Kennett Township officials take aim at gerrymandering

MATT FREEMAN - DIGITAL FIRST MEDIAGreg McCoy talks about the petition he presented to the Kennett Township supervisors supporting a proposal to create an independent citizens' commission to oversee legislative and Congressional redistricting and prevent gerrymandering.
MATT FREEMAN - DIGITAL FIRST MEDIAGreg McCoy talks about the petition he presented to the Kennett Township supervisors supporting a proposal to create an independent citizens' commission to oversee legislative and Congressional redistricting and prevent gerrymandering.

KENNETT TOWNSHIP >> With documented support from hundreds of citizens, the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors has called to amend the state constitution to combat gerrymandering.

The supervisors voted unanimously at their Wednesday night meeting to support a resolution calling for an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution that would give responsibility for legislative and congressional redistricting to an independent citizens’ commission.

“Gerrymandering” is the practice of dominant political parties using the redistricting process to give themselves unfair electoral advantages.

Greg McCoy presented the supervisors with a petition he said had been signed by more than 200 residents supporting the proposal. An independent citizens’ commission overseeing the redistricting process “may get our democracy back to truly representing our citizens,” McCoy said.

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In other business, Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt announced that two new officers had joined the township police force, replacing two who had left and maintaining the staff at seven officers. Nolt said Miguel Juarez was a new police academy graduate, and one quality he brought to the job was being bilingual, which Nolt said was “a huge asset for us.”

Adam Cramer had 14 years of experience as a police officer in Lancaster County, according to Nolt. “We’re happy to have both of you aboard,” he said.

The two officers were sworn in to the township police force by retired District Judge Daniel Maisano.

Nolt also acknowledged the career progress of Rick Bell, who had been a part-time officer in the Kennett Township force and served full-time in the borough. Bell recently took a job as police chief in the borough of Frackville, in Schuylkill County. “Good job, Rick Bell, for working your way up the ladder,” Nolt said.

Township Manager Lisa Moore said progress was continuing on three sidewalk projects for which the township had received $850,000 in grant money from the state. One will connect Granite Ridge and the borough via McFarlan and Rosedale roads, and another will link Penns Manor and the borough on State Street.

The third sidewalk project will begin at the Mr. Wizard car wash on Cypress and continue west to Scarlet Road and the shopping center. Scudder Stevens, chair of the board of supervisors, said when he first came on the board years ago, he was concerned about families walking on the shoulder of the road to get from the borough to the shopping center.

The township has been working for years to make the route safer for pedestrians, he said, and he was very pleased to see the project ready to begin construction in June.

“What government is all about is perceiving a safety issue, finding a solution, and then making it happen,” Stevens said.

The supervisors said they met in executive session to discuss the acquisition of two properties in order to preserve them as open space. They voted during their meeting to make available a total of $363,000 in open space funds to acquire the properties if negotiations are successful. The two properties total about 6.2 acres, they said.

The vote was 2–1, with Supervisor Whitney Hoffman voting against the proposal. The supervisors routinely avoid identifying the properties they may acquire to avoid attracting other potential buyers, but Hoffman remarked that she considers whether all the township’s residents would benefit from a purchase before she will agree to it.

The supervisors heard a report from Jeff Yetter, vice-president of the Kennett Library Board of Trustees, on the library’s plans for future growth, including its new Director Megan Walters and plans to construct a new $7 million building at State and Willow streets in the borough.