Bill Martin

Improving Conditions in Tredyffrin Township — Power Returning to Many Households!

What’s the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” – the same could be say about restoring power to Tredyffrin Township and its surrounding areas.  Downed power lines and toppled trees left many roads impassable and neighborhoods with dangerous conditions. Winter Storm Nika is PECO’s second worst in their history in terms of power loss, exceeded only by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  However, as the third day without power ends for many residents, there are improving conditions to report.

Friday evening, I received a phone call from Tredyffrin Township Police Supt. Giaimo offering some updates:

  • Tredyffrin Township now has a crew of 75 PECO trucks, each with 2 employees, dedicated to our township and focused on completing the restoration of all power to residents.
  • The repairs on the main sewer break at Rts 252 & 23 in Valley Forge National Historic Park are progressing and the township’s Public Works and Engineering Departments are moving quickly to resolve the problem.
  • Tredyffrin Township building is open as a warming and charging station.  Although the website states the building is open until midnight, the township building will be open through the night, Saturday and Sunday, if needed.  Coffee and tea is available.
  • Supt. Giaimo strongly urged residents to check on their elderly neighbors.  If you are without power and need a place to stay, the police have an updated list of available local hotels.  They are also arranging for transportation to West Chester shelters, either by buses or in some cases, the police are driving the residents. Residents are encouraged to utilize the resources available at the township building.
  • Much improvement has been made on the road closures with many re-opened today.

Supt. Giaimo assured me that many in the Police Department “have been working around the clock to keep people as safe as possible”.

I have been in contact with Township Manager Bill Martin.  Just as the police chief, the township manager is also working very long hours but wanted me to know that “the hard work is done by all the staff – public works, police and support staff. They work above and beyond anything I have seen in all my years of public service, they care so much about what they do and the residents.”

The hope is that most of Tredyffrin Township should have their power restored by Saturday night – although it may be Sunday for some of the outlining areas.

People are reporting repair crews have arrived from all over the US –Ohio, Illinois, Alabama, Florida, North and South Carolina, Connecticut, Massachusetts and even crews from Canada!  It was interesting to hear a PECO representative say that they usually don’t receive a high volume complaints in a power outage until about the 72 hour mark but that this time the complaints started at less than 24 hours into the outage.  However, unlike the August storm of Hurricane Sandy, residents are dealing with below-zero temperatures during Winter Storm Nika.

Although I think that PECO could have moved quicker to organize following the power outage and PennDOT did not do its best at handling snow and ice covered roads, I have the highest praise for our home team in Tredyffrin – Supt. Giaimo and the Police Department and Township Manager Bill Martin and his support staff, public works and engineering staff.  In addition, we thank the Berwyn Fire Company Chief Eamon Brazunas and his staff of volunteer fire fighters and Chief Ira Dutter and the volunteers of Paoli Fire Company.   Many of these folks are exhausted having worked long hours, and in many cases leaving their own families and houses with similar power outages to help us – the residents of Tredyffrin – and deserve our appreciation and gratitude!

Ann Pugh Farm … an 18th century Tredyffrin Township historic treasure lost to demolition

Pugh Road House

Demolition of Ann Pugh farmhouse

For historic preservationists, the destruction of any historic property is difficult but is compounded when it occurs in your own backyard.  What makes Tredyffrin Township truly unique is its rich architectural heritage:  the old homes and buildings that tell the story of the community’s past, that continue to bring pleasure in the present, and will, if properly cared for, inform and inspire the future.

In 2003, Tredyffrin Township’s Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) undertook what would become an extensive award-winning architectural survey, identifying more than 350 historic resources in the township.  As a member of HARB, I was involved in the review and cataloging of the township’s historic buildings for this project.

According to this historic resource survey, the William Pugh Farm (also called Ann Pugh Farm and A. Glass Farm) received a historic survey Class II structure rating.  The primary architectural style was listed as Georgian and identified the structural system as stone with shake roof.  In the report on the Pugh farmhouse, the surveyor comments include, “recommendation for potential individual listing on the National Register of Historic Places”.

The township’s historic survey description of the property states that the original owner, William C. Pugh, made iron augers in his blacksmith shop at this farm in 1873 and is responsible for the road’s name.  A 1980 survey date suggests that the Pugh farmhouse lists a date of 1750 for the first section and 1830 for the later wing.  This date associates with the date stone of the springhouse of 1832 and that of the barn showing 1839 (see photos below).  According to the historic survey records, “the blacksmith shop was extant in 1980 close to the road, but appears to have been demolished.  Pugh’s property was sold by 1883 to A. Glass, who held 20 acres in 1887.  The complex is distinctive as a combined farmstead with a farmer blacksmith shop and barn.”

