Happy New Year! 2018 was an important year for the First Ward and the Township. We took a couple of big steps forward on important projects, and struggled forward against setbacks we were dealt by natural disasters. I’m starting off the year by reviewing the good work the Township did last year, and also setting some priorities for 2019.
- Cleanup after the August 13, 2018 Storm. Cleanup from the August 13, 2018 storm is ongoing in many areas of the Township—particularly Gulph Creek, which seems to be manufacturing trash. Nevertheless, Township staff’s response to the storm was heroic. Our first responders and public works crews worked overtime to perform water rescues, pick up detritus that you brought to curbs, pumped out basements, and restored parks and open spaces to their pre-storm conditions. The Township waived permitting fees for homeowners who needed to reinstall fencing and sheds.
- Flood Mitigation Projects in North Wayne. Stormwater management in the First Ward has been a high priority for me since I was sworn in in June of 2018. I’m pleased to report that the Township has been working hard to get shovels in the ground on major projects, and has already completed some minor projects. The North Wayne Basin has been cleaned out and repaired. The Township has repaired the defective storm grate along Lancaster Ave at Farm Ave. It has cleaned out the stormwater management system in the Strafford Office Park using its own equipment and crews, and has scheduled the system of semi-annual cleanouts. The Township has contracted with a company to dredge the cistern behind the existing Wawa, and we are working with new developer and our arborist to plant new trees throughout the area around Banbury, Windsor, and Farm. The biggest single development, however, is the North Wayne Flood Mitigation Project, which is gaining momentum: the Board recently voted six-to-one in favor of approving the survey necessary to determine the location for riperian buffer restoration along Gulph Creek which, when installed, will detain as much as 300,000 cubic feet of stormwater in North Wayne.
- A Hard Look at the Proposed Super Wawa. The Township has heard the residents’ concerns about the proposed Super Wawa, and is proceeding on that development with extreme caution. We’ve had a number of public meetings at which residents were able to weigh in with their opinions, and have been doing a great deal of independent research to discovery what the limits of our authority are to either deny the application, or to require significant improvements of the existing site plan to bring it into conformity with residents’ needs.
- Fiscal Responsibility. In November, the Board learned that, as a result of a combination of unanticipated emergency repairs to the sanitary sewer system, and lower than average business tax receipts, the 2019 budget would run a significant deficit, forcing the Township to choose between failing to make its post-employment benefit payments, funding its planned capital projects, or raising taxes. The Board chose to do the hard but responsible thing, raising property taxes by about sixty-dollars per year for most residents. We’ve also scheduled weekly meetings in 2019 to work on creative mechanisms to supplement the Township’s budget and curtail its spending without reducing services to residents.
- No Banbury Cistern. When I was knocking on doors in April and May of 2018 talking to residents about their concerns, the residents I spoke to in the area of Banbury, Windsor, and Farm told me unambiguously that they were opposed to the proposed Banbury Way Cistern project. After I was elected, I heard from a small number of project supporters, which made the issue more complicated for me—but the overwhelming sentiment I heard was in opposition to the project. As a result, I was pleased to follow through on a campaign promise and vote against the Banbury Way Cistern Project.
- No Sanitary Sewer Sale. In August of 2018, the Township pushed back against Aqua’s bid to purchase the Township sanitary sewer system. Before the vote, I received dozens of e-mails from residents telling me that they did not want the system to be sold. I was glad to be able to follow their direction, and join the unanimous vote against selling the public sewer system.
There are plenty of projects that I’m leaving off this list: streets got paved, sewers were repaired, parks were updated, trash was collected, and our Township’s first responders kept us safe, to name just a few. I’m extremely grateful to our staff and resident volunteers to the hard work they did in 2018 on all of the jobs and projects that faded into the background of municipal government. The best government work is always invisible, and rarely commended.