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
June 24, 2020
See the Mayor's video update here.
Please wear masks when shopping and dining in Collingswood, both in businesses and in the districts. Several stores not have outdoor dining and services and masks are essentials as we share space in the downtown.
Collingswood's Roberts Pool is scheduled to open on July 3, 2020 with social distancing procedures in place. Membership sales begin June 27, 2020. See full information on the 2020 season and pool tag sales here.
Borough Hall is now open to the public for municipal services (pool tags cannot be purchased at Borough Hall until June 29)
Businesses continue to open as state restrictions are lifted. Parking meters will once again be active on July 2 in conjunction with indoor dining announcement. See our latest business news here>> https://bit.ly/384egjV
JUNE 18, 2020
See the Mayor's video update here.
Collingswood's Roberts Pool is tentatively scheduled to open on July 3, 2020 with social distancing procedures in place. Membership sales begin June 27, 2020. See information on the 2020 season and pool tag sales here.
Independence Day celebrations postponed in Collingswood
Collingswood will not host their annual fireworks display and Independence Day events on July 4 due to capacity limitations and safety issues during the pandemic.
"It would be very difficult to accommodate crowds at the high school safely and with virtually all other displays in the region canceled we expect we will see even larger crowds than normal if we proceed. For safety reasons, it's better to pause our 2020 celebration."
The Borough is considering alternate dates in early autumn, possibly after the rescheduled 2020 May Fair event on September 26. Officials will make announcements confirming new dates on Collingswood.com.
The Collingswood Public Library is offering curbside service.
Borough Hall is expected to open to the public on June 22, 2020.
Non-essential retail and outdoor dining is open in Collingswood. Personal care services are permitted to open on June 22. See our latest business news here>> https://conta.cc/2ANb7sA
JUNE 12, 2020
See the Mayor's video update here.
>We are looking closely at how to apply new guidelines from the state to Roberts Pool in 2020 - staffing remains a big hurdle. Details about memberships, season changes and opening dates TBA, if feasible. Lifeguards are needed, application info here: http://collingswood.com/news_detail_T6_R317.php
>We are addressing increased reports of brown water which is caused by new NJDEP regulations that require us to open valves in town that have not been opened in some time, stirring up sediment. The water is discolored but safe and the Collingswood Water Department is aware of the increase in brown water reports.
>No official call has been made regarding our annual fireworks display.
>Collingswood Farmers Market will return to a walk up format with social distancing measures this Saturday, June 13.
>Collingswood Cash Bonus Lottery - register online starting JUNE 19 for a chance to purchase Collingswood Cash and receive our BONUS Collingswood Cash - $20 bonus for every $50 purchased with a maximum of $400 purchased and $160 FREE.
JUNE 4, 2020
See the Mayor's video update here.
Collingswood is OPEN for business! See how to support local biz and event updates here>> https://conta.cc/3dW5vu2
Outdoor dining and non-essential retail permitted as of June 15 / hair salons and barber shops may reopen on June 22. See that info here.
Borough officials continue to look at Roberts Pool season for 2020, but several hurdles remain. We will keep folks updated as we receive state guidance and see how that impacts our operations.
MAY 29, 2020
See the Mayor's video update here.
In municipal news, recreation programs are canceled through June 30, including Roberts Pool. Pool season and July 4 events are being looked at but present multiple challenges.
Curbside sales for our businesses have gone smoothly and we are looking at what next phases for shopping and dining will look like in Collingswood. See buisnesses that are operaing and shopping/dining/service/entertinament options here: https://conta.cc/2XiY1KK
Borough Hall remains closed to the public but services and staff are available remotely.
MAY 21, 2020
See the Mayor's video update here.
Information on the State's multi-phase plan for reopening here,
Curbside pick-up at non-essential business is now permitted and you can shop at several Collingswood merchants. See how (May 20 update) here.
