NEWS BRIEFS

Stay up to date on current News & Issues.

General News
Public sector jobs recovering at a slower pace than private sector

Bucks County
Bucks property recordings soar in 2021

Chester County
West Chester Borough may see ‘modest’ tax increases

Delaware County
Ruling favors City of Chester in water authority battle

Montgomery County
Ida Disaster Recovery Center opens at MCCC

Philadelphia County
Council president moves to limit affordable housing bonus in his district

 

News Briefs

 

General News

Public sector jobs recovering at a slower pace than private sector
A recent analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that Pennsylvania government jobs are down 6.2% compared to pre-pandemic levels. Federal data show that local and state government jobs are returning more slowly than those in the private sector as the country recovers from the pandemic. The current number of noneducation state and local jobs is "about equal to the lowest point after the Great Recession," with the sector down by 0.6% since December 2020. Meanwhile, employment in the private sector is up by 3.4%, Pew reported. The effects of a local government staffing shortage range from service cuts to an added strain on existing workers, with some municipal operations struggling to function in their basic duties. Read more here.
Source: whyy.org; 9/21/2021 & Pennsylvania Capital-Star; 9/17/2021

September is Pennsylvania Trails Month
Pennsylvania Trails Month in September is a celebration of the commonwealth’s 12,000-plus miles of trails. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, trails and other outdoor spaces have seen an increase in usage and appreciation. Because of the many benefits of trails, Pennsylvania has a goal to extend the statewide trail system to help people achieve healthy lifestyles. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) announced a new goal recently to have a trail within 10 minutes of every resident. Explore Pennsylvania Trails is an official DCNR website where users can search for trails by county or municipality, or by selecting “near me” on an interactive map. Read more here.
Source: Main Line Media News; 9/17/2021

SBA disaster assistance tops $110M
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved more than 2,600 low-interest disaster loans delivering a combined $110 million to areas impacted by Hurricane Ida. The aid has been delivered to small businesses, homeowners, renters and nonprofit organizations that were impacted by the storm earlier this month. The SBA is processing applications as quickly as possible and will continue to work to meet the needs of all those affected by this disaster, according to a press release. President Biden’s Sept. 10 disaster declaration covers Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Bucks, Philadelphia and York counties, which are eligible for both physical and economic injury disaster loans from the agency. For more information, visit the SBA Disaster Assistance website.
Source: Daily Local; 9/22/2021

Auditor general: Governor’s coronavirus business waiver program was flawed
The Wolf administration’s controversial waiver program allowing businesses to remain open during the early months of the pandemic was flawed, administered unevenly and assembled “on the fly,” hurting businesses and putting public health at risk, according to a new report from state Auditor General Timothy L. DeFoor. In March 2020, Gov. Wolf ordered businesses to close to prevent the spread of COVID, except for those deemed "life-sustaining,” but other businesses could apply for a waiver to remain open. Though the program was designed to provide relief to businesses during the tumultuous early months of the pandemic shutdown, it was confusing and lacked both transparency and accountability, said DeFoor, a Republican elected to office last year. DeFoor said his auditors did not find evidence that outside influence, whether from legislators or lobbyists, impacted the administration’s final decisions on which businesses could remain open. The Department of Community and Economic Development, which administered the program, said it was dealing with an unprecedented situation that required its staff to make quick and fair decisions on thousands of applications. The department said it received an average of 2,800 waiver applications per day, for a total of 42,380 requests. Read more here.
Source: Spotlight PA; 9/14/2021

Bucks County

Bucks property recordings soar in 2021
The Bucks County Recorder of Deeds office is set for a record-breaking year of processing documents. A hot housing market and low mortgage interest rates have kept the recorder’s staff busy. The office has processed 82,745 documents so far in 2021. It processed 98,140 in all of 2020 and 74,378 in 2019. If filings continue at their current pace, the office will process 118,750 documents in 2021. Bucks County Recorder of Deeds Robin Robinson sped up some upgrades at the start of the pandemic, including a switch to laptop computers, allowing staff to work remotely when the pandemic shut down county buildings. “I’m very proud of my staff. They have worked through every phase of this pandemic,” Robinson said. To contact the Bucks County Recorder of Deeds office, call 215-348-6209 or visit the website.
Source: BucksLocalNews.com; 9/17/2021

