Borough Council Legislative Meeting: May 19th, 2011 – Third Street Dam Resolved?
Lots of news at this month’s legislative meeting:
Third Street Dam issue finally settled?
A resolution brought forth by Vice President Monika Rehoric was an agreement which settled that the Third Street Dam is owned 50% by Delaware County and 50% by Broomall’s Lake Country Club, but that Media Borough will be responsible for the repairs to the dam. The issue was promoted by Pete Alyanakian and Jim Cunningham as an example of the progress of council leadership, and the head of the Media Republican party has also touted this as an example of “bi-partisan” progress in Media. (Monika Rehoric as Democrat, Pete Alyanakian as Republican.)
Jim Cunningham believed that Media Borough was wrong to even pursue the legal battle ten years ago:
“The root cause of this matter was a conflict between the borough and the County of Delaware, that should never have happened. The lawsuits that this borough initiated back in 2002, 2003, all it did was throw gasoline on a campfire that burned across this borough for years. I’m glad that common sense and cooler heads that prevailed … now I see a good working relationship between Broomall’s Country Club, the County of Delaware and the Borough of Media.”
The resolution clears the path to receive 80% funding from the state to repair the dam by firmly establishing ownership of the dam. However, as part of the agreement, Media Borough will be responsible for the other 20% of the repair costs. The total cost to Media Borough taxpayers is $520,000, according to President Alyanakian, approximately 6% of Media Borough’s $8.8M annual budget.
The legal issue with ownership of the dam comes from the impact of any environmental damage or property damage which may occur in the future if the dam is to break or need maintenance. The possible cost to the owner in the future could be on the order of millions of dollars in a worst-case scenario, and is something that former President Peter Williamson stressed that was not acceptable to both the residents of Media or their children.
The reason that the borough is paying for the other 20% of the dam is that in 2000, Speaker Ryan was able to get us 80% of the cost of the repair of the dam at that time … unfortunately, it was done in a very quick manner and … we understood that we had to pay for the other 20% but the misunderstanding was who was going to own the dam. Media Borough has always taken the position that we do not own this dam and we own the roadway over top of it … This agreement actually stipulates that, that we are the owner of the roadway but because we signed the grant we are responsible for the 20% of the remaining balance of the dam that needs to be repaired.
Later in the meeting, in discussions with Paul Robinson, Mr. Alyanakian contradicted his statement by saying that the borough did own the dam according to its former solicitor, Frank Daly.
Mr. Alyanakian went on to discuss how Media Borough has applied to the state to fund the $520,000 to repair the dam, and stated that there is a “Plan B” to find another pot of money to address the funding if the state does not assist with the $520,000 cost to the Borough of Media as well. Mr. Alyanakian went on to state that:
“If this was done 10 years ago we did have the money to pay for it … we had sold the water company, we had sold the sewer company. We did have the money to fix the dam at that time. As things move forward in the 13 years that have passed … I think we are in pretty decent financial shape, that we should come up with this money in late 2012, or late 2013 to be able to make this repair and basically get it off of our books once and for all.”
The stipulation agreement was unanimously agreed upon by all members of council. Media, PA News is currently seeking the original documents to determine any additional details.
Eric Stein made a statement and acknowledged the role of Peter Williamson in negotiating the agreement with Delaware County and Broomall’s Lake:
“I wanted to recognize the work of Peter Williamson who has spent considerable time on this issue for a long time and has done a lot of legwork … and I think he’s also provided an incredible amount of knowledge as a resource to this process so I would like to recognize the work he put in as well.”
After the vote, Monica Simpson added her comments:
“It was a lot of hard work to come to this point, and it would be remiss and shortsighted not to mention the work of the council previous to this one … There was an intentional entering into a lawsuit which the outcome was to prevent ownership by the residents of the Borough of Media for the duration of the maintenance for that dam. That was an intentional movement to keep the residents best interests at heart despite the challenges of having the road closed.”
She then went on to give credit to prior council who selected the legal council which ultimately made the settlement agreement, as well as choosing the solicitor who brought the agreement to fruition.
Jim Cunningham added:
Let the record show during the period of this foolish lawsuit that the design costs of this bridge doubled and the cost of construction nearly doubled … The lawsuit was a foolish move … it cost this borough dearly and put off resolution of this problem for ten years and it poisoned the relationship between the County of Delaware and the Borough of Media for a decade. It was not a positive step.
