UPT Board Meeting Notes Episode 9: Arrested Development

When a meeting clocks in at a grueling 2 hours and 27 minutes, the sanctimonious dime store philosophizing from the likes of John Pearson becomes that much more insufferable. Pity the poor staff members, who, in spite of being compensated for this waste of their time with your tax dollars, are forced to stick around until the end of this meeting to essentially read their written reports to the Board.

But I don’t know. Maybe it is worth it to get the life-affirming message of “You are special” from the Chairman.

Incredibly, it’s not a hugely full agenda, but as with all things since this new Board took office, everything just seems to take a bit longer to get through.  Early on, we get fair warning that Pearson is even less competent than usual this evening, when he “forgets” that the Board held an executive session on personnel matters and announces that he is “a little off” and “a little hazy” this evening because only one hearing aid is working.  What this has to do with his memory of an executive session is anyone’s guess, but perhaps Pearson is just so used to holding meetings out of the public eye, he’s smply having trouble keeping track of which ones he has to report and which ones he can continue to keep secret.

Peanut Gallery You may approach
Members of the Peanut Gallery, you may approach.

Before jumping into the regular agenda, Pearson asks if there are any questions or comments from the “Peanut Gallery,” which is a rather arrogant and disrespectful way of asking for public comment from someone wearing a Three Stooges tie.

Stick around till the end of the post (which takes a lot less time to read than watching this interminable meeting) for an interesting update on the Cellco cell tower at 248 Rittenhouse Road an application that went in front of the Zoning Hearing Board on June 7.

Spares Lane Development: Five Lot Subdivision

The Spares Lane development is in for preliminary approval and it quickly becomes apparent that, not only are there are many Spares Lane neighbors in attendance at this meeting, but Pearson has already talked to these neighbors and, further, that he clearly has an agenda regarding this development.  The first order of business is the approval of the following waivers by the Board of Supervisors.  Attorney for the applicant, Mike Clement, outlines the eight waivers, which he states are being requested to conform with the existing topography of the site:

  1. The Township requires a 26’ vertical curve and the applicant is requesting to reduce that to 15’ vertical curve due to site grade
  2. Township requires a minimum cartway of 32’ and applicant is requesting to reduce that to 24’ to conform with the surrounding area.
  3. Existing Spares Lane may be required to be widened at the Township’s discretion, and the applicant is requesting that the road not be widened due to the possible disturbance of environmentally sensitive areas in the right of way.
  4. The Township requires sidewalks along all roads except where not necessary for public safety and the applicant is requesting a waiver of the sidewalk requirement in the cul-de-sac.
  5. The Township requires concrete curbs to be installed and the applicant is requesting that the cartways remain at the width stated above.
  6. Township requires that the grade not exceed 3%; applicant is requesting steeper slopes to conform with the surrounding area.
  7. Driveway grades are required to be 4%; the applicant is requesting a partial waiver for one of the five driveways to exceed that grade.
  8. Applicant requests a waiver for the installation of ADA ramps since no sidewalks will be constructed.
SparesLane Project
Spares Lane Project

Township solicitor Joe Bresnan notes that the Planning Commission has reviewed the waivers and recommends in favor of granting them, however, some discussion was necessary regarding fees in lieu of development requirements, specifically with regard to the widening of roads.  The township’s ordinance requires that the roads be widened, but because of the unique features of Spares Lane (which will be discussed in detail) it is impossible for the developer to comply with this requirement.  Clement agrees to this, and suggests that the discussion of these fees and amounts to be settled amongst the attorneys and the township’s engineer.

Please note:  This is a pretty standard practice for waiver granting, which Clement himself has been through numerous times in Upper Providence.  Typically, the Township engineer and the Solicitor will apply a formula to determine the dollar worth of the waivers being requested which the developer will then pay to the Township.  Clement’s request that the Supervisors grant conditional approval while the fees are negotiated is wholly reasonable and usual (as we will see later during the SEI discussion).

Clement agrees that whatever fees the Township wants, the applicant will put into Township coffers.  Vagnozzi states he wants to see this money earmarked for re-investment in the Spares Lane community.

Barker then jumps in, clarifying that the curb and sidewalk waivers are not for the new road going in, but the existing Spares Lane.  He also notes that since the road is very narrow, the developer would not be able to widen it simply because there is no space in which to do so.  Calci then confirms that she understands this concept correctly.

SparesLane
Spares Lane via Google Earth

Additionally, Spares Lane has structures directly next to it in some places.  Any widening would have to be with the cooperation from the residents for the obtainment of easements and possible demolition of those structures.

Apparently oblivious to the previous 15 minutes of discussion, Pearson asks what the developer is going to do to Spares Lane, to which Clement responds, “Nothing.”

Barker then asks the Township Engineer, Bill Dingman, what could be done if Spares Lane became a Township project, since most of these issues are off-site from the proposed development.  Dingman states that the right of way varies between 20’ and 40’ and at some parts the road is a mere 13’ wide and at others, there are actual structures in the way.  There are many property surveys and deeds that would need to researched in order to widen the road.

Vagnozzi asks about the general condition of the road, and Dingman responds that it could use a mill and overlay as it was last paved 16 years ago, so it is about due, though it is certainly not amongst the Township’s troubled roads.

So maybe we pave the roads? Vagnozzi proposes, but for some reason, (it is unintelligible on the video) it is determined that is not what the neighborhood wants.

Bresnan then says that the Planning Commission recommended that the fee in lieu be used to widen the intersection of Spares at 29.

Pearson then jumps in, and wants to know “how much money we are talking about,” and then says he wants to go back to the residents and ask them how they want the money spent.

Ok, time-out here.  The residents are at this meeting.  Why not ask them now?

Second of all, Pearson has already been talking to these folks.  Two weeks ago, he asked the Township’s Traffic Engineer for a status on his request to evaluate a one way in, one way out configuration for Spares Lane.  Why doesn’t he already know what they want?

And once again, Bresnan steps in and explains this process of negotiation between township consultants and applicants, a process that has not changed, at least since the last time Pearson was on the Board.

How much we talkinbout
How much are we getting?

But Pearson is indignant.  He wants to know how much money they are shaking down the developer for getting and wants to know how is he supposed to make a decision without knowing that?

Bresnan states that the resolution was drafted with the intention that there would be some additional discussion.

Clement reminds the Board that some of the things that are required by the Township’s ordinance are virtually impossible to perform, and while the applicant acknowledges that, he has no intention of walking away from their responsibility to the neighborhood.

What comes next is classic Pearson:

“I…I…I …I get that.  I’ve been there many many times.  And I understand.  And that’s why…that’s why it creates angst in me that I have to do something here that’s going to upset those people that have been there for generations.  And….ummmm…you know, I want to, I want to do what’s, I want to do what’s best for them.  And…and…and it always bothers me sometimes that we are charged with the health, safety and welfare of…uuhhh, the residents of this township and…and…why can’t we do it for the welfare of those residents down there?  Errr, you know, it’s like, uhhh, that kinda bothers me.  Everybody shoots, everybody, you know, aahhhh, comes to us about the health and safety, the welfare of the residents are important, too.  So…ummm, I’m, you know, aaahhh…I’m…I’m inclined to ehhhh to ask aahhh the rest of the Board here that maybe we table this, we find out what kind of money we are talking about, have another conversation with the residents and tell them what we, what we’re physically dealing with, what we actually know we’re going to get and go back to them and say, ‘This is what we have to deal with, what do you want to do with it?’”

Full stop.

What is Pearson even talking about here?  How is this land development project affecting the “welfare” of these residents?  And why does he keep insisting that he needs to “find out what kind of money we are talking about?”  First of all, it’s a formula—or it’s supposed to be a formula—based on the cost of waivers requested, as has been explained by two separate consultants in this conversation alone.  Second of all, it’s money that will be given to the township, to spend how they see fit–which this Board has indicated will go back into the Spares Lane neighborhood.  There really is no pressing need to hold up approval pending the resolution of the costs of the waivers.  That money will be used for improvements that will be completed by the Township, off-site from the actual proposed development.

In my six years on the Board, I do not ever recall holding up an approval over the dollar amount for waivers; this was a figure that consultants negotiated based on the formula; in other words, the dollar figure is going to be whatever the dollar figure is going to be based upon the work the developer is requesting to have waived.

What Pearson is doing here is skirting dangerously close to talking about pay to play.

Clement just wants to get as much approved at this meeting as he possibly can, since this development has been before the Board since November of last year and they already have their tentative approval.  He is tired of going around and around on this and wants to stop wasting everyone’s time.

So they start going through the tedious process of the consultant review letters, and Pearson grasps the “Fire Marshall’s” review letter (whose expertise is apparently sufficient when Pearson can use that expertise to suit Pearson’s purpose, but not when it comes to, you know, actual Fire and Emergency services) and asks the applicant’s engineer to read it to him, because, in addition to his hearing aid being out tonight, his glasses “aren’t too good” either.

Barker agrees with not taking any action on the plan, but he would like to engage with the community to see if they could get their cooperation in expanding the road as these improvements are “off site” and the Township cannot require the developer to complete improvements on property that is not contiguous to the development itself.

So it seems that there is some consensus from the Board as to how to move forward, and Vagnozzi, recognizing that there are residents in the audience, would like to hear comments from the residents themselves.

And Pearson says, “Would you like to do that here….or somewhere else?”

Wut????

Full Stop again.

The whole point of having public meetings is to have meetings in PUBLIC.  Where else are these issues going to be hashed out?  And why is Pearson suggesting that this discussion takes place outside of the public eye?

