Mayor Anthony Fanucci, of Vineland, discussed the city’s challenges and touted its successes, in 2020, during his recent State of the City address. The virtual event, held on January 21, was hosted by the Greater Vineland Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by South Jersey Federal Credit Union.
How the city has navigated through the pandemic was a main topic throughout the mayor’s speech: “Covid-19 has presented a multitude of challenges in providing critical services to the community that the community relies upon—from ensuring public safety, the code enforcement planning zoning, permitting ongoing infrastructure projects,” said Mayor Fanucci.
“While municipal buildings have been closed to the public since April, we have not stopped working to provide these services and more.”
Mayor Fanucci spoke about some of the ways the City of Vineland has been able to help small businesses and its residents during these tough times.
“The city utilized a portion of our 2020 Cares Act emergency funding to establish a forgivable grant assistance program for Vineland retail, restaurant, entertainment, and non-professional service-type businesses with five or fewer employees,” said the mayor, while also stating the program still has a limited amount of funding available.
“In addition, we recently launched an emergency rental or mortgage assistance grant program, which will provide qualified households facing eviction or foreclosure with up to six months of rent or mortgage assistance.”
Applications for this program are available at vinelandcity.org.
Mayor Fanucci also emphasized the city’s growth must begin with a strong foundation. “You know,” said the mayor, “we weren’t born, as a community, with a silver spoon in our mouth, if you will.”
“As I’ve expressed numerous times, Vineland’s long-term sustainability is predicated upon a smart growth policy which encompasses targeted economic growth, redevelopment of abandoned and blighted properties, thoughtful and strategic expansion of our housing stock, and greater connectivity,” he said.
The growth of the retail and industrial sectors is a priority for the Fanucci administration. “In fact, there is currently over 1.5 million square feet of new commercial and industrial construction, underway, or approved to begin,” the mayor said.
Another priority for Fanucci and the Vineland City Council deals with the city’s public safety services. “Our first responders can rest assured that we have the past four years [and] will continue to provide them with the manpower and equipment that they need to effectively serve and protect the residents of Vineland,” he said.
Other topics broached by the mayor during the address included, but were not limited to: the history making promotion of Kelly Soracco, who, last July, became the first female chief of Vineland’s Emergency Medical Services; the improvements of several parks and grounds by the City’s Public Works department; the progress the city’s made with upgrading its infrastructure; and that the city will be applying for funding to construct an inclusive special needs park for children and adults with disabilities.
“This is something I personally am very, very passionate about,” said Mayor Fanucci.
During a question-and-answer portion of the State of the City event, a participant asked what Vineland’s residents can do to help improve the city.
“One of the big things we want to continue, is people being proactive,” he said. “One of the big things we’re trying to do is clean the city. If they see illegal dumping, if they see trash in areas where it doesn’t belong, to please notify us and let us know.
“Continue to support the businesses here in Vineland. Spend some money here. Spend some time here. Help us help ourselves and help our businesses.”
When asked what he’s learned during his first term in office, “If there was one thing I would do a little better, and I think we did a good job, but I think what we can still improve upon is communication,” he said. “[T]hat would be one takeaway.”
Another participant asked what his favorite part was about being mayor.
“Just waking up every day, knowing that I get to serve the town in which I was born and raised and grew up,” he said. “[C]oming out here and seeing the improvements and seeing the strides that we’ve made in the last four-plus years, it gives me such an overwhelming sense of pride every day. And getting up and coming to work with people that I care about.
“So, to me, just being able to give back and serve with pride and integrity makes me feel really good, every day.”