Month – January 2010

Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor Volunteer Firefighters . . . Our Hometown Heroes!

Strafford Station Apartment fire, photo by Berwyn Fire Company photographer, Jim DeStefano, Sr

Saturday morning, with frigid temperatures in the teens, a fire broke out at the Strafford Station Apartments, which is close to the Strafford train station. The initial 9-1-1 call came in to the Berwyn Fire Company at 9:25 AM. Berwyn’s Engine 2-3 raced to the fire, arriving at 9:31 AM, reporting that fire was coming from the 3rd floor. Also rushing to the initial first alarm call were firefighters from Paoli and Radnor fire companies. The Tredyffrin Police assisted with the evacuation of the first and second floors of the apartment building, as the blaze quickly went through the 40-unit building. A ‘working fire’ was dispatched at 9:28 AM . . . A second alarm was requested at 9:35 AM . . . and at 10:02 AM a third alarm was requested for the Strafford fire.

As dark billowing smoke shot into the morning air, residents had very little time to get out, grabbing what they could as they raced from their apartments. Thrust in to the cold, the residents were grateful for their lives but were left trying to cope with their sudden loss.

Local firefighters battling Strafford Station Apartment Fire, photo by Berwyn Fire Company photographer Jim DeStefano, Sr

The landlord and the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania are coordinating help for the victims. The Red Cross assisted 60 people who were forced out of their homes by the fire. They distributed money and food to anyone who was in need, and their medical personnel refilled lifesaving prescriptions for several tenants on the scene. The landlord aided the displaced tenants with temporary relocation to local hotels.

By the time the third alarm was requested for the Strafford Station Apartment fire, Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies were joined by volunteers from an additional thirteen fire companies*. Fire company apparatus responded from Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. The fire extended into the roof and then traveled the roofline horizontally from one end of the building to another, gutting 24 apartment units in its wake.

Interior photo of gutted Strafford Station Apartment, which displaced 60 residents. Photo by Berwyn Fire Company photographer Jim DeStefano, Sr.

 At the height of the fire, over 100 volunteer fire/emergency service personnel were on the scene. The fire brought under control around 11 AM and the final fire units cleared the scene just after 3 PM. The Strafford Station Apartment fire is under investigation by the Chester County and Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshals. Early comment is that the accidental fire may be the result of a second floor heating unit. Damage is estimated at $1.25 million.

It was a stroke of fortune that no one was killed or injured as a result of yesterday’s three-alarm fire. Please join me in saluting our local volunteer firefighters from Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies . . . thank you for your quick response and for protecting our residents.


*In addition to Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies, the following compaies also responded to the Strafford Station Apartment fire: Malvern Fire Company
East Whiteland Volunteer Fire Association, Newtown Square Fire Company, Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Company, King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company, Goshen Fire Company, Bryn Mawr Fire Company, Gladwyne Fire Company, Lionville Fire Company, Narberth Ambulance, Lafeyette Ambulance (Upper Merion), Good Fellowship Ambulance (West Chester), and Phoenixville Fire Department Ambulance.


Radnor Township Sets the Example for Tredyffrin Township or Maybe it Is the Other Way Around

How about this headline coming out of Radnor Township, “Public Rights to Comment is Actively Under Assualt in Radnor Township”.  Have you been following the media coverage of Radnor Township’s elected officials?  Close on the heels of Dave Bashore (Remember Bashore is Radnor’s township manager that awarded more than $600K in bonuses to himself and other employees without the authorization of the Board of Commissioners) and his trial,  John Nagle won a commissioner seat in November and at the first board meeting of 2010 was elected president of Radnor Township’s Board of Commissioners.  In just a few meetings, Radnor Township commissioners have become their own version of reality TV.  President Nagle has quickly positioned himself against many members of the community with a determination to control and attempt to silence the commentary of the public at commissioner meetings.  As an example of Nagle’s distructive behavior and lack of civility, the public at a board meeting was greatly disturbed when he aggressively shouted profanity at a resident, who dared to disagree with him. 

