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Jerry Andree, Township Manager

Jerry Andree, Township Manager

No level of government has more impact on daily life than local government. That’s why my colleagues and I at Cranberry Township are passionate about pushing the limits of excellence to provide the best possible services to our residents and customers. However, being well-served is not a passive achievement; it is a collective undertaking. Through this blog, we offer our personal reflections on that assignment. And we hope it will help engage you in joining us on that same collaborative mission.

Nov 17

Avoiding slip-ups in our pedestrian circulation plans

Posted on November 17, 2014 at 12:00 AM by Jerry Andree

Notes on wintertime care and feeding of local sidewalks

It’s not even Thanksgiving, but this morning we woke up to the first measurable snowfall of the season and the first early morning dispatch of Public Works crews to treat icy road conditions.  So we’re already getting serious about taking care of our roads, driveways and sidewalks in what looks to become a long, cold winter.

I think it’s fair to say that by now, we have pretty well mastered the care of Township roads during the winter season.  It’s also fair to say that our residents have mastered the care for the driveways and sidewalks to their homes and businesses.  But just to make sure, over the last two months, Township staff members have been reaching out to local businesses and the owners of non-residential properties with sidewalks along public roads to talk about their responsibility for maintaining those sidewalks.  Let me explain why:

There was a time in Cranberry where it wouldn’t have made much difference if people never even bothered to shovel their sidewalks.  After all, there weren’t that many of them, and they didn’t always connect to one another.  So they didn’t get that much use. 

But about 20 years ago, we noticed an important change in public sentiment toward sidewalks taking place here, and we need to take ownership of that change.  Here’s how it came about:

Back in 1977, the Township issued its first comprehensive plan.  In it, pedestrians were regarded as something of a menace.  They were considered to be a hazard – an impediment to the smooth-flowing traffic system that planners were striving for.  “Pedestrian and bicycle movements along these roads should be severely limited,” the plan’s authors warned.  Walking and biking, after all, are what public parks were created for.  Roads are for cars and trucks.

Fast-forward to 1995.  That was when the Township s’ next comprehensive plan was published.  As part of its development, citizen input was used to prioritize Cranberry’s initiatives for the following decade.  Out of ten proposals presented in the survey, improved pedestrian access to retail centers and community facilities came in a close second, right behind promoting jobs in light industry. 

Our most recent comprehensive plan came out in 2009.  By then, the chorus of support for pedestrian circulation had grown even louder.  In response, the plan called for expanding Cranberry’s network of interconnected sidewalks and trails to access key destinations and corridors throughout the Township.

That was five years ago, and Cranberry Township’s Board of Supervisors was paying attention.  Through a combination of private land development requirements, construction grants, and Township-initiated projects, Cranberry’s network of sidewalks grew from just under 2 miles in 1977, to 45 miles in 1995, and about 160 miles today.  Beyond that, they are much better connected, and offer a far more practical way of navigating the Township, than ever before.

However, even though they’ve become an important part of our transportation system, they’re not like public streets, which are maintained by PennDOT or the Township’s Public Works department.  Instead, they are the responsibility of whoever owns or occupies the property that a particular sidewalk traverses.  What it means is if a sidewalk in front of your land, home or business needs to be cleared of ice or snow, it’s your responsibility to take care of it, and to do so in a timely fashion.

That’s more than just an offhand suggestion; it’s part of our municipal code and it has teeth.  “Any person, firm or corporation who shall violate any provision of this part, upon conviction thereof in an action brought before a district judge in the manner provided for the enforcement of summary offenses under the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, shall be sentenced to pay a fine of not more than $1,000 plus costs and, in default of payment of said fine and costs, to a term of imprisonment not to exceed 90 days,” the Code reads.  “Each day that a violation of this part continues or each section of this part which shall be found to have been violated shall constitute a separate offense.”  Wow!

Let me make clear that we really don’t visualize sending anyone to jail.  But the important thing to understand is that it doesn’t matter who built the sidewalk or when it was built.  If it is on your property, it is up to you to clear it, just like you do your driveways and sidewalks leading up to your business or residence. And when you do, the pedestrian connections that Cranberry residents have been demanding for years, will finally be available all year long.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about sidewalk winter maintenance.  Send me an email at: jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org.  

