Somerton Civic to give thousands to local teachers

The Somerton Civic Association voted to give up to $3,500 for local students and discussed other issues at its Dec. 10 meeting.

An open discussion: Somerton Civic President Chris Bordelon (center) speaks to residents Tuesday, Dec. 10, during the group’s meeting. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

It’s somewhat unusual for civic associations to donate significant amounts of money. Some hardly have anything in the bank and struggle to attract dues-paying members.

However, last week, the Somerton Civic Association moved to donate up to $3,500 to local schools to help teachers cover classroom expenses they often have to pay out-of-pocket. 

The plan is to donate $500 in gift cards to each school in the neighborhood, which would amount to $3,500 if all schools agree to participate. 

So far, Watson Comly, William H. Loesche, Philadelphia Academy Charter and St. Christopher schools have expressed interest, SCA President Chris Bordelon said at the Dec. 10 meeting. He said the civic has reached out to all schools in the Somerton area, and they will have until the end of December to respond.

SCA has about $44,000 in its account, though $25,000 of that total is earmarked to plant trees, thanks to a deal reached with a developer planning to build a warehouse on Woodhaven Road. 

Bordelon said the civic’s coffers contained some money previously donated for a flag campaign that never came to fruition, and the board thought something should be done with those funds.

In addition, the donation might help SCA with future applications for grants, allowing them to step up their efforts to give back to the community, he said.

It’s more than SCA has given away in the past, and they might scale back in future years if it’s no longer tenable, Bordelon said.

SCA members voted 26-4 in favor of the donation.

Crime updates

Officer Mike Leonard, of the 7th Police District, reported four recent thefts from vehicles, including two stolen catalytic converters. He urged residents to lock their cars and to call 911 to let police know about suspicious activity.

Several residents said they have been terrorized by a band of high school-aged kids in the area of St. Christopher Church and Boyle Recreation Center. There have been incidents every weekend, they said.

One man said the kids tried to jump him, and a woman said they tried to break into her house. The teenagers have also egged houses and broken into cars, residents said.

Leonard said he would pass the information along to his superiors.

Zoning issues

The Zoning Board of Adjustment denied a permit to a developer looking to build eight homes on a 1-acre wooded lot at 11934 Stevens Road. 

SCA members have voted three times since March to reject various plans for housing on the site, which has limited street frontage and would require a private driveway to access a development.

The developer could appeal the ZBA’s decision in court or submit a new plan, Bordelon told residents.

SCA members voted to support a variance for an auto repair shop with online vehicle sales at 2065 Bennett Road, formerly the home of Arrow Tool & Die Company. 

Other notes

Bordelon said he has been told a project to replace the Byberry Road bridge near MaST Community Charter School has been pushed back. 

It’s still in the final design phase, and state officials say work is expected to begin next fall, Bordelon said. Construction should last 18 to 24 months.

Salena Jones, general counsel for City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, explained to residents the role of the office. The City Controller’s Office is an independent financial watchdog that makes sure city government is spending tax money appropriately, she said.

Jones said residents can report suspected fraud and waste to the office by calling 215-686-3804. For more information on the City Controller’s office, visit www.controller.phila.gov

The Somerton Civic Association’s next scheduled meeting is 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, at the Walker Lodge of the I.O.O.F., 1290 Southampton Road. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com.