Mayor's Blog, Park View Towers update - Jan 24, 2022
Just before the New Year, there was news regarding the sale of the Parkview from Morgan properties to Premier Properties. Before agreeing to transfer the PILOT, we required specific improvements and security measures from the new owners. Our struggles with Morgan through the pandemic made it especially clear that this sale was an opportunity to hold any new management accountable for necessary changes that were very important to quality of life for residents at Parkview (now Park Towers).
Before closing, Premier agreed to a $17 million renovation plan under a specific schedule. Just after closing, the Premier management team asked to hold a meeting with Borough officials to review first steps. We were encouraged to hear that within the first two weeks they replaced the both the elevator and boiler contractors and authorized repairs for better functionality, increased cleanings in stairwells, hired a new pest control service and are evaluating quality of life items like parking, lighting, etc., immediately.
Regarding required security changes: Before the end of January, an approved security plan will be implemented. This plan, reviewed and approved by Collingswood PD, places a roving guard and dedicated guards in all four building lobbies Sunday-Thursday from 3 to 10pm and Friday-Saturday from 3-12pm. Every visitor who enters the building will need to present ID and log in. For at least the first month, security will call tenants to confirm they were expecting the visitor prior to allowing them access beyond the lobby. They have also committed to new camera systems as well as lock and access systems, which will be replaced in 2022. That security plan is attached.
To date, we have not seen an increase in call volume to our code enforcement or police department. With maintenance issues, please reach out to Parkview Towers management by calling 856-854-4112 or online at www.ParkViewTowers.com so their staff can respond. If you do not get a response, Collingswood code enforcement can be reached at 856-854-7447 x101.
Premier has committed to significant improvements at the complex and, to date, they have stuck to the agreement. We remain cautiously optimistic but will continue to keep open communication with them, including monthly meetings with enforcement and police staff. We continue to respond to any residents that need Borough resources for assistance, as well. While we are closely monitoring the progress of new management and the feedback from residents that we receive regularly, we are hopeful these improvements will start to improve conditions at the complex.
We spent a significant amount of time and resources holding Morgan accountable on behalf of Parkview residents, and we expect to do the same with Premier on behalf of Park Tower residents. With any questions or concerns do not hesitate to email me or Commissioners Lewandowski and Robinson.
Happy New Year,
Mayor James Maley
April 27, 2021- Mayor Maley provides an update from the corner of Homestead and Haddon Ave where constuction continues on the next phase of pedestrian improvements, fully funded through a Safe Routes to School grant awarded to the Borough. Also, news on the return of the Collingswood Farmers' Market May 1 and Second Saturday on May 8.
Watch the full video update here.
Statement of Mayor Maley, Director of Public Safety, and Police Chief Carey
April 21, 2021
Mayor's Update on Parkview
March 10, 2021
Recently, there have been questions about Parkview Apartments. At the Borough, we are just as concerned as residents when we hear about issues that have to do with our neighbors' well-being. These types of concerns are what motivated the redevelopment of the complex in 1996. I wanted to take a moment to outline the issues we have seen in the last few months and the steps we've taken to address them.
First, concerning heat:
When we learned there were heating issues at units, we responded on behalf of neighbors first with immediate code enforcement and, at the same time, investigating long-term solutions for the problem.
- Through pressure on Parkview management, our Fire Department inspectors gained direct access to the heating system controls to investigate further. Our internal review showed unusual heating patterns and we then convinced Morgan properties to hire a heating consultant to see what the issue is with the new boiler system. Parkview adopted the recommended changes and we have seen a marked decrease in heat calls. We also convinced them to raise minimum temperatures set by law at the building, so all units were heated more evenly.
- We set up our own hotline and have our code enforcement officials and staff continuously monitoring social media for complaints (please remember social media is not a reliable way to get information to us – the best way to reach us is to let us know directly!).
- We sent letters to residents twice to provide updates and urge them to report problems to us so that we can enforce laws and have our staff respond immediately.
- We were able to get Parkview to set up a 24/7 hotline for emergency heat issues.
With respect to security:
We have seen an uptick in police calls to Parkview. The greatest increase in calls has been in service, not crime, calls – things like well
checks, nuisance, noise, parking issues, etc. – much of which we feel can be handled by a security team, so Collingswood Police resources are not spending a disproportionate time dealing with Parkview issues. We believe a guard at each building would also provide additional security by monitoring building access to prevent people who are not tenants from entering the complex. Management has been telling us for far too long that they are looking to hire a security firm as Parkview had in the past, but since they have not taken action, we moved earlier this month to introduce a law that mandates it. On March 1, we introduced an ordinance that would require security at a complex as large as Parkview to bring security standards up to a level that we feel would greatly benefit the safety of the residents at the complex. We believe that a presence and door security will go a long way to improve safety, but our police department remains committed to responding to emergencies.
Other help for residents:
It's no secret that the pandemic has taxed social service systems at state and federal levels and brought inadequacies in these systems to light. To help fill the void now, we have taken some steps to help people at Parkview and throughout town that are struggling through Collingswood Cares, a non-profit that we started 20 plus years ago:
- Worked with the county, Touch NJ, and other non-profits to set up several nutritional sites, social services, and health resources onsite at Parkview. We are working on scheduling more of these in 2021.
- We also established an adopt a family program when the pandemic first hit. We organized volunteers in town to shop and deliver groceries for people who could not leave their homes through this program.
- We have been raising money on an ongoing basis to provide gift cards to families for groceries and other essentials.
- We provide resource referrals for individuals for rental assistance programs, unemployment help, and job placement.
- We successfully advocated to our County Commissioners to set up a rental assistance program which provided grants of up to $6,000 in past due rent due to the pandemic. We are currently optimistic that a new program will be part of the newly passed Cares Act.
A few final notes:
There are rumors that Parkview doesn't pay taxes. That is misleading. They pay a 60% rate (currently $1.6 million) under a Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement established in 1996. The payments incrementally increase with time for the duration of the agreement. When the agreement is expired in 2025, they will pay 100%. When we entered a redevelopment agreement with Parkview in 1996 the property was more than $1 million behind in taxes, half vacant, and a massive blight on our town. We lifted the complex from dangerous disrepair to a safe home for a large portion of families and new faces in Collingswood.
Now, as we see a backslide in conditions at the complex, we are more dedicated than ever to finding solutions that keep residents and our community safe. In a complex of more than 1,000 units home to a significant portion of our neighbors, there is too much at stake and we are fully committed to acting on behalf of residents, which is why I wanted to outline the steps we have taken to respond. We are doing everything under the law to hold Morgan Properties accountable, but most importantly, we want them to be compliant and improve the quality of life there. Parkview can and will return to full compliance, so it is a safe and welcoming place for our residents.
IF YOU ARE HAVING AN ISSUE AT PARKVIEW: Management established a hotline for emergency maintenance requests at 833-536-1352, live representatives are available to answer calls 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. Continue to report all routine, non-emergency requests via the resident portal. If you do not receive a satisfactory response from Parkview maintenance, please contact the Borough at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our code enforcement hotline at 856-854-7447 x105.
As always, anyone can email me directly at email@example.com with questions about Parkview, safety, or any other topic.
Watch the Mayor's video update on Parkview here.