Here or some other place
Vagnozzi thought bubble: “Are you kidding me?”

Vagnozzi pauses a full beat before answering, perhaps because he simply cannot believe he just heard this from the guy who accused the last Board of a lack of transparency.  Vagnozzi then says he thinks it should be on the record.

The residents do come up and start voicing concerns, the primary one of which is the narrowness of Spares Lane, which is an existing issue.  They are concerned about the two year construction timeframe which would possibly exacerbate the fact that two cars cannot currently pass each other on this road.

Clement then outlines the plans for construction worker parking, keeping the roads open, and assures the Board that they will handle this issue like they have on every other development that they have done in Upper Providence.

At this point, Vagnozzi summarizes what they’ve just heard, which are construction issues and existing narrow road issues.  But none of these issues is a permanent hardship that will be caused by the development and the developer has addressed those issues that will be caused during the construction period.  Vagnozzi tells the audience, quite appropriately, that this applicant has a right to develop this land.  The Board can work with the developer to mitigate any potential impacts, but they cannot stop the development.  It’s interesting that Vagnozzi feels the need to state this; as if someone has told these neighbors that this development can just be blocked simply because they don’t want it. Vagnozzi says, “There must be more [issues] than that.  Unless there is someone we haven’t heard from yet.”

So another resident comes up, and she elaborates on another existing issue of the Spares Lane and 29 intersection.  She advocates for the aforementioned one way in, one way out of Spares Lanes, which is the issue that was brought up by Pearson at the end of the last meeting. In response, Pearson asks Township Traffic Engineer Ken O’Brien to explain to “this lady” why PennDOT would not allow this configuration.

It’s at this point that Pearson completely loses control of the meeting and he allows multiple members of the audience to simply shout questions at O’Brien without allowing O’Brien to answer.  Pearson, instead of gaveling for order, starts stammering about the criteria for PennDOT, then he announces,

“I’ll take one more question, and then, Gail, you have my cellphone number, if anyone has any questions or comments about this thing, they want to add to whatever’s happening, you can have them call me, personally, not a problem, and…and…ummm, ma’am, you, we’ll have one more question and then we’ll…that’s it.”

Full Stop.

All of these residents showed up at this meeting, and now they are not only being told they are not going to be able to speak, but that they have to deal directly with Pearson and only Pearson?

Torches
We are angry!

The classic Pearson move is to go into a neighborhood, rile them all up, and then tell them to gather their torches and pitchforks and show up at a Board meeting to shout their complaints at the Board while he sits back on his hands doing nothing except avoiding responsibility.

But he no longer has to recuit a whole bunch of actors to take part in another episode of Township Meeting Kabuki Theater to put pressure on the Board (like he did as a minority supervisor–unnecessarily—three years ago with the Mont Clare neighborhood’s Produce Junction issues).  He’s the Chairman of the Board, with the majority, and in “his girls,” he has what have so far been two utterly reliable “yes” votes this year.

So this is a bit of a different take on Pearson’s usual modus operandi.  It is obvious he’s been in communication with these neighbors, but he clearly doesn’t want them speaking at the meeting, nor does he want them speaking directly to the developer, staff, or other members of the Board.  By all appearances, it seems as if John Pearson wants to be the singular point of communication between all parties.

Look, no one likes new development in their neighborhood, and that is understandable.  New development in anyone’s neighborhood is a source of fear, anger and angst.  People tend to think that municipalities simply roll over for developers, because they think that the municipality can just “stop” development.  But as Vagnozzi states, the developer has a right to develop this land, as long as it is developed within the Township’s zoning and building codes.

It has been my experience that most of the developers who worked with Upper Providence (including Mr. Clement) were willing to accomodate the neighbors’ wishes, at least to a certain extent.  Sometimes the Board would act as an intermediary between residents and developer, sometimes an HOA or neighborhood group would deal directly with the developer, sometimes it would be a combination of both (we will see that in the SEI project, immediately following.)  What’s interesting here is that instead of facilitating communications between the residents and the developer, Pearson is trying to completely control the process, and botching it badly, and in so doing, he’s creating more fear, anger, and angst on all sides.

It was abundantly clear that Pearson, and only Pearson, had been privvy to the concerns of these residents prior to this meeting.  He could have brokered a meeting between the neighborhood and the developer; he could have come into this meeting with a list of realistic asks from the residents and presented that to the developer.  He could have educated the residents on the development process and what they would be likely to achieve as far as improvements to their neighbohood.  Of course, that would mean Pearson would have to have a basic understanding of the Subdivision and Land Development process; an understanding that he has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not have.

So the one last comment is, again, about blocking the road during construction.  Again, there is shouting from the audience unchallenged by Pearson, and Clement, who has been remarkably patient through this interminable 50 minutes of discussion, sighs, shakes his head, and says, “Ma’am, there will be a space to get your car past.”

Vagnozzi interrupts and tells her that not only will they not block the road, but it is the Township’s job to make sure that they are not blocking the road.

Clement then asks for a vote, which Pearson tells him he’s not going to get.  Barker says based on Clement’s history with the township, and always doing what he says he’s going to do, he feels comfortable saying that once the fees are negotiated and they determine what the residents want, the Board is willing to move forward.

So what happened here?  Instead of actually helping these residents by guiding them through this process and setting realistic expectations, Pearson met with them and never properly facilitated communication between all parties.  His suggestion to listen to the residents’ comments “somewhere else” and his admonistion at his unilaterally imposed end of the discussion to have residents call his personal cellphone confirms this.  My guess is that he hung his hat on the idea of making Spares Lane a one way road, with one way in and one way out on to route 29, a proposal he sold to the residents without fully exploring that option with the township’s traffic engineer.  When that solution was deemed impossible due to PennDOT restrictions, rather than deliver the bad news, the Yes Man fumbled through this meeting, muddying the process for everyone.

It almost seems like Pearson is more interested in scoring points off of the developer to notch something in the win column for himself, than he is in actually solving problems for the residents.  Several months ago, this blog discussed the campaign mode/governing mode of this Board.  At this point, it would appear that Pearson is still in campaign mode, even at this late date.

 

SEI North Campus: Phase 1

Phase 1 of the project consists of a 120,000 sf building, an access drive through South Campus of SEI, two on grade parking lots for 630 parking space and a trail connection of sidewalk from Cider Mill in front of Hunt Club, through SEI Campus and connect to the Montco trail.

SEIPhase1
SEI Phase 1

SEI’s traffic engineer outlined multiple major traffic improvements to accommodate the influx of additional employees, including:

  • SEI will finally upgrade the signal at BlackRock and Upper Indian Head Road and they will also do some significant widening to that intersection.
  • Right turn lane on Black Rock Road heading away from Egypt Road to facilitate right turns into SEI.
  • Left turn lane on Upper Indian Head Road.
  • Cider Mill and Upper Indian Head Road.  Left turn lane on every approach and signalized. Plus right turn lanes.  Driveways will be right in, right out.
  • SEI is also proposing to work with the DVRPA to do a regional improvements.

At 1:17:44, Ed Mullin, the attorney for SEI, mentions that the Planning Commission has recommended approval of all of the waivers.

Michelle Strannon speaks on behalf of the Hunt Club Homeowners’ Association.  Association has two specific concerns:

  1. Potential lighting pollution because the residential area elevation is looking down on the North Campus parking garage, and because there is no way to know what that light pollution is going to be until it is installed, that the Board impose a condition on the developer that they can address this issue in the future.
  2. The HOA would also like a condition placed on the applicant on traffic issues. Hunt Club residents live that traffic every day, and they recognize SEI’s completed traffic studies but would like the Township to require an additional traffic study to be completed as employees are added to the campus.

Mullin quickly agrees to those conditions on behalf of SEI.

1:33:50 more discussion of waivers of steep slopes.

At 1:37:00, Bresnan announces that the fees in lieu will be negotiated prior to final approval.  As is normally the case.  Some further detailed discussion occurs.

Pearson, however, does not ask to table this particular resolution until he knows “what kind of money we are talking about.”

He calls for a vote and approval of SEI’s preliminary land development plan is unanimous.

239 Grace Street: Five Lot Subdivision

Grace Street
239 Grace Street

Ed Mullin again for the applicant for tentative sketch approval.  This is a five lot subdivision, including one existing house which will remain.  The primary source of concern is the access to the development is too close to the intersection with the access to the Meadows condominium.  They will have to get a special exception for steep slopes from the zoning hearing board.

The developer will probably ask for a partial waiver for sidewalks on one side of the new street.

Pearson asks if Traffic Engineer Ken O’Brien has seen the access driveway and if he is ok with it, which Pearson would know if he read the review letters included in his packet.  O’Brien says it’s not ideal, but it’s low volume, so not concerning.

Approved unanimously, with no discussion of waivers by the Board.

Follow your passion!

Vagnozzi notes that the manager’s report makes mention of another Board member doing “due diligence” on the structures at the Taylor Farm park.  It turns out that this was Laurie Higgins, who “personally” would like to see some restoration, including the creation of an historical society.

Vagnozzi does not like that Higgins has taken it upon herself “scratch the surface” of this.  He says that things like this must be done as a Board.  He further notes that this has already been looked at by structural engineers.

Pearson of course says he doesn’t think that Higgins has stepped out of line because she hasn’t done anything official.

Calci notes that it is Higgins’ passion and she should pursue it.

