T/E School Board Candidates Question #1: Public Accountability

Here is the full list of candidates running for T/E School Board – See Question #1 and the candidate responses below (in alphabetical order by last name).

T/E School Board Region 1 Candidates
Roberta Hotinski (D) Incumbent, unopposed
Todd Kantorczyk (D) Incumbent, unopposed

T/E School Board Region 2 Candidates (2 seats available)
Doug Anestad (I)
Michele Burger (D) Incumbent
Stacy Stone (D)
Ed Sweeney (R) Incumbent

T/E School Board Region 3 Candidates
Mary Garrett Itin (D)* opposed by Nicholas Lee (R)
Incumbent Kate Murphy (R) opposed by Sue Tiede (D)

*Mary Garrett Itin was appointed to the T/E School Board in July 2019 (to fill the seat vacated by Heather Ward) to serve through the December 2, 2019 School Board Reorganization Meeting.

_______________________________________________

QUESTION #1: Public accountability requires that our school board provide oversight of the school district. Do you see room for improvement in this area and if so, what would you change. Please be specific.

Doug Anestad Response:

I do not believe that the school board has been providing the necessary oversight of the school district. Over and over again, the administration has either not given the school board information in a timely manner or has outright deceived the school board into believing things that were not true.

The response from the school board has been to give the superintendent a satisfactory rating and give the business manager a pay raise and bonus. It is unacceptable for the administration to deceive and lie to the school board.

As a school board member, I would not sit silently by as district administrators keep important information from the board or deceive the board through lies, half-truths, misdirections, and straw man arguments. Anyone who has been watching the school board meetings already knows that I will speak up to tell the truth when the administration is not doing so.

Michele Burger Response:

Serving on the Board of a top ranked district might lead one to believe that the need for oversight is minimal. Not true. I will advocate for improvements specifically in the areas of financial planning and the budgeting process as a whole, user-friendly documents and communication regarding the district’s infrastructure and capital improvement schedule, effective communication to all stakeholders regarding the financial challenges of increasing enrollment and unfunded state mandates, and the need for providing data to teachers and parents when evaluating the effectiveness of the instruction that students are receiving. I have publicly advocated the hiring of an independent financial advisor in order to develop a long range plan for future financing of capital projects. I requested a monthly report of special education expenses which the administration implemented this year. I amended this year’s district goals to include that the Superintendent provide the Board with a new goals and objectives format that will be measurable.

Roberta Hotinski Response:

There is always room for improvement. One area I believe we need to work on is a data-driven approach to district management in all areas, but particularly to ensure that our educational program is working well for all students.  The new student data system will help us on that front by allowing us to easily view district-wide performance data, and I look forward to applying that information to understand and address literacy and equity issues.

I have also supported improving our annual goal-setting process by including measurable goals and metrics for success, and I have proposed that our committees take a more active role in developing district goals.

Finally, I advocated to expand the district’s strategic plan to address not just the educational program, but also operations and sustainability, to ensure that the board is taking a long-term view of those issues.

Mary Garrett Itin Response:

Good governance and well-run organizations require that we are all accountable.  Strengthening accountability has been a focus of my work since joining the School Board.  I request detailed information to make decisions.  Additionally, we need improved transparency and communication for the community to understand and have input.  When I make a proposal, I work to be as specific as possible for real discussion and defined next steps.  I see room for improvement in the following areas: 1. Ending each meeting with the review of the agreed upon action items with due dates and reviewing progress on action items at the beginning of each School Board meeting. 2. For our District Level Goals and any applicable changes, we need to define outcomes and utilize data and assessments to evaluate and refine goals as needed. 3. Inclusion of letters received by the Board in the agenda.

Todd Kantorczyk Response:

School Board oversight is comprised of two major components: providing direction to the District consistent with the District’s mission statement and what the Board feels is in the best interest of the community; and obtaining information the Board feels is necessary to provide this direction.  The first point depends on the views of each individual member.  For the second point, during my four years on the board, I feel that lines of communication between the Administration and the Board have been very good, and I have been provided with information I felt was necessary to provide informed direction.  But there are always opportunities for improvement, and during my tenure we have implemented new practices to enhance information communication, including regular administration reports on special education spend, a new policy concerning unpaid invoices, and supplemental administration reports on significant initiatives including elementary redistricting, delayed start times and reading instruction.

Nicholas Lee Response:

I would demand that our T/E school administration provide a clear and transparent budget each and every year. The recent $5.5 million budget discrepancy and the accounting error that cost our district $1.2 million are glaring examples of disorder in our financial household. Community Matters has done a great job documenting both of these cases (as well as the recent tax increases) on this website and I believe the T/E taxpayers and parents are frustrated and angered with the status quo. Governmental agencies should not fear financial transparency nor should a school district avoid providing a balanced budget for its taxpayers.

Kate Murphy Response:

Unfortunately, recent events have made it clear that we do need to improve our oversight.  I’ve made several efforts through my position as chair of the Policy Committee to do this, including changes to our superintendent’s responsibilities with regard to payment of invoices and more public engagement though a proposed Literacy Committee.  But your question is a difficult one because each board member represents only one of nine votes.  And frankly, the style and quality of oversight depends on how the members of the board go about doing their jobs.  In this regard, my strength is the time and energy I put into working with other board members to exchange our thoughts and build coalitions within the board.  I do not think a dissociated and dissonant board is effective—we need to work together, and I intend to continue taking every opportunity to do that.