Time for an Update on the Borough's Water System
The Borough has, for decades, worked to keep our quality and delivery system in great working condition. Throughout 2021, the Borough will be tackling necessary improvements to continue meeting State water quality standards. Water will be a main focus of improvements in the coming months and years. There are three major projects in the works currently:
Temporary filters project:
Effective at the end of 2020, NJ adopted new water quality standards to continue providing residents some of the highest quality water in the country. The new guidelines focus on limiting the amount of PFOA, a chemical used in items such as Teflon and Scotch Guard, in the water system. Our tests show that we are only just slightly over permitted parts per trillion occasionally and as such, we have put into place short and long-term plans to meet these requirements.
The Borough’s first step is the addition of a temporary carbon filters at the Comly Ave water treatment plant so we are compliant immediately as required. The filter removes trace amounts of PFOAs and maintains Collingswood water at the State standard. Long-term, a permanent system installed at the Comly Ave plant will efficiently remove PFOAs from Borough water. Temporary filters will be installed in 2021 and we are looking at long term planning to rebuild the Comly Ave plant in the coming years. Learn more about PFOAs in our FAQ found here.
With the temporary filters in place, we will be applying to the State DEP for funding to cover the cost of permanent fixes.
Water main replacement:
The Water Quality Accountability Act (WQAA) sets requirements to improve the safety and reliability of water infrastructure. In accordance with the standards set in the Act, Collingswood is required to replace at least 1/150th of its water mains each year. We are starting with the mains that require frequent attention along Comly, Vineyard and Conger Aves. These planned improvements reduce both the likelihood of water main breaks throughout the Borough and manpower needed to make repairs.
Chlorination contact requirement:
After the opening of well #8 along South Park Drive, we were notified that the Borough would be required to modify the piping layout to satisfy new NJ DEP standards that call for longer exposure to chlorine before water is delivered to customers. To achieve this, additional pipelines will be laid underground around the Hillcrest (Roberts Pool) plant this spring TO allow water to run through pipes for an extended period to meet the contact requirement.
We are also improving our water treatment infrastructure. As part of our shared service with the Merchantville Pennsauken Water Commission (MPWC), we will complete a necessary filter reconstruction project at the Hillcrest plant in 2021. The Borough is also continuing the town wide valve exercising and hydrant flushing to continue to maintain and improve our water system as needed. We will do our best to keep you posted on any work that may lead to temporary discoloration as valves are “exercised” and hydrants flushed. Make sure you sign up for Nixle alert notifications by texting “Collingswood” to 888777.
We will continue to keep residents updated on these projects through multiple channels and on Collingswood.com.
Mayor's video updates
March 31- Mayor Jim Maley visits the pop-up vaccine distribution site, hosted by Camden County, at the Scottish Rite where a number of Collingswood school faculty, EMS members and seniors received their first dose of the vaccine. Mayor Maley also gives an update on the (slow) return of events, the upcoming town forum and the formation of the Borough's Recovery Committee.
Watch the full update here.
March 29- Mayor Maley is on the Haddon Ave to give an update on power outages from the storm earlier this evening. Thanks to the Cherry Hill Fire Department, and others, for lending a hand through the mutual aid program. Mayor Maley also shares a reminder that vaccine distribution continues to expand and if you, a family member or neighbor needs assistance registering, please contact the Collingswood Senior Vaccination Hotline at 856-854-4440.
Watch the full update here.
March 10- Mayor Jim Maley speaks to changes made at Parkview, code enfocement and updates about the complex. ***Parkview management has established a hotline for emergency maintenance requests. The number is 833-536-1352 and live representatives are available to answer calls request 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. All routine, non-emergency requests should continue to be reported via the resident portal. If you do not receive a satisfactory response from Parkview maintenance, please contact the Borough at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our code enforcement hotline at 856-854-7447 x105.
Watch the full update here.
March 5- This week Mayor Jim Maley discusses COVID vaccines and the senior registration hotline, the pending COVID Relief bill, Safe Routes to School improvements and joining the upcoming Knight Park Clean Up. Also, steps the Borough is taking to improve safety and other issues for residents of Parkview.
Watch the update here!
Feb. 13- In this week's update, Mayor Maley provides important information regarding vaccine availability and registration for seniors. The mayor announces a Special Town Forum taking place via Zoom on Feb. 23. At this forum, Collingswood's new Superintendent as well as the School Board President will answer any questions you may have. Finally, an update on the Borough's winter recreation programs and the success of Collingswood Prime.
Watch the full update here!
Jan. 26- An important update from Mayor Maley explaining Collingswood's new hotline to assist senior's registering for the COVID-19 vaccine. Seniors can call Madalyn Deets at 856-854-4440 Mon. - Fri. from 9AM to 4:30PM for assistance. Full details can be found in the Mayor's letter.
Watch the update here!
Jan. 14-In this week's update, Mayor Maley shares valuable information on the COVID-19 vaccine including current eligibility and how to pre-register. The mayor discusses the latest developments in Collingswood's Safe Routes to School plan and the long anticipated start on construction for the project. Also on deck, the launch of Collingswood Prime and the formation of a COVID-19 Recovery Committee.
See it all in the update here!
Jan. 6- Mayor Maley provides an update on the Borough including the introduction of Collingswood Prime, a new service providing FREE delivery from our businesses to customers within a five mile radius! Also, the newly formed Covid-19 Recovery Committee established to provide assistance to residents and businesses as we enter the next stage of the pandemic.
See the Mayor's video update here!
Dec. 11- Mayor Jim Maley shares the upcoming creation of a Recovery Committee to work proactively on helping the community move forward out of the pandemic and build an even better future. Mayor Maley is joined by Rich Spafford, Engineering Director for the MPWC, to discuss the NJDEP’s new water quality standards and Collingswood’s plan to meet the new state guidelines. The Borough is currently working to add temporary filters in the Comly Ave treatment plant to ensure we meet the new requirements until the plant transitions to a permanent and efficient filtration system. It's a big project, and we'll keep you updated all the way through!
See the Mayor's Video Update here!
Nov 27 - Mayor Maley updates the community on various topics including how Collingswood is successfully handling the holiday season in the midst of COVID. There may even be a cameo by an internationally popular man about town!
See the Mayor's Video Update here!
Nov 11 - Mayor Maley updates the community on various topics including COVID case increases, new businesses in Collingswood, film projects around town and more.
See the Mayor's Video Update here!
Oct 27 - Mayor Maley updates the community on various topics including Halloween events and Well #8.
See the Mayor's Video Update here!
2020 Municipal Budget Overview
Like every household in town, the Borough is also feeling the effects of the pandemic on our budget. Managing municipal finances is a challenge in a typical year, but COVID has meant a steep reduction in our revenues and increased costs in other ways, like it has for many of you personally. In July, we introduced a budget that will increase the taxes on the average assessed home by $54.
Like all towns, Collingswood derives revenue to offset costs from multiple sources, almost all of which were down severely in 2020 due to COVID restrictions. Some of these revenues come from parking fees, rentals of the Community Center and Scottish Rite facilities, construction inspections, recreation fees and pool tags. All told, our revenues are down an estimated $675,000. Meanwhile, operational costs for Borough services increased during the pandemic.
We were able to introduce a budget that will keep Collingswood running and has little impact from the construction of a new $14 million public safety building that we expect to complete in the first half of 2021. We are selling some Borough owned properties (such as the 641 Haddon, the lot next to Grooveground) that will generate long and short-term revenue and we will also receive $350,000 in CARES funding from Camden County to offset COVID related expenses.
Thanks to our municipal staff who helped put together this budget and to departments that will tighten belts and have managed to provide exemplary service during this crisis. The budget will be considered at a public hearing on August 26 at 7pm via remote conference (Zoom). Details to view that meeting are on Collingswood.com.