While I agree that Higgins should be able to look into this, and any other side projects she finds interesting, I would note that none of what she has pursued so far requires her official capacity as a township supervisor to do it.  If she wants to start an Historical Society and preserve buildings, any private citizen can do that (and I’m sure Pearson already has his sights set on a certain privately-owned building at Cider Mill and Arcola that would make a great water ice stand on the bike trail, if only someone would put some money into restoring it).

Follow your dreamsI would further note that none of these ‘passions” should be pursued at the expense of her actual responsibilities as a Township supervisor.  But I have yet to hear her offer a relevant or independently informed comment on any of the land development projects before the board or on any of the various safety issues the Board has contemplated this year.  I find it hard to believe she knocked on all of those doors last year simply to be a “yes” vote for John Pearson’s agenda of petty score settling and personal favors for friends, though she’s certainly caught on to that latter bit earlier in the year when she voted to give taxpayer money to her neighbors.

There were three developments up for approval at this meeting, and she offered one question in the course of over two hours of discussion, and that question had already been answered at the beginning of that project’s presentation. The only question she posed at the last land development approval two meetings ago had to do with another “passion” of hers, whether or not the developer would consider adding green roof (they would not).

Development in the Township is permanent and lasting and needs to be approved thoughtfully and according to the Township’s code.  It is irresponsible to approach these issues ill-prepared and there are courses in land development that the county offers if she need help.  I daresay it’s a better use of time than borrowing the keys to Township properties and asking her friends to second guess the decisions of the prior Board.

Other Business before the Board

  • The Board awarded a bid for a new digital LED sign at the Black Rock Campus to Upper Darby Sign Company for $96,257.
  • The Board awarded the Kline Road reconstruction project to Road Con Inc. for $398,888.  There was some hearing aid/glasses related confusion as Pearson tried to award the digital sign contract to Road Con and had to slowly and patiently be walked through the error by Calci until he got it right.
  • The Board approved a capital budget amendment in the amount of $115,000 to repair the sinkhole on Cider Mill Road.  The sinkhole problem is due mostly to failing corrugated pipe.  MJ Contractors will do the work.
  • The Board approved the Solicitor to authorize a tax assessment appeal for a commercial property on Longford Road.

In which the Zoning Hearing Board “does their thing.”

On June 7, the Zoning Hearing Board granted a use variance for a cell tower at 248 Rittenhouse Road, which is a residentially zoned area.

As you may recall (see here), the prior Board had originally sent the Township Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board oppose this application.  This action was quickly undone at one of the new Board’s first meetings this year.  Pearson, whose long time fiancé, Gail Latch, is a member of the (supposedly independent) Zoning Hearing Board, instructed that the Township Solicitor would NOT be attending the ZHB meeting to oppose the application on behalf of the Township, an action that was quickly agreed to by “Pearson’s girls” and opposed by Vagnozzi (Barker was absent).

but youll get great reception
But you’ll get great reception.

As I noted at the time, during that meeting, the residents from the three surrounding developments had approached the Board to express dismay at the applicant’s repeated scheduling and then cancellation of the hearings, creating a hardship for the residents who wished to go on record against this application.  They begged the Township to continue to oppose this application.  At that meeting, Pearson brushed off these concerns and told the residents that he was inclined to let the Zoning Hearing Board “do its thing” without opposition from the Board.

I had several spotters at Thursday’s meeting, and all of them tell the same story:  At the conclusion of the meeting, words were exchanged between one of the residents and John Pearson, and at one point during the altercation, Pearson called the resident an “a**hole.”

Friendship, particularly with Pearson, has its privileges and clearly, none of these residents are in his inner circle.

UPT Board Meeting Notes 5/21/18 Episode 8: Dance into the Fire

I’m somewhat late putting this episode of meeting notes up because the meetings themselves were not posted on the website.  My understanding is that there was a technical difficulty with the hosting site.  The good news is that the fix created a brand new site, with videos that are also posted to YouTube, which makes them easily “embeddable.”  Do yourself a favor and watch the the discussion on the Steering Committee membership, beginning at 13:38.

But let’s skip right to it.  This is where this meeting really gets interesting, and of course, it’s all about the new Fire and Emergency Services Policy.

Ladies and Gentlemen:  A Tap Dance

As we noted in the previous episode of UPT Meeting Notes, there is an item on the agenda to amend the membership level of the previously discussed Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night from three members to four members.  Your humble Blogress engaged in a bit of unsanctioned speculation as to why the membership in this committee was being increased while offering unsolicited recommendations as to who should fulfill this new role:  The Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services, Josh Overholt, or perhaps a Supervisor.

The fun begins when Pearson tries to slick his way this through without any discussion and states, “I assume everyone understands what this is about, if not…”

Clearly everyone does not understand what this is about and some discussion is about to happen.

I assume everyone knows what this is about
Barker to Vagnozzi:  “Do you want to say something, or should I?”

Vagnozzi jumps in first and he wants to know who the other member is going to be and why the Chief of Fire and Emergency Services, Josh Overholt, is not engaged in this and he is concerned that by excluding him, the Board is not showing him the respect due his position.

John Pearson’s First Tap Dance:

“Well…I…I… think that we…we look at like putting our hierarchy in charge, people like…well, if you want to know who the people are, it will definitely be [Assistant Township Manager] Bryan [Bortnichak] and [Township Manager] Tim [Tieperman] and of course [Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company President] Joe LoCasale and, and [BRVFC Chief] Jimmy eehhhhm Daywalt, ok?  So they’re, they requested to have that extra person on there.  But I get that, you know, because they want to be two on two, it’s like, Ohh! We’re outnumbered here again or whatever else. Uhhm, as far as, as far as the Fire Marshall’s concerned, I…I… eehh it is my opinion that we should keep it at the level as high as possible with, with Tim and Bryan and like you said Al, everything, no matter what is proposed at these particular meetings, will end up coming back before us, so we’ll be the ones ehhhm making the decisions, not the ones that actually represent us at these meetings but we will actually be making these decisions, we’ll be approving whatever it is they decide to come back to us with, so I have no problem with that.  Uhhh…I…I… appreciate your concern with that uhhmmm….”

Vagnozzi has a bit of mercy on Pearson at this point and says he’s generally in favor of that.  Barker, however, isn’t quite satisfied.

Barker states that he has similar concerns as Vagnozzi and corrects Pearson on Josh Overholt’s title, stating he is not just a Fire Marshall, that he’s the Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services and the Township has recognized his elevated status with his credentials.

And then it gets very interesting.

Barker begins reading from an email on his computer, an email it is later revealed was forwarded by Tieperman from someone from Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company.  Pointing to his computer screen, Barker states, “It’s saying here that they are finalizing the drawing of the career staff offices tomorrow….and bringing them…There’s things going on here that I wasn’t aware of until I got a copy of this email.  They are moving on  things that we haven’t approved and have no knowledge of, we don’t know who’s paying for this, who designed it…”

John Pearson’s Tap Dance #2

“They’re not moving…you know…first of all…it hasn’t costed us…first of all…we don’t…we don’t have to approve anything that they decide to do to their facility down there.  We have to approve any monies that we expend, absolutely, uhmmm…but they’re not doing anything at this point in the game until this Steering Committee meets…these are all recommendations that uhhhh, that they’ve been making all along.  Uhhhmmm, so it’s not, it’s not stuff that’s in the works, its stuff that’s been recommended at this point in the game.  And uh, and again and I will remind everybody at this Board no matter what happens with this Steering Committee, they will be bringing it back to us, we will be making decisions on this, it will be, it will be in front of this Board, uhhhmm.  Everything that goes on down there will be in front of this Board.  Uhhhmm.  I don’t see, I…I personally don’t see a need to throw another person in there.”

We can apparently add BRVFC members all day long to this committee, but putting the Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services on this committee?  That’s simply a bridge too far.  Why “throw” another person in there?  And if BRVFC is simply working on things on their own, why send an email update to the Township?

Regular readers and those familiar with the Fire and Emergency Services issues that have been front and center in this Board’s agenda this year (see here, here, here and here) are probably already asking themselves the next question that Barker poses to Pearson:

Barker, again referring to the email on his computer says, “So John, I’m just looking right here and it says, ‘to be built to facilitate the reallocation of space for the bunk rooms we need at the Oaks Station.’ Well, isn’t that part of the per diem firefighters [proposal]? Isn’t that part of our paid staff?”

John Pearson Tap Dance #3

“The whole object is to set the, set the whole thing up there, and then, when we build the facility, we move what’s happening there up to the new facility so that everybody has a chance to integrate with each other, they’re uhhhm, all, all the career guys, the Black Rock, and, and the Public Works guys, they get a chance to integrate with each other, to work with each other and everything else in a real firehouse, uhhhhh setting, and then when this is, when the new facility is done, they will be moving the the, the whole concept up to the uhhhh new facility and that’s what, that’s what, basically, this is all about.”

To which Barker responds, “It just seems like you know a lot more about this than I do.”

Indeed. It seems like Pearson is the only one who knows anything at all about what is going on with this.

on my own personal time
My own personal time.

Incredibly, Pearson acknowledges this:  “I…I…I do.  And that’s because I chose to sit in on…on a lot of these things, uhhhh, on my own personal time.”

Would that be in between Quizzo matches, perhaps?

Barker’s next comment mirrors my own as I sat and watched this:  “But we don’t know about it.  I had no idea these meetings were taking place.”

So let’s take a short break here and consider this:  John Pearson just admitted in a public meeting that he is meeting with BRVFC members on his “own personal time” (whatever THAT means when you are an elected official) and, on his “own personal time,” he, and he alone, is apparently discussing and giving direction on the implementation of the Township’s fire policy with an outside agency.

