BAWG

Do all Roads in Tredyffrin Lead to Sidewalks?

Although there was a 5-2 vote to approve the revised sidewalk ordinance at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, confusion over sidewalks still reigns.  I think many would agree had there never been a BAWG report that suggested there was a $50,000 offer from St. Davids Golf Club not to build their ‘agreed upon’ and ‘contracted for’ sidewalks, we would not be where we are today.  (To clarify, the $50K offer was not in writing and never substantiated).

For the last 21 months in Tredyffrin Township, it is as if all roads lead to sidewalks.  The debate over whether St. Davids Golf Club would be required to build their contracted sidewalks has reigned supreme.  A sidewalk subcommittee was formed and for over a year, held public hearings, received resident input, conducted surveys, etc. The results of the sidewalk subcommittee were presented earlier this year to the Board of Supervisors; indicating that the majority of the residents responding favored sidewalks, bike trails, etc. in the township.

The Board of Supervisors instructed the Planning Commission to draft a new sidewalk ordinance.  After several months of discussion and review, the Planning Commissioners presented a sidewalk ordinance proposal to the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors agreed that the new sidewalk ordinance would have no bearing on the 8 currently open land development agreements that contained sidewalk requirements (including St. Davids Golf Club).

For those that attended the supervisors meeting or watched from home, the confusion over the sidewalk ordinance continued to reign supreme.  Although the new ordinance passed 5-2, (Lamina and Olson the dissenting votes) there remains the open issue of the sidewalk ‘map’.  The sidewalk ordinance passed but without a map indicating the sidewalk requirements.  Discussion of the sidewalk map is apparently on the agenda for Monday’s supervisors meeting.  However, there was some discussion from Lamina at the last supervisors meeting, that it may be his intention to go through the map, ‘road by road’ to decide the fate of sidewalks.

Wanting to understand the next step in the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk saga, I sent a couple of emails to Mimi Gleason, our township manager.  I assumed that since the sidewalk ordinance had passed, the township staff now had the green light to move on enforcement of the sidewalks in any open land development agreements (including St. Davids).  I received the following email from Mimi:

Before sending letters, the Township now will contact any of the property owners with approved plans that inquired about the need to install sidewalks. They will be informed that they no changes were made to the ordinance that changes anything for their plans. Enforcement proceedings will commence only if they refuse to install the sidewalks.

Based on Gleason’s response, can we assume that by now St. Davids Golf Club has been contacted.  I am not sure why there was an interim step ‘to contact’ vs sending the letter and will seek clarification.  I will also ask what is timeline for a response before the enforcement letter is sent.  After all the issues surrounding the sidewalks, I think it would be important to have a paper trail in place.

So . . . will St. Davids now build their required sidewalks?  Or . . .  will the country club wait it out, in hopes that their road will somehow disappear from the yet-to-be-approved township sidewalk map? Let’s hope that St. Davids will do what they contractually agreed to do.  How long has it been – 5 or 6 years?

In a letter to the editor in this week’s Main Line Suburban, Tory Snyder, a Planning Commissioner and the chair of the special sidewalk subcommittee, gives an outline of the new sidewalk ordinance. As full disclosure, she indicates that she is a Board of Supervisors candidate in the East District. For folks that may not know, Snyder (D) is running against Paul Olson (R).

The following is excerpted from Snyder’s letter to the editor:

The facts of the newly adopted ordinance are as follows:

  • Sidewalks will be required on about 14 miles of Tredyffrin roads. The current ordinance requires sidewalks on all Tredyffrin roads.
  • All but one of the roads affected by the ordinance are major roads on which pedestrian safety is an issue. None of the roads are local roads per PennDOT or the Township Comprehensive Plan. Within the last two years a child walking along one of these roads with no sidewalks was hit by a car.
  • All roads affected by the ordinance provide needed pedestrian linkages to and from specific destinations, including schools, libraries, parks, train stations and shopping centers.
  • By nature of its location in the Subdivision and Land Development code, ONLY developers of non-residential and multi-unit residential properties would be required to build the sidewalks. Homeowners improving their own properties would not be subject to the sidewalk requirement.

This information lays out the facts and corrects some of the misleading and incorrect information that has been presented.

A planner by profession, Snyder further explains in her letter, “All 12 municipalities within a 25-mile radius of Tredyffrin require sidewalks in their subdivision and land-development codes. Almost all of these codes are stricter than the measured and balanced approach offered by the newly adopted ordinance. Were Tredyffrin to exclude a sidewalk requirement from its code, there would be no plan to add needed sidewalks in the future, and the entire cost of building any sidewalks would be transferred directly to the taxpayers.”

Stay tuned . . . the sidewalk saga continues at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

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What’s the meaning of ‘Good Government’? Does it Mean Something Different in Tredyffrin?

“The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the only legitimate object of good government.”

                        ~ Thomas Jefferson to Maryland Republicans, 1809

According to Wikipedia, “Good Government is a normative description of how government is supposed to be constituted.” Last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting left me shaking my head and wondering about ‘good government’ in Tredyffrin.  Wanting to believe in our elected officials and hoping that their decisions are in the best interest of our community, there were times during the meeting that I questioned the supervisors intentions.

