Jenkintown Council President Deborra Sines-Pancoe
Jenkintown Council President Deborra Sines-Pancoe

Cedar Street Redux?

Council President Deborra Sines-Pancoe motion to exercise an option to purchase of the Church of Our Savior almost slipped right under our noses last June 20 at the special Council meeting. If Borough Solicitor Patrick Hitchens hadn’t corrected the wording of her motion, we might never have known of the Borough’s designs on the property as a possible location for a new Borough Hall.

In the motion passed by a vote of 10-0, but it begs the question, will residents this time get a say in the matter before our government closes this or any deal? This vote came during a “special session” that the Borough suddenly announced with little notice and no e-blast.

We’ve since been made to understand the option does not obligate the Borough, but it does protect it in the event the owner entertains offers from another buyer.

What we find most disturbing is now the notion of transparency still seems to be anathema to our council president. It took three minutes for a council official to explain to us what actually happened, and yet Ms. Pancoe, with the motion in writing in her hand nearly omitted the location for this option. After repeatedly expressing her commitment to transparency, one would think this would be her first impulse as a representative. Apparently not.

While there may be merits to the location, the ends should not justify the means. Ms. Pancoe has a responsibility to us, especially after her repeated and passionate assurances of transparency. We’re still waiting for evidence of this commitment. We didn’t see it on June 20.

The video of the vote can be seen here:

George Locke Sidewalk Presentation

George Locke’s Sidewalk Shuffle

Jenkintown Borough Manager George Locke updated Council this week on the borough’s ongoing paving program and its accompanying sidewalk inspection and rehabilitation efforts. The eleven-page Powerpoint presentation gave council members a somewhat stilted view of what Mr. Locke has so far accomplished, perhaps hoping that council members don’t walk around town much.

The presentation contradicted a few of our experiences and observations.

Ownership: Mr. Locke correctly pointed to the state law that defines the duties of property owners to maintain their sidewalks and curbs, but responsibility does not equal ownership. We have previously shown that our sidewalk and curb are as much a part of the public domain as the roadway that abuts it.

Lien Process: Once again, Mr. Locke outlined the borough policy of using the lien process to pay for sidewalk work should the owner fail to comply. At our hearing before Judge Elizabeth McHugh, he told her that council had decided not to do that. Which is it? In Mr. Locke’s presentation, he emphasized the word “may”, which makes this statement meaningless and arbitrary. Who gets the lien and who doesn’t? Where is the accounting for hardship?

Penalties: Mr. Locke’s presentation stated that non-compliant owners could be fined $100 to $600. At our hearing, Judge McHugh, told us we could be fined $185 per day. Which is it?

Walkability: We can’t say for sure what Mr. Locke’s definition of “walkability” is, and the word seemed to fumble off his lips when he said it, but to us it means a consistent, well-engineered, and unified pedestrian environment. We don’t have that.

Safety: Mr. Locke pointed to the increased safety brought about by this program thus far. Does this look safe to you?

Sidewalk and curb along Cedar Street.
Sidewalk and curb along Cedar Street.

Curb reveal: Mr. Locke pointed to his efforts to insure that the new pavement would abut curbs that are at least two inches high. His report states: “Engineering best practices state that new paving is best applied against solid curbs, road integrity would be ensured and that cracked sidewalk and curbs create a tripping hazard & liability.”

Florence Street curb reveal
Curb reveal of exactly zero inches along Florence. This condition is also found on Runnymede at the bend.

Here are just a few other examples where he failed on that account.

This report came on the heels of a previous council discussion about establishing a program to loan money to property owners unable to pay for sidewalk repairs. While we laud any effort to make this onerous policy more affordable, bear in mind that not only will homeowners then pay double to triple what the borough would pay as part of a wholesale program, now they will pay interest on that exorbitant burden as well.

When asked for an example of any community in Pennsylvania that currently offers such loans, I pointed to Lock Haven, but I also point to Ithaca, New York which instead applies an annual fee of $75 to all homeowners to pay for a more unified, wholesale approach.

Once again, we have to ask: Is this policy fair? We already know that’s it’s needlessly expensive. We’re told that one resident with a corner lot just forked over $24,000 to fix their curbs and sidewalks that belong to the community. How does that make sense?

Forcing homeowners to bear the full cost of a public resource is onerous, unnecessarily expensive, unfair, and produces poor outcomes. Why can’t we do better?

Jenkintown Zoning Hearing Board: The Downses Strike Back

Jenkintown Borough finally runs out of stupid questions about lawn equipment, bringing its war of attrition to an end. Last night at Borough Hall, the ZHB unanimously voted to toss out the Borough’s citation based on lack of evidence showing any kind of business, impactful or otherwise.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the room erupted with a standing ovation with most people relieved, but none more than the Downses. Unfortunately, what this decision does not do is make their troublesome next-door neighbor go away.

When will the heads start to roll? Which resignations are forthcoming? We’d welcome resignation letters from George Locke, Council President Deborra Sines-Pancoe, and/or Council VP and social media bully Rick Bunker as well as the ringleader, Sean Kilkenny. These four are the current cancer in this town that will not heal until they are removed from any political involvement in it.

We conservatively estimate that this circus will eventually cost Jenkintown taxpayers close to $20,000 with the Downses legal fees not far behind.

Jenkintown PA George Locke Jenkintown loses its war of attrition against the Downses
Despite appearances, no, George Locke was not napping during the two-plus hour proceedings.

At last month’s Borough Council Meeting, we went on record estimating that the Borough has so far spent about $12,000 prosecuting the Downses. Turns out, we under-estimated.

Borough Expenses related to the citation between November 2017 up to the March, 2018 court appearance: $5500

Since then:

Kilkenny Invoices for April and May this year: $2604
Court Reporter: $2818.00
ZHB Attorney: $1428.00
Times-Courier Ad: $246.30
FedEx delivery: $8.66

The Kilkenny Invoices are heavily redacted.

April invoice

May invoice 

We have filed a Right-to-Know request for Kilkenny’s June invoice and will again file for the July invoice at the beginning of August. We don’t expect to have a final tally until sometime in September.

Jenkintown Council Lauds George Locke

At the Jenkintown Borough Council Meeting for June 2018, council President Deborra Sines-Pancoe lauded Borough Manager George Locke for his service to the Borough. In light of that, we present a selection of ongoing code violations and generally sloppy work that Mr. Locke has either failed to address or is directly responsible for creating.

George Locke’s current salary stands at $118,450 per year. And climbing.

Jenkintown Borough Council Meeting Live stream for June, 2018

Borough Council had its regular meeting on June 27th. Highlights include:

  • Presentations to two of Jenkintown High School’s runners for their exceptional performance
  • Public comment revealing that the Borough has spent at least $12,000 prosecuting the Downs’s citation.
  • Public comment about a possible edit to the Borough’s own archived video
  • A big round of “attaboys” for George Locke’s completion of his manager education
  • And a public hearing that included discussion about establishing code for a future medical marijuana dispensary.

Just a reminder that we do not edit these videos in any way except to remove breaks in the proceedings and to enhance the audio when possible.

You will find the agenda for this meeting here.