Credible answers found for 3rd Street Dam delay
My my my. My colleague Monika Rehoric has been busy along with her former council members, throwing around implications in their editorials on Delco Times.
Residents may not know this, but Ms. Rehoric has formed an independent group called “Media First” which is sending around campaign materials to residents in Media, running against Media Democrats. She has joined forces with two former Republican council members, Jim Cunningham and Bill Tyson, and added an independent Sam Lemon to what appears to be the Republican slate for Borough Council. The odd thing is, they are running in the primary this spring as Democrats, despite having only one registered Democrat on their slate.
What that means is that Democrats will get to choose from 8 candidates, three of which aren’t Democrats. Ms. Rehoric is running as a Democrat with three non-Democrats. Hmm.
I could get into the details about how making this move in the primary robs Independents, Republicans, and non-Democrats of any say whatsoever in choosing their future council, and it’s also an attempt to confuse voters. But I’ve said enough. I think the residents of Media are aware of the stakes.
That said, another editorial appeared in Delco Times, titled, “Credible reasons sought for Media bridge work delay” which has its facts somewhat … fuzzy. Let’s address it, shall we? I’m a “facts” kind of guy, so I feel we should keep things factual. I’m just going to quote the letter verbatim here, and address the “fuzzier” issues.
In May 2011, a stipulation agreement was signed by the entire Media Borough Council that settled the Third Street Dam issue.
Technically, it was a 6-0 vote: Peter Williamson was absent. I’ll allow it, though.
At that time, all members of council, both Republicans and Democrats, understood that by signing this agreement, we were now able to move the Third Street Bridge project forward, closing an issue that plagued the borough and its residents for 16 years.
Well, yes, we all thought that it had the matter settled. Unfortunately, it wasn’t settled: that stipulation was voided in February this year by Judge Proud.
So, I guess it wasn’t settled, eh? But yes, true. I will assert that “plagued” is somewhat of an exaggeration. Let’s settle on “inconvenienced,” ok?
This document put into place a “responsible party” for all future maintenance and repairs for the bridge. The county was responsible for their 1/3 part, Broomall’s Lake Country Club their 1/3 part, and Media Borough was to maintain the surface and substructure. This agreement enabled PennDOT to restart the design phase project which was 50 percent completed. The stipulation allowed the project to move forward without delay. Borough council was advised that the project could start construction in 2014.
Whoa. Off the rails there a little. The stipulation made BLCC 50% responsible for future repairs, not one-third. County was also 50% responsible for future repairs, not one-third. Let’s get that straight first. Next, the project would move forward without delay – but as you all recall, the stipulation was signed and once residents heard about the new design, former Borough Council spent the next seven months holding public meetings and receiving petitions from residents who wanted an alternate design. They left the next council (current council) the task of forming the CAC and soliciting further input.
When we signed the stipulation we did so with the full knowledge of what the implications were and made our vote based on what was the best way to serve the borough and its residents.
Unfortunately, I’m going to pick a nit here. Council had no knowledge at the time that PennDOT was willing to pay for alternatives to building a dam (bridge, stream restoration, etc.), something which was brought up later that year. So, “full knowledge?” I don’t think so. And second, Borough Council didn’t survey the public or ask its opinion about what to do until after you entered into that agreement.
Not once, during the last 15 years, has anyone ever complained about the dam design or making Third Street one way.
Maybe Monika (and Pete and Jim) missed those meetings in 2011 while she sat as Council Vice-President. Over 500 Media residents signed a petition asking for revisions to the dam design. 300 additional individuals living in nearby communities requested changes to the dam design. Many members of the public, including current Council President (and myself), came and requested a one-way road there. In fact, in multiple public special meetings in 2011 and 2012, we have had requests from hundreds of residents who have asked for revisions to the design and approval of the one way road. So, “not once?” Really?
In fact, there are currently six members of council that all agreed with the original dam design and restoring the road to reestablish it as a two-lane, two- way roadway to serve both the people of Media Borough and our neighboring municipalities as well as our school district.
