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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.

Aug 19

We’re still building for you

Posted on August 19, 2016 at 10:26 PM by Jerry Andree

Part of the comprehensive planning effort that Cranberry started nearly a decade ago dealt with our community identity: what did we want people to visualize when they thought about Cranberry?  After all, we don’t have the signature architecture or geological landmarks that characterize communities like New York, St. Louis, Rome or Rio.  And even though the Township was incorporated more than 200 years earlier, for most of that time it was primarily farmland.  It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Cranberry Township we know today really started to take shape.  

So it’s fair to say that unlike most communities which inherited a place built generations earlier, Cranberry Township was built by people who live here now.  So we came up with the phrase “Built for You” as Cranberry’s tag line.  

And what was it that people wanted to see built?  Beyond the standard municipal infrastructure – streets, sewers, waterlines, and so forth – they wanted us to build the sorts of assets that could transform their municipality into a real community, where people could interact, bond, and help one another as needed.  So we expanded Community Park, created two new parks, added a Waterpark, a Skatepark, a Dog Park, a golf course and built a Community Center instead of just a Township office building.  

Those facilities, which were built in response to public input and with strong support from our Board of Supervisors, have proven to be the true center of our community, pulling thousands of residents together for a variety of reasons.  In fact, last year, our facilities hosted over a million visitors.  Those facilities form the critical infrastructure of our community and are just as important as our utility-type physical infrastructure.  You could even argue that while every community has sewer, water and roads, few have the variety of community resources we do.  

Those same community resources also provide a venue for dozens of civic and volunteer organizations to raise funds for charitable causes.  I’ve heard estimates that our facilities enable nonprofits to raise around a million dollars a year through walks, runs, tournaments and outings.  As the custodians of these facilities, nothing warms the hearts of our employees more than seeing the thousands of people who use these public facilities.  And most of them never give a thought to the awesome infrastructure that made it all possible.  

Beyond that, those same facilities are key to Cranberry’s economic development.  We have demonstrated over and over again that the key to sustained economic growth is creating a community where residents come first and enjoy a high quality of life.  High quality employers will follow.

So my thanks go out to the residents of Cranberry Township for knowing what it takes to build and maintain an awesome community.  It is a privilege to be entrusted with these facilities on your behalf, and we promise to continue delivering the finest infrastructure and best services we can.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about our community infrastructure.  Write to me at jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org 
Aug 09

Who’s paying for all this roadwork?

Posted on August 9, 2016 at 6:33 PM by Jerry Andree

A normal year in Western Pennsylvania, it is said, includes two seasons: bad weather and construction season.  We’re in the latter one now, and sometimes that can try the patience of people whose familiar travel routes have been disrupted.  I accept some responsibility for that; not only does the Township encourage road improvements, we also issue many of the permits that allow them to happen. 

But there is also a serious misunderstanding about how those improvements are financed – one that I do not accept responsibility for.  It’s the belief that whenever there’s a new development of some sort in Cranberry – a shopping center, an office building, a housing plan, or whatever – that any associated road improvements are being paid for by local taxpayers.  They’re not.  

It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of people believe their taxes are paying for those road projects; after all, that is exactly what happens in a number of other Western Pennsylvania communities where it is typically explained as an investment in economic development.  But Cranberry is different in several respects.  

First, as a condition of receiving Board approval to move ahead with any land development project here, the developer is required to create whatever improvements are needed for traffic to access the site of that project.  That could include things like new turning lanes, traffic signals, or on-site service roads – all of which would be done on the developer’s dime.  If you look at Rt. 228 – which was a two-lane blacktop road a generation ago – you’ll see a roadway transformed by private developer’s dollars. 

The second difference is that twenty-five years ago, Cranberry championed a new state law that allowed municipalities to collect fees from developers to help with transportation improvements.  They’re called Transportation Impact Fees, and their purpose is to finance off-site improvements to the local transportation system which would help to mitigate the increase in traffic that the developer’s project generated.  Cranberry was the first community in Pennsylvania to make use of that law, and since that time it’s financed numerous road, intersection and signal improvements.  