See the budget as introduced on July 28 in our document center here.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates
For updates, please visit the State's COVID19.nj.gov page here.
Call (General COVID-19 Questions): 2-1-1 (7a-11p)
Call (Clinical Questions): 1-800-962-1253 (24/7)
Text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive alerts
Text your zip code to 898-211 for live text assistance
April 19, 2021
Effective Monday, April 19, 2021, All adults and children age 16+ are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in New Jersey.
Beginning Monday, April 19, the state of New Jersey will expand the population eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to all adult residents. Anyone who has not scheduled their vaccine appointment at the Camden County Vaccination Center in Blackwood is encouraged to do so as soon as possible. Thousands of new appointment slots are available for the forthcoming expansion of eligibility. Please note, you must be 18 or older to receive he Moderna vaccine from the Camden County vaccination site. Schedule your appointment through Camden County here.
Click here to schedule a vaccination appointment through the State of New Jersey and learn more about the COVID vaccine.
March 31, 2021
Effective Monday, March 29, 2021, additional individuals that live, work, or are educated in New Jersey are now eligible to receive the vaccine.
These new categories include essential workers in the following sectors:
- Food production, agriculture, and food distribution, including grocery store workers and restaurant staff
- Eldercare and eldercare support staff
- Warehousing and logistics
- Social service workers and support staff
- Elections personnel
- Hospitality, including casino workers and hotel/lodging staff
- Medical supply chain
- Postal and shipping service
- Judicial system
Beginning April 5, 2021, even more people will be eligible for the vaccine, including the following:
- All individuals aged 55+
- All Individuals 16 and over with intellectual and developmental disabilities:
- Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas.
- Essential workers in the following sectors:
- Communications, IT, and media workers, including communications infrastructure support (engineers, technicians) and members of the press
- Laundry service workers, including workers in laundromats, laundry services, and dry cleaners
- Real estate, building, and home service workers, including construction workers, code officials, plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, property management, and maintenance workers
- Retail financial institution workers, including bank tellers, lending service, public accounting, and check cashing workers.
- Sanitation workers, including workers providing disinfection and janitorial services for all essential facilities and modes of transportation; city sanitation workers; residential, commercial, and industrial solid and hazardous waste removal.
- Utility workers, including electrical generation and supply system, natural gas delivery, nuclear power plant, water supply, telephone, cable/fiber optical/broadband/cellular service workers
- Higher Education workers, including educators and support staff
- Librarians, including support staff at municipal, county, and state libraries (i.e. those not included in K-12 announcement)
For a complete list of who is currently eligible for the vaccine, click here for more information.
Getting the Vaccine if You Are Eligible
If you are eligible for the vaccine, please keep an eye out for an email notifying you of an available appointment in the Vaccine Scheduling System. If you prefer not to wait for an appointment through NJVSS, there are additional ways to get vaccinated:
- You can make an appointment directly with a vaccination location that does not use the Vaccine Scheduling System. Click here to view these locations.
- If you are a Veteran or live or work at a VA facility, you may be eligible for vaccines through the VA. Click here to learn more from the VA.
Dedicated Vaccine Appointment Assistance for Seniors (Aged 65+)
Individuals aged 65 and older can now call a special senior hotline at 856–249–7007 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for vaccination scheduling support. Dedicated appointment slots are reserved for those aged 65 and older. Appointment availability and scheduling varies by location.
Find more information
- You can visit covid19.nj.gov/vaccine or call 855–568–0545
- For weekly updates on COVID-19 news, subscribe to the State’s weekly COVID-19 newsletter
- You can also follow @NJDeptofHealth, @NJGov, and @GovMurphy on social media
March 18, 2021
COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program, Phase II
Rental assistance is available to Collingswood residents through federal funding distributed to the State of New Jersey. The State program awards assistance for residents to apply to rent in arrears as well as up to three months of future rent.
Please register and find more information on the CVERAP here.
Review a checklist of eligibility requirements and necessary documentation here.
Borough staff are on hand Monday, March 22, at two locations to assist residents in completing the registration. Following registration, applicants will be chosen through a lottery system and contacted by the state to complete a full application.
If you or a neighbor are in need of help registering, please visit our dedicated sites on Monday, March 22, between 9am and 12pm.
Registration assistance sites:
Parkview Apartments, police substation on the plaza
540 Collings Ave.
Collingswood Community Center
30 Collings Ave.
Who is Eligible:
- NJ resident 18 years or older
- Currently renting in New Jersey
- Qualifies for unemployment
- Facing financial hardship caused directly or indirectly from COVID-19
- Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
- Has a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median income.
Required information for registration:
- You must provide an email address. If you don’t have one, the application process will allow you to create one.
- You must also provide names, birthdates, and income information for everyone in your household
- Landlord information
- Any current or previous housing assistance received
- Evidence that you fulfill the eligibility requirements
- A lease agreement
- Proof of rent owed.
Mayor Jim Maley provided a video update with details on the rental assistance program. Please watch it here.
January 26, 2021
Collingswood Senior Vaccine Registration Hotline
Collingswood, working together with Camden County officials, has established a free hotline to assist seniors registering for the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccine appointments in Camden County are currently available through an online registration form. We understand that this can be difficult to navigate and have dedicated Borough staff to help seniors that need assistance with vaccine registration.
Our representative can enter your information into the online form and create your vaccination appointment through the My Cooper registration site. You only need to call in to the hotline. Due to COVID restrictions, no walk-in appointments are available for registration assistance.
Assistance is available Monday-Friday from 9:00am – 4:30pm by calling Collingswood Community Center Director Madalyn Deets at 856-854-4440. Please be prepared to provide the following information for registration:
- Full name
- Birth date
- Social security number
- Insurance/Medicare information
The Borough is also setting up transportation to vaccine appointments for those that need it. If you can drive or have someone that can drive you to your appointment, please use those means of transportation. At this time, we are gathering information to set up transportation assistance. Vaccinations are administered at Camden County College, Blackwood, NJ.
For assistance, you can also call:
-State vaccination hotline at 855-568-0545
-Camden County Division of Senior and Disabled Services at 1-877-222-3737 or 856-858-3317
Please feel free to share this information with any Collingswood seniors that need assistance.
If you are having trouble registering for the vaccine with the NJ Vaccine Scheduling system, you can now call a new toll free hotline number for help. The NJ Vaccine Call Center is open daily from 8am to 8pm. Hotline operators are able to help pre-register callers and identity who is eligible for the vaccine. However, due to the limited quantity of the vaccine, at this time, operators may not be able to schedule appointments for the vaccine. As more appointments become available in the NJ Vaccine Scheduling System, operators will be able to assist in scheduling appointments.
The NJ Vaccine Call Center: 855-568-0545 (Toll Free)
Please note, that the call center opened yesterday and it received over 58,000 calls. You can still contact other designated vaccines locations that are not part of the NJ Scheduling System to try and schedule vaccine appointments. A list of all vaccine locations can be found at the NJ COVID Vaccine Website.
Designated Vaccine Locations: https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/covid-19-vaccine-locations-for-eligible-recipients
Updated NJ COVID-19 vaccine eligibility goes into effect tomorrow, Jan. 14.
Beginning Jan. 14, the following groups are eligible to receive the covid-19 vaccine:
-Aged 65 and older
-Aged 16-64 with medical conditions as defined by the CDC that increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Illnesses include:
• Chronic Kidney Disease
• Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
• Down Syndrome
• Heart conditions (e.g. heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies)
• Immunocompromised (weakened immune system) due to solid organ transplant
• Obesity (e.g. body mass index of 30kg/m2 or higher)
• Severe Obesity (e.g. body mass index of 40kg/m2 or higher)
• Sickle cell disease
• Type 2 diabetes mellitus
This definition is adopted from the CDC’s list of People with Certain Medical Conditions at Increased Risk.