The Board of Supervisors decided to delay the public hearing on the sidewalk ordinance for another month.  Why?  Eighteen months ago, dark clouds hung over this township as the St. Davids Golf Club land development agreement with Tredyffrin was put ‘on hold’ pending the results of a special sidewalk subcommittee.  Township officials came under public scrutiny . . . with the newspaper headlines questioning the intentions of the BAWG report and the motives of some supervisors. It was a particularly dark time in our local history.

The land development contract between St. Davids Golf Club and the township is 6 years old.  Four times representatives from the country club appeared before the township’s Planning Commission seeking relief from constructing the required walkway – and each time the planning commissioners choose to deny their request and uphold the terms of the land development contract.

After a yearlong special sidewalk subcommittee process, their report included sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  The supervisors voted to accept the sidewalk subcommittee report and instructed the planning commissioners to draft an amendment to the sidewalk ordinance which included an ‘in lieu of’ sidewalk fund.  The Planning Commission members complied with the request and presented the draft ordinance, which was scheduled for public hearing last night.  The supervisors decided to cancel that public hearing on the sidewalk ordinance and move it to the July meeting.  Why?

We learned last night at the Board of Supervisors meeting that rather than honoring their vote of a few months ago to leave the land development authority in the hands of the Planning Commission, a new township land development process was presented.  As discussed last night, the supervisors will now review the multiple phases of a land development plan, rather than simply the end product.  Although it was suggested that the supervisors would only review the ‘larger’ projects or plans that required legislative authority, aside from the additional time and cost to developers for an additional review process, I could not help but think that this was just another way to once again delay the St. Davids walkway discussion.

Why is every decision related to the sidewalk ordinance amendment predicated on the best interests of this private country club? 

A June township public hearing for the sidewalk ordinance is scheduled and advertised at a cost to taxpayers and then that hearing is cancelled, and rescheduled at additional cost.  Why?

The supervisors state that they need more time to review the sidewalk ordinance. Why?  So as to have more time to come up with additional ways not to uphold the contract with St. Davids Golf Club.  Why don’t the supervisors just state that they have no intention of enforcing the land development contract with St. Davids?  Wouldn’t that be more honest?

I have said repeatedly, this issue is not about sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  This is about a signed land development contract with the township; and the reasons why a wealthy country club isn’t required to comply with the conditions of the contract.  I would bet if the township land development contract was with a private individual or another developer – they would be forced to comply with the conditions of the contract.  Six years – and the country club continues to get a pass . . . why?

Is this ‘Good Government’ in Tredyffrin Township?

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What do these things have in common . . . St. Davids Golf Club, Planning Commission, BAWG, Sidewalk Subcommittee, land development authority, STAP, Board of Supervisors?

What do these things have in common . . . St. Davids Golf Club, Planning Commission, BAWG, Sidewalk Subcommittee, land development authority,  STAP, Board of Supervisors?

In looking at Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission agenda for tonight’s meeting, I discovered an interesting item listed under ‘new’ business — “Draft Amendment to the Subdivision & Land Development Ordinance”. 

To understand the Planning Commission agenda item, you will need to recall a Board of Supervisors motion from this past December.  At that meeting, Supervisor Bob Lamina questioned whether the Planning Commission should continue to have land development authority in the township . . . he thought that authority over land development should revert to the supervisors (as was the case many years ago).  However, to make an ordinance change requires a public hearing, which is scheduled for February 28.

Here’s the significance of the Planning Commission agenda item . . .  the Planning Commissioners are expected to draft the amendment that will relieve them of their land development authority and give that authority to the Board of Supervisors.

There are more connections. How many of you remember the community discontent and hostility over St. Davids Golf Club and the recommendation contained in the BAWG report suggesting the township accept $50K in lieu of building sidewalks.  Even though there was a signed contract between the township and St. Davids requiring the sidewalks, the Board of Supervisors pushed through a motion to return the $25K escrow money to the country club; removing the sidewalk requirement.  After much media publicity, many letters to the editor, accusations of Home Rule Charter violations, claims of deal-making and resident outrage, the Board of Supervisors reversed their earlier decision.

The reversal of the Board of Supervisors decision to return the escrow money had an interesting caveat attached.  St. Davids escrow money and the decision to require the construction of sidewalks was put ‘on hold’ pending the outcome of the Sidewalks Subcommittee recommendations.  At the same time the supervisors reversed their decision, they created a Sidewalks Subcommittee whose goal was to adopt a formal sidewalk policy to recommend to the Board of Supervisors.  Members appointed to the joint subcommittee were supervisors (Phil Donahue, EJ Richter, Michele Kichline), Planning Commissioners (Tory Snyder, Bob Whalen, Trip Lukens) and representatives from Sidewalks, Trails and Paths ‘STAP’ (Sean Moir, Beth Brake, Jim Donegan).

If you are interested in the St. Davids Golf Club-BAWG report background, go to the top right of Community Matters and enter the words, St. Davids in search.  Or for a particularly passionate post, read St. Davids Golf Club Decision Reversed but, . . . Was There Full Disclosure, Transparency, Deal-Making and the corresponding 68 comments. (click here for that specific post).

The Sidewalks Subcommittee began meeting last spring.  I attended most of the meetings and was impressed by their efforts. The committee engaged community members through public meetings and accepted input from interested citizens.  They created maps and conducted a township-wide survey to get a consensus on sidewalks, bike trails and paths needs throughout the township.  Their analysis was thorough and thoughtful.