When completed, Tredyffrin Township’s award-winning historic resource survey received statewide attention with the 2007 Preservation Award from Preservation Pennsylvania.  At the December 2004 Board of Supervisors meeting, former State Representative Carole Rubley presented the Government Initiative Award on behalf of the Commonwealth to Jim Garrison, who was the Chairman of the Historical Architectural Review Board at that time.  In the minutes of that BOS meeting, Rubley stated that the survey “will be a planning tool for preservation practices in the Township. Mrs. Rubley congratulated the HARB for this great honor, and said it made her proud of the Township.”  A longtime supporter of historic preservation in Tredyffrin Township, I don’t know that the demolition of the 18th century Ann Pugh Farm would make her proud.

In 2009, the township staff, representatives of the Planning Commission and HARB and members of the community took on the arduous task of updating the Comprehensive Plan & Historic Preservation Plan. At that time, I was a member of HARB and served on the citizens committee that helped create the revised planning tool.

In the description of purpose for the Historic Preservation Plan, the document states, “…the Township recognizes the importance of its existing historic resources and the role they play in contributing to the Township’s character. The Historic Preservation Plan will assist the Township and its residents in appreciating the importance of preserving and protecting historic resources.”

Given the township’s stated support of historic preservation, then I must believe that something went terribly wrong regarding the Ann Pugh Farm, insofar as there were no red flags raised before granting the demolition permit on this property.  According to Bill Martin, the township manager, the permit was applied for and reviewed by township staff.  In an email he stated, “Unless the home is protected, the code department has no ability to deny or delay these applications.” 

The township has the  historic resource survey book that documents, by street address, the 350+ historic properties, with descriptions and photographs.  When the township staff receives a demolition permit request, it would only take a couple of minutes to check whether the property is included in the historic resource survey.  The property was only purchased last month, how is it possible that a demolition permit can go through the township in less than 30 days?  It’s too late to make a difference for the 18th century Pugh Road house but going forward, something needs to change.

Unless the process changes regarding notification of demolition applications, there’s nothing to keep this from happening over and over. Although I am no longer a member of the Historic Commission, I continue to serve as the president of Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust and chair of the Annual Historic House Tour.   I was disheartened to read on that township website that starting in 2014,  the Historic Commission is no longer holding monthly meetings but has instead decreased its meeting schedule to quarterly. And unfortunately, the township no longer has a HARB which may have helped protect this historic property from demolition.

For historic preservation to matter, and for our local history to be meaningful, it needs to be supported.

In 2007, I had the pleasure of co-chairing the township’s Tredyffrin 300 celebration with my friend Judy DiFilippo.  The community came together that year to celebrate our three hundred years of history.  Our history was important when the township was founded in 1707, it was important when we celebrated the 300th year of its founding in 2007, and …  its history and its historic resources should be important to preserve in 2014.   

In the words of early preservationist William Morris, “These old buildings do not belong to us only, they belong to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not in any sense our own property to do with as we like with them. We are only trustees for those that come after us.”   

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Remembering the Ann Pugh Farm, circa 1792 with a few photos — a loss of an 18th century historic treasure

Pugh Road Farm House front

  Ann Pugh Farmhouse, circa 1792

Ann Pugh Farm Barn and Swimming Pool

Barn and swimming pool

Barn date stone

Barn date stone

Great room of guest barn

Great room of guest barn

Beautiful 18th c dining room

Beautiful 18th c dining room

Pugh farmhouse kitchen

Pugh farmhouse kitchen

Living room at Ann Pugh farmhouse

Living room at Ann Pugh farmhouse

Ann Pugh farmhouse bedroom

Ann Pugh farmhouse bedroom

 

 

 

Seeking Support for Transportation Funding Bill from PA State Rep. Warren Kampf (R-157)

The infrastructure in Pennsylvania is in trouble and our roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems are not going to fix themselves – they need funding.

Earlier this year the PA Senate passed a $2.5 billion transportation funding proposal but the House has yet to vote on the measure … but time is running short for the state lawmakers to make a decision about the transportation funding bill. When elected officials return to Harrisburg on Tuesday, November 12, following their election recess, they only have about 10 session days to get the bill to Gov. Corbett for his signature before the end of the year.

Most of the money (approximately $1.9 billion) in the transportation bill would go for road, bridge and tunnel improvements with an additional $500 million earmarked for mass transit projects. In April 2011, I cited a newly released Transportation of America study that named Pennsylvania as first in the nation for having the “largest percentage of structurally deficient bridges”. Without additional funding, the structurally deficient bridges are likely to be weight-restricted, and in some cases, closed.  Beyond the obvious travel difficulties (and potential safety risks) for motorists, the deteriorating infrastructure is no boon to the state’s economic situation.