CaptureAs a reminder, the John Pearson who is objecting to adding the Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services to his dinky Steering Committee is the very same John Pearson who insisted that a three member Township Board of Supervisors was not enough “representation” for the residents of Upper Providence Township.  The John Pearson who insinuated that three Board members were “too cozy” and not quite transparent enough for his liking, is the same John Pearson who now thinks nothing of having secret policy meetings with BRVFC without the knowledge of the rest of the Board.  The same guy who championed the idea that “more representation is better” and worked tirelessly with his Upper Providence Worst First/Quizzo pals to add two more members to the Board of Supervisors, is absolutely panicked at the idea of adding Josh Overholt to the Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night.

In response to Barker’s assertion Pearson stammers, “Well…well…well there’s …there’s nothing been decided at this point in the game, uhhhmmm….”

To which Barker responds, “Well, they’re building a bunkhouse.”

John Pearson Tap Dance #4

“They’re proposing to build this bunkhouse.  They’re not…they’re not spending any money, they’re not doing anything that they haven’t, you know, uhhhmmm….ahhh….”

It’s at this point that resident Joe Peters raises his hand and like a drowning man reaching for a life preserver, Pearson gasps, “Yeah, Joe?”

life prresPeters says, “I just presumed it would be the fire chief since he is our senior fire services individual who runs the fire services in this Township.  If we were to investigate the police department in some respect, would you exclude Chief Toomey from being a part of the process?”

Oh.  Maybe this was not the relief Pearson was hoping for.

Pearson tries to brush this off by saying it’s a different scenario, but Peters is having none of it.  He states, quite correctly, that Josh Overholt “is the most knowledgeable person in our Township qualified to advise you on fire services for the Township.  I think that without the fire chief on this committee, it’s a real injustice as to what has to happen.”

Having survived Joe Peters’ first cross examination, Pearson sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

here comes that motion
Lookout! Oncoming Motion!

Which turns out to be an oncoming freight train.

Vagnozzi makes a motion to amend the Steering Committee to be five members, with Josh Overholt as a member of the Committee.  Barker immediately seconds.

So now there is an unplanned motion on the floor that isn’t actually written out for him by Tim Tieperman and, with as much trouble as Pearson has had just forming words and getting them out of his mouth this evening, it’s nothing short of a miracle that he is able to call for the vote. Vagnozzi and Barker vote for it, then Pearson calls for those opposed, who, in a little known codicil that may or may not be contained in Roberts Rules of Order, can apparently say either “Aye” or “No” to indicate opposition.

Surprisingly, Calci puts the brakes on the whole proceeding, asking if she can think about this for a moment.  Perhaps in surprise that one his “his girls” is showing signs of independence, Pearson chuckles in disbelief, “You want to think about that for a minute?”

Calci has correctly figured out that the membership of this committee could just keep growing, perhaps without ever actually accomplishing anything.  Joe Peters, who has brought more wisdom to the discussion than the Chairman of the Board, takes the floor again and outlines to Calci the membership he would like to see.  Peters, like just about everyone except the Chairman/ Quizzo host, doesn’t understand why Black Rock needs two members representing them on this committee.

John Pearson Tap Dance #5

“I…I…I’m looking at it in a different light.  I’m looking at like, I would prefer to put two people on that board who are decision makers, ok?  Uhhhmm for the Township. And those people would be Mr. Tieperman and Mr. Bortnichak.  We are…we are trying to stay off and it was suggested that we, that we put somebody from this Board on there but I thought that’s not a good idea, because….”

So after all of that huffing and puffing in the beginning of the discussion about how this Board will be making all the decisions, now Pearson’s excuse for not including Overholt on the Steering Committee is that he wants “decision makers” on the committee.  Pearson’s desperation to keep the Chief of Fire and Emergency Services off of this committee is becoming harder and harder for him to legitimately defend.

Peters wants to know, where is the Fire Chief?  If he is the expert, why isn’t he on?  Why doesn’t he have a say?  And if he doesn’t have a say, why does the Township need him?

When Pearson acknowledges that Overholt is the most knowledgeable person in the Township on fire and emergency service in the Township, Peters demands, “Well why isn’t he on the committee?”

Pearson’s comprehensive response is, “Because….well, it’s up to this Board to put him on this committee.”

Calci, the evening’s voice of reason, then suggests that they just go back to the original three members and says, “The more people you add, the harder it is to come to a conclusion, I think.”  Calci argues that the three members worked, they have a good dynamic going, and they are a good team.  “Don’t mess with it,” she suggests.

I agree wholeheartedly and the first five months of this newly expanded five member board are a testament to the sentiment that three members are way better than five.

Pearson notes that there is a vote on the floor and that they need to decide whether to include Overholt or not.  Vagnozzi amends his original motion to make the Board three members but replacing Tieperman with Overholt, since they all answer to Tieperman anyway.

Pearson, sensing that he is about to break an unbreakable Quizzo night promise by including Overholt on this Steering Committee, quickly stammers through a clarification that what Calci actually means is that they should just go back to the original Steering Committee membership of Tieperman, Bortnichak and LoCasale.

hot
Does it seem hot in here?

Vagnozzi says fine.  I’ll withdraw the motion and we don’t have to take any action.

After all of that sweating, Pearson seems at a loss to believe that he now doesn’t have to take any action at all.  He breathes a sigh of relief having escaped providing an explanation as to why he was so desperate to keep the Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services, the person most knowledgeable about these matters in our Township, off of a committee that has ostensibly been formed to merge his department with the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company.

Other Business

  • Marchetti resolution from the prior meeting was cleaned up and approved.
  • The Board implemented a new policy/procedure for approving capacity rights agreements. The only Capacity Rights Agreements coming before the Board will now exceed 25 EDUs.  All smaller capacity rights agreements will be approved administratively.
  • The Board waived a special event fee for an event benefitting the Brian Lukens family.
  • Planning and Zoning report mentioned that the PTC 106, which is the proposed apartment development behind Wegmans, will be coming in to the Planning Commission in June.
  • Barker recommended that zoning applicants should be coming before the Board so that the Board can decide whether or not to send the Township Solicitor to represent the Township on certain matters.  This process was curtailed in order to streamline things, but the Board has asked for this process to be reinstated, at least on a limited basis.
  • There was discussion, but no resolution, on the Spares Lane one way in, one way out proposal.  Traffic Engineer Ken O’Brien says that this proposal has not been submitted to PennDOT yet.
  • The Phoenixville Intermodal Study is almost complete
  • There was a discussion about working on an ultimate resolution to the property in the Mingo section of the Township, that was discussed at the prior meeting. The property was supposed to be dedicated as open space, but the Township did not want the liability of the pond on the property.  The Township engineer was instructed to try to come up with a resolution.
  • The Board noted that they will adopt a summer schedule for Board meetings of one a month for July and August.
  • The Board held an Executive Session for personnel matters following adjournment.

UPT Board Meeting Notes 5/7/18 Episode 7: The Peter Principle

If someone else were Chairman of the Board in Upper Providence, I would suspect that the reason for the length of the Board of Supervisors’ meetings is to deliberately cause residents to lose interest in the proceedings.  As readers are probably aware, there is little to no independent press coverage of these local municipal Board meetings, and therefore, what goes on at these Board meetings—that is to say, the decisions that affect the everyday quality of life in your neighborhood—goes largely unremarked upon.  The lack of press coverage has been alarming trend for many reasons, which I intend to explore in a future blog post, but for now, keep that idea in the back of your head.  For meandering meetings that regularly exceed an hour, consisting of rather dry subject matter and enhanced with a generous helping of self aggrandizement from Chairman Pearson, it’s really a miracle that anyone can stay engaged.

Suffice to say, I do not think that the length of these meetings is part of a nefarious plot by John Pearson to bore his audience to death so that he can hatch some elaborate scheme outside of the public eye.  I think he’s just an incompetent Chairman, a thesis he proves anew twice a month.  This week, less than ten minutes in, he was struggling just to read the agenda, saying he was “not following this thing too well.”

Bored-AudienceThis meeting clocks in at a brutally exhausting 89 minutes, which includes Pearson’s insufferable little morality tale at the beginning of the meeting and the staff reports at the end.  It should be noted that the requirement for Staff to attend Board meetings was discontinued two years ago and their reports were included in the Supervisors’ weekly packets.  This not only saved time at the Township meetings, but it saved money as well, since Staff is compensated to attend these meetings.  Making them stick around until the end of an hour and a half long meeting so that they can read a prepared report into the record seems wasteful of both their time and ours.

Saving the Day

Craig Moyer from the Mingo development asked the Board if the Township could buy a plot of land behind the Mingo development due to “safety concerns.”  Mr. Moyer stated that the trees on this wooded property are beginning to fall down and he is concerned that the dying trees will fall on a child.  His calls to the owner to request that he cut down the trees were ignored.  Moyer asked if the Township would purchase the property.

This particular piece of land was actually supposed to have been deeded over to the Township as part of the original completed development decades ago, but it never was.  Several years ago, Staff approached the Board about pursuing ownership of this parcel as a fulfillment of the development agreement; after much discussion, the Board decided not to pursue title to this land, as it was landlocked, with no easy access for Township maintenance, and no trail or open space connectivity.

Elected officials should always want to help their residents solve problems, but not every situation has a government solution.  Sometimes there are situations that the government simply cannot and should not get involved.  In these situations, an honest elected official will tell their constituent a hard truth in a diplomatic manner.