Sep 11

Reflections on September 11

Posted on September 11, 2014 at 12:00 AM by Jerry Andree

Early this morning, September 11, on the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the aborted assault which ended in Shanksville, more than 15 Cranberry Township Volunteer Firefighters gathered in a light rain to pay their respects.  The most visible part of their commemoration was a very large American flag hoisted from the Company’s 100-foot aerial ladder truck over US Route 19, in front of their Park Fire Station.

Recollections of that horrific morning are burned deep into the memory of everyone who was old enough to understand the gravity of what had just happened.  But as I observed this morning’s respectful and solemn process, I was struck by the range of ages of those participating.  Junior firefighters who were only three or four years old that day, were there, learning about an event that changed our world.  And then there were those – myself included – who had lived through those days experiencing, anger, sadness, disgust and the full range of human emotions. 

By hoisting their flag, the Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Company was proclaiming that our community will never forget the thousands of lives that were lost to terrorism on that day 13 years ago.  But for firefighters, perhaps more than for any other part of our community, the loss was particularly poignant.  Firefighters everywhere see themselves as a brotherhood – a family whose joys and sorrows are shared, no matter where they live.  The 343 firefighters whose lives were lost in New York while attempting to rescue others, was a devastating blow to firefighters everywhere.

Several years ago, the Fire Company created a permanent memorial to the 9/11 victims at the Park Fire Station.  It includes a torturously twisted steel girder recovered from one of the Trade Center Towers, along with a scaled version of the World Trade Center Grounds.  It is a place of reflection and sadness, but also one that shows the resilient American spirit. 

That 9/11 Memorial is open to the public, 24/7.  It can be accessed from the parking lot at the rear of the Park Fire Station by following the sidewalk to the front of the building.  Even after dark, it is appropriately lighted for nighttime viewing. 

Each of us should take a moment to thank our first responders and all of our uniformed service men and women for their efforts to keep us safe in times of crisis and for the sacrifices they make in providing that essential public service, every day.
Jun 23

Maintaining altitude

Posted on June 23, 2014 at 9:56 AM by Jerry Andree

Several patterns of local government are common in Pennsylvania.  One is that the community’s elected officials are often the same people who are on the payroll of their municipal public works or police or administrative departments. 

There’s nothing dishonest about that.  But there’s a drawback: the perspectives of those officials tend to be fairly narrow and mired in detail.  It’s hard to maintain a broad outlook on a community and its future when your day-to-day life is spent down in the weeds, dealing with its most tedious technical issues.  Creating vision and community direction are a whole lot easier if there’s a bit of daylight between setting policy and digging trenches.

The other typical pattern is for decisions to be made on political rather than professional bases.  So, for example, street repairs are prioritized by the political influence of the people who live there.  Playground sites are chosen to earn the votes of specific constituents.  And bus routes, where they exist at all, are established to serve the elderly relative of a powerful local resident. 

Cranberry, I’m pleased to say, is not a typical community in either respect.  Nobody on our Board of Supervisors is on the Township’s payroll.  And maintenance decisions here are made by professional staff members consistent with policies established by that Board.  In other words, Cranberry’s Board of Supervisors is able to look at the Township from a higher altitude and see the Big Picture.

As a result, our Board is often viewed as an anomaly in local government.  They are not caught up in political squabbles over which streets to repave, or reviewing political registrations to determine who the Township hires, or kicking difficult financial decisions off to the next Board of Supervisors or the next generation of residents. 

Instead, you will find them engaged in establishing standards about how the Township is to maintain its 120 miles of public roads, or how we are to maintain nearly a thousand miles of sanitary sewer, water and storm drain lines.  Their direction is that we hire the best and brightest onto our staff, that we incorporate quality of life standards, that we apply sound financial principles to all aspects of our operation and, above all, that we provide the highest level of public service to our current residents and businesses.

What it means is that there’s no confusion in our organization on what’s important and where we’re headed.  The Board made that abundantly clear through our 1995 comprehensive plan, and reiterated again it in detail through our 2009 Cranberry plan: it is to provide unequaled service to our residents and businesses. 

Cranberry’s staff is accountable for ensuring that the Board’s goals are met, not only for current residents and businesses, but for future generations as well.  It’s really that simple.