Of particular interest in the transportation funding bill is the $500 million component marked for mass transit   – one would think that the Paoli Transit Center project would be a candidate. The long and winding road for the Paoli Transit Center looks to now hinge on receiving funding from the proposed transportation bill.   According to Tredyffrin Township Manager Bill Martin, in a MLMN article last month, “If the state can’t meet its current infrastructure needs, all new transportation projects – including Paoli’s – will be held up. Funding brings in more funding. Without state dollars for the project, we can’t get federal dollars and we won’t be able to make deals with private developers.” 

Beyond the Paoli redevelopment project, the Tredyffrin residents whose properties are close to the PA Turnpike, specifically in the Great Valley, Chesterbrook and Glenhardie areas, are seeing the turnpike widening and sound wall plan  ‘on hold’ pending the passage of the transportation funding bill.   The PA Turnpike Commissioners have not approved their fiscal year 2014 Capital Plan that contains the turnpike widening and associated sound walls in Tredyffrin Township. According to a recent email that I received as a member of the PA Turnpike Design Roundtable, “The delay in the [Capital Plan] approval is linked to the ongoing negotiations for statewide transportation funding.  … Hopefully, transportation funding will be address in the near future, and a fiscal year 2014 Capital Plan will be approved.”

The proposed transportation bill that is waiting for approval from State lawmakers significantly impacts two major Tredyffrin Township projects – the Paoli Transit Center and the PA Turnpike (in addition to the improvement of state roads and bridges in the township).  The bill overwhelmingly cleared the Senate in June, what is it going to take for the lawmakers in the House to approve it and send it on to Gov. Corbett for his signature?

Low approval ratings and a challenging reelection battle looming, has Corbett stumping for the passage of the transportation bill.  According to the latest Franklin & Marshall College poll (October 2013), only one in five registered voters (20%) in Pennsylvania approve of the job that Corbett is doing and 61 percent believe that the state is “off on the wrong track”.   You have to think that the passage of a $2.5 billion transportation bill that would improve roads, bridges and transit systems could help boost the Governor’s sagging approval ratings.

State representatives Warren Kampf (R-157) and Duane Milne (R-167) each have a section of the PA Turnpike in their Districts and likewise their Districts overlap in the Paoli redevelopment project.  And like Governor Corbett, Republicans Kampf and Milne are both up for reelection in 2014. Milne is on record as supporting the transportation bill, stating in Main Line Suburban, “Without a substantial transportation bill, there is close to zero chance that the Paoli project gets funded in anywhere close to the foreseeable future. Our state is near the bottom in terms of its roads and transportation system. There is no revenue stream that will let us do first-class upgrades to our roads and infrastructure. If there’s no bill, it’s going to hurt our ability to do new projects like Paoli. We’ll be looking at the status quo or at a declining status quo.”

On the other hand, Kampf has been vocal in his opposition of the proposed transportation bill, at least in its present form.  Although Kampf in not questioning the need for infrastructure improvements, he objects to lifting the tax ceiling on gas wholesalers that would then be passed onto consumers as a means of paying for transportation improvements.  According to his Op-Ed article on TE Patch,  Kampf states that the, “passage of this legislation as it is today offers no guarantees for the future of that, or any other, local project.”   We know that there is no guarantee on project allocation in the funding bill but there is a flipside to this argument — What happens to the Paoli Transit Center project if the currently proposed transportation bill passes the House without Kampf’s signature?

With neighboring District state representatives at odds over the transportation bill, this could be the death knell for our local train station redevelopment project.  If the bill passes without Kampf’s support it seems probable that the funding for the Paoli Transit Center is likely to be used elsewhere

 I understand that Rep. Kampf does not want to increase taxes and is particularly concerned about what the increase in gas tax could mean to seniors, families, and small businesses that are already struggling. Kampf claims that the majority of the constituents who have contacted him do not support an increase in gas taxes to fund road, bridges and transit system improvements.  As one of his constituents, I disagree.  If he spoke to the 4,000 residents in the Great Valley, Chesterbrook and Glenhardie areas impacted by the PA Turnpike widening and sound wall project, I’m guessing that they too would encourage his support of the transportation funding bill.

With a reelection campaign ahead in 2014, is Kampf’s political calculus that the voters will punish him for supporting the transportation bill if it means raising the cost of gas.  In my opinion, it is more likely that the voters will punish him if he doesn’t support the bill, especially if it means the loss of the Paoli Transit Center and the PA Turnpike projects for Tredyffrin.

It’s difficult for elected officials to support a tax increase when they are not running for office – but when its election year, the task is all but impossible.  If Corbett does not have the proposed transportation funding bill on his desk in 2013, it seems unlikely that it will resurface in 2014 (election year).

The infrastructure in Pennsylvania is in trouble and our roads, bridges, tunnels and transit systems are not going to fix themselves – they need funding and the money has to come from somewhere.  The clock is running down for State lawmakers to maake a decision on transportation funding.