Needless to say, that is not what happens in this situation.

After a bit of discussion over what, if anything, the Township could do about this issue, including citing the owner to maintain his property, the Township Solicitor advised that if the Township gets involved in this dispute, which is currently between two private property owners,  it could create a liability for the Township.  Blatantly ignoring the advice of the Solicitor, Pearson states he wants to put the propery owner “on notice” and bravely asserts, “I’ll take that risk!” He never considers that by doing so, he has completely disregarded the advice of the Solicitor and that it’s not him, personally, taking on this liability risk, but the taxpayers of Upper Providence.

Image result for here i come to save the day gif

In all likelihood, there will be nothing that the Township can do to settle this dispute between two private landowners, however, the mere involvement in the affair by the Township exposes the Township to liability.

Skate Away

The Upper Providence Skate Park, on the Black Rock campus, has been degrading for the past couple of years.  In the 2018 budget, the Supervisors decided to expend capital funds to refurbish the aging park.  The cost for this refurbishment is a not inconsequential $383,600.  Before the vote was called, Vagnozzi asked if there was some way the Township could determine if it was mostly residents or non-residents using the park.   Vagnozzi asked for an informal survey to be conducted over the next couple weeks to tabulate park users and their home municipalities before $383,600 was spent.  It soon became apparent that the vote on this spend was merely a formality, as the new equipment was already ordered and was slated to arrive on May 21.  The skate park build itself, it was later announced, will not occur until September.

This seems to be happening more and more often this year, where only certain Board members are aware of the details of an agenda item up for vote, or worse, that the decision has already been enacted and the vote is an after-the-fact formality.

In fairness, this spend was already approved as part of the 2018 budget; but why even put it up for a vote if the spend has already happened?

Who’s Steering this thing?

As was covered in previous posts (here, here and here), much was made of the assertion that the Fire and Emergency Services plan adopted at the April 16 meeting was a pure-d objective product of staff.  The new FEMS Steering Committee is ostensibly being created to guide the merging of the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company and the Township paid crews.

As a refresher, here are the main points of the Fire Ordinance (originally appearing in this post).

A. Phase 1 Milestones: – (0 – 6 months):

  1. Form a joint Township – Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company steering committee to address the integration of career and volunteer firefighters who shall operate as one combination fire department.
  2. Identify space at the Oaks Station and relocate daytime career staff to the Oaks station.
  3. Consider supporting a volunteer stipend program or volunteer live-in program to bolster the volunteer response.

B. Phase 2 Milestones: – (6 – 36 months) 

  1. On or before October 1, 2018 finalize the design, bid specifications and cost scope for a new emergency services facility.
  2. Transition career firefighter/EMTs to twelve-hour shifts (6:00am to 6:00pm) seven days per week beginning January 1, 2019
  3. Fund the hiring of two full-time career firefighter/EMTs and the transition of existing career firefighters to 12-hour shifts as part of the 2019 budget.
  4. On or before January 1, 2019 advertise and award bids for a new emergency services facility. April 16, 2018 BOS Meeting Page 148 of 162
  5. Relocate career firefighters to the new emergency services facility upon completion of the facility which shall act as the main hub of fire service delivery to Upper Providence Township.
  6. Develop a plan for the disposition of the Mont Clare Fire Station and support Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company in evaluating and making needed upgrades to the Oaks Fire Station.

C. Phase 3 Milestones: – (3 – 5 years)

  1. Consider forming a committee of elected and appointed officials from Upper Providence Township, Trappe, Collegeville and Royersford Boroughs to explore ways to improve cost efficiencies and to develop a regional solution for providing fire services.
  2. Seek regional grant support and professional consulting assistance from Harrisburg to help forge a realistic, regional fire services blueprint by 2025.
  3. Explore the formation of a Council of Governments to maintain a regular dialogue among area elected officials, not only on fire-related issues but all areas of municipal service.

Compare and contrast with the slides from Staff’s original recommendations regarding the Fire Ordinance.

Slide1Slide2Slide3

The most striking differences are the lack of qualification goals in the final adopted ordinance, and the relocation of the Township’s Engine 93 to the Oaks Firestation instead of bringing the volunteers up to the centralized location once the new facility is built.  For a detailed discussion of the differences between the adopted ordinance and the staff proposed ordinance, see HERE.

The Steering Committee is to consist of the Township Manager, Tim Tieperman, Assistant Township Manager, Bryan Bortnichak and a representative chosen by Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company.  During the Board’s discussion of this resolution, it was presumed that this representative would be BRVFC President Joe LoCasale, but, it was later determined that since this is to be the choice of BRVFC, the Township must wait until they put someone forward.  Vagnozzi asked if the Township can veto a representative if the Board does not agree with that representative.

Conspicuously absent from this Steering Committee is the Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services.

And what’s interesting is that the Agenda for the May 21 meeting contains the following item:

Agenda Item 6This is a proposal to add one more member to the Steering Committee.  Is this to add the Township’s Chief of Fire and EMS, who, by virtue of his expertise alone, should be on this committee?  After all, it’s his department merging with the volunteers and the volunteers are getting a voice; why isn’t he? And since the ultimate responsibility for the provision of fire services to township residents resides with the Board of Supervisors, shouldn’t a BOS member be on this Steering Committee as well?

Resident Joe Peters asked perhaps the most pertinent question of the evening and I paraphrase here:  Who will be steering the steering committee?

It’s a great question.

Other Business

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Board tabled a minor subdivision for Marchetti at Caroline and Blackrock Roads.  This resolution will approve splitting the original lot into two lots.  This rather simple subdivision required some minor cleanup and it was proposed that the applicant come back in two weeks so the Board could pass a clean resolution.  When the applicant was asked if this would be acceptable, the applicant’s representative said they would prefer to get their approval now.  Since Pearson does not know how to deliver anything but a “Yes” to any potential voter, this suggestion threw the Chairman into a tailspin, and he desperately looks to staff saying, “I am at a loss as to how to proceed.”  Eventually, staff took the heat and tabled the resolution for the May 21 meeting.
  • The Board approved a development plan for Global Packaging.  During this discussion, Supervisor Higgins asked Global Packaging’s counsel, Ed Mullin, if they had looked into the feasibility of putting a green roof on their proposed building.  Mullin responded that the applicant, had, in fact explored that option, and it would add some $7.3 million to their proposed construction project so they would not be proceding with a green roof.
  • The Board approved the replacement of the Summit Ave Culvert for $100,000, which will require a capital budget amendment.  This prompted Pearson to assure the audience, “Just so that everyone knows, we do not have a slush fund here.”  I’m not sure why Pearson felt the need to make this point.
  • The Board approved a waiver of a special event permit fee of $75 for an event that had already occurred.
  • The Board announced a combination electronic recycling and shredder event to be held on October 6.
  • Traffic Engineer Ken O’Brien announced work in Lower Providence for signaling of the intersection of Station and Pawlings Road and the widening of Station Ave, which will affect traffic patterns for the Expo Center.
  • Township Civil Engineer Bill Dingman discussed issues with the SEI parking deck and three items not addressed on the plans.  There were three waivers that were granted in 1995 regarding curb and sidewalk for the “temporary” parking lot that is still in use by SEI.  SEI is arguing that the waivers are still in effect.  Mr. Fresh Perspective, John Pearson, commented that he felt a little bit guilty about the rather permanent nature of the temporary lot because he was on the Board in 1995 when that Temporary lot was approved.
  • The Board approved a bid advertisement for a new digital sign for the Blackrock campus.  Anticipated spend is $65,000.
  • Township Manager Tim Tieperman announced the impending rollout of the Township’s mobile ap.
  • Police Chief Mark Toomey noted progress in dealing with motorists stopping for school buses.  Higgins inquired if the Police knew the demographics of the people who break the law. She further elaborated that when she lived in California, they did not have the law that motorists must stop for stopped school buses.  Are they familiar with our laws? Higgins wanted to know.  After Toomey had already explained in detail how difficult is it to even catch offenders, even if the bus driver gets the license plate of the offending vehicle, to his credit, Chief Toomey explained this facet of police work once again for Higgins edification.
  • peter principleDuring Supervisor Comments, Vagnozzi discussed the EMS situation in Springfield (noted HERE) and mentioned that the Board made a tough decision that they knew was going to impact the EMS company, but they did it for the good of the Township.  Pearson responded by telling the audience, “Just so you know, it’s not that we don’t have an interest in putting in an ambulance, just not right now.”  This is a bold statement from someone who, with regard to the ambulance issue, has accused the prior board of “kicking the can down the road.”
  • In the course of thanking Assistant Manager Bortnichak and the County Corrections Department in getting the roads cleaned up, Pearson also took the opportunity to toot his own horn once again reminding residents that he, too, cleaned up trash on Hollow Road.

Voter Fraud Alert!

As covered in a previous post, MCRC Leadership was more than a little miffed when some of their endorsed state committee candidates showed up on the Republican Club ticket.   Below is an email from Executive Director Jim Saring addressed to all endorsed State Committee candidates regardng the arrival of the first Republican Club mailing piece:

Saring Process

So what do they think of the endorsement proces?  Well, apparently not much out in the Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth.  Here is the newsletter sent out by Chairman Liz Havey via email under the subject line “Voter Fraud Alert!” yesterday:

Fooled1fooled2

Missing from the list of endorsed candidates on this official communication is the name of Gil Cox.  Gil Cox was endorsed for State Committee by a quorum of the Montgomery County Republican Committee at an endorsement convention held on February 1, 2018.

