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.

Sep 11

What really counts in real estate? Location, location, location – and schools

Posted on September 11, 2019 at 11:56 AM by Jerry Andree

As a lifelong practitioner of local government in Pennsylvania, I can tell you that what passes for a “normal” relationship between a school district and the municipality is not a good one.  It’s either non-existent or confrontational.  They disagree about taxes.  They disagree about facility access.  They disagree about traffic.  And the list goes on.

However, that is not the case between Cranberry Township and Seneca Valley.  Both of us fully recognize our dependence on one another.  Both of us are committed to excellence.  And neither of us takes success for granted. 

Cranberry, as you probably know, has developed a reputation across the Commonwealth for its obsession with planning and managing the life cycle of its community.  And it’s well-deserved.  We carefully study the life cycles of communities all around the nation and meticulously examine those factors that cause communities to fall into economic decline.  Then we work equally hard to make sure we avoid those factors.  

Usually when a municipality is experiencing decline, that decline is mirrored in its school district. Symptoms of a declining municipality include loss of population, increased average age, decreasing average income, declining property values, and the exodus of quality employers. 

In a public school system, decline is often reflected in furloughing teachers, closing schools and eliminating programs such as art, music, languages and, if things get really bad, even athletics. 
Whichever symptoms of decline come first is a matter of debate.  But in our case, the governing bodies of both entities as well as their respective administrations, fully understand the reliance we have upon each other.  We both believe that “great communities need great schools and great schools need great communities.”  

So I am very proud of our strong collaboration – a relationship which is only possible because of the personal commitments of leaders in both entities. 

On a more personal level, I am exceptionally proud that my children have elected to build their lives and raise their own families in Cranberry and in the Seneca Valley School District.  I am delighted that my grandchildren will be taking advantage of the world-class programs our school district offers.  I am also so pleased about the commitment Seneca Valley is making to public education.  That way I know Cranberry Township will continue to be one Pennsylvania’s most desirable communities in which to live, work and play, well into the future. 

To see what I mean, the Seneca Valley School District recently released three videos that demonstrate their commitment to excellence.  If you haven’t seen them yet, click on these links: 

Seneca Valley Student Rigor  

Seneca Valley Student Wellness

Seneca Valley Staff Excellence 

I would love to hear your thoughts about our Township-School District connection.  You can reach me at jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org 

Aug 19

Storm Damage - How Cranberry is preparing for bad weather

Posted on August 19, 2019 at 11:02 AM by Jerry Andree

Waiting for the deluge

There’s hardly been a TV newscast in the past few years that doesn’t include at least one bad weather story.  Hurricanes, tornadoes and hail storms have battered extensive areas up and down the east and gulf coasts.  Flooding has plagued the Great Plains and Midwest.  Drought and wildfires have scorched the west coast and mountain states.  Hurricane and fire seasons have extended into nearly year-round events.

Cranberry has been tremendously fortunate in that any bad weather we’ve experienced so far has been manageable.  But that’s by no means a guarantee that we can’t get clobbered by a new wind, rain or snow storm.  I realize, of course, that there are special risks associated with living along a coastline.  But there are areas of the country even farther inland than we are that have had disastrous weather events.  Even in the Pittsburgh area, we have seen landslides along with flooding just this year.

The property costs of these weather disasters have been staggering.  And there’s no reasonable building code we could adopt that would safeguard homes against the sort of hurricane damage we’ve seen in Florida or the widespread flooding that took place in the Carolinas.  On top of the damage to homes and businesses, there is major damage to the public infrastructure.  Roads, bridges, treatment plants, and more have sustained tremendous losses, and the cost of repairing or replacing them is immense.  Beyond that, the risks to public health are potentially lethal.

FEMA and Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection are taking modest steps to bolster our protections.  But mostly their initiatives have to do with reassigning the costs of flood damage and stormwater maintenance to homeowners and units of local government.  To be sure, Cranberry isn’t alone in having to pay those costs.  Other municipalities in Pennsylvania, and even entire states like Maryland, have imposed fees on residents, businesses and even nonprofit organizations to offset those costs.  Cranberry is also exploring how to pay for these increased responsibilities.  I anticipate a decision on this issue by early November.