An update on summer recreation programming and Roberts Pool:
Our Borough team continues to connect regularly to discuss how Collingswood will adapt to changes and reopening as cases trend in a positive direction in South Jersey. One of the things we are getting asked most frequently about is recreation programs and the pool. With the Governor's four phase plan announced this week we are following the State guidelines for reopening. Officially the Borough has decided that all rec programs, including Roberts Pool opening, are closed through at least June 30. Many of these activities will require at least a phase three clearance before they would be permitted - something Camden County will not likely see for several weeks, at least. We will reevaluate programming for the rest of the summer in the coming weeks and make those announcements for July and August as we learn how things are trending from the State and other agencies.
Governor Murphy signs executive order reopening State parks and golf courses - info here.
From the New Jersey Department of Health: Frequently Asked Questions about Animal Health Issues During COVID-19 Pandemic
APRIL 27, 2020
Collingswood launches Farm-to-Car Farmers' Market to open 2020 season during COVID-19. The Farm-to-Car market will take place four times a week at the Scottish Rite (315 WHP) parking lot. Each two hour Market will provide a spectrum of vendors. You must order in advance. There are no day-of-Market sales and cars only (no walk ups to bikes) are permitted. Full details are at CollingswoodMarket.com.
ORDER HERE>> Collingswood Farmers' Market pre-order page
APRIL 24, 2020
See Mayor Maley's video update here.
APRIL 16, 2020
See Mayor Maley's video update here.
Commissioners will take action to extend the grace period to June 1 for taxes and water/sewer bills due May 1. The last day to pay without a penalty is June 1.
The April Planning Board meeting is rescheduled for May 18.
See updated information on supporting Collingswood businesses here:
-Takeout and online shopping - https://conta.cc/2VudwPf
-Collingswood Connects streaming events - https://conta.cc/3aaQtyh
APRIL 10, 2020
Mayor Maley gives a video update, including information on Collingswood Cares, which aims to support community members that need assistance during COVID-19.
See that video update here.
See updated information on supporting Collingswood businesses here:
-Takeout and online shopping - https://conta.cc/2XmDEy8
-Collingswood Connects streaming events - https://conta.cc/2XjHiZv
You can now use a drop box to make tax and sewer payments securely at Borough Hall.
APRIL 7, 2020
Governor Murphy closes state and county park systems. Knight Park will remain open but officials are closely monitoring crowds and safety. See Mayor Maley's update on parks here.
Leaf collection is underway: The Department of Public Works will be providing residents with curbside leaf pick up starting the week of April 6. This will occur on your normal fall leaf pick up day. Leaf pickup schedules are available at Collingswood.com on the Public Works page here http://www.collingswood.com/government/departments/highway_department.php
We will hold the April 22 Town Forum as scheduled via Zoom webinar. Details will be posted on Collingswood.com prior to the Forum.
APRIL 2, 2020
Please see a video update from Mayor Maley here.
The April 6 Commission Meeting will be held online via Zoom. 7pm meeting link here.
April Planning and Zoning meetings will be rescheduled.
The Easter Bunny will visit Collingswood neighborhoods April 6-11! Details here.
Support Collingswood businesses!
See businesses open for takeout/online shopping here.
See businesses that offer streaming programming and classes here.
Enjoy a free community class/program every Thursday night with #CollingswoodConnects - info here!
MARCH 27, 2020
Please see a video update from Mayor Maley here.
PATCO announces temporary station closures and additional schedule modifications. Info here.
See a list of resources for business here.
MARCH 24, 2020
As of 2pm on March 24 there are 3,675 positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, 51 of which are in Camden County. See the interactive NJDOH COVID-19 dashboard here: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/covid2019_dashboard.shtml
Two positive cases in Collingswood have been identified. See the March 24 Camden County press release here.
APRIL 1 - Zoning Board meeting will be rescheduled
APRIL - 6 Commission Meeting will take place as scheduled but as a Zoom streaming meeting. Meeting link will be shared on Collingswood.com prior to the meeting.