At their last meeting (which I attended), the Sidewalk Subcommittee summarized their findings in preparation for a presentation at the upcoming Monday, January 24 Board of Supervisors meeting.  Chair of the Sidewalk Subcommittee and a Planning Commissioner, Tory Synder will make the presentation and deliver the committee’s recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

Are the supervisors going to take the recommendations of the Sidewalk Subcommittee or will their efforts be ignored?  Will the St. Davids sidewalk requirement currently ‘on hold’ affect the supervisor’s decision to accept the Sidewalk Subcommittee recommendations?  Will the signed contract between the country club and the township remain intact?

Supervisor Michele Kichline is an attorney and served on the Sidewalks Subcommittee . . . Michele knows contract law; how will she guide her fellow supervisors?

Here’s the million-dollar question – Does the proposed ordinance change to remove land development authority from the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors have any relationship with the St. Davids sidewalk issue? Remember, the Planning Commissioners required the sidewalks as part of country club’s land development project.

Do some of the supervisors think that if they take back land development authority, they can override the Planning Commissioners decision to require St. Davids to build the sidewalk?

Why change the land development ordinance now? Just coincidental timing or is the ultimate goal to release the country club from their contractual agreement with the township.

The St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk business was a very hostile time in our local government’s history. When elected officials go behind a closed-door and make decisions, the perception can be as bad as the fact.  Let’s keep the door open!  Here is one resident who does not want to see another similar watershed moment . . . the citizens of Tredyffrin deserve better.

_______________________________________________________

Important Dates:

  • Planning Commission Meeting, Thursday, January 20, 7 PM
  • Board of Supervisors Meeting, Monday, January 24, 7:30 PM
  • Land Development Ordinance, Public Hearing, Monday, February 28, 7:30 PM
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Tredyffrin Interim Supervisor Candidates . . . Bravacos, Brazunas, Heaberg, Mayock, Muir

Because of Warren Kampf’s resignation from the Board of Supervisors, there is a vacancy for an ‘interim supervisor’.  The interim supervisor will serve on the Board of Supervisors until the Special Election in May.

At this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting the vacancy was formally announced and interested residents were asked to send their resumes to the township manager by Monday, January 10.  Because the vacancy was anticipated, the interim supervisor position has been advertised on the township website since early December.  Residents who have applied for the interim supervisor position is public information and I contacted the township manager for the list of candidate names.

After receiving the names, I sent an email to each candidate explaining that I would be writing an article and would be including the candidate names.  As a means of keeping the selection process transparent and open, I offered to include a “summary of experience, brief bio or a personal statement” with the article if provided by the candidate. 

The following individuals have submitted their resumes to the township manager for consideration as interim supervisor. 

  • John Bravacos
  • Eamon Brazunas
  • Mike Heaberg
  • Kristen Mayock
  • Joe Muir

John Bravacos, Eamon Brazunas and Kristen Mayock responded to my email and supplied their resumes, bio, etc. and that information is available below.  Information was not provided by Mike Heaberg or Joe Muir.  However, I have attempted to find background information to include for these candidates.

John Bravacos

Email received from John Bravacos with his resume. (Click here for  John Bravacos resume.)

Pattye,
Below is what I sent to Mimi for the vacancy.

Additionally, I have provided this to Board Members and other interested people. I would like to fill the vacancy only until the Special Election to:

1.  Move the Rt. 252 Amtrak bridge forward;
2.  Work with Willistown to create the joint municipal authority;
3.  Start the discussion about the future of the Paoli Library and its lease which ends soon;
4.  Help position the Board for the upcoming contract negotiations; and
5.  Briefly enjoy the opportunity to serve the Township residents again. 

I am not seeking election as there are excellent candidates for the Special Election and for the Primary that have the fresh perspective, enthusiasm and specific plans necessary to sustain them for the full term.

If you have any questions, I’d be happy to talk with you.

John G. Bravacos, Esq.
___________________________________________

Mimi,

Attached is my resume.  I am interested in filling the vacancy on the Board of Supervisors created by the resignation of Warren Kampf.  Having served on the Board for eight years and lived in the Township for more than 40 years, I believe I can provide valuable service during the brief duration until the special election.  As I am not interested in being a candidate in that special election, my time can be focused on the needs of the residents and not electioneering.

John G. Bravacos, Esq.

Eamon Brazunas

Click here for Eamon Brazunas cover letter to the township manager and resume.

Mike Heaberg

With more than 25 years in investment services, Mr. Heaberg co-founded Axiom Asset Management in 2003 and currently serves as the company’s managing director. His previous experience was with Prudential Securities and PaineWebber. Mr. Heaberg is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and is a member of the CFA Society of Philadelphia.  An original board member of FLITE, Mr. Heaberg continues to serve on the organization’s board of directors as chair of the Finance & Investment Committee.

Kristen Mayock

Email received from Kristen Mayock with her resume. (Click here for Kristen Mayock’s bio and click here for her resume.)

Pattye:

Pursuant to your request, I have attached my bio and my resume. 

