Mayor’s Messsage: Look back at 2019

Mayor Michael Mignogna recaps important moments from this past year for Voorhees Township

Mayor Michael Mignogna

As we welcome 2019, we should take one last moment to reflect on 2018:

· The Virtua Medical Campus celebrates its seventh anniversary and the “Medical Mile” continues to be an “economic magnet” for the Route 73 corridor. Virtua announced plans to partner with Penn to build a $35 million proton cancer therapy facility.

· Brandywine Financial has entered into an Agreement of Sale to purchase the Voorhees Town Center from its existing owner. The vision of the Voorhees Town Center Redevelopment Plan-Phase II is to redevelop the area as a live, work and play destination consisting of complementary uses including commercial, residential, recreational and experiential.

· Voorhees’ road program continued with the repaving of Alluvium Lakes Drive, Brookstone Drive, Cedar Hill Court, Hazlehurst Drive, Millburn Way, Echelon Road, Burlington Avenue, Wayside Lane, Chandler Drive, Dunhill Drive and Rural Avenue.

· Improvements were made to the Township infrastructure. A sidewalk was installed along Somerdale Road with a bike path and pedestrian crosswalk from the Town Center to Osage School. The bike path and pedestrian path were extended on Old Egg Harbor Road. The Township started a multi-year sewer pipe replacement and initiated used of a new sewer camera truck that allows problems to be identified and immediately repaired.

· Voorhees continued to work to protect our environment. In 2018, our residents recycled 3,000 tons of trash, saving $203,774 in disposal fees. We continued our use of Compressed Natural Gas trash trucks, which emit 30 percent less greenhouse gases and make 90 percent less noise than traditional diesel trucks. The township continued a partnership with the residents along Kirkwood Lake to hasten the clean-up of the lake by EPA and improve the quality of life in and around the lake. On Oct. 7, Sustainable Voorhees sponsored our second “Green Fair” to encourage and improve sustainability.

· The Voorhees Township Committee worked hard to reduce spending and control costs. Voorhees engaged in sensible shared services programs with Berlin Boro, Brooklawn, Camden County, Cherry Hill, Eastern Regional High School, Gibbsboro, Laurel Springs, Pine Valley, Stratford and the Voorhees Township Schools. We continued our programs of side-arm trash collection and single stream recycling collection, allowing our manpower to be used more efficiently. We again partnered with an energy company to buy utilities directly from the provider, saving approximately $125,000 per year. Our CNG trucks saved the Township approximately $35,000 a year in fuel costs. In 2018, Voorhees Township received $1.5 million in grants. These initiatives resulted in no municipal tax increase this year.

· We took steps to maintain and improve public safety and keep our families safe by hiring two additional police officers. We again partnered with the schools to place a police officer in every school during the entire school day, helping to ensure our children’s safety. All of our police officers were again equipped with body cameras for their protection and the protection of our residents. We continued our Safe Exchange Zone, DNA Home Asset Program, the NextDoor App, the E-Ticketing System, Project Medicine Drop (which collected 645 pounds of prescription medication in 2018), the Anonymous Crime Tip Line, Nixle, the Safe Cam Program and the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Program. We had our 5thAnnual Junior Police Academy as well as our 3rd Annual Adult Police Academy.

· To make our Fire Department more effective and efficient, we hired three new firefighters and 20 new EMTs. Two new fire trucks were put in operation and a third ambulance squad was added during peak hours. The shift of our firefighters was reorganized to put career firefighters on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

· We took the steps to educate our community, especially our students, about the opioid crisis. We again hosted the “Steered Straight” Program as well as the LEAD (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) Program at the Voorhees Middle School. We have partnered with Eastern Regional High School to provide a course to our 11thand 12thgraders entitled “Not Even Once,” to raise awareness of the opioid crisis and give them the tools to make better decisions.

· We continued our Voorhees Saves Lives Program. Through contributions from private donations, free Uber rides home are provided to Voorhees and Evesham residents from participating establishments in both townships from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. No tax dollars are used for the program. To date, thousands of free rides home have been provided to Voorhees residents. Since the inception of the program, Voorhees has seen a 20 percent decrease in DUI arrests.