A person must have at least one of the above conditions to be considered high-risk. A doctor’s note is not required.
All NJ residents may pre-register for the vaccine here .
More information from the State of New Jersey on eligibility and receiving the vaccine can be found here.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information
- Vaccination registration (online): https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/vaccine
- List of current NJ vaccination sites: https://covid19.nj.gov/pages/healthcare-worker-covid-19-vaccine-locations
- State of NJ COVID-19 information hub: https://covid19.nj.gov/
- Camden County COVID resources and updates: https://www.camdencounty.com/service/covid-19-updates-and-preparations/most-recent-updates/
- Camden County Vaccination plan: https://www.camdencounty.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/10456-Vaccine-Campaign-FlyerV2.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 vaccination information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html
The state of New Jersey Department of Health will be opening call centers to assist registrants who do not have internet access. There will be community outreach and technology assistance, and registration will soon be available through pharmacies, urgent care, clinics, and other healthcare centers.
It is not necessary to provide proof of citizenship or proof of address. Vaccines will be available to all who live, work, or receive education in the state of New Jersey. Insurance information may be requested, but is insurance is not required to receive a vaccine.
For updates, please visit the New Jersey Department of Health page here:
The NJ DOH Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/NJDeptofHealth/
The Camden County Health and Human Services page here: https://www.camdencounty.com/service/health-human-services/
NJ DOH 24-Hour Toll-Free Hotline: 1-800-222-1222
Trained healthcare professionals are standing by to answer questions about coronavirus.
Crestmont Terrace information and updates
>>Feb 27, 2020
Public Safety update: Collingswood Police and Camden County Prosecutors Office (CCPO) have announced a suspect was taken into custody Wednesday night and that charges have been filed in connection with last weekend’s Crestmont Terrace assault and Champion Ave burglary incidents. No charges have been filed in connection with any other incident.
Many thanks to the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, our Police Department and citizens, whose joint efforts brought about this arrest. We applaud their excellent and professional work. Thank you to everyone that reached out with concerns, information and support. Let’s keep the spirit of our safe community strong as we move forward. Stay aware and report anything that seems out of place at any time.
Full details from CCPO here.
>>Feb 25, 2020
From the Collingswood Police Department:
As a follow up to the Swift 911 alert that was sent out on Sunday, 2/23/2020, the Collingswood Police Department responded to two (2) day-time residential burglaries on Saturday, 2/22/2020. In both incidents, no one was home at the time of the break-in; however, one homeowner arrived home and interrupted the suspect in the act of burglarizing their home. The resident was not injured and provided a description of the actor being a thin, Hispanic or African American male, carrying a back pack and wearing a ski mask. As the investigation into those incidents continues, we are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying a person of interest, who is depicted below.
If you have any information or are able to identify the depicted male, please contact the Collingswood Police at (856) 854-1900.
It is unknown at this time if there is any connection to the home invasion on Crestmont Terrace, but we taking that into consideration as both investigations continue. Either way, please be remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings and report suspicious activity of any kind to the police.
>>Feb 24, 2020
By now, many of you have heard that there was a break in and fire on Crestmont Terrace in Collingswood on Sunday. We know this has folks seeking information so we would like to keep everyone as up to date as possible with accurate info.
This is an active investigation and Collingswood Police are working alongside the Camden County Prosecutors Office to find and apprehend the perpetrator. As they conduct their investigation, there are a few things we want folks to keep in mind on a local level:
While there is no imminent threat, it is always safest to keep your doors and windows locked. Regardless of this situation, this is always the best policy to discourage criminal activity in our neighborhoods.
Please report suspicious activity. If you see something suspicious – and that means ANYTHING out of the usual - please do not hesitate to reach out to the Collingswood Police. Information from residents can be extremely valuable before and after criminal activity and in creating a pattern of information that helps to keep our neighborhoods safer.
We are requesting that the public assist in sending any information that they think may help this investigation. Investigators are looking for a thin, dark-skinned man with a short beard and dark hair. He was wearing a yellow winter hat with a yellow and black zip-up sweatshirt.
Anyone with information should call Camden County Prosecutor’s Office Detective Mike Batista at 856-676-8175 or Collingswood Police Sgt. William Lyons at 609-868-0266. Information can also be emailed to email@example.com. Collingswood PD and CCPO will be canvassing the area over the next few days.
Sunday evening we used the Camden County Reverse 911 system to communicate information with residents over the weekend. To sign up for those notifications, click here.
This is a tragic and upsetting incident in our community. Please know that we are as vigilant as ever about keeping Collingswood safe and keeping everyone informed. We will try to continue to provide updates and if you have questions or concerns you would like to reach us about, do not hesitate.
firstname.lastname@example.org - James Maley, Mayor
email@example.com - Police Chief Kevin Carey
Collingswood receives S&P stamp of financial approval
If you're following the state of bonds in NJ (and who isn't!?) you may have heard the good news for Collingswood - our bond rating from Standard and Poor's came back in mid-February and Collingswood maintained its AA- status with positive comments across the board from the review committee. AA- is considered a "very strong rating."
Why is a good rating important? A municipal bond credit rating represents the credit worthiness of government bonds. The ratings are used by investment professionals to assess the likelihood our debts for capital projects and other costs will be repaid. Just like the budget in your home, this allows us to borrow money at a better rate, finance projects and otherwise keep things running at a lower cost.
In their review S&P noted strengths like Collingswood's strong economy, strong management, strong budgetary performance, very strong budgetary flexibility, and very strong liquidity. In other words we are ticking all the boxes to be financially stable for the long term. They report Collingswood's "mostly residential tax base has grown consistently over the past couple of years, which, together with a strong management team, has allowed the borough to post surpluses and build up [surplus] fund balance."
For anyone that recalls, we had a grievous miscommunication with Moody's a few years back that junked our bonds and caused a lot of headache here in town. (Spoiler alert, they reversed their decision after we strenuously opposed their review - because it was thoroughly and completely wrong.) News of a continued "stable" outlook is a reminder that we are, and always have been, doing things with good financial sense.
Read the report here.
Exploring Energy Aggregation
Commissioners Leonard, Lewandowski and I were excited to sign “Ordinance 1682 – Authorizing the Establishment of a Government Energy Aggregation Program” at our recent commission meeting. It’s a big step forward that may allow us to enact meaningful change at the municipal level. We are only at the starting line of researching how residential energy aggregation will work for Collingswood and we want to be sure we strike a balance of sustainability and affordability since the final decision will affect the PSE&G bill that arrives in your mailbox.
There is a relatively new State law that allows municipalities to contract with an energy supplier, after a bidding process, for your residential energy supply. In other words, after a process the Borough can act to change your energy supplier to your house - and affect your bill for that energy supply.
The State law was originally adopted as a way to allow towns to act to help reduce residents’ energy costs. This law has now become a vehicle for pursuing a greater level of residential use of energy from sustainable sources.
We have heard considerable input from groups interested in renewable energy sources as we “did our homework” researching if energy aggregation would make sense for Collingswood. We spoke with other towns, experts and providers to understand what a switch to an enhanced renewable energy supplier would mean for residents here.