I am committed to serving Tredyffrin Township because I believe it is the ideal place to live, work and raise my family.  The surroundings are idyllic, rich in history, accessible, safe and affordable.  Our Township services and schools are among the best in the region.  By serving as a member of the Board of Supervisors, I hope to preserve and improve upon the unique quality of life that Tredyffrin offers to the individuals and families who live here.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my background, experience and commitment to our great Township with Community Matter.

Sincerely,
Kristen Mayock 

Joe Muir

Mr. Muir was a member of Tredyffrin Township’s 2009 Budget Advisory Working Group (BAWG).  He has a Marketing and Finance degree from Susquehanna University and his career has been in sales and sales management in the healthcare industry and is currently employed by IMS Health.

______________________________________________________________________

Sometimes elected officials find it easier to embrace open government in theory than to facilitate citizen access.  By keeping the candidate process in the public’s eye, I hope the supervisors will be open, transparent and accountable to the residents of Tredyffrin as they interview the candidates and ultimately choose the interim supervisor.

The intention of this post is to provide information to the public.  Although I will accept comments on this post, I ask that your remarks be thoughtful and accurate.  As a former political candidate myself, I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of negative campaigning and misrepresentation of issues and I do not wish to see these candidates have similar experiences!

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Montgomery County’s 2011 Budget Will Require ‘Radical Changes’ – Is this Handwriting on the Wall for Chester County, and Specifically Tredyffrin Township?

I just read the following in  Norristown’s Times Herald referencing radical changes needed by Montgomery County government to either drastically cut expenses or increase revenue to fill the $22.5 million funding gap expected in their 2011 budget. 

 OK, I know that we are not in Montgomery County; and I understand that this is county government vs. township government.  But is it possible that the crisis facing our neighboring county’s budget for 2011 could be similarly recognized in Chester County, . . . and then ultimately Tredyffrin?

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to suggest a correlation between Montgomery and Chester County government funding issues.  We can only hope that Chester County does not face the enormity of the budget gap for 2011 as forecasted by Montgomery County. 

There have been recent comments on Community Matters that Tredyffrin’s 2011 budget can (and some have suggested, should) wait until later in the year for discussion.  From my vantage point, postponing township 2011 budget discussion until November or December  is short-sighted and not fiscally responsible.

In my opinion, a mid-year discussion of 2010 budget (expenses and revenues to-date) and forecasting for the 2011 budget is a fiduciary responsibility.  My desire for a public 2010/11 township  budget discussion is not about  Warren Kampf’s political campaign or for that matter, ‘party politics’.   This country, state, county, and yes, Tredyffrin Township are struggling with finances — so instead of suggesting that supervisors and residents just wait until November or December for budget analysis,  I would simply ask why wait? 

By July of last year, the BAWG committee was well underway in their 2010 budget meetings.  Shouldn’t we review where we are with BAWG’s 2010 recommendations . . . have all the cost-saving suggestions been implemented?  I don’t know, but maybe if we started discussing the township budget situation now, there would still be time in the 2010 calendar year to correct or to implement some of the BAWG recommendations.  I just don’t understand how putting off the budget discussion helps anyone?

By KEITH PHUCAS
Times Herald Staff

COURTHOUSE — With economy still in the grips of a slowdown, Montgomery County government has to cut expenses or raise revenue to fill a $22.5 million funding gap for the 2011 budget, and officials are expected to discuss shrinking the size of government.

In a June letter to the commissioners from Chief Financial Officer Randy K. Schaible, the county can’t count on transferring funds as it did this year. For the 2010 budget, the county used $8 million from its capital reserve fund for the general fund.

Schaible said borrowing will increase the county’s debt service in next year’s budget. The county borrowed $35 million for open space in March 2010, which will push up debt by $2 million per year. As well, the government is expected to borrow for capital spending, which includes the recent prison expansion, and that will cost $4 million a year in debt service.

At the commissioners meeting Wednesday, Deputy Chief Operating Officer James Maza said officials would ask departments to draw up a proposed no-growth and no-tax budgets, and to avoid raising taxes could mean a 9 percent cut in departmental expenditures “across the board.”

“This gap contemplates that we’re going to have to make some radical changes from previous budget decision making,” he said. “We understand that’s going to call into question downsizing both the function and the size of government,” Maza said.

Also, in order to meet pensions, the county is considering issuing pension obligation bonds to fund the $20 million contribution, he said.

A major concern is state grant funding. Schaible estimates Pennsylvania is behind by $1 billion in its budget. Recently, Congress voted against sending more than $800 in Medicaid payments to the state. Officials hope the Obama administration will reconsider restoring the aid.

In December 2010, the commissioners voted 2-1 to adopt a $407.7 million budget and managed to avoid a tax increase. Commissioners’ Chairman Jim R. Matthews and Vice Chairman Joseph M. Hoeffel voted in favor; Commissioner Bruce L. Castor, Jr. voted against the spending plan.

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Why Does Tredyffrin’s 2011 Budget Discussion Have to be a Political Party Debate? Why Does Transparency and Open Government Need to be Criticized?

Wayne resident, Rob Betts wrote a letter to the editor which appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban, as a rebuttal to  a written statement by Dariel Jamieson, chair of the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee, delivered at the June Board of Supervisors meeting – here is a copy of the TTDEMS 2011 Budget Proposal as presented.

