An off-agenda item announced during the Community Development Committee portion of last night’s regular board meeting roused waves of applause from among the gathered board members and public audience.
After receiving the ‘OK’ from Ward 4 commissioner and committee chairperson Joseph Lavalle, township manager David Dodies revealed that PennDOT reimbursed the township to the tune of $443,435.
The reimbursement was derived from the construction of the Memorial Drive entrance to , and specifically the subsequent improvements to Route 611 (York Road), which occurred during the entranceway construction.
“It is certainly good news,” Dodies said, noting that the entranceway project was completed two years ago. “It is quite unusual for PennDOT to do this.”
According to Dodies, it did not seem, during the 2007-2008 planning stages, PennDOT would provide any reimbursement for the roadwork improvements. In fact, Dodies recounted how difficult it has been to acquire the reimbursement.
He said he and his staff took the lead and worked with the community development committee, the township’s engineers at the time and the township solicitor to pursue the reimbursement.
Lavalle, who is an architect by trade, explained that this reimbursement put the entranceway project at nearly a 16 percent cost-over-run, which, he says is the typical industry standard, especially for a project of that magnitude.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with this reimbursement,” Lavalle said. “This is really a huge reimbursement for the township.”
Several members of the public audience went before the board to echo such gratitude.
“We now have a half a million available for general projects,” Dodies said.
During the commissioners comments portion of the regular board meeting last night, Ward 1 commissioner Lisa Romaniello suggested prioritizing the PennDOT reimbursement to projects that can be taken care of immediately, namely replacing the township building’s , as well as address the township's debt.
“I feel now is the time to fix this and pay down the debt,” Romaniello said.
According to Ward 6 commissioner Sam Valenza at the previous Finance and Administrative meeting, the township has been operating in the red for the last five years.
Romaniello specifically focused on the HVAC system because it has been an issue that the commissioners have not solved for at least three years now. She noted that despite the HVAC system being a longstanding issue, there is yet to be a plan in place in fixing the problem.
Dodies had pointed out that other projects took priority over the years, including improvements to Veterans Memorial Park, and it would have been difficult to have the necessary consultants and planners needed to also work on the HVAC system.
Several ideas have been discussed among the commissioners that would fix the HVAC system, including the installation of solar panels or a geothermal system, the later of which Romaniello advocates.
In light of this, Romaniello made a motion to ask the township manager to present details on how to implement a geothermal system to replace the current HVAC system before the next regular board meeting.
The motion was seconded by Ward 7 commissioner James Mckenna, but was met with dissenting opinions from several other commissioners.
Lavalle said that he wasn’t convinced that geothermal energy would be the best solution.
Ward 2 commissioner Kevin Spearing said that he understood the urgency in completing the project, but suggested that more committee discussions were necessary to achieve a consensual course of action.
After Dodies said that his office would be unable to produce the desired details and plan before next month’s meeting, rather needing 60 to 90 days, Romaniello withdrew the motion.
Romaniello said that the commissioners should not hesitate to use the PennDOT reimbursement, and hopes to see it go toward the HVAC system before winter, pay down the township debt or both.