Traffic, finances dominate Town Hall meeting

Updated on March 10 to add correction at end of story

Mayor Matthew Fetick set the tone for the Kennett Square Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 24, standing in front of the long table where Borough Council members sat, and genially welcoming the 20-plus borough residents who attended.

Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick explains the format of a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick explains the format of a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 24.

He laid out the format for the evening, a chance for informal exchange. Fetick reminded attendees that he and the Borough Council members are “here to serve … We are volunteers taking care of our neighbors.” Councilman Wayne Braffman added, “We could switch places; I’m one of you.”

Fetick explained that after general discussion, individuals could ask specific questions of the borough department heads waiting at small tables in the back of the room. The mayor praised them for their dedication and noted their length of service to the borough.

The meeting continued in a cordial and respectful manner with dialogue on several important issues. A large part of the evening’s discussion centered on traffic, specifically mushroom trucks, cars parked illegally in residential areas that are not ticketed, and handicapped parking places that do not comply with guidelines of the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Denise Aungst questioned why the speed limit is not reduced around Mary D. Lang Elementary School. “Why are tractor-trailers allowed to go so fast near an elementary school?” she asked.

Borough Manager Joseph Scalise explained that this issue was discussed at a recent Public Safety meeting. Since no students walk to this school, state guidelines do not provide for slower speeds. He agreed to look into a speed board and a traffic counter. Findings from such measuring devices could then be sent to PennDOT with a request to consider the matter, he said.

The discussion turned to the high number of trucks that regularly drive through the center of town. Andy Munter shared that he witnessed a truck almost hit the Kennett Square Inn. Councilman Doug Doerfler said, “I almost get hit every day walking to work at this building … If we are to make Kennett Square a walkable town, it has to be a safe walkable town.”

According to Scalise, the Baltimore Pike Corridor Study Group identified two elements at the root of the problem. One, Union Street is a state road so trucks cannot be restricted from using it. Two, the improvement of the intersection of Newark Road and Baltimore Pike is PennDOT’s top priority for Chester County, but work can’t start until the 2016 state budget is passed in Harrisburg.

Among the attendees at the borough's Town Hall meeting were

Among the officials at the borough's Town Hall meeting were Ester Perez (from left), assistant codes official; Code Enforcement Officer Rusty Drumheller; Randy Behmke, Public Works director; John Morris, Streets Department foreman; Kathy Holliday, finance director; Mayor Matt Fetick; Mary Hutchins, executive director of Historic Kennett Square; Borough Secretary Karen Scherer; and Police Chief Edward A. Zunino.

“This is a huge project, but when this intersection is fixed, trucks will stay on Route 1 and go past Kennett Square,” he explained.

Suggestions from the floor included making Kennett Square a “truck trap” by strongly enforcing truck regulations at the highest level, fixing Newark Road, hiring a second truck inspector, asking the mushroom companies to help find a solution to the problem, and asking truck dispatchers to give detailed directions to drivers that would steer them away from downtown Kennett Square.

Tony Talamonti brought up the subject of the YMCA, a sore spot for him because he believes it takes from the borough’s resources, such as water, and doesn’t pay taxes to support these resources. One suggestion from the floor was to ask Y members to contribute a dollar a month to the borough. Fetick agreed that Borough Council could consider approaching the Y with this request.

A discussion of the borough budget in general ended with Councilman Geoffrey R. Bosley’s announcement that he would like to have quarterly budget meetings, with public input. There was much discussion of the need to balance funding for borough improvements with rising taxes and bills for its residents.

Charla Watson encouraged borough leaders to apply for Community Development Block Grants, as they have in the past. “We need to see that kind of money coming back in,” she said. Watson also shared her concern with housing development in the borough and her worry that ordinances are not being checked. “We need to be careful to avoid a domino effect – more housing on crammed lots means more schools and more taxes down the road,” she said.

Fetick interjected that there are many points of pride for the borough. “We have a full-time police department, our own fire department, our own sewer and water and a full-time borough staff,” he stated.

At the conclusion of the general dialogue portion of the evening, each Borough Council member shared thoughts on the evening’s proceedings.

“I found the exchange of ideas very collaborative. I learned a lot, and I am impressed by the output,” said Braffman. However, he pleaded with residents to be accurate with their statements. “We are not broke,” he said, responding to an example of an erroneous statement. “I understand residents’ concerns, but if we state truths, and not misrepresentations of the truth, we can improve our dialogue and not make mistakes based on inaccuracies.”

Bosley shared that while he may not agree with everything a person says, he is listening. “The work of the council can improve by working through conflict,” he added.

Before attendees dispersed to speak individually with the department heads, Codes Enforcement Officer Rusty Drumheller reminded everyone that they are welcome to speak with department heads in the borough offices anytime.

Fetick stated he was pleased with the sharing of information and ideas at the first Town Hall meeting and announced that there will be another one in the future.

Correction: The delay in making improvements of the intersection of Newark Road and Baltimore Pike is not a result of the state budget impasse, according to PennDOT. The project is awaiting inclusion in the region’s 2017 Transportation Improvement Plan, which is being developed by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission in conjunction with PennDOT and the county planning commission.

 

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About Lora B. Englehart

Lora has a passion for art, gardening, yoga, music and dancing. She continues to research the life of locally born abolitionist and 1998 National Women's Hall of Fame inductee Mary Ann Shadd Cary. She is a dedicated community volunteer, working with the American Association of University Women, Wilmington, DE branch (programs chair), Chadds Ford Historical Society (former board member) and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. Lora lives in Birmingham Township with her husband Bill and son Brad. Daughter Erika lives in Pittsburgh with husband Bob and baby Wilhelmina. She is a former French, Spanish and ESL teacher, bilingual life insurance underwriter and public relations coordinator for Delaware Art Museum and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.

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