In Kennett Square, focus on illumination

From the possible replacement of streetlights to proposals to improve communication with residents, Kennett Square Borough Council shed light in multiple ways at its meeting on Monday, March 21.

Kennett Square Borough Manager Joseph Scalise (from left), Council President Danilo Maffei, and Mayor Matt Fetick confer during Monday night's meeting.

Kennett Square Borough Manager Joseph Scalise (from left), Council President Danilo P. Maffei, and Mayor Matthew W. Fetick confer during Monday night's Borough Council meeting.

After some discussion that included opposition from two residents, the council unanimously authorized an agreement with Johnson Controls, Inc. to conduct an audit to determine the savings of an LED streetlight replacement project. The 7-0 vote was based in part on a presentation by John Schmid at the March 7 meeting.

Resident John Thomas urged council not to rely on one quote. “It needs more investigation before you jump in and spend $10,000,” he said. Resident Charla Watson worried that the lights would be too bright and would spill onto residential properties. She also wondered if the company was selected because of insider connections.

Borough Councilman Ethan Cramer said he had feared that “this deal is too good to be true,” however, Borough Manager Joseph Scalise explained that the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission had secured a below-market group rate for dozens of municipalities in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties, which is why the cost was low.

“The economies of scale are being passed on to us,” noted Councilman Wayne Braffman. He explained later that the agreement does not commit the borough to replacing the lights; that decision would occur once the potential savings were reviewed.

Council Vice President Geoffrey R. Bosley acknowledged that the LEDs would be brighter, but he said installers could direct the lights where needed, which would serve the borough better.

Switching to a different type of illumination, Braffman offered an update on communication recommendations made at council’s Feb. 16 meeting. He said a Dropbox for informational materials related to a meeting’s agenda that can be accessed by residents is in progress and a form for soliciting feedback has been drafted.

Bosley said more financial data would soon be available online and an upcoming meeting would include a brief presentation on current and future plans for handling the borough’s debt. Bosley applauded the borough’s progress in eliminating the debt so far, acknowledging that it is now “roughly one half of what it once was.”

In addition to online availability of records, the council is evaluating several other ways to establish stronger communication with Kennett residents. Proposals under discussion include a second, agenda-focused public comment session at the end of meetings and earlier access to meeting agendas and ancillary materials.

Council President Danilo P. Maffei questioned whether a second comment period would make the meetings too long and cumbersome; however, he said he wasn’t adverse to trying it. “If you want to see if something works, you have to try it,” he said. “Give it a shot and see how it goes.”

Borough Councilman Doug Doerfler wondered whether making information available to residents before the meeting might mitigate the need for comments at the end of the meeting. And Councilman Jamie Mallon suggested experimenting with one variable at a time. “Don’t change a lot of things at once,” he advised.

Bosley cautioned that a previous council had tried posting agendas earlier but that the practice seemed to lead to amendments. “I was all in favor of it,” he said. “In reality, it didn’t work quite as well as we intended.”

The council also wants to focus more energy on reaching out to Kennett’s Latino community, noting that Hispanic residents make up a substantial part of the town’s demographic. A proposed Latino Affairs Committee would be a first step.

“A lot of [Latino] people feel they are not engaged with the government in any way,” said Cramer.

Cramer reported that a Citizenship Day is scheduled for Saturday, April 9, to help local immigrants apply for U.S. citizenship, and he urged his colleagues and members of the audience to spread the word. All residents with a valid green card are eligible and encouraged to attend a mandatory information session on April 4.

At the information session, attendees will find out if they qualify for citizenship and be able to make an appointment for application assistance. All necessary documents will be provided at the information session, which will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. at the St. Rocco Center, 9016 Gap Newport Pike, in Avondale.

In other business, Scalise reminded the audience that the second meeting to discuss the borough’s ongoing Economic Development Study is Thursday, April 7, at 7 p.m. at the American Legion Building.

Resident Tony Talamonti expressed concern that he had submitted an open-records request to the borough for information on the spending of Historic Kennett Square only to be told that it was a separate entity.

“They’ve got $46,000 of our money,” he said, explaining that he believes residents have a right to know how those funds are being spent. Maffei suggested that Talamonti contact Mary Hutchins, the executive director of Historic Kennett Square.

Talamonti also called attention to what he described as a lack of oversight for the borough’s trash. He cited several examples of empty cardboard boxes stacked against electrical meters and trash bins without lids. “Who’s keeping track of the trash? he asked, calling some of the situations dangerous.

 

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About Morgan Carter

Morgan Carter is a creative writing student interning with Chadds Ford Live. She loves tea, long walks on beaches, and baking – provided there is a recipe on the back of the box. She lives in Chadds Ford with her parents, three siblings, and two spunky parakeets. Morgan is very excited to be a part of the Chadds Ford Live team, and hopes to pursue a career in writing after graduating from college.

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