BCAR flood relief grant applications due Sept. 30
The Bucks County Association of Realtors® (BCAR) was awarded a $200,000 grant by the National Association of Realtors Relief Foundation to help individuals and families affected by the July 12 flooding in Bensalem Township, Bristol Township and Bristol Borough. Qualified applicants who apply by Sept. 30 can receive up to $1,000 to be used exclusively for the monthly mortgage expense on a primary residence or rental housing cost due to displacement from a primary residence resulting from the flood disaster. For more information, visit the BCAR website.
Source: BCAR; 8/2021

$1.75M in state aid coming for July 12 flooding victims
A bipartisan group of Lower Bucks County lawmakers announced that they have secured $1.75 million in state aid to help residents impacted by the July 12 flash flooding. State Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-6), and state representatives Tina Davis (D-141), John Galloway (D-140) and K.C. Tomlinson (R-18) announced the state funding at a press conference in Bristol Borough. The Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County will administer the Neighborhood Flood Assistance Program. Residents will be able to apply for grants ranging from $500 to $5,000. The area did not qualify for federal disaster recovery grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The county announced it will fund a $2.5 million recovery program through the United Way of Bucks County and has also set aside $1.2 million to assist people displaced from their homes.
Source: LevittownNow.com;9/15/2021

Northampton to hold public meeting for proposed Wawa
The Northampton Township Board of Supervisors will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. at the township building, 55 Township Road, Richboro. Supervisors will consider a preliminary/final plan of subdivision and land development for property located at 287 Holland Road, where Provco Pinegood Northampton plans to build a Wawa. Copies of the plans are available on the Northampton Township website. The agenda for the public meeting will be posted on the township website by Tuesday, Oct. 5. 
Source: Northampton Township; 8/17/2021

First look at $4M parking garage plan in New Hope
Initial renderings of a proposed multi-level public parking garage were recently unveiled in New Hope. THA Consulting, the design firm selected to prepare the architectural and engineering plans for the proposed garage just north of the Union Square complex, presented preliminary plans for review. The purpose of the presentation was to gather and assess as much community input as possible before proceeding with preparation of further plans. Once a preliminary design has been accepted, THA Consulting will prepare a final design plan and construction specifications, which will serve as the basis for a request for proposal to select a construction firm.
Source: Bucks County Courier Times; 9/20/2021

Warrington Township schedules budget workshops
Warrington Township supervisors are scheduled to meet for budget sessions on Tuesdays, Sept. 28, Oct. 12 and Oct. 26. The sessions will be held at 6 p.m., before the regular meetings, and will take place both in person at the Warrington Township Building, 852 Easton Road, as well as via Zoom. Click here for Zoom registration information.
Source: Warrington Township; 9/21/2021

Chester County 

West Chester Borough may see ‘modest’ tax increases
West Chester Borough Manager Mike Perrone provided a preliminary 2022 budget with what he said were a “modest” 4% property tax increase and 6% sewer rate increase. The property tax increase for 2021 was 6%. The budget may change before being voted on as a preliminary budget, likely in October, and then as a final budget by year’s end. The millage rate would rise from 7.4 mills for 2021 to 7.7 mills for 2022, raising the bill for a median property assessed at $178,700 by $54, for a total of $1,376. The police and public works departments account for 73% of the budget. Police salaries and benefits are projected to rise $600,000, with $230,000 additional revenue generated by the suggested property tax increase. Perrone will retire on Jan. 1, 2022, and this is the last time he will oversee the budget process.
Source: Daily Local; 9/22/2021

DA asks Kennett Township residents to give impact statements
Kennett Township supervisors and Chester County District Attorney Deb Ryan are inviting township residents and other stakeholders to submit victim impact statements in the case of Lisa Moore, who is accused of embezzling $3.2 million during her time as township manager. Moore is scheduled to appear before Common Pleas Judge David Bortner on Oct. 4 to enter a guilty plea and receive her sentence. Those wishing to express to the judge how Moore’s theft impacted them and the community can email their comments to victimimpact@chesco.org. Read more on the township website.
Source: Daily Local; 9/19/2021

FEMA disaster center opens in Downingtown
A disaster recovery center jointly operated by the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has opened at Ashbridge Square Shopping Center, 945 E. Lancaster Ave. in Downingtown. The center is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. People whose homes or other property was affected by Hurricane Ida can get help applying for assistance from federal, state and local sources. For more information, read the press release on the FEMA website.
Source: Daily Local; 9/22/2021

