State of the County
(January 10, 2014) - On behalf of the Camden County Board of Freeholders, I’d like to wish you and your family a happy, healthy and prosperous 2014. I am pleased to report that the state of Camden County is good and getting better. Despite continued difficult economic times, 2013 was a year of great accomplishments for Camden County. Below are highlights from some of our achievements and a look ahead to 2014.
Better Services for Seniors, Veterans and Disabled
Under the leadership of Deputy Director Ed McDonnell, the County provided more outreach to senior citizens and veterans than ever before. These efforts resulted in more services provided to both groups, improving their lives in a meaningful way. From veteran medal ceremonies and job fairs to senior bingos and our healthy activities series, Camden County is the best place for seniors and veterans.
Freeholder McDonnell also made Challenge Grove Park the home of the new Boundless Field, a facility that opened in May geared at creating a place where all children and adults, whatever their abilities or disabilities, can participate in sports and games. In 2014, he plans on further enriching the programs for disabled children and adults.
Park Improvements Add to Quality of Life
Freeholder Jeff Nash, the liaison to the Parks Department, has worked tirelessly and with great vision to improve our parks. The County has made significant enhancements and improvements to Cooper River Park and completed a plan to make even more improvements in the park over the next several years. As a result, Cooper River Park was named a Great Place of New Jersey by the American Planning Association and was named the Top Regional Environmental Program of the Year by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. Freeholder Nash also spearheaded the creation of a Disc Golf Course in Winslow Township, which opened this past fall.
In 2014, plans to enhance Cooper River and Pyne Poynt Park will begin to be implemented and Gateway and Farnham Park will open to all residents of our County. These plans for parks were created and are being implemented through the engagement and input of the communities that surround them.
Please visit our parks this year and enjoy all that they have to offer, including: dog friendly parks, special events, recreation trails and more.
Health Services a Priority
Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez, liaison to the County’s Health and Human Services Department, brought health services and education to the community through events and the use of our mobile health van. In 2014, she will begin a new initiative to direct more attention to the prevention and treatment of substance abuse in Camden County. Substance abuse is the source of most of the crime within our communities, and it’s a problem we can no longer ignore or arrest our way out of. It must be met with innovative, health-based solutions.
Freeholder Rodriguez will continue our mission of health education with monthly programs and events including our popular Parenting Conference, Women’s Health Conference and Senior Health Fair.
Keeping Our Infrastructure Safe
Under Freeholder Ian Leonard’s leadership, major improvements were made to our infrastructure throughout Camden County. In addition to the 400 miles of roads the county maintains, our Public Works Department has also developed programs to inspect, stabilize and repair bridges and dams throughout the county. Strengthening our infrastructure is critical not only to the quality of life for our residents but also to our economy.
Bridge projects completed for 2013 include the Baird Blvd. Bridge (Camden), the Broadway Bridge (Brooklawn/Gloucester City) and the Cuthbert Blvd Bridge (Cherry Hill/Haddon Township). Upcoming bridge projects include the East Atlantic Avenue Bridge (Audubon/Oaklyn), the Kaighn Avenue Bridge (Pennsauken), the White Horse Road Bridge (Lindenwold), and the Woodcrest Road Bridge (Cherry Hill).
Our dam management program provides for safe operation, inspections and necessary repairs to county owned dams. Dams currently under reconstruction are the Holly Run Dam and Lakeland Dam, both in Gloucester Township. Dams planned for future improvements are the Driscoll Pond Dam in Haddonfield, the Camden County College Dam in Gloucester Township and the Silver Lake Dam in Clementon.
The Department of Public Works is also responsible for everything from major road construction projects to pothole repair and snow plowing. The department is on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ready to serve the needs of county residents. To report a problem with a county road, call (856) 566-2980.
2013 was a monumental year for Public Safety. In May of 2013, we launched the Metro Division of the Camden County Police Department. With bipartisan support from every level of government we were able to put more officers on the streets of Camden City. The Metro Division has already made substantial progress towards its goal of reducing the number of crimes in Camden City and in making the residents feel safer. Thanks to the leadership of Chief Scott Thomson and the determination and commitment of the men and women who serve the department, crime has been reduced substantially and the residents of Camden City are able to enjoy their parks and playgrounds again. Total crime was reduced by 13% in 2013, total non-violent crime was reduced by 19%. Most significantly, the reduction in crime in Parkside and Fairview, where we were fully operational, was drastic. Since our officers hit the streets on May 1st, there were no reported homicides and arson was down 67% in Parkside and in Fairview shootings were down 92% and motor vehicle theft was down 33%. Though we still have a long way to go, with just 60% of the Metro Division police force of 411 officers, the tide has begun to turn with regard to fighting crime in Camden City.
Freeholder Scot McCray brought to conclusion the installation of a new 700 MHz radio system at the Camden Emergency Communications Center, which dispatches to all of the fire and emergency medical services from each of our 37 municipalities and 33 police departments. This initiative enables our first responders to provide critical emergency services in a more efficient and effective way. In 2014, we will be welcoming Pennsauken and Winslow Township to the system and will begin planning for the acceptance of the Camden County Metro Division.
Sustainable Camden County
In 2013, Freeholder Michelle Gentek worked with community members on the creation of a Sustainable Camden County plan and will begin implementation in 2014. The plan will help to preserve our resources, promote innovative green practices in our county and save money.
She will also oversee the redevelopment of greenhouses at the County’s Lakeland Complex. The greenhouses will be made available for use by Green Teams and by Rutgers Master Gardeners of Camden County to grow plants that will beautify Camden County. Additionally, she will work to bring the County’s Bike Share initiative to more communities.
Economic Development, Finance and Jobs
We’re very excited about economic development and job development initiatives for 2014. For the first time in history, Camden County’s bond rating has been upgraded to AA, the result of smart fiscal practices by our finance and management teams. We see 2014 as the year that economic recovery will take hold in Camden County. The Economic Opportunity Act, sponsored by State Senator Donald Norcross, provides unprecedented mechanisms for economic development for our region. The Freeholder Board, Camden County Improvement Authority (CCIA), Camden County Employment Resource Center and Camden County College will work closely with the federal, state and local officials to attract new business and investment in Camden County. Additionally, we’ll identify sources for funds for use by municipalities throughout the County, and partner with municipalities on redevelopment projects in order to revitalize properties that are vacant or underutilized. Redevelopment projects along the White Horse Pike in Somerdale and in Clementon are outstanding examples of what can be accomplished to revitalize our neighborhoods.
We will also meet with the “Top 100” employers in Camden County to thank them for their investment and to ask how we can be of assistance in maintaining or creating jobs. We will continue to work with our education sector to prepare our residents for the jobs of tomorrow and meet employer workforce needs. The message has to be clear; Camden County is open for business!
Because of the leadership provided by this Board and the hard work of our employees, the quality of life in Camden County will improve in 2014. We will see job growth, continued public safety improvements, improvements to our recreational facilities, increased property values and increased services to those in need.
Again, on behalf of the entire Board of Freeholders, we wish you the best in 2014. Serving the residents of Camden County is a pleasure and a privilege. Connecting with all of our residents is very important to us, you can contact us a number of ways to provide comments, suggestions or to utilize one of our many services. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at 1-866-CAMDENCOUNTY or follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Click here to view a special video message from the Camden County Board of Freeholders.
Louis Cappelli, Jr.
Camden County Board of Freeholders