YARDLEY BOROUGH >> Seven candidates have stepped forward to fill a vacancy on borough council, including two former council members.
The vacancy was created by the decision of councilman-elect Patrick McGovern not to accept his seat on council. His decision followed a political dust-up in November over a sarcastic social media page he created.
The applicants for the open seat include two former council members - Republican Dan Mohn, a technology professional, and Democrat Uri Feiner, an education, technology and health entrepreneur. Mohn served on council in the early 2000’s while Feiner served from 2014 to 2017.
Also stepping up to fill the vacancy are Matt Curtin, an investment banker; Dawn Perlmutter, who has an academic, law enforcement and government consulting background; George Weremijenko, a restaurant and franchise owner; Victoria Czechowski, the founder of a start-up with a background in consumer healthcare and marketing; and Constance Webster, who is employed with the New Jersey Department of Education.
“We’re definitely thrilled that we received so much interest in the position,” said council Vice President Caroline Thompson.
An eighth candidate submitted an application and resume, but could not attend the scheduled public interviews. As a result, the applicant will not be considered for the opening, said Thompson.
The seven candidates will be publicly interviewed during a special meeting of the borough council on Tuesday, Feb. 11 beginning at 7 p.m. The public will have an opportunity to ask the candidates questions.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the council is scheduled to take a formal vote to fill the vacant seat. The successful candidate would then officially be sworn in at council’s Feb. 18 meeting.
In other business, council voted unanimously to extend an offer of employment to Joseph Martin of Philadelphia as a part-time Borough police officer.
Martin is a graduate of LaSalle University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Marygrove College with a masters degree and the Philadelphia Police Academy (2017). He is a full-time teacher who has previously worked as a police officer in the City of Philadelphia.
“We feel Officer Martin’s diverse experience and skill sets will be an asset to the Borough and the people we serve,” said Chief Joseph Kelly.
Martin, joined by his wife and daughter, was officially sworn in by Mayor Chris Harding.
In other business, council voted to table action on a professional services contract with its engineering firm for the Mary Yardley Bridge replacement project until several outstanding questions can be answered.
Chief among them is whether to replace the existing bridge with a fiberglass or a steel span.
At last month’s meeting, Borough resident Susan Taylor, the executive Director of the Friends of the Delaware Canal, which has been working with the borough on fundraising for the project, objected to plans for a fiberglass span.
“A fiberglass bridge is not appropriate for a national historic landmark. It may be expeditious. It may be cheaper. But there are no fiberglass bridges across the Delaware Canal. It would be unprecedented,” Taylor told council.
On Tuesday night, the borough’s engineer reported that they are waiting on the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission to make a determination on the bridge.
“Since the park is considered a national historic landmark, the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission does have some purview over it,” said the engineer. “However the bridge itself is not historic. It’s not listed. And it’s owned by the municipality. So there’s some gray area.
“Hopefully we hear back from them sooner than later, but at the moment our design team was told to hold off on anything specific to fiberglass and to instead be prepared to move forward potentially with a steel bridge.”
After listening to the engineer, Thompson said she’s uncomfortable moving forward until the borough hears back from the PHMC. Moving forward with the professional services contract, she said, would be “jumping the gun.”
Council agreed and decided to table the motion until it hears definitively from the PHMC.
According to the engineer, the project is estimated to cost anywhere from $210,000 to $250,000. But those figures include a handicapped ramp which is no longer part of the project.
The borough has $110,000 on hand to pay for the replacement bridge, including $70,000 in the borough’s budget allocated to the project and a $40,000 State grant.
“My biggest concern is even on the low end we would have to raise $100,000,” said Councilman Ryan Berry. “How else will we fund this?”
The engineer suggested investigating other grant opportunities.
Council President David Bria also said the Mary Yardley Footbridge Committee, working in collaboration with the Friends of the Delaware Canal, will be raising funds for the project.
Last replaced in the 1980s by a wooden span, the FootBridge crosses the historic Delaware Canal just north of Edgewater Avenue, linking North Main Street with Rivermawr via a public easement.
A borough-owned bridge has been at that location for 100 years and has been an important part of the walkability of Yardley, providing footpath access for residents in the northern areas of the borough to the canal and an emergency access and an evacuation route during floods impacting Rivermawr.
In 2019, an independent inspection done on the bridge by the Friends of the Delaware Canal revealed that the overall condition of the bridge is “structurally deficient” and that various components of the span are either in “fair or poor condition.”
Following that report, the Mary Yardley Footbridge Committee recommended replacement of the bridge as soon as possible with regular inspection of its condition and maintenance for safety until the bridge can be replaced. The committee also recommended that the bridge be replaced by a steel structure to prolong its life.