Chuck Wilson, the last name on that list, was not endorsed at the MCRC Endorsement meeting.

But Gil Cox also sinned against the Leadership of MCRC by simply appearing on the Republican Club ballot in addition to MCRC’s endorsed ballot (and presumably refused to pay the $1,000 sin tax levied by Chairman Bill Donnely).

So here are my questions to the few remaining committee members who voted at the February 1 endorsement meeting:

  • Were you asked by any official of MCRC whether you wanted to rescind your endorsement of Gil Cox?
  • Are you ok with Gil Cox’s name being removed from a list of endorsed candidates on an official communication from the Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth (“RCLMN”)?
  • If you are ok with that, are you ok with his name being arbitrarily replaced with that of Chuck Wilson?

I can only assume the Committee people reading this cast their endorsement votes in good faith.

So I am wondering:

How does it feel to not only have YOUR endorsement vote summarily cancelled by a few elite individuals running your party…

…but to also have that endorsement vote simply transferred to an individual you did NOT support? 

It really IS nice to know what some people—especially MCRC Leadership—think about the endorsement process.

Vote wisely tomorow.  Here’s how:

RCMC Ballot

Swamp Thing

So fellow Montgomery County Republicans:  Are you tired of all of this winning?

If you were a Republican candidate in the municipal elections last fall, are you forever grateful for MCRC’s efforts on your behalf?

Or are you, like me, like so many I have talked to, utterly surprised at the level of energy and passion of which this Party is capable only when their comfy power structure is legitimately threatened?

doing somethimg
I feel like there is something I’m supposed to be doing….

Are you, like me, wondering where this energy and passion was last fall?

Are you wondering where this energy and passion was when the Democrat-controlled County Voter Services lost thousands of absentee ballots during the 2016 Presidential Election?

Where was this energy when Montgomery County Voter Services was denying our candidates entry on to the Ballot last February for typos?

Where was this energy when I was begging them to help me resolve the many campaign finance issues I documented HERE?

How many Montgomery County Commissioners’ meetings did someone from MCRC attend to fight the politicized Voter Services office on your behalf?

How many press releases did they send out on behalf of Republican candidates?

Why did MCRC only run one judge for Court of Common Pleas when there were two positions up for grabs?

Where was all this money for mailers and robocalls when our municipal candidates were getting pummeled by the Democrats’ mailers and GOTV operations last fall?

When the County Commissioners raised taxes for two years in a row, what did MCRC have to say about that?

What case have they made to the voters for Republican governance in recent memory?  What have they done to counter the energized far left?

The last time we saw this level of energy was when the Party leadership mobilized against another Republican, Joe Gale, and as a consequence, we let Josh Shapiro waltz right into re-election and every County candidate MCRC supported lost. Josh Shapiro waited a whole seven days after his second swearing-in to announce his run for Attorney General, and a year later, our former Chairman is working for him in a specially created hack job.

So. Much. Winning.

Over half of the local Committee seats are empty, mostly due to resignations.  But where there is some poor sap willing to volunteer, MCRC won’t make the appointment if he’s not the right sort of sap.  And where there are vacancies in Area Leadership, MCRC refuses to appoint Vice Chairs if they are not loyal to MCRC Leadership.

reasonable
Trust the endorsement process

For the lay people out there, a little primer on the inside baseball:  At next Tuesday’s primary election, you will see races for local and state Republican Committee people on the ballot.  Your local committee people are the folks you see working the polls on Election Day and handing out material for candidates.  The State Committee people are typically a subset of this group, and they meet in Harrisburg to offer support for statewide candidates.  Usually, these people are handpicked by the Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Committee and reliably loyal to him.  This allows the Chairman to make deals for statewide office; he can make promises on delivering or withholding support on behalf of Montgomery County.

Typically, endorsed State Committee Candidates are endorsed because they cement the existing power structure.  They were hand selected by the Chairman because the Chairman feels comfortable telling statewide candidates he can deliver their votes.  Theoretically, anyone can run for State Committee, but the MCRC Chairman frowns on that, for all the reasons previously mentioned.  For an idea on how much he frowns on that, please refer to the correspondence below:

Letter from Chairman 042318

Ah yes.  The beatings will continue until morale improves.

sadswampthing
I’ve finally done it.  I’ve killed the Party.

Supporting endorsed candidates is apparently only important enough for the Chairman to rouse himself when the Chairman himself has personally endorsed them.  When Upper Providence Republican Committee members were supporting my primary opponent, I was told that there was nothing in the by-laws preventing them from doing that.  But when Joe Gale ran unendorsed for County Commissioner in 2015, supporting him was treated as treason by then-Chairman Mike Vereb.  In fact, even supporting Joe Gale in the general election—after the voters decided—was treated as treason.  And this regime has done nothing but continue to foster further division.

Selective enforcement of the by-laws in any organization is a morale killer.

It often occurs to me that Party leadership has forgotten that MCRC exists to support its candidates; the candidates are not supposed to be endorsed based on the amount of support they can give the Party. And lest you think Party Leadership is limited to Bill Donnelly, think again.  There is a whole squad of folks up there running this failing circus and they are already lining up their sock puppets for a run at the officers’ spots which go up for election in a few weeks.

Don’t think for one minute that this whole temper tantrum is about anything other than a threat to the current MCRC power structure. The highlighted section in the email below is from Ralph Grasso, municipal leader of Lower Merion Township, and rumored candidate for the Vice Chairman of MCRC in a few weeks:

Grasso Letter

Point of full disclosure:  Mr. Grasso signed my petition for State Committee.  And yes, this is about the future leadership of MCRC, a battle in which he is every bit as engaged as the Republican Club, despite his claims of the moral high ground.  Otherwise he’d have no reason to write this letter.

Here’s another interesting email from the Executive Director, Jim Saring, actually threatening an injunction against the Republican Club for supporting an MCRC endorsed candidate on their ballot!

Saring Injunction

Are they really talking about filing legal action against the Republican Club for supporting their endorsed candidates?  You may be thinking that this is insanity.  Why wouldn’t candidates want all the support they can get to win an election?

Because this has very little to do with the Candidates themselves and everything to do with who controls the keys to MCRC.

mustcrush
Must. Crush. Tom. Ellis.

There are vocal and hardworking folks on the Republican Committee, good soldiers,  who will tell you the problem in the Party is not leadership.  The problem, they say, is “divisive” folks like me, and Tom Ellis, and several others working with the Republican Club. The good soldiers tell us that “for the good of the Party,” we should look the other way when we see problems in the Party, suck it up when the Party attacks us personally, and for God’s sake, shut up.

Folks involved with the Republican Club of Montgomery County don’t blindly march in lockstep with the Party Leadership. We dare to speak up when we see something is wrong, and we want it to change for the better.  The Republican Club believes that it is our current leadership who is divisive and vindictive.

This is a post I didn’t want to write, let alone post.  Who needs to stick their neck out only to be subject to these type of unhinged and often shadowy attacks on one’s characters simply for speaking up for one’s beliefs?  Personally, as the subject of more than my fair share of this type of treatment, I’m more than a little tired of it, and that’s why this post was never going to be published.  But the events of the last few days have left me distraught and disgusted, and so ashamed of so many of my fellow party members, I simply cannot remain silent.

Because silence is consent.  There is something deeply wrong with an organization that relies on fear of reprisal to extract loyalty from it’s members.

The filthy ad-hominem attack on Tom Ellis, by pathetically using a reheated and thoroughly discredited 14-year-old smear campaign from Joe Hoeffel, is really beyond the pale.  The meat of this latest attack, as usual, was distributed anonymously, just like certain recent and notable “news” stories, mysterious videos and whisper campaigns that have attacked the character of other dedicated Republicans who dared challenge this leadership.  It’s no wonder that people are fleeing this party.

gentleswamp
Fly away, little Democrat.  I won’t harm you.

When was the last time you saw MCRC go after a Democrat like that?  Have they targeted Sean Kilkenney, who is collecting municipal solicitorships like charms on a Pandora Bracelet while happily dancing on the edge of the Pawlowski scandal in Allentown?  Or how about Val Arkoosh, who was the architect of the mess at Voter Services?  Or Josh Shapiro, who has wiped his feet all over the red carpet MCRC laid all the way to Harrisburg for him?

No.  Our party saves its best energy only to unleash it against one of our own.

Ask yourself this:  Is the appropriate response for mailers accurately suggesting that the endorsed state committee candidates are beholden to the Party bosses, a wholesale character smear against a dedicated Republican, or is that maybe a little over the top?

If you are a Republican and you are happy with the performance that the Montgomery County Republican Party has turned in for the last few years, if you think silencing dissent with the threat of character assassination is a great way to foster an esprit de corps, then by all means, voting for the endorsed candidates is one way to help ensure that MCRC will continue to deliver the same super awesome results into the foreseeable future.

But, if you want to signal to the rank and file that it is time for a change in their inept leadership (and it is), then you can do that by voting for unendorsed candidates.  They are listed below.

Let’s start winning elections again.

515920-050818

 

UPDATE: Emergency!

Our story so far:  The Ambulance issue in Upper Providence has been going on for well over two years at this point.  For recaps of the discussion points see here, here and here.  The issue sparked some fireworks each time, most recently at the last Board meeting when the Board voted in favor of what was billed as “Objective Staff Recommendations” for Fire and EMS policies.

The ultimate source of contention was whether these policy recommendations are, in fact, objective and those of Staff.

