By Richard L. Gaw
In the vernacular of financial speak, Kennett Township is carrying a boatload of money.
On an evening when a presentation on the township's 2013 financial report revealed that its assets are in excess of $19 million, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors agreed to spend a little of that cash by giving the green light to seven engineering projects, among them a feasibility study for the rehabilitation of the historic Chandler Mill Road Bridge.
Supervisors Scudder Stevens, Dr. Richard Leff and Robert Hammaker all voted in favor of the proposals.
The proposals, submitted by Remington & Vernick Engineers and Appraisers, the township's engineering firm, totaled $91,364. In one proposal, the firm will create a physical needs assessment for the township municipal building, public works building and pole barn, which will provide inspection of accessible areas of the building; identify potential sources of water leaks or moisture penetration; identify structural deficiencies; evaluate walls, and windows; and provide repair recommendations and inspect and evaluate the HVAC system in the building, for a cost of $13,844.
In another proposal, Remington & Vernick will conduct a review of the township's current stormwater management ordinance -- as required by the state -- as well as address mandatory Minimum Control Measures (MCMs) under the township's stormwater management plan, including public education and outreach; and public involvement and participation and other MCMs, for a cost of $12,566.
The firm will also review the township's 2013 annual chapter 94 report, which will involve compiling data from all township's sewer extension projects, pump stations, its infiltration and inflow program, and its collection system, as well as prepare technical data, for a cost of $2,466; as well as bring the township's sanitary rules and regulations up to date -- also required by the state -- for a cost of $8,392.
Another proposal will allow Remington & Vernick to develop a sanitary future planning study, which will analyze the township's transmission and public collection systems related to its sewer facilities, and include an assessment of future needs to accommodate new growth, for a cost of $25,276.
The firm will develop a pavement management system that will provide a 20-year assessment and schedule for the paving, seal coating, resurface and reconstruction of all 54 miles of township roads, at a cost of $18,520.
However, the most prominent project that the board approved will be for a feasibility study to be conducted for the Chandler Mill Road Bridge -- now closed because of safety infractions -- at a cost of $10,300, which will explore the option of opening the bridge either as a one-lane vehicle bridge; a two-lane vehicle bridge; or as a pedestrian bridge. As part of the study, the firm will perform a field investigation of the bridge and its immediate area to ascertain the bridge's conditions; create aerial maps; create conceptual plans for all three options; prepare a report complete with photographs, renderings, and concept plans; discuss impacts for all three options; and provide a cost estimate for rebuilding the bridge for all three options.
The board was asked why they are committing to the study of the Chandler Mill Road Bridge, given the fact that the bridge remains under the jurisdiction of the county, who owns the bridge and has committed itself to re-habbing the bridge as a two-lane, two-way bridge.
"Isn't asking the firm to study that a duplicate of effort of what the county engineers have done or will do?" the resident asked.
"We may want to take it back and do something else," Stevens said.
"We really do appreciate this. It's been a long-time coming," said Gwen Lacy, executive director of The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC), a group that has been spearheading efforts to help conserve the bridge, and has worked with engineers in developing a design concept that would rehabilitate the structure to a pedestrian- and bike-only bridge that will retain its historic features.
Closed since May 6, 2011, the bridge has become a passage-way for joggers, families with strollers and bicyclists, directly in keeping with illustrations created by Melanie Ryan, a registered landscape architect, which have served as the TLC's imagery for what they would like the bridge to look like in the future.
Township Manager Lisa Moore said that some of these projects will begin immediately and should all be completed within the next five months, but that the Chandler Mill Road Bridge study will be the township's top priority, she added. The timeline for the bridge, she said, will begin when the supervisors review the feasibility study, who will then share it with township residents at a public meeting, and conduct a survey with its residents -- as required by the county -- that will solicit their ideas and opinions about the future of the bridge. At that time, Moore said, the county will decide whether or not to place the future of the bridge in the township's hands.
Township resident Bob Listerman said that although he sees that the bridge closing has lent itself to "serenity and peace and quiet," he expressed concern that the closing has led to increased traffic on nearby thoroughfares like Kaolin Road.
"We have increased traffic, increased safety problems and increased trouble accessing it during traffic times," Listerman said.
"The goal, in my mind, in scheduling this was to directly look at the traffic implications," Stevens said. "There are parts of the township that are on the other side of the stream. How do we get school buses and emergency vehicles to them? How do we meet our transportation needs as a community?"
A representative from Remington & Vernick estimated that the bridge feasibility study would be completed in about six weeks. The public meeting to discuss the engineering firm's findings, Moore said, will be held at the Red Clay Room in Kennett Square, to accommodate an anticipated large audience.