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Township to purchase new police, fire vehicles

Committee also continues expanded outdoor dining

MATTHEW SHINKLE/The Sun: The Voorhees Township Committee approved the first reading of a bond ordinance earlier this week that will allow for the purchase of eight new vehicles for the Voorhees Police Department.

The Voorhees Township Committee met for a virtual session on Feb. 8 and passed a bond ordinance for the purchase of 10 new vehicles, as well as approving an expansion of  outdoor dining areas.

The committee unanimously approved the first reading of a bond ordinance for $686,000, with $34,300 paid up front, for the purchase of eight vehicles for Voorhees police, as well as two fire trucks for the township fire department.

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According to the agenda, the period of usefulness for the eight police vehicles is five years and 10 years for the two fire trucks. The costs for each department also cover any additional materials, equipment or necessary work required for the vehicles before they’re acquired.

According to Township Administrator Larry Spellman, the township in past years has traditionally issued similar bond ordinances for new vehicles closer to the adoption of the budget, but the township, as it did last year, did the issuing around February or March in order to get the vehicles in the township’s possession more quickly.

“Basically, once [all municipalities] adopt their budgets around April, then everyone in the state begins ordering their vehicles at the same time, since we’re all in the same budget cycle,” said Spellman. “If we order in April, we would normally expect to get vehicles in November or December, but by ordering them in February, we can get them here a lot sooner.”

Due to last year’s tough financial crunch resulting from COVID, the township purchased two vehicles for the police after originally planning for six, according to Spellman. This year, the eight purchases will help make up for vehicles that couldn’t be acquired in 2020.

“What makes this year such an anomaly when it comes to these vehicles is that last year, due to the budget crunch, we were only able to purchase two,” Spellman explained.

“We normally try to order five or six vehicles a year, since with 50 or so officers driving around each year, we usually cycle through that many,” he added. “But because we only ordered two last year, we’re purchasing a few more this year to try to catch up.”

A public hearing regarding the bond ordinance will be held on Monday, Feb. 22, during the committee’s next meeting.

Also on the agenda: The committee approved the hires of five police officers for the township. According to Spellman, those open positions were the result of department retirements in the last year and a half. The positions could not be filled then because of COVID.

“Those are from retirements from the past year or so. We held off on replacement hires last year because of the budget, so this is getting our staffing back up to where it was at the beginning of last year [before the pandemic],” said Spellman.

Also during the meeting, the township passed a resolution extending the temporary zoning permits that allowed for outdoor dining.   

The Sun previously reported that the township’s decision to allow an expanded footprint for outdoor dining was a way to help businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. Approval was originally issued for  120 days. But since the pandemic is ongoing, the recent extension allows for expanded zoning until the governor cancels the state of emergency, according to Spellman.

Seven establishments have applied for and been issued zoning permits for outdoor seating since the original resolution was passed last year.

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