The Phoenix Reporter and Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

Limerick discusses new public works building, data system


By Frank Otto, fotto@21st-CenturyMedia.com

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

LIMERICK — Moving into the 2014 budget season, the Oct. 1 township board of supervisors meeting involved a presentation on the planned new public works building and an impending switch to a new municipal data system.
Township Manager Dan Kerr took advantage of a small agenda to check into the feelings of the board of supervisors on the planned public works building, especially regarding where it would be erected.
“We really need to need to locate this building so we can fine-tooth the costs on it,” said Kerr.
Kerr said the township has been talking for “well over a year” about updating the public works building, which he says is cramped now between the vehicles, equipment and workers it houses.
The township is looking into putting up a new “traditional Butler-style” prefabricated, two-story, 22,000 to 23,000 square-foot facility which will “take the crew into the next 20 years.”
According to plans laid out by Kerr, there are two options for where the new building would stand. One involved placing it slightly further back from where the current building stands. The footprint of the new building would overlap where the current one stands, meaning the old building would have to be demolished before the new structure could be put up.
For that spot, labeled “Location Two,” a variance from the township’s zoning hearing board would be necessary, since its setback would be too far.
Preferred by Kerr was a site in front of the salt storage building, “Location One,” which would essentially put the building flush up against the parking lot behind the township building.
“It allows the crew to stay in their current building while we’re constructing the new one,” Kerr said.
Demolishing the old building to put the building in Location Two would add costs to the project during construction as the township stored its equipment and vehicles elsewhere until the new building was ready.
Putting the new building at Location One would mean the old public works building would only be knocked down when the new one was finished.
Another benefit for Location One would be better storage options if the building were placed up front.
“It also allows for better access to the public that has to come in for road-opening permits,” said Kerr.
Putting the public works building so close behind the township building would likely cause the movement of the tennis courts currently there.
“We have also talked to the board about moving these tennis courts down to the community park,” Kerr said. “Having tennis courts in the back of a police station just doesn’t work, (doesn’t) flow any more.”
There would be cash available in the budget for that, according to Kerr.
Moving the tennis courts would also create space for an expansion of the police station Kerr mentioned last month.
The $2 million project was budgeted for this year, Kerr said in July, but the cash set aside for it will roll over to the 2014 budget.
Supervisor Kara Shuler made a request for the numbers on what it would take to “beautify” the facade of the new building.
“We have so many residents that have to pass that on the way to their homes,” she said.
The board gave the okay for Kerr to proceed working on the location closer to the township building, in front of the salt storage area.
“It seems like the logical choice,” said Board Vice Chairwoman Elaine DeWan, deeming the site “more practical.”
Additionally, Greta Martin Washington, the township’s zoning and code enforcement officer, gave a presentation on the township’s intent to change its data management system to Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
That system, Martin Washington said, is tied to maps and provides an electronic network available across departments 24/7.
“It puts all of the township data into one place, one source of information,” Martin Washington said.
She said it would allow those in the township to “interpret data much more rapidly.”
According to Martin Washington, converting the township’s data collection and storage to a geographic information system could improve the processing time for new permits by 50 percent.
Implementation would be carried out one department per year, she said, with it costing roughly $60,000 per department.
To bring departments fully online, it will take about three years, she said.
Data has already been collected by the township engineer, Khaled Hassan, over the years leading up to this.
“In short, GIS will be able to help us deal with more growth with less staff,” Martin Washington said.
Grants and other such sources of revenue will be sought to implement the system as opposed to doing it completely through tax revenue.
“I think the big part is you don’t have to increase your staff and (can still) keep costs down,” said Supervisor Thomas Neafcy following the presentation on the system.
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.