Jerry Andree, Township Manager

Jerry Andree, Township Manager

No level of government has more impact on daily life than local government. That’s why my colleagues and I at Cranberry Township are passionate about pushing the limits of excellence to provide the best possible services to our residents and customers. However, being well-served is not a passive achievement; it is a collective undertaking. Through this blog, we offer our personal reflections on that assignment. And we hope it will help engage you in joining us on that same collaborative mission.

Jul 14

Cranberry didn’t happen by accident

Posted on July 14, 2017 at 3:42 PM by Jerry Andree

Let me get something off my chest.  Cranberry is a great place to live, work and play. Just about everyone says so.  

But it wasn’t always that way.  As far back as the 1980s, it was clear that – like it or not – growth was coming to Cranberry.  So our elected officials faced a choice: whether to let that growth roll over the Township haphazardly, as it has elsewhere in the region, or to take control and steer that development toward making Cranberry the outstanding community they knew it could become.  

They chose to manage Cranberry’s growth.  That choice, in turn, prompted a series of very deliberate strategic decisions, made over an extended period of time.  The community you see today is the result of their methodical planning, thoughtful policy-making, targeted investments, and a sustained vision implemented by our staff under the Board of Supervisors’ direction.  

And yet I keep bumping into people – including people that ought to know better – who just shrug and say well, all the good things that happened in Cranberry just happened on their own.  As though a community’s good fortune was random – a matter of luck, something like winning the lottery.

It’s a view that drives me nuts.  So let me set the record straight.  There are specific goals and practices which have been behind Cranberry’s success.  Here are just a few of them:
  • Enhanced mobility.  Managing traffic growth and accommodating pedestrians have been among the Township’s top operational and spending priorities for decades.  
  • Leisure assets.  Over the past 20 years, we have either built or greatly expanded three major parks, a golf course, and enhanced our community center, providing extensive recreational programming.
  • Predictable development.  Careful long-range land use planning has been a hallmark of Cranberry and a source of confidence to PennDOT in supporting Township road projects. 
  • Developer financing.  Instead of having taxpayers finance road improvements for new businesses, Cranberry collects fees from those developers and requires them to pay for their improvements. 
  • Clear communications.  Cranberry uses a variety of media, both print and electronic, to relay timely information to its residents and respond to their inquiries. 
  • Fiscal soundness.  Cranberry’s municipal taxes are low, its budget is balanced, its credit is excellent, and its spending is conservative, 
  • Action-oriented.  Cranberry’s Board of Supervisors acts decisively.  It doesn’t ‘kick the can down the road’ or grant non-mandated benefit programs that create legacy costs for future generations.
  • Sustainable growth.  Cranberry’s development and business practices are designed to serve future generations as well as current residents. 
  • Pleasing aesthetics.  Cranberry’s ordinances and planning reviews are designed to enhance the experience of residents and visitors with attractive streetscape, open space, and architectural detail. 
  • Good neighbors.  Cranberry has formed partnerships with numerous businesses, civic organizations and other units of government in the area to advance their shared goals.
  • Resident engagement.  Cranberry welcomes and supports volunteer participation in its planning, recreation, culture, advisory and public safety functions. 
  • Tech-friendly.  Cranberry is not only home to a number of leading-edge technology companies, it also is among the early adopters of technology for its own operations. 
I could go on and on.  But I think you get the idea: Cranberry’s success didn’t just happen.  Nor did it occur without struggle and conflict, as longtime residents here remember well.  Instead, it is the product of a long-running collaboration between its public, private and nonprofit sectors together with engaged and passionate residents and a visionary Board of Supervisors.  

We like to think of our residents as shareholders, and we believe their return on investment has been substantial. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Cranberry’s success. You can reach me at jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org

May 12

Traffic? What traffic?

Posted on May 12, 2017 at 9:50 AM by Jerry Andree

If you ask people around Western Pennsylvania what comes to mind when they think about Cranberry, you’ll get a lot of answers – great parks, great shopping, great jobs, nice homes and so on.  But what you’ll hear from almost everyone is something related to traffic.

It’s an evergreen topic – one we spend a lot of time and effort addressing.  For example, the juncture of Rt. 19 with 228 and Freedom Road is now the busiest intersection in all of Western Pennsylvania, and there are others in the Township which aren’t that far behind.  No question about it: there’s a huge volume of traffic that moves through our community, and we do our best to make it flow as efficiently as possible.  At the same time, though, we love having people come here because traffic signifies a bustling, thriving economy.  Just think about communities with no cars on their roads; they’re ghost towns.
 
Still, our surge of traffic is nothing new; we saw it coming more than 25 years ago with the advent of I-279 North.  That was when our Board of Supervisors implemented Impact Fees on new developments to help finance local road improvements.  We also formed partnerships with local businesses and with other units of government to secure the funds for intersection improvements like turning lanes, traffic signals, roundabouts and signage. 

