Thursday, June 25, 2009

Phoenixville Library - School Board vote - From the absurd to the ridiculous

Apolgies to Napoleon, but nothing has ever been sublime with the library expansion plan.

The Phoenixville Area School District School Board voted on two separate motions tonight.

* Approval of Indemnification Agreement Between the Phoenixville Public Library Foundation and Phoenixville Area School District

Passed unanimously.

* Approval of the Future Acceptance of Vacated Portion of Second Avenue

Vote as follows:

FOR THE VOTE: Mark Casaday, Josh Gould, Mary Paris, Jill Slawecki, Keith Wickstrom

AGAINST: Debbie Dawson, Jan Potts, Paul Slaninka

Next stop, Planning Commission.

I want to take this opportunity to personally thank Debbie, Jan, and Paul for their obvious insight and careful examination into this situation.

The safety and welfare of our children and residents must always come first, and their acknowledgement by their votes, of those facts and others presented to the board, will stand as a testimony to those residents who still believe we can find compassionate, discerning neighbors to represent us in elected positions.

Thank you.


Karen said...

Received via email:

To: Phoenixville Borough Council Members

Phoenixville Public Library Management & Staff

Phoenixville Area School District Board

Phoenixville Borough Residents

Once again, it is a sad day for the Borough of Phoenixville.

Twice demonstrating cowardice rather than common sense, the PASD Board voted unanimously on Thursday night to accept the library foundation’s offer of indemnification, and followed that vote with a 5-3 acceptance of the Borough Council’s offer to sell off Borough property – Phoenixville residents’ property – for $1.00.

I believe that the majority of the PASD Board members know in their heart of hearts that closing 2nd Avenue doesn’t make a lot of sense. They know in their heart of hearts that this is a vanity project, and that the library foundation has not made a good faith effort to involve the community in planning this expansion. Board members know in their heart of hearts that the expansion’s supporters are telling them now what they want to hear, and they know that, in the end, the taxpayers and the neighborhood will be left holding the bag.

So, why vote “yes” to Borough Council’s offer, why vote “yes” to move this project forward – and this vote does indeed represent an endorsement of this project – when common sense clearly suggests that a “no” vote is the right thing to do?

A “yes” vote was the easy thing to do last night, but not the right thing to do. Why easy? Board members wouldn’t have to look their friends in the library foundation in the eye and say, “It’s a nice building, but not for this site.” They wouldn’t have to explain to their fellow parents and teachers the distinction between supporting the library and supporting a seriously flawed plan. Parking on their streets won’t be affected, nor will their commutes, nor will their leisure-time activities, nor will their property values. Perhaps there were some deals on the board itself – my vote on this issue for your vote another time. And finally, in a clever-worded but transparent piece of cover: “We’re not voting in favor of the project, we’re just voting to accept Borough Council’s offer.” I’m sorry, board members, but your “yes” moves the process forward and is indeed an endorsement of this project.

David Brower, a 20th century conservationist and environmentalist, once wrote, “We are quite capable, in our own time…of using up all the choices America will ever have between saving and spending what is left of its unmarred natural heritage.” Mr. Brower could just as easily have been speaking of our architectural heritage, our historical legacy, and the character and fabric of our communities. Last night represented a choice point for the Borough of Phoenixville, and for the second time in three months, our elected officials failed the test. Only Ms. Potts, with her well-reasoned statement, and two other board members demonstrated the courage of their convictions. The remainder of the board shied away from the opportunity to cast the right and proper vote, choosing instead the easy vote.

So, we move forward, continuing to waste precious time and resources, searching for a body with the vision, leadership, common sense and common courtesy to halt this senseless project. I call upon the residents of Phoenixville who care about the future of this community to join us in this effort. Otherwise, one day in the not-too-distant future, you will stand at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Main Street and mutter to yourself, “How could anyone have allowed this to happen?”

Michael Kammerdiener

Phoenixville Borough Resident

Anonymous said...

Did they read the indemnification agreement out loud for the public before they voted on it?
I thought indemnification agreements were designed to cover things which might happen by accident, possible side effects of the thing you contracted the person to do for you. Like if you hire a security firm and some of its employees have permits to carry a gun, and it accidentally goes off or is needed if the guy is under attack on your property, you can't be held accountable for manslaughter.
But this is entirely different. The thing they're likely to get sued for is the intent, the main effect not some side effect of the agreement. They're hiring someone to go do a specific thing they've condoned. They know the end result yet claim they have nothing to do with it. It's like they've hired somebody to go deliberately bump somebody off. Only, they've got some fancy lawyer to craft something so that they can claim "Well, yes I knew he was gonna go out and shoot the guy with my gun at my behest, but you see I am just a businessman who has no time for this. My lawyer has crafted this document your honor. So you see I have a get out of jail free card. Yes, I know the security in my employ was out for blood, and I told him it wouldn't be a bad idea if he had a concept of how to do it, but it's not my responsibility. I am totally above it all and legally in the clear. Now if we can get this over with soon, your honor, I have a fund raiser to support gun control in the inner cities to attend with my neighbors on the adjoining farmette. Toodles!"

Anonymous said...

With the exception of Jan Potts, Paul Salinka and Debbie Dawson, I watched a bunch of idiotic tools of the library move a jackass plan forward last nite.

OJR has their Fab 5 school board members who canned their superintendant with no notice this week. PASD now has our own Fab 5 except they're not fabulous. They're tools.

