2022 December Township Board Meeting

The township held their usual meeting on Dec. 8th. The video is available on Youtube and the agenda is available on the township website.

Opening Section

The township swore in a police officer, but there was no audio so I’m not sure of the details.

A group of residents spoke during public comments about the dangers on Vernon Rd, which is a narrow road with on-street park but no sidewalks that is used as a cut-through between Wallingford Ave. and Baltimore Pike. Speeding is not so much the problem as is dangerous driving conditions with poor sight lines. The township will reach out to residents to see if there’s interest in speed humps.

Noel Coker was appointed to the EAC as an adhoc member.

The Zoning Hearing Board solicitor has resigned and one of the current ZHB members wants to replace him so there may soon be an opening on the ZHB.

Christine Reuther has asked to step down as the township’s CDCA representative given her many other responsibilities on county council. Township EAC member Corey Salmon was appointed as her replacement.

The township engineer is working on a design for a new drive through for the public works garage so people can drop off yard waste and recycling without having to enter the public works yard. This would make it safer and will be added as an add-on item to the new public works garage bid.

Police Chief Splain explained the situation around the school lockdown earlier in the day. At 10:49 police were called to SHHS with reports of a student with a gun in their backpack. Nether Providence, Swarthmore, Media, Upper Providence and Springfield police responded. The student was identified and a replica handgun that fires rubber pellets was found. The student has then taken into custody and the lockdown lifted.

Government Relations

The only update to the PECO tree work is that the Park Ridge Dr. project will begin this month and notices are being sent to residents.

Infrastructure and Public Works

The long-awaited public right of way access for utilities ordinance has been drafted by the solicitor but the township manager had suggestions so it is being redrafted before its grand unveiling likely in the new year.

There was a lengthy discussion of applying for the H2O grant program. This program funds high cost ( > $500k ) water projects in the state with a 50% match. Usually this is far too expensive for the township, but the board approved applying for a $640k grant to fund sewers in the Henry Ln. area to deal with flooding there. The township would use ARPA money to fund the match which means not doing projects required to meet the MS4 permit. The Henry Ln. project would not reduce runoff, just redirect it, so it doesn’t meet the MS4 criteria. The proposed MS4 credit projects on Hemlock and Canterbury would not be done to pay for the match for this. The board seemed to have mixed feelings about using the ARPA money for this instead of the MS4 projects. If they don’t find future grant funding for the required MS4 projects, it could create a large hole in the township’s budget in future years.

The board also approved applying for a much less controversial PA small sewer & water grant program which has a 15% match for a project on Palmers Ln., which does meet MS4 criteria.

Parks and Open Space

The board approved sending out to bid tree removal services at the Leiper House. The emerald ash borer has killed ash trees there as well as an oak. The trees must be removed. There was some discussion of doing a township tree survey at some point, but it was pointed out this is likely very expensive.

The board added to the agenda a discussion of a field at Gouley Park. The township met with the Swarthmore Recreation Association who has offered to provide funding for a field at Gouley Park where Summit School used to be. The township would help pay for this using the remaining RACP funds for improvements at the park. The commissioners seemed enthusiastic about the proposal while downplaying the drawbacks of putting down a large artificial surface in a township park as well as committing that field to primary usage by a group that’s not based in the township – the SRA. Discussions are still early about what other improvements might be added – restrooms, dugouts, improvements to the upper field, etc. as well as how maintenance of the field would be paid for.

Finance and Administration

The board discussed at length the study they received from Keystone Collections Group, a company that collects earned income taxes for municipalities in the area. The study was done for free apparently. The company believes a 1% EIT would raise $5 million/year for the township. Of that, $1 million would be collected from people already paying the tax elsewhere. The township estimated roughly 40% of people would pay no new taxes (as the funds are redirected from other municipalities) but 60% would be paying a new tax. This $5 million/year could offset property taxes and benefit retired people on fixed incomes. Commissioner Cooper noted that income taxes are less stable than property taxes and could leave the township in the hole during a recession. The township solicitor noted that because the 1% of wages increases with wages, the township wouldn’t be increasing taxes regularly, taxes would naturally scale with wages. He also noted some uncertainties in how much revenue would be raised in the first year, leaving a lot of guesswork for the township. It was also pointed out that the school district could be entitled to half the revenue, but they weren’t clear on the process. Given WSSD’s hunger for money, I think the commissioners overly downplayed the risk of the school district seeking those funds. I’m not sure how it’d work if only part of WSSD implemented an EIT. No decision was made beyond continuing to discuss it, there’s clearly still a lot of questions.

The township manager put together a nice budget presentation. 2/3 of the revenue comes from property taxes and then more from real estate transfer taxes on top of that. Almost half the budget is the police budget. The main drivers to increases were police pensions and salaries, insurance, road resurfacing and grant work. The millage increase will be 3.3562, a 4.36% increase. The average home assessed at $332k would see a tax increase of $50/year. The recycling fee increased to $99/household due to increased expenses. It sounded like the board rejected the bid for yard waste collection, which would have raised it even further. There was some discussion of allotments for funded organizations like the library and GCFC as well as the ongoing discussion of money requested by Media Fire Company for ambulance service. Some members of the board expressed the need for increased engagement with the fire companies and library in particular. The board passed the budget.

Community, Health and Environment

The board approved the CBDG grant request with the primary request for road resurfacing in Garden City Manor with a secondary application for further improvements to Hepford Park for the snack bar, dugouts and other improvements. Only Garden City Manor is eligible for these grants.

The board instructed the solicitor to draft an ordinance modeled on a Lower Merion ordinance addressing light pollution. Currently the township has ordinances around lighting at commercial property, but nothing to address bright lights on residential properties.

Manager Report

The PA Property tax rebate program funded by PA gaming is available to those 65 and older.

The PA Homeowners Assistance Fund to help pay owed taxes and utility bills is available with the amounts available increasing this year.

The county is offering free at-home test kits at its Wellness Centers in Yeadon and Chester on Dec. 9 and 16 from 2-4 pm.

The DVRPC public participation task force is looking for members representing communities throughout the Delaware Valley area.

DelCo’s COSA has education and training programs on preventing falls coming up on Dec. 13th and 14th.

The township received funding from the county to finish phase 2 of the Furness Park trail project to connect up the trails in the park to Knoll Rd.

The board won’t meet on Dec. 15th and the meeting on Dec. 22nd will be brief as the budget is completed for the year.

Categories: Government, NPTownship