Two incumbents, two challengers battle for seats on New Garden board
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Elected to the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors in 2014, Republicans Randy Geouque and Richard Ayotte are campaigning for re-election to their second six-year terms, on the heels of some major accomplishments the township has seen during their time on the board.
They are being challenged by Democrats Kristie Brodowski and David Unger, who are campaigning together on a platform of increased trail systems, providing efficient and affordable police protection and preserving the township's natural habitat.
Recently, the Chester County Press met with all four candidates, to assess their campaigns and what they want to bring to the citizens of New Garden Township.
Richard Ayotte and Randy Geouque
When Richard Ayotte and Randy Geouque were elected to their respective six-year terms in 2014, the township had half the police force it does now, and the concept of forming a regional police force was still a talking point that then New Garden Township Police Chief Gerald Simpson carried with him everywhere. At about that same time, the department was about to move into temporary trailers, forced to do so when their barracks was contaminated from asbestos.
At that same time, the 137-acre property of St. Anthony in the Hills still belonged to St. Anthony of Padua in Wilmington; the township still owned their vastly-outdated wastewater system; and the township's comprehensive plan was still very much in the pencil sketch stage. Further still, there seemed to be no firm contingency plan in place that could easily tap dedicated reserves in the event of an emergency.
As they campaign for re-election to the board, Ayotte and Geouque go door to door armed with the polished resumes of accomplishment. On their watch and with their vote, the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department was formed; plans to create a state-of-the-art facility for the regional police were approved; and they oversaw the funding for the new facility, which was dedicated and opened in September. In addition, they helped broker the township's purchase of St. Anthony in the Hills; and kick-started the long-term design plan for Toughkenamon Village, which serves as a large component of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan for New Garden Township, which Ayotte and Geouque helped pass.
“The current board has brought a more business-like approach to running the township,” Geouque said. “We have become more proactive, by setting up the capital reserve fund that funnels about $180,000 every year to handle any emergencies that may arise. We've had six years with no property tax increases, so we've been able to balance the revenues with spending.”
Perhaps the largest accomplishment the township has made on Ayotte's and Geouque's watch has been the negotiations that are leading to the eventual sale of the township's wastewater system to Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc. While approval of the sale continues to be funneled through the courts and regulatory agencies, the final sale will net a $29.5 million profit for the township.
Once the deal is finalized and the money is rolled into the township's resources, Ayotte and Geouque both believe that the board's proactive approach to spending will serve them will in determining where to allocate these additional funds.
“We will pay off what we owe on the construction of the police facility, pay for two bridges that need to be replaced on Little Egypt and Bancroft roads,” Geouque said, “and also be able to set aside resources for people whose homes will be serviced by Aqua, in order to help offset rate increases they are likely to be faced with in the future.”
For Ayotte and Geouque, their top priority for the immediate future of the St. Anthony in the Hills is to invest in the removal of potential liabilities there, for the purpose of making the property safe for the general public. Although they eventually see refurbished soccer fields and new baseball diamonds melded with a trail system and open space, determining how the property's additional infrastructure will be utilized will likely involve partnerships with outside agencies who could manage the pool, its ampitheater and its horse stable.
“When you look at St. Anthony's, there is nothing but development around it, and when the PREIT property is developed, the property will serve as an oasis wrapped entirely by sprawl,” Ayotte said. “The sooner the better for our ideas to germinate, but if it takes 20 years to develop it, I'd rather see it done right than sooner.
“In the end, I think St. Anthony's will be seen as an absolute steal for the township from a cost point of view,” Ayotte continued. “Eventually, for what we paid for it and what we will put in it, it's going to be a gold mine for the people of the township.”
Despite the accomplishments made by the two incumbents over the past six years, “there are a lot of things still left undone,” Ayotte said, “and we want to see all of these things get finished.”
Kristie Brodowski and David Unger
Campaigning together on a platform of “Parks, Police and Preservation,” Kristie Brodowski and David Unger enter their campaign to serve on the New Garden board with an overlap of issues that dot their To-Do lists. Chiefly, however, they wish to become the “new voices” on the board.
“Six years is a long term, and I think bringing a fresh view to the township will help both the board and the community,” said Brodowski, who is a project manager in the pharmaceutical industry. “My analytic and project management background will allow me to ask the right and appropriate questions, particularly on colossal projects like the future of St. Anthony in the Hills.
“As the mother of a small child, I want to make sure that the neighborhoods we live in are preserved for her future,” she added. “It's important for me to be a role model, to be someone who walks the walk.”
“I think there is a lot that I think we both can do for New Garden,” Unger said. “We want to make sure that St. Anthony's in the Hills is turned into a park we can all enjoy. We want to help continue to assure that the regional police are supported and that heir new facility gets put to good use, and that the Village of Toughkenamon becomes a vital part of the Route 41 corridor vicinity.”
If he is elected to the board in November, another key component of Unger's goals will be to regulate the projected plans for the former PREIT property on Route 41. Now in the hands of new owner JP Morgan Chase, it has been rumored that the bank wishes to develop the land as a mixed-use property that will see both residences and businesses built along the corridor.
“That would not be ideal for me, and I would work with [JP Morgan Chase] to avoid the residential route because of the strain on local school districts,” he said. “By adding an additional 300 to 400 students to the Kennett Consolidated School District, you're going to have the same problem that the Avon Grove School District has, in being over-crowded.”
Their priorities don't end there. Unger and Brodowski want to draw more attention to assuring that the stormwater run-off that begins at the St. Anthony's property and extends to Somerset Lake is cleaned up. They also want to work with the regional police to possibly expand the department by recruiting additional local police units, and want to engage outside agencies to help in the management of St. Anthony's that would, they believe, would establish the property as a key identity for the township.
While “Parks, Police and Preservation” serves as their campaign's motto, Brodowski and Unger are adding another “P” to their slogan: People.
“It's not always an easy conversation to have, but it is important that we continue to be inclusive of the township's diversity,” Brodowski said. “It's about bringing their challenges to the board, and see things through the perspective of our underrepresented communities, because once you see it, you can't unsee it.
“I will bring a fresh perspective that will help ask questions that can bring about different results, that will hopefully impact the future of many more people.”
“Sometimes I feel that New Garden is a township with no identity,” Unger added, “that it's an afterthought to the diversity of Kennett Square, but here a lot of people in our community who have challenges that need to be represented. That's our identity, and we need to help this community determine what their future is going to be like, for them.”
The campaign that Brodowksi and Unger have undertaken, they said, is not an “Us vs. Them” platform against their opponents. More importantly, they said, their campaign is being undertaken with the idea of providing more opportunity for everyone – and that includes the non-white population.
“Just because you're running against someone, you don't have to campaign on a platform of disagreeing with with on everything that he or they have done,” Brodowksi said. “Rich and Randy have have done a good job, but we can do more, and help impact the lives of additional populations of New Garden residents.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.