At the public comment portion of the meeting, Paul Cavanagh of Broomall’s Lake, and the three Democratic candidates for Borough Council in Media all spoke at the end of the meeting and asked questions of President Pete Alyanakian regarding the dam settlement.
Paul Cavanagh, Chairman of the Board at Broomall’s Lake Country Club, complimented Pete Alyanakian for:
“… accomplishing in over 8 months what has not been accomplished in over 13 years. For over seven years, as a member of the board of directors of Broomall’s Lake, I’ve been involved in negotiations with the County and with the Borough to try and resolve 3rd Street … met with several members of council, several past presidents of council who for one reason or another nothing ever seemed to move forward … so after the announcement this evening I thought it’d be nice to say thank you … the residents, at least, near down where I live are going to be happy about it … the club members are certainly going to be happy about it … so well done.”
Kent Davidson, Democratic candidate for Borough Council in 2011, asked Pete Alyanakian what was the delay in getting to settlement in January since it entered litigation in 2004:
“During a change of soliciter in 2001, 2002 that solicitor found some records that indicated that the ownership of the dam could be in question and that’s when council decided to no proceed with the design of the dam … we put the design on hold until we could determine who the rightful owner of the dam was determined. Quite frankly there wasn’t any motivation on anyone’s part to find out who the owner of the dam was … whether it was the county, Media Borough, or Broomall‘s.”
It was then clarified that it was not a lawsuit, but a declaratory judgment, which essentially would clarify past records to declare the official owner of the dam.
Alyanakian: “That particular case was heard by two separate judges … one judge changed halfway through … another another judge was assigned and it got on the docket and then it was delayed for a variety of reasons …”
Davidson: “So it sounds like the county did some shuffling to delay the process…”
Alyanakian: “All three parties participated in the shuffling of the responsibility of it … no question about it.”
Davidson: “So, former Media Borough Councils are responsible for delaying this over the last ten years?”
Alyanakian: “I would say they had a role in it, yes.”
Davidson: “And county council as well.”
Alyanakian: “County council as well, and I would say Broomall’s Lake was a part of that litigation as well.”
Paul Robinson, Democratic candidate for Borough Council in 2011, also pressed Pete Alyanakian on the issue to simplify it for viewers at home:
Robinson: “Third Street Dam Bridge … It’s owned by the County, and it’s owned by Broomall’s and the residents of the borough of Media are going to pay for it.”
Alyanakian: “That’s correct. You were vice chairman when you and Joan signed that agreement.”
Paul Robinson: “And for the record, at that point there was not the clarification of the property owner.”
Alyanakian: I would dispute that as our solicitor at the time, Frank Daly, clearly said that if we sign this agreement … we will be the owner of the dam. That is a quote from Frank Daly.
Robinson: Now I’m confused again because you just referenced that we were not the owner of the dam. So if we are the owner of the dam in 2001, are we the owner of the dam or is Broomall’s the owner of the dam? One minute I’m being told that the Borough owns it as of 2001, and then I’m being now told that we don’t own it that Broomall’s owns it and the County owns it but we’re going to fix it.
Alyanakian: That’s correct.
Robinson: So, in 2001, we owned it and then we gave it to them? Cause that’s what you’re telling me …
Alyanakian: In 2000. Our solicitor at that time, said that his opinion was that we owned the dam … once we signed this agreement … his exact quote was … once we signed this agreement, we will be the owners of the dam. That’s what our solicitor, Frank Daly, said at that time.
Robinson: And that’s why I’m still looking for the clarification. Do we own the dam?
Alyanakian: No. Our solicitor thereafter, Ms. O’Brian, had uncovered a deed … an old deed that showed that the two other litigants owned to the middle of the road for lack of a better … and that was the essence of us …
Robinson: And the courts of Delaware County determined that …
Alyanakian: It was never heard in the courts of Delaware County …
Robinson: Then, a judge did make a decision … correct?
Monica Simpson: We filed a lawsuit …
Bob Scott, Borough Solicitor: By agreement of the parties. The parties agreed that going forward the ownership will rest half with the county, half with Broomall’s, so it didn’t need to get in front of a judge because the parties settled.