Although Ms. Jamieson represented herself as chair of the TTDEMS at the June Board of Supervisors Meeting when presenting her statement, I wrote the following in a June 22 post on Community Matters:  

” . . . The suggested TTDEMS 2011 budget process further includes a request that the budget discussion occur in an open and transparent manner with public involvement.

 Although the proposed 2011 budget process was suggested by the local Democratic Committee, I do not believe their recommendations are politically polarizing.  Rather, this suggested 2011 budget process encourages a thoughtful, systematic budget approach in difficult and challenging economic times; a process that many residents in the township would probably support (regardless of their political affiliation).”

I found Rob Betts op-ed article  interesting on several levels.   In reading the article, what first jumped out at me was a missing piece of information.  Members of the community have been quick to criticize those that write political opinion articles and do not state their own political affiliations.  Personally,  I believe that if an individual is writing on a non-political topic, such as Ed Sweeney’s letter to the editor last week as a member of the Knights of Columbus, there should be no need to identify with a political party.  However, if someone is writing on a political topic, I agree with critics that the writer should inform the reader of their political affiliation such as a committee person for either the local Democratic or Republican parties.  For the record, Mr. Betts overlooked providing his political affiliation as the GOP committeeman for E-4 in his letter to the editor. 

Reading Mr. Betts op-ed article, and of his membership on the  BAWG committee (and participation in the  subsequent BAWG report) brought back memories for me.  I recall standing in front of the Board of Supervisors last fall and asking a series of questions regarding the BAWG report and the $50K St. Davids sidewalk offer contained in the report.  If you recall, I provided the supervisors with questions in advance; one which included a question about whether any BAWG members were members of St. Davids Golf Club.  If memory serves me correctly, Tom Coleman (as chair of the BAWG committee) was asked to answer my question and he reported that Mr. Betts was a St. Davids Golf Club member, but quickly added that Mr. Betts had recused himself for any votes related to St. Davids. 

So in reading Mr. Betts letter, I had to ask myself why is he so seemingly concerned about the transparent budget process that Ms. Jamieson suggested in her proposal?  But, when I recall the St. Davids Golf Club $50K sidewalk offer, and the attempt to cover-up the offer contained in the report, I guess I have my answer.  We all remember the negative attention that our township and supervisors received over the St. Davids Golf Club offer!

Transparency from our elected officials is important to me and it saddens  me to know that people can be criticized for wanting that kind of open and honest government. I believe that the suggestions that Ms. Jamieson posed in her 2011 Budget Proposal were ones that we could all support.  I would take it a step further and suggest that rather than representing the TTDEMS with her proposal, I believe that the suggestions may have been better served if presented as a resident rather than a political party chair.  However, I understand that as chair of the TTDEMS, Ms. Jamieson probably thought it best that her remarks be with full disclosure. 

As I said in my Community Matters post of  June 22, ” . . . this suggested 2011 budget process encourages a thoughtful, systematic budget approach in difficult and challenging economic times; a process that many residents in the township would probably support (regardless of their political affiliation).”

Below is Rob Betts letter to the editor . . . you make your own judgement.

Openness plea a Dem power play

To the Editor:

I was left shaking my head at the demand from Dariel Jamieson that the Tredyffrin Township supervisors open up the budget process to more public scrutiny. I believe the request is nothing more than an attempt by Democrats to discredit the budget once it is adopted by claiming it wasn’t “open.”

The Democrats’ goal is to increase the scope of government at all levels, which requires an increase in revenue, and unlike Washington, our supervisors can’t print money. An Earned Income Tax is their ultimate goal, but without any Democrats on the Board of Supervisors, the best they can do is complain about the process. The request for openness is just their way of saying the 2011 supervisor election has begun.

As a member of the Budget Advisory Working Group last year, I can assure you that the township budget is lean. Much of the township’s budget is fixed due to debt service and collectively bargained contracts. The supervisors refinanced a significant portion of the township’s long-term debt this year (a BAWG recommendation), leaving union contracts and their benefit cost as issues to be addressed.

The current contracts with the township’s unions run through 2013 so those costs are fixed for the current budget cycle. Long-term, the defined-benefit system and free retiree health care for uniformed employees must be changed, for all levels of government, not just Tredyffrin Township. Our supervisors should be applauded for forcing arbitration with the police union on the health-care issue and maintaining the township’s AAA credit rating during the recent bond refinancing.

The Democrats are ready to start the next supervisor election. Look for lawn signs in December.

Rob Betts, Wayne

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Control of Tredyffrin Township in the Hands of 4 . . . Residents Will Now Play by Their Rules!

I preface the following post by saying that there are very few times in my life that I have been left speechless but tonight was one of them.  For me, tonight’s Board of Supervisor Meeting represented community injustice of the worse kind.  If there was ever a subject for Community Matters, this is it!

Tonight I attended Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisor Meeting. Over the last few days, there had been scuttlebutt that Supervisor Paul Olson would once again bring up St. Davids Golf Club and the sidewalks. Although the agenda for tonight’s meeting did not include St. Davids Golf Club, my understanding was that Supervisor Olson intended to make a motion to return the $25,000 escrow to the country club. As part of St. Davids contractual land development agreement with the township, the country club was to build sidewalks. Since July 2008, the country club has been in default for failure to build the sidewalks.

