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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.

Oct 05

If you can’t get here, you can’t work here

Posted on October 5, 2016 at 9:11 AM by Jerry Andree

Where did all the workers go?
The Community Bulletin Board in our Municipal Center is crowded with postings from organizations both within and around the Township.  Many carry the same message: We’re Hiring.
Up and down Rt. 19 there’s a similar story, with signs and banners pleading for help.  Many of those openings are associated with food service, human service, hotel and retail organizations.  But local manufacturing, automotive and computer services are also hunting for talent, although the greatest need appears to be in the hospitality sector, where wages vary but are typically somewhat less.  However, wages are not the only issue. 

What we do hear from employers in Cranberry, as much as anything else, has to do with the lack of public transit to get their employees to Cranberry and back from wherever they happen to live.  It particularly affects entry-level jobs and younger workers.  Unless aspiring employees have cars of their own, they’re pretty much out of luck commuting to, from, or within Cranberry.  It is an issue that the Township has been aware of and attempting to address for a number of years with agencies in Butler and Allegheny counties, as well as with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, SPC – the region’s 10-county transportation planning body.
Right now, in fact, we’re involved in a technical review group for an SPC study of transit in Butler County.  At some point, that study is expected to develop into a transit plan for the area.  But bringing any transit plan to life is going to require some heavy lifting.
In the meantime, motivated, articulate and talented young people are enjoying a number of employment options in the region.  And those options are only expected to grow as Baby Boomers retire in greater numbers.  But the issue of transportation keeps coming back.
Commuting to and from Cranberry is already quite extensive.  The composition of Cranberry’s daytime and nighttime populations are very different as a result.  Of the approximately 24,000 jobs in Cranberry, only about ten percent are actually filled by Township residents.  And of the nearly 12,000 Township residents in the workforce, more than 9,000 commute to work somewhere else.  So while there’s a lot of private travel in both directions, there is essentially no public transportation either to or from Cranberry. 

Workforce imbalances like we’ve experienced here have not escaped the attention of the influential Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and those imbalances may grow worse.  This past May, the Conference issued a study that projected a significant labor shortfall throughout the Tri-state area by 2025, largely driven by retirements, job changes and economic growth.
Creating new American jobs has been a mantra for both political parties in this fall’s election, and it’s important.  But the companion issue of getting people to those new jobs from wherever they happen to live is something that also needs to be addressed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the transportation issue as well.  Write to me-
Aug 19

We’re still building for you

Posted on August 19, 2016 at 10:26 PM by Jerry Andree

Part of the comprehensive planning effort that Cranberry started nearly a decade ago dealt with our community identity: what did we want people to visualize when they thought about Cranberry?  After all, we don’t have the signature architecture or geological landmarks that characterize communities like New York, St. Louis, Rome or Rio.  And even though the Township was incorporated more than 200 years earlier, for most of that time it was primarily farmland.  It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Cranberry Township we know today really started to take shape.  

So it’s fair to say that unlike most communities which inherited a place built generations earlier, Cranberry Township was built by people who live here now.  So we came up with the phrase “Built for You” as Cranberry’s tag line.  

And what was it that people wanted to see built?  Beyond the standard municipal infrastructure – streets, sewers, waterlines, and so forth – they wanted us to build the sorts of assets that could transform their municipality into a real community, where people could interact, bond, and help one another as needed.  So we expanded Community Park, created two new parks, added a Waterpark, a Skatepark, a Dog Park, a golf course and built a Community Center instead of just a Township office building.  

Those facilities, which were built in response to public input and with strong support from our Board of Supervisors, have proven to be the true center of our community, pulling thousands of residents together for a variety of reasons.  In fact, last year, our facilities hosted over a million visitors.  Those facilities form the critical infrastructure of our community and are just as important as our utility-type physical infrastructure.  You could even argue that while every community has sewer, water and roads, few have the variety of community resources we do.  

Those same community resources also provide a venue for dozens of civic and volunteer organizations to raise funds for charitable causes.  I’ve heard estimates that our facilities enable nonprofits to raise around a million dollars a year through walks, runs, tournaments and outings.  As the custodians of these facilities, nothing warms the hearts of our employees more than seeing the thousands of people who use these public facilities.  And most of them never give a thought to the awesome infrastructure that made it all possible.  

Beyond that, those same facilities are key to Cranberry’s economic development.  We have demonstrated over and over again that the key to sustained economic growth is creating a community where residents come first and enjoy a high quality of life.  High quality employers will follow.

So my thanks go out to the residents of Cranberry Township for knowing what it takes to build and maintain an awesome community.  It is a privilege to be entrusted with these facilities on your behalf, and we promise to continue delivering the finest infrastructure and best services we can.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about our community infrastructure.  Write to me at 
Aug 09

Who’s paying for all this roadwork?

Posted on August 9, 2016 at 6:33 PM by Jerry Andree

A normal year in Western Pennsylvania, it is said, includes two seasons: bad weather and construction season.  We’re in the latter one now, and sometimes that can try the patience of people whose familiar travel routes have been disrupted.  I accept some responsibility for that; not only does the Township encourage road improvements, we also issue many of the permits that allow them to happen. 

But there is also a serious misunderstanding about how those improvements are financed – one that I do not accept responsibility for.  It’s the belief that whenever there’s a new development of some sort in Cranberry – a shopping center, an office building, a housing plan, or whatever – that any associated road improvements are being paid for by local taxpayers.  They’re not.  

It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of people believe their taxes are paying for those road projects; after all, that is exactly what happens in a number of other Western Pennsylvania communities where it is typically explained as an investment in economic development.  But Cranberry is different in several respects.  

First, as a condition of receiving Board approval to move ahead with any land development project here, the developer is required to create whatever improvements are needed for traffic to access the site of that project.  That could include things like new turning lanes, traffic signals, or on-site service roads – all of which would be done on the developer’s dime.  If you look at Rt. 228 – which was a two-lane blacktop road a generation ago – you’ll see a roadway transformed by private developer’s dollars. 

The second difference is that twenty-five years ago, Cranberry championed a new state law that allowed municipalities to collect fees from developers to help with transportation improvements.  They’re called Transportation Impact Fees, and their purpose is to finance off-site improvements to the local transportation system which would help to mitigate the increase in traffic that the developer’s project generated.  Cranberry was the first community in Pennsylvania to make use of that law, and since that time it’s financed numerous road, intersection and signal improvements.  

Beyond that, Transportation Impact Fees may be used as matching funds for federal and state transportation projects in the Township.  So they can leverage significantly more money than we collect from the developers themselves.  Using those matching formulas, we’ve been able to finance roughly $50 million in projects from about $13 million in fees that we actually collected. 

Our Board of Supervisors realized years ago that growth was inevitable and that the Township had to be prepared to proactively manage that growth.  They understood that the costs facing Cranberry as it transformed from a thinly populated rural area into a fast-growing, smoothly-functioning community would be high.  Its farm roads were never designed to handle the volume of traffic we now experience.  So they made a decision: to pass as much of the infrastructure improvement costs as possible onto the developers who were behind that fast growth.  And it’s worked.

The reason it works is that developers want to be here – not that they’re being bribed by gifts of local taxpayer money to come.  They want to be here because Cranberry has a great workforce, a great marketplace, great housing and great transportation.  It’s an excellent place to do business, so they’re willing to pay the costs associated with doing projects in the Township.  That’s why Cranberry works so well.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about financing transportation as well.  Write me at