Paoli Transportation Center Plans Moving Ahead: Darby Road location selected for new train station

Last fall, SEPTA presented three options for the Paoli Transportation Center at an open house at the township building.  I received the following SEPTA press release from township manager, Bill Martin who had promised last week that an update was imminent.  After reviewing the public’s input and preference on the site location for the new train station, a  decision was announced today. Of the three alternatives, the Darby Road Extension was the preferred plan —   click here to review the three plans. A map of the Darby Road Extension Alternative is below.

According to SEPTA’s press release, in the Darby Road Extension Alternative plan, “the existing North Valley Road Bridge will be demolished and Darby Road will be extended across Lancaster Avenue over the railroad tracks and with a new bridge to be constructed.”    Both the Greenwood and the Plank Avenue options had the train station moving from its current location whereas the Darby Road Extension plan alternative leaves the station in the same place.

It’s exciting to see that the train station  project has completed another hurdle in what has been a very long process — thanks to all that helped with this step!

SEPTA Press Release:

Darby Road Site Selected for Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center

PHILADELPHIA, PA (February 13, 2013)—SEPTA, in conjunction with a consortium of stakeholders, has designated the Darby Road Extension Alternative as the preferred site for the proposed Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center.

The Darby Road Extension Alternative was one of three options presented at the October 2012 Paoli Transportation Visions Open House where over 300 residents and community stakeholders provided their opinions on each alternative. After the event, their feedback was compiled and Gannett Fleming presented SEPTA with an alternative analysis report. Both showed the Darby Road Extension Alternative as the best and most favored option. Under this option, the existing North Valley Road Bridge will be demolished and Darby Road will be extended across Lancaster Avenue over the railroad tracks and with a new bridge to be constructed.

“We considered all of the options and opinions presented,” Robert Lund, SEPTA Assistant General Manager of Engineering Maintenance & Construction said. “It was important for us to hear what the community wanted.”

“The demolition of the outmoded North Valley Road Bridge, and the extension of Darby Road, is a smart, community based solution,” Michelle Kichline Chairman of Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors said. “It is a critical first step in the long planned redevelopment of Paoli and the Transportation center.”

Located in Chester County the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center will be in the heart of the Paoli Business District. It will feature a fully accessible Regional Rail Station that will accommodate SEPTA buses, private carrier shuttle buses, taxis, pedestrians, and cyclists. A large, multi-story parking garage will also be needed as part of the Center. Roadway, streetscape and track improvements are also planned to enhance rail service and improve traffic flow in the area.

“This project is tremendously important to our Paoli community and to the region,” Pennsylvania State Representative Warren Kampf said. “I look forward to working with all stakeholders — especially local residents — and SEPTA on this preferred site. We need to create a Transportation Center that addresses long unsolved problems with the current station, the road network, the parking, the ever-increasing commuter demands and which promises to be a centerpiece of a better downtown Paoli.”

Paoli Station serves approximately 1,300 passengers each day. The station is located along SEPTA’s Paoli/Thorndale Regional Rail Line and AMTRAK’s Philadelphia/Harrisburg Keystone Corridor. SEPTA bus routes 92, 105, 204, 205, and 206 serve the station in addition to private carrier shuttle buses that provide transportation to the Great Valley and Chesterbrook corporate centers.

“The Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center will be a great benefit to the residents of Chester County,” Pennsylvania State Representative Duane Milne said. “The new station will not only allow residents to reach destinations such as Philadelphia or Harrisburg more easily, but it will also benefit the local economy, as well. New businesses will likely open in the area of the new station to accommodate the needs of the many commuters passing through each day. “I am glad that everyone involved in the project came together and made a thoughtful decision on its future location. Having selected a site, now the exciting construction process can begin and this wonderful project will soon become a reality.”

“This is a project that has been literally decades in the making and one that will provide a significant boost to our local economy,” Pennsylvania State Senator Andy Dinniman said. “The new Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center will be a crucial artery for local businesses, commuters, employees and residents throughout the region, as well as a 21st century transportation hub for the downtown Paoli business district. Design improvements will address issues with the current station, such as parking and traffic enhancements and better access for pedestrians, cyclists and buses. But perhaps most importantly, the project will go hand-in-hand with vital rail-line upgrades to Amtrak’s Keystone Corridor train service – upgrades that mean faster trains and shorter travel times for commuters.”

In addition to SEPTA, the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center project has been guided by a consortium of stakeholders consisting of Tredyffrin Township, Willistown Township, AMTRAK, PennDOT, the Chester County and Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commissions, elected officials, residents and the business community. For more information about the project, visit http://www.paolionthemove.org/.

Tredyffrin Pays $83K for Police Contract Arbitration, or … was it really $133K?

