Study: Barnard House unsuitable for Pocopson’s township building

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Updated to note that the study is not complete as yet, nor available for public inspection.

By Karen Cresta, Staff Writer, The Times

The Barnard House. Times file photo.

POCOPSON – The Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, Oct. 30, had the Barnard House and the “feasibility study” as a regular agenda item as it has for a long time but it will now be listed as “facilities update.”  The change in title reflects the change to rule out the historical Barnard House as a possible home for the township office and to explore other options.

The ongoing feasibility study by GKO (Godshall, Kane & O’Rourke) architects suggests that the Barnard House was not feasible for the township office and uses.  The supervisors urged the Chester County Commissioners to collaborate with them to move forward. 

Supervisor Elaine DiMonte said, “We are looking at all facilities now…We have asked the commissioners several times to come meet with us about the restrictions on the covenant at the Barnard House.  Until we understand from them what they might or may not allow us to do, our hands are still tied.  So we have options.  We have ideas around renovating this building or the building on the back of this lot here… There’s other things that can be done with the [Barnard House] property to bring more activities to the location along with the KURC.  Our hands are tied right now with the commissioners. We’ve been trying to get communication with them and trying to get a meeting with them.  They were here last October [2016] and we explained to them what was going on but the covenant, as you know, is very restrictive.”

The supervisors are looking to present the options to the commissioners and to get help from them on GKO’s ideas on possibilities and price points.

The supervisors announced that one of the things they need to talk about is having a public meeting in the future to get input from residents on all options and cost but first a meeting with the Chester County Commissioners is essential to ease up on the covenant restrictions.  The supervisors are waiting to hear back from commissioners to attend a meeting with them to review ideas.

In 2008, the township took possession of the 68 acres and the 1800’s Eusebius Barnard House from Chester County for $1 with the hopes to house the township’s administrative offices and public meeting space and as the home for the Kennett Underground Railroad Committee (KURC).  After spending over $900,000 thus far in renovations, the house is still unoccupied and a certificate of occupancy is still needed before a lease can be signed and KURC can get in the door.

“We would sign it tonight if we can get in it,” said KURC President John O’Neal.

“We put that to the side when we decided we really need to have a feasibility study by a professional to say yay or nay to the use of the Barnard House as opposed to the casual conversations that we had when we had other vendors in and were going through the Barnard House a year ago…We have a modified lease but we have not all looked at it and approved it,” said Supervisor Alice Balsama.

The supervisors informed O’Neal that until the building is safe, there is a certificate of occupancy, the feasibility study is completed, the matched grant money is received, then KURC cannot get in the Barnard House and the modified lease cannot be approved.

Chairman Ricki Stumpo responded, “Give us another couple of months.”

“Sorry to disappoint you.  I think we are getting closer if we can get collaboration from the commissioners on this initiative,” added DiMonte.

Stumpo announced that the 2018 township budget was finalized and will be made available to the public on Nov. 6 and will be adopted on Nov. 27.  The earned income tax and property tax rates are unchanged from 2017.

Kevin Gosselin, Pocopson’s Emergency Management Coordinator, provided an update on the emergency plan.  He is in the process of surveying the township’s fuel storage and usage statistics for the Chester County Department of Emergency Services and is completing a comprehensive audit of the emergency operations plan for full compliance with local and federal (FEMA and PEMA) agencies.

Director of Public Works Mark Knightly provided an update that all curbside chipping was completed and collection of leaves (in paper bags only) starts on Nov. 6 and continues every Monday in November.  Knightly also announced that the road crew is getting ready for snow and received approval to buy bulk rock salt at $53.80 a ton in collaboration with the co-op of Southern Chester County.  Approval to purchase a generator for the municipal building in the amount of $19,570 was also approved.

Also approved was the original trail easement for Overlook Circle.  It was agreed that the original trail easement to link Pocopson Elementary with the current trail system that requires a future bridge to cross Pocopson Creek would be more practical.  The supervisors were all in favor to move forward with the additional legal work needed from the township solicitor.

The supervisors approved the emergency services resolution confirming Longwood Ambulatory Services as the primary provider and Good Fellowship as back-up for the township.

The Kennett Township Police Department and Longwood Fire Company are sponsoring a coat drive from now until Nov. 12. A drop off box can be found at the Pocopson Township building.

In other announcements, the Kennett Township Police Department and Longwood Fire Company are sponsoring a coat drive from now until Nov. 12.  They are collecting new and gently used coats, sweaters, mittens gloves, scarves and hats in all sizes for local charities and families in need.  The township building is a drop off location and a designated box is labeled for donations.

Stumpo reminded the township that they can vote on Tuesday, Nov. 7, at the Pocopson Home from 7a.m – 8p.m.

“Please come out and vote.  If not, you can’t complain about anything,” added Stumpo.

For more township information, please visit the website at www.pocopson.org.

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