MARCH 21, 2020
To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect the capacity of New Jersey’s health care system for the state’s most vulnerable, Governor Phil Murphy today signed Executive Order No. 107, directing all residents to stay at home until further notice. The order provides for certain exceptions, such as obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work, or engaging in outdoor activities."
See full order below and updates at: https://covid19.nj.gov/
MARCH 19, 2020
As of 2pm on March 19 there are 742 positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, 13 of which are in Camden County. See the interactive NJDOH COVID-19 dashboard here: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/covid2019_dashboard.shtml
See this morning's video message from Mayor Maley here.
The MARCH 23 Planning Board meeting has been postponed and will be rescheduled.
MARCH 17, 2020
As of 2pm on March 17 there are 267 positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, three of which are in Camden County. None are in Collingswood. See the interactive NJDOH COVID-19 dashboard here: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/covid2019_dashboard.shtml
New NJ guidelines: Yesterday (MONDAY, MARCH 16), Governor Phil Murphy announced new restrictions to limit the transmission of COVID-19. Per the state, these include:
Closure of ALL pre-K, K-12 schools, colleges, and universities beginning 3/18
Closure of ALL casinos, racetracks, theaters, gyms
Closure of ALL non-essential retail, recreational, & entertainment businesses after 8PM
Banning gatherings of 50+
All bars and restaurants are closed for eat-in services effective 8:00 PM tonight. After 8PM, these establishments may open for takeout and delivery services ONLY, until further notice. These restrictions exist during daytime hours.
All pre-K through grade 12 schools (public, private, and parochial) and all colleges and universities will close effective Wednesday, March 18th until it’s deemed by health officials to be safe for in-person classes to resume.
We’ve worked closely to ensure that the overall educational and individual needs of students can be met during this closure, including appropriate home instruction and continued access to free and reduced meals.
All non-essential and non-emergency travel in New Jersey is strongly discouraged between the hours of 8:00 PM AND 5:00 AM. This will remain in effect for the foreseeable future. We want everyone to be home – and not out.
CDC guidelines now recommend avoiding groups of 10 or more people. We urge everyone to follow social distancing guidelines to reduce impact to our hospitals and health care system.
Borough Hall as well as the Police and Fire Departments are closed to the public but our staff is still working by appointment only. Please see how to reach out to our departments (and other helpful links) here. http://collingswood.com/news_detail_T6_R280.php
Local businesses are facing an incredibly difficult time as social distancing means dwindling revenues that can cripple small businesses. We are talking with our business owners regularly to see how we can best support them. Please consider how you can limit transmission and still support Collingswood businesses by ordering takeout, shopping online, etc. Collingswood is offering free three-hour parking until further notice to reduce transmission through touchpoints on meters and kiosks. We've also added several temporary 15 minute spaces throughout the downtown for easier pickup/takeout service.
See business offering takeout and curbside dining and retail here>> https://conta.cc/2Qpl5oz
For those that need internet access, Comcast and others are offering families two months of free internet access through the Internet Essentials program. If you need internet access, you can sign up for the program by calling 1-855-8-INTERNET (1-855-846-8376) or by going to InternetEssentials.com.
MARCH 16, 2020
NJ has imposed new curfew and gathering rules. Starting at 8pm tonight, bars and restaurants in New Jersey must be closed for on-premise service and may provide take-out and delivery service only.Drive-throughs, take-out, and delivery services offered by restaurants can continue to operate.
Movie theaters, gyms, and casinos must close temporarily.
All gatherings of 50 people or more must be cancelled or postponed.
A letter from the Mayor & Commissioners:
Residents and friends of Collingswood,
We'd like to update you on what Collingswood is doing regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) at the local level. Our teams are working, meeting and evaluating constantly to do our best to keep our community safe. Please do your part to limit transmission by adhering to social distancing guidelines: stay at home as much as possible, wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, stay 6 feet away from others and we urge at-risk populations to be especially mindful regarding social interaction. The CDC now recommends that all gatherings of more than 50 people be avoided or canceled for eight weeks.
The Collingswood School District issued this directive closing schools as of March 16. Knight Park is open to the public but playgrounds are closed to reduce transmission.
