By Katie Crawford
Mayor Tim Kearney delivered his State of the Borough address this Monday to Swarthmore Borough Council. He described the condition of the borough as strong, crediting the many volunteers who give their time to ensure that current systems continue to function fairly and smoothly. He believes the culmination of these efforts get at the “funny idea of community”; the common understanding that creating and sustaining community requires effort.
Kearney specifically noted the success of the roundabout which promotes safe pedestrian entry into town. To date, there have been no reported accidents at the traffic circle. Swarthmore College’s inn and bookstore development continues, with plans for the bookstore to open over the college’s spring break. The addition of two new basketball courts at SRS through the work of Hoops Renaissance was also praised.
While the mayor noted that there are vacant commercial properties in the borough, he also highlighted the new business War3house3, which, in addition to selling antiques, provides a venue for local musicians. While Kearney believes our current parking situation allows for shoppers to find ample parking, he did encourage council to look for a more sustainable plan for those who work in the borough.
Kearney also praised the work of the Aging-in-Place Task Force led by Anne Torregrossa and the resulting document highlighting ways in which the borough can be more supportive of the aging population.
The mayor noted two changes in the past year: a new president at Swarthmore College, Dr. Valerie Smith, whom Kearney described as fully supportive of promoting town-gown relations; and Beth Gross, longtime editor of the Swarthmorean stepped down, and was replaced by Chris Reynolds.
New Signs; New Intersections
For 2016 the mayor is looking forward to continuing to take steps towards making the borough even more pedestrian-friendly. There are immediate plans for more stop signs and new intersections. The construction of Central Park Swarthmore will begin soon, and Mayor Kearney looks forward to the addition of more green and welcoming spaces for the community. The planned small amphitheater will also provide a wealth of opportunities for performances and gatherings. The mayor believes the net effect of all of these improvements will be increased opportunities for people to come out and spend time together in town resulting in “that palpable sense of community.”
Farmers Market Recognized
Following the mayor’s remarks, Councilman David Grove also praised the Farmers Market for not only the products available, but for providing a place for multigenerational interactions and conversation.
New Members Join Council
Two new members joined council for the first meeting of 2016. Mary Walk will chair the Planning and Zoning Committee and will serve on the General Government and Public Safety committees. Ross Schmucki will chair the General Government Committee and serve on the Public Works and Finance committees. Schmucki lives on Rutgers Avenue with his wife Kim and their two children. He is an attorney and an arbitrator. Walk lives with her husband David on North Chester Road. They have three children; she is also an attorney and an arbitrator.
Increase in Revenue For the Borough
In addition to the mayor’s remarks, Council Finance and Community Development chair Michael Carey reported that during 2015, the borough received $80,000 more in revenue than budgeted. The bulk of the increase in revenue was attributed to building permits. Expenditures were $40,000 below budget, resulting in an addition to Swarthmore’s fund balance of $120,000 overall. While the borough’s fund balance has historically been about 10% of the annual expense budget and is slightly higher at year-end 2015, Carey opined that the ideal fund balance is 6% to 8%. Council will be looking for opportunities to intentionally bring down the fund balance in future years, while also being prudent and prepared for unexpected budget changes.
Meeting on Solar Panel Initiative
Sari Steuber of Transition Town Media addressed the council about a new initiative to bring solar panels to our area. Solarize Greater Media (solarizemedia.org) is part of an award-winning program that has worked successfully in the past. The group will present information at Swarthmore Borough Hall on Saturday, February 13, from 2 to 4 pm.