Ruling favors City of Chester in water authority battle
A recent Commonwealth Court ruling stated the City of Chester has the authority to sell the Chester Water Authority (CWA), prompting the CWA to petition the state Supreme Court to hear the case. The CWA stated that “the Commonwealth Court took an ‘unconscionable’ step towards vitiating over 80 years of the Chester Water Authority’s autonomy and existence, ostensibly allowing a municipality that does not own or operate the Authority, has not contributed monies to it, and which is a mere super minority both on its board and within its service area, to pilfer the assets funded by the Authority’s 200,000 ratepayers throughout southeastern Pennsylvania for the City of Chester’s own purposes unrelated to the Authority’s mission of providing clean and affordable water.” The Supreme Court does not automatically hear cases, but it considers whether or not to do so. Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia A. McCullough issued the majority opinion in the appeal of the City of Chester and Aqua Pennsylvania Inc. vs. the Chester Water Authority, writing that the Municipality Authorities Act gives the city “unfettered power to unilaterally transfer the Authority, and all of its assets, on the City’s own free will and terms without any input from the Authority itself.”
Source: Daily Local; 9/21/2021

West Brandywine passes property maintenance code
West Brandywine Township supervisors passed Ordinance No. 2021-04, Property Maintenance. The ordinance amends Chapter 137 of the township code to adopt the 2018 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC) and to establish a property maintenance board of appeals and procedures related to the processing of appeals. The previous ordinance cited the 2003 edition of the IPMC and provided no process to appeal a decision. The board is also considering Ordinance No. 2021-03, Contractor Registration, which repeals and restates Chapter 74 of the code, Contractors, to establish contractor requirements. The township is amending the current ordinance because there are limitations on certain insurances that are far higher than the statute allows for.
Source: West Brandywine Township; 8/5/2021

Delaware County

Ruling favors City of Chester in water authority battle
A recent Commonwealth Court ruling stated the City of Chester has the authority to sell the Chester Water Authority (CWA), prompting the CWA to petition the state Supreme Court to hear the case. The CWA stated that “the Commonwealth Court took an ‘unconscionable’ step towards vitiating over 80 years of the Chester Water Authority’s autonomy and existence, ostensibly allowing a municipality that does not own or operate the Authority, has not contributed monies to it, and which is a mere super minority both on its board and within its service area, to pilfer the assets funded by the Authority’s 200,000 ratepayers throughout southeastern Pennsylvania for the City of Chester’s own purposes unrelated to the Authority’s mission of providing clean and affordable water.” The Supreme Court does not automatically hear cases, but it considers whether or not to do so. Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia A. McCullough issued the majority opinion in the appeal of the City of Chester and Aqua Pennsylvania Inc. vs. the Chester Water Authority, writing that the Municipality Authorities Act gives the city “unfettered power to unilaterally transfer the Authority, and all of its assets, on the City’s own free will and terms without any input from the Authority itself.”
Source: Daily Local; 9/21/2021

Ridley Park continues to struggle with tax certification delays
Ridley Park Borough has been slow to respond to requests for tax certificates since former tax collector Richard Snyder left the elected position mid-term in July. According to Borough Manager Richard Tutak, interim tax collector Rachel Miccarelli "is working diligently to catch up on these information [requests]." Alliance staff have conveyed to borough officials the gravity of the situation, as a lack of tax documentation can delay closings and potentially cause lending rate locks to expire. Alliance staff have requested more information about the circumstances of the delays and what Realtors can do to ensure they receive documents in a timely manner, but the borough has not provided specific answers. The interim tax collector can be emailed at taxcollector@ridleyparkborough.org.