Dan Sherry, an attorney from Radnor Township received a copy of a proposed Radnor Township resolution that is circulating which I found very apropos for Tredyffrin Township readers.  Although Mr. Sherry has not verified the resolutions’s authenticity, he believes it to be real. Please read proposed resolution here. Could this be a sign of what is to come for Tredyffrin residents?

In discussion of the proposed ordinance, attorney Sherry writes, “The proposed ordinance, plain and simple, is designed to restrict the public’s ability to engage the Radnor commissioners at official Board meetings, and to prevent the public from asking questions, receiving answers, or alerting the Board (and the public) of complicated matters of concern which can not possibly be expressed in three (3) minutes. . .

Moreover, the proposed ordinance is a shameless attempt to insulate the commissioners (and their corresponding actions) from public scrutiny, and to imbue the President of the Board (currently John Nagle) with unprecedented power and discretion (see, among other places Paragraphs 2, 3 and 4). Accordingly, if this proposed ordinance is adopted by the Board (which is currently comprised of four Democrats and three Republicans), any professed commitment by the commissioners to “accountability” “openness”, or “transparency” can be dismissed as demonstrably (and laughably) false. . . “

Mr. Sherry concludes his thoughts on this proposed legislation by saying,  ‘” . . . emphatically, an issue that the local press should examine, and that the identity (or identities) of the commissioner(s) responsible for drafting this document should be discovered and made public immediately.”

In response to Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors decision to return escrow to St. Davids Golf Club, I have received emails from residents of Lower Merion, Radnor, Easttown and Willistown Townships.  These neighboring residents have followed the decisions of Tredyffrin’s supervisors from the December supervisor meeting which included the BAWG report and with its alleged $50K offer from St. Davids Golf Club, to the $23,200 cardboard check presented to the fire companies and now to this latest supervisor decision (in opposition of ‘past practice’ of the township) to return escrow money without applicant request (or without the contracted work being completed). 

Do you see the grey cloud hanging over Tredyffrin Township . . . our neighbors are talking about us, wondering where is the accountability of our elected officials?  Wondering why a group of 4 individuals (Lamina, Kampf, Olson, Richter) is allowed total control of this community. Do we as residents of Tredyffrin Township care what our neighbors think of our government and the decisions of the officials that we elect?

I am really struggling to find a solution that could work to turn the clock back for Tredyffrin and its residents . . . to a time not long ago when elected officials of this community did what was right.  Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter need to reflect that it was the voters who elected you to serve them — that is, elected you to serve all the residents.  I fear that unless we move towards changing this picture that these four have created, this may be the legacy of those who serve on the Board of Supervisors.

The Week Started with Tredyffrin's Escrowgate . . . and Ends With Chairman Lamina Changing the Scheduled Board of Supervisor Meeting

How many times in 20 years do you suppose that a scheduled Board of Supervisors Meeting has had its meeting date changed? I don’t mean changed due to a holiday schedule or for weather related reasons. I have asked several people that should know the answer . . . no one can recall this ever happening. The calendar for Board of Supervisors Meetings is set at the first meeting in January, Keene Hall is reserved on the master calendar, the dates are published on the website, and are available at the township building.

So then don’t you find it extremely strange that the Board of Supervisor scheduled meeting for this Monday, February 1 is ‘mysteriously changed’ to Monday, February 8 with no stated reason or explanation. How is that Chairman Lamina has the authority to make an unprecedented change to the published schedule of Board of Supervisors meetings?  February 1 is only the third scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting of 2010 and Supervisor Lamina decides to change it . . .  why?  We know that Supervisor Olson is in Hawaii on vacation but he will still be away for the February 8 meeting.  Does Chairman Lamina have vacation plans or work issues requiring him to miss a meeting on February 1?  If that is the case, the last time I checked Tredyffrin Township has 7 supervisors, and the absence of Supervisors Lamina and Olson at a meeting would still leave a quorum with 5 remaining supervisors.  Transparency of government is apparently not the required mantra under Supervisor Lamina’s charge.