The Board of Supervisors and the School Board have their first meetings of the New Year this week.  As is often the case, Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting conflicts with the TESD Board meeting. Scheduled for Monday night is both the Board of Supervisor’s organizational and regular meeting at the township building and the T/E School Board will hold a special school board meeting to consider the 2013-14 budget at the T/E Administration Building.  Unfortunately, both meetings are at the same time – 7:30 PM.

The Board of Supervisor’s organizational meeting includes the adoption of the meeting schedule for the various township boards and commissions, naming of emergency service providers, adoption of township fee schedule, legal and accounting reviews, etc.

One of the interesting aspects of the organizational meeting each year is the naming of the Chair and Vice Chair of the Board of Supervisors.  The seven Board members nominate and vote on these positions.  Historically, these positions go to the longest-serving members on the Board.  However, in 2012, that tradition shifted with the naming of Michelle Kichline as Chair. Kichline had only served 2 years as supervisor and neither as a Vice Chair, but received the unanimous support of her fellow board members for the chair position.  Having served longer than Kichline, many had expected John DiBuonaventuro to receive the 2012 nod for Chair but instead he served as Vice Chair. The Board of Supervisors saw their share of controversy in 2012, so it will be curious to see if Michelle receives another vote of confidence to continue as Chair and JD to continue as Vice Chair.

After the ceremonious organizational meeting, there is a regular supervisors meeting, including a Public Hearing to “consider and enact an ordinance of the Township of Tredyffrin, Chester County, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, fixing rates of taxation for the year 2013.”  We learned at the last BOS meeting in December that the township tax increase is set at 3.1%, down from the 5.5% originally forecast.

Since the December 17th supervisors meeting, we have learned of the Act 111 Arbitration Award issued for the collective bargaining agreement between the township and the police union. Much has been written about the agreement on Community Matters with many comments. If you are interested in details of the 4-year contract (2012-15), I would suggest you review posts from late December.  Once the arbitration award was announced, I submitted a right-to-know request for a complete accounting of the arbitration related expenses paid by the township.  It should be noted that this is the second police contract in a row that has gone directly to arbitration by the township.  In both instances, the impartial arbitrator came down on the side of the police union in regards to the post-retirement benefits. We know that retirement benefits , including pensions and healthcare, were major contributors to the long-standing debate between the two sides.

According to township manager Bill Martin, the arbitration costs to the township (taxpayers) re the police contract is as follows – Michael Zobrak, impartial arbitrator $14,136.46 and township arbitrators John McLaughlin, Patrick Harvey, Brian Pinheiro, etc. billed 273 hours for $69,337.50.  If my math is correct, the taxpayers paid $83,473.96 for the arbitration of the police contract.

Below are the details that Bill Martin sent for the township arbitrator costs.  John McLaughlin, Patrick Harvey and Brian Pinheiro are all partners in the Philadelphia law firm of Ballard Spahr.  The law firm billed the township 273 hours for a total of $69,337.50 which equates to $254/hr on the average.  On April 3, 2012 there are 100+ hours billed to the township under the name, ‘PFM’ — I am clueless as to what that means but I will contact the township manager for clarification.

I am struggling to understand these billable hours from Ballard Spahr.  It was my understanding that there was little (if any?) movement from the township’s initial position going into the arbitration process.  If that is the case, how is it that the total number of hours in 2012 (setting aside the hours from 2011) are so substantially higher than the total billable hours of  Michael Zobrak, the impartial arbitrator.

Something else I should point out is that on my right-to-know request in which I asked for ‘costs to date’ was dated January 1, 2013 and Martin’s response was dated January 4th. If you look at the last billing date from Ballard Spahr (below) it was back on Oct. 18, over 2 months prior to the signing of the arbitration agreement on December 23, 2012. It stands to reason that there are additional billable hours yet to be received from Ballard Spahr for those 2+ months, including the review of the arbitration award before its release.  I would maintain that the township has not seen the end of the costs — $83K may not be the entire costs.

TT Arbitrator Costs

I would suggest that we should also add the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) police department consulting fee of $49K to the total cost of the police contract negotiations.  Much of ICMA’s report was boilerplate language and their specific, cost-savings suggestions would require collective bargaining changes.  The way I see it, the township has already spent approximately $133K trying to lower police department expenses.  Based on the arbitration award, we know that the police department retained most of their prior contract benefits.

What bearing is the Act 111 arbitration award going to have on the township’s 2013 budget?  The supervisors and the finance director Tim Klarich did not have the benefit of a crystal ball in regards to the arbitration award when they calculated the 2013 budget. In addition, we still have the issue that there were 47 uniformed police in the 2012 township budget and the 2013 budget has the number reduced to 42.  The 42 uniformed police officers is two more officers than are currently in the department.  Now that the police contract is settled, will the supervisors OK the hiring of those two additional officers?

