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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.

Jan 25

Getting the lead out

Posted on January 25, 2016 at 4:16 PM by Jerry Andree

Each spring Cranberry, like every other supplier of drinking water, issues a report to its customers on the results of lab tests that look for all sorts of potential contaminants, including lead.  And for decades our tests haven’t detected any lead at all.  Our recent report is here.

But the current crisis in Flint, Michigan, where lead in the drinking water has reached dangerous levels, has alarmed people all over the country.  In just the past few days, I’ve received a dozen calls from our own residents asking if that could happen here.  And the answer is no.  Why?

Generally, lead in tap water doesn’t actually come from the water source, it results from corrosion of old pipes used to distribute the water and from household plumbing fixtures that contain lead, including lead solder.  Corrosives in the water result from inadequate treatment at the water plant.  

Lead used to be a common alloy in pipes and solder back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when many municipal water systems were first constructed.  But when health problems linked to lead became known, its use was discontinued, and there hasn’t been any lead in new plumbing for decades.  In fact, for the past 30 years, it’s been illegal to have lead in any component of drinking water systems.  But communities whose buildings and water systems were built before the transition have the potential for problems like the one in Flint.

Cranberry didn’t introduce municipal water service until about 60 years ago.  By that time, pipe composition had already begun to change.  Today, the water lines in Cranberry are made of either cast iron, copper or plastic, none of which contain lead.  Beyond that, the West View Water Authority, from whom we buy all of our drinking water, continually tests for conditions that could cause corrosion, including pH levels.

Beyond that, we have been testing for lead and other potential contaminants in some of our older homes in Cranberry for decades, and we’ve never found a detectable level.  So rest assured that lead is not now, and is unlikely to ever become, a problem in Cranberry’s drinking water. 

That said, however, we will remain vigilant for lead as well as for other impurities and we will do everything we can to ensure our residents of a high quality water supply for generations to come.

I would love to hear your thoughts about our water system.  You can write to me at:Jerry Andree.

Dec 21

Cranberry and the Great Out of Doors

Posted on December 21, 2015 at 6:36 PM by Jerry Andree

I love the great out of doors.  And sometimes it loves me back.  But not always.  Today, for example, is the first full day of winter.  So far, at least, the weather here has been amazingly kind to us.  Our road salt use for the season has been zero up to this point. 

At the same time, though, I realize that we’ve been fortunate; there are cities and towns throughout the country which have already been hammered by weather extremes.  Just watch the nightly news.  It’s created a huge struggle for the affected local governments.  That’s because, unless there’s a truly catastrophic weather event like a hurricane or major flood, the federal government doesn’t get involved in weather-related troubles.  Those are left to smaller, more local units of government, with municipalities leading the way.  And not all local governments are prepared or resourced to effectively deal with it.

Cranberry is lucky in that respect – or maybe I should say that Cranberry is well-prepared.  We know that keeping our fingers crossed in the hope that bad weather stays away isn’t a satisfactory plan.  Sooner or later, everyone gets hit, and sometimes they get hit quite hard.
 
So while we’re enjoying the nice weather, we’ve also used the occasion to outfit our fleet of 14 winter-ready trucks and prep them to hit their preset routes on an hour’s notice.  We have a storage building that can hold a full season’s worth of rock salt.  We have a brine-making plant that cranks out de-icing fluid we can put down ahead of an advancing storm.  We’ve identified contractors with graders and front loaders to supplement our Public Works crews, if needed.  We’ve got standby plans that involve essentially every Township department and employee in case things get really bad.  And Cranberry’s first responders have coordinated with our road crews in case there’s an emergency somewhere that hasn’t been plowed yet.

But just as important, we have an ordinance that brings our residents into the effort as well.  It requires the owners of homes and businesses to clear away snow from any sidewalks that pass by their property within 48 hours of a snow event.  In effect, it becomes a joint effort: PennDOT clears the state highways, the Township clears local roads, and residents clear the sidewalks adjacent to where they live or work. 

When everyone does their part and sees that we’re all on the same team, even a major snowstorm won’t be able to keep Cranberry down for very long. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts as we approach the winter season.  You can reach me at: Jerry.Andree@CranberryTownship.org
Oct 16

The loneliness of local elections

Posted on October 16, 2015 at 8:59 PM by Jerry Andree

A recent story in the Des Moines Register told about a candidate for the Riceville district school board in Iowa who ran unopposed last month and didn’t receive a single vote.  Part of the explanation was that the roster of registered voters in his district is actually quite small – just 122 eligible in that particular section of the school district.  But even the candidate himself had more important things to do than go to the polls.  And in Iowa – a state which looms large in the nation’s political scene – that’s pretty remarkable.

Here in Cranberry, as most other parts of the country, we too are about to hold a general election, scheduled November 3.  It includes candidates for statewide judgeships, for County Commissioner, for County row offices, and two of Cranberry Township’s five seats on the Board of Supervisors.  Together, they represent the public offices with the greatest impact on our daily lives. 

Now I’m convinced that Cranberry will not become another Riceville; after all, I personally plan to vote, and I hope you will too.  But I remain concerned that the turnout for local elections tends to be microscopic.  In many parts of the country, sometimes including Cranberry, the percentages languish in the low teens or single digits.  And this year, the Butler County Board of Elections may have unwittingly made a low turnout even more likely by switching the poll locations for four of our nine voting districts.

What all of this means is that a tiny fraction of the electorate – sometimes including people with an agenda radically out of step with the general public – can be mobilized to commandeer an election.  And it’s perfectly legal.  But the apathy that makes it possible to hijack an election is a serious problem for a democracy.  It speaks to a level of cynicism and indifference that’s eating away at the foundations of self-government.

It’s a mindset that today’s acrimony and paralysis in our legislative assemblies tends to encourage.  Then it’s fueled even more by negative political advertising with the unintended consequence of tarnishing public service as well as everyone in elected office.  And it’s an attitude which cascades down to government at every level, whether it’s deserved or not. 
I wish I knew of an easy way to offset that cynical attitude, but I’m not sure there’s one at hand.  Even so, I’m convinced that when people recognize that democracy, however flawed, remains a viable and authentically American way of advancing the public interest, they will support it.  And I’m hoping that our November 3 turnout reflects that recognition.

You can confirm your own voting location here: Cranberry Township Voter Information. 
 
And I would love to hear your thoughts about our election process.  You can reach me by email at: Jerry.Andree@CranberryTownship.org