Stacy Stone Response:

T/E consistently ranks among top districts in the Commonwealth and nation; however, there is always room for improvement.  The duty of the administration and school board is to adhere to sound fiscal practices while ensuring that our students get the best possible education. One area needing improvement is district goal setting, both process and product. The board recently requested inclusion of “success indicators” for each goal, but the administration’s first attempt resulted in the insertion of rather vague statements. Additionally, the process to date has been to delete the previous year’s district goals from the website prior to the first board meeting of the new school year without any public review. We need specific, measurable goals and objectives as well as a public process—beginning in the spring rather than the fall—that reviews the District Goal Completion Report to inform development of appropriate goals for the next school year.

Ed Sweeney Response:

Absolutely yes!

First, revamp the budget process.  I have submitted a comprehensive Financial Reform Program developed by knowledgeable citizen volunteers to the Board for consideration.  Key points:

  • The Superintendent is accountable to give the Board the most accurate financial picture possible
  • The administration must submit a balanced budget without use of fund balance
  • TESD is challenged to win the award for budget transparency in Pennsylvania
  • The appointment of a committee with 6-12 volunteers of exceptional financial backgrounds to give the Board advice.

Our goal: “real time” knowledge of the financial status of the district to make decisions. Second, all options must be on the table to obtain the goal, including personnel change. Third, we need to partner more with parents and knowledgeable citizens to get diverse viewpoints.  Common sense ideas like a Literacy Committee need to be implemented. Fourth, the ongoing Strategic Plan Process is an excellent opportunity to effectuate change.

Sue Tiede Response:

As a member of the T/E School Board, I would work with the other members of the Board to provide effective oversight of the district by adhering to the principles of the non-profit Pennsylvania School Boards Association. The PSBA describes the role of the Board of School Directors in the following way: “School boards are most effective when they concentrate their time and energy on using the authority delegated to them to govern at the strategic level, determining what it is the community’s schools should accomplish, enacting policies that implement those goals, hiring professional staff to accomplish them and allocating the resources necessary to make all of that happen.”

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Ten Candidates for T/E School Board – Where do they stand on important community issues? Know before you VOTE – Responses to Community Matters questions (plus a question for Easttown Township Supervisor Candidates)

The four Community Matters questions and responses from the eight Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidates are now posted – I appreciate the candidates taking the time to respond and encourage voters to review.

I have been asked by several Easttown Township residents to include their supervisor candidates in the Community Matters Q&A.  Between the eight Tredyffrin supervisor candidates and ten TESD school board candidates (which includes Easttown candidates), the management of these 18 candidate responses has been challenging and I did not think I had time for other candidate races.

However, Easttown residents share the T/E School District with Tredyffrin residents and together we have many of the same issues. I have changed my mind and emailed the Easttown Township supervisor candidates the following question:

In your opinion, what is the single most important issue facing Easttown Township; and what in your background, experience or education prepares you to help with this specific issue?

Easttown Township voters will elect two supervisors on Election Day – The candidates are incumbent Karl Romberger (R),  Alessandra Nicolas (R), Michael Wacey (D) and Beth D’Antonio (D). Due to prior personal commitments, there is short turnaround for the candidates to respond and any responses received will be posted on Community Matters on Tuesday, Oct. 29.

In 10 days, local voters we will go to the polls to select six T/E School Board directors. People bring different backgrounds and qualifications to the job of school board director and as voters; we need to know as much as possible about the candidates to make the right choices on Election Day.

As elected school board directors, residents count on their leadership in overseeing the academic, legal and financial health of the T/E School District.  School boards are nothing less than the governing body of our school district. They are the bosses’ bosses representing the public interest and to this extent, they should serve the diverse values and needs of our community.

Aside from your child’s teacher, principal, and the District’s superintendent, school board members have the greatest influence on your child’s education because they decide on how to spend the District’s public school funds and set its governing policies.

T/E School Board Candidates:

  • Region 1: Incumbents Roberta Hotinski (D) and Todd Kantorczyk (D) are running unopposed.
  • Region 2: Four candidates are seeking two seats. Incumbents Michele Burger (D) and Ed Sweeney (R) are opposed by Doug Anestad (I) and Stacy Stone (D).
  • Region 3: Incumbent Kate Murphy (R) is opposed by candidate Sue Tiede (D). Mary Garrett Itin (D)* is opposed by candidate Nicholas Lee (R).

*Mary Garrett Itin was appointed to the T/E School Board in July 2019 (to fill the seat vacated by Heather Ward) to serve through the December 2, 2019 School Board Reorganization Meeting.

T/E School District Voting Precincts:

  • Region 1: Tredyffrin E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, M-1, M-2, M-5, M-6, W-3, W-4
  • Region 2: Tredyffrin M-3, M-4, M-7 W-1, W-2, W-5
  • Region 3: Tredyffrin E-1, Easttown 1-7

Some voters may not be aware of a late entry in the school board race – Doug Anestad (I).  As a registered Independent, Anestad was not on the Primary Election ballot and only entered the race in August. He previously ran as a Republican in a highly contentious race against Kyle Boyer (D) in 2017.

Should Anestad win in 2019, he would make history as the first registered Independent to be elected to the T/E School Board. However, the District does have another registered Independent currently serving on the school board — School board president Scott Dorsey was first elected to the Board in 2013 and re-elected in 2017, both times as a Democrat. However, in advance of the upcoming election, Dorsey recently changed his party affiliation from ‘D’ to Independent.

To assist voters in the decision-making process, it is important for the public to know the candidates and where they stand on important community issues. To aid in the process, four questions were sent to the ten school board candidates.