3.1% Tax Increase in Tredyffrin Township; Cuts to Police Department

As a taxpayer and an audience member at last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, I expected to have a copy of the final 2013 budget prior to the vote.  According to BOS Chair Michelle Kichline and Township Manager Bill Martin, they were working on the final budget until the last minutes and ran out of time to have copies available.

The proposed budget for 2013 had indicated a 5.5% tax increase – the final version brought the tax increase down to 3.1%.  Without a copy of the revised budget, it was difficult to know where the changes had occurred.  The Finance Director Tim Klarich explained that differences from the proposed to final budget was due to a variety of adjustments.  Martin ran through the changes quickly, making it hard to follow without a copy of the budget.  One adjustment in the 2013 budget has the elimination of one full-time library position. It was offered that the changes in the final budget were minor from the proposed budget – if they were ‘minor’, then I really do not understand why copies of the changes could not have been available.

Prior to casting their vote, each supervisor offered a statement. Mike Heaberg, Phil Donohue, Michelle Kichline and Kristen Mayock voted in favor of the budget with the tax increase, explaining that it was fiscally responsible.  Although the average increase to taxpayers in the 2013 budget, according to Kichline, is about $16, EJ Richter stated the increase would be $35 and would not vote for the budget with a tax increase.  Paul Olson also voted against the budget, citing the tax increase.  John DiBuonaventuro’s vote against the budget but his reason was specific to the decreased staffing of the police department.

Tredyffrin Township Police Department currently has 40 uniformed police officers, although there were 47 officers listed in the 2012 budget.  The police operations study by ICMA ($49K consulting contract) indicated a minimum of 43 uniformed officers were required maintain the safety of the community.  At the December 3 BOS meeting, Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo had requested that the Board consider reinstating ‘47’ officers in the 2013 budget.  However, there are only 42 uniformed officers listed in the 2013 budget.

Again, I have to ask, what was the value of the $49K consulting study?  The most important element of the report would be how many officers are required to maintain safety in the community.  According to the consultants report the absolute minimum is 43 uniformed officers to maintain current safety levels – actually the 43 number assumed scheduling changes.  Without the scheduling changes, the consultants recommended 45 uniformed officers.

Bottom line, why spend $49K to have consultants do a study if you are not going to use the results?  How much more per taxpayer would it cost to add a few more police?  If the average tax increase is $16 for 2013, I think most of us would gladly pay a few more dollars to maintain the level of safety.  In light of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, the last area of the budget that needs to be cut is the police department. I am all for being fiscally responsible, but the police department needs to be adequately staff.  To be clear, the 2013 township budget cuts police staffing from 47 uniformed police officers to 42 officers.  And just think, it wasn’t that long ago that Tredyffrin Township had 50+ uniformed officers!

It should also be noted that those two additional uniformed police officers in the 2013 budget will not be hired until there is a contract settlement between the township and the police union.  As of now, the arbitration continues without any indication of a settlement date!

The Board of Supervisors passed the 2013 township budget, 4-3 with a 3.1% tax increase (and a decrease in the number of uniformed police officers.)

Will Tredyffrin Township’s Proposed 2013 Budget increase or decrease level of staffing in Police Department?

The consulting firm, International City/County Management Association (ICMA) has completed their operations review and data analysis of the Police Department; click here to read the detailed 92-page report.  The agenda for Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting includes a presentation of the ICMA Police Operations Report.

As reference, the Board of Supervisors approved this $49K police operations study in July.   Before approving the study, there was discussion from some of the supervisors about whether the money would be better spent on bringing the police officer staffing up to the authorized level of 47 (currently at 41) or using the money for Police Department equipment.

Will the ICMA report influence the proposed 2013 preliminary budget or have a bearing on the ongoing police contract arbitration? Probably the most important question that many of us wanted answered by the consultant’s study – How many police officers are required in Tredyffrin Township to provide adequate safety for the residents? Did the study suggest increasing the department beyond the authorized level of 47 or would the recommendation be to decrease the staffing level?  

The ICMA police operations study concludes that a minimum of two additional police officers needed to be immediately hired and assigned to patrol.  According to the report, the consultants were informed that two officers have been authorized, increasing the level to 43 police officers.

The ICMA report recommends the Police Department take immediate steps to review the current shift schedule and consider the alternative 10-hour and 40-minute shift schedule, see ‘Patrol Personnel, Shifts and Shift Strength, Four-Shift Model’ on pages 79/80. According to the report, this new schedule can reduce patrol over-staffing; thus decreasing personnel requirements.  However, the report notes that changing the shift schedule may be limited by the Police Department’s collective bargaining agreement. By modifying the current schedule, ICMA suggests there would be a reduction in the department’s need for patrol personnel.

