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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 18

Budget X: Cranberry’s 2017 fiscal plan

Posted on November 18, 2016 at 11:17 AM by Jerry Andree

If Cranberry Township were a person, we’d be a Generation X-er – someone in their late 30s or early 40s who is paying the mortgage, making car payments, saving for the kids’ college, and working hard to get established in their career.  We’d be following a financial plan that would allow us to look ahead another 30 years or so to a time when we’d hope to have the house paid off, the kids on their own, and a comfortable, mature community in which to enjoy our retirement. 

Cranberry was originally chartered more than 200 years ago, but the Cranberry Township we know today really didn’t get started until the 1970s and ‘80s.  Back then, most of its roads were meandering country lanes.  Its municipal water and sewer systems were small and limited.  And its recreational resources were very modest.  But growth – prompted by the juncture of two Interstate highways in the Township – was clearly on the horizon.  Township officials realized they couldn’t stop that growth, so they faced an important decision: they could either step back and let it happen, or get ahead of it and manage that growth to ensure the community’s long term health.  Fortunately, they chose a proactive approach.  To more effectively manage their growing community, they began a comprehensive planning process to guide their policy making and capital investments.  The first plan was completed in 1977, the second in 1995, and the most recent in 2009, which we call the Cranberry Plan.   

Just last month, the Board of Supervisors approved an update of that 2009 plan.  It covers a wide range of issues related to Cranberry’s future growth.  And it identifies a variety of infrastructure projects which will be needed to comfortably accommodate the mature community we expect to become in another 30 years or so.  Our Board is using that updated plan to inform its budget and spending priorities.  In effect, like a Gen X family unit, Cranberry is financing the house and related home improvements so that our extended family can enjoy it for generations to come. 

The updated plan confirms most of what we had outlined in 2009, although it includes a greater emphasis on education and public safety – particularly with maintaining a volunteer fire company.  We are continuing our aggressive capital infrastructure improvement program with a special focus on our roads and on upgrading our wastewater treatment plant.  We are investing in our parks with the new second phase of Graham Park.  And we’re adding two full-time officers to our current 28-member police force.  

But we are living within our means.  The Board’s proposed 2017 budget contains no tax increase.  Cranberry’s organic revenue growth – about three percent a year – results from our residents’ higher earned incomes and increased business sales, so we keep our expenses constrained by those revenues.  We never deficit spend; if there’s a year-end surplus, those funds go into our capital budget – not into salaries or normal operating expenses. 
When we borrow, as we must for major capital projects like the wastewater treatment plant, we are able to do so at very low rates thanks to our Aa1 rating from Moody’s – one of very few communities in Pennsylvania to attain that rating.  It indicates we are a high quality, very low credit risk borrower.  Beyond that, we work very hard to minimize any legacy costs like long-term debt and we limit our defined pensions to those required by state law, involving no post-retirement healthcare costs.  

Cranberry is a healthy community now; we want to be even healthier 30 years from now when Generation X reaches its golden years.  That’s the goal guiding our 2017 budget.  
I welcome your thoughts on Cranberry’s budget and financing.  You can reach me by emailing:  Jerry.Andree@cranberrytownship.org. 

Nov 11

A Town That's Good Enough to Eat

Posted on November 11, 2016 at 8:36 AM by Jerry Andree

It happens every year.  The editor of an obscure hometown newspaper somewhere comes up with a bright idea: Why not do a Thanksgiving story poking a little fun at American communities with names that sound like traditional Thanksgiving foods?  Then assign the paper’s most junior reporter to cover it.  I frequently end up taking their calls.

Here in western Pennsylvania, those young reporters can find something of a bonanza.  In addition to our own Cranberry Township in Butler County, there’s another municipality, by the same name, in neighboring Venango County.  So at least one of them is bound to figure prominently into their stories.  And it’s for a legitimate reason.  The namesake of both Cranberry Townships is, in fact, the fruit of the very same cranberry which gets served up as a relish on Thanksgiving day. 