Completely voluntary, the questions were chosen on what I believe are important issues and included public accountability, financial management and participation and input from the community. All ten candidates responded and their responses (in alphabetical order by last name) will appear on Community Matters one question at a time. The public is encouraged to review the responses and comment.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Question #4: Why Should You Be Elected or Re-Elected?

List of candidates running for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors – voters will select one district supervisor from the East, one district supervisor from the West and two At-Large supervisors. See Question #4 and the candidate responses below.

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D)
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D)
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)

____________________________________________________________

  1. What differentiates you from the other candidates and/or board members? Why should you be elected or re-elected?

K. S. Bhaskar Response:

I will bring the perspective of an engineer and computer scientist, different from that of lawyers and real estate developers. I will review storm-water management holistically rather than piecemeal. Frequent flooding and erosion create a mutually-reinforcing spiral. Insufficiently planned development triggers the problems, and the former quarry, now a lake, at Atwater raises a water table which does not respect township borders. Also, I will use my background in mission-critical software used in banking and healthcare to review and strengthen the township’s cyber-defenses because towns in America are being hit with ransomware attacks. Also, while the Internet of Things – such as smart light bulbs that signal when they need replacement, or remote monitors on water and sewage pumps – reduces our costs and makes it easier to provide municipal services, it also increases our potential attack surface, which must be reviewed and protected.

Peter DiLullo Response:

There are three primary reasons that I would make a great addition to the Board of Supervisors.  First and foremost I have three young children utilizing all the services of Tredyffrin – schools, parks, libraries, fields, etc.  With that, I have a very vested interest in keeping Tredyffrin a great place to live.  Second, I spent the first part of my career as a CPA with KPMG and PWC.  I understand budgets and the responsible use of our residents hard earned tax dollars.  The third reason that I would make a great supervisor is that I currently work in commercial real estate giving me a deep understanding of responsible land use, smart growth, and the impact of storm water on our neighborhoods, businesses, and natural resources.

Mark Freed Response:

Experience, responsiveness and transparency. I am in my fifth year as a Township Supervisor, and believe that I have a solid grasp of the operations, finances and priorities of the Township.  My experience as a municipal solicitor and environmental lawyer also helps inform my decisions. I try to be responsive to the questions and concerns of our residents. And, I try to keep interested residents apprised of what the Township is doing and why. Whether dealing with the issues of electronic billboards, commercial or residential development, assisted living facilities, police department and fire company staffing and funding, bond issues, neighborhood noise and nuisance complaints, infrastructure repair and maintenance, stormwater, historic preservation, environmental stewardship or the many other matters that come before the Board, I try to apply my experience and knowledge for the benefit of our residents.

Julie Gosse Response:

I am a scientist, small business owner, and mother. Together, these give me unmatched capabilities and perspective that will benefit Tredyffrin. My scientific background involves breaking down complex systems, thinking hard about cause-effect, and determining actions from a fact-based perspective. Through my science communications firm, I balance client requests with fiscal discipline, and manage growth with sustainability. As a team, much like the Board of Supervisors, we work together to tackle tough problems. I enjoy science because data are dispassionate, and can take the emotion out of arguments. I enjoy client business and being a parent because both reward soft skills and communication. As a Supervisor, I bring these strengths to the Board and better serve our community as a result. Finally, having grown up in Tredyffrin, I have a deep understanding and love of the township and work to represent all residents – children, young adults, working parents, and seniors.

Sharon Humble Response:

I have extensive legal, business, executive, and charitable-board experience. I’m attorney who has spent almost 25 years in private practice as outside legal counsel representing local governments to help them improve their fiscal positions and solve other legal and practical problems. I served as the Managing Partner of my firm’s Philadelphia office. In that role, I handled all the business matters of the office, including client relationships, contracts, budgeting, B2B purchases, insurance, taxes, charitable and promotional participation, governmental affairs, HR matters, etc. I also served on my firm’s national Management Committee for 12 years until my retirement from the firm on January 1, 2018. The national Management Committee oversees and votes on all of the business matters of the firm’s 40+ offices in the U.S. I’d love to bring my years of very successful and high-level business experience to serving on the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors.

Gina Mazzulla Response:

Well, one differentiator is I am not a lawyer. My educational background is rooted in the social sciences and education and my professional background is executive development, organizational behavior, marketing and communications. My recent “extracurricular” activity is in the area of non-profit management. This background serves as a foundation for leadership built on observation of individual and group dynamics, facilitation of ideas and dialogue, integration of people and processes, and critical thinking and reasoning.

My work on the United Way community impact team has greatly influenced my readiness for the role of Supervisor and informed my framework for decision-making in the role. This includes: How many constituents are affected by the action or decision? What are the positive and negative implications? What are the consequences if we don’t act now? What is the impact on other services and stakeholders? and What are the implications for long-term (financial) sustainability?

Liz Mercogliano Response:

I am different from all the current Supervisors and running candidates. I am a behavioral health RN with hospital and forensic experience. I can run a code and save a life. I know the importance of helping families with addicted love ones. I sponsored the first Tredyffrin Backyard Opioid Event.  I survived breast cancer at age 38.

I was the Chair of Diversity for the T/E Schools because I grew up in a diverse family. I married an immigrant. I was an older student when I attended the Delaware University Law School. I am not in it to climb the political ladder or play party politics. I believe Township issues are bipartisan issues. The citizens of Tredyffrin deserve better and deserve more than red tape and minimal information (after the fact). I bring a willingness to listen and treat others with dignity and respect.