According to the report, the current shift schedule provides a “total of six overlap hours during every 24-hour period. In other words, for six hours each day, two shifts (or approximately eight patrol officers) are scheduled to be working at the same time. The data analysis portion of this report confirms this. As stated elsewhere, these hours can be used for training and other purposes, such as participation in the department’s physical fitness program. But as the data analysis indicates, this dramatic increase in manpower suggests some inefficiencies that are built directly into the shift schedule.”

ICMA claims that the alternative schedule, which uses four starting times for shifts each day instead of three, will provide for greater flexibility, “both in terms of varying start times and in aligning manpower with calls for service.” By making this change in scheduling, the report indicates a reduction in supervisory staffing requirement.  As I understand the report, if the Police Department were to move to the alternative 10-hour and 40-minute shift schedule, the standard of service to the community would be maintained with 43 officers (implying that the additional 4 authorized staffing vacancies would not be filled).  However, the report points out that if the schedule is not changed, it may require the staffing level to increase to 45. Currently the Police Department has authorized staffing for 47 officers – my read is that ICMA does not recommend filling those two additional vacancies.

The current breakdown of the 41 members* of the Police Department are as follows:

  • 1 superintendent
  • 2 lieutenants (operations and administration)
  • 8 sergeants (6 assigned to patrol, 1 detective sergeant and 1 traffic sergeant)
  • 6 detectives (1 assigned to patrol)
  • 7 corporals (6 assigned to patrol, 1 assigned to traffic)
  • 1 community policing officer
  • 16 police officers

*My understanding from reading the report is that an additional two police officers has been approved and these officers will be assigned to patrol, bringing the total to 43 officers. The additional two officers will help reduce the overtime expenditures.

It makes sense that the reduction in Police Department staffing directly affects overtime expenses. With vacancies of six police officers (47 authorized down to 41), the report provides overtime data that underscores the additional overtime expense. The Police Department’s overtime costs in 2009: $55,175; 2010:  $66,231; 2011: $144,037 and up to August 15, 2012: $138,914.  Overtime expenditures in the first 8 months of 2012 were nearly as much as all of 2011 and clearly the overtime costs will continue to rise until the end of the year.

Will the recommendations contained in ICMA’s study have any effect on the township’s proposed 2013 preliminary budget? In reviewing the proposed 2013 budget, the actual level of police staffing is not obvious.  Does the proposed 2013 budget allow the Police Department to increase staffing to its authorized level of 47?  We should remember that the authorized level of 47 police officers is actually a decrease from previous years — at some point in the past, the Police Department had 50+ officers.

As it now stands, the proposed 2013 preliminary budget includes a 5.5% tax increase with the $40M unfunded medical liability dark cloud hanging over the township. In addition, the ‘elephant in the room’ is the ongoing contract negotiations between the township and the police union, Tredyffrin Township Police Association (TTPA). Since January 2012, the contract between TTPA and Tredyffrin Township has been in arbitration; the 3-year police contract expired the end of 2011.  The process has been held captive for nearly a year, waiting for a ruling from independent arbitrator, Michael Zobrak.

Because of the comments on my post, “Lifetime healthcare benefits of Tredyffrin Township Police Association result in $40M unfunded liability – What’s the solution?“, I filed a ‘right-to-know’ request with the township.   I received copies of TTPA 2004 and 2009-11 contracts.  Until a new contract is signed, the Police Department continues to work to their last contract, 2009-11.  The  starting point for the collective bargaining agreement is with the 2009-11 contract; therefore, my comments below are taken from that contract. (Click here to review TTPA-Tredyffrin Township 2009-11 contract).

 Without a copy of the police contract, there was conflicting information and questions, much having to do with the medical coverage of retired police officers. Here are the facts according to the 2009-11 contract:

  • For officers (and their spouses/dependents) hired prior to 1/1/99 who retire after 15 years of service, medical coverage is provided without cost, except for co-pays and deductibles.
  • For officers (and their spouses/dependents) hired after 1/1/99, who retire after 20 years of service, the township shall pay the premiums for medical coverage in the amount of 4% multiplied by the officer’s years of service. An example given: 4% x 20 years of credited service = 80% premium payment.

According to the 2009-11 contract, if an officer retired on or after 1/1/2009, the township may coordinate its obligation to provide post-retirement medical coverage with available Medicare coverage.  “For those persons eligible for Medicare, the township shall reimburse them for any cost associated with acquiring Medicare, including the cost of Plan B coverage. In addition to being responsible for all costs associated with Medicare coverage, the township shall purchase supplement insurance and the township shall self-insure such as is necessary to provide the retired officer and spouse with the same level of insurance coverage they enjoyed before coverage was coordinated with Medicare.” 

It was my understanding from the budget meeting, that retired police officers received lifetime health care benefits; however that point was debated on Community Matters.  Reading further in the contract, it states that, “… Officers who retired prior to 1/1/09, as well as their spouses and eligible dependents, shall be permanently vested with, and continue to enjoy, the same level of healthcare benefits being provided for them by the Township as of 12/31/2008 at no cost, except for co-payments and deductibles then in effect.”

