Home Voorhees News A look back at 2015 in Voorhees

A look back at 2015 in Voorhees


This year in Voorhees saw some news on the Sherwin-Williams/Hilliards Creek Superfund site, Eastern Regional High School’s 50th anniversary, the sale of the Voorhees Town Center and a host of other issues. As Voorhees moves toward a new year, here’s a recap of just some of the events that made headlines in The Sun throughout 2015.

Voorhees Township Committee and Board of Education reorganize

The year started in Voorhees as it did in many townships across the state with the reorganization of the township committee.

During the committee’s reorganization meeting, Mayor Michael Mignogna and Deputy Mayor Harry Platt were both sworn in after winning re-election in fall 2014, and each man was also sworn in again as mayor and deputy mayor, respectively.

For the Voorhees Township Public Schools board of education reorganization meeting, incumbent board president Richard Nelson and member Bruce Karpf were sworn in for new terms.

Also sworn in at that meeting was Marissa Levy, who won election to the board for the first time, and incumbent Richard Horner, who was sworn in after being elected to fill the remaining two years of an unexpired term.

The Kirkwood Lake cleanup saga goes on

Despite several meetings involving Voorhees residents this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not announce specific plans to clean up the Kirkwood Lake portion of the Sherwin-Williams/Hilliards Creek Superfund site.

However, in late September, the agency did announce a $14 million plan to replace soil on 33 residential properties in Gibbsboro and Voorhees that were contaminated by the former Sherwin-Williams paint manufacturing plant in Gibbsboro.

Specifically, the announcement detailed plans to excavate lead and arsenic from the properties and dispose of the material at facilities equipped to deal with such environmentally sensitive materials.

After the removal, any excavated area would then have clean soil put in and necessary vegetation replaced.

Although the former plant was located in Gibbsboro, the soil contamination on the Gibbsboro and Voorhees properties stemmed from lands and waterways being affected by the former plant’s uncontrolled releases.

The plant operated under various owners from the mid-1800s until its closure in the late 1970s.

Execution of the plan to clean the residential properties will be conducted under EPA supervision and funded by Sherwin-Williams.

Also this year, the EPA announced several dates for when it hopes to also release the decisions of cleanup plans for other portions of the Sherwin-Williams/Hilliards Creek Superfund site.

The rest of the sites affected by the former plant include a Route 561 Gibbsboro dump site once used for disposal activities, a burn site on United States Avenue in Gibbsboro used for landfilling of waste material, the former manufacturing plant itself and then finally the Hilliards Creek site along with Kirkwood Lake in Voorhees.

“We’ve said that the target dates for doing those things is: 2015 is residential, 2015 is also the dump site for a proposed plan, 2016 is the burn site, 2017 is the former paint plant and 2018 is Hilliards Creek-Kirkwood Lake,” EPA Remedial Project Manager Ray Klimcsak said at a public meeting in January.

Klimcsak and other EPA officials stated throughout the year that the cleanup methods for the other sites would be decided in that order to prevent the cleanup of one site causing recontamination at any other site that is located lower down the waterway.

EPA officials and Klimcsak also stated several times over the course of several public meetings that even though those dates might be when a cleanup plan is finalized, the execution of those plans might not start until several years after.

PARCC exams

In 2015, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers replaced the state’s former New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge standardized test in grades K-8.

The PARCC test, which was entirely computer based, tested students in English language arts literacy and mathematics over the course of several hours over several days.

The test was originally formed when a group of states came together to develop a new set of common standards in English and math to better prepare students for college and careers after high school.

Although some of the states involved in PARCC’s creation opted not to give the PARCC exams, New Jersey did give the exams, which drew the ire of parents and opposition groups across the state, including those in Voorhees.

Specifically, parents in Voorhees questioned the district over what would happen to students who chose not to take the exam, with parents worried their children who didn’t take the exam would be forced to sit and stare in front of the computer screen doing nothing for several hours.

Ultimately, district officials said a relatively low number of students refused the test compared to other districts in the state, and so the school was able to put the students in an alternative location during the test where they could read a book or work quietly.

District officials also reported the tests went well with minimal problems.

iPads come to Eastern Regional High School

The use of technology in the classroom took another step forward this year at Eastern Regional High School when the Eastern Board of Education approved the purchase of iPads for all of the then-incoming 2015 freshman students.

However, originally in the winter and spring months of the year, the Eastern BOE was debating whether to equip all students at the school with the devices or just certain portions.

