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Jerry Andree, Township Manager

Jerry Andree, Township Manager

Oct 03

Dedicated to the one I love

Posted on October 3, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Jerry Andree

I love Cranberry.  And lately, we’ve been having a surge of groundbreakings, unveilings, dedications and grand openings throughout the Township.  It’s been exhilarating.  And it looks as though we could go on that way for years to come. 

Lately they’ve included, in no particular order: a library renovation, a new sewer line interceptor, a public safety training center, a new water main, a new sidewalk, a new pump station, a new woodlands trail, a new sports training complex, a new playground, new roads, and more.  Pretty soon, we’ll be adding a new EMS base station, new highway ramps, and a new parochial high school to that list.  And eventually, there will be even more, including an expanded wastewater treatment plant, new park facilities, and other infrastructure amenities.

Of course, not all the development projects we’ve been celebrating here are Township initiatives.  Many of them, like the proposed UPMC-Lemieux Sports Complex and the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, as well as new hotels, office buildings, stores and homes, are private.  And some, like the ramps now under construction between Rt. 228 and I-79, come from PennDOT.  But there is a fundamental bond between these public and private sector developments. 

It’s this: the comprehensive plan our Board of Supervisors adopted in 2009 – which was a greatly enhanced and sophisticated treatment of the vision first articulated in our 1995 plan – wasn’t simply aimed at the 28,000 people who lived here at that time.  It was focused on meeting the needs of a community of 50,000 with a multi-billion dollar economy by 2030.  It’s what I think of as governing over the horizon rather than managing day-by-day. 

It means anticipating needs and paving the way to enable orderly growth, rather than being forced to deal with a series of unexpected crises and crunches as they arise.  That takes vision, and I am very proud of our Board for consistently maintaining a long view of the issues affecting Cranberry.

In preparing the Township’s long-range plan, a lot of thought went into calculating those growth projections.  Now, nearly five years later, they have shown themselves to be remarkably prescient – particularly where it concerns our growth as a regional economic hub. 

But preparing for a community whose population is expected to nearly double in just 20 years means making sure the public infrastructure – fresh water, sanitary sewers, roads, stormwater management, recreational assets, public safety, and so on, can handle it.  Getting to that point has been driving the Township’s agenda for the past few years.

Eventually – maybe in another 15-20 years – things will settle down and the pace of new development here will drop off.  That’s because the zoning system our Board adopted puts a cap on growth; we expect that by 2030 Cranberry will be built out to the limits of its zoning ordinance, and 50,000 is about where that limit takes us. 

In the meantime, if it seems as though we’re moving at warp speed in our development, it’s because we’re hard at work preparing ourselves for a fast-approaching future.  And the projects we are celebrating today form the backbone of that future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about Cranberry’s growth.  Write me at: jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org.
Sep 26

What I learned from building Kids Castle

Posted on September 26, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Jerry Andree

Recently I was talking with Sean Connors, from our Public Works Department and he shared with me his experiences and impressions of community involvement surrounding the building of the playground, and so I invited him to share his reflections with everyone. Thank you, Sean.

I arrived as Special Projects Coordinator in Cranberry Township’s Public Works Department this past January.  My first large project, I was told, would be taking down and replacing Playtime Palace in Community Park – a playground that was nearly as old as I am.  By spring, according to the plan, nothing of it would be left except a grassy lot.  But by the end of summer, its new and much-anticipated replacement – Kids Castle – would be open to the public. 

It was a huge undertaking.  Just its size alone triggered visions of unforeseen and unwelcome delays.  Kids Castle would be bigger, more varied in material, more complex in design, and involve more labor in construction than anything I had faced before.  And frankly, I was worried.

Today is the playground’s official ribbon-cutting ceremony.  It will celebrate the amazing process by which Kids Castle came into being.  And it’s been hugely exciting for me to witness the project unfold.  I’ve been bowled over by the things I’ve seen in my short time here in Cranberry.  The passion and commitment of thousands of volunteers, skilled professionals and, of course, the kids themselves have all contributed to the elaborate and exciting new community playground that now stands in the heart of Community Park.

For me, one great but unexpected outcome has been that the people of this community have earned my unwavering and utmost faith.  The CTCC and Cranberry CUP are truly impressive organizations, pooling funds and recruiting volunteers from throughout the community to make sure the job was done, and done right.  Beyond that, though, was what I saw in the efforts of Cranberry Township employees.  They were amazing.  Essentially every department and division was involved. 