The missing link in the discussion was the 1/1/2009 date and whether the police officer retired before or after that date determines the medical coverage.  Until I read the contract, I did not know the requirement for retirement was 15 years of service before 1/1/99; after that date, it became 20 years of service.  I had incorrectly assumed that retirement benefits required 25 years of service.

For those police officers currently employed by the township, the township pays the entire medical premium for police officers, including spouse and children, with officers paying co-pays and deductibles.  Benefits also include dental and vision coverage.

Another question previously raised was the longevity bonus pay of the police officers and how it was calculated.  According to the contract, the bonus is computed as follows:

  • After 4 years of service              2% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 8 years of service              4% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 12 years of service            6% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 16 years of service            8% of Basic Yearly Salary
  • After 20 years of service            10% of Basic Yearly Salary

The biggest roadblock in collective bargaining contract disputes these days is health care benefits (in addition to salaries). Certainly health care benefits were an important component in the recently settled T/E teacher contract negotiations.  Appreciating the current economic environment, the teachers agreed that their generous healthcare plan of the past was no longer possible, changes were made in their teacher’s contract accordingly.   At present, there are 52 retired police officers and their families that are receiving retirement medical benefits.  According to the 2009-11 contract, it appears that police officers retiring before 1/1/2009 are not required to  go on Medicare when eligible.  It would be interesting to know how many of the retired 52 officers have opted to go on Medicare benefits (even those not required to do so) when they became eligible.

As the T/E School District’s contract with the teachers union is a public document so is the Tredyffrin Township Police Association contract with the township.  Some in the community have voiced concern with residents speculating about the contents of the police contact.  I am of the opinion that as the T/E School Board has the TTEA contract available on their website, www.tesd.net, the township should likewise provide the TTPA contract on the website.   Providing the public documents to the residents lessons the confusion and misinformation that comes about by not know the facts.

I look forward to your comments on ICMA’s report reviewing the Police Department and the 2009-11 agreement between TTPA and the township. Monday, December 3 Board of Supervisors meeting includes the proposed 2013 preliminary budget and the ICMA police operations report on the agenda.

A Township Resident is Tredyffrin’s New Township Manager

Although there were only 9 residents at tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting there is significant news to report.  Chair Michelle Kichline reported that the township has hired Bill Martin as Tredyffrin’s new township manager, effective November 19.

Martin comes to Tredyffrin Township from Bridgeport where he has served as their Borough Manager since September 2011. Martin started his career in Nassau County (New York) as a Legislative Assistant.  In 2001, he focused his career in local government with Radnor Township, serving as Assistant Finance Director.  For the ten years he was in Radnor, Martin served in many different capacities from Acting Finance Director, Right to Know Officer, Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator, Director of Administrative Services, Interim Director of Community Development, and Assistant Township Manager to Acting Township Manger.  He left Radnor Township to become Bridgeport Borough Manager last year. Martin received a BA and MBA from Villanova University and here’s the best part … he is a Tredyffrin Township resident!  Martin could be the first township manager to live in the township, which I for one think should always be a requirement!

In other news, Kichline reported that she had delegated the task of drafting a website policy to Phil Donahue. She explained that Donohue is seriously ill in the hospital, having had surgery today.  I don’t have any further details but I know that you join me in wishing him a speedy and full recovery.  Because of the illness, Kichline explained that she will draft the website policy and expects to make it public next month.  Having been on the receiving end of what I believe was the misuse of the township website (and taxpayer dollars) by supervisor John DiBuonaventuro, I am hopeful that the new policy will stop anything similar in the future.

Six months ago, at the April Board of Supervisors meeting, I asked for an update on the status of the sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club.  At that point, it appeared that the sidewalks were finally going in with the necessary advance tree removal completed.  Tonight Steve Burgo explained to me that due to the delay in the project, St. Davids had to update their permit with PennDOT before sending it out to bid. Unfortunately, this was exactly the same response that I received last April.  I asked for follow-up and an update at the November supervisors meeting.

I inquired about Mimi Gleason’s consulting contract with the township and if there was an expected end date.  According to Mike Heaberg, to date Gleason has worked approximately 50 hours under the new consulting contract, which he pointed out was less than what she would have been paid as township manager.  It is expected that Gleason will work through the transition of Bill Martin starting as township manager next month.  It appears that Gleason will be only working with the township a few days beyond Martin’s start date.  I also asked about Gleason’s healthcare benefits – according to Tim Klarich, her township healthcare benefits ended September 30th.

That’s the highlights from the Board of Supervisors meeting.  Tonight the School Board directors voted on the teacher’s contract so I look forward to hearing those details.

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