Newtown Township wins budget award from government finance officers association
Newtown Township announced that it has received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association for its 2021 budget. To earn the award, Newtown Township had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. Township Manager Stephen Nease said, “Richard Lafiata and everyone in the Finance Department worked very hard to improve budget awareness and transparency. Their efforts have greatly improved the township’s budget documentation over the last five years, and this award reflects their hard work.” Last year, only 20 governmental organizations in Pennsylvania received the award, and Newtown Township was the only one in Delaware County. The township is holding a public budget workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 28, as it prepares a 2022 budget.
Source: Daily Times; 9/20/2021

Radnor officials outline budget and township finances
As Radnor Township officials prepare for the release of the 2022 budget, they expressed optimism while noting areas of concern. “Generally speaking, the revenues look pretty good, the federal stimulus approved by the federal government earlier this year certainly helped, and we’ve got our fingers crossed for no more surprises for the rest of 2021,” Township Manager Bill White said. In November, the budget legislation will be introduced to the board and the public. One area of concern is the shrinking fund balance, which will be $6.89 million at the end of 2021, well short of its policy level of $9.3 million. Though the savings will need to be replaced, the fund served its purpose, helping the township to maintain operations amid financial difficulties caused by the pandemic. White said they hope to have the final budget approved in November.
Source: Daily Times; 9/20/2021

County council to hold solid waste educational session Sept. 30
Delaware County Council will host a public meeting on Thursday, Sept. 30, at 6 p.m. to go over how the county handles solid waste, including the future of the Covanta Chester facility. The educational session will be held in the Council Meeting Room in the Government Center, 201 W. Front St. in Media. Council Chairman Brian Zidek said representatives from the Delaware County Solid Waste Authority will be in attendance, and the council is hopeful that a representative from Covanta will also attend. The county Solid Waste Authority is an independent board that makes decisions on how the county’s trash is managed. They are the ones who will decide on renewing the Covanta contract with the county, which expires next year. Covanta is a steam-to-energy facility, also called an incinerator, based in Chester that burns 3,500 tons of municipal waste annually. About 30% of the waste comes from Delaware County, and a little more than 1% comes from Chester City. Residents can attend in person or watch a live stream via a link on the county website.
Source: Daily Times; 9/16/2021

Delco to discuss American Rescue Plan funds on Sept. 27
Delaware County Council is holding a public meeting to discuss the potential uses of the $110 million it will receive under the American Rescue Plan Act. Currently, only 5.1% — about $5.6 million — of the funding has been committed to initiatives and allowable uses. Council is seeking community feedback on how to spend the rest on public health, economic recovery, infrastructure investments (water, sewer and broadband), and to cover revenue losses the county experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More information is provided in the Delaware County Recovery Plan. The public meeting will take place on Monday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. in the Council Meeting Room, on the first floor of the Government Center, 201 W. Front St. in Media. The meeting will be streamed live on the county website.
Source: Delaware County; 9/14/2021

Chester Township auditor penalized over financial statements
Former Chester Township auditor Dorothy Green has been ordered to pay $750 by the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission for failure to file statements of financial interest for the years 2016 through 2019. A message left for Township Manager Debra Zimmerman was not returned. Green was elected as a Republican to a six-year term in 2013 with no opposition. She did not run again in 2019, when Democrat Julianne McDonald was elected to the position. An order issued by the ethics commission indicates Green was served notice of violations in 2020, but did not respond or file accurate financial interest forms within a window that would allow her to avoid a civil penalty. The order notes that the maximum penalty for each violation is $250. Finding no mitigating circumstances to reduce that figure, the commission levied one $250 penalty for each of the calendar years missing a financial interest form, for a total $750. Green was ordered to pay the civil penalties by Oct. 17 and to file the missing financial interest forms for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Failure to comply will result in “the initiation of an appropriate enforcement action,” the order warns.
Source: Daily Times; 9/22/2021

Montgomery County

Ida Disaster Recovery Center opens at MCCC
Residents and business owners now have a centralized location for disaster assistance after the remnants of Hurricane Ida slammed the region with tornadoes and flooding. A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Recovery Center has opened in the health sciences center at Montgomery County Community College’s Blue Bell campus, located at 340 Dekalb Pike. The center is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. President Joe Biden authorized a disaster declaration for Pennsylvania on Sept. 10, paving the way for FEMA to get involved. Charlie Elison, a FEMA spokesperson, recommended those visiting a center should bring their social security number, homeowner or rental documentation, reporting of damages, and insurance claims. In addition to registering on-site, those in need of services can also sign up by downloading the FEMA app, calling the FEMA helpline at 1-800-621-3362 or visiting FEMA’s Disaster Assistance website.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 9/21/2021

