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Willows Proposals

My position of the Willows.

There has been a lot of "talk" recently about the proposals that have been received regarding the Willows. In response to our request for proposals for the future of the Willows we have received nine proposals. To say that I am elated would be an understatement. My position on this has always been that the operation of the Willows Mansion is not the “business” of the Township and that the taxpayers would be better served and the asset better secured by a public
 private partnership. Government should focus on the efficient delivery of services including, but not limited to, public safety, trash, sewers and streets. The role of elected officials is to assure that the services expected by the citizen are provided in an efficient manner and to further community values.

Contrary to suggestions otherwise, the Township could easily continue to operate the Willows and the necessary expenditures could be included in the budget. Radnor is far from a poor community. That being said, it is my opinion that this is not the course that is most responsible. My goals for the Willows are fairly straight forward: Preserve the asset for the taxpayer and assure that the operation is cost neutral or, better yet, profitable for the taxpayers.

As we move forward in reviewing the proposals the process will be completely open. The Parks and Recreation Board will review the proposals, along with staff, and make recommendations to the Board of Commissioners. It is my expectation that there will be several of the proposals included in their recommendation because there are several excellent proposals . I have suggested that we also bring in an outside consultant conversant in the hospitality industry to review these proposals to review the “finalists.” This is a decision will has lasting effects on our community and much be approached in a thorough and thoughtful manner.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Catherine October 15, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I think your idea for an outside industry consultant (or two) should be mandatory. While the Parks and Rec Board is made up of fine people, what kind of experience do any of them have in this kind of a venture? (Bd of Parks and Rec board members: Fenton Fitzpatrick, Jr. Chairperson; Michael J. Glynn Vice-Chairperson; Pat Gillian, Christopher Campbell, Joseph Ritz, R. Andrew Santillo, James E Shwartz, Steve Gerber, School Representative and Brucie Rapoport, School Representative.) I hope the BOC will toss Holloway's plan for a housing development before his proposal packet even opened and keep leasing agreements extremely short for the catering or arts plan the Board finally agrees on.
Assaggiatore October 16, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Keep Halloway's plans in the rubbish bin where they belong
Barbara White Waterman October 18, 2012 at 04:00 PM
This is a HORRIFIC proposal ! Please do not consider this ! My father , Bernard H. White and the other commissioners worked too hard to preserve this property !!! DO NOT LET THIS EVER HAPPEN.
John C. Nagle October 18, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Barbara, I am not sure what you are refering to as a "horrific proposal". Do you mean one of the specific proposals or the idea of the public/private partnership to preserve the asset for the community.
Metoxic October 18, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Mr. Nagle, while we are discussing public/private partnerships... Why doesn't Memorial Field have permanent lights? Thank you.
John C. Nagle October 18, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Metoxic. As you may be aware, the current BoC has been working very hard to improve transparency and public involvement. Under the current zoning the township could install lights using the very broad language of the statute. However, our Community Development Director has proposed revisions to the zoning that would provide greater specificity in the PLU zoning, including lighting. These proposed changes are working "through the process" and until they are approved temporary lighting will have to be used. Please keep in mind that previous installations were completed under the broad language
Kim October 18, 2012 at 07:47 PM
I like the idea of a permanent structure being added on to the existing house. This would create a larger space for events and thus more revenue. Tents can create a noise issue and law suits from neighbors. I have seen that happen and the litigation go on for years and years. Don't think the twp would want to risk that. Keep the Willows what it has always been, a public use park and facility. Subdividing such a beautiful piece of property in a twp that as Mr. Nagle stated is not poor makes no sense. Preserve the legacy of the Willows for future generations.
Metoxic October 20, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I'm sorry, Mr. Nagle. I don't understand your reply regarding Memorial Field. Did AIS decide against installing permanent lights, or, did Radnor prevent AIS's installation of permanent lights? I am aware the lease states "may install", not "will install". Just wondering what happened. Thank you.
Martin Heldring November 07, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Unfortunately, only a few minute read of the 2013 Township Budget clearly shows that the Township could not easily continue to operate the Willows without material cuts in other services or more significant tax increases than those already contemplated. And with what now appears to be $200 million in unfunded liabilities, it is obvious that the Township is going to have get serious about reducing other services in order to meet those liabilities.
John C. Nagle November 07, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Martin, I can not agree with your points. We are beginnning to address the unfunded liabilities and most folks understand that this is a long tern issue and is manageable. I think your comment "the Township is going to have to get serious" is so disingenuous. The Township IS serious about addressing these issues as reflected by both the current budget and our policies.
Martin Heldring November 08, 2012 at 12:55 AM
John, disingenuous is a strong word that I don’t think is conducive to a respectful dialogue. Tonight, you said “the capital needs of the Township are huge”. You also know that the unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities of the Township are huge. CARFAC and the Township Staff together have done an excellent job of highlighting the issues but they remain largely unaddressed in the current budget. This is despite double digit tax increases over the past several years and likely more to come along with additional storm water and trash fees. The situation is very serious.