If you recall, at the December 1 Board of Supervisor Meeting I questioned the supervisors concerning the $50,000 cash offer from St. Davids Golf Club which appeared in the pages of the BAWG report. This ‘offer’ (of which there was no written evidence) became widely discussed on Community Matters and in the Main Line Suburban and Daily Local newspapers. There was an outcry from many in the community about this ‘offer’ from St. Davids and the message its acceptance would say to contractors and builders doing business in Tredyffrin Township.

Tonight under the category of ‘new’ supervisor matters, Supervisor Olson made a motion which Supervisor Lamina seconded to ‘return the $25,000 escrow money’ to St. Davids Golf Club. Supervisor Lamina started to call for a vote as Supervisor Kichline asked to offer her opinion. Supervisor Lamina cut off Supervisor Kichline and went to the audience for comment.

Bob Whalen, chair of the Planning Commission spoke and explained that the sidewalks were part of the contractual agreement with St. Davids GC for their land development project. Representatives from the country club had returned to the Planning Commission asking for forgiveness on the sidewalks but the Planning Commission fearing that precedent would be set, voted against the club. Mr. Whalen explained that there are at least six other projects in the township with escrow money that has not been returned because of unfinished projects. Allowing escrow money to return to St. Davids GC will now allow the other contractors to be off the hook, for completing those projects. He adamantly opposed the motion. Next I asked the supervisors if St. Davids GC had come to the Township and asked for their $25,000 escrow money to be returned. Although Supervisor Olson said that he had ‘talked to some people at St. Davids’, the other supervisors confirmed that there was nothing written from St. Davids, in other words the country club never asked for the return of their escrow money!

Other audience members spoke passionately that you cannot make a motion on a matter that was not on the agenda . . . that procedurally you must advertise the matter to the public . . . that you cannot just give a country club a ‘gift’ of $80,000 (the estimated cost to build the sidewalks). Several audience members suggested that Supervisor Olson orchestrated the motion to coincide with the fact that many members of the public would be at the TESD meeting and unable to attend the Supervisor meeting. Remember St. Davids Golf Club was not on the agenda so it was believed that very few residents would attend (making it that much easier to push the motion through). It was obvious that Supervisor Olson had notified local St. Davids residents so they came prepared with written statements that agreed with his motion. Rather than full disclosure to the public by advertising the St. Davids sidewalks discussion, Supervisor Olson (+ Kampf, Lamina and Richter) preferred to tell only a select few residents. 

Following resident comments, Supervisor Kichline, an attorney and an ex-member of the Zoning Board spoke passionately about procedural law and the inappropriateness of the proposed motion, stating further discussion was needed with the township solicitor. Supervisor DiBuonaventuro likewise argued against the motion, suggesting for many reasons why the Board of Supervisors should not pass the motion. Township Manager Gleason added, when asked, that the passing of this motion would set precedent for all future township projects.

Hearing the comments from the residents and objections from Supervisors Kichline and DiBuonaventuro, Supervisor Lamina called for a vote – Supervisors Donohue, DiBuonaventuro, Kichline voted against the motion, and Supervisors Olson, Lamina, Kampf and Richter voted for the motion. The motion carried 4-3 in favor.

Tonight was a rude awakening for me . . . I learned that in Tredyffrin Township it is OK for 4 individuals (Olson, Lamina, Kampf and Richter) to make up the rules as they go along. At one point, when Supervisor Kichline offered that in Tredyffrin Township, the Planning Commission actually had the ‘last say’ on the land development process rather than the Board of Supervisors – Supervisor Lamina declared that he thinks that the Board of Supervisors will take back their control. I discovered tonight that the government procedures do not apply if you are Supervisors Olson, Lamina, Kampf and Richter.

This is a sad reality . . . but if you are the ‘Block of 4’ (Olson, Lamina, Kampf, Richter), you rule the township. Your other fellow supervisors do not matter, the public does not matter, the Planning Commissioners do not matter, the township solicitor does not matter, and the township manager does not matter. These 4 will get to make the rules (or break the rules) as they see fit.

What does tonight’s actions say for the future of our township? What does it say for the residents or all the many volunteers who serve on our township boards and committees? If tonight is any evidence, transparency of our local government, full disclosure of information, public communication . . . all gone.

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The Clock is Ticking Down . . . Where Will you be Tonight?

The clock is ticking down to the final Board of Supervisor Meeting of 2009. Tonight’s meeting, 7:30 PM in Keene Hall, Township Building, will contain the approval of the 2010 township budget.  Remembering the last 2 meetings, I expect that tonight’s meeting will again be electrifying, dramatic, emotional . . . and any other adjectives you care to add.  I suggest that you either plan on attending or watch from home.  Remember folks, this is our township and our money that we are talking about!

How will each of the 7 supervisors decide to vote on next-years budget? I recall the draft budget was approved 4-2 (Bob Lamina was absent) Will the fire company’s see their budget contribution reinstated?  I just checked and the ePetition to reinstate the firefighters contribution is at 513 signatures.  There’s still time to  join these residents and show your support for the firefighters, click here to sign the petition. 