Frankly, many of us are still working through the aftermath of ‘Escrowgate’ created by Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter when we are met with the unprecedented and unexplained Board of Supervisors meeting change.  I did a bit of research on changing dates of supervisors meetings; below is the section of Tredyffrin Township Home Rule Charter that deals with board meetings and procedures.  Please can someone show me where it says that meeting dates can be changed by the chair of the Board of Supervisors.  But I suppose just like Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter were able to dismiss policy and procedure at Monday night’s meeting, they also can change supervisors meetings.  Reason? . . . just because they can. 


§ 31.2-210. Board Meetings and Procedures.

 A. The Board shall meet regularly at least once in every month at such time and place as the Board may prescribe by ordinance or resolution. At its first meeting each year, the Board shall prescribe and advertise the calendar of regular monthly meetings for the remainder of the year.

 B. Special meetings may be held on the call of the Chairman, or of a majority of Supervisors, by providing notice to each Supervisor at least twenty-four hours in advance of such special meeting, which meeting notice shall be prominently posted at the Township office; however, in the case of an emergency which makes it necessary to convene a meeting with less than twenty-four hours advance notice, this requirement may be waived.

 C. The Board may take no official action except at an open public meeting in the presence of a quorum, consisting of a majority of all the members of the Board. All discussions relating to official actions should be in open public meetings with the following exceptions:

   1. Matters in litigation with the Township as a party;

   2. Matters concerning hiring, dismissal, promotion or discipline;

   3. Matters which would adversely affect the reputation of any persons; and,

   4. Matters having to do with the acquisition of land and other subjects which would be likely to benefit a party whose interests are adverse to the general community.

   Official actions by the Board shall be taken only by ordinance, resolution or motion. Voting, except on procedural matters, shall be by roll call vote. A majority vote of all the members of the Board shall be required to adopt an ordinance. Resolutions or motions shall be adopted by a majority vote of all the members of the Board present, except as otherwise provided herein.

 D. It is the intent of this Charter that the Board act as a body in relation to all administrative matters. No Supervisor shall publicly or privately seek individually to interfere with the official acts of Township officers and employees. However, nothing herein contained shall prevent the Board from establishing committees of its members to review the operations and legislative needs of the departments, or from assigning individual Supervisors to liaison relationships with boards, commissions and authorities.

Christmas in January for St. Davids Golf Club . . . Thank you Supervisors Lamina, Olson, Kampf & Richter

The community’s outrage over Monday night Board of Supervisors decision to return $25,000 escrow money to St. Davids Golf Club continues . . . Tredyffrin resident Dariel Jamieson provides the following Letter to the Editor in today’s Main Line Suburban Life.

Supervisors’ gift to country club

To the Editor:

What happened at Monday’s Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors meeting gives new meaning to the term “country-club Republicans.” In a stealth move that set a new standard for chutzpah, four members of the Board of Supervisors – Kampf, Lamina, Olson and Richter – voted to return $25,000 in escrow funds to St. Davids Country Club. There had been no public notice, the item was not on the agenda, and Mr. Olson, who made the motion, admitted the township had received no formal request from St. Davids to return the escrow funds.

After all the hoopla associated with St. Davids’ 18-month breach of contract, Monday night’s decision by four supervisors effectively absolves the golf club of its obligation to build a sidewalk along its property on Upper Gulph Road – an agreement reached with the Planning Commission in 2005 as part of an approval to expand its clubhouse.

But this is not about sidewalks. It is about the supervisors’ total lack of transparency, the appearance of impropriety, the complete disregard for the Planning Commission’s decisions, and the setting of bad precedent.

It became obvious during public comment that some members of the community had advance notice of the topic – some referring to typed notes as they spoke. That advance notice begs the question of why the item was not on the agenda. One supervisor said after the meeting that she “had been phoning people the whole latter half of the week.” People who clearly had not been made aware of the topic were residents of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood and members of the Sidewalks, Trails and Paths Committee.

I was also told after the meeting that the supervisors had asked for legal advice before the meeting and a representative of the township solicitor had assured them they were within their rights to take such a vote. Clearly there was time to get a legal opinion but no time to add the topic to the agenda. The stealth move was also scheduled on the same night as the Board of Education budget meeting, which was expected to have a “standing room only” crowd since it was covering the possibility of a significant tax increase.