For us, one of the most important things to consider is that making the switch from a local electric utility to a sustainable provider means that the change is made universally for all properties in Collingswood. Essentially, any agreement would change everyone’s supplier – rather than having the option to opt IN to the program, your supplier would be changed automatically and it is your responsibility to opt OUT.
For this reason, while we are excited about the possibility of moving toward more sustainable power for the Borough, we are not comfortable if the Borough’s action would increase utility bills for all residents.
We have heard from some environmental groups that want the Borough to commit to 100% renewable energy for every resident by a by 2030 regardless of the cost to you. We have expressed our reluctance to make such a commitment out of concern for residents that may not be able to take on higher energy costs, even if the goal of more sustainable energy is agreed upon by all.
That’s why the language of the Ordinance aims for aggregating power supply to a sustainable company and “said contracts will provide prices to residents that are lower than the prevailing price for utility-provided basic generation service.” If it means prices will go up for all residents we believe it more appropriate to allow residents to make those choices on their own. We don’t like raising your taxes and we are not going to now start raising your utility bills.
However, we believe that aggregation programs are starting to yield prices that are competitive to local utilities and this is why are researching the option, working with other municipalities to increase a possible aggregation footprint and really looking closely if this is something that makes sense for our residents.
We do want to note that any individual interested in switching to 100% sustainable energy can do so for their property – today! You can make the switch at any time if you are willing to navigate those providers privately. But we feel strongly that any program that changes provider on behalf of the Borough should not increase your utility bill on a specific timeline.
That being said, after we continue to research energy aggregation options we are truly hopeful that the lights will shine a little greener in Collingswood in the coming years, and save us all a little green as well.
We’ll keep everyone updated and, as always, we welcome your questions and input on the matter.
Recycling has changed, but have you changed your recycling?
By now, most have you have heard that there have been major countywide changes to our recycling program, most notably that only #1 and #2 plastics can be collected curbside. While information regarding the new guidelines is slowly getting to residents we need to keep reinforcing that everyone reexamine their recycling efforts because throwing what you used to throw in the blue bin could now cause even bigger problems.
ARE YOUR RECYCLABLES CLEAN?
Why are trucks being rejected for being dirty? This means the recycling collected in Collingswood was contaminated with non-recyclable items (like toys, #3-#7 plastics, electronics, frozen food boxes, to-go containers, plastic bags, etc). With these changes we need to be extremely mindful about adhering to new recycling guidelines. If we continue to send “contaminated” trucks, the entire load of recycling gets rejected, putting all those eligible items in the trash and costing us a lot more in the long run.
We will continue to educate people about these new guidelines and we ask that everyone examine their recycling routines and make KEY adjustments to maximize the amount of waste from Collingswood that gets recycled. Also, be a good neighbor and help spread the word! If you see a neighbor with plastic bags in their recycling, for example, let them know this is contaminating our waste stream and potentially negating our recycling efforts altogether.
Here are a few quick reminders and resources:
-DO “CLEAN-RINSE-DRY” your jars, cans and other recyclables. This prevents contamination that can cause recyclable items to become waste.
-DON’T be a wishful recycler! If you are NOT SURE an item belongs in the recycling it should go in the trash. Otherwise, it could contaminate our trucks. There are likely a lot of items you have been tossing in your bins for years that don’t belong there. See the County Guide here to brush up on what can and can’t currently be recycled.
-DON’T put plastic bags in curbside recycling bins! They are not recyclable and wreak havoc on recycling machinery. This includes plastic can liners or trash bags. Plastic bags can be recycled at grocery stores or -better yet- use reusable bags when possible.
-DON’T put plastic caps in the recycling bin. Remove plastic bottle caps before recycling the bottle. Place caps in the trash.
These tips are only the tip of the recycling iceberg! We really need residents to be diligent about their recycling efforts. See the Camden County Recycling Guide HERE to review the new guidelines. Please print this out and actively follow these rules in your homes. Please also **SHARE** this info! We need to spread the word so people know about recycling changes and best practices.
For other great tips and updates, follow the Sustainable Collingswood page here.
This Daily Show segment covers the global issue of trash rejection as well. https://www.facebook.com/thedailyshow/videos/2369581019786622/
July 2019 storm updates
July 24, 8pm: Good news! E. Coulter has three new poles up and power has been restored to that block. The pole on Crestmont has been replaced and power restored to that block. W. Browning has a pole crew currently there working and expect to have that pole up by midnight.
Additionally, PSE&G has reported to Borough officials that the substation damage causing the outage along the Haddon Ave area should be repaired (and operational) by midnight.
In all seriousness, if you still have a power issue after midnight reach out to PSE&G and let Borough officials know. Big tip of the hat to our local crews, officials and responders who have been working and coordinating to get power back to Collingswood pretty much non-stop. Thank you to everyone in the community who have been great neighbors through the storm and aftermath!
July 24, 3pm: We're approaching the 48 hour mark since the storm event. Collingswood faces two major issues: Substation outage which is affecting Haddon Ave area and downed poles on E. Coulter, Crestmont and W. Browning. During that time in the southern region power has been restored to 264k customers, 9,000 remain without power. PSEG has 1,900 employees out in the field with an additional 1,000 personnel from out of state and Canada. The weather outlook continues to be favorable for the repair process. We are helping to coordinate agencies to facilitate repairs at the substation. At this time we do not have a firm ETA on restoration but PSEG is dedicating all resources to restoration efforts. We expect follow up information from our regional representatives concerning ETAs for power in all areas of Collingswood. When we get those details, we will make them available.
The closest PSEG sponsored ice and water station is setup in the parking lot of Cherry Hill East High School on Kresson Road. If any resident is in need they can go to this location to get these supplies. Any resident with critical Life Sustaining Medical Equipment that is without power is urged to contact 911 for relocation.
If you are using generators, please be extremely careful and never run indoors or close to a building.
***PLEASE treat all downed wires as if they were live. Do not cross any area where there is caution tape/blockades. These areas are dangerous.***
PATCO expects to resume full service by 8pm this evening, possible earlier.
The online PSEG Outage Map gets updated frequently and can be viewed here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/outagecenter.pseg.com/external/default.html
July 24, 10am: PSE&G and Borough crews continue working diligently to restore power and clear areas. Some small sections of town have been restored but many areas remain without power. We will have more information after 2pm.
-Roberts Pool is open today, Wednesday, July 24, regular hours.
-Community Center is open as a recharging / cooling station.
-Collingswood Public Library remains closed.
-Mummers concert this evening on Powell Lane is on as scheduled, 7pm.
Traffic: Closures include
W. Browning from Haddon to Park (pole down across the road)
E. Coulter between Highland and S. Park Drive (pole and wires down))
Haddon Avenue traffic pattern (until power is restored)
200 block of Crestmont should be opened shortly
200 block of Madison will be cleared shortly
PD/FD will continue to make the rounds around town today to keep an eye on the affected sections of town as well as do public outreach.
PLEASE treat all downed wires as if they were live. Do not cross any area where there is caution tape/blockades. These areas are dangerous.
The online PSEG Outage Map gets updated frequently and can be viewed here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/outagecenter.pseg.com/external/default.html
July 23, 3pm: PSE&G is working on cutting the power to the areas of downed wires and restoring power where they easily can. They were able to restore some power to the areas that were hit that were beyond the downed wires (Crestmont/Coulter/Franklin/Browning).
They stated that the Collingswood substation is out and that is causing a lot of the issues. They are working on getting that back up with no ETA given. It is possible that the side streets mentioned above will be out for possibly days.
