Police Department Adds Officer and Technology
In its two October meetings, Swarthmore Borough Council approved several measures which should make the borough less attractive to speeders, and safer for all residents.
At the October 7 work session, council members voted 7-0 to approve the conditional offer of employment to Folcroft resident George Dunn as a patrol officer at a base salary of $58,958. Council vice president and Public Safety committee chair Mary Walk noted that the committee is considering ways to address the police department’s contention that the department is still an officer short of ideal staffing levels.
Council also gave the go-ahead to purchase two solar-powered Evolis radar speed signs for $5,839. These devices read and display vehicle speed, with a demonstrable traffic-calming effect reported by nearby municipalities which have installed them. Separately, training has begun for the recently purchased enforcement tool ENRAD, so the speed measurement systems can now be deployed n borough streets as part of what Walk described as an effort to “step up” speeding enforcement.
The work session featured a lengthy discussion of compensation. During consideration of the preliminary 2020 budget, council member Betsy Larsen proposed that council consider a salary increase of $6,000 or $7,000 for Borough Manager Jane Billings, which Larsen said would bring Billings into line with peers in other municipalities. This will be considered by the General Government committee.
Larsen also raised the subject of compensation for Swarthmore’s elected officials, which has not been the practice here, though it is in many local towns. As a policy issue, this too falls in General Government’s domain; GG chair Sarah Graden said that the committee has discussed the matter and wished to hear comments from Council as a whole. Solicitor Robert Scott noted that municipal codes may affect timing of proposal of any ordinance implementing compensation. As council members, he said, “You can’t receive [compensation] if you are in office during the term when you voted for it.” Due to staggered terms, new council members would be eligible while incumbents would not.
Current state law would permit compensation of council members at up to $2,500 per annum. Larsen cited two points in support of pay: that the time and work demanded of a council member is greater than ever, and that compensation would make elective office more accessible to individuals with lower incomes. “There is difficulty getting candidates,” she asserted.
Mary Walk said that she would not accept compensation. “It’s never been done here. I don’t think we should receive salary, and I would not take it if given it.” Graden noted that “Not accepting it could stigmatize the people who do accept it.”
Larsen also suggested that compensation for the mayor — which could be as much as $5,000 annually — be considered. Though surprised to hear that most nearby municipalities do pay officials, Mayor Marty Spiegel said, “I would probably choose not to take compensation, but that’s a personal decision.” Graden reiterated that General Government seeks feedback from the community, either live at the committee meeting at 7:30 p.m. on October 21 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another Approach to Recycling?
At the legislative session on October 15, Council unanimously passed ordinance 1087, adopting standards for hardscaping in the borough zoning code, and authorized Borough Manager Jane Billings to advertise for bids to process borough recyclables. This latter approach might bring down costs, as opposed to integrating hauling and recycling through a single contractor. Billings reassured council that recycling rates among borough residents remain high despite uncertainty about future recycling programs.