Supervisor Michelle Kichline tried to initiate discussion opposing the motion but was silenced by Chairman Bob Lamina, who had announced that he would hear comments from the public before board members could speak. Ms. Kichline moved to table the motion in favor of St. Davids until serious legal and procedural questions could be answered but Mr. Lamina did not allow her motion to come to a vote.

Planning Commission Chair Bob Whelan stepped forward to rebut Mr. Olson’s claim that all immediate neighbors were opposed to the sidewalks and questioned why the board would want to completely negate the decision made by the Planning Commission. Later in the meeting Mr. Lamina suggested Tredyffrin should re-examine the role of the Planning Commission because the “Board of Supervisors are the ones elected directly by the voters and hence the ones accountable.”

One has to wonder why these four board members thought it was imperative to slip through a sweet deal for St. Davids. When the Board of Supervisors is willing to cut funding to the fire companies, libraries, public works and services to seniors, why was such effort expended to effectively make a gift to a country club?

Dariel Jamieson, Tredyffrin

Questions Continue Regarding the St. Davids Golf Club Decision by Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson & Richter

In discussion of the gray area surrounding the St. Davids decision by the Board of Supervisors (Lamina, Kampf, Olson, Richter), several residents inquired about our township solicitor, and how does his judgment weigh in on the legalities of this decision.  Tom Hogan of Lamb McErlane PC, (township’s contracted law firm) was absent on Monday night (due to knee surgery, not vacation as earlier suggested).  Another attorney from his firm attended the meeting in his absence. 

Tredyffrin has a contractual agreement with Lamb McErlane but I was not clear on the duties of the township solicitor. In review of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors website, I was able to locate the township solicitor’s job description (which I have included below). On one hand, in Section 1101 it is clear that the ‘township solicitor serves at the pleasure of the board of supervisors’ but then on the other hand, in Section 1102, it states that the township solicitor is to have control of all legal matters. Section 1103 does state ‘The township solicitor shall furnish the board of supervisors, upon request, with an opinion in writing upon any question of law.’  Do you suppose that Supervisor DiBuonaventuro, Kichline or Donohue could individually ask for a written opinion from Mr. Hogan? 

 If we consider the St. Davids Golf Club decision, is it possible for the township solicitor to serve at the pleasure of the board of supervisors if those same supervisors may (or may not) act in a legal manner?  A township solicitor may advise the board of supervisors on legal matters but the supervisors have the right to make the final decision for the township (apparently, even if the decision is questionable).  So as far as the St. Davids decision is concerned,  the township solicitor is responsible only to the supervisors. Further, I am not clear what counsel was given to the supervisors in Executive Session on the St. Davids GC escrow matter, prior to the supervisors meeting.  In the end, I guess it does not matter, the supervisors remain the final word.   Bottom line, if we want this latest Board of Supervisor decision to be challenged . . . it is not the job of the township solicitor. 

I am not satisfied with the St. Davids Golf Club decision on many levels but I need help as to where we go from here . . . just think that if this decision is allowed to stand, what will be next?  The Board of Supervisors meeting which was scheduled for Monday, February 1 has now been changed to Monday, February 8.  Coincidentally (?), the February 8 is the  important TE School District Finance Committee Meeting (2010-11 budget discussion).  Remember what happened this week . . . many residents attended the TESD meeting and not the Supervisor Meeting (because if you reviewed the BOS agenda, there was no mention of St. Davids Golf Club) and we saw what happened!  One can only wonder  what the ‘Block of 4’ (Lamina, Kampf, Olson, Richter) have  planned for the February 8 meeting of the Board of Supervisors (that won’t appear on the agenda) .


Section 1101. Township Solicitor.–The board of supervisors may appoint and determine the compensation of a township solicitor. The township solicitor shall be licensed to practice law in this Commonwealth and may be one person or a law firm, partnership, association or professional corporation. The township solicitor serves at the pleasure of the board of supervisors.

