Early in the year, Haddonfield Commissioner Frank Troy dubbed 2022 the Year of the Tree due to the number of tree-related activities that were to take place. Beyond the Tree Rapid Execution Event (T.R.E.E.) that sought to remove 150 dead or dying trees at-risk trees, the borough also saw the revival of town-wide events that couldn’t happen in the past two years due to COVID, as well as some new ones.
Government and events
In January, engineering firm Pennoni Associates gave an initial presentation on the development of a base map of drainage impacts for Audubon, Haddon Heights, Barrington and Haddonfield funded by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation and Community Development Initiative grant.
“Until we start to view this as a regional issue, and are willing to understand the impact (stormwater drainage has) on each other, we may not be able to solve some of the problems,” Haddonfield Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough explained.
“The idea behind applying for this grant is to try to start looking at (stormwater drainage issues) with a regional approach, and try to get municipalities to start working with each other and working with a bigger picture.”
Haddonfield’s three-month T.R.E.E. program which aimed to remove 150 trees between February and April was extremely successful. In total, 223 trees were removed over the three-month period. Stumps and stalks were left to be taken down by external companies later in the year.
In terms of replanting, the borough received 80 trees in the spring and another 80 in the fall.
“We’re trying to get into the rhythm of about 180 (trees planted) a year, especially when we’re taking down maybe 200 a year,” Troy noted. “Ultimately that will level off as the dead trees are taken down.”
The borough also began accepting requests for redevelopers interested in purchasing and preserving Lullworth Hall in January.
In March, Haddonfield Public Library opened its Technology Center and Innovation Space that features a Glowforge 3D laser cutter and engraver, a Prusa 3D printer and a Cricut machine that can cut paper, felt, vinyl and other materials ahead of Makers Day on March 26. The space also has different STEM kits, like robotics and circuitry, that can be checked out through circulation like a book.
In the same month, Haddonfield commissioners approved an ordinance allowing for backyard chicken permits. Prior to owning chickens, potential owners must take a class on raising backyard birds and show proof of education to obtain a license from the Backyard Chicken Advisory Board and have it approved by the borough board of commissioners. They cannot sell eggs or slaughter the chickens, and roosters are not permitted.
In continuing with the Year of the Tree, the Haddonfield Shade Tree Commission spread awareness of the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive pest from Asia that is killing ash trees which was one of the reasons Public Works began taking down dead trees. Once infected, the trees can die prematurely and become hazardous because they fall apart easily once they’ve died.
Shade Tree Commissioner and Haddonfield Branch Manager Jane Elkis Berkowitz encouraged residents to check their yards for the tree, which can be identified by compound leaves that grow opposite each other, as well as branches that can do the same. For every branch that shoots out, there is usually one growing on the other side.
During Arbor Day in May, the 150th anniversary of the holiday was celebrated at Central Elementary School with its first in-person tree planting ceremony in two years in memory of the late board of education president Adam Sangillo. The tree planted replaced one that fell in 2020 storms.
“(Sangillo) put students first, and in all of the decisions that he made, he always thought about you,” Shannon Simkus, principal of Central Elementary, said about the students. “ … This tree will be planted in his honor. It will link us to the past, when he was with us, and give us hope for the future of our students and our school district.”
During a work session in May, Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough announced that Haddonfield would begin updating its website thanks to a free upgrade that will include better calendar functions and the ability to submit forms directly to the site. The updates remain in the works along with the potential for hybrid meetings, which are slated for 2023 projects.
In June, a number of residents involved with the Haddonfield Soccer Club came to the commissioners and asked them to address the drainage issues and problems with Crow’s Woods Field, which had been shut down for the soccer season since league referees deemed it unsafe to play because of glass shards in the field’s bald spots.
The field sits on a landfill that was never formally closed by the Department of Environmental Protection although it stopped receiving refuse in the late ‘70s and has been filled with soil and capped with concrete. Because it is still considered an active landfill by the DEP, there are limits to what the borough can do regarding the property.
“About 50 percent of the time it’s not playable,” said Amy Henry, president of the Haddonfield Soccer Club. “There’s puddles on the field. Those puddles on the field mean that grass doesn’t grow in spots and it doesn’t regrow. (The field) is eroded more quickly, (and) it creates more mud spots.”
The issue was addressed in August through a resolution awarding a contract to TCL Landscape Co. for field maintenance at Crows Woods and Centennial Field that includes fertilizing, amending the soil and seeding the fields.
