As 2020 draws to a close and we look ahead to 2021, the general consensus is that we’re in uncharted waters. No one could have foreseen the events of 2020, and as the world continues to contend with the pandemic, it’s still unclear what lies ahead.
But Mayor Susan Shin Angulo and Cherry Hill Township Council have shifted focus and are looking ahead to the new year with one focus in mind: keeping Cherry Hill a beautiful, tolerant and welcoming community.
Shin Angulo said she and council made some tough decisions early on in the pandemic to manage taxpayer money responsibly, without diminishing township operations. That involved aligning resources and essential personnel to ensure key operations were in place during COVID. As a result, the township entered its ninth straight year without an increase in municipal taxes.
The mayor noted that at the same time, the township budget continues to provide funds for improvements and investments in Cherry Hill’s parks and playgrounds, historical sites and recreational facilities.
“Our efforts helped keep Cherry Hill on a solid financial footing,” she said.
Moody’s Investor Service reported favorably on the financial standing of Cherry Hill and upgraded the township’s credit rating to the highest rating a municipality can achieve: triple A.
“The ratings increase is a strong affirmation of many years of fiscal discipline and strategic investment in our community, and is great news for Cherry Hill,” Shin Angulo stated.
The township’s road maintenance program will continue in 2021 with $3.3 million in improvements to roads, sewers and stormwater drainage. Shin Angulo said the plan is to continue the township’s shared service agreements with Camden County and utilize state aid to further improve local roads and signal timings, and help with congestion.
Residents can also expect improvements to the parks and playgrounds.
“Now more than ever we need outdoor community facilities,” Shin Angulo said.
Recreation improvements, numerous sports court restorations, trail enhancements, historic preservation improvements, and the construction of a new dog park on the open space grounds at Croft Farm are all slated for 2021.
The township has officially purchased the former Kingston Estates Swim Club, and the Cherry Hill Department of Public Works is in the process of securing the site. Shin Angulo explained that when Kingston Swim Club went into foreclosure, the township heard a great deal of concern from residents worried about the impact of any development on that site.
“We promised from day one to do everything in our power to protect the neighborhood and residents,” she said.
Using the township Open Space Trust Fund, Cherry Hill purchased the swim club property in order to preserve the character of the Kingston neighborhood, according to the mayor. At this time, there are no plans for the property other than to keep it as open space. Shin Angulo said any recreational improvements that could be done in the future would involve outreach to the community.
Human Relations Advisory Committee
One of Shin Angulo’s priorities upon taking office has been working with town council and local civic and religious leaders to revive the Human Relations Advisory Committee (HRAC). Council President David Fleisher, Councilwoman Sangeeta Doshi and Councilwoman Michele Golkow are representatives on the HRAC and helped Shin Angulo get the HRAC back up and running.
“The HRAC is a diverse group of dedicated community leaders from various nonprofit and religious organizations where the diversity of Cherry Hill is celebrated and where we can learn more about each other,” Shin Angulo stated. “It serves as a nexus and resource for nurturing positive relationships between and among our residents.”
In the coming year, council would like to broaden HRAC’s activities to include outreach to, and participation by, communities within the township; engagement with administrators to promote tolerance and inclusiveness in schools; and continued dialogue with stakeholders to promote social justice in the community.
“In Cherry Hill, we are a community that celebrates our differences and embraces tolerance, recognizing that our diversity is our strength,” the mayor said.