Corbett: Delco town no longer 'distressed'

Posted: March 22, 2014

MILLBOURNE Twenty-one years after Millbourne was placed on the official state list of fiscally troubled communities, Gov. Corbett traveled to the tiny Delaware County borough Thursday afternoon to announce the end of its "financially distressed" status.

Millbourne, with about 1,200 residents, had been under Act 47 since 1993, which made it eligible for state grants and assistance.

Mayor Thomas Kramer said the borough had not overspent its budget for the last five years and had taken aggressive steps to cut costs - even enlisting goats to clear weeds.

He added that continued financial improvement would depend on development of a vacant property that encompasses one-third of the borough.

To encourage mixed-use development on the 18-acre parcel along Cobbs Creek, "we put a lot of money into visioning and planning," Kramer said.

Millbourne, the only town in the region with a majority Asian population, spans just a 10th of a square mile between Upper Darby and Philadelphia.

As he stood outside Borough Hall with borough and county officials, Corbett said that he might have passed through the town before, but that this was the first time "I knew I was in Millbourne, because you are that small."

Millbourne's budget began to suffer in 1988, when Sears, Roebuck & Co. left for Upper Darby. With Thursday's announcement, the borough became the first municipality to lose "financially distressed" status since 2007.

Twenty-one communities remain under Act 47, according to the state Department of Community and Economic Development, including Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and the City of Chester.

Millbourne has the second-highest tax rate in Delaware County and one of the highest in the region.

Cost-saving measures in Millbourne included buying energy-efficient streetlights, saving $50,000 by taking bids for the borough's insurance, and joining a state program to save on vehicles and gasoline.

Officials even used goats to help clear weeds on borough property. Kramer said it was the least-expensive option; he hopes to bring the goats back again this year.

"You've brought the borough back from economic struggle, sometimes in very innovative ways," Corbett said. "And I loved hearing the story about the goats cleaning the hillside."

In a statement Thursday, Delaware County Democratic Party Chairman David Landau criticized Corbett and said Millbourne's success had come from Democratic leadership; the mayor and council members are all Democrats.

Corbett said that was irrelevant, that he visited simply to congratulate borough officials.

"That's not the issue, whether it's a Democratic city or Republican city," he said.


lmccrystal@phillynews.com

610-313-8116 @Lmccrystal

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