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.

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.

Berwyn & Radnor Fire Companies Offer Written Public Statements

Both the Berwyn and Radnor Fire Companies have now written public statements concerning their individual budgets and the 5% budget cut contained in Tredyffrin Township’s proposed 2010 budget. 

In an open letter to the Tredyffrin community, members of the Berwyn Fire Company respond to the proposed 5% budget cut.  The letter also includes required upcoming capital expenditures. Here is an excerpt from their letter, but I encourage you to read it in its entirety and respond accordingly. 

For 2010, Easttown Township has decided to maintain the level of funding (both operating and capital) for the Berwyn and Paoli Fire Companies at the 2009 level. Tredyffrin Township has preliminarily approved a budget that will reduce its township contribution to our operating and capital budgets by 5% compared to 2009 funding levels. While this is a relatively small amount of money in the townships’ total budget, we feel it is a mistake for the township to move down this path-both because every dollar matters to our volunteer company and because we feel it sets a precedent that may be hard to reverse in future years.  

I have just received notice that the Radnor Fire Company has followed suit and their Radnor Fire Company President David Roderick and Chief James Kelly have issued a formal public statement on the proposed 5% reduction in support from Tredyffrin Township. Their letter likewise details the financial difficulties facing their volunteer fire company.  In addition, Radnor Fire Company provides clarification that their organization does not receive capital support from Tredyffrin Township.  Below is an excerpt from their public statement.

We will be already dealing with a 10% cut in support we receive from the Commonwealth and our fund drive numbers look to be down based on 2009 numbers. We are not asking for an increase and we stand together with our fellow Tredyffrin fire companies in Berwyn and Paoli.

Unfortunately, we were unaware that Tredyffrin Township was proposing cuts to our funding only until a few weeks ago. Furthermore, we never had an opportunity to present to the Tredyffrin Township Finance Committee or to the Citizen Budget Advisory Work Group that was established to perform a comprehensive budget review in ‘09.

It is interesting to note that the BAWG committee did not contact the Fire Departments directly before making their recommendations in their recently released report.  I have stated this before, but will re-state — unlike other reductions contained within the proposed 2010 budget, it must be acknowledged that the fire companies are almost entirely volunteer organizations.  Once again, the savings to the taxpayers of Tredyffrin Township is estimated to be $7-12 million annually!  The proposed 5% reduction in contribution to Berwyn, Radnor and Paoli Fire Companies is in addition to the 10% cut from the Commonwealth.  Read their open letters to the community — these organizations are being honest and transparent in appealing to the community for support! 

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.

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.

Our Fire Companies — No Reinstatement of Their Budget Cut!

Tonight’s Board of Supervisor meeting tested my faith in our local government.  The audience witnessed our supervisors heap accolades on our firefighters, praise their saving of a handicapped, wheel-chair bound resident in Chesterbrook on Thanksgiving Day, and then watched as the firehouse representatives groveled to have their 5% Tredyffrin Township 2010 budget cut reinstituted.  How is it possible that in one meeting, our supervisors can extol the virtues of our volunteer firefighters and their life-risking efforts and at the same time (some of the supervisors) can vote to take away township support?  And yes, the supervisors can vote to leave the annual fireworks in the budget (I think that budget line item was $20K).  I am all about the 4th of July and fireworks, but does this seem an equitable trade?

Let’s remember tonight’s meeting when some of these individuals take to the campaign trail and speak of their emergency services support. 

As for the BAWG report and the St. Davids Golf Club’s $50K cash offer — I think I better sleep on it before I write how I feel about that part of tonight’s experience.  I have to remind myself that I will take the higher road and not follow the example of other’s bad manners.

Understanding Township Planning Commission Authority

So that everyone is on the same page, here is the description of the township’s Planning Commission and its authority.  It seems fairly clear that the Planning Commission is the last word on land development in the township.

From the Tredyffrin Township website:

“Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission is a volunteer group of nine residents appointed by the Board of Supervisors. Each member is appointed to a four-year term. The Board of Supervisors has authorized the Planning Commission to prepare, update and oversee implementation of the Comprehensive Plan, Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance and Zoning Ordinance and to review land development and subdivision applications. Land development decisions by the Planning Commission are final, while the Board of Supervisors has final approval authority on all subdivision applications.”

