The race for Delaware County Council continues as Republican candidates came out of the gate with three more announcements in the last week and a half.
Republicans Kelly Colvin, Mike Morgan and Jim Raith completed a tour of all municipalities in Delaware County, offered the concept of the county prison as the solution for the county's stray animal problem and signed a "No Sale" pledge for Fair Acres Geriatric Center.
Their Democratic challengers are Christine Reuther, Elaine Paul Schaefer and Monica Taylor. Council Chairman John McBlain and Vice Chairman Colleen Morrone being unable to seek re-election by term limits and Councilman Michael Culp's is not running for another term.
First, the Republican slate announced they toured, and are committed, to the Fair Acres Geriatric Center. Signing a "No Sale" pledge, the candidates said they want the facility that serves more than 600 seniors and others of all ages needing round-the-clock care. Delaware County has been operating Fair Acres for more than 200 years.
"We will keep Fair Acres under public oversight," Raith said.
Morgan added, "Other counties have sold their nursing facilities in an effort to balance budgets. We think that is the wrong direction."
"This is important," Colvin said, "because concern for the 'bottom line' has made many private locations unaffordable to many. We need to provide a safe haven for our seniors. That being said, county government can take a greater role to enhance their quality of life at Fair Acres."
None of the Democratic candidates, or anyone else, have proposed selling Fair Acres.
The second announcement revolved around the county's challenge with stray animals. Delaware County has struggled with what to do with these animals since the Providence Animal Center, once the Delaware County SPCA, changed its mission seven years ago to a no-kill shelter, no longer serving as the central point for receiving stray animals in Delaware County.
For a while, the county established the Animal Protection Board and contracted with Brandywine Valley SPCA until 2016 when it was no longer viable. The county was paying $30,000 a month with a guarantee of 120 animals at $250 each to send them to Chester County. Three years ago, the estimate for the county to build its own shelter was $2.5 million.
At its peak, the Delaware County SPCA was bringing in between 5,000 and 8,000 animals a year. Now, some municipalities without animal control resources are forced to have their law enforcement respond only in situations where the animal is violent and then, the officer has instructions to shoot the animal.
Earlier this year, county council approved a request for proposals to let organizations and individuals submit proposals to the county for assisting in creating and operating a method for handling stray animals. The deadline for these bids was last month.
A proposed location was a maintenance shed in Smedley Park. Friends of Smedley Park voiced objection, saying such a facility there would "detract from the overall park experience."
At the June 12 county council meeting, Raith appeared and suggested creating a partnership with the George W. Hill Correctional Facility to rehabilitate dogs for adoption.
"Delaware County has a broken system to handle stray dogs," he said. "Each of our 49 towns is expected to contract with a 'dog catcher.' In most cases, the dogs are taken to a facility to be euthanized."
"We know there is a better way," Colvin said. "This is inhumane. We can do better."
Twenty prisons throughout Pennsylvania have instituted similar programs, where organizations like New Leash for Life train inmates to care for the stray dogs and help socialize them. In some programs, the inmates help rear them so they can become service dogs for individuals with physical or cognitive disabilities.
"Under our plan, inmates would care for the dogs on the prison grounds," Raith said. "The inmates are given meaningful responsibility, which is welcomed by both the inmates and the prison leadership."
The Republican trio also launched a "49 Towns, 1 Delco" tour in late April, visiting each municipality and its residents, businesses, non-profit organizations, municipal officials and county facilities by June 14.
"People want to be heard," Morgan said. "That is why we launched our '49 Towns, 1 Delco Tour' almost immediately."
Raith shared what people shared they wanted. "They want a county government that runs responsibly, efficiently, effectively and treats them with respect," he said.
Delaware County Republican Party Chairman Thomas McGarrigle praised his candidates.
"Who ever heard of candidates visiting every town in a county a full 143 days before an election?" he asked. "I'm so proud of our team. County residents will be even more proud of their leadership on County Council next year."
Delaware County Democratic Party Chairwoman Colleen Guiney said issuing press releases wasn't enough.
“After decades of neglect, Republicans running for office now want voters to believe that they care about these issues," she said. "Instead of sending out self-serving press releases, they should tell us why under Republican leadership, the quality of care at Fair Acres has declined and our stray dog problem has gotten worse."
She continued her criticism of the incumbent party.
“It’s no surprise that Republican politicians are trying to run away from their record of inefficiency and lack of planning," Guiney said. "But the voters won’t be fooled. Delaware County residents are ready for best practices, and bold, forward-looking leadership to solve the problems before us."
The GOP candidates, however, have a different view.
"Our team will continue to propose solutions for Delaware County," Raith said. "This is the type of leadership we will bring to county government ... We have a clear vision for the county. We visited each town to help inform (them of) that vision and find even better ways to move Delaware County forward."