That’s not the normal way communities get named in these parts.  Here in southern Butler County, most communities take their names from families with large local land holdings – Adams, Marshall, Jackson, Clinton, Jefferson, Evans, and so on.  But back in 1804, when the municipal lines here were being drawn, no single property owner dominated the rural landscape we now know as Cranberry Township.  However, the wild cranberries which grew along Brush Creek, attracting deer as well as deer hunters from nearby Indian settlements, were prominent features at the time, and ultimately the source of its name.  

Celebrations of thanksgiving that follow each harvest season have taken place since ancient times.  While the holiday as we know it today is rooted in English tradition from the 16th century, the date on which Americans mark their Thanksgiving wasn’t actually fixed until 1941.  At the same time, just as its calendar date tended to wander, so too did the holiday’s preferred menu items – changes in taste which continue evolving, even to the present day.  
Still, there are favorites, as well as communities whose names evoke those preferred dishes. For example, there’s Turkey, Texas, in the Lone Star State’s panhandle, presumably named for the wild turkeys that roost there.  Arizona’s Yuma County includes the community of Roll Pie Town, New Mexico, along U.S. 60, is the home of the famous Pie Town Café, which has been featured on the Food Network.  Then there’s Spuds, Florida; Corn, Oklahoma, Sandwich, Massachusetts, Two Egg, Florida, Toast, North Carolina, and even a Yum Yum, Tennessee.  

But America’s tastes keep advancing.  So someday Chicken, Alaska; Pig, Kentucky; Rabbit Hash, Kentucky and even Elephant Butte, New Mexico may find themselves prominently featured in those newspaper stories as well.  

Until then, happy Thanksgiving! I’d love hearing your tasteful comments as well.  

You can reach me via email, at Jerry.Andree@cranberrytownship.org
Oct 05

If you can’t get here, you can’t work here

Posted on October 5, 2016 at 9:11 AM by Jerry Andree

Where did all the workers go?
  
The Community Bulletin Board in our Municipal Center is crowded with postings from organizations both within and around the Township.  Many carry the same message: We’re Hiring.
  
Up and down Rt. 19 there’s a similar story, with signs and banners pleading for help.  Many of those openings are associated with food service, human service, hotel and retail organizations.  But local manufacturing, automotive and computer services are also hunting for talent, although the greatest need appears to be in the hospitality sector, where wages vary but are typically somewhat less.  However, wages are not the only issue. 

What we do hear from employers in Cranberry, as much as anything else, has to do with the lack of public transit to get their employees to Cranberry and back from wherever they happen to live.  It particularly affects entry-level jobs and younger workers.  Unless aspiring employees have cars of their own, they’re pretty much out of luck commuting to, from, or within Cranberry.  It is an issue that the Township has been aware of and attempting to address for a number of years with agencies in Butler and Allegheny counties, as well as with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, SPC – the region’s 10-county transportation planning body.
  
Right now, in fact, we’re involved in a technical review group for an SPC study of transit in Butler County.  At some point, that study is expected to develop into a transit plan for the area.  But bringing any transit plan to life is going to require some heavy lifting.
  
In the meantime, motivated, articulate and talented young people are enjoying a number of employment options in the region.  And those options are only expected to grow as Baby Boomers retire in greater numbers.  But the issue of transportation keeps coming back.
  
Commuting to and from Cranberry is already quite extensive.  The composition of Cranberry’s daytime and nighttime populations are very different as a result.  Of the approximately 24,000 jobs in Cranberry, only about ten percent are actually filled by Township residents.  And of the nearly 12,000 Township residents in the workforce, more than 9,000 commute to work somewhere else.  So while there’s a lot of private travel in both directions, there is essentially no public transportation either to or from Cranberry. 

Workforce imbalances like we’ve experienced here have not escaped the attention of the influential Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and those imbalances may grow worse.  This past May, the Conference issued a study that projected a significant labor shortfall throughout the Tri-state area by 2025, largely driven by retirements, job changes and economic growth.
    
Creating new American jobs has been a mantra for both political parties in this fall’s election, and it’s important.  But the companion issue of getting people to those new jobs from wherever they happen to live is something that also needs to be addressed.
 
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the transportation issue as well.  Write to me- Jerry.Andree@cranberrytownship.org.