Over the last few days there has been much discussion about Supervisor Bob Lamina’s As I See It: Supervisor’s take on Tredyffrin budget: Fair and balanced recent article in the Main Line Suburban. There was another equally as powerful article in the paper, written by Malvern resident Kathleen Keohane which offers her opinion on the last Board of Supervisor Meeting and includes support to the fire company’s reinstatement of their budget cut. For the sake of fairness, I want Ms. Keohane’s As I See It: Not much good, but plenty of bad and ugly at Tredyffrin meeting article to receive the same degree of attention. As taxpayers and residents of Tredyffrin Township, I think we all need to reflect on our expectations from our local government, our leaders and where this township is heading in 2010. Post your comments here, on the Main Line Suburban’s website or directly to the township supervisors at firstname.lastname@example.org .
As I See It: Not much good, but plenty of bad and ugly at Tredyffrin meeting
In all the years I’ve lived in Tredyffrin, I have never seen such theater as I witnessed during Monday night’s supervisors’ meeting!
First, a long-serving supervisor decided to leave office with her integrity intact by clearing the air on an issue the board had tried to sweep under the rug – the source of $50,000 in potential revenue recommended by the Business Advisory Working Group (BAWG) in their report. A concerned citizen had stood up at the last BOS meeting to ask how such a recommendation could have made it into the report to the township. Chairman Kampf refused to answer. The topic on the agenda was the budget, he said, and since the $50,000 did not appear in next year’s budget, he would not address it.
In refusing to answer Ms. Benson’s straightforward questions, Mr. Kampf looked like a foolish prevaricator. Ms. Benson remained standing and asked again. Then it became theater of the absurd as every township official and BAWG member sat mute. Apparently no one knew anything about this money. Not even members of the BAWG, who ironically had just received plaques for their hard work on behalf of the community.
The stonewalling raised more questions, but as of last week’s board of supervisors’ meeting, it seemed there would be no answers – until supervisor DiFilippo matter-of-factly reported at Monday’s meeting that the $50,000 offer had come from supervisor Paul Olson last year but had never been put in writing. It was a rare moment of truth.
The origin of an offer by St. Davids Golf Club to pay the township $50,000 was made to get out of a contractual agreement signed back in 2004. The offer became public at a special meeting last month when BAWG chair Tom Colman made a presentation of recommended budget cuts and additional revenue sources. When the offer was made, St. Davids was already in breach of its agreement to construct a sidewalk along the north side of its property on Upper Gulph Road. In addition it turns out that supervisor John Shimrak is a board member of St. Davids and BAWG member Rob Betts is also a member of the golf club.
Ms. DiFilippo stated her opinion that 1) if the township were ever to consider the offer, St. Davids should have to pay the equivalent of the actual construction costs, 2) the funds should be held in a separate Sidewalk Fund, and 3) only the planning commission could approve such a decision, having imposed the sidewalk requirement in the first place as part of a building permit. Not surprisingly the Planning Commission had already denied St. Davids’ waiver request in 2008, at which point it was in breach.
While the facts behind this backroom deal settled over the room, recently retired supervisor Bill DeHaven stepped to the microphone to express some strong opinions. He called the entire sidewalk controversy a red herring. And then he proceeded to criticize his former colleagues’ 2010 budget as one of misplaced priorities, with no evidence of planning – a “get-by budget,” he called it.
DeHaven, a retired police officer, made an emotional plea to restore the fire companies’ funding for 2010. “I love this township. I want it to stay as great as it is and move forward. And I’m willing to pay for it.” He urged the imposition of a dedicated fire tax so that residents would know exactly how much they contributed for fire and emergency medical services.
Supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson defended the fire cuts as necessary. At that point supervisor John DiBuonaventuro responded that he was truly offended that $21,000 for fireworks remained in the budget while funding for the fire companies had been reduced by an equivalent amount. And that ironically firefighters would be expected to work for free on the Fourth of July. He reminded the board that its first responsibility was to protect the township’s residents.
If all of this wasn’t dramatic enough, a township clerical worker bravely stood up and spoke bluntly to her bosses. She said that she was one of 24 office workers who had formed a union several years ago because they felt it was the only way they would be able to make a decent living. The elimination of their longevity pay in next year’s budget meant 6-14-percent cuts in their salaries. And since seven clerical workers had been laid off in October, those remaining were expected to take up all the slack. Their average salary: $40,000. The woman expressed her feeling that the supervisors’ decision to make steep cuts instead of raising taxes to pay for necessary services was a mistake. You get the level of service you pay for, she said. She urged everyone to study the budget cuts carefully.
As the emotional pleas from board members, former board members and residents wore on, supervisor Bob Lamina announced that he had decided that he could not support fireworks over fire companies. John DiBuonaventuro immediately asked that the fire companies’ funding be reinstated. Anti-climactically, BOS chair Mr. Kampf refused to consider it. And then he launched into an emotional defense of all the budget cuts as necessary given the current economic climate. “We have a choice,” he said, “to go to the taxpayers or look to ourselves. So we decided to tighten our belts.”
The entire meeting lasted about 75 minutes but it seemed an eternity. In the process, a backroom deal revealed. Emotional pleas for and against budget cuts. All peppered with insulting remarks made by supervisors and citizens alike. You must watch a rebroadcast of this meeting. And then weigh in as a citizen. You can contact your supervisors at email@example.com.