The Board of Commissioners regularly works with Township staff and its many advisory boards and commissions to plan for the Township’s future and to build a better community. In recent years, the Board has especially focused on the areas of Economic Development, Land Planning, Open Space, Environmental Stewardship, Transportation, Public Safety, Community Services and Financial Sustainability. The primary initiatives in each of these strategic areas that are funded or planned for in the Proposed 2010 Budget are presented below.
The 2008-2009 recession has challenged local businesses as it has businesses across the country. As the economy rebounds in the months and years ahead, the Township will be well-situated with planned improvements to several of its business districts. For over a dozen years, the Township has focused on implementing economic development initiatives designed to encourage expansion of existing businesses and to attract new businesses. As a first ring suburb in a major metropolitan area, Lower Merion is seeking to revitalize a number of business districts. Historic development along the “Main Line,” now the SEPTA R-5 commuter rail line, offers multiple opportunities for transit-oriented redevelopment. The Township is also working closely with the City Avenue Special Services District for improvements and potential rezoning along the City Avenue corridor. Several multi-year initiatives have advanced and this proposed budget provides funding or plans for the following initiatives in 2010:
- Continued planning and approval processes for implementation of the Ardmore Transit Center and Business District Revitalization projects, in particular, the proposed Ardmore Station Project with Dranoff Properties, Amtrak and SEPTA.
- Completion of the Anderson Avenue Underpass improvements in Ardmore.
- Implementation of the Bryn Mawr Master Plan including renovation of and an addition to the Ludington Library, the Township’s largest library.
- Consideration by the Board of Commissioners of a Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) in Bryn Mawr.
- Continuation of various business district enhancement programs including streetscape furnishings.
- Partnering with the City Avenue Special Services District (CASSD) to implement economic revitalization and strategic planning projects.
- Partnering with the Bala and Merion Business Districts to attract new retail tenants consistent with the retail analysis recommendations in their respective Retail and Merchandise Mix Plans.
- Partnering with the Ardmore Initiative to implement the Retail and Merchandising Mix Plan recommendations and business recruitment and expansion strategy proposed in the Ardmore Retail Analysis.
- Working with the Bryn Mawr Business District to evaluate the benefits of and support for a Business District Authority.
In 2007, the Board of Commissioners authorized Township staff to begin a multi-year process to update the Township’s Comprehensive Preservation, Infill and Redevelopment Plan (Comprehensive Plan). This effort began with numerous stakeholder meetings with civic associations, institutions and the Planning Commission to identify key issues. In 2008, progress was made toward completing the issues report that will serve as the program for a series of public workshops. As an introduction, a Township land planning map was created and mailed to every household in the Township in 2008. Next year, the Township will continue to address issues identified in its 2006 Township-wide Stormwater Program. The 2010 Budget provides funding and plans for the following initiatives:
- Continuation of work on the Comprehensive Plan including completion of an Issues Report, an Inventory of Community Goals as well as a Community Profile and Demographic Analysis background report and beginning preparation of Land Use, Transportation and Historic Preservation Elements.
- Partnering with the City Avenue Special Service District (CASSD) and the City of Philadelphia to complete a multi-jurisdictional zoning overlay study for the CASSD. This work will continue in 2010 with discussion of the proposed zoning overlay ordinance by the Board and with a decision to conduct a traffic study or, alternatively, to consider a Transportation Services Area for the corridor.
- Continuation of work with Rock Hill Road property owners to promote appropriate development of the Rock Hill Road corridor.
- Update the Geographic Information System (GIS) with additional natural feature and infrastructure layers.