Do you think that the appeals from the residents and business community will make a difference in how each supervisor will cast his/her vote? What’s that saying about the “will of the people”?  Will that be recognized? How about the reinstatement of the staff longevity pay . . . will that be included in the final budget?  Do you remember the passionate plea from a township staff member at the last Board of Supervisor meeting; she suggested that some of the employees may be receiving as much as a 14% cut if the proposed budget passes.  Can we expect further discussion about St. Davids Golf Club and the $50K offer in the BAWG report?   There was a subcommittee created to discuss the sidewalk issue; will the public receive an update?

Tonight’s meeting will honor 3 supervisors who are retiring – John Shimrak, Mark DiFeliciantonio and my best friend, Judy DiFilippo.  John stepped in to finish out Bill DeHaven’s term and Mark completes his term, serving 4 years.  Tonight is a landmark meeting for Judy; it will mark her 20th (and final) year of serving on the Board of Supervisors – what a remarkable accomplishment of service to this community!  I am sure that you join me in thanking all three for their time and commitment.

In case you missed it, here is the agenda for tonight’s meeting.

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Board of Supervisor Meeting – Reality Must-See TV!

Sitting in the audience tonight and watching the Board of Supervisor Meeting unfold — was more exciting than watching any reality TV show!  There were so many dynamics going on, it’s hard to know where to start.  Everything was routine and relatively calm until we got to the ‘New Matters’ section of the agenda.  Then what happened was nothing short of amazing, remarkable, combative, antagonistic . . . just about any adjective you want to use!

First off, a remarkable moment occurred when Supervisor Judy DiFilippo decided to do what’s right as I had called for in an earlier blog posting.  In regards to the alleged $50K offer from St. Davids Golf Club which appeared in the BAWG report, I had asked the Board of Supervisors and the Chairman of the BAWG Committee a series of questions at the November 30 meeting.  This offer (in lieu of sidewalk construction) had mysteriously appeared in the newly released BAWG report as a suggested available revenue resource. No one seemed willing to offer any answers to my questions — neither Tom Colman, chair of the BAWG committee or members of the Board of Supervisors.  Tonight, Ms. DiFilippo started at the top of my list and proceeded to answer each question as follows:

  • Where did the $50K St. Davids Golf Club offer come from?  Ms. DiFilippo indicated that Supervisor Paul Olson suggested the $50K offer to the Board of Supervisors as payment from St. Davids Golf Club in lieu of  the construction of the sidewalks.
  • Was this a written offer from St. Davids Golf Club Board of Directors and was it made directly to the BAWG committee?  No written offer, only verbally discussed by Supervisor Olson.
  • Was the Township Solicitor, Township Manager and members of the Board of Supervisors advised of the St. Davids Golf Club offer (prior to BAWG’s publication of its report)? Both the Township Manager and Township Solicitor were aware of the inclusion of the St. Davids Golf Club $50K offer prior to the release of the BAWG report. Prior to its release, both asked that Tom Colman remove it from the report.
  • If this is a written offer, what are the conditions and timeline for its acceptance?  Who has the authority to accept the offer?  No written offer
  • Was this offer and the details discussed with the Planning Commission or Sidewalks, Trail & Paths (STAP) Committee prior to appearing in the BAWG report?  This $50K St. Davids Golf Club offer was not discussed with the Planning Commission or STAP Committee, prior to inclusion in the BAWG report.
  • Are any of the members of the BAWG committee also members of St. Davids Golf Club?  Rob Betts, is both a member of St. Davids Golf Club and also served as a member of the BAWG committee.
  • Are any of the members of the Board of Supervisor also members of St. Davids Golf Club?  Supervisor John Shimrak is a member of St. Davids Golf Club.

Supervisor DiFilippo further explained that the newly formed subcommittee was meeting this week to discuss the St. Davids Golf Club situation as well as other incomplete Planning Commission land development projects.  The meeting will include members of the Planning Commission with Ms. DiFilippo and members of staff to work toward satisfactory completion of all outstanding incomplete projects and also develop a strategy going foward with future land development situations. 

On a personal note, it is not often when you have the opportunity to witness firsthand the extent of an individual’s honesty and integrity.  After 20 years of serving on the Board of Supervisors, it would have been far easier for Ms. DiFilippo to simply keep quiet about what she knew about the situation, leave the questions unanswered and just close the chapter on the St. Davids issue.  But instead of following the example of others, Ms. DiFilippo set herself apart in true leadership style, and did indeed, do what’s right!  And we thank her!

It’s late and I think that the amazing, combative and antagonistic elements of tonight’s Board of Supervisor meeting (and my comments) will need to be tomorrow’s installment.

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St. Davids $50K Cash Offer . . . Lots of Questions, But Not So Many Answers!

First off, let me say that I truly appreciate the amount of time extended by the BAWG committee on behalf of the residents of Tredyffrin Township.  As a committed community volunteer, I understand all too well the amount of time and effort, this project demanded of the BAWG committee.

Now on to last night’s Board of Supervisor meeting, the BAWG report and the St. Davids Golf Club’s $50K cash ‘offer’.  The BAWG members were introduced, thanked and given framed commendations for their efforts.  It was my understanding that BAWG Chairman Tom Colman would give a summary of the report; he did not, choosing instead to thank the township staff and other BAWG committee members for their willingness to help in the process.  I expected that Supervisor Chairman Kampf would then ask if his fellow supervisors or audience members had any questions/comments related to the BAWG report.  However, Mr. Kampf did not ask for comments but instead made a motion to accept the BAWG report as a township public document.  Without further discussion, all supervisors voted to accept the BAWG report as a permanent document and proceeded on to the budget discussion. 