Beyond that, Transportation Impact Fees may be used as matching funds for federal and state transportation projects in the Township.  So they can leverage significantly more money than we collect from the developers themselves.  Using those matching formulas, we’ve been able to finance roughly $50 million in projects from about $13 million in fees that we actually collected. 

Our Board of Supervisors realized years ago that growth was inevitable and that the Township had to be prepared to proactively manage that growth.  They understood that the costs facing Cranberry as it transformed from a thinly populated rural area into a fast-growing, smoothly-functioning community would be high.  Its farm roads were never designed to handle the volume of traffic we now experience.  So they made a decision: to pass as much of the infrastructure improvement costs as possible onto the developers who were behind that fast growth.  And it’s worked.

The reason it works is that developers want to be here – not that they’re being bribed by gifts of local taxpayer money to come.  They want to be here because Cranberry has a great workforce, a great marketplace, great housing and great transportation.  It’s an excellent place to do business, so they’re willing to pay the costs associated with doing projects in the Township.  That’s why Cranberry works so well.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about financing transportation as well.  Write me at jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org

Aug 04

How do you like your coffee? In Cranberry, it’s with a group.

Posted on August 4, 2016 at 8:30 PM by Jerry Andree

My appetite for coffee has grown considerably over the last few years. 

Back in the spring of 2010, we started a program designed to help Cranberry residents better understand their community.  It was created in response to a mandate from our Board of Supervisors directing us to expand and improve Township communications.  

So we invited residents to join me for coffee and informal conversation about pretty much anything that had to do with Cranberry.  The idea was that face-to-face communication in a relaxed environment would be a good complement to our media communications.

I had heard about this idea from some of my colleagues.  But for a variety of reasons, it was seldom used – most often out of fear of the unknown.

I, too, was a bit apprehensive at the outset.  First of all, there’s no way of telling ahead of time exactly what topics people will want to discuss; they might concern things I either didn’t know much about or maybe wasn’t at liberty to share.  And second, no matter how hard we try, there are still going to be a handful of angry people in our community who might use it as an opportunity to create an unpleasant situation for everyone else.  

That was then.  Now, dozens of Coffee and Conversation gatherings later, these sorts of get-togethers have actually proved to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of my work here.

For the past few years, most of them have focused around a Township facility.  Case in point is one we recently held at the Waterpark.  We had over 50 people attend.  Many of them were visiting the Waterpark for the first time.  

They asked great questions, got to meet some of our operating staff, toured behind-the-scenes machinery, ate some pizza, had great conversations, and in some cases, even took a dip in the pool.  

Over the past six years, our series has included site visits to the Brush Creek wastewater treatment plant, the Volunteer Fire Company, the Library, the Traffic Operations Center, the Police Department, the Public Works building, and strolls along park trails, as well as topics like solid waste management, school district-municipal relations, County-Township relations, and stormwater management.  Future coffee get-togethers will include another visit to the fire company and to the Cranberry Highlands Golf Course.  We’re always looking for new opportunities to give our residents a look at what makes Cranberry Township tick.  And if you have a topic or location you would like us to pull back the curtains on, just let me know. 

Particularly now, with all the political arguing and posturing going on at the state and national levels, I am hugely thankful to work for a community of residents who are well-informed, who participate in community activities, who support its events, and who are active in shaping the future of their hometown.  This weekend’s Cranberry CUP tournament offers another outstanding example of local residents pulling together for a good time and a great cause.  

Take a walk through Graham Park and you’ll see major improvements taking place with the construction of the new Miracle League Out-of-the-Ballpark Playground.  Or check out the Kids Castle Playground in Community Park – an outstanding facility which was designed and built with our resident’s labor together with support from their donations to our Community Chest.  Those are just two recent and visible signs of a truly great community.  And they’re all because of you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts as well as your ideas for more of these gatherings – even if you don’t like coffee.  You can reach me at Jerry.Andree@CranberryTownship.org