DPW was right behind FD working to clear the streets mentioned above where it was deemed safe by PSEG. There are still a lot of poles down on those streets. We believe all of the downed wires will be deemed safe by the end of day. (Please avoid all downed wires. Assume all downed wires are live and dangerous.)
The online PSEG Outage Map gets updated frequently and can be viewed here.
Any resident can report an outage by phone at 1-800-436-PSEG, the residents can also text in an outage by texting to 4PSEG. In the southern region there are still 44,000 customers without power as of 1pm, in this grid there are 22 substations down, 37 distribution circuits that are down, 311 house services that are down, and 29 known pole replacements that need to done. Besides the light rain today, the weather is looking favorable for the next couple days which will aid in restoration.
The Community Center will remain open daily for cooling/charging for the foreseeable future.
Roberts Pool is expected to be open on WEDNESDAY, JULY 24.
July 23, 12pm: Roberts Pool is closed today (Tuesday, July 23) due to issues caused by storms. Staff is working to hopefully reopen by tomorrow. Stay tuned for updates.
July 23, 10am: A lot of folks without power out there – PSEG working to get everything going again but there could be long waits. For now, the Collingswood Community Center (30 W Collings Ave) is open as a power/cooling/relaxing station for folks that need to recharge. If you have a power strip, please bring it! Board games welcome.
FYI: The Collingswood Public Library is closed without power. Streets are blocked, lines are down – stay away. We’ll be following up with more info as we get it.
July 22, 9pm: Storm update. The water plant experienced a power outage due to the storm. Power has since been restored at the plant. As a result you may experience brown water from the pumps turning off and on. Although this is not dangerous it can ruin clothing if you do laundry. To clear up the water, you can turn on the cold water at the lowest point in the house and run it until it is clear.
July 22, 7pm: QUICK BUT POWERFUL: Tonight's storm left several without power and downed trees and lines in areas all over town. Our Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is working as we speak (er, type) but it is *ultra* important to remind folks to avoid live wires. Do not drive over or touch downed lines. Do not assume wires are not live and stay at least 30 feet away. Please share!
More info>> https://nj.pseg.com/safetya…/electricsafety/downedpowerlines
Springtime means warm weather improvements
We also held a special "double" town forum which dedicated an hour to updating residents on our Public Safety Facility project. After months of planning and multiple public meetings we are finalizing design and we hope to break ground in late summer on the lot at 434 Haddon Ave. This space will house our police and fire departments, provide them appropriate space and technology and give our first responders a joint home that will bring them into the twenty first century. We will take on the cost of this project as we retire old debt so we do not anticipate that this will cause any substantial tax increase to complete. We previewed a "fly through" rendering of the new building that gives a sense of layout and design. You can see that video here.
One of the biggest concerns we heard at the general town forum in April was regarding the condition of crosswalks throughout town. Again, this is a project that comes with warmer temperatures so you'll be seeing workers repainting and freshening crosswalks throughout town. Crosswalks need regular maintenance - if there is a crosswalk you'd like to see repainted you can also report that on Collingswood.com.
In other pedestrian related news, we have also kicked off the community outreach portion of a bike and pedestrian master plan grant that we are working on with Haddon Township. We collected data about street use and safety at the annual Green Festival and both towns will be hosting meetings and asking for feedback to build a master plan that improves walkability and bicycling for all users. Look for continued outreach to the community via meetings, a project website and more in the months to come.
There is so much going on in our wonderful town! If you have any questions about road projects, municipal projects or anything at all please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Always happy to hear from folks.
Short Term Rental Property (Airbnb) draft ordinance March 2019
There were several factors we weighed as we laid out this draft. Our guiding principles for the amendment were to ensure the safety of visitors at short term rentals, avoid encouraging the national trend of properties being purchased to be used exclusively as a short term rentals, maintain the quality of our neighborhoods, recognize the desire of some residents to provide home sharing for various reasons and focus on life safety for guests, owners and surrounding properties.
The entire draft ordinance is attached but here is a brief overview of parameters that would apply to Airbnbs:
-Property owners may rent their primary residence to others up to 5 times in a calendar for a total of 24 days
-Rentals shall be at least 3 days but no more than 14 days
-Applies to detached single family dwellings
-Designated off street parking is required
-All rental properties must be registered with and inspected by the fire department
-Requires a posting of fire and emergency routes, smoke detectors and other fire prevention equipment and minimum liability insurance
-Registration must include a responsible party to contact if owner is not available
This is extremely nuanced policy that we believe balances the desire for Airbnbs, safety, and neighborhood continuity. If you have any specific questions or comments, feel free to reach out to Joan, Rob and me. As always, we are happy to listen to your thoughts and share ours. We have to consider many factors (several of which came directly from our inspectors and first responders) but do so with great diligence. Our goal is to deliver an ordinance that works best for Collingswood as a whole.
You can watch the stream of all our commission meetings on the Borough’s YouTube channel here.
Police and Fire facility update, March 2019
Progress continues on our plans to relocate our police and fire facilities into a single public safety facility on the lot at 434 Haddon Avenue. To date, we’ve had five public meetings (with another planned for April) to keep everyone updated as we move through this process but we like to give new information every time we have the ability.
As of late winter 2019 we’ve finalized the location, footprint and general structure of the facility, which will merge our police and fire buildings and bring them into the twenty-first century with desperately needed upgrades. We are now examining the project in more detail – choosing materials, narrowing down costs to stay on budget, figuring out how to manage and improve stormwater concerns in the area, examining eco-friendly options and closely reviewing tech and floorplan layouts to meet the needs of our police and fire departments. We hope to have design finalized in March.
As we’ve said from the start, it is our goal that this project, as well as the plans to move our Public Works facility, will have little to no impact on property taxes. As we are retire old debt in the near future we will roll this project on to the books so there will be no increase as a result of improvements. I’ve likened it to purchasing a new car when the old one’s loan is paid off. There’s no doubt new facilities are needed – it’s our goal to bring them to fruition and give our responders what they need with no major disruption in our budget.
We are planning a special forum to specifically discuss public safety facility updates before our regular forum event on April 17, 2019 at the Scottish Rite Ballroom. We will have a PD/FD facility focused portion at 6 p.m. and move on to our general town forum at 7 p.m. I hope we see many of you there for both topics that evening. As we go along we have been answering a lot of questions about this project by phone and email and we encourage folks to reach out with any questions they may have at any time. I’m told it will be spring soon so feel free to stop me on the street once we’re all out enjoying warmer weather as well.
Below: A conceptual rendering of Collingswood’s new Public Safety Facility - designs are still being finalized.
Police and Fire design feedback forum, December 2018
With all your feedback, we are starting to finalize the "look" of the building which you can see below. Our team took inspiration from the historic architecture around town like the Zane Schoolhouse and Borough Hall. It will house both our departments with the equipment and technology they require, but currently lack.
This dual facility makes an extremely efficient use of design by sharing spaces between departments. We were able to touch on grant funding we are exploring and efforts to make the building as green as possible. Our architects noted that Collingswood is remarkably considerate of sustainable design - more so than most other towns. Regarding finances, our belief is that we can fund the project with minimal tax impact. As we retire old debt we are confident we can absorb the cost of this new project and keep our budget steady for residents with no major increases for taxpayers.
As we progress through engineering phases we will get more detailed answers regarding traffic and stormwater management. A lot of the questions we heard revolved around these topics but we do not have that information yet. We are able to say that any work done will improve flooding issues in the area as we plan for infrastructure improvements. It is our goal to make our new home for Police and Fire appropriate for their needs and to fit it as seamlessly as possible into its new location, the surrounding neighborhood and Collingswood in general.