Our only hope is the 4 out of 5 school board candidates in November who all hate this plan and will give us some hope of killing it.


Anonymous said...

Is the school board required to release documents under the Pennsylvania right to know act? If so, then the solution is simple. Request the agreement.

Anonymous said...

Is the school board required to release documents under the Pennsylvania right to know act? If so, then the solution is simple. Request the agreement.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand this vote. Do those voting for the motion not hear the constituent uproar or do they hear it and choose to ignore it. And if they choose to ignore it is it because they think they are smarter than their constituents or because they just never signed on to representative government. I'd love to hear their explanation? Those voting for the Kimberton Elementary School site and those voting for the Library should all be removed from office for incompetent behavior. To the neighbors of the Library, please arrange a Reeves Park rally and invite those who think this plan sucks. Hand out some signs. Maybe, just maybe if we're all hollering at the same time they'll hear us because obviously one at a time doesn't work. Let me know when it will happen and I will be there.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Library Foundation, or whatever it is called, will tell their contributors that now that they have accepted responsibility for the consequences, a substantial portion of their donations will be going to fighting lawsuits (of which there will be many). I am sure that those who want to donate to a library building will be appalled to learn that their hard-earned money will be going to lawyers and not a fund for a much needed expansion.
Let the games begin...

Ed Naratil said...

Information on 'open records' and a sample request letter can be found at:
PA Newspapers Asspciation

Karen said...

From The Phoenix.

Library expansion concept lives


PHOENIXILLE — It seems no one is against library expansion, but that the real contention is over the current concept of Library Foundation Board to build over 2nd Avenue and onto Reeves Park.

At Thursday evening's Phoenixville Area School District Board of School Directors meeting, some fifty plus residents and other attendees—most sitting alone—polka dotted the seats in high school auditorium. They endured many presentations, and sat though several items of discussion, patiently waiting for the School board to address the resolution that had drawn the large crowd, and to vote on whether or not to accept a parcel of 2nd Avenue from the Borough.

The passage of the resolution would give the Library Foundation Board and their architect, Thomas Carnevale, the green light to continue with their concept to expand the library across 2nd Avenue and triple the size of the current library, ultimately transforming that area of the Borough.

Turning down the resolution would end what has been a bitter civil disagreement between some residents and the Library Foundation's current—and only—concept for expansion.

Borough Council voted 5-2 several weeks ago in favor of offering the parcel of 2nd Avenue to the School Board for the token price of $1 (not the first parcel the Borough has sold for only $1, rather than looking for market value). The School Board vote to accept or reject the Borough's gift isn't the final hurdle for the Library Foundation Board, but the Board's acceptance would allow the Library Foundation to continue to push their current concept.

Before the vote, 12 attendees addressed the School Board—9 in opposition of Library Foundation's concept and the School Board accepting the Boroughs gift, and three in favor.

Two of the three to speak in favor were Councilman Speck and Adam Deveny, seated together during the meeting along with architect Thomas Carnevale.

Councilmen Kirkner and Senley were among those who spoke in opposition of the concept and the School Board accepting the gift—Kirkner citing a lack of strategic planning, while Senley addressed his concerns over zoning laws possibly being broken.

Karen said...

Part 2 - from The Phoenix.

Michael Kammerdiener, a Borough resident, took the podium to address the School Board and offered the Borough $1000 for the parcel of land under debate.

Wally Hedelmark accused the School Board of foolishly wasting money on a bad idea.

When the public was finished voicing their opinions, the School Board was ready to consider the resolution.

Before the vote, Board member Paul Slaninka motioned to postpone the vote until all 9 members of the Board were present at the August meeting. Board member Debbie Dawson seconded the motion and discussion ensued.

"I won't be present in August,"

said board member Keith Wickstrom.

Slaninka said, "Then maybe we wait until September. If we wait, nothing bad can happen. But this is a permanent vote."

Dawson added, "I might be wise to wait so that all 9 Board member have ownership of the issue."

"I'm going to vote the same way today as I would in September," said Board member Lisa Starczewski. "My mind is set. And I won't be present for the September meeting. What do we do then, continue to wait?"

At the end of discussion Board President Mark Casaday called the board to vote on Slaninka's motion to postpone voting on the resolution. The motion failed 4-4, Gould, Starczewski, Casaday, and Wickstrom voting against postponement. Parris, Potts, Slaninka and Dawson in favor.

Casaday immediately called the Board to vote on the resolution. Role was called and the 8 present Board members voted:

Dawson, no. Casaday, yes. Wickstrom, yes. Starczewski, yes. Slaninka, no. Potts, no. Parris, yes. Gould, yes. The resolution passed 5-3, and the School Board now owns a parcel of 2nd Avenue, and the Library Foundation can continue with their concept to expand the library and reshape the neighborhood.

Groans erupted from the crowd; "spineless!" was shouted by one, and many angry Borough residents stormed out of the auditorium.

Outside it was muggy and Councilman Speck was not only enduring the whether, but also the heated words of four Borough residents expressing their disappointment and anger.

When asked if it would have been a bad thing if the resolution failed to pass and the option for the Library Foundation to build across 2nd Avenue was taken off the table, Speck answered, "No. That would not have been bad." Then when asked, in light of the dissent of some residents, why he encouraged the Board to vote in favor of the resolution, he said, "Because it was important that this move forward."

One resident who wished to remain anonymous said, "The only people this project is important to is the Library Board. They've shown no interest in looking at other concepts or options for expansion. And now there's a very good chance they won't have to."