Did the BAWG committee consult the Planning Commissioners before including the St. Davids Golf Club’s $50K sidewalk offer in their report?

The Plot Thickens . . .

I continue to focus on the mystery $50K offer from St. Davids Golf Club which appears in the recently released BAWG report.  Details and bio information concerning one of the BAWG members has surfaced which could begin to answer some of my questions.  John Petersen speaks directly to this subject in his recent posting on Tredyffrin Township Political Notebook.  

I understand that the budget suggestions made by the BAWG committee to the Board of Supervisors are just that suggestions.  However, by making the BAWG report public on the township website, its contents are then available as public record (and public scrutiny).  If the mission of the BAWG was to look at all available revenue resources, than one might assume that the $50K offer from St. Davids Golf Club is an available revenue resource.  But in my way of thinking, the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk offer is not an available revenue resource.  The Planning Commission’s decision to include the sidewalk requirement was part of the contractual agreement between the township and St. Davids Golf Club for their building project.  Although previous attempts were made by St. Davids representatives for ‘relief’ of this land development requirement, as of now the requirement for the sidewalks still stands. This is not negotiable and therefore can not be represented by the BAWG report as an ‘available revenue resource’. 

Countdown to Board of Supervisor Meeting. . . Looking for Answers

Full Disclosure Request

Where are you going to be Monday night at 7:30 PM?  I suggest that you either attend Tredyffrin Twp’s  Board of Supervisors meeting or tune in from home.

There are questions swirling in regards to the recently released BAWG report and the suggestion of a $50K offer from St. Davids Golf Club in regards to the sidewalk construction.  St. Davids Golf Club has been in default since July 2008 to build the sidewalks and now mysteriously this $50K offer from the country club appears in the BAWG report. Since BAWG released its report, I have been trying to get the following questions answered, but to date I have come up short. 

  • 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?

Prior to Monday night’s Board of Supervisor meeting (and BAWG presentation), I suggest that you review the timeline (and Planning Commission minutes) that I put together for an earlier blog entry.  Click here for St. Davids Golf Club Sidewalks – Is it to Nowhere? 

It is my understanding the Tom Colman, Chairman of the BAWG committee will make a public presentation on the report and here’s hoping that there will be time for the public’s questions and answers.  This is one taxpayer with questions, and so far . . . no answers.

St. Davids Golf Club Sidewalks . . . Is it to Nowhere?

It seems that the discussion of St. Davids Golf Club sidewalks has stirred some ‘old wounds’.  Not understanding why the BAWG report contained an offer of $50,000 from St. Davids Golf Club re the installation of sidewalks, I did some background research.  Based on meeting minutes from the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission, I think I have been able to piece together a timeline for the St. Davids project.  It is important to understand the history of the project to see where we are. 

St. Davids Golf Club Timeline:

  • 11/04: St. Davids GC presents Planning Commission with sketch plan for their proposed new country club addition.  Following the initial meeting, the Planning Commission discusses the the land development plan at many meetings and on-site visits.
  • 8/05: Sidewalks, Trails & Path Board (STAP) established by Board of Supervisors to review sideswalks, trails, etc.
  • 8/05: Planning Commission approves the final plan for St. Davids project with 8 conditions (including sidewalks).  $25,000 was put in to escrow for the sidewalks. STAP would review the sidewalk requirement for the St. Davids project and offer their opinion on materials, size, etc, understanding that the Planning Commission had the final decision.
  • 7/06: STAP makes recommendation re sidewalks at St. Davids –  4-ft wide asphalt path.  (As a concession to St. Davids GC, using asphalt would not require curbing and stormwater management.  The cost of construction would be far less using asphalt.)
  • 7/06: Planning Commission accepts STAP’s recommendation and St. Davids GC is given  2-year construction timeline, which by my calculations expired in  7/08.
  • 10/08: St. Davids GC comes to Planning Commission and requests reconsideration of ordinance and plan requirements for the sidewalks previously approved in their 2004 application to rebuild the clubhouse.  Request denied.