Raffi Terzian Response:

I believe in public service and my focus is on community first and how best to address the needs of our community. I take a collaborative approach in bringing people together and I am a good listener who consistently acts with integrity, accountability and transparency. I am actively involved in the community through a number of activities including my service on the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust, as a member of the Township Parks and Recreation Board and through my involvement in my church. I bring a unique skillset to the Board of Supervisors as an Emergency Physician with a background in public health and I have strong leadership, organizational and decision-making skills. I presently work in health advocacy with executive experience and budget responsibility. I am prepared to serve and believe that we, as neighbors, should serve each other with a common interest in seeing our community thrive.  Thank you.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Catalyst Outdoor DEFEATED in Tredyffrin Township — VICTORY Declared — NO Digital Billboard in Paoli!

Thank you Tredyffrin Township Zoning Hearing Board for agreeing with the township and the community by saying NO to a digital billboard in Paoli! Tonight with a unanimous 3-0 vote, the Zoning Hearing Board members rejected Catalyst Outdoor’s digital billboard appeal of the township’s denial of the digital billboard application!

For fourteen months, the BAN the Digital Billboard campaign has fought back against Catalyst’s plan for digital billboard at the Clockworks building — and tonight VICTORY is declared! Thank you to so many who joined in and supported the journey against the digital billboard.  

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not say that Catalyst can appeal the decision and I think the time line is 30 days — the appeal would go to Chester County Court of Common Pleas. For now, I’m just going to savor the VICTORY of NO Digital Billboard in Paoli … Community Does Matter!

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Question #3: Funding Township Infrastructure Improvements

List of candidates running for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors – voters will select one district supervisor from the East, one district supervisor from the West and two At-Large supervisors. See Question #3 and the candidate responses below.

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D)
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D)
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)

___________________________________________________________

  1. Tredyffrin Township has a substantial fund balance yet the infrastructure is deteriorating. How do you propose balancing compensation-driven cost pressure and the need to deliver infrastructure improvements while avoiding or limiting a tax increase?

 K. S. Bhaskar Response:

“Compensation-driven cost pressure” is presumably a euphemism for salaries and benefits for township employees. While we need not be overly generous, if we want our employees to put their best foot forward for the township every day, we need to compensate them appropriately and competitively for our part of the country. As the township also needs rainy-day reserves to deal with emergencies as well as fund capital projects, not all fund balances are available to be tapped for needed infrastructure maintenance resulting from kicking the can down the road for years in the name of low taxes. There comes a time to pay the Piper. While some cost increase is inevitable, I will use an impact-cost-risk analysis to prioritize projects and mitigate and manage costs. There is no magic, and these are techniques I have routinely used in managing a product business at a global Fortune 500 company.

Peter DiLullo Response:

Aging infrastructure is a topic that cannot be ignored.  Assisted by 3rd party engineering reports, projects need to be budgeted, planned and prioritized in an effort to avoid tax increases.  Furthermore, state and federal grant programs need to be researched as a funding source.

Mark Freed Response:

The Township does have a substantial fund balance.  I commend prior Boards for leaving the Township on a sound financial footing.  However, this has come at the cost of significant deferred maintenance on such things as bridges, parks and other Township property.  To address these much-needed repairs without resorting to depleting the reserves or excessive tax increases, the Township has proposed to prudently use reserves along with the issuance of historically low interest bonds.  As we move forward, we must continue to insure that the Township’s expenses are in line with its revenues.  This requires assuring that we properly prioritize needed work and other expenses.  Although excess reserves can be used to help pay for infrastructure, we must assure that they do not become so depleted that they are not available for their intended purposes: downturns in revenue and unanticipated expenses.

Julie Gosse Response:

We can no longer shy away from the critical maintenance of our infrastructure or minimize fixes on our major problems. Our fund balance is strong. We can use a portion of this in a fiscally responsible bond strategy to help meet today’s infrastructure challenges while retaining sufficient reserves to meet our future contingencies. With interest rates at record lows, now is a good time for us to issue bonds to raise money to meet our capital needs. Using this approach gives us an opportunity to fund our long-overdue infrastructure projects – bridges, deteriorating stormwater infrastructure, deferred park and building upgrades – without a significant impact on taxes.

Sharon Humble Response:

Costs for Township personnel compensation are unlikely to go down as Township personnel gain experience, expertise, and tenure with the Township. Personnel costs are typically paid from anticipated revenue as part of any government annual budget. They’re not paid from reserves or special funds created from special taxes or fees. In my opinion, capital improvements in the township should be funded from a bond issue or special funds created to address the particular infrastructure issues.

Gina Mazzulla Response:

The most honest answer I can give is “I don’t know”. I don’t know details of the mandated or contractual obligations of the township (like police pension funding, employee benefits, etc.), I don’t know the scope of needed infrastructure improvements, nor do I know the details of the township’s investment strategy or reserves allocation to make a sound proposal.

I would ask questions like, Can we pool with other municipalities to get better health care rates? Can we increase the employee share of premium costs? Can we renegotiate the terms of (new hire) police contracts away from defined benefit pensions to a 401K model? What are the risks and opportunity costs if we don’t fix infrastructure now? What are the potential consequences of waiting? Do we have the necessary expertise and broad community input to make these decisions?

What I do know is I will make decisions that prioritize resident safety, security and well-being.

