Two quit Pocopson’s Barnard House project

Fallout from the Barnard House project continued at the Pocopson Township Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Monday, Oct. 26.

Two people who have been working on the Barnard House project announced their resignations at Monday night's supervisors' meeting.

Two people who have been working on the Barnard House project announced their resignations at Monday's supervisors' meeting.

Supervisors’ Chairman Barney Leonard announced that Richard Jensen had submitted his resignation as the township’s zoning official, effective in 30 days, and his resignation as fire marshal and emergency management coordinator, effective immediately.

In July, Jensen was removed from an additional role – project manager for the Barnard House – after questions surfaced about his dual status as project manager and code enforcement officer. A review by the State Ethics Commission was deemed inconclusive, and the supervisors reinstated Jensen as project manager in September with the understanding that he would sign off on work that had already been done, but not conduct inspections.

Supervisor Georgia Brutscher praised Jensen’s service. She said that in her 37 years with the township, she had worked with four different zoning officers and that Jensen was the best, adding that the township would be hard-pressed to find a comparable replacement.

"He has done a stellar job for Pocopson Township," Brutscher said. She recommended that the supervisors write a letter of commendation for him, and they voted to do so.

After the meeting, Leonard said that Phase 1 of the Barnard House is 99 percent complete and that Jensen was confident that he would be able to finish up the remaining items during the next 30 days.

Lauressa McNemar, a member of the Barnard House Steering Committee, also severed herself from the project, expressing gratitude for having served with “many fine, fellow” committee members. “I’m announcing my resignation from the Barnard House committee effective immediately,” McNemar said.

McNemar provided the board with notes on some of the unresolved issues, such as grant obligations and a name for the park. “I wish Supervisor [Ricki] Stumpo luck in meeting all the forthcoming deadlines and the challenge of a board transition,” she said.

During public comment, resident Holly Manzone applauded the work that the Barnard House Steering Committee has done but suggested that members had become so passionate about the project that they have lost sight of what Eusebius Barnard stood for in his rejection of slaves as property and his advocacy of the Underground Railroad.

“We’re preserving this wonderful building and this legacy of Eusebius Barnard, but we’re going about it at such a pace that we’re putting the property ahead of the people,” Manzone said, pointing out that no one in the room could say with certainty what most residents want. “Let’s do it right. Let’s do it with the voices of the people.”

Jean Conary, a member of the Barnard House Steering Committee, said the committee investigated pursuing a referendum but learned that “it is inappropriate to put municipal construction on a referendum,” according to Pennsylvania’s second-class township code.

She disputed a recent media report that said the number of critics of the project has increased in recent months, pointing to the low attendance at a forum on the Barnard House in September. “Less than 1 percent of residents have expressed opposition … which leaves 99 percent not voicing any concerns,” she said.

Conary said a remark she made at a committee meeting in which she called Stumpo the only “functioning supervisor” was misconstrued as derisive. Conary said that Stumpo, who also works part-time as a township receptionist, was appointed to the committee as a township employee, making Brutscher the only one representing the board of supervisors.

Resident Andrea Gosselin asked the supervisors to “pause in your efforts to pursue a loan” for the Barnard House. “The Barnard House is not the only option for a township building,” she said, pointing out that “no one has ever documented the cost of an upgrade” to the current facility. "You owe us proof that this is the best option," she said.

In other business, following a report by Public Works Director Mark Knightly, the supervisors voted to accept the low bid for guide rails on Denton Hollow Road and to continue partnerships with two cooperatives for purchasing bulk road salt, which has risen in price. The township will start by ordering 300 tons at $66.72 per ton, Knightly said.

Township resident Pete Photopoulos repeated his request to determine the township’s cost to assess an alleged violation of a drainage easement in the Cannon Hill section of the township that he said had been resolved previously.

At a September meeting, the supervisors said the cost could not be computed because the engineers’ bill was not itemized, but they said they would attempt to get a breakdown. Once again, the supervisors said they would try to get Photopoulos the numbers he is seeking.

The supervisors also heard from resident Scott Kirkland, who represents the township on the West Chester Public Library Board, and Victoria E. Dow, the library’s director. Both said they hoped the supervisors would continue to support the library as they work on the township’s budget.

Kirkland suggested that the township might want to increase its contribution since $8,000 budgeted for the Kennett Public Library, which also serves township residents, was not spent this past year, the result of prior strained communications between the Kennett library board and the township.

Resident Barbara Holmes asked about the status of her request to represent Pocopson Township on the Kennett Public Library Board of Trustees. Brutscher said the supervisors have been waiting “until they [the Kennett library trustees] get a little more stability” and that decisions on that library board would be up to the next Pocopson Township Board of Supervisors.

After the meeting, Conary elaborated on the accelerated pace of activities for the Barnard House Steering Committee. “I think we have an obligation to finish the bid package out of respect for all the hours and work that have been put into this,” she said.

A workshop on the 2016 budget will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. The next supervisors’ meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 9.

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