By Nancy Johnson
Penn Township supervisors recently approved a 2014 budget that, for the 17th year in a row, won't require a tax increase.
Before the Dec. 11 township meeting, Curtis Mason, the longtime chairman of the Board of Supervisors, explained the key to Penn’s financial success. “We don’t squander money," he said. "We have a skeleton crew – enough people to run things, but with no waste. Plus, we keep a careful watch on our expenses for lawyers and engineers.”
“One thing we do spend money on is our roads,” added supervisor Bill Finnen. “Our residents will tell you that.”
Gesturing at his surroundings, Mason said, “We don’t have a Taj Mahal township building. We live within our means and have smart growth that brings in revenues.”
In reviewing the highlights of 2013, Mason breathed an audible sigh of relief over the sewer plant sale to Aqua. The approximately $3.4 million sale is expected to be finalized soon. He and Finnen both look forward to utilizing their time elsewhere.
“We began the process years ago when we bought the sewer plant,” Finnen said, “and we followed it through. But now every year it is more of a problem.”
Mason agreed. “The idea was always for us to get in and get out," he said, explaining that the sewer plant was bought "for growth, so we could have a shopping center and age-restricted communities. But now it needs a professional to run it. The liability was putting the township at risk.”
Completion of the Sunnyside Road Bridge was another highlight of the year. While the township spent approximately $1.2 million to rebuild the bridge, which had years ago been deemed unsafe and condemned, the township should receive 90 percent of the cost back through a state reimbursement program.
A major accomplishment in the township, a $15 million expansion and remodeling of Jennersville Regional Hospital, is a point of pride for supervisors. Another big success was the ninth annual picnic, for which the businesses in the community donated more than $29,000. A record number of people, approaching 5,000, enjoyed the event free of charge. Other events in the community park, including Dark in the Park and Winter Wonderland, had excellent attendance and earned rave reviews as well.
In 2013, the supervisors, with assistance from the county, completed a new comprehensive plan and an MS4 plan. They also implemented a peddling/soliciting ordinance with the residents’ safety in mind.
Looking ahead to 2014, Mason is eager to see work begin on a 100,000-square-foot medical building. A totally revamped Penn Township website is also in the plans, as is complete updating of the subdivision and zoning ordinances.
Probably the most visible of Penn’s plans for the upcoming year will be work on the Red Rose Inn. Having purchased the dilapidated inn, the supervisors can now “pursue the biggest problem in the township – the Route 796 and Baltimore Pike intersection,” Mason said.
The part of the building closest to Route 796 must be removed to give PennDOT a right-of-way to expand the intersection with turning lanes. Mason said the eventual plan for the Red Rose Inn is to improve the safety of the intersection while preserving a part of Penn Township's history by utilizing the building as a community center that can hold 300 people.