Energy savings, taxes, community relations with police and traffic study on Springfield agenda

by Betsy Wallace
Posted 6/22/23

An audit shows that the township has saved a total of $194,000 in energy costs in the administration, public works and library buildings.

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Energy savings, taxes, community relations with police and traffic study on Springfield agenda


Joy Bergey, vice chair of Springfield Township's Environmental Advisory Commission, got to break the good news – an audit shows that the township has saved a total of $194,000 in energy costs in the administration, public works and library buildings from 2021 through April 2023, compared to the energy costs in 2019. 

The township followed recommendations suggested by the 2021-2022  audits for tweaking the HVAC system and saw immediate results, specifically  a 25% reduction in electricity costs and a 34% reduction in gas costs in all three municipal buildings. The township is committed to having 100% renewable electricity by 2035 and 100% renewable building heat by 2050.

Bergey also reported that fuel consumption for the municipal fleet of vehicles has gone down by 18%, for a savings of $35,000 since the township started replacing gas-fueled police cars with hybrid vehicles in 2021. To date, about half of the township police fleet is hybrid. The township expects to reduce fuel costs further still as it replaces the rest of the municipal fleet hybrid electric vehicles, including public works vehicles.

Encouraging police and community engagement

In the wake of recent controversy of the township police Benevolent Association’s    use of the “Blue Lives Matter” logo, township commissioners had earlier asked Springfield Township Police Chief Robert Pitkow to research and report back on how neighboring police departments conduct community outreach. 

Currently, township police sponsor a “Coffee With a Cop” program and a “National Night Out” for township families, and collaborate with Abington, Cheltenham, and Whitemarsh police in the “Take Me Home Program,” a registry for families of individuals who have disabilities that make it difficult to communicate with police. 

In his written report, Pitkow said he’d heard from Abingtown, Cheltenham and Whitemarsh township departments. Abington and Cheltenham township officers assist struggling at-risk community members before they reach a crisis point and provide outreach via a “HUB” program, and Abington and Whitemarsh host 

a “Citizens Police Academy,” in which residents talk with and get to know police officers, and learn about the rules, regulations, and policies that the police must follow. 

Board President Jim Lee acknowledged that the Springfield Police “has heard our concerns” and are "increasing their transparency with data on the police web page and they are working on a better complaint system." 

Lee and Commissioner Susanna Ratsavong said that it might be time to create a new advisory commission on police/community outreach. Lee said his biggest concern was to do something that would help “heal the disconnect between some people in our community and the police.”

Community members in the audience supported the idea. Steve Heverin, an Oreland resident and member of the Environmental Advisory Commission, said that the commissioners should get feedback from the police themselves on what they would like to do.

Commissioner Baird Standish supported the idea but said “I don’t want a police oversight committee.”

Township Manager Mike Taylor suggested contacting Lower Merion Township for details on how they created their police and minority relations committee, which was launched more than 30 years ago. 

Sunnybrook Road residents successfully contest traffic study results

Sunnybrook Road residents have been arguing for years about the need for traffic calming measures on their road, which is a very busy cut-through street between Bethlehem Pike and Church Road. The results of the most recent traffic study (from June 1 to June 7, 2023), however, showed that out of 6,943 cars, only 70 were speeding 10 m.p.h. above the speed limit of 25. No traffic calming measures were warranted. 

The Sunnybrook Road residents, speaking through resident Ira Block, questioned the study’s reliance on average speed limits rather than the most common speed limit. Block noted that the traffic study device was placed too close to a stop sign, where most drivers slow down and that “at least half or the majority of drivers are over the speed limit. 

Block asked for a longer traffic study, one that covered both morning and evening rush hour traffic and measured data from a better location. Although initially reluctant to approve another study, commissioners agreed after listening to the residents’ arguments. 

Commissioner Jonathan Cobb, who lives on Sunnybrook Road, said that dealing with the traffic on cut-through streets in the township “is a big enough issue, we should determine which roads have the worst cut-through traffic and establish a plan or policy for dealing with it on a township level.” 

Business meeting resolutions and ordinances

At its business meeting on June 12, the board of commissioners unanimously approved Resolution 1612, requesting that the Pennsylvania legislature amend the Sterling Act to require that the city of Philadelphia remit up to 1% of the earned income tax it collects from nonresidents to the municipality in which the resident resides.  Past efforts to amend the Sterling Act have died in committee. This year, the amendment made it out of committee and passed in the senate. If the amendment becomes law, the township stands to receive in excess of $985,000.

The board also unanimously approved two land development resolutions concerning 900/1000 Mermaid Lane, an existing, under-used industrial property, and Mt. St. Joseph Academy, which wants to build a 3,800-square-foot addition with a multi-use trail along Wissahickon Avenue.  

The board authorized the advertisement of an ordinance to revise the parking fee schedule and to prohibit certain unlicensed motor vehicles (including golf carts and mini-bikes). 

“Single Use Plastics and You” community meeting on June 27

The Township’s Environmental Advisory Commission (EAC) invites residents to attend a community meeting on “Single Use Plastics and You” on June 27, from 7  to 9 p.m., at the Springfield Township administration building, 1510 Paper Mill Road in Wyndmoor. The meeting will feature Faran Savitz, zero-waste advocate for PennEnvironment, Greta Bunin, chair of the Cheltenham Environmental Advisory Commission, and Stephen Heverin, Springfield Township EAC member.

Assistant Township Manager Brandon Ford’s departure

Board President Jim Lee announced at the business meeting that Brandon Ford, the township’s assistant manager since 2019 is leaving to become the assistant township manager in Lower Merion, one of the largest municipalities in Montgomery County. 

According to Springfield Township manager Michael Taylor, Ford brought in nearly $3 million in grant funds from federal, state and county sources during his four-year tenure. Ford’s other major contributions were making technology improvements during COVID, working closely with the township’s Environmental and Shade Tree Commission, and in intergovernmental cooperation, serving as co-chair of the Wissahickon Watershed Partnership and as chair of the Montgomery County Consortium of Communities.

Taylor said, “While we will always miss Brandon professionally and personally, we always knew that he had ambitions beyond Springfield Township and we wish him well in his future endeavors.”