My own involvement in the project was actually very much behind the scenes.  For example, I was involved in receiving a lot of shipping containers from overseas without knowing exactly what was inside since they weren’t labeled in English.  We received unbelievably heavy boxes of screws, nuts, bolts, and brackets from UPS.  We borrowed tools from every corner of the maintenance garage, and even many people’s personal tools.  We made coffee in a dimly lit, swelteringly hot tool trailer with an extension cord running from the jobsite.  And we made quite a few trips to Home Depot at a moment’s notice.  They were all tiny pieces in a huge puzzle.

Essentially every member of the Public Works Department lent a hand in this project.  Their involvement made me realize just how far-reaching the project had really become.  Brick by brick, as the expression goes.  And that’s exactly how the Kids Castle was built.  Through the efforts of so many people, both large and small, we now have an awesome new addition to Community Park.  It made me proud to work for Cranberry Township, proud to be a part of this community, and proud of the individuals who live, work, and play here.

 ---Sean Connors
Sep 18

Cranberry – The Proving Ground of Tomorrow

Posted on September 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM by Jerry Andree

You may have seen it on TV or read about it already.  But just in case you missed it, earlier this month, there was a car that drove itself from Cranberry’s Community Park to Pittsburgh International Airport – a 33-mile trip – without an operator behind the wheel. 

The car – which appeared virtually indistinguishable from any other Cadillac SRX crossover – was part of an ambitious experimental project by Carnegie-Mellon University and General Motors.  Its goal is to develop the technology which could make practical a truly autonomous vehicle – a smart car capable of safely taking passengers anywhere they wanted to go – without the intervention of a driver.

What the news stories didn’t talk about was the fact that this car had, for most of the past year, been plying Rt. 19 here in Cranberry as its engineers worked to fine-tune their creation.  But they did so with a hand from the Township: in order to help the car see and respond appropriately to traffic signals, our Public Works department installed tiny transponders at eleven intersections along the highway.  Their transmitters would tell the car where it stood in the traffic signal sequence.

Eventually, of course, the car won’t need those sorts of electronic training wheels; its onboard cameras will be able to see traffic lights from a distance more reliably.  Then, too, there will be other assistance the car would eventually need to blend in seamlessly with local traffic.  For example, it never blows its horn.  And for that matter, it doesn’t hear the horns of other vehicles nearby. 

That gap in the vehicle’s performance seems to touch on the most sensitive issue of the entire project: that the car needs to interact with human drivers whose behavior is sometimes irrational and frequently a product of their local driving culture.  And local driving cultures vary. 

I recently met a man who had grown up in New York City, and then moved to Seattle before relocating to Pittsburgh last year.  In New York, it is customary to honk your horn at the car in front of you the instant a traffic light turns green.  It’s annoying, but no big deal.

When he moved to Seattle, he brought along his New York driving habits, and on his first day there, honked his horn when the light changed.  People were stunned.  Everyone stopped and turned to him wondering what had happened – what in the world had prompted someone to blow their horn?  In Seattle, the horn is reserved for serious or life-threatening developments – not as a metronome for traffic signals.

In Pittsburgh, horns are mainly used to scold someone for either doing or failing to do something that irritates another driver.  So, when we asked one of the CMU project engineers about how to program their car to respond in the local manner, he replied that they needed to identify indicators of jerk-like behavior in order to develop an algorithm.  On the other hand, a separate algorithm would be needed to empower the car to offer a vehicle coming from the opposite direction the courtesy of turning left in front of it – the so-called “Pittsburgh left.” 

So the autonomous vehicle is still a work in progress, and here in Cranberry, we are delighted to be part of that progress.  But it’s not the first time we’ve been at the leading edge of technology.  The autonomous car project is actually part of a larger partnership we have with CMU to develop traffic software using live input from our traffic management system.  Our Fire Company has worked with our good neighbor MSA for years in testing prototypes of new safety equipment.  And our Public Safety, Public Works and Information Technology departments have also been frequent beta sites for refining new types of equipment and software. 

High-tech companies have become a pillar of Cranberry’s local economy and the Township is eager to participate in their work.  We love being at the cutting edge of technology.  And we want to maintain a government which is equal to the challenges that being out in front presents.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well.  Write to me at: jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org