· We continue to update our website to make it more user friendly. All of our Township Committee meetings are televised. The Township Facebook page has over 3,200 followers and the Township App has been downloaded approximately 8,000 times. Voorhees is on Twitter and Instagram.

· We continued with our Shop Voorhees Property Tax Reward Program, allowing a portion of your normal purchasing dollars spent on goods and services to be applied toward your property tax bill, thereby reducing your taxes at the end of the tax year. We now have 32 Voorhees businesses and approximately 3,000 households participating.

· The 15thAnnual Summer Series at Connolly Park was bigger and better than ever with tributes to Billy Joel, the Beach Boysand Bruce Springsteen. A “Beer Garden” and food trucks were also part of the festivities.

· The Voorhees Arts Council was formed and the Voorhees Arts Center opened in the Voorhees Town Center. The arts are alive in Voorhees.

· On Aug. 7, our fourth “National Night Out” was held at Connolly Park. The event was sponsored by the Voorhees Township Police Department and included members of our Fire Department, EMS and the VBA. The evening included great food and entertainment and provided a chance to meet neighbors. In September, the Committee announced plans to partner with “Jake’s Place” to build an all-inclusive playground and a “Field of Dreams.” The playground and field will allow children of all abilities to safely play together.

· On Oct. 9, 14 heroes were added to the Veterans Wall of Honor in Town Hall. The Wall now honors 397 such heroes with Voorhees ties who bravely served our country. The Wall will be an ongoing tribute to our veterans and names will be added every year.

· On Oct. 10, the Voorhees Township Fire Department sponsored “Fire Prevention Night” at Eastern Regional High School, providing safety education, refreshments and fun. On Dec. 15, they sponsored “Cookies with Santa,” again putting smiles on the faces of countless excited children. Our Fire Department continued an old tradition in the weeks leading up to Christmas and drove Santa Clause around town on a fire truck with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

· On the evening of Oct. 28, people of all faiths gathered at Congregation Beth El in Voorhees for a vigil in memory of the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue attack in Pittsburgh. Three days later, our community packed Catelli Duo and raised over $10,000 to support the synagogue. Voorhees is stronger than hate.

· On Nov. 6, Michelle Nocito and Jason Ravitz were re-elected to the Voorhees Township Committee.

· In 2018, 36 new businesses opened in Voorhees.

· In 2018, South Jersey Magazine named Voorhees one of the “Top Towns” in which to live in South Jersey.

Thank you to the many volunteers who sit on our Township’s boards, committees and commissions.

Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving as your Mayor in 2018. I will again embrace the honor in 2019. On behalf of the Voorhees Township Committee, we look forward to another successful year.

** The Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club will be holding their annual Voorhees Township Community Service Awards Dinner on Thursday, Jan. 24 from 6 to 9 p.m. at The Mansion. The Voorhees Breakfast Rotary Club will honor their Community Service Award recipients for 2018, including Voorhees Business of the Year, the Voorhees Citizen of the Year, the Voorhees First Responder of the Year and the Voorhees Selfless Student of the Year. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to www.Voorheesbreakfastrotary.org.

**The Voorhees Arts Center is offering a “Learn to Watercolor” painting class on Jan 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Voorhees Arts Center & Gallery in the Voorhees Town Center. This semi-private class is for beginners to intermediate students with only 6 spots available. The cost is $15 per class and if interested visit, www.sustainablevoorhees.orgor call (609) 315–6218.

** The Voorhees Arts Council is hosting “The Art of Chocolate” at the Vorhees Arts Center and Gallery on Feb. 6 from 7 to 9 p.m. The event will have you creating your own chocolate art through molds and maybe a few chocolate pairings with caramel, strawberries or pretzels. You will go home with your chocolate creations just in time for Valentine’s Day. The cost is $25 each and space is limited to only 10 people. Pre-registration is required with payment by credit card or cash. At this BYOB event, the history and art of chocolate will also be reviewed. If you are interested visit, www.sustainablevoorhees.orgor call (609) 315–6218.