Our Board’s direction has been clear: Cranberry needs to be proactive in traffic management and safety.  In addition to maintaining an aggressive program of capital investment in our roadway infrastructure, we track incidents on local roads to see where re-engineering a roadway segment, or a speed awareness campaign, or additional maintenance, or more vigorous enforcement could make a difference.  And they do.  The collective impact of all these measures has been positive, and that’s been validated by the Western Pennsylvania AAA which, for the eighth consecutive year, awarded us their Platinum Safety Award – the Association’s highest – for traffic safety. 

But we’re not just hanging up their plaque and resting on our laurels.  The effort to improve traffic flow and safety is ongoing.  Starting in January, PennDOT stopped mailing license plate validation stickers to vehicle owners.  In its place, the state is helping to finance the installation of patrol car-mounted license plate reading cameras, linked to a database, that can immediately determine whether a vehicle’s registration is current.  It can also help to quickly identify stolen vehicles, an unpleasant issue that Cranberry recently received some help in dealing with.

There’s a state fund that was created some years ago to finance police officers detailed to vehicle theft investigation.  That officer is usually attached to a County District Attorney’s office.  But when a vacancy was created earlier this year in Butler County, the money became available to fund a replacement.  Cranberry saw the opportunity to add that specialty to its force and was awarded a grant to finance that position.  

As a result, Cranberry now has an experienced officer on staff, specializing in auto theft, helping to advance our efforts on various aspects of law enforcement and traffic safety.  So we’d like to thank our state partners for supporting our efforts to make Cranberry both a model of traffic safety and a model of efficient traffic flow. 

What all this means is that when you see our police vehicles traveling around the Township looking like Google cars bristling with cameras, they’re all about keeping our community secure, keeping traffic moving efficiently, and assuring the safe passage of people and products along our bustling corridors. 
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Cranberry’s traffic safety.  You can reach me at jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org
Apr 20

What’s up with the water meters?

Posted on April 20, 2017 at 9:25 AM by Jerry Andree

People keep asking me: why is Cranberry taking this perfectly good water meter out of my home?  Has it fallen out of fashion?  Has it become a collectable?  Haven’t we learned anything from Pittsburgh’s awful experience?  Fair questions.  So let me take a stab at answering them.

First of all, an old meter is almost certainly not a ‘perfectly good’ meter.  Water meters, like computers, washing machines, cars and just about everything else, wear out.  In the case of water meters, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll break and flood your basement.  But it does mean that after 20 years or so, the readings it registers have become less and less reliable.  For the resident, that can be either good or bad, depending on whether it’s reading high or low.  But for the Township, that makes it harder to manage our water distribution system because we’re not sure how much water is actually being consumed, how much is leaking, or how much is being stolen from ratepayers.  

So we’re replacing all 8,000 of the old analog meters with new digital ones that are a lot more accurate, if not more fashionable.  They are paired with a transmitter on an outside wall of the home that sends the customer’s usage data into the Township office every day.  That means no estimated bills to pay, no meter reader tromping through your flower bed, and no guesswork about how much water you’re using.  In the near future, you’ll also have the opportunity to track your water consumption online, in near-real time – even when you’re away.  It will also allow us to notify you if we get data suggesting there’s a leak.  And when you eventually sell your home, we can provide you with an instant final reading.  So overall, it should be a better customer experience.  

What happens to the old meters?  Are people collecting them?  That’s doubtful, although I’ve actually seen a few meters which were repurposed as industrial-style artwork.  However, that’s rare.  What’s actually happening is that the brass from the old meters is being bought from the Township for reprocessing, and the income from that sale is being used to reduce the cost of the replacement units. 

But what about Pittsburgh’s experience?  Didn’t they have people getting astronomical water bills and a chorus of complaints about their new meters?  Yes.  And we’ve learned from it.  For example, we learned that water mains eventually fail, and that leaks can make meter readings meaningless.  Pittsburgh is a lot older than Cranberry, so its infrastructure is more prone to failure, but we also know that someday our own distribution lines will need replacement, too.  That’s why our field operations people are doing everything they can to postpone that day through good maintenance practices.  

We also learned that Pittsburgh used meters and accessories from different vendors that didn’t play nice with each other.  A lot of them weren’t installed right, and there were problems with radio signals not reaching where they should.  So, in addition to checking our entire distribution system for leaks twice a year, we’re getting all our meter technology from the same sources, we set and enforce standards for the installers, and we test each unit on site to make sure it actually works.  We’re eliminating estimated readings entirely so that problems are identified and corrected as quickly as possible.  

So that’s why we’re switching out our meters.  It’s relatively painless – the installer is in and out in less than 30 minutes; it comes at no additional cost to the customer because the meters belonged to the Township in the first place; it helps us conserve water; we can free our meter readers for other assignments; and it will allow our Public Works people to do an even better job of planning, maintaining, and delivering the water service our residents expect. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about our water system.  Write me at: jerry.andree@cranberrytownship.org