Robinson: But you said that there was a deed that was discovered … and that deed referenced …
Alyanakian then outlined the document found which indicated that ownership of the dam met at the “middle of the road,” that the park ended at the middle of the road.
Alyanakian: I don’t believe we did.
Robinson: So in 2000, the information which was applicable and obtainable by Council was at that point was that the borough probably did own it and then at a later date it was determined that the county owned half and that Broomall’s owned half.
Alyanakian: Some evidence was discovered that say, hey, this can be disputed. After 16 years it couldn’t be anything but confusing.
Robinson: I’m trying to simplify it for the poor individual at home who’s watching this …
Alyanakian: The borough owns the cartway, Broomall’s and the County own the dam.
Robinson: And what happens if the borough decides to not use the cartway … who’s responsible for the dam?
Alyanankian: So if we don’t re-do the cartway?
Scott: County and Broomall’s own the dam.
Robinson: So if the borough decides that the need for that cartway/road whatever you want to call it is not necessary for the borough of Media … then the borough of Media has no responsibility …
Scott: There’s a process … Boroughs can vacate streets … there’s a process … you have to give adjacent property owners notice … they can contest it. But they can decide that they don’t need this street anymore.
Robinson: So if the cartway was removed, then all that would remain is a dam which is owned half by Broomall’s, half by the County … so … there are options.
Alyanakian: Options for … not building the cartway?
Robinson: Not expending a half a million dollars …
Alyanakian: Well, we have to build a dam! The grant says that 80% of the dam will be paid for by this grant and we, when we signed that document, when Joan signed that document we agreed to pay the remaining 20%.
Robinson: At that time we thought we owned the dam.
Brian Hall, Democratic Candidate for Borough Council in 2011, added his comments at the end of the meeting:
Hall: Has there been any thought given, to using that cartway, should it ever be reconstituted, solely for pedestrian or bicycle use?
Cunningham: That’s part of the design scheme. For a bicycle lane …
Hall: I mean solely.
Cunningham: Oh no no no no.
Hall: Why not?
Cunningham: It’s being designed as a full-service bridge. Why would we want to spend all of that money we’re spending just so bicycles, just so people could walk across it.
Hall: It’s my impression that many people who live in that area would prefer it not be used for motor vehicle traffic. Frankly, I don’t see that many people in that area have any desire to see it converted back to a dam that used for vehicular traffic. As well all know, that dam sits in a basin, and there is a steep slope on either side … cars have gone through, 10 years ago, you’d see cars whizzing on through there…. it was a shortcut. You’d get that same thing again. In the past 10 years, there have been a lot of families with young kids … In fact Jim [Cunningham], that’s a particular concern of yours … you lobbied long and hard for a stop sign right up the block …
Cunningham: Which still isn’t there, by the way, for the record.
Hall: It might be something that might need to be revisited. My point is that you have a lot of families there with kids and if you put this bridge in there and make it for vehicular traffic … cars and trucks … they are going to go through there at a high rate of speed. I think that that is inconsistent with the character of the neighborhood… If there needs to be vehicular traffic, make it one-way vehicular traffic… a stop sign at either end of the bridge so that anyone approaching it by car would have to stop… before they proceeded across. It would calm the traffic down.
Dawn Roe: Wouldn’t a stop sign at either end slow it down?
Hall: Only one way.
Alyanakian: I would say the residents of Orange Street and Baltimore Pike and some of the other areas … and West Street where people are constantly cutting through because that bridge isn’t open would welcome the opportunity not to have that traffic coming up and down their street… like it has been for the last 16 years. I mean … we can investigate it but the traffic diversion has caused great effects at Kirk Lane and around the schools … it’s backed up many different areas of this town … and we can consider it but … I would think that people have found other ways to get into Media that are impacting other neighborhoods here as much as that neighborhood has been impacted.
Hall: Pete, I haven’t seen that, but perhaps that’s so, but I have been down there and it’s very peaceful now. It wasn’t that way 10 years or so ago.
The discussion ended with comments from Adeline Cooper, honored previously in the meeting, a 56-year resident of West Street who stated that she didn’t feel that 3rd Street had a lot of traffic on it, and that she
Paul Cavanagh came forward and added his final comments that having the bridge open was for emergency vehicles:
“At Broomall’s Lake last year an elderly gentleman fell and the delay in getting the police response and the ambulance there was … considerable. And even the emergency responders said with 3rd Street out it’s difficult getting to this part of town.”