We will continue to work on the project through winter and host follow up forums in early 2019. We have been hosting tours of the current police and fire buildings before our town forums which illustrated to several attendees how desperately we are in need of new facilities. If you missed those tours, and want to see our current buildings or have questions for our Chiefs you can email them here (Fire Chief Keith David) and here (Police Chief Kevin Carey). You can see the live stream of the Dec 5 meeting here and you can always email me with questions at email@example.com. We're looking forward to sharing updates and hearing your feedback.
Police and Fire design feedback forum, November 2018
As we developed these concepts with our architects we took into consideration community input we've received about the facility, public safety service needs and functionality, architecture that matches the existing "look" of Collingswood, cost and sustainability.
We've also received feedback that residents want to know more about the impact of parking and traffic flow, site improvements, storm water management - and these are all items that we will work through with the community and our architects. At this point, we still have a lot of issues to address. We will learn and share more as we complete more detailed engineering. For now, we are trying to pin down what "look" the final building will have - that will inform next steps of the design process.
Our fifth meeting on this topic is December 5 at 6:30pm at the Community Center. Our goal is to keep everyone informed as best we can through each phase. At the December 5 meeting we'll show concepts in more detail and give updates - we hope you can attend.
Police and Fire updates and Forum, June 26
In the fall, we held a series of meetings to discuss our intention to examine possible sites for a new public safety building to house police and fire services. Since then, we’ve been working closely with USA Architects who have interviewed our chiefs and officials to determine their needs in a new space and if such a building can fit within the lot at 434 Haddon Avenue.
We learned last week that it fits on that site. What we ask ourselves now is, “How do we make it fit within our community and our budget?”
There is no question that new facilities are desperately needed. Now that we have a possible site, we begin answering questions of financing and functionality with input from residents of Collingswood with the goal of making it as beneficial a project for everyone in town as possible.
We met with USA Architects on June 1 and we’re holding a June 26 special forum to share the work that has been done to date. This forum will include our architects and the focus is next steps, possible design ideas, community impact, financing and other topics regarding the facility. To be clear, we have not finalized any decisions regarding this facility. No final renderings, floorplans or costs have been authorized. This forum is all about keeping residents informed and getting your feedback on this project as we move through this process together.
Know that part of keeping everyone “up to speed” includes some uncertainty of issues that are being fleshed out as we progress. We want to hear input and thoughts. We are exploring some different features and uses for the building and look forward to your thoughts.
All are welcome to discuss, ask questions, see and hear what’s next regarding this important facility - June 26 at the Collingswood Community Center at 7pm.
For those that have not yet seen the state of our PD and FD current facilities, police and fire will again host tours of their current buildings at 6pm on June 26, just before the forum.
We’re excited to work together on this desperately needed project. Thanks for all your feedback and engagement so far,
Mayor M. James Maley
Collingswood-MPWC water shared service: an overview
Essentially, we are partnering with the well-established Merchantville-Pennsauken Water Commission (MPWC) to manage and operate our water treatment services at our seven wells and water plant which serves roughly 21,000 people.
Through retirements and attrition, the Collingswood Water Department is losing several employees, rapidly depleting our staff with the necessary licensing to run the department. This shared service will bring to our Borough the expertise of the MPWC’s five water experts with specific qualifications to oversee public water treatment and distribution. Collingswood Water will retain one staff member as our new Assistant Water Dept Superintendent and your day-to-day water services will not be impacted in any way. Here’s what you should know:
-We are not selling our water utility and will retain ownership and control of our water supply
-You’ll still call the same number to our water plant for help or with questions
-Your bills will still come from Collingswood
-Collingswood will continue to oversee maintenance and operation of Roberts Pool
-Collingswood’s Highway and Sewer Department will still service our lines in the event of breaks and other emergencies or infrastructure needs
-We do not anticipate a significant rise in water utility rates
Not only will your daily experience with water service not change, the long term goal is to make our water and services even better. We will gain MPWC’s extremely experienced staff as part of this shared service and this agreement will allow us to keenly look ahead, focusing on improvements and modernization of our water system.
With the concern regarding increasing municipal costs in New Jersey, examining shared services is smart governing. Shared services aim to identify economies in municipal operations that provide both parties with safe and qualified services to reduce cost and improve efficiency for everyone. Sharing water services with MPWC looks to do just that.
In the long run Collingswood receives a higher level of service and a better long term vision for improving our utility for years to come and the hope is that MWPC’s expertise will allow us to invest in technology that will possibly lower water rates in the future. More importantly, this shared service will ensure safe, high quality water. Better water, better planning, same price and service you’ve always known from Collingswood.
This week, the Borough introduced the 2018 budget. In a nutshell, we will continue services we have all come to enjoy –weekly leaf collection, an affordable community pool (newly refurbished!), recreation programs for all ages and all the other slices of Borough life that make this town where you want to be.
Here are some highlights. This year’s budget includes $1 million dedicated exclusively to street improvements. We expect to complete ten streets and are examining need for reconstruction and replacement of water and sewer lines. We will increase our annual spending on streets by 400% over last year. This, coupled with State grant projects that should begin construction this year, means there will be some $1.6 million spent improving our street infrastructure in 2018. This budget includes new police cars, an additional Public Works employee and two new trucks and handles the ever-increasing costs of our various insurances.
We are rolling out a small business grant program that will help our businesses grow. Our Business Improvement District (BID) has, in addition to our full calendar of events, successfully run a business seminar program to help our merchants adapt to the new economy, network, collaborate and use social media tools and modern marketing to help them thrive and keep our business community strong.
For all these improvements, this budget comes with an annual tax increase of just $33 for the entire year on the average assessed home of $229,575. We never like to raise taxes, but we are confident this budget maximizes every dollar and provides for substantial infrastructure improvements and maintains Collingswood’s outstanding services for a marginal increase.
Related to finances, let me update you on the progress of new police and fire facilities. We have had two public meetings – one with the immediate neighborhood around the location being studied and one as the central topic of our Town Forum. Our goal is to be as open and public about this process as possible.
Through a selection process that vetted candidates with strong experience in public safety buildings we have just hired an architect with a strong administrative record in securing public safety grants and assistance. As you may know, we have been particularly successful in securing Federal grants for our Fire Department and we are working on securing outside funding for these buildings. The architect is studying the site to determine feasibility, researching alternate financing and will host information sessions with the public in 2018 regarding any next steps. Our aim is to find funding sources to assure this is not financed exclusively by taxpayers and to continue to get your feedback.
We are also working through some final environmental studies at the former M&E Marine site on Route 130 to relocate our Public Works facility. I hope to have some concrete details on that soon.
The big question is - how do we pay for all of this? While we hunt grants for public safety (actually have another meeting on that this week), there is no such money available for other public building projects. However, we are working to structure any debt so that it would come due when older debt is retired. Kind of like having the new car loan begin when the old car loan ends in an effort to responsibly balance costs, rather than add new debt. We are at the beginning of this process and we will keep you all advised and have a bunch more meetings to talk it out.
Let’s go, spring!
Construction permits up, always a good sign
Looks like many of you have decided it’s time to upgrade!
A few years ago, I posted that construction permits were on the rise in Collingswood. It’s a trend that is always good for our town and the even better news is that it has continued through 2017. Here’s a look at the numbers:
>2015: 664 permits/updates filed
>2016: 690 permits/updates filed
>2017: 790 permits/updates filed (projected)
So - why do we like to see permits filed? It is an indication that when faced with the need to improve or grow their current home or move to a new home, Collingswood homeowners are choosing to stay here and invest in their properties. In short, it means people like it here so much, they’re putting their money where their homes are - and keeping our neighborhoods and housing stock in great shape. They’d rather make a better home in Collingswood than go elsewhere.
