Possibility of Kennett regional police force advances

Borough Council vote sets up free state study on feasibility

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

Kennett Square Borough Manager Brant Kucera (from left) discusses finances as Borough Council President Leon R. Spencer Jr. and Mayor Matt Fetick listen.

Kennett Square Borough Manager Brant Kucera (from left) discusses finances as Borough Council President Leon R. Spencer Jr. and Mayor Matt Fetick listen.

A quarterly assessment of finances, an update on the proposed historic district map and ordinance, and an analysis of the feasibility of a regional police force were key topics of discussion at Monday night’s Kennett Square Borough Council meeting.

Borough Manager Brant Kucera said he was pleased with the first quarter numbers. “Financially, things look very strong in the borough right now,” he said, cautioning that it’s early in the year. He said the borough was on track to have a surplus in every fund.

Kucera’s remarks followed earlier comments by resident John Thomas, who issued a warning that the borough was overspending as well as overtaxing. Thomas said previous boards had incurred debt of $27 million in 2000, a number that had been whittled down to $16 million. However, Thomas said the current board was likely to push the debt back up to $25 million in the next few years. “Nobody will want to live here because the taxes are so high,” he predicted.

Kucera said that although he appreciated Thomas’s concerns – especially his commitment to frugality – he disagreed with them. Kucera said comparable municipalities have taxes either about the same or higher than Kennett Square’s. Moreover, when taxes have increased, they have funded investments in the borough’s vitality, which has fueled growth, he said.

“It’s important to keep our debt in check,” said Kucera, noting that new projects require new revenue. “I think we’ve made progress.”

Ray Ott, a consultant overseeing the creation of a Historic Architectural Review Board to review development in the Kennett Square Borough Historic District, presented a final summary of the proposed ordinance, which has been in the works for more than a year. Borough Council is scheduled to vote on it May 16.

Earlier in the meeting, several residents suggested that the law places too many burdensome restrictions on property owners, but Ott said that during a series of public meetings he heard the message “loud and clear” that the ordinance needed to be “more user-friendly” and not serve as an impediment to getting plans approved.

Ott said several changes were implemented, such as permitting the builder inspector to exempt projects that use “in kind materials,” which would retain the same appearance. He said no extra fees are involved and the only additional level of submission is photographic documentation. He took issue with residents’ suggestions that such regulations deter development. He said communities that safeguard the integrity of their historic resources have proven to be more prosperous.

Borough Council President Leon R. Spencer Jr. asked how the ordinance would impact the Friends Home. Its executive director, Renna Van Oot, had expressed concern that the ordinance might impede safety changes needed to make the buildings more accessible to an older population. Ott said the ordinance would not affect interior work.

Council also heard from Kucera and Mayor Matt Fetick about the “letter of intent” necessary to receive a free study from the state on the feasibility of combining police services with the borough and New Garden and Kennett Townships. Both said the issue had been explored in 2009; however, it was rejected because it involved several additional municipalities that did not seem compatible with the borough’s needs.

“It’s not a commitment to do it,” said Fetick. “Without information, there’s no way to decide whether to continue the conversation.” Council voted unanimously to pursue the study.

In other business, Borough Council also approved a special-event application for the Wounded Warrior Tractor Parade on Sunday, April 27, and announced a Monday, May 19, 7 p.m. public meeting to address ordinances on animals and fowl in the borough.

Council also heard from resident Kathleen Tavoni, who has approached the group before about the need to make repairs on Worrall Avenue. She said a section was graded improperly and has continued to deteriorate from flooding and erosion. Tavoni, who brought a photo board to illustrate the problems, said she made her first trip to Borough Council to complain 20 years ago.

Kucera said that a list is in the works to rank borough roads in order of the greatest need for repairs and that he will report back on the results.

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