Council Talks Barriers and Budgets

Swarthmore’s Borough Manager Jane Billings proudly displays two recent awards that the borough has received.

Swarthmore Borough Council
By Katie Crawford

The October 1 meeting of Swarthmore Borough Council began with Council President David Grove requesting a moment of silence to “hold in the light” the victims of the senseless massacre in Las Vegas as well as those affected by the nation’s recent natural disasters, tragedies whose enormity in scope remain difficult to fathom.

The council meeting proceeded with members of Riverview Road seeking updates on the progress by the Springfield Development Corporation on restoring the barrier along Baltimore Pike. Marie Koethe of Riverview Road stressed that the residents have worked hard to present a united voice in hopes that everyone on the block is taken care of. She highlighted the outstanding problems, including a huge hole remaining in the fence that members of council could walk through as one and an unlocked gate along the barrier fencing.

Koethe also expressed concern that the berm that was removed will not be restored so that the height of the barrier — even when replanted — will be diminished. The landscape architect for Swarthmore Borough and the landscaper for the developer have met and agreed on a planting plan. Council member Mary Walk stressed that council is seeking an endpoint and a positive resolution of this conflict.

Rick Lee, president of the Swarthmore Fire Company, and Rob Ranson, chief of the Swarthmore Fire Company, addressed council regarding the $287,268 awarded to the Swarthmore Fire and Protective Association as a result of their successful application for a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant. The grant is awarded through FEMA which is under the department of Homeland Security. The grant provides 75% of employment costs of employees for the first two years. The third year the grant provides 35% of costs. After the third year, the borough would be obligated to pay the full cost of employment.

Mr. Lee stressed that in fire and emergency services “time affects life,” and that this grant would support the hiring of two more full time employees in addition to the current two full time employees. Council member David Creagan, head of the Public Safety Committee, broke down the numbers for council. If the borough were to use the SAFER grant to hire two more additional fire department members, when the grant ran out in 2020 the borough would be responsible for an additional $155,271 in funding on top of what the borough currently budgets for the fire department. Using funds from the SAFER grant would commit the borough to retain the two additional employees, with a sizable impact on the borough budget.

However, Creagan stressed that fire companies all over the nation are also struggling with the fact that the all-volunteer fire departments of the past are disappearing. While many taxpayers believe their taxes are funding these services, without adequate volunteers, these revenue sources fall short of providing the necessary manpower.

The Budget Writ Large

The discussion regarding the fire department was part of a larger discussion stemming from the introduction of the budget for 2018. Michael Carey, head of the Finance and Budget Committee, called this introduction the “preliminary preliminary” budget, with many factors still undetermined, such as the result of the ongoing negotiations regarding a new collective bargaining agreement with the police department.

Mayor Tim Kearney called attention to the Co-op’s 80th birthday celebration on Saturday, October 7, as well as the many e-mails that have been circulating encouraging borough residents to shop more at the Co-op so as to increase revenue.

Solicitor Bob Scott informed council that 160 property owners as well as council have received a letter from the Co-op seeking to have a deed restriction prohibiting the sale of liquor lifted. Despite the referendum allowing the sale of liquor in the borough, the Co-op has discovered this additional hurdle to overcome. The sale of liquor at the store is seen as having the potential to make the store financially solvent.

Borough manager Jane Billings shared with council two recent awards the borough has received. The Delaware Valley Workers’ Compensation Trust presented the borough with a Certificate of Recognition for their work in minimizing workplace injuries. Billings stressed the difficulty of keeping down accidents and praised the Police and Public Works departments for their workplace vigilance. The William H. Bates Memorial award was presented to the borough, “in recognition of outstanding design and land planning associated with Central Park.” Indeed, Central Park has seen much use this year — Ross Schmucki reported that the Farmers Market hit a new record with 804 recorded visitors in one recent market day.

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