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Credible answers found for 3rd Street Dam delay

Apr 11

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 DemocratsMs. 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! 

 

8 comments

  1. Hi Kent – Thanks for the article. I appreciate the information. As a lifelong resident of the area, proud product of the public school district, a borough home owner, a registered democrat and someone who has followed this issue closely for many years I would like to like to provide a counter signature to your 500 (or is it 800?). I know I might just be one written voice. But there are many, many borough residents, business owners and visitors that feel the same I do: we should restore this to a two way road. Not sure if you were in the area back in the day but I remember happily driving on this bridge years ago before it was closed – I grew up on the UP side and this bridge provided a great way in and out of town. I would like to see it restored. And as much as I understand the desire for those living on 3rd street for “traffic calming” I don’t feel the proposed one way road is the way to achieve this (a two way road with a one-at-a-time bridge yield is one easy compromise that comes to mind).
    So hopefully others that read your blog and feel the same will add their names so that you can realize there are a lot more of us that support a two way road that your 500 signatures might indicate.

    • Greg, thanks for writing in. I realize that many residents want to keep a road there; and to be clear, I’m not against a road. We have looked long and hard at putting a bridge there and its variations which do not require building a high-hazard dam.

      What seems to be the issue is having a road, and building a dam which (at present) no one wishes to own. I know residents in UP want a road, and I know many Media residents want a road.

      It’s irresponsible, in my opinion, to build a structure which has no owner and therefore leaves the borough at risk down the road to further litigation. The reason this has taken 16 years is 9 years to secure funding and develop design (through 2006), and 7 years now of litigation. The fact that the the three parties do not agree, and litigation takes a long time is, unfortunately, somewhat out of the control of the borough.

      If anything, I’m in favor of getting resolution to the ownership issue, and then doing what’s in the best interests of Media. I voted in favor of the one-way road as it seemed the best compromise at the time given the Stipulation and the CAC results. If a two lane solution is presented which solves the ownership issue, I would certainly consider it.

  2. John Shaner /

    Kent,

    I believe some of your facts are a bit off or slanted to back your side.

    CAC Report favored dam removal and stream restoration. The question in the CAC report was Remove Dam/Bicycle Pedistrian only compared to Remove Dam/Auto Bicycle Pedistrian. You are correct in your statement but when you tally up Approve and Stronly Approve for both options remove dam/bicycle, pedistrian only was only selected by 19 more ppl than those that selected Remove Dam/auto, bicycle, pedistrian. This is a margin of 4%.

    You did forget to include business owners though in your findings. When using the same logic above business supported Dam removal/auto, bicycle, pedistrian by 10%.

    The CAC report was flawed in all of its methodology. It did not deliver a report that showed what the residents of media preferred, if so, it was such a small margin that you can not draw a reasonable conclusion from it. To state in previous correspondance that you would support what the majority of media residents want is not exactly true as there is no way to say what the majority of media wants.

    • Mr. Shaner-

      I’ll disagree that the CAC report was flawed in “all of its methodology.” One member of the CAC, a local minister in Media, is a PhD in Political Science and was instrumental in designing the survey.

      If anything it showed that there were leanings in a particular direction, and that direction was for dam removal and stream restoration, with emergency vehicle access. I based my decisions on those conclusions.

      As a council we have received a two sets of petitions from two groups. One had 800 signatures (500+ from residents) for a revised design to the dam for a “greenway”, the other had 18 signatures in favor of a two-way road; later updated to 40 signatures in news articles. In addition to these two petitions, we performed our own survey which leaned towards the more environmental solution.

      If you will read my above comment, I’m not against putting a road there. However, I have some issues with building a $3.5M high-hazard dam which has no public benefit whatsoever except to hold up a road. Add to that that the lake is expected to be filled up with silt in the next 10 years, and I’m less inclined to build a dam to hold up what will ultimately become a mud pit.

      And if we had an owner determined for that dam, I would be more inclined to move forward if Media Borough is not the owner.

  3. Bridget O. /

    I appreciate your efforts to put the record straight. I am upset that Monika Rehoric would say that my signature is ridiculous. I know that I don’t have the only opinion in town, but she is saying my opinion doesn’t matter, just because I don’t agree with her? Wow.
    What I really don’t understand is why the Republicans are so eager to help Broomall’s Swim Club at the expense of Glen Providence Park. One is a private club, the other is a public park. Makes no sense. Or does it?

  4. Its so funny to see how people not from Media talk about Media.We use to be everybodies home town but half of you in Media know nothing about Media.If you can remember the names of the people who live within 5 blocks of you and have ben in their house or them in yours. You are from Media.Can u name any of the places. Terminal mkt,Sun Ray Drugs,Country Kettle, if u dont know what im talking about,You arent truely from Media.

  5. Dave Daniel /

    I was somewhat perplexed by your response the 1st commentator. If it was irresponsible to vote for the Stipulation without resolution of ownership issues, how did it suddenly become responsible or “not irresponsible” to vote to approve the one-lane design without resolution of ownership (a solution that was never debated or proposed by the CAC by the way). If it is wrong to build a dam without resolving ownership then it should be wrong to build anything over it whether two lane, one-lane or bike path. Although the Stipulation was not perfect, it did have benefits and responsibilities for all parties. For example, by rebuilding the dam, it provides a reason for BLCC to accept responsibility for 1/3 of the future maintenance. BLCC and the County filed for contempt when Borough Council at the last minute voted for the one lane design. Before voiding the Stipulation, Judge Proud tried to get the parties to come to an alternative agreement. To me, waiting on a Judge to decide on the merits of the ownership lawsuit is not a solution.

    • @Dave: Thanks for posting.

      Unfortunately, the Stipulation was entered into the court docket as a “court order” – meaning we had no way of modifying or changing that agreement once it was in place without the agreement of all three parties. The Stipulation compelled Media Borough to build the dam. So, in short, our hands were tied with what options we had available, and council was not of the mind to open up negotiations with the other two parties despite my desire to do so last May.

      That is why the choice of a one-way road in September was a compromise given the framework of the existing agreement with BLCC and the County. At that point there was very little we could do to determine ownership. At the time, we felt it would best serve the different stakeholders.

      I’m not sure where folks are getting “one third maintenance,” but the Stipulation made BLCC 50% responsible for all repairs and maintenance with the County. It has never been one third.

      And, I will firmly disagree with you: Determining ownership is the best way to move this project forward, and that is what the courts will ultimately decide. It’s perfectly obvious that the three parties can not agree. To build a $3.2M dam with no owner makes no sense at all. If we do this, we are kicking the can down the road and leaving Media Borough open to future litigation.