As mentioned in a previous post, I filed a “Right to Know” request for the information that went into the calculation of the Ambulance vs. Medic Responder score card (below) presented at the 4/4 special meeting of Upper Providence Township.

8h AltScoring

For those unfamiliar with the RTK law, Ballotopedia has a pretty good synopsis on their website:

The Pennsylvania Right to Know Act, also known as the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law, is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

Prior to 2008, the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act was widely regarded as one of the worst in the country, partly because the pre-2008 law presumed that government records were not public, unless someone who wanted the record could establish otherwise. A law passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Ed Rendell “flipped the presumption.” This new law went into full effect on January 1, 2009 and it states, in sharp distinction to the previous law, that all documents will be presumed to be open to the public unless the agency holding them can prove otherwise.

Since the current meeting hall was proven inadequate to serving the public during the last two meetings of the Board of Supervisors, and since whining against the construction of the larger meeting hall is one of the Upper Providence Democrats’ favorite hobby horses, this particular page may be of interest as it also outlines the “Open Meetings” provision of PA’s sunshine laws, a provision with which the Democrats may also want to acquaint themselves:

The General Assembly finds that the right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decision-making of agencies is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process and that secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government and the public’s effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society.

As for the coordinated messaging and tactics amongst the newly elected Democrats?  I’ll let Sunshine laws speak for themselves. Close observers of the last several meetings will note that Vagnozzi and Barker approach each issue before the Board with completely different perspectives.  Barker’s critique of the medic responder unit centered on the outdated model and his personal experience with it running calls.  Vagnozzi’s critique came from experience as well, but a different kind of experience backed up by well researched facts.  The Democrats, on the other hand, have been lockstep in their reasons for rejecting the Ambulance, right down to the coordinated, unprecedented move of “Pearson’s Girls” each composing “signing statements” to read aloud at a public meeting.

For those of you that thought you were voting for a five member Board in November 2016, I’m here to tell you: this Board is still three members. And their perspective on things is anything but fresh.

The RTK

At the 4/4 meeting, Supervisor Al Vagnozzi accused the Democrats of “bullying” Township staff into presenting a policy direction that showed favoritism towards the Democrats preferred option of doing as little as possible putting in a medic responder as opposed to an ambulance.  Vagnozzi reiterated that accusation in a letter to the Times Herald and at the 4/16 meeting of the BOS.  Having spent the better part of the last two years of my term hashing out EMS and Fire issues, I found myself in agreement with Vagnozzi in his evaluation of the presentation.

I submitted the following RTK request to the Township on April 19:

I am requesting all information (records) related to the following specific data points on the “Scoring of EMS Options” slide included in the Upper Providence Fire and EMS slide presentation and the special public meeting of the Board of Supervisors held on April 4, 2018:

  1. All information (records) used to calculate the data point entitled “Impact on Regional Providers,” and used to justify the scoring of ALS Ambulance versus ALS Medic Responder.
  2. All information (records) used to calculate the data points entitled “Response Times” and “Crew Uptime Availability” and used to justify the scoring of ALS Ambulance versus ALS Medic responder on these data points
  3. The differences between the “Response Time” criteria and the “Crew Uptime Availability” criteria used to arrive at the scoring. 

Along with several documents, I received the following response from Township Solicitor Joe Bresnan:

I am attaching various documents that were a part of the overall decision-making process.  In the end, however, the point that was emphasized to me by Tim and Bryan was that no document exists which directly caused or led to the assignment of a particular number in the scoring columns (1, 2 or 3).  These end scores are based on subjective experience even though a lot of what was considered involved actual calculations.  For example, you will see various calculations and estimates of costs provided by Josh, price quotes for equipment, etc., but when it comes down to saying whether all of those numbers drive a cost score of a “1” or a “3”, they do not directly compel a particular number but are the basis for deciding what number to assign.  Strictly speaking, there is no document that is responsive to the request in that no document includes a formula that ends in a result of “1”, “2”, or “3”.  The attached documents, along with countless meetings and phone calls, experience working in the Township, experience working elsewhere, and even common sense, all combined to drive the ultimate assignment of a single digit number to the relevant column.

This, by the way, is not really typical of how these objective scoring matrices are settled upon.  In my experience, each member of whatever committee was evaluating a particular decision was given a scoring sheet on which they scored various options.  The scores are then objectively tallied to a final scorecard.  When I was a part of the Township, we did quite a few of these exercises, for example, when we hired the Chief of Police and the Township Manager (and it should be noted that John Pearson took part in both of these evaluations).

That all being said, color me completely unsurprised that this particular scoring matrix did not use that same methodology.

I received the following documents as part of my request:

As mentioned above, the 2017 EMS White Paper I referenced in a previous post was part of the decision making process.

really
I don’t think we’re getting the whole picture, Dixie.

My RTK request also yielded an undated slides from a prior strategic planning session (entitled “DRAFT UPFES Future Presentation”) that were notably different from the slides presented at the 4/4 meeting.  For the purposes of this post, I will refer to the DRAFT UPFES Future Presentation as the “March Slideshow” and the slideshow presented at the 4/4 meeting as the “Official Slideshow.”

Also included was an email dated 3/21/18 with the subject, “Slide Comments” from Assistant Manager Bortnichak to Township Manager Tieperman and copying only Supervisors Calci and Pearson.  This email contains a list of suggested edits to the March Slide Show.  You may recall that Calci volunteered to work with Vagnozzi on the ambulance subcommittee at the February 5 meeting, so this raises an interesting question:

Why was Pearson copied on these slide edits but Vagnozzi was not?

EMS Ordinance

Budget Discrepancies

The first thing I noticed right off was the striking differences between the comparative budget presented at the April 4 meeting, here:

8i AltBudget
Year 1 Budget Analysis from the April 4 public presentation
8j AltBudgetyrs2
Year 2+ Budget Analysis from the April 4 public presentation

And the Budget that I received as part of the RTK, here:

Original budget
Budget analysis from RTK

These numbers are remarkable in that not only is the Ambulance option less expensive—much less expensive—in subsequent years, but it’s less expensive in the initial year as well!  This is quite shocking and lends considerable weight to Vagnozzi’s assertions of doctored numbers and bullied staff.

Which Agencies are Impacted?

“Impact on other agencies” was probably the most oft-cited reason for choosing a Medic Responder over an Ambulance, especially after the “Exclusively serves UPT” line item was eviscerated as unrealistic.

skeptical
Seems sketchy

Recall that Higgins went all Hippocratic Oath in her prepared remarks with her lecture on “first doing no harm” and Calci responded to specific questions with a statement about not “wanting to upset the applecart.”  Pearson, of course, has been vocal about this from the beginning.  In fact, the impact to other regional providers was pretty much the only decision point left to the Democrats by the time the vote came around (especially since even the rudimentary first year cost advantage disappears with the information provided above.)

Trappe Ambulance is only EMS that submitted revised forecast numbers.  There was a set of forecast numbers submitted in August to the previous Board and a new set of numbers submitted to the new Board

medicrespondes
Like New. $80,000 OBO

in November 2017.  I’m not sure why this is, as no explanation was given by Trappe Ambulance.  I was not privy to these numbers until after I left office and I have tried several times to reconcile them with the orignal numbers we recieved to no avail.  I sent a follow-up email to Tieperman for clarification as to why a second set of numbers was provided, but he was unable to offer an explanation either.

Since neither Friendship nor Lower Providence submitted “revised numbers” and my RTK called for “All information (records) used to calculate the data point entitled ‘Impact on Regional Providers,’ and used to justify the scoring of ALS Ambulance versus ALS Medic Responder,” I can only assume that the revised Trappe numbers were the only numbers that were considered in arriving at the scoring on this data point.  But this raises the following questions:

  1. What necessitated Trappe’s submission of revised numbers after they presented different numbers in August to the previous Board?
  2. Were Friendship and Lower Providence asked if they wished to submit revised numbers as well?
  3. Were Trappe’s revised numbers the only factor behind finding an alternative to the Ambulance?

Finally, it’s been stated multiple times by staff, Republicans and Democrats on the Board of Supervisors that EMS call volume will probably be able to 100% support an ambulance in Upper Providence in two years, but so what?  If Upper Providence institutes a Township ambulance in two years, this issue is still relevant.  The real question is not whether or not UPT impacts regional providers, but WHEN they are going to impact these providers.

What does Springfield EMS have to do with any of this?

Another data point discussed in the “Slide Comments” email was the impending folding of another Montgomery County Ambulance Squad.  This event hit the news the same day as the last Board meeting.  Montgomery News:

The Community Ambulance Association of Ambler will be taking over Springfield Township’s ambulance responsibilities as of April 28.

During April 11’s board of commissioners business meeting, a 6-1 board vote terminated the Springfield Ambulance Association, and a 7-0 board vote hired the Community Ambulance Association of Ambler in its stead.

The email was rather vague about what the closing of Springfield Township Ambulance had to do with the overall presentation of Fire and EMS policy in Upper Providence and in what context that information was to be presented.  It appears that Springfield Ambulance owed Springfield Township over $300,000.

A difficult business environment driven by low insurance reimbursements has made the smaller ambulance associations a dying breed, officials said.

Commissioners worked very hard to find a path forward for Springfield Ambulance including public support. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach agreement where we would have sufficient control to turn around the operation. Moving forward with Ambler will put us at far less financial risk in the future while ensuring the highest level of service,” Harbison said.

