New Kennett Township coat of arms beginning to appear06/21/2022 03:30PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
During the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors’ June 15 meeting, township Manager Eden Ratliff said that the township’s new coat of arms will soon begin to appear on all township correspondence, including letterhead, envelopes, email signatures, business cards, and a variety of memos and documents.
“We will be rolling that out in a cost-effective way, not expending any unnecessary funds,” Ratliff said. “We are not looking to paint the town red so to speak with the new seal, but you will start to see it appear as things go on, and I hope that the community will take great pride in everything that it symbolizes.”
The coat of arms was given final approval at the board’s May 18 meeting. The concept of developing a new unified graphic identity for the township was introduced and developed by supervisor Geoffrey Gamble with design assistance from township residents. The final image was unveiled at the meeting and is now mounted on the back wall of the township’s meeting room, and contains various elements of the township’s history, heritage and culture.
Ratliff said that in addition, the township’s Police Department will also update its seal to reflect the new identity and will eventually incorporate it into their documents and on police vehicles and uniforms.
In other township business, Ratliff said that as a result of the board approving a proposal by Mondo Media Solutions on Nov. 3, 2021, the township recently began working with the company to upgrade its video and audio technology in its public meeting room, in order to better accommodate visitors who attend public meetings via Zoom. The upgrade includes the installation of a new camera that will provide better video quality. While acknowledging that a few glitches had occurred in recent public meetings, Ratliff said that the township is resolving to iron out remaining kinks in the system.
Once the system is fully in place, the township will train township committee and commission members about the upgrade, and identify any other components that could further enhance the hybrid quality of the meetings.
The township’s contract with Mondo Media Solutions was originally in the amount of $20,385.46 plus a monthly maintenance plan fee of $285. Last December, the board approved to pay the first half of the payment to the media company. The balance of the project will be due after the technology is completely installed and functioning to the township’s standards.
Township to file appeal with Court of Common Pleas
The board also voted 3-0 to ratify the authorization given to township Solicitor David Sander to file an appeal to the Chester County Court of Common Pleas regarding a final determination of the Office of Open Records. The appeal stems from a right-to-know request filed by a township resident to obtain copies of legal bills from the law firm of Blank Rome to the township that were generated beginning at the end of 2021 and the start of 2022.
In turn, the township filed an appeal with the Office of Open Records because they did not believe that the document being asked for was, in Ratliff’s words, “discoverable.”
The Office of Open Records issued a final determination that did not agree with the position of the township, and the recommendation from Sander was to appeal the decision to the Court of Common Pleas. Sander said that during discussions, the township has determined that the requester may agree to certain redactions of privileged information, but that the township will not redact other information that the requester is looking for.
“I can say with a degree of confidence that we will be entering amicable settlement discussions with the requester, which should be resolved in short order,” Ratliff said.
Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway plans
Township resident John Haedrich of the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway Commission (BVSBC) provided a corridor management plan update on the Byway, part of which flows through the township along Kennett Pike. In addition to Kennett Township, the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway includes Birmingham, Chadds Ford, East Bradford, East Marlborough, Pennsbury and Pocopson townships in Chester and Delaware counties.
Haedrich informed the board that while there has been no funding for byways in recent years, he said that in 2021 the organization submitted an application for national byway status, and received a federal designation.
Based on a recommendation by the organization that each member municipality submit a budget, Haedrich submitted a request for the board to approve the township’s portion of the BVSBC’s 2022-23 budget (July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023) to the board, which included an increase in the township’s annual yearly fee from $500 to $600. The funds from the participating municipalities would be rolled into the BVSBC’s $3,000 overall budget for the year, some of which would pay for website development.
Potential conflict of interest
Haedrich also said that Kennett, Pennsbury and Pocopson townships are developing a corridor management plan that is estimated at $256,000 that will be used to honor the respective legacies of both the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman, whose crusade to free enslaved African Americans went through Kennett Township – at a cost estimate of 128,000; and the development of the Underground Railroad Heritage Center at Barnard Station in Pocopson Township – also at a cost estimated at $128,000. Barnard Station was once the home of abolitionists Eusebius and Sarah Barnard in the 1800s and used to house freedom seekers along the Underground Railroad.
According to the Friends of Barnard Station website, the center will focus on “fostering greater appreciation for the role Pocopson Township played in American history.”
The BVSBC is submitting a federal grant for $200,000 for these projects, which if granted, will rely on matching funds totaling $56,000 -- $4,000 of which is requested to come from Kennett Township.
Supervisor Scudder Stevens expressed his concern with Haedrich that the development of a proposed heritage center for the Underground Railroad in Pocopson Township may conflict with a similar heritage center now in place in Kennett Square borough, as well as with efforts by local organizations and municipalities like Kennett Township that already recognize the importance of Tubman and the Underground Railroad in Chester County.
Haedrich said that key advantages of the proposed Barnard Station Heritage Center are that once it is built, it will be directly along the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway, adjacent to a 60-acre park and near the construction of a new township building.
“[The BVSBC] intends to call a meeting quite soon as we continue to work on this project, even with no grant,” Haedrich said, “and call in interested parties, because there are so many interested parties.
“We want to bring them all together and try to resolve all of these different interests and positions – [and determine the role] that these various groups might play.”
Haedrich did not hold the board to approve or disapprove of any BVSBC initiative at the meeting, but he said it was important that the supervisors be aware that these initiatives are being pursued.
“If it turns out that Kennett Township is not feeling the need to support [these projects], we will find other ways to go forward,” he said.
The board approved the motion to designate the township as a Shiitake-level sponsor of the 2022 Mushroom Festival in the amount of $2,500, reflective of its inclusion in the township’s 2022 budget.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].