1 West State Street
A second offer was announced for 1 West State Street which was announced with 30 days of public comment. The new offer was:
- Purchase by Claudio Sandola or his nominee
- For purchase price of $670,000
- Sold using the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors standard agreement for the sale of commercial real estate with an addendum
- Deposit of $25,000, $25,000 after signing
- Agreement of sale contains a financing contingency
- Agreement of sale contains a zoning contingency for buyer to obtain written zoning approval for buyers intended use of the property
- Sale conditioned upon buyer signing a perpetual facade preservation and conservation easement binding on the property
- Contains a 10 day due diligence contingency
The potential new owner is interested in opening an Italian restaurant at the location.
All members of Borough Council unanimously approved the motion made.
A second motion was made and voted upon with unanimous agreement that a drop-dead date of May 26th was set after which no additional offfers would be considered.
Jim Cunningham’s “Ethics” Campaign
Jim Cunningham re-animated the corpse of his attempt to revamp the ethics policy for committees in Media Borough, who claimed that members of the Planning Commission had emailed other members of the Planning Commission during the recent primary asking for their support of Democratic candidates.
Letitia Jeavons asked at the end of the meeting how he intended to regulate communication among commission members without violating first amendment rights.
“When you’re a public official … when you preside over people’s personal property and zoning issues, you’ve got to resolve yourself to resist the temptation to participate in partisan activities. Most members of our boards and commissions do it, some don’t … I’m not worried at all about violating any first amendment rights. If you’re willing to submit yourself to government service, as an appointed official, you’ve got to rise above partisan agendas and purposes.
Eric Stein commented:
You’re implying that commission members are influencing the outcome of a particular projects that come before them based on their political views, which is a fairly significant statement and accusation … and so who are we then to legislate that they don’t have the right to their free speech… I find it troubling.
Dawn Roe added comments indicating her agreement with Jim Cunningham and stressing that any ethics policy put forth by the borough would be both legal as well as would not violate anyone’s constitutional rights.
Peter Williamson was absent from the meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting Adeline Cooper was recognized with Phil DeJoseph for donating paintings to the borough which depicted buildings in Media.
Eric Stein announced that letters were sent to local businesses asking for their cooperation in cleaning up litter on State Street. He also made additional announcements for events coming up for the Recreation Board.
Other business unanimously approved:
- Mass gathering permits
- Veteran’s Legacy Memorial Day Parade on May 30th, 2011
- Media Business Authority’s 4th Annual Downtown Media Car Show on July 17th, 2011
- Approval of VFW’s usage of the Municipal Parking Lot at Orange Street and Baltimore Pike
- Resolution 2011-09: Accept a grant from programmable thermostats in Borough Hall
- Media Municpal Parking Garage Sign directing traffic to State Street at a cost of $1,660, partially paid for by the Media Business Authority
- Payment of Bills in April
- Resolution 2011-10: Subdivision and Land Development Review Fees increased to stay current with inflation
- License agreement with 38 W State Street (La Belle Epoque) to allow the erection of a raised sidewalk for outdoor seating on Olive St.
Public Comment of Council
Laura Kern came representing the Keystone Cottage Volunteers who plan and organize the Media Upper-Providence Free Library book sale every year and thanked the borough for the use of the Stone Cottage and the community for their annual book sale which took place in April which benefits the library. She also thanked Jeff Smith, Borough Manager for his help.
Bob Dimond, tax collector for Media and Co-Chair of the Media Democratic Party, added that Dongkyu “Don” Bak who recently passed away would have a memorial service on June 25th but didn’t have further details and stressed that it would be a well attended funeral. Monica Simpson suggested asking Paul Cavanagh, who works at Cavanagh Funeral Home in Media. M stepped forward and confirmed the June 25th funeral service date, and pointed people to Dongkyu “Don” Bak’s obituary online for more information.
Ken Pino, of N Monroe St., complained about speeding on Monroe Street near his home, asking council to put in temporary speed bumps to slow down traffic, and stating that someone is going to get hurt due to the traffic speeds.