Lies, damn lies and PECO

On Pocopson roundabout delays, power company needs to put its money where it mouth is

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

UTMikeColLogoIt was a lovely later summer morning at the intersection of Rt. 52, Lenape-Unionville and Wawaset roads, Wednesday morning.

A soft breeze was blowing as the sun pushed the clouds away. You could hear the Pocopson Creek running, birds singing — it was like something from a travelogue.

Except, of course, this is supposed to be a dirty, noisy construction site of the increasingly infamous roundabout, a mere six to seven weeks from alleged completion. Three Henkel & McCoy trucks were on site, working to move some of the wires that still haven’t been entirely moved, a week after work to move them went into high gear (which in and of itself may be almost a month after it should have, and nearly two months after all work on the site largely ground to a halt).


Mt. PECO remains entirely intact — right in the middle of what should be roadway construction — as only some of the utility wires needed to be moved to allow for construction had been moved as of midday Wednesday.

The always scenic Mt. PECO remains in place, at the northern side of the intersection, complete with utility poles and what appears to be much of the wiring. It appears from a quick glance that less than half of the wires needed to tear down the utility poles have been moved — whether that is how it should be, or the fault of PECO, Verizon or the Easter Bunny depends on who you talk to about the subject.

From here, and granted, I’m not a construction engineer, it seems amazingly unlikely that the roundabout will be open for business on Oct. 1. Or even Nov. 1. If the primary construction contractor, Road-Con, was ahead of schedule as of mid-June, it seems doubtful that on-time is even an option at this point.

Of course, PECO’s official position is that it did nothing wrong, didn’t delay anything and everything is all peachy-keen. And if the roundabout opens approximately on schedule — then they will have been proven right. But if we’ve enjoyed our Thanksgiving without being able to take a lap around the new Pocopson Speedway, we’ll know where to point the finger.

And we’ll know who lied. Who lied to a local State Representative. Who lied to the media. Who lied to the local residents. Hopefully, someone will hold their feet to the fire — the utility, a state-regulated monopoly, must be held accountable and should compensate local residents who are delayed, spend extra money on gas, and indirectly, the extra costs to the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, the county corrections facility and the Pocopson Home, among others put out by this.

How about this? If the roundabout is done and open by Nov. 1 (which is a month late, by the way), I will offer a mea culpa here and make it clear that PECO got it right. I’ll even pose in a “PECO rules!” t-shirt in the middle of the shiny new, roundabout. Of course, I’d have to make such a shirt, as we all know, none exist.

But if, on Nov. 2, the roundabout isn’t open — how about a free week of power service for the entire county? Yes, if the state Department of Environmental Protection can’t get its act together an issue the permit needed to fix the little bridge just to the south of the intersection on Route 52, all bets are off, but wouldn’t this quite literally be asking PECO to put its money where its mouth is?

Heaven knows, were we six or eight weeks late on payment, PECO wouldn’t hesitate to turn off our power. But that should swing both ways — so what do you say, PECO?

I wouldn’t hold your breath on an answer — or the roundabout opening any time soon.


* * *

I found myself in kind of an odd circumstance Monday night the Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education work session— as the last remaining media representative at the meeting and the only non-employee or Board of Education member in the room — as board member Michael Rock took rather voluminous issue with some of his colleagues, specifically Keith Knauss.

Rock — and I generally agree with him here — cited literally dozens of studies refuting studies Knauss has cited arguing about the relationship between school spending, teacher salaries and educational outcome. As a published economics professor at Bryn Mawr, Rock is certainly qualified to make such arguments, and did so in great detail — much of it well over my head.

I personally think its a complicated matrix — and a subject worthy of debate.

But, I’m not sure Rock’s method did much to spark the sort of reasoned debate that would inform and enhance education in the district. Knauss left the meeting visibly angry, saying that he felt that he had been ambushed, especially after offering to discuss the subject, verbally or by email, with Rock, previously, only to be rebuffed.

Rightly, too, Knauss pointed out that his actions as a board member do not always line up with some of the rhetoric related to school spending.

Watching him over the last few years as I have, I can’t recall an instance where if a superintendent (be it Sharon Parker or John Sanville) said publicly, “we need this” that Knauss opposed it. And unlike ideologically driven board members in other neighboring districts, on topics such as outsourcing, when shown the numbers could be better by keeping employees, he’s shown a willingness to be flexible.

That’s not to say Knauss can’t be immensely infuriating. I’m pretty sure I have more gray hair and less hair in general (from wanting to rip it out at times) from some of our more heated back and forths. But there’s no questioning his insight at times — and I think, to be fair, he’s demonstrated his dedication to the district and the greater community.

And while I understand Rock’s intent here, I suspect it had the opposite result. Instead of sparking a good dialogue and debate — again, something that could inform and enrich our community — it appears to have shut that down.

Which is a pity, as I think these are two smart, educated gentlemen who care deeply about the school district and the community.

I recognize it is an unlikely option — but I would be happy to buy each of these gentlemen a beer and have an entirely “off the record” discussion on the matter. Aside from dramatically increasing my understanding of the subject matter, I would hope it could lead to a productive dialogue that could eventually lead to a better understanding of the relationship between school spending and academic achievement.

It is my hope that with a couple of days for cooler heads to prevail, such an informal meeting could happen.

What do you say, gentlemen?


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  1. Keith Knauss says:

    Of course I’m open to a meeting. I enjoy discussing educational topics. We learn from one another and, as a result, we make better decisions. It was in this spirit that I emailed Dr. Rock in June with the following request:
    [Dr. Rock], Let’s have a conversation about educational spending. We can learn from each other. Are you open to copying the rest of the board and administrative team? I think it will be enlightening (and entertaining) for all. Keith
    The gist of the reply a few days later was no, I don’t have time. So it was a surprise when Dr. Rock unleashed an unscheduled 30 minute lecture on how increased spending would have a large and positive effect on academic achievement. This finding, which I expected from Dr. Rock, is in contradiction to my findings from the surrounding 61 area school districts and the 500 districts across the state. It’s the reason I sent the email asking for an exchange where all could learn. Why is an open discussion important? Our 9 member school board sets policy each year determining class size, employee compensation, spending and taxation in an effort to provide our students with an excellent education. We make better decisions with our residents’ money when we’re better informed.

  2. del bittle says:

    If this roundabout slows down a Barreling Beamer, a Screamin’ Sonata or a Rapid Range Rover, to me it’s worth the money and the wait……….

  3. Robert Daniels says:

    Can somebody please enlighten me as to the reason for the roundabout in the first place? I’m from England, so know how beneficial roundabouts can be, but I can’t see that one in this location is beneficial or required. Roundabouts work best where the volume of traffic is close to equal coming from each road that intersects the junction, but here the traffic on route 52 must far exceed that coming from unionville. If traffic calming was a reason, a roundabout was a poor choice.

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