Section 1102. Solicitor to Have Control of Legal Matters-The township solicitor shall direct and control the legal matters of the township, and no official or official body of the township, except as otherwise provided under law, shall employ an additional attorney without the assent or ratification of the board of supervisors.

Section 1103. Duties of Solicitor.–The township solicitor, when directed or requested so to do, shall prepare or approve any bonds, obligations, contracts, leases, conveyances, ordinances and assurances to which the township may be a party. The township solicitor shall commence and prosecute all actions brought by the township for or on account of any of the estates, rights, trusts, privileges, claims or demands, as well as defend the township or any township officer against all actions or suits brought against the township or township officer in which any of the estates, rights, privileges, trusts, ordinances or accounts of the township may be brought in question before any court in this Commonwealth and do every professional act incident to the office which the township solicitor may be authorized or required to do by the board of supervisors or by any resolution. The township solicitor shall furnish the board of supervisors, upon request, with an opinion in writing upon any question of law.

The Ball is Back in Brian O’Neill’s Court! Uptown Worthington Developer Sues Citizens Bank for $8 Billion in Damages – You Read it Right, Billions!

If you recall, I have had several posts about Brian O’Neill of O’Neill Properties in regards to his Uptown Worthington project in Malvern (future site of Wegmans). Citizens Bank had secured a $61 million judgment against O’Neill in November for unpaid loans on the project.

Breaking news . . . Mr. O’Neill is taking back the ball to his side of the court.  He has filed a lawsuit against Citizens Bank for $8 billion in damages ($4 billion in compensatory damages and $4 billion in punitive damages), claiming that the bank wrongly called for loans before they were due and the bank did not follow through with their end of the agreement with construction financing.

The O’Neill lawsuit alleges that Citizens Bank judgment was “maliciously based upon sham defaults manufactured by the bank in bad faith — as part of a scheme to pressure”.  I am guessing that Citizens Bank tried to back O’Neill in to a corner with their demand to repay the loans.  O’Neill’s lawsuit points to a couple of major problems with Citizens Bank.  First, the bank was demanding repayment on the financing loans before the loans were scheduled to be due; and secondly, Citizens induced O’Neill to amend the initial loan agreements and increase the amount borrowed when they had no intention of doing so.

After Citizens Bank secured its judgment against O’Neill (in essence leaving the Worthington project without promised financing as the lead lender), O’Neill has been challenged in his efforts to find other financing.  Without Citizens Bank’s financing, O’Neill has faced great difficulty in restructuring the financing required for the Worthington project.  We are acutely aware that the economic climate is far different now than it was in 2002 when Brian O’Neill and O’Neill Properties began this major redevelopment project in Malvern, making this current financial situation all the more difficult for both sides.  Because of Citizens Banks actions, O’Neill alleges that he has lost not only tenants but also damages to his company far exceeding the $61 million loan amount.  As a result, O’Neill is seeking damages of $8 billion from Citizens Bank.

If you are keeping score, looks like the ball is in O’Neill’s court.  Citizens Bank, you are up next . . .

TESD Preliminary 2010-11 Budget . . . Main Line Suburban Newspaper Calls 'Reaction Mixed on T/E Plan'

The following article by Blair Meadowcroft appears in today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper.  The article details the mixed reaction of the passing of the preliminary 2010-11 school budget at Monday night’s TESD School Board Meeting.  One item that Blair mentioned that caught my eye concerned the replacement of long time 3rd grade teacher Walter Thompson at New Eagle Elementary with a long-term substitute.  There seems to be a vagueness concerning this matter and that information was coming from the children to the parents rather than the administration.  Anyone have further information on that topic?

As to how the cuts are to be orchestrated to make up the school budget deficit, is my understanding that we will be given further information at the Finance Committe on February 8?  I wonder if the adminstration and School Board will equally distribute the cost-cutting measures throughout the district?  Or, will certain grades or programs be more vulnerable?  Someone mentioned the reduction of AP offerings at the high school as a possible source, although at this point, guess most of us are in a ‘wait and see’ mode.  I wonder how much students or parents can impact the decisions?

