Over the past few weeks I have heard numerous negative remarks about myself and the board of commissioners in reference to several township concerns, and I would like to set the record straight.
I could choose to slander my opponent, as Mr. Sharpe has done to me, but I choose to take the high road and discuss the facts about these issues and the positive contributions the commissioners have made to the township. I believe that the residents of Lower Macungie Township deserve to hear the facts about our township, instead of the exaggerated disparaging opinions posted by an uninformed candidate.
In many regards the residents of Lower Macungie Township are very fortunate. We live in one of the few municipalities in the state which has no municipal real estate tax and our community is blessed with an exceptionally large reserve fund. Mr. Sharpe claims the commissioners are responsible for deficit spending over the past several years which is hurtling the township to certain ruin. The truth, according to township manager Bruce Fosselman, is that the Township will end this year with a surplus in the budget, which could be used to pay down the debt in next year’s budget. It is anticipated that the general fund for the township will be $7.7 million dollars at the end of 2011, in comparison to the general fund balance of $7.1 million at the beginning of 2008, when I first took office. This snapshot shows growth by $600,000 during a period of tough economic times, a true sign of fiscal responsibility on the part of our board of commissioners.
The Jaindl development plan is the current hot topic for the township, and one that I would like to address. Those of us involved in the litigation process, myself included, have been advised by the township solicitor not to discuss the matter openly. Since it is currently in litigation, my hands are tied which prevents me from discussing any details. As an attorney, Mr. Sharpe is aware that following the advice of council regarding legal matters is always the best course of action, yet he continues to render opinions and challenges for reply to which he knows that I can not respond. He is clearly taking advantage of the situation. I can say that I am definitely in favor of farmland preservation where ever possible, but such preservation should always begin with the cooperation of the farmer. The fact remains that Mr. Jaindl owns the farmland and has the right to develop it.
Another concern expressed by many residents of the township is the formation of a local police department. Since this topic is frequently brought to the attention of the commissioners, we asked the Public Safety Commission to study the issue and make their recommendations. At this time nothing is proposed regarding the formation of a police department. The decision not to develop a police department at this time is driven primarily by the current weak economy and the potential reallocation of funding for the PA State Police service now being discussed in Harrisburg. House Bill 2586, which is currently pending in state legislation, if passed, would allow the state to charge municipalities without local police departments, such as LMT, for the state police coverage. I am advised that this bill is in committee and probably will not surface for 5 years. Until action is taken by the state government to charge the township for police service it is doubtful there will be any action taken to form a local police department. Studies, however, may and probably will be done by the board in the future to determine what is the best course of action should the state approve the bill.
In response to resident requests, the commissioners have made it a priority during the past two years to preserve green space and develop greenway and trail system plans for enhancement of our township quality of life. Grants have been acquired to significantly offset the cost of these projects. The township has also solicited for and received grants to reconfigure existing township owned detention basins to align them with current DEP regulations. Such improvements are designed to retain stormwater in the basins and help reduce localized flooding.
Overall, I think the township has done well during the past four years since we became a first class township. Despite the tough economic times we have managed to live within our means and have not instituted a municipal real estate tax or reduction of services. The commissioners welcome all residents to attend our public meetings to let us know your concerns. We encourage involvement in the community and welcome everyone who wants to make a difference to apply for positions on our committees and comment on our plans. While I understand that not everyone is happy with all decisions that we make, which is true in all government situations, be assured that I have always found the commissioners have acted with the goal of keeping Lower Macungie Township one of the best places to live in the Pennsylvania.