Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo met with members of the Bensalem Business Association to give his annual “State of the Township” address Wednesday night.
The mayor touched on issues that affect the business community, like the 1-percent earned income tax put in place at the beginning of this year. DiGirolamo reiterated his support of the tax, saying it was done “out of absolute necessity.”
Bensalem Township laid off 20 employees over the last few weeks, and cutting the police department’s budget was not on the table.
“We had no choice,” DiGirolamo added. “I refuse to cut the police.”
The mayor sees public safety as the main priority for the township. He said that an estimated 250,000 people travel through the township, which has a population of around 60,000, each day.
“It’s not about how many residents we have to serve,” he continued. “It’s about how we protect those residents.”
He also gave some insight on the progress of the riverfront revival, something that he said has been important to him since he was first elected in 1994.
“The economy is going to dictate it,” he said. “The housing project down there, that’s ten years in the making.”
Council recently passed ordinances that would permit development uses for new industry, like high-tech, office space and manufacturing in the area by the Delaware River from Station Avenue to Street Road. There are also plans to implement more housing and transportation-oriented development.
“Everybody wants to build apartments,” he said. “We’re not going to allow any more apartments.”
Forty-two percent of Bensalem residents live in apartments, he said. The only place the township will allow them, he added, is near the train stations to attract young people working in the city to live in Bensalem. Township officials have also had meetings with SEPTA and Amtrak aimed at updating Bensalem’s two regional rail stations.
DiGirolamo shed more light on the issue of the sale of the Neil Armstrong Middle School property. It was reported that the township’s involvement in the sale negatively affected the price for the school district by placing development restrictions on the property.
“The only thing council does is they have to change the zoning,” he said. “Personally, I don’t want to see another shopping center.”
The mayor floated the idea of an upscale restaurant at that location, something that may not be viable for developers looking to maximize profit.
“We don’t have a lot of land left,” DiGirolamo said. “It’s not restrictions. We’re trying to make suggestions.”
Still, it seems overall business leaders are pleased with the current state of the township.
“Are you happy with Bensalem?” DiGirolamo asked.
They responded with applause.