Jul 29, 2014

'Intimate' Town Forum Packs in a Ton of Answers Per Resident

Updates on the LumberYard and Route 130 projects, the Knight Park Art Contest and why Commissioner Mike Hall thinks a polka-dot dress isn't outlandish enough for him to don.

'Intimate' Town Forum Packs in a Ton of Answers Per Resident 'Intimate' Town Forum Packs in a Ton of Answers Per Resident

As Collingswood hosted its quarterly town forum to a tiny crowd in the Scottish Rite ballroom Wednesday night, Mayor James Maley reflected on what difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago to the day, the borough hosted another townwide meeting, he reflected, were related to the surprising news that Moody’s Investors Service had junked its credit rating.

"Not that I remember," he joked.

The nowhere-near-capacity crowd certainly got its money's worth at the free event, however, with unimpeded access to pick the brains of its leaders about anything and everything going on in town. Here are the highlights.

What’s up with the LumberYard?

is scheduled for Oct. 2, Maley said. Before that, on Sept. 19, condo residents will vote whether to revise their master deed to allow for rental units in the unfinished building. After that, will come in for a site plan approval.

"We’re expecting that the work will be started on the back building by the end of the year, and that construction on the new building will start in the spring," Maley said. “I think that the way the world’s changed, this is a reasonable, good-for-town project that will be good for the next 100 years.”

When will the finalists for the be available?

Expect an announcement on the finalists "in a week or so," Maley said.

What’s up with ?

"It’s a good thing but it’s a really stupid thing," Maley said. "We’re going to expand it to three lanes except under the PATCO Speedline station [on Ferry Ave.]. When they get this done that little stretch under the speedline will be the only stretch of Route 130 that is two lanes. And they won’t do it because it costs too much money," he said.

, residents lamented; however, they likely won't bemoan the softer turn that will allow them to ingress to Haddon Avenue in its absence, Commissioner Mike Hall said.

How much of Collingswood tax dollars go toward paying personnel costs?

"Salaries are a big chunk of any business," Maley said. "In the last three years, we’ve reduced our full-time staff by 25 percent. There’s not many new hires within any department anywhere in the borough."

"The people that we are hiring now are usually part-time people without benefits, just to fill in the gaps," Hall said.

"Our revenues have gone down; we’ve lost state aid," Maley said. The brightest spot of our budget this year is that our pension numbers are starting to come down. Having 25 percent fewer full-time people now, that trend should continue."

Has Collingswood thought about getting solar panels for the roofs of public buildings?

"We’d have to sell everything else," said Commissioner Joan Leonard.

"The solar industry has dropped off a lot because the state subsidies for that industry has dried up," Maley said. "Unfortunately, while it’s a good green thing, it’s very expensive."

Maley did say that the borough has drafted a plan for doing a cantilevered canopy in the parking lot of the Scottish Rite, which may be considered if the multimillion-dollar cost of the project ever abates.

However, , Maley said residents can look forward to street and parking lot repaving in the next 30 to 60 days along New Jersey and Dayton avenues.

When will we get our new restaurants?

will open within the next week or two, said Community Development Coordinator Cass Duffey, and hibachi grill Akira will be “soon, soon, soon.”

“I still hear that we have too many Italian restaurants in town," Maley said. "There will be too many Italian restaurants when one of them is empty.”

Is Collingswood going to get ?

Apparently, some confusion with the county kept Collingswood off the initial spray list, Maley said, because the borough had adopted its own integrated pest management strategy that doesn't necessarily prefer a chemical solution at first glance.

"You don’t just flood the place with insect repellent when you could use compost," Leonard said.

"I don’t know what the rotation is, but we’re in the mix," Maley promised.

Who's coming to perform at the Scottish Rite before year's end?

Hey, a free plug for manager Gerry Chambers. The lineup includes: the Indigo Girls, Annie Haslam with Renaissance, Bruce Hornsby, Dennis DeYoung of Styx, Dave Mason, Arlo Guthrie, and Little Feat. Get your tickets at the box office: 856-858-1000.

Will Commissioner Mike Hall wear Dottie the Dress from Frugal Resale?

"Different people have been photographed wearing it," said Maley. "Of the three of us up here, Mike’s the only one that hasn’t been," he said.

“I’m waiting for something more outrageous,” Hall said.

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