Swarthmore Borough Council Bids Farewell to Jacobs and Knapp


Outgoing Swarthmore Borough Council members Ralph Jacobs and Elisabeth Knapp were recognized at council’s last meeting of 2015 for their contributions and leadership.

By Katie Crawford

The last council meeting of 2015 also marked the end of president Ralph Jacobs and Elisabeth Knapp’s terms in office. Jacobs took the opportunity to reflect on his experiences as a council member and spoke movingly about the particular nature of participating in local government in a town like Swarthmore. He described the work of council as true “citizen government.” Given the nature of our close-knit community, Jacobs noted that the decisions council makes affect, “the people you stand in line with at the Co-op and ride the train with to work.” He made a point of highlighting the excellent work of Chief Brian Craig and the police department noting how lucky we are to have our own town force that values community policing. Jacobs outlined what he saw as persistent, inevitable challenges for our borough, such as limited open space, the budget, and sustaining quality fire and ambulance services in today’s environment. He commented that town and gown relationships have not been an issue, and that in fact, during his time in office, the relationship between the college and the town have consistently become more cooperative. Departing member Elisabeth Knapp’s work with the planning and zoning commission has been particularly fruitful, given the scale and scope of projects in recent years. She described it as “an honor and a privilege” to work with the commission over the past eight years. Knapp recalls being drawn to Swarthmore for its “exceptional sense of community” noting the “built fabric” (for example, sidewalks) that sustains community, but also the enormous amount of volunteering by community members. Mayor Kearney echoed these sentiments in his remarks to Jacobs and Knapp, commenting that the borough really functions because, “Talented people come out of their houses and do what needs to be done.”

Land Development Plans

At her final meeting, for the first time in her eight years on the commission, Knapp introduced not one but two resolutions for land development plans: the resolution approving the Swarthmore College Whittier Space final land development plan, and the resolution approving the Swarthmore College new Palmer Pittinger Roberts Dormitory preliminary land development plan. Stuart Hain, vice president of facilities and capitol projects at Swarthmore College was on hand to describe the NPPR project, which will include a suite-style dormitory with 120 beds (in addition to the 120 beds provided by current adjacent dorms), as well as a terrace overlooking a “big league” Division III ballpark. Access to the terrace will be for college students only. There will be solar collectors on the building; geothermal wells for heating and cooling will be buried in left field. Both resolutions for land development plans passed unanimously, however, David Grove voiced his concerns about pedestrian safety with an increased student population crossing roads near the roundabout. It was noted that PennDOT makes the decision about installation of flashing lights (the roundabout is part of state route 320), and Grove worried that nothing will be done until someone is hurt.

Public Comments

During public comments, Rick Lee, vice president of the fire company, thanked the community for supporting the annual Christmas tree sale. He also thanked council for its work on passing the budget that will provide vital support to the fire department during these changing times. Scott Richardson asked council for help in resolving parking struggles for employees of town businesses. He described the current situation as untenable, given that employees are often too busy to leave work to feed the meters, resulting in tickets. Richardson noted that business owners often park in front of their stores in order to be able to quickly leave to feed meters, diminishing convenient parking for customers. Based on his own observations, 70 to 80 percent of the four-hour meter spaces on Myers Avenue are vacant during the day. He encouraged council to consider creating an employee parking permit for this area, stating that given the additional burden of parking costs employees may simply choose to work elsewhere.

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