Board greenlights next phase of regional police study
By Richard L. Gaw
By a unanimous vote at its Oct. 20 meeting, the New Garden Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of moving its police department into the next phase of a study to explore the feasibility of establishing a regional police unit.
Chief Gerald Simpson of the New Garden Police Department shared the results of a report conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED), a state agency that provides opportunities for state businesses and communities, that explores the potential of merging the police units in Kennett Square Borough, New Garden Township and Kennett Township into one centralized force. A fourth municipality – London Grove Township – is also a part of the study.
On Oct. 15, Simpson and representatives from the other participating municipalities met to examine the contents of the study, which was prepared by Chief Joseph Kirschner and Ron Stern of the DCED. The study is an accumulation of an idea that began this past May, when the townships and the borough submitted letters of intent to the DCED, who then spent the next several months gathering financial data, public safety information, departmental personnel lists and learning about the overall structure of each unit.
The next phase of the study, which is scheduled to begin in January, will address any unanswered questions shared at the Oct. 15 meeting, as well as provide a more in-depth financial analysis. The process will then move into the final approval stage.
“There was nothing that occurred [at the Oct. 15 meeting] that indicated that this thing is dead in the water, not at all,” Simpson said. “The participants continue to express optimism about working together, in a spirit of team work. This is not just an issue for New Garden Township public safety. It's for all of us, and we're trying to make the best decisions for our respective communities.”
Although financial figures in the study are preliminary, there is already indication that it may be less expensive for the New Garden Police Department to operate as part of a regional unit than on its own.
Under the current, single-shop scenario, the New Garden Police Department annual costs stand at $1.779 million. As part of a regional police unit, New Garden Township would be responsible for 27.65 percent of the total annual budget, and its operating costs would be estimated at $1.465 million – an annual reduction projected to be more than $314,000. If grants are secured, that figure could rise to $350,000, Simpson said.
“Now that the study is complete, the municipalities have the information in front of them to move to the next phase, in order to evaluate this proposal more thoroughly,” Simpson said. “I think this a very thorough report, but I will tell you that more work needs to be done. There needs to be a detailed budget analysis. There are numerous operational, budget, facility and financial issues that still need to be addressed.”
In other news, the board voted unanimously to have the historic McCann House, located near the corner of Buttonwood Road and Newark Road, demolished. A demolition permit was issued on Oct. 21.
The owner of the property on which the structure stands had given the township several months to come up with a alternative that would prevent the house from being demolished. One explored the idea of having the township's Open Space Review Board purchase the structure; another had township employees approach individuals they thought would have the resources to save the home; and a third option had the township make several offers to the property owner for the house, but no figure could reached.
“It's disappointing that were not able to save such an historic structure, and not for lack of trying,” said Supervisor Randy Geouque. “We've tried several different avenues and nothing seemed to work out. It's just a shame to see something like this demolished.”
Claire Finfrock of the Kennett Area Parks and Recreation Board requested $16,000 in funding from the township – $11,000 for funding for 2015, and an additional $5,000 for new bleachers of Herb Pennock Park in Kennett Square.
Stan Lukoff and David Rickerman have been named by the board to the township's Open Space Review Board. Their terms will expire on Jan. 1, 2017. Township Manager Spence Andress said that there will be several vacancies that need to be filled for the following township boards and commissions: the General Authority Commission, the Historical Commission, the Open Space Review Board, the Parks & Recreation Board, the Planning Commission, the Sewer Authority, the Vacancy Board, the Zoning Hearing Board, as well as a volunteer coordinator.
The Board agreed to a proposal by Chairperson Betty Gordon that the assessment of the township's current comprehensive plan will be conducted by a study group made up of two supervisors, two members of the township's Planning Commission, one member of the public, and that the group be coordinated by Andress.
The Board also gave approval to two upcoming PennDOT projects in the township. The first will be to make improvements to the bridge on Baltimore Pike located to the west of Bancroft Road. The second project will occur at the intersections of Newark Road, New Garden Road and Bucktoe Road, which are scheduled to receive improved traffic lane signage.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.