Liz Mercogliano Response:

First, the Tredyffrin infrastructure updates are done with the cooperation of Chester County, Pennsylvania, local businesses, local developers and PECO. For example, Chester County does help fund our Mill Road bridges. I suggest infrastructure should be funded by bonds and the capitol project funds. The fund balance should be the last resort. The fact is no one likes tax increases. And no one wants services cut back. However, a minimal tax increase to beautify and renew may be necessary to replace roads and bridges for public safety. As a former School Board Director, I know that once the fund balance is spent down, it is very difficult to replace. The Supervisors should seek professional outside advice to strategize the various ways to fund infrastructure. I also suggest a citizen advisory board.

Raffi Terzian Response:

Addressing gaps in infrastructure should be a key priority for the Board of Supervisors but must be balanced with fiscal responsibility. The fund balance is a by-product of sound fiscal management and has allowed our township to maintain a strong bond rating. Rational and prudent spending must be preserved. It is important to establish priorities for infrastructure improvements in consultation with the township manager, engineer and others in the context of a broader comprehensive plan for the Township. In terms of infrastructure, the issue of stormwater management and development of a strategic plan should be a top priority as it continues to be a significant concern to our community. The recent establishment of the Stormwater Citizen’s Advisory Task Force is a step in the right direction, as it will leverage the collective expertise and guidance of members of our community who recognize this issue as complex and multifaceted.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Question #2: How to Fund Fire & Emergency Medical Services (EMS)

List of candidates running for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors – voters will select one district supervisor from the East, one district supervisor from the West and two At-Large supervisors. See Question #2 and the candidate responses below.

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D)
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D)
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)
____________________________________________________________

2. The Fire Companies that serve our township are facing declining financial reserves, increasing expenses and staffing shortfalls which directly impact its ability to provide essential fire, rescue and emergency medical services to the community. As a supervisor, how would you improve the situation for our volunteer fire companies – please be specific.

K. S. Bhaskar Response:
As firefighting and emergency medical services are complex jobs requiring substantial training, career professionals are necessarily a significant part of our first responder force, like our police. In my discussions with voters, I find that many are not aware that fire companies are separate 501(c)(3) entities that raise funds from individuals as well as from the township. Most individuals are unaware that the donations they make – if they make any – are wholly inadequate. I would start by better educating our voters, to help decide what long term solution(s) might work. Our fire companies and township will be key participants in the process. For example, should we stay with the current model, or should we bring emergency services under the purview of the township? If voters pay more for more professional emergency services, will they also seek the increased accountability that goes with increased cost?

Peter DiLullo Response:
The safety of our township residents is paramount and our local fire companies need to be supported in order to provide the response times and service that we expect in Tredyffrin. These companies face headwinds including an aging population, dwindling volunteer base, several new assisted living facilities, and escalating equipment cost. The Board of Supervisors needs to be transparent with residents on the issue and provide the support necessary to keep our residents safe.

Mark Freed Response:
As supervisors we need to assure that we have fire companies that can properly serve our residents, and that the fire companies have the funding and other resources they need to do so. Since I joined the Board in 2014, Township combined cash contributions to Berwyn Fire Company and Paoli Fire Company have increased more than 70%. Most recently, as a member of the Tredyffrin and Easttown Joint Emergency Services Plan Committee, I supported funding Berwyn Fire Company’s new Old Forge Crossing substation to help improve the fire company’s response times in Chesterbrook, Glenhardie and other surrounding areas. I am also supporting the funding of Paoli Fire Company’s new Advanced Life Support (ALS) services. We must continue to help our fire companies obtain sustainable funding sources and create incentives to increase its volunteers, by working with state, county and other municipal governments, as well as the fire companies themselves.

Julie Gosse Response:
I propose taking a two-pronged approach to improving our fire and emergency services: (1) align funding with utilization and a changing volunteer/career professional makeup and (2) improve our fire infrastructure to reflect our current population and service needs. First, the utilization and staffing of volunteer fire companies continue to shift. We, as a township, need to keep pace. To this end, I have collected data from our fire companies and have started building and refining objective models for prudent township funding, with the goal of providing sustainable support that our fire companies can count on. Second, our current fire/EMS infrastructure does not optimally serve our residents. Fire stations were built on the Rt. 30 corridor based on the population decades ago, which has changed dramatically with Chesterbrook and other developments. I will work with our fire companies to develop a strategic plan to rethink our fire/EMS infrastructure.

Sharon Humble Response:
The PA Auditor General’s recent release to Tredyffrin volunteer fire companies of a large amount of funding from a 2% tax on fire insurance premiums was a good start for improving our VFRAs’ standing. Ambulance billing accounts for approximately 37% of Berwyn Fire Co’s income sources, yet many of these receivables are never paid by the service beneficiaries. Tredyffrin’s Fire Companies should contract with reputable collections attorneys who work on a contingency basis to collect these unpaid receivables. Tredyffrin should work with State legislators to require insurance companies to pay, directly to the Fire Companies, the fees for responding ambulance service when they treat a patient at the scene, including in cases in which the patient declines transport to a hospital. Township contributions to its Fire Companies should be increased, and I’d seek greater corporate sponsorship, including “naming rights” on fire trucks.

Gina Mazzulla Response:
As a former EMT and current business member of the Berwyn Fire Company, and having served on the VRA board at GFAC (West Chester), I see first-hand the changing reality from (unpaid) volunteer service to a (paid) professional services business, akin to the police department.

I am not suggesting that fire companies become “employees” of the township but I am suggesting that they are funded in a similar manner with fire company leadership involved in the budgeting process to the same degree as other department heads. If existing dollars cannot be “found”, I am not opposed to implementing a specific and reasonable fee to ensure for long-term provision of capital equipment, life-saving technologies, and skilled paramedic professionals to serve our community.

