Friday, January 20, 2017

A 4-Year Police Pact and More Homes to Watch Over

Photos by Evan Brandt

Engineer Rolph Graf outlines for the commissioners the Spring Valley Farms plan that calls for 178 homes in the parcel on the lower left corner, and two other parcels, 40 and 43 acres respectively, that will be deeded to the township for open space.

Once again, the Lower Pottsgrove Commissioners demonstrated proficiency in local government by approving a major housing development; approving a major four-year police contract and expanding by 12,160 square feet Coventry Christian School on Pleasantview Road  -- all within a 30-minute meeting.

Those of us who suffer through long meetings thank them, although the pace was so swift that a reporter who stepped outside the meeting room to get the spelling of a name missed the entire adoption of the police contract.

And while there may be no honor among thieves, apparently there is among local journalists as Joe Zlomek, editor extraordinaire of The Sanatoga Post, immediately conveyed this fact to said wayward reporter.

So let's start with that.

The contract changes little except pay and health benefits, according to Commissioners Vice Chairman Stephen Klotz, who also heads up the police committee and had a hand in the negotiations.

The contract provides a 3 percent raise in the first year; a 3 percent raise in the second year; a 3.25 percent raise in the third year and a 3.25 percent raise in the fourth year.

Those increases will collectively add $203,000 to the township payroll after four years, said Township Manager Ed Wagner.

Currently the average salary on the police force is $56,241 and the highest is $91,112, said Klotz.

The 19 officers affected by the contract -- only Chief Michael Foltz is not in the union -- will continue to make no payments toward health insurance premiums, but they did agree to move to a new health plan offered by Aetna, Klotz said.

That plan, which has a high deductible for famlies, saves the township $162,000 over the course of the contract, thus off-setting all but $41,000 of the increased payroll costs.

The officers agreed to accept the high deductible plan because the township will pay 100 percent of the deductible costs incurred in the first and second years; 75 percent in the third and 50 percent in the final year of the contract.

A close up of the sub-division. The homes will all be located in the

parcel on the lower left corner, shown in faint outline.
Those costs, of course, will depend on actual experience and how much the officers and their families access their health care, making them difficult to predict.

Also significant in the whirlwind of voting Thursday night was the approval of Spring Valley Farms, a development at the corner of Bleim and Pleasantview roads on 143.67 acres.

The project has been in the works for several years and takes advantage of a zoning provision which allows the developers to cluster the homes more closely together than otherwise allowed in exchange for preserving open space from development.

That will occur on the two other parcels, at top and upper right, which total about 83 acres and will be deeded over to the township.

This is how the lots in Spring Valley Farms would be arranged
on the 143 acres to be developed.
This is a smaller project than the 500-unit Sanatoga Green, which has generated several headlines, but has been in the planning pipeline much longer.

It will also add to the cumulative total of the increases in traffic and potential increases in school population that have begun to catch the attention of regional planners and school officials.

Late last year, Pottsgrove Schools Business Manager David Nester told the commissioners that the district is concerned about how many students might move into the district to live in Sanatoga Green. The developers have forecast 58.

Although Spring Valley Farms is not likely to add nearly as many children, it certainly won't decrease the student population.

Answers may come in the form of a demographics study the Pottsgrove School Board also commissioned in November.

As for traffic, members of the Pottstown Area Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee are on the hunt for funding for a regional traffic study which will help predict the impact of large housing projects like Spring Valley Farms and Sanatoga Green in Lower Pottsgrove, as well as a project of more than 760 homes in New Hanover and a 241-unit project in Douglass (Mont.) Township which received preliminary approval on Tuesday night.

But enough of that, we know you're anxious to get to the Tweets, and here they are:

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