homes in the community up to fair-market value.

“The state never took into consideration six straight years of housing decline,” Spellman said.

It’s not exactly “The Incredible Journey,” but if Mitzy the beagle pointer mix could talk, she would have some amazing tales to tell.

The two-and-a-half year old rescue dog disappeared in Evesham Township on Saturday, May 19, after running away from her owner and into the woods behind Georgia O’Keefe Way.

After more than two weeks on the lam, the frightened dog was found on Wednesday, June 6, on William Feather Drive in Voorhees Township.

July

Since his high school years, Keith Hummel dreamed of having a rewarding career in law enforcement.

That dream came true for Hummel, a 1975 Cherry Hill West graduate, husband, and father of two.

And on June 30, he closed the book on his 30-plus year career with the Voorhees Township Police Department, where he served as chief for the past 14 years

August

Volunteers from the Animal Orphanage in Voorhees returned from a three-day journey of a lifetime to Texas. The arrival home was a relief; the four dogs they rescued were safely back where they belong and a welcome home party set up for their return.

Milky, Chaz, Theodore and Gina returned home after they were sent to the Spindletop Rescue facility in Texas.

According to Shelter Director Christine Todd, the Animal Orphanage had sent the four pit bulls there earlier because the facility and its owner were highly regarded in pit-bull behavioral techniques and knowledge.

“This place is the last resort for animals with behavioral issues,” Todd said.

Spindletop is a well-known rescue group in Willis, Texas. However, Texas law enforcement, due to alleged negligence, seized approximately 300 dogs from the property, according to Todd.

September

Miriam Gilbert’s recent race was the 16th annual 24 Hour Around the Lake Race. The race had four options from which to choose — the 24-hour ultra, 12- hour ultra, 24-hour relay and a full marathon. Gilbert, 53, decided to run the 24-hour race. She managed to run 83.32 miles in 22 hours, 10 minutes and 31 seconds.

“I came in third in the women’s open,” Gilbert said.

Lacing up her running shoes, Gilbert is an ultra-runner. She does not let anything slow her down. A few years ago, Gilbert was diagnosed with myelopathy of the spinal cord as a result of B12 deficiency, she said.

“It made me stronger, and after that I needed to know I could still run the 50 miles,” Gilbert said

October

Small improvements around town will not go unnoticed. Road paving and repairs and stop sign installation will take place. And new equipment in two local playgrounds will be installed.

Council members also approved the 2012 Road Program, the installation of stop signs on Fourth and Fifth Streets and moving forward with installing playground equipment in Green Ridge and Sandpiper playgrounds.

November

More than 2 million New Jersey residents were without power as of Thursday, Nov. 1, and eight counties were included in the direct federal assistance declaration announced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Oct. 30 after Hurricane Sandy swept through.

Mayor Michael Mignogna said Voorhees was fortunate.

According to PSE&G’s outage maps, as of Thursday, Nov. 1, Voorhees experienced between one to 500 power outages.

Other than power outages, the township only experienced fallen trees causing damage to a few vehicles and two homes, Police Chief Lou Bordi said.

Democrats will continue to out number Republicans on the Voorhees Committee. Mario Di-Natale and Andrea “Andi” Ayes were elected over Tom Booth and Dan Buck. Ayes held the leading number of votes at 6,385 in all 19 precincts, while DiNatale was 75 votes behind her at 6,310 votes. In the Board of Education elections Barbara Dunleavy (5,004 votes), Denise Kirkland (4,628 votes), and Amy Lynch (3,876 votes) were reelected to serve on the board.

Newcomer Patrick Stewart closely followed Lynch with 3,821 votes.

December

The time to find those lastminute holiday deals was coming to a close, while Voorhees has been attracting holiday shoppers to both the mall and local businesses alike.

Economic director Michael Marchitto said Voorhees businesses were doing well this season.

He said most businesses have reported “fairly strong sales” like last year. Although the official numbers are not released, Marchitto said positive reports are coming into his office.