John C. Nagle November 09, 2012 at 12:38 AM
No disingenuous was appropriate. For example, in your current comment you reference double digit tax increases over the past several years. This is not true. Of course if you are using a multi year period, which would be necessary to support your comment, you should say so, define the time period. You also state that the "issues remain largely unaddressed", which is also not completely correct. Perhaps the issues are not being addressed in a fashion you desire but they are in fact being addressed. We have established the funds for the future payment of the unfunded liabilities and have earmarked close to $5 million for these funds. Hardly what I would call "largely unaddressed!"
Martin Heldring November 09, 2012 at 05:01 AM
John, it is unfortunate that you continue with this tone. I really don’t think it is appropriate in this forum nor coming from someone in your position. I will conclude on my side by noting that I did say above “several years” and in fact, taxes have increased approximately 25% over the past four years. If you choose to continue this conversation, perhaps you might take a moment for everyone’s benefit to elaborate on the unfunded liabilities of the Township or perhaps you might detail how the Township would finance the ongoing expenses of the Willows in an environment where the Board struggles to make up the revenue lost by reducing parking ticket fees by $5.00. You mentioned above that the Township “could easily continue to operate the Willows” but as you know, those expenses are much larger than the lost parking revenues.
John C. Nagle November 10, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Mr. Heldring, the tax increase information is available on the Township website but I will summarize it here, in reverse order: 2012 -3.096%, 2011-9%, 2010- 11.096%, 2009-0%, 2008-0%, 2007-0%, 2006-7.9%, 2005-9%, 2004-8.9%, 2003-0%, 2002-7.8%. Note that there was an 7.8% tax decrease in 2002. I also computed the change since 2001 to the present of 2.55 mills to 3.7511 mills which is 2001 to 2012- 32%. Note also that for 2012 the increase was 3.09 and the proposal for 2013 is less than 2% . Slice it and dice it how you will but these are the facts. A second point, it is absurd to suggest that the Board struggles to make up the revenue lost by reducing parking ticket fees by $5.00. The point is that the Board is trying to keep the tax increase at a minimum (cost of living increase) thus it is a self impossed limit that has already been addressed by staff. Regarding the Willows. As I mentioned in my original post, I am completely in favor of the public private partnership. Operating this facility is not what we should be doing. That being said, with more appropriate management the Willows could easily double the rental income. Look at the history of the Willows and you will note that the revenue has been much higher in the past. Also, if the citizens believe that the Willows is a valued Township asset that they are willing to pay for we could resort to a earmarked tax increase. I will add an addition post about unfunded liabilities.
John C. Nagle November 10, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Regarding unfunded liabilities: Soon we will be releasing a report prepared by CARFAC that will detail the issues of unfunded liabilities. We can continue the discussion once that report is released. For now I would only add that the issue is being addressed and is well understood by the financial community and the rating agencies.
Martin Heldring November 11, 2012 at 04:37 AM
John, thank you for your comments and for your improving tone. There is no reason that disagreements cannot be dealt with in a mature and respectful manner. And here, the facts are right before us. I said above that there have been “double digit tax increases taxes over the past several years” and you referred to that as “not true”. But the facts you reference above in fact prove my point. Thank you.
John C. Nagle November 11, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Martin, you have missed my point entirely. Your original comment can be parsed but the fact is most readers would understand your statement to be that taxes have been raised at a double digit rate each year not over some time period. Frankly I find the argument to serve no purpose. The taxpayers demand a level of service and amenities and it is our job to provide that with an efficient use of the tax dollar. This Board and our management team have done a great job in this respect.
Metoxic November 11, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Mr. Nagle, would you please answer my question. Why are there no permanent lights at Memorial Field?
I Lived Here for 25 Years & Finally Moved Out November 11, 2012 at 04:58 PM
This article is about the Willows, yet 2 people have decided to hijack the conversation. Stick to the topic. If you have something for Mr. Nagle not related to the Willows then contact him directly. IMHO the current Township Manager is doing an outstanding job and this BOC is much improved in many Wards.
Metoxic November 12, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Charlie, my question is relevant to this article. If I say I will plant money trees around The Willows' pond, and pave the parking lots with gold bricks, in order to win the lease, am I bound to do so? Is Radnor bound to allow my doing those things? The AIS-Memorial Field lease was a private-public endeavor. Did Radnor residents get what they expected; a lighted turf field? No. My question is why not. Who put the nix on the lights everyone thought were going to be part of the field? That's all I wanna know. And, I did ask the question about the lights in a previous Patch article. http://radnor.patch.com/blog_posts/one-commissioners-opinion-the-memorial-field-lease
Elinor Ball December 14, 2012 at 03:00 AM
There is a current discussion going on about the possibility of a Kindergarten center at Ithan Elementary in order to offer Full Day Kindergarten to families in the district. This scenario would have the kindergarten classes housed in a trailer at Ithan. There are many potential problems with this concept. Is there any chance that the township and the school district could work together in a way that is beneficial to both in order to use the Willows Mansion as the kindergarten center for the district?

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