The year 2021 presented many challenges for the small town of Medford, especially for government officials who had to keep residents safe from COVID. Township council aimed to achieve some kind of normal, with community events back after cancellations due to COVID last year.
The township’s business
Eagle Scout candidate Aiden Pembleton of Troop 48 assembled and installed two bike- repair stations for the township’s two new trails at Cow Pointe and Hartford Crossing Park Mountain Bike Trail. as his required Eagle Scout service project.
The repair stations allow trail users to pump up flat tires, adjust brakes and seats and fix loose chains, and a bike can hang from a bar on a pole for easy maneuvering. Council recognized Pembleton and Troop 48 for the effort in the fall.
With March came the news that the township’s $21.5 million budget would not require a property tax hike in 2021, its ninth consecutive year without an increase. Council also approved funding for the police department, two turf fields and $2 million toward road improvements. Costs for the township increased in several areas this year, including sanitation, pensions and salaries and landfill costs.
The township relocated its office from 17 North Main Street to the new Medford town hall building in May. Around the same time, police gave a sendoff to Chief Rich Meder upon his recent retirement. The veteran served for a quarter century in the department’s top job. He was succeeded by Arthur Waterman.
The year was a busy one for the police department. William Dunleavy was promoted from police lieutenant to captain, Georage Jackson III went from sergeant to lieutenant and Cpl. William Knecht became a sergeant.
During election season in November, there were three council seats up for grabs. Republicans Charles “Chuck” Watson, Donna Symons and Erik Rebstock got the nod. Mayor “Chuck” Watson continues as mayor.
The Burlington County Commissioners and Burlington County Library System unveiled the new Pinelands Library on Dec 13. Its home is on the first floor of Medford town hall on Union Street and it replaces the nearly 50-year-old library that closed earlier in the month. The new facility features several new modern library amenities, including a dedicated tech center featuring both Mac and PC computers, a study room and a cafe.
The new library is due in part to a $50,000 donation from the Medford Library Association to the Burlington County Library Foundation, a nonprofit that raises funds to support the library system and its mission.
Learning to live with COVID
Despite the challenge of navigating the pandemic, Medford schools and those in the Lenape Regional High School District successfully returned to five-day instruction after a year with remote learning. The Medford district in January welcomed Keira Scussa as the new administrative director of educational programming. She has 23 years of experience and deep roots in the township.
In November’s general election, voters voted to allow the Lenape district to move forward with a bond-borrowing plan to update and enhance all four district high schools: Lenape, Shawnee, Cherokee and Seneca. The projects included in the proposal are estimated at $66,628,944. The addition of state aid and the payoff of existing debt means no increases in tax rates across all eight Lenape communities, including Evesham, Mt. Laurel and Tabernacle.
Meanwhile, several projects are in the district’s Long-Range Facilities Plan, with priorities identified based on feedback from community members who participated in Lenape’s 2018 strategic planning process. The projects include general renovations to improve building exteriors and instructional spaces; replacement of aging Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, with the addition of air conditioning at all four high schools and enhancements to classroom spaces.
As for Career Pathway programs, any Lenape district student will be able to attend the automotive program housed at Seneca High School, the carpentry program at Cherokee or the welding/metalwork fabrication program at Lenape High School.
The addition of turf fields at Lenape and Seneca will truly level the playing field for Lenape athletes. Superintendent Carol Birnbohm said some of the work should be started at the end of the school year in 2022. HVAC work and other interior renovations, including electrical and plumbing upgrades, will be timed to avoid disrupting students, starting in the summer of 2022.
“Students and parents not only showed their approval through the resounding number of “yes” votes, but they rallied behind this endeavor by attending informational meetings to learn all of the facts,” Birnbohm said of the community survey response.
In lighter school news, Shawnee High School named its Teacher of the Year, Jessica Riddle; introduced the new Renegade RoundUp and hosted its first annual Turkey Trot. The school’s marching band won the state championship and Atlantic Coast Championship, and Matthew Catinella was named the Educational Services Professional of the Year.
And at the end of the year, Medford school Superintendent Dr. Joseph J. Del Rossi retired.
Medford got back in the swing of things with entertainment and local residents who tapped into their creative talents.
In June, Shawnee student Kathleen Palmer was named the winner of this year’s Congressional art competition. Her painting “Dolce” will hang on the walls of the U.S. Capitol. And was selected by Congressman Andy Kim.
The Medford Arts Center launched “United Through Arts” in February, a program that shines a light on Black achievement in the military with veteran and African American artists. The exhibit “Harlem Renaissance: Inspired by Black Achievements in the Arts” featured work from artists around the country.
