Patch brings you the final of its three-part series on Ward Commissioner candidates’ thoughts on the following township issues and concerns:
- Fiscal Responsibility
- Storm Water Management
Speaking with Patch in separate interviews, Ward 2 candidates and provide their responses below:
“I think revitalization is important to the township as a whole,” Fix said, adding, “If we want to keep taxes down, we have to increase our tax base and be able to draw good businesses into the community.”
Attending several of the revitalization meetings, Fix said that he approves of the direction the township’s revitalization task force is heading.
“I think they have a huge job, but they have a good group of people to get it done,” Fix said.
He said that he approves of the projects, so far, set forth by the task force. And, while his approval includes the projects in Ward 2, such as the yet-to-be-constructed he understands that revitalization needs to take place in the downtown area to benefit the township as a whole.
“I think it should be the focus for now, and it’s probably the area that needs the most help,” he said.
Particularly, in Ward 2, Fix said that revitalization should also address issues of traffic at such intersections as Blair Mill and Easton roads, and worries about the impact that development at the will hold.
Fix said that no matter what the initial revitalization projects will be, they should not be a burden on the taxpayers.
“I think it’s important to do this with the lease impact on the tax payers,” he said. “We will look at the additional options, with grant monies and other funding, versus raising taxes or making the taxpayer fund the whole thing.”
Spearing said that he believes the current revitalization task force has a good cross-section of residents and business people from different wards and political backgrounds. He noted that their hard work and professional attitudes are leading the township in the right direction toward township revitalization.
“The projects that have been identified [by the task force] are important, because, should they reach fruition, it’s going to expand the tax base,” Spearing said. “It’s going to be less of a burden to the residents that pay the bills in Upper Moreland Township.”
However, Spearing did inquire at the , should he and residents in Ward 2 disagree with a particular revitalization project, there is a county-level process of amending the revitalization plan – likewise, if there is a project in Ward 2 that is possible, but not on the original revitalization plan, the plan may be amended to include the project, and the funding that goes with it.
Spearing said that all revitalization projects are good for the township, based of its merit, but there have been past projects that he would not approve of, including closing all the stores along Easton Road in downtown Willow Grove in favor for what some residents unkindly refer to as “The Wall.”
“It has to be a worthwhile project,” Spearing said. “And, it has to be evaluated individually.”
On Fiscal Responsibility
Much like his perspective on revitalization projects, Spearing also sees the option of downsizing township staff in the name of fiscal responsibility as something to be scrutinized on a case-by-case basis.
“You can’t make a general statement like that,” Spearing said, responding to the idea of downsizing township positions in order to save money. “They’re not expenses – expenses would be vehicles. A lot of times, personnel are an investment.”
He further explained that township personnel often participate in training and development within their respective departments, which he considers an investment for the township.
He cites the township’s police department’s as an example of personnel investment, describing how most township police dispatchers were able to switch over to the program, and trained to supplement patrol officer duties.
“We tried something new there,” Spearing said, adding that some residents called for their layoff with the tax increase this year, but didn’t. “I don’t’ have a regret about raising the taxes.”
Spearing did note that in 2008, the trash fee was increased, and, according to Spearing, the percentage of the trash fee increase was greater than the percentage of this year’s tax increase.
Fix said that he disagrees with downsizing township positions as a way toward fiscal responsibility.
“It’s probably not quite that easy,” Fix said. “We have to take a look at all of our spending. And, what the budget will look like before you can just demand something like that.”
He noted that there have already been consolidations and cuts of positions within the township, that helped balance this year’s budget, while maintaining the level of services for the township.
“I certainly like the number of service I get,” Fix said. “And, I’d like to maintain that if it’s possible.”
Fix said, if elected commissioner, one of his first orders of business would be to meet with every township department head to get a better understanding of their needs and what’s working and what’s not, as opposed to making judgments exclusively from budgetary line items.
He said that he is doing a version of this currently, as he has hit the campaign trail, talking with neighbors in Ward 2, and asking them what they feel about township services.
He also said, as a commissioner, he would ensure that projects the township undertakes remains within the estimated budget.
“And, stil make sure we get the same value for our money,” Fix said.
On Storm Water Management
While Fix can identify several areas within Ward 2 that are prone to major flooding damage, he said that much of the flooding issues do not originate in Upper Moreland, rather across the border in Horsham Township.
“We need multi-municipality efforts, so together, we can really figure how to handle it,” he said.
Fix suggests increasing the dialogue among neighboring municipalities.
He gave an example of the need for a multi-municipality effort, as during Hurricane Irene and the tropical storm, many of the roads surrounding his Ward 2 neighborhood in were closed, effectively boxing his family in.
“I think Upper Moreland is doing what it can,” Fix said, citing the new construction ordinance on storm water management, but added that it’s important for residents with their private properties to also “handle responsibly their storm water.”
Throughout the year, during many of the commissioners’ comments time at the end of the Monday committee meetings, Spearing addressed various issues surrounding storm water management.
“Traffic and flooding, they’re the most important things to me and my constituents,” Spearing said, during the interview with Patch. “When I started being a commissioner, we had $0 toward storm water management. Now we have over $80,000 accumulated.”
He said, the township has now taken major steps toward garnering funds for storm water management, to achieve grants and more funding, including giving the option to developers to participate in a “fee in lieu of” program, that benefits storm water management.
He also disagrees with the “old philosophy of piping and dumping” storm water, and was in favor of revising an that would keep storm water on new construction property.
He said that the major storm water issues come from Horsham, Warminster and Penndot (Turnpike).
“Everyone talks about it, but we have to meet together and find ways to create partnering projects,” Spearing said.
Already getting started with cross-township relationship building, Spearing said he has been involved with volunteer opportunities with other Ward 2 residents to make repairs and clean the stream bank of the Pennypack Creek near the Blair Mill School in Horsham, where he helped build rain gardens and ponds to retain storm water.