No matter what we finally decide to do, it won’t remove the risk of severe storm damage.  Normal homeowner’s policies don’t cover flooding.  But you can buy flood coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program.  The Township recently worked with FEMA to update Cranberry’s floodplain maps.  That effort significantly enhanced our residents’ ability residents to accurately assess their need for flood coverage.  This website includes the details in the following link [https://www.cranberrytownship.org/2143/FEMA-flood-plain-maps].  

There are, however, plenty of low-cost and no-cost things you can do on your own.  For example, learn and practice an evacuation route.  Figure out in advance what supplies to collect such as medications, pet needs, batteries, and charging devices.  Put important documents in waterproof containers.  Create digital copies for cloud storage.  Move valuables to higher levels.  Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or local alerts for current emergency information and instructions. 

Of course, there’s a lot more information available online, and I would encourage you to take advantage of our normally pleasant weather to familiarize yourself with the steps that apply to keeping you and your family safe in case things turn sour.

I would welcome hearing your thoughts about our emergency preparedness.  You can reach me at jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org


Aug 13

Keeping our heads above water

Posted on August 13, 2019 at 2:18 PM by Jerry Andree

When most of us think about someone drowning in a pool, we visualize that person flailing their arms and calling for help.  But I recently saw a TV news report about drowning that used actual surveillance video to show what people in trouble really look like in the water.  And it’s not the Hollywood treatment we would expect.  Instead, it’s something that can happen quickly, without thrashing or calls for help.  But unless you know what to look for, it’s easy to miss the signs, and the results can be disastrous; more than 3,500 Americans drown in pools each year, and two-thirds of them are under three years of age. 

Cranberry’s Waterpark, now in its twentieth year, has never had a person drown.  But the very possibility is something that motivates our Parks & Recreation staff’s commitment to safety.  That’s because they know that despite the presence of highly trained lifeguards, children drown every year, including some in guarded pools.  So our Waterpark personnel have gone to great lengths to make sure that one of Cranberry’s greatest attractions continues its generation-long history of safety.  

Part of that involves extensive training of its lifeguards, whose work shifts include 16 lifeguards on duty at any given time – even more on especially busy days.  This year alone, more than 60 rescues have taken place in the pool, and that was only during the first half of its three-month season.  However, that isn’t necessarily a bad sign; not all of those rescued were actually in trouble.  Instead, lifeguards are instructed to take action if they even suspect that someone could be struggling.  

Yet even with a top-notch lifeguard staff, the key to child safety is parental supervision of children.  It is particularly important for parents of children younger than seven to recognize that they are the first line of defense against drowning accidents.  To help, Waterpark staff members strongly recommend that parents join their children in the water, regardless of their swimming abilities, and keep non-swimmers within arms-reach at all times.  

In addition, the Waterpark staff has re-named the 15-minutes each hour formerly designated as “adult swim” as “safety break.”  The idea behind it is to keep children from becoming exhausted in the pool, which can be deadly.  New informational signs are being posted around the pools and in the changing rooms.  Guests are requested to sign a non-binding safety pledge as they enter the Waterpark.  Temporary tattoos with safety messages are available for children.  And pool staff members are being encouraged to share safety messages with guests. 

That said, however, three-quarters of all the pool drownings occur in backyard pools.  So making sure that Cranberry’s private pools are as safe as possible is an integral part of our municipal code.  Central to that effort are barrier requirements including fencing and design features that make it difficult for someone to access the pool without the owner’s permission.  Children who don’t know how to swim but manage to sneak into private pools, are a major source of drowning victims. 

What it all means is that vigilance, knowing how to swim, taking frequent breaks, and staying in the water with your young children are all keys to having a safe, fun pool experience this summer. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about water safety as well.  Contact me at: jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org