As I had stated in an earlier posting, I intended to ask my questions surrounding the $50K St. Davids Golf Club cash offer contained in the BAWG report.  In the official acceptance of the BAWG report as a public document, Mr. Kampf referenced using the report’s recommendations going forward – to me this implied anything contained within the pages of the report could be considered (including the St. Davids ‘offer’) as possible budget revenue sources.

Troubled by the offer from St. Davids Golf Club which appeared in the BAWG report as a suggested revenue resource, I decided to publically ask the following questions:

  • Where did the $50K St. Davids Golf Club offer come from?
  • Was this a written offer from St. Davids Golf Club Board of Directors and was it made directly to the BAWG committee?
  • Was the Township Solicitor, Township Manager and members of the Board of Supervisors advised of the St. Davids Golf Club offer (prior to BAWG’s publication of its report)?
  • If this is a written offer, what are the conditions and timeline for its acceptance?  Who has the authority to accept the offer?
  • Was this offer and the details discussed with the Planning Commission or Sidewalks, Trail & Paths (STAP) Committee prior to appearing in the BAWG report?
  • Are any of the members of the BAWG committee also members of St. Davids Golf Club?
  • Are any of the members of the Board of Supervisor also members of St.  Davids Golf Club?

Just to ask these questions, became a testament to my patience (and for those who know me, I do not claim patience as one of my virtues).  Apparently, Mr. Kampf decided that at first my questions were not budget-related; and therefore could not be asked during the budget discussion.  However, having not been given an option to comment on the BAWG report earlier, and knowing that this report was now a public document that could be used in budget discussion, I felt compelled to keep going — to get the questions out there, and hopefully answered. 

Finally getting the questions asked, I looked to the supervisors for answers to the ‘mystery’ of the St. Davids Golf Club $50K offer — where did it come from, who made the offer, what’s the timeline, etc. etc. I  suggested that acceptance of this offer would be setting precedent for future land development projects (along with usurping the authority of the Planning Commission).  In reponse to the question of the St. Davids offer, they knew nothing of any offer and suggested that Tom Colman come to the microphone and address my questions.  Mr. Colman’s explanation was that he had just ‘heard’ of the offer, didn’t know from where or from whom, but thought it could have been right here in Keene Hall.  He mentioned that the BAWG committee was independent and made decisions on their own, even stating that the Township Solicitor had suggested the removal of the St. Davids offer from the report, but that the BAWG members voted to keep it in. 

Following Mr. Colman’s explanation that there was no $50K offer in writing and complete vagueness of the offer’s origination, I once again stepped forward.  I told the supervisors that I had read every Board of Supervisor and Planning Commission meeting minutes from 2004 onward and that there was absolutely no discussion of any $50K offer from St. Davids Golf Club — was this OK to have a offer in this official public document that had no verification or proof to exist?  My sense was that yes we can accept the BAWG report as public document with a suggested revenue source that is not verifiable and has no basis.

I sat there for a full 20 min. as the budget discussion continued on, trying to understand what had just happened.  There was an easy solution, a right solution — why couldn’t someone make it?  Why not offer the public full disclosure, why not take a stand and do what’s right?  For this taxpayer, the St. Davids Golf Club cash offer of $50K appearing in the BAWG report was wrong.  If this offer existed (albeit no one was willing to publically admit that the offer existed) where was the proof of its existence?  Why wasn’t this so-called offer being seen as a way to allow St. Davids Golf Club off the hook for building the sidewalk?  Sure, St. Davids would come out ahead — the cost of the sidewalk is more likely $75-100K, not $50K.  What about the authority of the Planning Commission – the sidewalk was part of the acceptance of the St. Davids Golf Club land development agreement?  Doesn’t anyone see the potential future problems with setting this kind of precedent?  

At the end of the evening, other members of the audience took the stand to make similar remarks about the St. Davids’ offer.  There certainly seemed a need from people to understand what they had just witnessed.  Under new Board matters, Supervisor DiFilippo made a motion to set up a subcommittee with board members and Planning Commission members to look at the St. Davids offer and how they may be able to deal with future land development situations.  Mr. Kampf offered to be on the subcommittee with Ms. DiFilippo.  The motion passed, 6-0.   This motion confused me further.  If there was no actual $50K offer from St. Davids Golf Club, why was there a need for a subcommittee to look at it? Or did I just misunderstand the the reason for this subcommittee?

I do not question the integrity of the BAWG members or their commitment to this project.  I just believe that if an error or inaccuracy is made, we should try to correct it – I still contend that there is great mystery surrounding the inclusion of St. Davids Golf Club’s $50K cash offer in the BAWG report.  I also believe that the St. Davids offer had no business in this official report and should be removed as a possible revenue source.  Following the Board of Supervisor meeting, Mr. Colman stopped to tell me that one of the BAWG members, Rob Betts was a St. Davids Golf Club member and that he recused him from votes pertaining to St. Davids.

It is fascinating to look at the dynamics of our local government.

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