Commissioners also approved the 2022 budget on second reading that totaled $21,434,279.04, a 4.6 percent increase from last year. The tax rate was increased by 2.48 cents, which will cost taxpayers an additional $127 per year for the average assessed home. Commissioner Kevin Roche attributed that to increased costs, salary increases and inflation.
During the summer, the Haddonfield Police Department was able to hold its fourth annual First Responder Camp after a two-year COVID pause for incoming sixth through eighth graders to help them learn more about first responders at the local, county, state and federal levels over a four-day period.
The borough also took back the authority for in-house emergency medical billing from Haddonfield Ambulance Association, which had been doing the billing since 2004, and awarded the work to Life Line Billing Systems LifeQuest Services.
In November, veterans were honored through military tribute flags throughout Kings Highway, thanks to an initiative sparked by Haddonfield senior Kelsie Meeker, with help from the Haddonfield American Legion Post 38. The program was deemed a success and contributed to the borough receiving the We Value Our Veterans community award from the New Jersey Department of Military and Veteran affairs.
In the same month, the Haddonfield Police Department said goodbye to Lt. Stephen Camiscioli, who retired from his position after 25 years in the department and 50 years as a resident.
“ … Time has a real funny way of (expressing itself), at least on my end,” he reflected. “All the things you didn’t like fade, and all the things you loved and laughed are magnified.”
At the January board of education meeting, Superintendent Chuck Klaus announced that the district wants to potentially lease 79 Grove St. and 95 Grove St. for central-office use and to free up space in school buildings.
In February, LAN Associates assistant vice president and architect Ron Schwenke presented ways that the company had transformed other classrooms into innovative spaces and started the discussion on what the district hopes to accomplish with the 2023 bond referendum. There was also a preliminary discussion on the school budget.
In April, the school district approved of holding long-range facility plan visioning sessions with students and community members in preparation for the referendum. In May, it adopted its 2022-’23 budget of $48.3 million. The tax levy is estimated to increase by $115 for the average assessed home of $516,913.
Haddonfield Memorial High School Class of 2022 graduated in June without a hitch, but following graduation, the field was strewn with beer bottles, cans and vomit following an after party that went on late into the night. The bathrooms were also vandalized, with around $2,500 worth of damage.
“It’s disappointing, it’s sad, and honestly it’s disheartening,” Klaus said of the mess. “We try to do a lot of work to do nice things for the kids. It feels a little bit like a betrayal. It is a betrayal in my mind, so we’ll have to try and change that culture.”
Klaus said the district would press charges because students trespassed and vandalized, and was working with the police department investigation.
In July, the district’s anti-bullying coordinator and school safety specialist reviewed the spike in Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) that took place in the spring season. From September to Dec. 9, the district only saw two reports that did not need further investigation, but for the spring season there were 20, 15 of which were investigated and 13 found to be confirmed instances of HIB.
Assistant Superintendent Gino Priolo noted that in the 2022-’23 school year, the district wants to double the number of social and emotional lessons taught at all levels, something similar to what the district had already been doing with character education.
A recurring topic that came up at board of education meetings was the updated state standards for sex ed that were approved for the next school year. Parents both for and against it voiced their opinions.
In the fall, the district began to hold more visioning sessions to discuss potential uses of the Hopkins’ parcel acquired through a land swap with the borough and other improvements on school property in preparation for the 2023 bond referendum. One of the potential uses for the parcel suggested is as an early childhood center.
Tatem Elementary School welcomed Donnetta Beatty as its new principal, succeeding Kimberly Dewrel, who resigned in May, and Hamisi Tarrant, previously the dean of students at the high school, began the 2022 school year as principal of Haddonfield Middle School. Gregory Eiding was named the new dean of students at the high school.
In November, board of education candidates Mike Nuckols and Mark Cartella faced off for one unexpired term on the board, with Nuckols winning the election. Incumbents Jaime Grookett, Linda Hochgertel and Gregory Esemplare ran uncontested for their three three-year seats.
The board also announced this year’s winners for Governor Educator of the Year and Educational Support Person of the Year:
- Leigh Anne Gaffney: Central Elementary teacher, grade 3
- Barbara O’Shaughnessy: Central Elementary educational assistant
- Miranda Yaniak: Haddon Elementary teacher, grade 3
- Sophie Nelson: media specialist at Haddon and Tatem elementary
- Mary Hall: Tatem Elementary teacher, grade 5
- Michele Barranger: Haddonfield Middle School nurse
- Daneen Scott: Haddonfield Middle special education teacher
- Ron Smith: Haddonfield High science teacher
- Steven Fluharty: Haddonfield High counselor
The district continues to push back on a policy requiring it to report all bias-related acts to the police and continues its search for substitute teachers amidst the shortage.