HomeHaddonfield NewsRochford, commissioners deliver ‘State of Borough’ address for 2020

Rochford, commissioners deliver ‘State of Borough’ address for 2020

Stormwater remediation from June floods expected to carry hefty price tag.

During the annual Mayor’s Breakfast on Jan. 18, sponsored by the Haddonfield Lions Club and hosted by First Presbyterian Church, Neal Rochford delivered his ‘State of the Borough’ address for the new year. Though his remarks were upbeat overall, they Included some alarming numbers on the state of stormwater remediation in the wake of last summer’s rainfall.

At the annual Mayor’s Breakfast, hosted by the Haddonfield Lions Club on Jan. 18, borough head Neal Rochford capped a tumultuous year that passed and reiterated his hopes for a better, more productive year to come.

“Anyone who’s been around for a while would agree that 2019 was a year of change. Having three commissioners come and go in one year would make even Elizabeth Haddon’s head spin,” he said.

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Rochford, who had previously served as Commissioner for Public Safety, switched to Commissioner of Public Works in November. 

Of lingering concern to a sizeable contingent of residents is the outcome of several reports – one from Princeton Hydro regarding the damage and remediation from the June 20 floods along Concord Drive, and one from borough engineers Remington & Vernick regarding an action plan for addressing stormwater issues in four other sections in town which are prone to flooding. 

Rochford said the former report’s results were “pending,” and would be available to the borough by the end of January. He further stated the latter report would be released “shortly.”

“I must warn all of you that the fixed suggested will not come cheap. Preliminary numbers have the improvements at $35 million. The path forward to relieve flooding during storm events will require sacrifice in other areas in need of improvement, and a hit to the pocketbook,” he added, to the shocked silence of the gathering. 

“Public meetings will be set up in the future to share these plans and costs with Haddonfield residents.”

In light of the settling of a lawsuit in autumn between the Borough of Haddonfield and a concerned group of citizens called HERD (Haddonfield Encouraging Responsible Development), which aims to reduce the number of “age restricted” units planned for the Bancroft site, Rochford provided the following update: 

“There is no approval for age-restricted housing on Bancroft to date, between the developer and the borough. We continue to negotiate a resolution to the development of the campus that is in the best interest of the borough.”

Rochford also issued a blanket admonishment to all involved in the protracted processes of figuring out what to do with Bancroft.

“While the negotiations continue, the bonds that were floated to pay for the property are now coming due. In 2019, $500,000 went towards bond payments. Continued delays will cost Haddonfield property owners. It’s time to finish this project.”

New Commissioner for Public Safety Colleen Bianco Bezich pledged the citizenry to work diligently with Police Chief Jason Cutler, Fire Chief Lou Frontino and Emergency Management Coordinator Linda Harrington to provide comprehensive and proactive safety measures. 

“I’m also looking forward to working in our community development office, which includes the zoning and land use aspects of the town. As well as working as the liaison with the Partnership for Haddonfield,” Bezich said. 

“As a small business owner like myself, it’s exciting to participate in the retention and the recruitment that will not only serve the residents of this town, but also meet the needs we have in the changing retail landscape.”

Commissioner for Revenue and Finance Jeffrey Kasko cited the strength of the borough’s finances, and, save for the extra half-million increase for the purchase of Bancroft, spending was level. 

“Our property tax collection rate improved from 98.34 percent in 2018 to an even better 98.63 percent in 2019. That positive news means that we will not need to increase the reserve of uncollected taxes this coming year, and helps result in fewer tax liens and foreclosures in the town,” he related. 

Rochford also cleared several minutes in his speech to recognize longtime borough resident Mary Previte, who passed away in November. In calling the China-born, Japanese internment-camp evacuee a “Haddonfield icon,” and with Previte’s daughter Alice looking on, the mayor cited her years of service to the borough, Camden County and the street where she lived as a beloved figure. 

“The toughest job of all, she was in charge of the Roberts Avenue games on the Fourth of July. On her 85th birthday, the neighborhood had a party, in which she wore a gown and a tiara, and the kids led her from her home to the party. It was amazing,” Rochford said. 

“I’ve chosen not to miss Mary, but to cherish the time we had together.”

The mayor concluded his remarks by emphasizing the many positive qualities of the borough: its students, athletes, teachers, school district, artistic representations, downtown core and state-recognized sustainability programs. 

“It is my hope in 2020, and in this new decade, that we would all work on the values that tie us together. Let’s up our game to bring a heightened sense of community to Haddonfield. It is an honor to serve you.”

Haddonfield Outdoor Sculpture Trust Chairman Stuart Harting was recognized as Citizen of the Year. Check back in the next edition of the Sun for a profile piece on the Lions’ latest honoree.

Former radio broadcaster, hockey writer, Current: main beat reporter for Haddonfield, Cherry Hill and points beyond.

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