Yet, due to cost concerns, the BOE eventually decided on just outfitting 2015 freshmen students with the iPads, which the students would hold throughout their high school career.

In subsequent years, each incoming class would also receive an iPad, until eventually down the line all students at the school would have their own device.

The decision to outfit students with iPads originated from an increased use of iPad-related lessons in the classroom and this year’s newly implemented and entirely computerized PARCC test.

To prepare for the 2015 test, the district purchased 560 iPads for the previous 2014 school year, but those particular devices were shared among all grade levels and remained in the school.

Happy 50th birthday Eastern Regional High School

This year, Eastern Regional High School celebrated 50 years of “Excellence in Education” with the school’s semi-centennial celebration.

Eastern’s history dates back to the early 1960s when students in Voorhees, Gibbsboro and Berlin townships still had to travel to Overbrook, Edgewood, Haddonfield or Collingswood for their high school education.

By 1964, a special county-appointed committee had developed plans for what would become Eastern, a bond referendum was approved by the school’s three sending districts and eventually ground was broken on what was originally 50 acres of oak and laurel trees.

In September 1965, Eastern officially opened its doors, and the rest was history.

To celebrate that history, on May 6 Eastern held a celebration at the school. During the event, the school received several resolutions and proclamations from U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross, state Sen. James Beach, Assembly members Pamela Lampitt and Adam Taliaferro, Voorhees Mayor Michael Mignogna, Berlin Mayor John Armano and Gibbsboro Mayor Edward Campbell.

At the event, Eastern Superintendent Dr. Harold Melleby Jr. said many over the years have asked him how Eastern was able to rank so highly in academics, with so many competitive sports teams, with such support from the community.

“The answer is one word — people,” Melleby said at the event. “Yes, it is an old cliché, but true. People do make a difference. The people gathered in this assembly tonight represent the past and present, people who are unable to be here tonight, people who passed on, all of these people are chiefly responsible for making Eastern the exemplary school that it is.”

Municipal taxes stable, school taxes up

It was another year of flat municipal taxes in Voorhees, and another year of tax increases for the Voorhees School District and Eastern Camden County Regional High School District.

The township’s 2015 municipal budget saw the municipal tax levy remain flat, with municipal taxes remaining at 58 cents per $100 of assessed property value. That meant for the average assessed home in Voorhees valued at $255,500, municipal taxes remained at about a $124 a month.

Total appropriations in the budget are set at $27.91 million, a slight increase from the $27.82 million set in the budget the year before.

For Voorhees Public Schools, the district passed its 2015–2016 budget reaching a total of $54.05 million. The K-8 school tax bill increased $40.80 per year on average, or $3.40 per month.

In the Eastern Camden County Regional School District, the Board of Education passed its 2015–2016 school year budget totaling $37.24 million. For Voorhees residents, the budget equated to an average annual increase of $27.66.

Voorhees Police hold first-ever National Night Out

The Voorhees Township Police Department held its first-ever National Night Out on Aug. 4. National Night Out events take place at police departments across the country every year to build relationships between the community and the township’s emergency services.

The event took place at the Voorhees Town Center where members of the public could meet with representatives of the township’s emergency services, play games, enjoy food and more.

In addition to members of the general public who attended the event, the night brought together members of the police department, fire department, EMTs, department of public works, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth sports teams, community organizations, vendors and township officials.

“Kids love fire trucks, and they love police cars, and we let kids get in and get their pictures taken — it’s all the stuff I wish they were doing when I was a kid,” VTPD Lt. Dennis Ober said at the event.

Ober described the event as really a “one-stop shop” for community interaction.

Voorhees police start wearing body cameras

As with many other police departments across the state and nation within the last several years, this year the Voorhees Police Department outfitted its officers with body cameras.

Chief Louis Bordi first decided to outfit the department with cameras in April 2014, and in January of this year, Voorhees Township Committee passed a resolution supporting the endeavor financially.

By the end of the summer, Voorhees officers were equipped with the cameras, which allowed them to better document their point of view during their day-to-day operations and interactions with the public, rather than relying solely on memory.

Police administrative officials have also been able to use the cameras in regard to officer accountability by reviewing footage captured by the cameras and assessing an officer’s performance when interacting with citizens.

Voorhees Town Center sold

After 12 years of ownership by the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, PREIT sold the Voorhees Town Center for $13.4 million in October after the group received an unsolicited offer from what was later revealed to be Mason Asset Management and Namdar Realty Group of Great Neck, N.Y.