Collingswood Borough Hall remains open to the public for the time being. Borough events, festivals and recreation programs have been suspended until at least April 30. Upcoming Planning (March 23) and Zoning (April 1) boards will be held at the Collingswood Community Center (30 W Collings Ave). See the regular meeting schedule here. Hydrant flushing will continue as scheduled as it is important to not disrupt infrastructure maintenance. Please see the notice about hydrant flushing here.
Collingswood is offering free three-hour parking until further notice to reduce transmission through touchpoints on meters and kiosks. Our businesses are facing an incredibly difficult time as social distancing means dwindling revenues that can cripple small businesses. Please, while practicing social distancing measures, consider how you can support our small businesses by ordering takeout, shopping online, etc. This will be a difficult stretch for our business community and they need your help! We will be following up on this email with a list of businesses that are offering takeout or online specials during this time.
Mayor M. James Maley, Jr. and Commissioners Joan Leonard and Robert Lewandowski
MARCH 14, 2020
As of 2pm on March 14 there are 69 positive cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, two of which are in Camden County. None are in Collingswood. See the interactive NJDOH COVID-19 dashboard here: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/covid2019_dashboard.shtml
Collingswood is offering free three hour parking until further notice to reduce transmission through touch points on meters and kiosks.
Collingswood Public Library will be closed to the public starting Sunday, March 15. Staff will be on site to continue working but the building is not open to the public. Return deadlines have been suspended until further notice.
The library is adding additional ebooks to their collection so more patrons can access titles at home from their devices. See ebook collections and resources here: https://www.collingswoodlib.org/all-downloadable-collections
The Collingswood Community Center is closed to the public starting Monday, March 16. Municipal court at the Community Center will remain open for filings and payments although court sessions have been suspended.
NJ Courts will suspend Municipal Court sessions from March 16 to March 27. More information here: https://njcourts.gov/pressrel/2020/pr031420a.pdf?c=mYS
Defendants can make payments through the Municipal Court online payment system at NJMCDirect.comNJMCDirect.com
Collingswood Borough Hall will remain open to the public for the time being.
Collingswood Schools will shift to remote learning starting March 16. See full information here: https://www.collingswood.k12.nj.us/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=617656&id=0
Wellness Week 2020 has been cancelled.
Supporting business: Our businesses are facing an incredibly difficult time as social distancing means dwindling revenues that can cripple small business. Please, while practicing social distancing measures, consider how you can support our small businesses by ordering takeout, shopping online, etc. This will be a difficult strech for our business community and they need your help!
MARCH 13, 2020
Our departments continue to talk several times a day to receive and exchange updates. We are working closely with partner agencies to get as much information as possible.
As per NJ state recommendations, please take social distancing measures. All public gatherings of 250 more people should be cancelled. For all events, please practice commonsense hygiene, like washing hands routinely, staying home if you do not feel well, and keeping a six foot distance from others.
If you must call 911 for an emergency, please report to the 911 dispatcher if you or anyone in your home has flu-like symptoms. This will assure our first responders are prepared.
Governor’s address: You can see the Governor’s Friday address here https://www.facebook.com/governorphilmurphy/videos/1560770527404185/
You can see an interactive, updated COVID-19 dashboard from the NJ Department of Health here: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/covid2019_dashboard.shtml
Borough buildings are undergoing a deep cleaning over the weekend and will remain open regular hours although all non-essential events have been cancelled.
Meetings: Upcoming Planning (March 23) and Zoning (April 1) boards will be held at the Collingswood Community Center (30 W Collings Ave). See the regular meeting schedule here: http://www.collingswood.com/government/meetings_boards_and_forums/index.php
Collingswood Schools: At this time there is no new information regarding a closure. Follow updates here:https://www.collingswood.k12.nj.us/
Collingswood Recreation programs have been suspended until April 30:
-Middle School Dance, April 16: Cancelled
-Collingswood Community Chorus: Rehearsals canceled until April 30, reschedule May 5 concert if necessary
-Odyssey of the Mind: Practices cancelled until April 30
-Boys travel soccer: Practice/activities cancelled until April 30
-Collingswood Youth Theater: Rehearsals cancelled until April 30, reschedule April 24 & 25 performance
-Girls lacrosse: Season start delayed until May, will reevaluate
All other updates from the MARCH 12 update (below) remain the same but we will continue to update frequently and certainly when we have new information.
