Halloween proves charm for Toll Brothers

A supervisors’ meeting on Halloween briefly provided some drama in Pocopson Township, ranging from the dedication of a Toll Brothers subdivision after four failed attempts to a comparison of the Barnard House to a scene from the movie “Godfather III.”

Pocopson Township Supervisors Alice Balsama (from left) and Elaine DiMonte follow along as Supervisors' Chairwoman Ricki Stumpo reviews the township's new cellphone policy.

Pocopson Township Supervisors Alice Balsama (from left) and Elaine DiMonte follow along as Supervisors' Chairwoman Ricki Stumpo reviews the township's new cellphone policy.

On Monday, Oct. 31, the supervisors unanimously voted to accept the dedication of The Preserve at Chadds Ford, a 64-home Toll Brothers subdivision near the intersection of Corinne and Locust Grove roads. The board said the township’s engineer and landscape consultant had approved the improvements that had previously prevented acceptance, a process that dated back to March 2014.

Supervisors’ Chairwoman Stumpo said that the board still holds a bond for some minor, remaining work and that another inspection would be scheduled in 18 months.

The future of the Barnard House remains uncertain. The early 1800s building, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, was originally envisioned as the home of the Kennett Underground Railroad Center as well as the township’s offices. As renovation costs escalated, the supervisors backed off the latter option. Instead, they have focused on getting the building ready for KURC, a path that has seen problems ranging from delays in the installation of a security system to questions about a lease agreement as well as unpaid KURC financial commitments.

Supervisor Alice Balsama said she was reminded of an Al Pacino line in the “Godfather” series: “Just when I thought I was out ... They pull me back in.”

The Pocopson Township supervisors say several remaining details need to be resolved before the Kennett Underground Railroad Center can occupy the Barnard House.

The Pocopson Township supervisors say several  issues must be resolved before the Kennett Underground Railroad Center can occupy the Barnard House.

Balsama said she has been reviewing leases in an effort to craft one that protects all parties. Stumpo said the board had not heard from the KURC since an Oct. 14 meeting, and she said a couple of the KURC’s financial obligations have not been met. “They’re waiting for us to get a contract [to them],” Balsama suggested.

In the meantime, Supervisor Elaine DiMonte said she is analyzing the draft request-for-proposal for a feasibility study. The board agreed last month that a study focusing on the possible use of the Barnard House for municipal offices would be helpful. To date, three consultants have suggested the building’s layout was not suitable; however, those opinions came during the pursuit of ancillary projects.

The Barnard House has repeatedly generated conflict since its purchase from the county for $1 in 2008. When it was sold, the county imposed restrictions on the building’s use, including a ban on most rentals. Earlier in October, the supervisors had an informational meeting with the county commissioners to elicit ideas for balancing the preservation of the historic building with avoiding an undue financial burden on residents. To date, approximately $900,000 has been spent on the project, most of it on the exterior.

The supervisors dispensed with another ongoing historic renovation project with far less controversy, unanimously approving $7,525 for the flooring in the Locust Grove Schoolhouse. Members of the township’s Historical Committee, which raised the money, said they hope to complete the project by next summer.

Committee member Randy Mims said the flooring would be picked up in a donated trailer and installed by volunteers. He said the committee would ask for authorization in the spring to spend $2,500, which has already been raised, to have the floor professionally refinished. No taxpayer funds have been used for the restoration.

Brad Peiper, one of the township’s representatives on the Kennett Library board, said he wanted to spread the word that the library is seeking input from residents as it moves toward the construction of a new facility. One way people can make their voices heard is by completing a survey.

Peiper said it only takes about five minutes and is available at the library or online. To access the survey, click here. Stumpo suggested that Peiper might want to set up a table with paper copies of the survey at the township’s polling place on Election Day.

In other business, the supervisors approved a cellphone policy that outlines the use and payment for phones to township employees required to be in close contact with the township on a regular basis, and they approved the purchase of a 2017 Peterbilt 348 truck at a cost of $145,250; it replaces a 16-year-old model.

The supervisors also voted unanimously to pay off $715,000 of a $1.8 million open-space loan now that the penalty phase has ended, and they voted to advertise the availability of the 2017 budget. Stumpo said township residents would be able to review the budget at the township building starting on Nov. 7. If no objections surface, it would likely be approved at the supervisors’ meeting on Monday, Nov. 28.

The next supervisors’ meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m.


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