One reason for a decline in the number of volunteers is the cost of living in Tredyffrin, forcing many who grew up in the fire service to move away for more affordable housing. I propose a township “tax relief” benefit for verified volunteer fire and EMS personnel as a measure of support to encourage increased and sustained volunteerism.

Liz Mercogliano Response:
The solution for fire and rescue lies in the consolidation of resources and an optional flat fee for fire and rescue included in the township tax bill. There should be an exception for hardship. The consolidation and merger of some services can be approved through the Board of Trustees for Paoli, Radnor and Berwyn Fire and the local townships.

Since the PA State law mandates the emergency services, it is not an option to NOT fund fire and rescue. And, since there is a larger population and an aging population the services are needed. As per best practices, the annual budget review can track revenue sources and deficits and point to trends. Here are several revenue sources that help but do not close the gap:
• The Pennsylvania State Firefighter Insurance fund
• Fundraisers
• Emergency medical service billing for ambulance services
• Community donations

These sources are just not enough to prevent deficits and a possibility of closing a single fire company. I vote for more State funding by earmarking specific need, grants and a flat fee.

Raffi Terzian Response:
We are so fortunate to have such a dedicated group of volunteers and career Fire and EMS personnel who serve our community. Public safety should be a top priority and the services provided by the Radnor, Berwyn and Paoli Fire Companies must be viewed as an essential service by our community and the Board of Supervisors. In the short-term, budget planning must include a focus on funding this essential service. In addition, a plan must be established to ensure the solvency of these organizations in the long-term.

As a Board Certified Emergency Physician, I have first-hand experience working with EMS systems and providers directly. I am aware and have an understanding of the billing challenges that our fire companies face. The Board of Supervisors should lead the way in creating a comprehensive plan that better coordinates services and promotes dialogue and cooperation among our fire companies.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Candidate Question #1: Zoning

Starting today for the next four days, is a daily question which was presented to the Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidates. All eight supervisor candidates responded and their responses will follow the question in alphabetical order according to last name. Here is the reminder of the candidates running for the Board of Supervisors – voters will select one district supervisor from the East, one district supervisor from the West and two At-Large supervisors.

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D)
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D)
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)

_________________________________________

Question #1:  If you could change one thing in the Tredyffrin Township zoning code or township ordinances, what would it be and why?

K. S. Bhaskar Response:

I would change the regulations to reduce the maximum permissible housing density. While multi-family residential structures like apartment buildings are appropriate, and we want Tredyffrin to be a welcoming community to one and all, excessive housing density adversely affects our quality of life in ways such as exacerbating traffic (which in turn adversely impacts the timeliness of emergency services) and adding to overcrowding in our schools. In our transition from villages to suburbs, change is inevitable. But change must be managed rather than allowed to run roughshod over us.

Peter DiLullo Response:

The first thing that comes to mind is that the Board of Supervisors should have final approval of any land development plans.  This responsibility should not be relegated to an appointed volunteer planning commission.

Mark Freed Response:

It is difficult to pick a single issue, as I am regularly considering changes to many provisions of the Township Code (e.g., sign requirements, assisted living facilities, development, stormwater, historic preservation).  If required to pick just one, I would choose stormwater.  We are in a period of sustained increased rainfall.  These events have exposed gaps in stormwater management throughout the Township and the region.  The solution to many of these problems are capital improvements, which the Township has and will continue to undertake.  However, the Township is also evaluating ways that the ordinance can be improved to address these issues.  This is why I supported the creation of a Citizens Stormwater Advisory Task Force to review the Township’s stormwater management requirements and to make recommendations on how to improve these requirements.

Julie Gosse Response:

The current zoning code is tilted toward growth over sustainability, and I am in favor of amending it to limit negative impact on our strained shared resources. A reasonable starting point is to address the construction of new assisted living facilities that would encroach on our residential neighborhoods. We can do this by: (1) removing assisted living facilities from C-1 zoning districts altogether or (2) only allowing them in specific C-1 areas (e.g., on a major arterial highway). In addition to changing the character of a neighborhood, assisted living facilities create increased call volume for our already-strained fire companies. Beyond adjusting our C-1 zoning, we could consider requiring conditional use approval for assisted living facilities, adding the additional step of review and approval by the Board of Supervisors.

Sharon Humble Response:

The first “thing” on my list for change is to revoke the Planning Commission’s final decision-making authority on development plans and requests for waivers and variances. On October 7, 2019, the Board of Supervisors authorized the Township Solicitor to review methods by which the Board of Supervisors may obtain final land development approval authority, which I fully support.

Tredyffrin has seen a surge of oversized development projects before the Planning Commission seeking waivers from the restrictions designed to protect the rest of us. Too often, the developers’ requests are granted, to the great detriment of the surrounding homeowners and the environment. Responsible development, however, fits within Township ordinances that exist to protect the Township’s infrastructure, property values, safety, and quality of life. Township residents are not willing to have their safety, quality of life, home property values, and regional environment stability sacrificed for the sake of a developer’s greater profit.

Gina Mazzulla Response:

I support efforts to return final approval authority for land development concerns to the Board of Supervisors. Zoning and land development concerns, I believe, have the broadest and deepest impact across the spectrum of services the township is responsible for, including emergency services, roads and traffic, stormwater, open space and population density, and of course, taxes – affecting both resident stakeholders and the physical infrastructure of the township.