MARCH 12, 2020
Due to the changing landscape of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our region, Borough officials met today to review steps we will take at the municipal level to minimize the spread of the virus. Our priority is to minimize contact at Borough functions and buildings. We are looking at suspending several non-essential events through April 30, although we will constantly be re-evaluating the status of the virus through the next several weeks. We will be keeping these updates centralized at Collingswood.com.
We are also working very closely with partner agencies such as the Collingswood Board of Education, Camden County and the NJ Department of Health (NJ DOH). Our municipal team is meeting twice a day to discuss how Collingswood can best respond. Here are updates on programming and cancellations in Collingswood:
Scottish Rite Auditorium / Collingswood Grand Ballroom and Mansion:
-Scottish Rite: All concerts and events in the Theater for the rest of the 2020 spring season are postponed
-Collingswood Grand Ballroom and Mansion: At this time, cancellation of private events at the grand ballroom is at the discretion of the organizer. Organizers will be required to provide guest lists and contact information for all guests. All other functions and performances are postponed.
For more information call 856-858-1000.
Collingswood Public Library:
The library will remain open until further notice. All programs, activities and meetings scheduled are postponed until April 30 unless otherwise stated. For more information visit https://www.collingswoodlib.org/.
Collingswood Senior Community Center:
At this time, the cancellation of private events at the Community Center is at the discretion of the organizer. All non-essential programs, activities and meetings scheduled are postponed until April 30 unless otherwise stated. For more information call 856-854-4440.
Borough Hall/municipal offices/meetings and boards:
Borough Hall/Police/Fire/Public Works are open and all regularly scheduled municipal and board meetings are on as scheduled. Upcoming meetings may change locations, however, so please confirm before attending. Follow Collingswood.com for updates.
You can make tax and utility payments online here https://wipp.edmundsassoc.com/Wipp/?wippid=0412
All court events are currently being held as scheduled. For updates, visit https://njcourts.gov/
Collingswood Public Schools:
Collingswood Public Schools will hold half days March 12 and 13 for staff training to develop lesson plans in the event of closures. They are not closing because of any contamination concerns. For updates, visit https://www.collingswood.k12.nj.us/
Recreation programs/recreation sports:
Recreation programs are on as scheduled as of now but subject to possible postponement.
April festivals and events will likely be postponed due to crowds and attendee contact. Cancellation updates will be posted. Follow Collingswood.com for updates.
Reduced consumer activity as a result of the virus will have a devastating impact on our businesses. If you shop and dine in person less due to the virus, please remember to order food locally for take-out and delivery and support our businesses online when possible. Buy a gift card for later this year!
Police and Fire responses:
Response practices by Police and Fire will have some modifications in an attempt to reduce the chance of responder exposure. As an example, if police respond to an ambulance call but do not get out of the car, they are doing so to be available if needed, without unnecessarily being exposed to the virus. You may notice changes similar to that. We are trying to reduce exposure so we keep first responders out of quarantine and fully staffed.
We stress again, common-sense measures are key:
• Residents are urged not to panic, but be prepared
• Continue to disinfect and wash hands
• At-risk populations (elderly, compromised immune system, underlying health conditions) should limit social interaction, travel and large gatherings
•Anyone ill should stay home from work or school
• If you are sick, self-isolate
• Contact your primary doctor by phone with concerns
• If ill and have symptoms that mirror COVID-19 symptoms and need to call 911 or go to a hospital, advise 911 of the possibility of contamination. If going directly to a hospital, call ahead and advise them.
We are monitoring this situation closely and will continue to provide as much info as possible.
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.