Daycare center, Barnard House beg questions

Snags sent a number of agenda items back to the drawing board at the Pocopson Township Board of Supervisors’ meeting on Monday, June 13.

Pocopson Township Supervisors Alice Balsama (from left) and Elaine DiMonte listen as Supervisors' Chairman Ricki Stumpo reads a letter from a resident applauding the Public Works Department.
Pocopson Township Supervisors Alice Balsama (from left) and Elaine DiMonte listen as Supervisors' Chairman Ricki Stumpo reads a letter from resident Kelly McGrory applauding the Public Works Department.

An expected vote on the preliminary land development plan for the Riverside Daycare Partnership’s proposal for a Ducklings Early Learning Center on Winston Lane in the Riverside at Chadds Ford community did not occur.

“There’s still minor tweaking that we need to do,” explained Supervisor Alice Balsama, citing questions regarding traffic patterns, parking and a recreation fee. The owners have said that the 10,000-square-foot center would operate with about 128 children and 15 teachers and would be open five days a week from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A vote on a security system for the Barnard House, the last step remaining before the Kennett Underground Railroad Center (KURC) can occupy the historic building, was also delayed. Balsama said the Protection Bureau had agreed to the township’s request to change some of the contract terms but had not provided a quote on leasing the equipment until the day before the meeting.

Balsama said the supervisors need to review that material to see whether they could reduce the approximately $13,000 for purchase and installation –an onerous amount considering the fact that KURC may be the only occupant.

The historic building, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, was originally envisioned as the home of the KURC as well as the township’s offices; however, the building’s layout and renovation costs have made the municipal option untenable. Instead, the supervisors have focused their attention on getting input from the county commissioners.

When the county sold the property to the township for $1 in 2008, it imposed restrictions on its use. Supervisor Elaine DiMonte said the board needed to know its options before making a decision on window repairs through a Keystone grant with an upcoming deadline. She said the supervisors also needed to seek assurances that they would not violate the grant requirements if they replaced the windows and doors but didn’t finish renovating the entire building.

DiMonte said she received a letter from the county solicitor that basically repeated the deed restrictions, which prohibit any commercial operation. However, the letter said the commissioners were aware of the township’s financial constraints and would be willing to work with the township.

She said she would seek clarification about exactly what type of assistance the commissioners envisioned, and Supervisors’ Chairman Ricki Stumpo suggested that perhaps the county commissioners should be invited to tour the Barnard House so they could view its shortcomings for municipal use.

Several residents recommended that the township needs to make its voice heard, and they urged residents to contact the county commissioners to detail the financial burden the building has placed on the township, citing $800,000 to date.

“It’s not that we don’t value our stewardship of the building,” said Balsama, adding that it needs a thoughtful use that won’t bankrupt the township.

In other business, the supervisors unanimously rejected the fourth dedication request from Toll Brothers for the Preserve at Chadds Ford subdivision, based on inspections by the township’s consultants.

Santhosh Kanjula, a board member of the Preserve’s homeowners’ association, thanked the supervisors for their vote. He said his property alone still needs 18 trees to be planted. Stumpo said the township’s landscape architect noted that 124 trees still have to be replaced.

On a more positive note, the supervisors agreed that the Pocopson Township Historic Committee had answered all of the township’s concerns regarding an Oct. 1 fundraiser at Applebee’s restaurant. The all-you-can-eat event featuring pancakes, sausage and beverages will be held from 8 to 10 a.m. at the restaurant, which is located at 815 Baltimore Pike in Kennett Square.

Sarah Mims, a member of the committee, said the cost would be $8 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. She said tickets could be purchased at the township building, from committee members, or at Founders Day, which is the preceding weekend. They will also be available at the door.

Despite pouring rain, Mims said a garage sale the committee hosted on May 21 was so successful that the committee wanted to do another, and the supervisors approved the request. It will take place on Saturday, June 25, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Locust Grove Schoolhouse, at 525 Locust Grove Road, near Corinne Road.

Mims said the previous sale raised $1,100 and rewarded patrons with some gems as Elvis albums for $1 and $45 for a historic children’s rocker. Most of the items were under $10, she said, adding that new treasures would be available at the second sale.

Randy Mims, also a committee member, explained that the committee estimated that the cost to buy reclaimed wood for the schoolhouse floor and have it refinished would be about $15,000.

“We have $12,000; we’re getting close,” he said, explaining that proceeds from the two fundraisers should enable the committee to meet that goal, continuing the group’s commitment to avoid using township funds for the restoration.

In other business, DiMonte and Balsama agreed that a recent multi-municipal meeting the township organized regarding PennDOT’s plan to close the Route 926 Bridge for six months was worthwhile. They said that initially some of the participants, including neighboring township leaders and police departments, didn’t understand the meeting’s purpose.

By the end of the session, everyone realized that expressing concerns and making suggestions collectively to PennDOT to minimize the inconvenience and safety hazards of the closure served everyone’s best interest. Work on replacing the bridge and elevating the approaches to it is expected to begin in February.

“We started the conversation,” DiMonte said. “There will be more to come on that as we move forward.”


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