As a Supervisor my duty is to represent the interests of, be a voice for, and be accountable to the residents and voters I serve, balanced with due consideration for the interests of the township as a whole entity.  Recognizing the complexities and legalities of zoning and land development, I also support mandatory education for Supervisors, Planning Commission and Zoning Officer and Hearing Board through programs such as the Chester County Planning Commission’s Master Planning Program for (new) municipal officials.

Liz Mercogliano Response:

The most important zoning ordinance update should be in the area of the planning and development including storm water management. The Supervisors should take back the final decision role in the final approvals of building plans.  The Supervisors are elected and must respond to the constituents. Currently, the township allows the planning commission, (a group of Supervisor appointed volunteers), the privilege of the final decisions on the development plans. I suggest the Supervisors take back the final approval. In addition, the supervisors should give the residents in the immediate community a stronger voice.

Our citizens should not have to attend Supervisor meetings begging for help. Our taxpayers should not have to scream, beg or read dissertations for the Supervisors to acknowledge their views. I plan to listen and help in any way I can in a polite civil manner. A simple response of thank you, I am glad you came to our meeting would suffice.

Raffi Terzian Response:

I am honored to serve as a Board member of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust whose mission is to preserve and protect historic and cultural resources in our Township. The Board of Supervisors must enact a historic ordinance which is meaningful and which firmly recognizes the importance of these resources for the benefit of our community and ensures their preservation for future generations. Progress is being made with the creation of a draft ordinance, which is winding its way through the approval process, but this process must advance swiftly and with transparency. The recent controversy over the installation of a digital billboard, which many of us oppose, illustrates the need for open dialogue, community engagement and greater visibility in the creation, review and application of our Township ordinances.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Eight Candidates for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors and Ten Candidates for T/E School Board – Where do they stand on important community issues? Know before you VOTE – Responses to Community Matters questions

In two weeks, local voters we will go to the polls to select four supervisors for Tredyffrin Township and five T/E School Board directors. People bring different backgrounds and qualifications to the job of supervisor and school board director and as voters; we need to make the right choices on Election Day.

To assist voters in the decision-making process, it is important for the public to know the candidates and where they stand on important community issues. To aid in the process, last Thursday I sent four questions to the eight supervisor candidates and four questions to the ten school board candidates. The questions were not shared in advance and all candidates received the questions at the same time. Completely voluntary, the eighteen candidates were given the following direction when responding:

Questions were chosen based on what I believe are important issues and included zoning/ordinance changes, fire and EMS funding, public accountability, fiscal responsibility and resident involvement. Candidates were invited to respond to the four questions with the following directions:

Your responses should NOT be a political campaign plug and no campaign websites are to be included. Your response (word doc format) should NOT exceed 150 words per questions and is due no later than Sunday, October 20. Your responses will not be edited and will be provided to the public via Community Matters.

Candidate participation was completely voluntary and all responses will appear on Community Matters in alphabetical order (by last name) beginning the week of October 21.  I sincerely appreciate the candidates taking the time from their busy campaign schedules to respond; it looks like all supervisor and school board candidates are participating. On a personal note, I admit that the management of eighteen candidates and their individual responses to four questions has been challenging but believe that this is an important exercise!

The process for the candidate questions and their responses is as follows – starting tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 22) with the supervisor candidates, I will post one question daily on Community Matters with the eight candidate responses. Once the four supervisor questions and responses are posted in four days, I will post one question daily with responses from the ten school board candidates.

In preparation of the supervisor questions (starting on Tuesday, Oct. 22), here is a list of the candidates running for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors (listed in alphabetical order).

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 1st DISTRICT (EAST) CANDIDATES
Julie Gosse (D) *
Raffi Terzian (R)

TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR AT-LARGE CANDIDATES
Mark Freed (D) *
Sharon Humble (D)
Gina Mazzulla (R)
Liz Mercogliano (R)

DISTRICT SUPERVISOR 3rd DISTRICT (WEST) CANDIDATES
K. S. Bhaskar (D)
Peter DiLullo (R)

* Currently serving on the Board of Supervisors, Mark Freed is an incumbent seeking re-election. Julie Gosse was appointed as interim supervisor in August to fill the unexpired term of Paul Olson and is seeking election to a regular 4-year term.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Tredyffrin Township’s Zoning Hearing Board Rules on Digital Billboard Appeal by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising – Thursday, Oct. 24, 7 PM

The Tredyffrin Township Zoning Hearing Board will rule on the digital billboard issue on Thursday, October 24, 7 PM at Tredyffrin Township building.

Catalyst Outdoor Advertising first appeared at a Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting in August 2018 with their proposal to demolish the Clockworks Building and install two large 20 ft. digital billboards with a reflecting pool as the “welcome” to our 300-year old township.

For the last fourteen months, the public has remained committed in their opposition to ‘BAN the Digital Billboard’.  Residents filled the seats of Keene Hall for three Zoning Hearing Board meetings and eloquently delivered their message of “Just Say No” to a digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Avenue in Paoli. My words at the last Zoning Hearing Board meeting were simple, “We are not a community divided” – the community has stood in complete solidarity in its opposition. We do not want a digital billboard. Period.

The final decision rests with the Zoning Hearing Board – the township heard the public and denied the application for the digital billboard and it’s now up to the ZHB to uphold and support. As I understand it, there are two ways this can go on Thursday – either the ZHB upholds Tredyffrin Township’s previous denial of the Catalyst application for a digital billboard and rules against their appeal or … the ZHB rules in favor of Catalyst on their appeal.

If Catalyst loses its appeal on Thursday, they have the right to appeal the decision to the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. If the ZHB rules in favor of Catalyst, the township has the right to appeal the decision.