According to PREIT Chief Executive Joseph Coradino, the group’s decision to sell the property also came after PREIT was unofficially informed that one of the mall’s two anchor stores, Macy’s or Boscov’s, intended to close in 2016.

However, in a statement Mason and Namdar released upon purchasing the property, the group said there wasn’t evidence of immediate closure of either anchor store.

PREIT officials said selling the Voorhees Town Center marked the eighth mall PREIT had sold as part of an ever-evolving improvement strategy.

The sale of the Town Center also marked the sixth acquisition of a former PREIT property by Mason and Namdar.

Although in 2011 Voorhees Township relocated its municipal offices to a new location within the Town Center, the sale of the Town Center does not affect those offices, as the township owns the property where its municipal offices now sit.

Local elections held in Voorhees Township

In November, municipal and school board elections were held in Voorhees Township.

On the municipal level, it was months of campaigning between Democrats Jason Ravitz and Michelle Nocito and Republicans Dave Adamson and Heidi Handler for two open seats on Voorhees Township Committee.

In the end, it was Ravitz and Nocito who came out on top. With the committee throughout the year comprised of four Democrats and one Republican, the election of Ravitz and Nocito will keep the committee solidly in control of the Democrats.

Incumbent Democrats Mario DiNatale and Andi Ayes chose not to seek re-election for the coming term.

In an interview after the election, Ravitz said issues that repeatedly came up during the campaign were stabilizing property taxes, maintaining service levels, continuing senior and general recreation programs and maintaining the quality for the township’s schools.

“We had significant dialogue with the residents on how to work on those issues while we were walking around or meeting with smaller groups of people, and Michelle and I both have extensive business backgrounds, and we’re going to work very hard from the budgeting perspective,” Ravitz said after the election.

In the other local race held for Voorhees Township Board of Education, incumbent board members Denise Kirkland and Amy Lynch, along with current board vice president Barbara Dunleavy, were all elected to another three-year term. The race was uncontested.

In another uncontested race for two spots on the Eastern Camden County Regional High School District Board of Education, Voorhees representatives Robert L. Campbell and Richard A. Teichman each won re-election after also running in an uncontested race.

Eastern field hockey wins Tournament of Champions

This year, the Eastern Vikings field hockey team entered the Tournament of Champions having won 17 consecutive Group IV state championships, 73 consecutive games and having gone unbeaten in 130 consecutive games.

The team’s success continued on Nov. 20 when it completed another undefeated season, defeating Oak Knoll, 5–0, in the Tournament of Champions.

Adding to Eastern’s challenge, seeding this year for the Tournament of Champions in field hockey was done with power points, which made Eastern the №4 seed in the tournament.

That meant the team would have to win three games, as opposed to two in years past, but that didn’t stop the Vikings from powering through to their fourth straight TOC title.

In a span of five days, Eastern defeated Shore Regional, 12–0, Warren Hills, 4–1, and Oak Knoll, 5–0, to win the 2015 Tournament of Champions.

The Vikings have won seven of the nine Tournament of Champions titles since it began for field hockey in 2006.

“We knew that our power points were not great, but I don’t think we ever envisioned we’d be fourth and playing in a play-in game,” head coach Danyle Heilig said after the TOC win.

“The kids were really focused on making a statement. They couldn’t have played any better. We couldn’t have played any stronger.”

Evesham’s designated driver program expands to Voorhees

In December, township officials announced a new partnership with neighboring Evesham Township to have the “Evesham Saving Lives” free designated driver program expand to Voorhees.

The program launched in Evesham in the fall to decrease the number of DWIs in the township by providing free rides home through private taxi services Uber and BeMyDD to Evesham residents from alcohol-serving establishments in Evesham from the hours of 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

The program’s expansion to Voorhees operates in the same way, in which Voorhees residents can request a ride home from the alcohol-serving establishments in Voorhees Township to their residence in Voorhees.

The partnership between the two towns also means Evesham residents can now leave Voorhees establishments to their home in Evesham, and Voorhees residents can leave establishments in Evesham to their home in Voorhees.

The residents request their rides by using the Uber or BeMyDD mobile phone applications at the establishments, during which time an option for the free ride will appear to take them to their homes.

At a press conference announcing the program, Mignogna said the program was a great idea to help keep residents safe.

“It takes police time that would normally be spent on DWI arrests and allows those cops to use their time on other safety measures, which I believe is very important and is another reason why our police departments are so in favor of this program,” Mignogna said.

Exit mobile version