      Reaction Mixed on T/E Plan

By Blair Meadowcroft

Although passed unanimously, the preliminary budget that was approved at the Monday-night Tredyffrin/Easttown Board of School Directors meeting did not gain the same unanimous approval from residents. The proposed preliminary budget for the 2010-2011 school year is $101.9 million from revenue and $111.15 million in expenses, leaving a $9.25-million deficit. On the table at the School Board meeting was the decision of whether or not to raise taxes in order to combat the deficit. If the board approved raising taxes up to the 2.9-percent Act 1 index, the deficit would decrease to $6.85 million. If the board approved to apply for exceptions to the Act 1 index, it would be allowed to tax 3.73 percent on top of the index, which could bring the deficit down to $3.75 million.

While not a perfect fix towards creating a balanced budget, the board was asked to vote on the proposed preliminary budget with the authorization to apply for the Act 1 referendum exceptions. After comments from various board members, it appeared some favored and some opposed approving the Act 1 exceptions.

“I will be voting no against the proposed preliminary budget because we need to protect the program and we don’t want to negatively impact the school,” said Kevin Mahoney, chair of the Finance Committee. “Tredyffrin has a large population of elderly people as well as five percent living below the poverty line and these people may not be able to afford a large tax increase. We should find necessary funding from the fund balance. It has been a rainy-day fund and we should use it to help us bridge this hard time. I suggest a minimal tax increase within Act 1 and I suggest we make spending cuts and use the fund balance where necessary.”

In disagreement, board member Peter Motel stated he intended to vote yes for the budget as presented until the possible spending cuts are determined. “We need to keep the option of going above Act 1 open, and if we do decide to go above the cap, we need to ask for public approval,” said Motel.

After discussion, the board voted on the motion to approve the proposed preliminary budget, with the authorization to seek out the Act 1 referendum exceptions, and the motion did not pass. The board then voted on passing the preliminary budget with an adopted resolution limiting the tax increase to the Act 1 index of 2.9 percent or less. This motion was approved and the preliminary budget for the 2010-2011 school year was passed unanimously.

At the end of the budget discussions, many residents voiced their opinions both for and against the outcome. The most common point made was confusion as to why the budget was not passed with the Act 1 exceptions. “I’m disappointed the Act 1 exception wasn’t considered,” said one resident. “The School Board did not have to take the additional tax increase but applying for the exception could have been a starter and should have been considered. I want our children to have a great program and I’m willing to pay up to the 2.9 percent or more. Whatever it takes to continue to present the best program with the best teachers.”

In agreement another resident stated that by not passing the Act 1 exceptions, the board has closed doors. “I don’t understand the logic behind limiting your options; you would not have been obligated to raise the taxes by passing the budget and yet by not passing it you now have cut your options,” he said.

It may have been surprising to board members but many residents not only voiced their willingness to pay higher taxes but also explained their concern that by not approving the possibility of higher taxes, the board has limited the opportunities and may now have to cut in areas, thus hindering the program that residents find so above par.

However, the hard times brought on by the poor economy did have some residents concerned that higher taxes would be one more bill they would have to struggle to pay. “I urge you not to take the entire 2.9 percent as a lot of us are already underwater, unemployed or retired and elderly,” said one resident.

This was the sixth meeting during which the budget was a line item, and the board will continue to discuss and rework the budget through June. The final budget must be approved at the June 14 board meeting. Until then the board intends to work on ways of lowering expenses and ways to use the fund balance in an effort to fix the deficit. The hope is to end the year with a balanced budget. For more information and to view the budget online visit

In other news, a topic on the minds of many of the residents at the Jan. 25 school-board meeting was the replacement of a third-grade teacher at New Eagle Elementary School. According to many parents, Walter Thompson, a longtime teacher at New Eagle, is being replaced by a long-term substitute after an extensive review period for reasons they are unaware. The parents went on to say that their children were the only ones communicating to them what was happening in Thompson’s class and that they were the ones informing them of his being extensively monitored and audited.

