The Voorhees Town Center hosted the latest in a series of Camden County town halls on March 21, a panel discussion with local and federal legislators.
On hand were township Mayor Michael Migogna, Camden County Commissioner Jon Young, state Assemblywoman Pam Lampitt and Congressman Donald Norcross.
The two-hour panel included updates from all four officials regarding news from the local, county, state and federal levels. Migogna kicked things off, thanking the county commissioner for coming to the township and highlighting some recent township events.
“Thirty-one thousand people (live) here,” said Migogna, who spoke about his pride in Voorhees. “The last Census put us above 30,000, which gives us the right to a new liquor license, which is now out for bid …
“A couple of things I’m particularly proud of is our diversity, our schools, our police department, our fire department, our parks and recreation departments …” he noted. “We were one of the first towns in South Jersey to partner with our school system and put a police officer in our schools every day, all the time.”
While very proud of the town he leads, Migogna did express his frustration with long-term low occupancy at the former Echelon Mall. A number of residents during the public portion of the town hall also voiced their disapproval on the subject, and the mayor acknowledged that he and the mall’s current owners – Namdar Realty Group – have not seen eye to eye on running the property.
“They keep paying their taxes, so we like that, but they have not been very cooperative,” said Migogna, who has long hoped that the owners would revitalize the mall. “I think they are happy to sit on this and let the property value increase … It’s probably doubled since they purchased it.
“A lot of issues come from shopping at home and are pandemic related as to why the mall (is empty).”
Young honored U.S. Army veteran and current Voorhees police officer Lawrence Spellman, who served in the Army from 2009 to 2012 and was honorably discharged. During his service, Spellman was deployed to Iraq during the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn conflicts.
During his Army stint, Spellman earned several awards, including the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Iraq Campaign Medal with a Campaign Star.
Spellman is also an active volunteer with several police and veterans organizations, including the Multi-Agency Police Peer Support Team (MAPPS,) Mission 22, Warriors Heart and Save Our Allies.
Lampitt, the 6th District’s assemblywoman for the past 18 years, discussed the state’s budget proposal, highlighting some of the issues the assembly and state senate will discuss until June 30, when a finalized financial plan is due.
“Affordability (for New Jerseyans) is really the focus of this budget,” she noted. “Looking at pensions payments, we are making the single largest pension payment. What does that mean to you? Well, in making this pension payment it allows for other debt and other resources to be used for programs, services … We are now able to find funding to support the arts and parks.”
Norcross was unable to attend the meeting in person but joined through a video monitor.
To watch the entire town hall and stay connected to the county, visit its website and Facebook page.