YARDLEY BOROUGH >> Meeting via video conferencing, the borough council voted unanimously on March 17 to ratify the borough’s disaster emergency declaration signed by Mayor Chris Harding the day before in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And moving forward, Council voted to give Mayor Harding authorization to extend the declaration as needed through the duration of the emergency.
“We will notify you of each extension and also notify everyone of the ultimate termination,” said Harding. “We’ll keep everyone in the loop.”
The proclamation enhances the authority of borough officials to take action as necessary for the health and welfare of its citizens without the legal constraints of bidding, hiring, etc. It would also entitle the borough to any reimbursement that might occur as a result of the emergency.
In other COVID-19 business, Police Chief Joseph Kelly announced that the borough has joined a COVID-19 countywide task force.
“This is essentially a mutual aid agreement between 37 municipalities in the county ensuring that if our department or another department is under staffed due to virus-related illness, we will assist each other with coverage,” said Kelly.
To date, Kelly said no borough officer has been affected by COVID-19. “We are at full staff. We’ve had no illnesses over the past week, Conovavirus-related or other. Our officers are reporting to work as scheduled.”
Kelly also reported that all of the department’s protective equipment has been acquired from multiple different sources. “We are still on the request list for the county to get some additional personal protective equipment. This is a challenge not only for all the emergency services, but also for the hospitals themselves.”
In addition, the Chief said the department has made some modifications to its response plan to balance its mission against the risk to its officers.
“I think some of these modifications are working well,” said the Chief. “We are disinfecting cars and stations and continue to wash our hands. We continue to take precautions. We are working with our partners and talking to our partner police departments everyday and staying in contact with Wes Foraker (the borough’s emergency management director). At present time and date the police department is highly ready.”
In other police-related business, council voted 7 to 0 to authorize its solicitor to review a draft ordinance that would create an Auxiliary Police Unit in the borough.
The unit, which is allowed under the state borough code, would be composed of volunteers from the community who would assist police with traffic and crowd control, special details and augmenting the borough’s police force.
“It’s desperately needed,” said Chief Kelly, noting that the department has used volunteers in the past informally. “We’d like to codify it and have them under the umbrella of the police department,” he said.
Under the engineer’s report, Liz Colletti said she is working with borough manager Paula Johnson to identify companies and secure quotes to appraise the PECO lot in the borough’s Rivermawr neighborhood.
The borough would need an appraisal of the property if it intends to submit a grant application to fund the purchase of the site located at the foot of the Mary Yardley Bridge and adjacent to the Delaware Canal.
Colletti said they are also looking into applying for a Growing Greener grant to fund the 50 percent matching funds that would be required.
PECO is looking to sell the property, which formerly housed a substation.
Colletti also reported that PennDOT is not keen on the idea of updating the traffic signal at Main and Afton with an all pedestrian phase.
The idea was raised in early March by Councilman Uri Feiner who said an all way pedestrian phase would decrease the danger to pedestrians using the intersection, especially for those crossing Main Street as eastbound Afton Avenue traffic is turning right onto Main.
In a letter to the engineer, PennDOT said it typically only approves such phasing at center city intersections with heavy pedestrian volumes due to excessive cuing and delay and a potential increase in driver aggression as a result of the delayed signal.
The traffic agency suggested instead an advanced pedestrian integral which would hold the red longer when the button is pushed. But that would only be feasible for the crosswalks parallel to Afton, said the agency.
Colletti recommended consideration of an advanced phase later on and moving forward with the current upgrade of the signal so not to jeopardize grant funding for the project.
“Our recommendation is let’s get this done. The signals will be different. The poles will be different. The location of the control box will be moving. Once we get this in there won’t be as many blind spots as we have now. We can always go back and amend it. That’s easier than to try and do it now,” added Engineer Thomas Beach.
Feiner said the most dangerous spot is the Main Street crossing because people make that right turn. “I understand what you’re saying that it’s going to be structured differently, but it’s dangerous. Someone eventually is going to get hit.
“I agree we shouldn’t hold this up, but we should plan on doing the advanced pedestrian integral for Afton,” continued Feiner. “But I would also like to know what it would take to do that on Main Street as well. That’s the one that is the most dangerous. It’s a ridiculously unsafe crossing. We can’t be lackadaisical about it. We need to be serious.”
Colletti also reported that she would be submitting plans to the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission for both an FRP and a gator option for the replacement of the Mary Yardley Footbridge, which spans the Delaware Canal.
“The goal right now is just to submit all the information for both options and hopefully get approved for both options. And then bid out both and see what happens,” said Colletti.