The digital billboard decision will be first up at the Zoning Hearing Board meeting – 7 PM on Thursday. Residents who sought party status in the digital billboard matter will also learn whether or not it was granted.

The proposed digital billboard is probably one of the most important issues to face our community in recent years – please plan to join me on Thursday at 7 PM, Tredyffrin Township building for the Zoning Hearing Board decision.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

No Planning Commission Approval for $40 Million Conestoga High School Expansion Project … Proposed Parking Lot Major Stumbling Block … Residents Voice Objections

I attended the Planning Commission meeting last night specifically for high school expansion plan — T/E School District was seeking preliminary/final land development approval for the project. The District tried to sell their proposed high school expansion plan, which includes the removal of 200 trees from a wooded lot for a 128 space parking lot on Irish Road. The District came armed with their experts – consultant, architect, stormwater, traffic, attorney and the business manager Art McDonnell.

The neighbors to the proposed project did their homework were organized and prepared to battle back – including two transportation engineers from the neighborhood! The majority of the residents supported the high school expansion project itself; it was the proposed parking lot that was their focus – and the associated stormwater, traffic, safety, environmental, etc. issues. Once again, I was impressed by our community members!

Throughout the to and fro of the three hours of debate, certain facts became clear – (1) the lack of notification to the neighbors of meetings, specifically the Zoning Hearing Board meeting; (2) unclear information about the retaining wall, no specifics and height range of 3 ft. to 10 ft.; (3) a debate of actual need/use of parking lot, whether for staff or students; (4) opposing traffic study information between District and residents; and (5) outdated CHS expansion plans on District website. Many residents complained bitterly that the District and School Board had rushed to approve the expansion plan without adequate input from the community.

I stayed until 10 PM but the discussion continued until 11 PM. I have since learned that the Planning Commission did NOT grant preliminary/final land development approval on the project; several of the planning commissioners voicing personal concern about the parking lot, associated issues and unanswered questions. As I understand it the upshot was that the District needed to re-design the parking lot, specifically reducing the number of parking spaces and perhaps moving the lot closer to the school – this would lessen the number of trees to be removed.

The change to the number of parking spaces will require the District to go back to the Zoning Hearing Board (Wednesday, Nov. 20) and back to the Planning Commission (Thursday, Nov. 21). For those who attended the Planning Commission last night, I encourage you to add to the commentary.

Although the vast majority of residents in attendance at the Planning Commission meeting support the high school expansion project (just not the parking lot), as I mentioned there are some in the community who feel that proposed plan was push through too quickly and without sufficient community input.

One community member who feels the value (and associated costs) of the high school project needs scrutiny is Neal Colligan, a resident and commercial real estate expert. Neal attended the District’s Facility meeting earlier this week and offers the following op-ed:

I was at the Facilities Committee the other night and wanted to share some of my thoughts on the proposed budget for the High School expansion renovation.  As a “real estate” guy; I’m trying to put this into the context of commercial real estate costs/values.  We’re lucky to have something to compare this to in the local community as the Woodlynde School is doing a similar expansion at this time and they’ve shared some information on their website.  Let’s look at these two projects:

Woodlynde – Their expansion project will deliver: a new glass-enclosed atrium; a dining hall/program/performance space (168 people expandable to 256); 6 classrooms; a music studio; an emerging technology space; 4 new flex offices; 3 learning centers; a faculty lounge and 70 new parking spots with re-designed traffic flows.  That’s 17 new spaces for learning and that project is underway today.  Total costs $10.8 MM.

Conestoga – This expansion includes a glass-enclosed atrium; 11 new classrooms; 3 Special Education classrooms; 4 science labs; 1 FCS room; 1 art room; 7 flex rooms and 128 parking spaces.  That’s 27 new learning spaces.  The cost for this project is $39.6 MM.

While never truly “Apples to Apples”-this is pretty close as both projects are being built in Tredyffrin on land already owned by the institution. To be fair in comparison, the Conestoga project includes $6 MM in upgrades to other parts of the High School so we should look at total costs of $33.6 MM.  I don’t know how many square feet Woodlynde is adding so I can’t really compare on a SF basis.  We can compare in other ways.  Per learning space:  Woodlynde – $635,294/space; Conestoga – $1,244,444/space.  On an absolute cost basis, the Conestoga project is 3X the cost of the Woodlynde project.  Conestoga will end up with 1.6 X new learning spaces and 1.8 X the number of parking spaces.

The question is: are we getting VALUE?  At a cost of $33.6 MM for 64,446 SF of new space: the per SF cost is $521/SF.  This is an eye-catching number in commercial real estate.  A project at 7 Tower Bridge was recently announced in Conshohocken.  At $112 MM for 260,000 SF of Class A office or $431/SF- this will be one of (if not THE) most expensive projects in the Philadelphia suburbs ever. But, there’s good reason, the largest Philadelphia investment bank has agreed to lease half of the building at, likely, the highest rental rate in the region.  That’s economics driving the cost of the project.

What’s driving the costs of the Conestoga High School project and IS this the right amount to spend?  It’s easy to get numb to the numbers … $30 million, $35 million, $40 million … they’re just numbers BUT they’re BIG numbers.  Who’s in charge of being the governor on these costs?  The architect/engineer is normally paid on a percentage of total cost … they’re not the governor. The Administration? What’s their responsibility to control costs; they want NICE stuff?  The Board?  Their conversations have focused on needs and design and additions to the plan.  So … who’s looking at the all-in costs?  Who’s comparing this to what “Real Estate” should cost?

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Community Matters © 2019 Frontier Theme