By John Chambless

Staff Writer

A request by the Longwood Fire Company for additional funding to replace a rescue squad truck was turned down by the East Marlborough Townshp board of supervisors on June 2.

The debate between board members and Longwood fire chief A.J. McCarthy was tense. Supervisor Robert Weer, Sr., did most of the talking, pointing out that the fire company had already requested $1.3 million for its operating expenses, of which East Marlborough was asked to pay $375,000. Weer pointed out that he had spearheaded the effort to get a fire tax passed in the township, "and I was not too popular for that," and that for McCarthy to request an additional $23,000 per year for five years to pay for a replacement rescue squad truck seemed excessive.

"I hope you go back and figure out a way to avoid this expenditure," Weer told McCarthy, "and get maybe four or five more years out of that truck."

McCarthy pointed out that he had secured a $300,000 grant from a private donor to help pay for the new vehicle, which he said has many more up-to-date options and capabilities than the company's current truck. "I went out and got 30 percent of the project funded by a private donor -- I thought I was doing a good job," McCarthy said. He also said he intended to sell the old truck to make up some of the cost.

Supervisor Eddie Caudill told McCarthy that, "You've got a 1998 truck with 40,000 miles on it. I've got a problem with trading that in. I don't want to set a precedent where you come back next year and ask for another new piece of equipment."

Supervisor Richard Hannum, Jr., told McCarthy that the $23,000 figure, to be spent for the next five years, "is not a huge number, and we're trying to give our folks the highest level of service, but when you throw around numbers like $300,000, it scares us."

Board chairman Cuyler Walker said, "The question is, would we take this initial step on the rescue squad vehicle while we're still getting our hands around the numbers that Longwood has presented? I'm not hearing any board approval of the rescue vehicle without getting some better numbers first."

Ultimately, the board did not approve Longwood's request for the additional funding, effectively killing the issue.

McCarthy told the board, "You just demonstrated the level of service you want. I'll get back to you."

Weer said he appreciated the work that McCarthy had done, but McCarthy snapped, "No you don't. Have a good night," and left the room.

In other business, the board approved a fireworks show to be held on the grounds of the Yellow House in Unionville on June 28. The fireworks are part of an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Tri-M Corporation in Kennett Square, and would last about 15 minutes. At last month's meeting, the supervisors told the fireworks company to ask neighbors if the noise of the show would potentially endanger their horses and other animals. The neighbors have all approved of the show, according to a representative of the fireworks company, and the board subsequently unanimously approved the show.

Ray Ott, of Ray Ott and Associates in West Chester, presented a concept plan for a housing project to be built on land owned by Kathy and Richard Pratt on Route 82, south of Route 926. The 31-acre property now holds the Pratt Nursery. Under the proposal, 20 acres of the land would be left as open space, and 18 housing units would be constructed in the northwest corner of the property. The nursery would remain as it is, on a five-acre plot. 

Ott said the scaled-back development has been approved by neighbors and it coforms to the township's regional plan. "We've been to the planning commission three times, and they're pleased with what we've showed them," Ott told the board. "This also fits in with the plan to make Willowdale more walkable."

Walker told the audience that, "Just so nobody thinks that the bulldozers will be pulling in tomorrow, there are many steps to come. Mr. Ott has presented some possible language, but there's a very open and detailed process for this board to go through before any changes would be made. The public will have plenty of opportunity to make their feelings known."

The board granted their approval of changes to be made at Hood's Barbecue in the village of Unionville, which will include eliminating parking in front of the building and adding a patio and plantings in that area, as well as a sidewalk. The building will be slightly enlarged as well. Customers will use the driveway to the east of the building and park behind the business. Additional parking will be available across the street.

Also getting approval at the meeting was the final plan for Walnut Ridge, a proposed 61-lot condominium development that will be built on Walnut Road. The project had been hung up by the need to construct a turn lane into the property from Walnut Road, but that issue has been resolved by widening the road to accommodate the lane. The first phase of construction could begin in the fall, according to a representative of the developer, or next spring at the latest.

Another construction project that had been delayed by construction issues -- the proposed TD Bank location at the site of a former gas station and Burger King on Route 1 -- was approved by the board after a representative from the developer said that TD Bank will give the township $20,000 toward the cost of completing a sidewalk and bridge near the property. The township will ultimately have to build some sort of pedestrian bridge over a branch of the Red Clay Creek that runs along the east edge of the property. 

Township engineer Jim Hatfield updated the board on the progress of the Unionville Park project, listing several items that could be added to the first phase of construction since the cost of the project has been less than expected.

"To put it in layman's terms, the township saved $25,000 on the first phase of the park, so more grant money could be spent on other improvements to the park," Walker explained.

To meet the necessary funding limits, it was decided to add a sidewalk along Firehouse Lane to Doe Run Road, add seven shade trees, add additional fencing to the parking lot, install an additional paved pathway and put a barrier along an electric fence that is owned by a neighboring property owner, so that users of the park don't come close to it. 

A picnic pavilion -- initially proposed to cost $50,000, according to Hatfield's estimates -- was substantially scaled back during discussion by the board. The opend-sided building had been proposed to be about 50 by 30 feet, but Walker pointed out that, "The idea isn't to bring in busloads of people and seat them. The idea is for a family to be able to use the covered pavilion for a picnic."

Walker suggested a pavilion big enough for about four picnic tables. Hatfield said he will explore options for that size of building for the park.