The arts center also celebrated and embraced women artists with its pro-age event on Nov 7 at the downtown gallery. The event featured a three-part series promoting the belief that every age brings opportunity for artistic growth and expression, and that women over 50 are redefining life and work.
In the fall, Medford native and local teacher Ann Magee spoke to The Sun about her debut novel, “Branches of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree,” the true story of a Callery pear tree that survived the collapse of the twin towers. Author and Tabernacle resident Danielle Lacy collaborated with veterinarian Dr. Dana Koch and illustrator Philip Barnes for a child friendly book called “The Cat Whisperer,” about a real veterinary tech and cat whisperer from Medford.
People in the news
Throughout the year, local residents reached accomplishments and gave back to the community in many ways.
Early in the year, Medford’s Rebekah Feinberg was honored as Rowan College at Burlington County’s President’s Award recipient. Feinberg, who graduated with an associate’s degree, plans to attend medical school after earning her bachelor’s degree from Rowan University. The Lenape district’s Child Study Team Student Job Developer, Kim Mileszko, won USA Today’s Best of HumanKind Awards in October. The award honored everyday people who showed the highest level of kindness and perseverance in 2021.
The Association of New Jersey Chiropractors (ANJC) has a tradition of honoring longtime members for outstanding service to the profession and patients. Medford’s Brett Wartenberg graduated from Lenape High School and has been involved in fundraising for the March of Dimes, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Burlington County, the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society.
In the fall, Medford resident and Shawnee junior Beth Strachan received the Boy Scouts’ highest rank in the state council, only the second female and the first in her troop to make Eagle Scout. And Medford resident and ER physician Dr. Gerard Carroll received a heroism award from the Cherry Hill Police Department, along with a previous citation from Cooper University Hospital, for helping a civilian who needed medical attention.
The late Medford resident Dave Bennis was honored by an organization he was part of called Move for Mental Health. The organization established the Dave Bennis Mental Health Hero Scholarship of $1,000 for a graduating senior at Lenape High who pursues a degree in the mental-health field.
Medford resident and Shawnee High School senior Capri Mills also shined during the year by receiving two proclamations, one from the Borough of Wildwood Crest, and another from Mayor Patrick Rosenello and the North Wildwood City Council for her community efforts and her debut book, “Shore Blood,” set in North Wildwood.
And the Lenape Regional High School Marching Band also reached a milestone by winning the USBands Group I category at the OPEN class New Jersey State Championship. The band also had the opportunity to perform for the National Championship at Metlife Stadium this year.
Medford found its way back to community events after COVID cancellations. Among them were the Sept. 11 Remembrance/Patriots Day event at Freedom Park and the Veterans Day observance at the South Main Memorials.
The township hosted its annual Art, Wine and Music Festival on Main Street in September to showcase different kinds of art and fashion, music and crafts for all ages. The event is a long-standing tradition that started about 30 years ago and brought many guests to the downtown area this year. In October, the annual apple festival was back after a COVID year off. Now in its 42nd year, the festival invited residents of all ages to browse among vendors on the lawn at Kirby’s Mill.
The Medford-Vincentown Rotary Club hosted its annual tradition of a Halloween parade on Oct 30. The event is the largest annual fundraiser for the club and 100 percent of the funds it raises go to the many community projects it hosts.
For the holiday season, Medford hosted its annual Dickens festival on Dec 4, and event that featured a visit from Santa, ice sculptures, Victorian-era touches and other activities and attractions.
Back in competition
The year 2021 featured a welcome return to school sports.
Shawnee High School senior Matt McFadden scored two goals against Cherokee on Sept. 28 in a 5-1 win that improved their record to 5-0-1 on the season. Through the Renegades’ first six games, McFadden led the team in goals (five) and points (11). Medford’s own Paxten Aaronson joined special company in the fall after he scored his first career goal as a starting member of the Philadelphia Union. His brother, Brenden, also played for two seasons with the Union before joining FC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria.
The Lenape High School Girls Golf team also did well this year, boasting a 4-0 record and two tournament wins after the first two weeks of the season. The team won the inaugural Burlington County Girls Open at Little Mill Country Club with a 385 team score. Lenape freshman Angelina Tolentino, senior Alexandra Kahn and junior Emily Farbaniec took the top three spots. Junior Kathryn Skidmore and sophomore Ryann Foley both placed in the top half of the field, at seventh and 12th, respectively, to round out the Lenape lineup.