Many parents expressed concern that various teachers instructed their children since October and that their third-grade education may have been hindered from the experience. Additionally many parents explained that their children were upset, even anxious over the situation.

The major complaint made by parents at the meeting was that the district did not tell them what was going on in their children’s class. They expressed that they were not trying to find out why Thompson was being audited or what he may have done, but wanted an explanation as to why the situation was handled the way it was.

After many comments and concerns were made by parents, the board re-emphasized that it were unable to give information about the Thompson.

Based on PA Municipalities Planning Code (MPC) It Appears That the Board of Supervisors St. Davids Golf Club Decision May Not be Legal!

Community Matters had over 2,200 visitors yesterday setting a new single day total.  In review of the statistics, it seems that people’s interest was about evenly divided between Monday night’s Board of Supervisor Meeting and the School Board Meeting. Many readers were left with more questions than answers in their review of the Supervisor Meeting.  With that in mind, I am looking for help from a municipal attorney to review the Board of Supervisors recent decision to return St. Davids Golf Club $25,000 escrow. 

I received the following comment from a reader which includes an excerpt from the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC).  Reading the reference, I completely agree with the reader’s analysis that the actions of Supervisors Lamina, Kampf, Olson and Richter violated Tredyffrin Township code (which is based on Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code).  At the Board of Supervisor meeting, I questioned the supervisors if there was a written request from St. Davids Golf Club; they clearly acknowledged that the township had received nothing in writing.  Based on the MPC, it would appear that the lack of a ‘written request’ should have been the end of the discussion . . . a written request for ‘return of escrow’ would have formed the basis for the process to begin. 

Based on the MPC, I do not understand how it is legally possible for Supervisor Olson to make a motion, Supervisor Lamina to second the motion and then take a Supervisor vote on a matter that may not be legal.  I am confused – was the vote legal or not?  Supervisor Kichline (an attorney and former Zoning Hearing Board chair) certainly questioned the motion and the possible legalities, asking for further review from the Township Solicitor.  But wouldn’t Supervisor Kampf (an attorney and partner in the law firm of White & Williams) understand muncipal law and not cast a deciding vote on a questionable matter?  Supervisor Kichline votes against the motion to return escrow to St. Davids GC but Supervisor Kampf casts the deciding vote in favor.  I just don’t get it . . . as an attorney, why in the world would Supervisor Kampf participate in this process if there was any question? 

At this point, I do not have a definitive answer on the legality of the St. Davids matter but I am going to continue to work on it.  I am sending this post and reader’s comment to Tom Hogan, Township Solicitor and Mimi Gleason, Township Manager.  If they are unable to provide a clear response, I will contact the PA Attorney General’s office.  If there is a municipal attorney reading Community Matters, please offer your opinion.

Roger, on January 26th, 2010 at 8:54 pm Said: 

I was unable to attend the meeting, but have read the multiple accounts of this issue. In my humble opinion, the Board of Supervisors is in violation of their own Township Code, which is enacted under the authority of the PA Municipalities Planning Code (MPC). Feel free to reference the code for yourself here:

I would assume that the escrow account would be classified as a “Performance Guaranty.” While I believe the BOS COULD delegate some of this authority to the Planning Commission, it has chosen not to (which is entirely permissible. HOWEVER, Tredyffrin’s code plainly states:

“As the work of installing the required improvements proceeds, the party posting the financial security may request the Board of Supervisors to release or authorize to be released, from time to time, such portions of the financial security necessary for payment to the contractor or contractors performing the work. Any such requests shall be in writing addressed to the Board of Supervisors, and the Board shall have 45 days from receipt of such request within which to allow the Township Engineer to certify, in writing, that such portion of the work upon the improvements has been completed in accordance with the approved plans. Upon such certification, the Board shall authorize release by the bonding company or lending institution of an amount as estimated by the Township Engineer fairly representing the value of the improvements completed. The Township Engineer, in certifying the completion of work for a partial release, shall not be bound to the amount requested by the applicant, but shall certify to the Board his independent evaluation of the proper amount of partial releases. The Board may, prior to final release at the time of completion and certification by the Township Engineer, require retention of 10% of the estimated cost of the aforesaid improvements as per § 181-34D of this chapter.” Tredyffrin Township Code Section 181-34(G).

