Germantown Special Services District (GSSD) President Joe Martin was a bit excited at a Tuesday night meeting that marked the group’s first annual gathering.
“We got nine trash cans in our first year of operations!” he said of the brand-new waste receptacles along Chelten Avenue that the organization procured from the city.
That wasn’t all they talked about during a GSSD annual meeting that drew board members, city officials and volunteers to Treasures Banquet Hall.
“Germantown is a very good place to be today,” said Martin. “Tonight’s event is highlighting the excitement of living and working in this neighborhood.
“Our accomplishments over the past year are indications that things are happening. This is how change begins.”
Formation and launch
In Sept. 2012, Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass appointed a steering committee to reconvene the GSSD, which had gone dormant.
City Council approved the organization’s proposed five-year plan in June 2013 and soon after appointed a new board of directors.
The GSSD has since started implementing a plan with a goal “to benefit the Germantown business corridor with funding provided through the collection of tax assessments from property owners.”
Martin presented Bass with a plaque officially recognizing her role in bringing a revamped GSSD back to life.
“The GSSD is very important to me,” she said. “What happens here in Germantown resonates throughout the 8th District. It’s really the piece that connects all the neighborhoods in this area.”
By the numbers
GSSD has collected assessments from 78 percent of business property owners under its oversight, which exceeded projected collection rates.
(The district focuses on commercial properties fronting on Germantown Avenue between Coulter and High streets, Chelten between Baynton and Morris, along with Maplewood Mall, Market Square and sections of Greene Street and Wayne, Pulaski and Maplewood avenues.)
Funding from assessments, grants and contributions from local non-profit organizations totaled $187,645.35.
Part of that tally was used to hire GSSD Corridor Director Anthony Dean.
The organization also received a $25,000 grant from the Philadelphia Department of Commerce. An additional “Enhancement Grant” was used to purchase and install nine new “Big Belly” waste receptacles.
Over the course of the next year, GSSD hopes to bring about holiday lighting and decorations, planters and landscaping improvements, district-identity signage and public art, while continuing to develop existing improvement programs.
“You’ve heard what GSSD is, what we’ve done, and where we hope to go,” said Martin. “We’ve seen what it’s going to take to make this work: Collaboration.
“What we’re doing at GSSD, what we want to see happen in Germantown, is going to involve all of us working together.”
Jason Miller is the newly appointed executive director of Ready Willing and Able (RWA), a program “providing paid transitional work, occupational training, housing, and comprehensive support services to homeless individuals.”
RWA has contracted with the GSSD to provide five-day-a-week street-cleaning services within the district.
“On behalf of all the 70 men that serve this district, thank you,” he told the group.
According to Miller, more than 80 percent of RWA participants are coming out of prison, while more than 90 percent have a history of addiction.
“We get people out of poverty,” said Miller. “In the shelters throughout the city, the biggest obstacle people are struggling with is lack of opportunity. We provide that.”
Over the past year, the “Men in Blue” averaged a collection rate of more than 400 bags of trash a month. The overwhelming success of RWA’s involvement with Germantown led the organization to begin training new participants in its program in the neighborhood on a sixth day.
“I’ve stood at the corner of Germantown and Chelten on some mornings and it’s been clean,” Martin reported. “This is no small accomplishment.
“Business owners that have paid an assessment to GSSD reported to me that they are very happy to see the results of the improvements we are making with the help of RWA.”