The October 16, 2008 meeting minutes of the Planning Commission are extremely useful to this discussion, here is the link.  There was much discussion at this particular meeting from representatives of St. Daivds, Planning Commissioners, neighbors, etc.  The final vote was 6-2 against St. Davids GC request.

Now 13-months goes by with no further discussion between St. Davids GC and the Planning Commission.  Fastforward and we now have an offer (?) in the BAWG report of $50,000 from St. Davids Golf Club in lieu of building sidewalks?  Am I missing something?  First off, where did the $50,000 number come from?  Was this offer made directly to the BAWG committee; was the offer in writing?  I found no reference to this offer anywhere in the Planning Commission or Board of Supervisor meeting minutes. 

Aside from not understanding why this sidewalk issue found its way in to the BAWG report, I am troubled by the precedent that can be set by this kind of situation.  What does this say to the authority of the Planning Commission?  What about future developers working in the township — everyone will want to work in Tredyffrin because each time a land development requirement comes up that they think is ‘too expensive’ and don’t want to do they can just offer the precedent set by St. Davids Golf Club (should the sidewalks decision somehow be changed). 

Another question – it appears to me that St. Davids Golf Club has been in default since 7/08 to build the sidewalk.  The Planning Commission approved the country club’s project with certain requirements, including the construction of sideswalks.  Does St. Davids just get a ‘pass’ . . . and why is the country club not expected to be in compliance as any other developer or contractor?  Why should the rules be different for the country club?  Again, am I missing something? 

I know that I stated that I didn’t want my blog to be political but rather community  based, however I’m guessing that there is some behind the scene politics involved with St. Davids and the $50,000 showing up in the BAWG report.   Wonder how the Planning Commissioners are feeling about this item in the report, particularly the 6 members who voted against St. David’s request over a year ago?  I would hope that the Board of Supervisors supports the decision made by the Planning Commission.

Is this indeed going to be the ‘sidewalk to nowhere’ because St. Davids Golf Club doesn’t have to build it? 

Why Did BAWG Report Exclude HARB & Library Boards

At the end of the BAWG report, there is a yearly calendar which lists the various township boards, month by month.  Now I didn’t go through each board on the township to see if it is listed but I know there are at least 2 boards that didn’t make the cut — Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) and the Library Board.  For the BAWG volunteers that put the calendar together, I am sure that they would simply view it as an oversight.  However, for the volunteers who serve on these boards they may feel slighted. 

I understand that to some people preservation of our historic resources may not be as important as other township boards such as Zoning, Pension Trustees, Municipal Authority, etc. But for people like myself who serve on HARB and have done so for many years, it is just as important to the landscape of this community.  I often joke that on any budget, whether it is federal, state or  county budgets that historic preservation is the last item on the budget and is the first item off the budget. Guess in the case of the BAWG report, it never got in the report!  Just for the record, the HARB board meets monthly, 3rd Wednesday of the month at the Township Building. 

Then we have the Library Board and its absence on BAWG’s township calendar.  Unlike HARB, the library does have much mention in the text of the report – with suggestions for reduction in book and equipment purchases, reduction in operating hours, staff reductions, etc. For many people, particularly seniors, living in our community the Tredyffrin Library and the Paoli Library are their life blood to the outside world.  I continue to be concerned about the future of our libraries with the diminishing services.  Please take the time to read the section of the BAWG report about the Paoli Library and its future.  As a board member of Paoli Business & Professional Association (PBPA) I know how many people depend on this community library.  Many of the people that use the Paoli Library are in a different income bracket than those that visit the Tredyffrin Library.  The Paoli Library visitors may not have computers at home and depend on the library and the use of the computers. The Library Board is another township board whose volunteers work tirelessly trying to juggle the budget constraints with programming demands, operational challenges, etc.  For the record, the Library Board meets monthly on the 4th Tuesday of the month, rotating between Tredyffrin and Paoli Library.