I’m not sure how she’s counting here, but we’ve never had six of us agree on anything on the Dam. If you count the votes pro and con, we barely agree between those two votes. So, sorry: false and misleading.
How could you sign and support a document that became legally binding in July 2011 if you did not understand that you were reestablishing the roadway? How irresponsible it is to have council people not have full knowledge of all the implications such a document conveyed?
First off, to be clear: Four of current Seven council members signed that document. Three of us inherited it. (Myself, Brian Hall, and Paul Robinson.) I think it’s fair to say that as a council we’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand the legal implications of that document and made our best efforts to stick to the letter of the agreement.
I, as a member of council, a taxpayer, and a business owner in Media Borough, along with my present council member Dawn Roe and my former council members, are greatly disappointed in my fellow councilpersons over the decision to delay the Third Street Dam project by patronizing a small vocal minority determined to keep their street private. There are obvious signs of conflict of interests here, and reliance on a ridiculous petition that claimed the park would be destroyed if the dam was rebuilt.
Let’s just say that the disappointment is mutual. As public officials, we are tasked with representing the members of the public. When 500+ residents sign a petition saying they want an alternative dam design, I tend to give it some weight. Calling it “ridiculous” is an insult to those who took the time to place their name in ink on a paper which represented their feelings. And I’m unclear how Media Borough delayed this project. Read on to learn everything Media Borough did to move this project forward …
There needs to be credible explanations by the majority of Media Borough Council as to how this occurred, and we welcome the public to come and hear them.
And for the grand finale…
The credible explanation
Broomall’s Lake Country Club sued Media Borough for choosing to put in a one-way road over the Dam. Judge Proud revoked the Stipulation and order stating that the parties obviously did not agree on the terms of the agreement. Without a legal agreement between the parties, we can not move forward. End of story.
The basis of the arguments were that BLCC asserted that we violated the stipulation and order and that it clearly stated that the road would be two way. In fact, Monika Rehoric, Dawn Roe, Pete Alyanakian, and Jim Cunningham signed affidavits stating that they “thought” it meant two-way in May of 2011.
Media Borough asserted that it is the sole jurisdiction of the Borough to choose the direction, layout, striping, and lanes on all roads in our jurisdiction and that the Stipulation did not state the direction of the road or the number of lanes.
At this point, BLCC is appealing the Judge’s decision, which means that we are in “legal limbo” until they give up their legal case. So… not sure how Media Borough is at fault for delays at this point.
In fact, we received our revised design contracts from our engineering firm in February this year which would have set the schedule for rebuilding the dam.
And, here’s what Media Borough did do:
- Media Borough Council formed the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) in January of 2012, they met weekly until delivering a report in April 2012 which showed that residents favored dam removal and stream restoration. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible with the stipulation. So, we …
- Voted in May 2012 to move forward with dam reconstruction with a pedestrian and vehicular component. We met publicly every month and solicited public input on how to design the dam based on the results of the CAC. Then we …
- Voted in September 2012 to design the dam as a one-way road with a pedestrian and bike component on the south portion of the road. The design was wide enough to accommodate 2 lanes, but we chose, as a compromise to allow for one lane of traffic for emergency access, and the pedestrian component as a compromise to those who wanted traffic calming near the park.
- We defended our position in court from November 2012 through February 2013, in the meantime we asked our engineers to prepare the contract for the revised design
- Early February we received revised contract documents from Schnabel Engineering for the next phase of construction.
- Shortly thereafter, the Stipulation was revoked by Judge Proud.
And some final notes: the design we chose also was smaller, saving taxpayer dollars, and would have less impact on the park, saving wetlands.
At this point, without a Stipulation and Order, we are back to the original court case where Media Borough sued the other parties to determine ownership. We have to wait for a result of BLCC’s appeal before we return to that original question, if at all.
The good news is that current council can now take into consideration all of the recommendations of the 2011 public meetings and the 2012 CAC survey.
It should be an interesting year.
Stay tuned for news and updates here!