The 2003 Montgomery County Open Space Referendum was overwhelmingly supported by the Lower Merion electorate. The County grant provided the Township with $3.7 million in open space funding (including the Township’s 20% match). The Township’s Open Space Plan, which was completed in 2005, identified an inventory of ideas and projects for consideration. The Township has now completed all applications for its full grant allocaton. Due to the backlog of applications, the Montgomery County Open Space Board is reviewing the final ones in 2009-2010. Design of the new Linwood Park was completed in 2008 and construction begun in November 2009. In 2009, local volunteers, the Cynwyd Heritage Trail Association, the Student Conservation Association and county prison workers, all contributed thousands of hours of volunteer effort in cleaning and clearing the new Cynwyd Trail in preparation for its development and beautification. An architectural design team was selected to design the trail. The 2010 Proposed Budget provides funding and plans for the following initiatives:
- Acquisition of all approved open space properties and/or easements with the Township’s remaining allocation from the Montgomery County Open Space grant program.
- Construction of phase one of the new Linwood Park based on the master plan completed with community input in 2008.
- Design and development of the new Cynwyd Trail along the abandoned R-6 rail line.
The Board of Commissioners and the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) worked throughout 2009 on several environmental topics including an educational forum on preservation areas, the second annual “Go For The Green Awards,” and advocacy for “green” building legislation through the development of a proposed Green Building Resolution to be considered by the Board. The EAC’s Environmental Action Plan calls for initiatives to promote the conservation of energy and natural resources in response to emerging awareness among local governments and their residents that communities are consuming resources at a rate that cannot be sustained indefinitely. In 2010, Township staff and the EAC will continue to build on its 2009 work with the Board of Commissioners to implement many environmental initiatives as follows:
- Undertake an energy audit (with Energy Star and Greenhouse Gas Inventory) on Township owned buildings and prepare an energy plan and a greenhouse gas data management plan for the Township.
- Update the Township’s Environmental Action Plan.
- Influence conservation of energy and natural resources through environmentally conscious stewardship of Township-owned buildings, parks and grounds, preservation areas and capital improvements.
- Enhancement of environmentally sound procurement of products and services.
- Judicious exercise of regulatory authority in land use, building and other permits and approvals to promote environmental sustainability.
- Determination of environmentally conscious practices for the Township’s print shop functions.
- Enhancement of environmentally conscious practices in the Parks Division.
- Continued implementation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) MS4 Permit annual reporting requirements for municipal storm sewer systems.
- Development of a comprehensive Street Tree Maintenance Plan by Township staff and the Shade Tree Commission.
- Enhancement of the annual shade tree planting program to ensure that more street trees are planted annually than are removed.
- Completion of the replacement of all mercury vapor street lights with more efficient metal halide bulbs and the conversion of all red and green traffic signal lamps to more efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lights.
- Implementation of approved recommendations from the Clean Fuels Fleet Study.
- Identification of potential “car-share” sites especially in conjunction with redevelopment approvals.
- Development and implementation of an ongoing storm water inlet cleaning program.
- Ongoing residential Composting Education Programs to divert more from the waste stream.
- Employment of best management practices in the Fleet Division to avoid hazardous waste generation.
Master planning in both Ardmore and Bryn Mawr resulted in several recommendations for traffic improvements that are now moving toward implementation. In 2008, the realignment of the intersection of Ardmore and Lancaster Avenues moved ahead with the acquisition of needed right-of-way. In 2009, the Township demolished a former retail store acquired for the realignment. Once utility lines have been relocated by PECO, construction can begin and will be completed in the first half of 2010. The River Road Bridge reconstruction was completed in 2009. Engineering and design work for the Pennswood Road and Union Avenue Bridges is underway. The Township continues to seek funding from the state Transportation Improvement Program and federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) to realize improvements to the Transportation Services Area established along the Rock Hill Road Corridor. The state-funded Conshohocken State Road Closed-Loop Traffic Signal System is expected to be completed in 2009. The Township’s 2010 transportation initiatives are listed below:
- Implementation of improvements to the “Five Points” intersection at Bryn Mawr Avenue and County Line Road in Bryn Mawr, in partnership with Radnor Township and Bryn Mawr Hospital.