As I said, I didn’t check the BAWG monthly calendar for each of the township boards so there may be others that did not make it in to the report.  But for HARB and Library Board members, thank you for your service and contribution to the community.

St. Davids Sidewalk Required or Not?

Whatever happened to the sidewalks that St. Davids Golf Club was required to install with their land development project? Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission told St. Davids that they must install the sidewalks as initially required with the land development plans.  I believe that the Township is still holding escrow money not be released until the sidewalks are installed.  Wonder how many years ago the St. Davids plan passed?  Today I read in the BAWG report that instead of installing the sidewalks there is the suggestion that we accept $50,000 from St. Davids and waive the requirement.  It is one thing to make suggestions about revenue sources and future budgets, but are we now allowing the BAWG to change past township decisions?  Why the offer of $50,000 – is that St. Davids cost for the sidewalks?  Does this decision not impact the Planning Commission’s ability to have their decisions upheld?  If the Board of Supervisors agree to this BAWG suggestion, what does that say about future Planning Commission decisions?

BAWG Report Released

Here is a copy of the BAWG report for those unable to attend the Budget Workshop meeting yesterday. The report is now available on the township website. I just gave the report a quick review – some of the suggestions are to be expected. Cited are various ways to reduce expenses including centralizing purchasing, placing a ‘hold’ on capital projects, etc. I am alarmed that there continues to be a notion of reducing the staff. About a month ago, there was a township-wide reduction in staff so I can only hope that this report is not suggesting further reductions but rather that the recent reductions were the implementation indicated in this report.  In my opinion,  further reductions in staff will clearly result in further reductions of services. There is a delicate balance between reduction of services and creating a potential crisis and/or emergency situation within the township.  Not intending to be an alarmist, I am concerned what continued reductions will do for the quality of life in this community.

I was part of a  5-member budget group of the Paoli Business & Professional Association (PBPA) that met with the BAWG members in July.  Following our meeting, we provided the members of the BAWG committee and the Board of Supervisors with PBPA’s suggestions for possible expense reductions and revenue sources, from a small business standpoint.  One of the suggestions of our PBPA group for the BAWG was a review of Earned Income Tax (EIT) as a possible source of township revenue.  At the meeting with BAWG, Dave Brill, Tredyffrin’s Finance Director offered that the estimated revenue was $8M should an EIT be instituted.  It would appear from the BAWG report, that our suggested review of EIT was dismissed by BAWG.  My understanding from the BAWG report is the suggestion of a ‘flat business tax’ be imposed — meaning that major corporations (Vanguard, Unisys) would be taxed the same as the small businesses located in the township (i.e. the Great Valley House, my small bed & breakfast).  Yet, BAWG concludes negatively on further exploration of EIT, based on 2007 T/E School Board findings.  I believe that Tom Coleman led the budget review committee for the school board as he did as the chair of BAWG.  On the topic of EIT, BAWG concludes that the implementation of EIT is a ‘short-sighted’ approach.  I suggest that the opposite is true — it is ‘short-sighted’ not to review the pros and cons of EIT.  The residents of Tredyffrin are owed an open and thorough review of ‘all’ revenue sources (including EIT).  It should be an obligation for the Board of Supervisors to provide all information to the public, and not make decisions in a vacuum.

Tredyffrin Township: Budget Workshop Meeting Tomorrow

Saturday, November 14 at 8:30 AM there will be a Budget Workshop Meeting at the Tredyffrin Library.  The public is invited to attend and I strongly suggest that you attend if possible.  The meeting will be an opportunity for the public to be the first to hear the BAWG’s report.  I am hopeful that there will be extra copies available.  It is my understanding that the township will not have the budget available online until after the budget approval process is completed.  I guess I understand their rationale but personally, I would like to at least see a glimpse.  At this week’s Board of Supervisor Meeting, township manager Mimi Gleason gave an overview of the 2010 budget.  The stated mission of the BAWG was to review all aspects of the township’s operation and to make budget recommendations; I am anxious to see their findings. I am concerned about the future quality of life of township residents should the staff reductions and service cuts continues.