Barnard House feasibility study: Pocopson reviewing 19 proposals

By Karen Cresta, Staff Writer, The Times

The Barnard House. Times’ file photo.

POCOPSON – The township’s Board of Supervisors  provided an update on Monday night as to the status of the historic 1800’s Barnard House and the feasibility study as a possible relocation of their new home office.

Supervisor Elaine DiMonte along with Public Works Director Mark Knightly provided a site tour of the Barnard House to 19 respondents of the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the study. The supervisors requested the study to gather information by a third party on the appropriateness of occupancy after much debate since the 2014 lease was signed by the Kennett Underground Railroad Center (KURC) to occupy the lower level.

Since then, the township has faced many challenges with the costly renovations (approximately $900,000 in completed work), installation and operational delays of the security system, meetings debating the occupation of the building, the validity of the lease, and many differing opinions about its suitability.

The conclusion to do the feasibility study was sparked by comments from a former member of the Barnard House Steering Committee (and former Township Supervisor), Lauressa McNemar, in August 2016, when she challenged the current supervisors to find documentation specifically stating the building was not suitable for the municipal office.

The supervisors previously stated that an official and professional feasibility study would help determine the future uses of the building, preferably with a company that doesn’t know anything about the historical site.

The supervisors are still reviewing all 19 proposals, with associated costs of plans from $6,900 all the way up to $60,000.

“It’s taking a little bit of time for each of us to review all of the proposals,” DiMonte stated as she looked at the huge binder in front of Supervisor Alice Balsama.

The results will be presented at a future meeting upon receipt of the review comments. The cost of completing possible renovations will be another concern after the feasibility study results are reviewed for next steps.

Leah Luo from the Parks, Recreation and Trails Committee (PRT) reported to the supervisors a request for $1,000 in sponsorship money to work with the Red Clay Alliance on Saturday, April 29, to clean up land areas and streams for Earth Day. The supervisors approved the sponsorship to be used towards the purchase of volunteer t-shirts, gloves, trash bags, safety vests, etc. Luo said there are usually 25 or more volunteers that show up for the four-hour commitment.

The supervisors questioned the purchase of the supplies if the committee did not have an actual sign-up sheet to know how many volunteers to expect and outfit for the day’s event.

Balsama stated, “We want to encourage it but we need to reassess to make sure we get value from the $1,000 as a donation from the township. For $1,000, you can’t just wing this.”

The supervisors agreed to table the discussion for the next meeting on April 10 when they expect to have a new detailed plan of action from Luo.

Knightly provided a public works update to the board. He reported a 17 year-old model dump truck sold on for $15,500 – for $7,500 more than he anticipated. The supervisors approved three resolutions including the purchase of some miscellaneous equipment in the amount of $1,500, Phase 1 initiatives for Overlook Trail in the amout of $5,780, and to request the low-bid purchase of road materials such as stone, line paint, and diesel fuel with the Southern Chester County Co-op.

Brad Peiper, the township’s Kennett Library representative, reported a status on some of the library’s initiatives. He will be providing a summary at the April 24 township meeting regarding a recommendation for funding support based on the results from an actual residential usage breakdown of library cardholders for Kennett versus West Chester libraries. The results can be used as a reference for the township on how to split funds to support the libraries for 2018.

Peiper also reported the library board is working with a visionary consultant to present recommendations for the new building it will share with Kennett Square. It will be three-stories with underground parking and will be located at the corner of State and Willow streets.

In addition, according to Peiper, the library is continuing its fundraising efforts with its Adult Literacy Program and soliciting for grants to keep the program active. The library will be holding its main fund raising event on June 3 – The Home and Garden Tour – with the focus on approximately ten homes in the Unionville area. Tickets will be available for purchase.

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