Swarthmore Borough Council
By Chris Reynolds
After 25 years as Swarthmore Borough Manager, not many events at Borough Hall surprise Jane Billings. But, on Monday, July 10, she “had no idea” that Swarthmore Borough Council’s public meeting would open with the spotlight on her as she received a commendation for her 25 years of continuous service as Swarthmore’s manager and corporate secretary. “[Council President] David Grove had asked me if I was going to the state boroughs convention this year for an award. I said no, if they have anything, I’m sure they’ll just mail it to me.”
Instead, the award was presented by Christopher Cap, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, whose convention Ms. Billings missed. Mr. Cap said “Jane is exceptional. There is unanimous respect and support for what she does as borough manager. In some other boroughs, I couldn’t say that.”
Ms. Billings, who was referred to by President Grove throughout the evening as “the honoree,” did not let her celebrity status interfere with her focus on the workings of the borough, reported on a collapse of the sewer line which runs under Chester Road on the north tangent of the roundabout. The line will be replaced in the coming days through use of a technique that obviates the need for excavation and traffic disruption. In other infrastructure news, the honoree reported that sidewalk replacement and installations of three pedestrian crossing lights will take place in August, while street repaving projects will likely begin in September.
Parking Limitations Adopted
The board heard comments from several residents on proposed Ordinance 1080, which would limit parking on parts of Harvard, Cornell, and Rutgers avenues to residents and others with parking stickers. Susan Smythe of Cornell Avenue suggested that diminishing access to free daily parking spots is “just pushing the problem doing the road” – literally, causing commuters to park in new areas further from the SEPTA station, and potentially “creating problems unforeseen.” Harvard Avenue resident Rick Miller spoke in support of the ordinance, both on his own account and as a member of Swarthmore Presbyterian Church, whose nursery day school is located on Harvard. In effect, Miller said, “Harvard becomes a one way street,” due to cars parked on the north side in front of the church, making pickup and drop-off of students nightmarish, especially when school buses and vans traverse the street.
Council member Ross Schmucki proposed deleting some areas covered by Ordinance 1080, suggesting that usage of on-street parking by contractors may diminish following imminent completion of Swarthmore College building projects at 101 S. Chester Road and on dormitories on campus across the road. This motion failed. Member David Murphy expressed the view that the current parking practices on the 700 block of Harvard actually serve to calm traffic, and that reducing the number of cars parking on the north side of the street will increase the speed of passing traffic, especially among drivers cutting through from Yale to Chester.
The original proposal to accept Ordinance 1080 was approved by four members of council, with Schmucki and Murphy voting nay.
New Talent in Planning
Council voted unanimously to appoint architect Don Jones and planner Nancy Templeton to fill vacancies on the borough’s Planning Commission. President Grove commented, “It is astonishing that people with such credentials and skills are willing to help us.” Another vacancy will be created when current Planning chair Jon Penders moves from the borough in August.
Mayor Tim Kearney commented on the success of the festivities at this year’s Fourth of July celebration, which he called his “favorite day in Swarthmore.” He thanked Swarthmore photographer Andy Shelter, who for the third consecutive year photographed the assembled townsfolk from the extended arm of a fire truck.
President Grove wished his and the borough’s sympathy and love to the family of Jack Hontz. Grove recalled, as a member of the newly created Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board, “stealing Jack away from Conestoga.” The board hired a very young, but very confident man who started with a handful of Nether Providence High School band members (and none from Swarthmore High School) and created the Strath Haven High School marching band, which 34 years later numbers more than 400 students.