Jenkintown Borough

They know how to email, at least

This past two weeks have brought up some interesting developments.

First, after ten days, I finally received a reply from George Locke, Jenkintown Borough Manager to the questions I emailed him. Mainly, I asked Mr. Locke about what I can expect to happen if I cannot afford to effect the repairs and what, if anything, are my options. His reply in part:

The provisions for remedy in Chapter 156-25 (the Borough may either by its own employees or by an independent contractor do the work required and collect the costs thereof and 10% additional, together with all charges and expenses, from such owner in any manner prescribed by law.) may be pursued when the property owner does not comply within 60 days after Service of notice that has been served personally upon the owner of the premises to which the notice refers in accordance with 156-23 Service of Notice. As the concrete work is ongoing and the paving work has not commenced on the 2015 Road Paving Project, it is currently estimated that the comprehensive list of noncompliant properties will be known by mid-October.

During the council meeting Councilor Rick Bunker indicated that I should contact the borough for possible financing options. I referred to this in another question to Mr. Locke. His reply:

The Borough utilizes both TD Bank and Republic Bank for Borough banking services, I can inquire with those lending institutions concerning funding and forward you any contact information I obtain if you would like me to.

Today, I received an email from Councilor Bunker asking me if I had “resolved” my issue. I replied, “If by ‘resolved’ you mean ‘found the money’, then no.”

His response:

Have you talked to George about this? I expect that you might find him amenable to doing the work and placing a lien so the borough is repaid when the property is sold.

My reply:

When a public servant takes more than ten days to respond via email to some simple questions in the face of what are, for us, dire financial circumstances, I hardly think the term “amenable” applies. Why do I get the sense that Mr. Locke would like nothing more than to see a “for sale” sign on our front lawn?

In fact, Mr. Locke said nothing about the lien process. Not once did he ask, “Would you like us to perform the work for you?” This is not a borough or manager that seems eager to work with residents, and is possibly unclear on the concept.

In other news, one of my three councilors Ms. Laurie Durkin posted on our Facebook page the email address that she actually responds to, which is [email protected]. Why the borough doesn’t redirect email from her official address is anyone’s guess. However, I did write to her yesterday, re-sending the third unanswered email I sent her on August 6 to the borough email address. I wrote asking about the “international code” she brought up at last month’s meeting.

Ms. Durkin repeated this borough line about the need to raise taxes to pay for sidewalk repairs:

The only alternative, as I see it, to the current program, is to pay for curb/sidewalk maintenance and repairs via an increase in boro taxes. Residents must pay one way or another. Do you have another suggestion or source of funding?

Keeping homes, sidewalks and curbs in good repair are important to the safety of our walkable community, stormwater runoff management and property values.

My response:

You will get no argument from me about the importance of safe sidewalks. I have advocated for walkable communities for the past thirty years.

However, as I have stated repeatedly in my emails, blog, and Facebook posts, we currently give pedestrian infrastrure no real priority in borough budgeting OR planning because the borough feels that foisting an arbitrary, punitive, and inefficient policy upon property owners suits its needs. This maintenance can best be described as ad hoc.

Whether or not this requires an increase in taxes is frankly up to you. One could make the argument that from a budgetary perspective, [that] the borough has failed to gets its ducks in a row. Did you know, for instance, that we have more police vehicles per capita than New York City? And that the new budgetary line item of $244,000 in debt service would probably rebuild most of my block.

If the sidewalks were maintained in systematic way with a long-range plan — in much the same manner that the borough does for the roads — then I strongly believe the impact on the budget would be minimal. Not spending unnecessary funds on property seizures and then the debt service afterwards (and lord knows what else) would help.

And I too have begun to hear from my neighbors out there, and MY sense is that there is a great deal of discontent. The plan is to present those sentiments before you and the board at either this or next month’s meeting. All I can say is that you might want to brace yourself.

And finally, you have failed to answer my initial question: What is this “international standard” you referred to at the last council meeting?

The International Standard pertaining to sidewalks? Get ready…

302.3 Sidewalks and driveways.
All sidewalks, walkways, stairs, driveways, parking spaces and similar areas shall be kept in a proper state of repair, and maintained free from hazardous conditions.

Informative, isn’t it?

I see nothing there to guide the borough in how to fund this maintenance. Frankly, I have no idea why Ms. Durkin would even invoke what is essentially municipal code boilerplate.