- Update of the Township-wide road rating survey by incorporating additional GIS road inventory data.
- Completion of the Ardmore and Lancaster Avenues intersection realignment in Ardmore that will result in improved traffic flow through the elimination of one phase of the three-phase traffic signal.
- Completion of the state-funded Montgomery Avenue Closed-Loop Traffic Signal System.
- Furtherance of the Union Avenue Bridge reconstruction in Bala Cynwyd.
- Furtherance of the Pennswood Road Bridge reconstruction project in Haverford.
Providing public safety to the Township’s citizens and visitors, protection of property and disaster preparedness are always a high priority of the Board of Commissioners. The Township is poised to meet such challenges with an authorized police force of 136 sworn officers in 2010 and a Fire Department overseeing the operations of seven volunteer fire companies. The 2010 Proposed Budget provides funding for the following initiatives:
- Partner with the volunteer fire companies to develop a new fire apparatus policy as the current agreement will expire on December 31, 2010.
- Input all wayfinding and traffic signage into the Township’s Geographic Information System (GIS) as the Township rolls out a multi-year plan to replace all signage in order to meet new size and reflectivity mandates.
- Partner with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct phase 1 culling of the deer herds in order to reduce vehicular crashes with deer and other negative impacts from deer.
- Work with the Montgomery County Public Safety Department to study the impacts of a potential transition of the Lower Merion Public Safety Answering Point to a remote dispatch center to, eventually, the County public safety communication center in Eagleville, as proposed by the County.
- Work with the Montgomery County Public Safety Department to improve in-building coverage under a county-wide radio system.
- Continue to integrate National Incident Management System (NIMS) procedures into the Police and Fire Departments.
- Continue to seek solutions to the cellular communications gaps in the Township through the approval of additional cellular system facilities.
Quality of life is one of the core missions of the Township Board of Commissioners. Through various community service endeavors, the Township strives to maintain high standards in facilities and services. The Proposed 2010 Budget includes funding or plans for initiatives across several Township departments.
- Partner with the Lower Merion Library System and Lower Merion Library Foundation to achieve a successful Library Capital Campaign to raise significant funds toward renovations and building additions at all six libraries.
- Groundbreaking and construction for the renovation of and addition to Ludington Library.
- Completion of an update of the 1997 Parks and Recreation Master Plan.
- Evaluation of the first year of operation of the Off-Leash Dog Area pilot program.
- Continued development of cooperative recreational program opportunities with area program providers.
- Gradual implementation of approved recommendations contained in the Bicycle and Pedestrian Network Plan.
Faced with future financial challenges and the 2008-2009 recession, the Township operated throughout 2009 with approximately twenty staffing vacancies. As described in the Personnel section of this Budget Message, those vacancies are generally planned to remain unfilled in 2010, unless service delivery needs require otherwise. A new Debt Management Policy was adopted. The Board carefully weighed the options for changes to the Solid Waste Collection operation and will move to a full cost recovery solid waste fee model in 2010. For the first time, residents taking advantage of rear yard collection will be charged for this additional service. These and many other measures are helping the Township to address the challenges of ongoing cost pressures and lower revenue resulting from the recession. The Township will continue its focus on long-term financial sustainability, while providing the service level expectations of Township residents. The Township has several financial related initiatives underway, which are listed below:
- Update semi-annually the Township’s Five Year Financial Forecast.
- Complete a new money bond issue to finance the 2010-2015 Capital Improvement Program.
- Evaluate refinancing opportunities for prior debt.
- Develop a formal Equipment Fund policy to provide policy guidance for the payment and future replacement of the Township’s fleet and major equipment.
- Develop a Township revenue manual consistent with public budgeting principles recommended by the National Advisory Council on State and Local Budgeting (NACSLB).
Continue to implement the new Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) 45 statement relating to the accounting and financial reporting by employers for post employment non-pension benefits.