In a town that is nearly built to capacity, we’ve seen a record number of new construction projects as well – all with an eye toward smart growth that uses our remaining space in the most effective ways. When new properties are built, it increases the tax base for everyone. 801 Haddon Avenue, the location of Hearthside as well as new apartment units, was completed in 2017. Since 2015 we’ve also seen the construction of six new homes, one new apartment building (The LumberYard), more than thirty residential additions, two new public structures as well as a myriad of municipal infrastructure improvements.
The other big news is the sale of the Heights of Collingswood to new owners, who have changed the name back to The Parkview. We’ve had several meetings with new management and they have some ambitious goals for the complex including garage renovations, parking improvements and increased security.
The sale of the Parkview will also net a new revenue stream that we hope to apply to capital projects (like new public safety facilities) that will improve our town without burdening taxpayers with the entire cost for those projects.
I’d also like to mention that the news from our real estate colleagues is that our retail vacancy rate is extraordinarily low. Nearly every store front in the central business district is under contract or in the process of getting approvals – meaning our storefronts will be brimming with even more activity, shopping, dining and services. Additionally, when properties are made available in these districts, they are filled with new businesses sometimes within weeks. It is an excellent testament to the vitality of our districts and the support we show our business community. Collingswood has long been the standard for strong businesses, neighborhoods and communities but we continue to see investment and growth year after year.
Here we go!
Welcome to our newest feature. Here I’ll try to share thoughts on Borough activity, answer questions and generally share my thoughts on all that makes this town a great place to live. Many of you already take advantage of our email to contact us directly and I encourage you to send in any questions or concerns.
Spring is just around the corner. See you here and in the park.
Police and Fire facilities: Possible next steps
Storm Stella in 2017 had quite an impact. Damage from the ice storm not only shuttered Borough Hall and temporarily relocated our staff; it forced us to reexamine the operations of every department in town. The result is that we’re researching options to move forward on some capital projects that have been necessary for years (in some cases – decades!) – but we’re miles from the finish line and will only get there after a lot of work internally and spending time hearing from residents.
A little background
We are prioritizing our Police and Fire facilities. They are -and we cannot stress this enough- woefully, embarrassingly and dangerously outdated. When we requested a report outlining facility issues from our Chiefs, their responses were multi-page lists that included everything from a need for basic functionality to serious non-compliance issues. Here are just some of the problems with the current PD and FD buildings.
PD: ADA non-compliance, security problems (no secure parking, evidence and police records not properly secured as required by current regulations), lack of storage for records, evidence, equipment and evidence processing; detention area issues (including a lack of separation between juvenile and adults in detention/processing area as required and no secure prisoner area outside of detention cell as required); unprotected telephone systems; traffic issues that impact response time; HVAC issues, no secure interview areas for witnesses/victims; detective bureau currently off site due to space constraints; areas unprotected by fire detecting equipment or an automatic sprinkler system; only one functioning bathroom currently shared by officers and prisoners; water intrusion and leaks; pest issues; inadequate training room, storage and conference space; locker rooms that serve as locker/break room with no shower or toilet facility; and a lack of women’s’ locker room/bathrooms.
FD: ADA non-compliance; traffic issues that delay response and are unsafe (including the need to enter oncoming traffic lanes and/or backing up blindly, traffic back up and safety hazard at Collings Ave light when going into a blind curve on the wrong side of the roadway, firehouse not angled properly making apparatus navigation difficult and town events in very close vicinity to firehouse with heavy pedestrian traffic); pest issues; water intrusion and leaks; current building size limits apparatus due to bay ceiling and door height; crew quarters in poor condition with poor ventilation, HVAC and circulation; no separate bathrooms/locker rooms/showers for female staff; inadequate showers for personnel to use in a timely manner after a fire or exposure incident to decontaminate; equipment not up to safety standards; inadequate training room, storage and conference space; electric and breaker issues that cause power loss; and sewage backups in floor drains.
We’ve spent the last several years repairing and trying to maintain these buildings so our police and fire could work from them, but the band-aids will no longer suffice. The current buildings are in such bad shape and poorly situated that no amount of renovations would correct many of these issues (such as size and location), which is why we are looking into new facilities, rather than rehabilitating the old buildings which would come at great cost and not solve much.
And if you still aren’t convinced (remember, this is an abridged list) our Chiefs will be conducting public tours of their current buildings to show condition issues and how it impacts operation just before our fall Town Forum on October 24.
In talking to our Chiefs, staff, planners, architects and public safety experts, we think a joint PD/FD public safety building is the best approach to give our departments new facilities in our already dense town. We have acquired the lot at 434 Haddon Ave and are looking at developing a facility on that space. This space has excellent potential for a shared facility for a few reasons. Police and fire services would still be relatively centrally located with better access to a main corridor. This location would have less impact on our business district and pedestrians in the heart of the downtown. The location has ample space for such a facility, apparatus, fleet, equipment and parking for citizens.
Plans for a new facility would remedy the above issues and dramatically reduce operation and maintenance costs for both police and fire, improve response times, provide better communication and efficiency for both departments, provide increased community visibility and improved accessibility for residents and provide shared, multi-purpose areas that can be used by PD and FD, which maximizes the facility’s use.
The key at any location is to minimize the impact on a neighborhood (we are studying examples of new facilities in similarly dense areas and how they balance noise and traffic issues) and maximizing safety for those our public safety staff serve. At this point, we are only in the very beginning stages of examining the feasibility of using this site and will engage the community as much as possible with neighborhood meetings, town wide meetings, answering questions and concerns and providing as much information as possible as we move through the research and planning process.
How do we finance this?
Building new public safety buildings is necessary – but it’s not necessarily cheap. While we are a long way from having any figures, we do know we are in a good position to finance these capital improvements that will not rely solely on taxpayers. The great news is we have some revenue streams that will help cover the cost of this facility – which means minimizing impact to property owners.
The sale of the Heights of Collingswood to new owners means a revaluation that will increase tax revenue from that property which we plan to apply to this project. We are working with the Camden County Improvement Authority which provides low cost financing and our development team will examine any and all grant sources available to us to bring down costs. One consideration is a mixed-use model that includes office space alongside public safety facilities to help offset costs and add to the taxable base. Additionally, our PD and FD will be simultaneously working to acquire grants to reduce the cost of equipment and other needs in any new space.
Our goal is to plan a safe, modern (and desperately needed) public safety facility for the lowest possible cost to taxpayers. This is all conceptual right now – but we’re looking at every possible opportunity. We must update our facilities for our public safety teams (we’re about a decade late on getting started) and this will be a long and thorough project that balances cost, municipal need and community need.
Next steps and long term
As we plan to bring our public safety buildings up to date, we are looking at even longer term planning for updating Borough Hall, Courts, Public Works and possibly even adding more parking to Collingswood. All are part of a larger plan with many moving parts, but we will take things one step at a time and keep residents as informed as we can. With any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All are welcome to join the discussion at our next Town Forum on October 24 (7 p.m., Community Center) which we will dedicate partially to this project (as well as chickens, stop signs and whatever else you want to discuss). That evening, PD and FD staff with host tours before the Forum for any folks interested in viewing current conditions. We’re looking forward to moving our police and fire out of the 50s and into the twenty-first century and, as always, we welcome your thoughts.