Editorial: A tale of two township meetings
08/02/2016 10:58AM ● Published by Richard Gaw
On April 25, New Garden Township Police Chief Gerald Simpson chaired a presentation that unveiled the township's planned 19,500 square-foot police barracks which, if approved by the supervisors, would likely be constructed on the site of the department's current location on Gap-Newport Pike.
The new facility, the supervisors were told, would serve as the new home for the newly-formed Southern Chester County Regional Police Department, the end result of a merger between the township's police and the force from nearby West Grove Borough. The facility would increase work flow space; include expanded holding areas and a sally port to usher prisoners into holding areas; provide offices for detectives and police administration, and a dedicated public entrance.
Most importantly, it would replace the 1,100 square-foot makeshift facility of inter-connected trailers, built as a temporary office space after mold infestation closed the unit's former barracks.
All seemed right with the world until the moment Simpson told the supervisors that the estimated cost to build the facility would hover between $6.5 million and $7.5 million, should construction be allowed to begin in 2017. Although he insisted that the presentation was not intended to ask the supervisors for the funding but merely to lay the groundwork for discussion, the discussion was over before it began. In a township that counts its quarters and dimes while holding the line on increasing taxes, investment of this kind has not only been implausible, it has been unthinkable, and the grand idea to merge two police units into a stronger, solidified unit would have to do all of this in the modern-day equivalent of a cubby hole.
For the last two years, the topic of potentially selling off its sewer system has been on the New Garden Township's agenda 18 times, and been the focus of five separate written reports. Specifications were drawn up, an exploratory committee was formed, and after an exhaustive bidding process for a potential buyer, one company emerged. At a presentation on July 25 – exactly three months to the day that the board of supervisors balked at the idea of investing in the police facility – Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater, Inc. (Aqua) spelled out their reasons and intentions that have entered them in a proposal to purchase the township's sewer system for $29.5 million.
Although the final vote to secure an agreement with Aqua rests with the vote of the supervisors on August 15, there can be no denying that the board's approval will catapult the township from thrifty bean counting to efficiency and modernization. By agreeing to the sale, the township's sewer system would no longer be the township's largest liability, but serve as its cash cow – cracking open a financial doorway that has been hammered shut for too long.
It would pay off the debt on the sewer system.
It would reserve funds to satisfy pre-existing obligations of the system.
It would establish capital funds for vehicle and equipment purchases.
It would fulfill several capital improvement and maintenance needs, such as repairing roads and bridges.
It would establish a tax stabilization fund to offset future real estate tax increases.
It would provide funding for the township's park, and secure additional funding that would allow the township to invest more in open space.
It would eliminate the need for the township to worry about increasing regulatory mandates that are being placed on sewer systems, and the increasing costs to maintain systems within these regulatory mandates.
It would create rate stability, freezing current sewer rates during the first two years following the sale, and keeping increases at a reasonable rate after that.
Finally, it would help to pay for a new police facility, one that could become one of the shining lights of an administration, whose determination to do the right thing paved the way for a new township to begin.