Pottsgrove School Board president resigns
Pottsgrove School Board President Robert Lindgren announced his resignation at the end of the Sept. 14 meeting. Lindgren said he is moving out of the district. He previously served on the school board from 2003 to 2010, when he resigned because his U.S. Navy Reserve Unit was sent back to Afghanistan. He was re-appointed to the board in 2016 and elected president in 2018, steering the district through the COVID-19 crisis and the selection of a new superintendent. Lindgren thanked the Pottsgrove community and expressed his appreciation for people in the district who remained civil and respectful, even though there were strong disagreements about how the district handled COVID-19. His resignation takes effect Sept. 24 and the board has 30 days to name a replacement. Lindgren’s term expires this year, so whomever the board selects as a replacement will only serve until the end of November. Visit the Pottsgrove School District website for more information.
Source: Pottstown Mercury; 9/16/2021

Montco breaks ground on Chester Valley Trail extension
Montgomery County Commissioners joined with local officials to break ground on a planned 3.8-mile extension of the Chester Valley Trail. When complete, the Chester Valley Trail Extension will link the existing 14.5-mile portion of the Chester Valley Trail, which currently runs from Exton to King of Prussia, to the Schuylkill River Trail in Norristown. The Chester Valley Trail Extension passes through three municipalities, Upper Merion Township, Bridgeport Borough and Norristown. The trail is being constructed as a 10- to 12-foot-wide, paved, multiuse path that is part of the Circuit Trails network, a vast regional network of hundreds of miles of multiuse trails in the Greater Philadelphia region that is growing in size each year.
Source: Montgomery County; 9/10/2021

Lights out for Lower Merion School District’s Arnold Field
Almost two years ago, Lower Merion School District applied to Lower Merion Township to install four 80-foot-high light towers at Lower Merion High School’s Arnold Field. Also requested were a dozen 15-foot light poles to be placed along an existing pedestrian walkway between Arnold Field and Montgomery Avenue. The township zoning officer opined that the lights were allowed under the township’s zoning code. That approval was appealed by the Wynnewood Civic Association to the Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board. The zoning board reversed the zoning officer’s decision, concluding the light towers are “accessory structures” as defined by the zoning code and therefore prohibited by the zoning code at the heights proposed by the district. The district released a statement expressing disappointment that the zoning board “overruled the sound determinations of its own zoning officer” and stating that, “without the lights, LM’s student-athletes (approximately 50% of students) will not be able to practice and compete safely throughout the fall sports season if later [school] start times were to be implemented.”
Source: Main Line Media News; 9/19/2021

Upper Merion FD hitting the streets to ensure people have smoke alarms
Every day, seven people die in home fires, most often because of faulty or missing smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The Upper Merion Fire Department is hoping to protect residents from danger by canvassing neighborhoods to install free smoke alarms, replace batteries in existing alarms and educate families about fire prevention. The first blitz date was Sept. 18, but two more are planned for Saturdays, Oct. 16 and Nov. 13. Click here to learn more.
Source: Upper Merion Township eNews; 9/17/2021

Philadelphia

Council president moves to limit affordable housing bonus in his district
Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke recently introduced legislation that would ban affordable housing zoning bonuses in virtually all of his North Philadelphia district. The legislation would exempt Clarke’s 5th Council District from the city’s Mixed-Income Housing Zoning bonuses, which are meant to incentivize developers to voluntarily include affordable housing units in exchange for allowing them to build denser and taller buildings than allowed under base zoning categories. Clarke’s spokesman Joe Grace said Clarke “feels the legislation is necessary because residents and homeowners aren’t getting enough value from the bonuses going to developers” and “neighbors aren’t getting enough of a say in the process of development” in their communities. The perk has been targeted for reforms by its creator, Councilmember Maria Quinones-Sanchez, who says the intent of the program is being undermined by overuse of a provision allowing developers to receive the bonus while opting out of building affordable units by making a payment to the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which pays for low-income housing programs. Read more here.
Source: Whyy.org; 9/17/2021

Community groups call on council to make more land available for development
Protestors gathered at Philadelphia City Hall to advocate for the release of city-owned vacant properties to community groups for development and green space. Councilmember Jamie Gauthier said she is planning to introduce a bill that would help transition ownership of some of those 6,000 properties to the community to help groups develop affordable housing. The Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities, which organized the protest, hopes the bill comes as soon as possible.
Source: Whyy.org; 9/17/2021

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