What is important in this provision??? Well, first of all the request for release of the funds MUST BE IN WRITING. Second, the BOS is given 45 days to refer the matter to the Township Engineer. The Engineer must CERTIFY IN WRITING that the improvements have been completed and also determine the AMOUNT TO BE RELEASED.

I would ask this:
1) Where is the request from St. David’s (well actually the entities doing the work there) for release of these funds?

2) Where is the report in writing from the Township Engineer?

3) Where is the estimated return amount determined by the Township Engineer?

4) Why was the normal procedural aspects (as was mentioned by Ray) disregarded here?

I am not well versed in this area, but to me it seems simple – there is a process that MUST BE FOLLOWED. With all due respect, the Supervisors must be held accountable for failure to follow their own code. The Supervisors do not have the authority to simply make a motion and dispose of an issue as they see fit with no procedures followed.

PA State House 157 Race Adds Ken Buckwalter of Phoenixville

Ken Buckwalter of Phoenixville made his formal announcement in The Mercury that he is in race for the PA State House 157.  To read the full article, Phoenixville Councilman Seeks GOP nomination for State House click here.Besides the many other accomplishments of Mr. Buckwalter (volunteer firefighter, Phoenixville councilman, businessman) his background includes an interesting twist,which caught my eye.  Since 2006, Ken has been an active blogger; his blog Watching Phoenixville is dedicated to ‘Keeping an Eye on Phoenixville and the General Surrounds and Holding those in Leadership Positions Accountable’

Yesterday, Ken highlighted my Community Matters in a post on Watching Phoenixville, as he compared Tredyffrin Township’s recent Board of Supervisor meeting to some of the past Phoenixville Council meetings.  As a blogger, Ken has an interesting vantage point from which to launch his State House 157 campaign.  In reading his blog post, Ken makes an interesting point, ” . . . it is important for candidates of an office and those who have been elected to office to understand those who put us in office deserve transparency and accountability of our actions. Citizen journalists and their following are watching and taking notes.” 

From one blogger to another, I offer best wishes to Ken as he takes on this latest challenge.

Tredyffrin Easttown School Board to Hold the Line at Act 1 Index . . . Taxes Will Not Increase More than 2.9%! What Will be Cut to Fund the Deficit?

I was not at the TESD meeting last night – I was at Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors Meeting. (See last post, ‘Control of Tredyffrin Township in the Hands of 4 . . . Residents Will Now Play by Their Rules!’)

I have received several emails, telephone calls and also comments for Community Matters in regards to the School Board meeting and the standing room only crowd. Last night the School Board Directors decided with a 6-3 vote to limit the district tax increase to the Act 1 index of 2.9%. For many taxpayers this represented a complete reversal of where the last few days appeared to be heading . . . especially with the lobbying efforts of TEES Union President Debra Ciamacca. The school district teachers (and some of the T/E parents) were hopeful that the School Board would vote in favor of applying for Act 1 exception which could conceivably have sent the district tax increase to nearly 7%.

With a proposed 2010-11 school budget indicating a deficit of $9.2 million, it is difficult to understand exactly where the administration and School Board members will propose cuts . . . remembering that program cuts can translate in to teacher furloughs. Ray Clark provided us with some of his observations on last night’s TESD meeting. His remarks can be found here. Ray points to the February 8 Finance Committee as the next step in the district budget timeline. In anticipation of another large audience, it is suggested that the School Board relocate the meeting to the school auditorium.

I am anxious to get the dialogue going about the school budget; what does last night’s meeting represent for the school district? How will the School Board and administration prioritize the program cutting that will be required to meet the remaining deficit? Will the teachers and parents have any influence on the decisions?

Between the School District meeting and the Board of Supervisors meeting, last night represented a night of decisions that could have a long-lasting effect on our community.  I look forward to hearing from you on both topics.

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