Officials said a modest amount of money will come through two more payrolls, but without a source of revenue after April 28, Springfield Ambulance will likely be unable to finance the debt owed to the township.

The township’s agreement with Ambler is for five years and will include a new ambulance [emphasis mine], as well as annual support from the township “in the high five figures depending on a few variables,” Harbison said.

Yes, you read that correctly:  Springfield Township is buying an Ambulance for Ambler.

An earlier article offers a little more insight into the problems in Springfield Township.  Montgomery News again (emphasis mine):

As the ambulance has teetered on the brink of insolvency, township board members have offered fiscal and administrative support to the ambulance directors, contingent on a change in leadership. The township’s preconditions called for the replacement of half of the ambulance’s eight board members, as well as the replacement of the ambulance’s current chief of operations.

According to officials, the ambulance’s board of directors has decided to reject the offer.

“We want to take over the board — those were our terms,” Springfield Township Board of Commissioners President Jeff Harbison said. “Change the board, change the chief. They don’t want us to replace the chief.

“We have the ability as a township to designate what they do but not how they do it. We have the ability to fire them, but we don’t have the ability to run them. All we can do is turn off the switch,” he said.

Officials said the insolvency of the ambulance can only be rectified by monetary support from the township, though the ambulance’s debt has been accruing for the better part of a decade.

[…]

“The issue is quite concerning,” Maxwell said. “We’ve been supporting them for several years through their payroll. They haven’t been timely in keeping up with their payments. There should be enough money coming in to sustain them, but because they’re unwilling to share any financial information, we’re basically blind as to where their problems are and how we can help fix them.

If I haven’t made this point in the past, let me make it now:  In Pennsylvania, the local governing body is charged with providing for the health and safety of its residents.  Most municipalities do this in a variety of ways:  through contracts with service providers or volunteer agencies and in the case of police, either a township –employed police department, or through the Pennsylvania State Police.  The point being, the provision of these services is arguably the number one duty of local elected officials and if there are problems with how these services are provided, it is incumbent upon that elected body to work through those issues for the good of their residents; not the good of the service provider.

Kudos to Springfield Township for making what I am sure was a very difficult decision in the best interests of their residents.

Fire Ordinance

Lest you think a shortage of Volunteer firefighters is a problem unique to Upper Providence Township, think again.  The issue of dwindling Fire Company Volunteers was in the news this week. TribLive:

Township officials from across the state passed a resolution Wednesday demanding that Gov. Tom Wolf call a special legislative session to address the volunteer crisis affecting local fire and emergency management services.

The resolution was unanimously adopted during the 96th annual educational conference of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) in Hershey.

PSATS President Shirl Barnhart called attention to the problems township supervisors face in keeping their residents safe and protected at a time when volunteers are dwindling and costs are soaring.

In recent decades, he said, the ranks of fire company volunteers have dropped from 300,000 strong in the 1960s and ’70s to below 50,000 today, a sobering statistic.

“If state and local governments don’t find a way to recruit and retain these very necessary volunteers, communities will be forced to pay nearly $10 billion a year for fire service, according to figures cited by the state fire commissioner,” said Barnhart, a supervisor and volunteer firefighter in Morgan Township, Greene County.

 

In fact, five fire companies are holding open houses this weekend to boost volunteer numbers.  Mercury:

Each of the five fire companies — Black Rock Volunteer Fire Co., Centre Square Fire Co., Linfield Fire Co., Limerick Fire Co. and the Royersford Fire Department — will independently hold open houses this Saturday, May 5, to promote the importance of volunteer participation.

In recent years, volunteer fire companies everywhere have been experiencing an on-going shrinkage of the manpower pool. “Volunteer fire fighters within the commonwealth are a dying breed,” said Joseph LoCasale, president of Black Rock Volunteer FC. “The primary purpose of this Saturday’s multiple open houses is to let residents of our service areas know that their fire companies are staffed by volunteers and that there is always a need for additional manpower. It is our hope that more residents will step forward and give it a try.”

He stressed that being a volunteer with a fire company doesn’t mean that you have to be a firefighter. “If fire fighting is not for you, there are other opportunities to help out, such as fire police, administration, fire prevention education, vehicle and station maintenance and public relations.”

If you are concerned about the rising costs of fire protection–and you should be–volunteering at the local fire company is a way you can not only make a difference in your community, but it can help keep your taxes down as well.

Regarding the Township’s plan to move forward, the RTK revealed some interesting findings on this subject as well, mostly in comparing the March Slide Show presentation and the Official Presentation.  Let’s discuss:

Black Rock’s Mont Clare Station

There is some in-depth discussion over the disposition of the Mont Clare fire station in the March presentation, but this entire discussion is missing from the Official Slide Show and indeed, the only mention is the rather vague:

5 FirePolicy1
Official Slide Show

The following slide, which was included in the March Slide Show, tells the story of the Mont Clare station:

MC Station
March Slide Show

In my personal experience on the Board of Supervisors, the Township was often put in the position of reacting to conflicting messages from within the BRVFC leadership structure.  A good example of this dynamic is the Mont Clare Station situation mentioned above, wherein leadership told the Township on multiple occasions in private meetings that they needed help phasing out the Station, only to have other members of leadership publicly call the Mont Clare Station “100% viable.”

Moving Engine 93

One of the biggest challenges presented in the Official Slide show for both Fire and EMS was the geography of our oddly shaped township.

Definingthechallenges
Slide from the Official Slide Show

The Coverage maps below were included in the March presentation but were missing from the Official Presentation.  I am very familiar with these maps as I am pretty sure they came directly from the Township’s 2014 Fire and EMS study completed by Fire Planning Associates and were prepared at a time when there was still a significant response out of the Mont Clare station.  Keep in mind that the “response zones” around the Mont Clare station should not be coded green (this is the meaning of the yellow notation on “needing better maps” on the slide below.)

Coverage maps
Slide from the March Slide Show

The map on the left is actually the current coverage map during weekday daytime hours, with the Township’s Engine 93 responding out of the Township’s central Black Rock campus.  The map on the right shows coverage with no unit responding from the centralized location.

Recall that one of the policies that the Township is proposing is relocating Engine 93 to the Oaks station until the new centralized building is complete, which realistically won’t be until mid 2019/early 2020, even on an aggressive timeline.  If, according to Higgins, these policy decisions are being driven entirely by response times, why would the Township propose moving our centrally located Township engine 93 to house it in the southeast corner of the Township at the Oaks fire station? This does not improve response times and it flies in the face of the geographical challenge laid out in the slide above from the Official Slide Show.  In fact, this very point was made was in the March Slide Show:

two orgs independent
Slide from March Slideshow

This policy decision has the potential to make response times worse as it removes the centralized coverage area currently covered by Engine 93, effectively undoing the coverage the Township is currently providing for the recently populated center of the township .  With the important stipulation that I wholeheartedly agree that a hybrid Township/Volunteer organization is the best model to pursue, I am unclear about the impetus for the directive to move Engine 93 to the Oaks firehouse at all, even if it is “temporary,” especially since Engine 93’s response times have thus far been proven to be superior to the Volunteers.

2c Response times
Slide from Official Slideshow

Why not wait until the centrally located Fire and EMS building is complete to implement this program, and in the meantime, simply allow the volunteers to respond with Engine 93 out of the Township campus?

Stipend

Let me first remind my readers that Upper Providence Township currently has a “stipend” program.  This program, called the “Volunteer Incentive Program” or VIP, pays an annual amount to each responding volunteer firefighter based on the number of calls and number of firefighters that responded within the Township on an annual basis.

roy
You’re gonna pay me to do what?

The Township awards an annual lump sum to each of our first responding fire companies, and it is up to each of the individual companies to determine how that money gets distributed to their members.  To my knowledge, Upper Providence is the only Township in the area that has this program.

So what is this new “stipend” program?”  Good question.  When Barker sought clarification on this question at the last meeting, he was quickly shut down by Calci with the admonition to not get “too deep in the weeds” on this policy point.  There is no mention of a stipend in the March Slideshow.  For details, please stick around after Quizzo.

Qualifications of Fire Fighters

The Requirement for Blackrock firefighters to meet township standards was included in the March Slideshow but is missing from the Official Slideshow.

FF quals
Slide from March Slide Show

This issue was also addressed in the March 23 email discussing the slide edits, where it was suggested that Firefighter qualifications be defined.  Why was this discussion omitted?  I can think of several reasons, all plausible, but none of them transparent.

  1. Has the Township decided to forgo requiring BRVFC members to meet certain Township standards?
  2. Was the slide omitted to avoid questions as to what constitutes a qualified fire fighter and how many qualified fire fighters BRVFC has?

Bortnichak’s email discusses including standards and a definition of what a “qualified fire fighter is,” but these discussion points never made it into the Official Slide Presentation.

By the way…

When the BRVFC chief told me that it no longer seemed as if BRVFC had an equal seat at the table in the fall of 2016, I was honest with him:  they did not.  The Township needed to take the lead.  This may be the source of their animosity towards me; I’m not sure and I will probably never know.

But speaking of animosity:  as an aside, I noted that the latest BRVFC Fundraiser Flyer mailed into homes this week makes reference to “recent blog posts by certain individuals mistakenly stated that Black Rock has significant cash and does not need additional UPT funding.”  Setting aside the rather unprofessional nature of this statement, if there is another blogger that is covering Upper Providence Township, please contact me, as I am happy to pool resources.

Please note:  This blog has never made any representations about BRVFC’s reserves.  If BRVFC’s reserves are mentioned at all on this blog, it is only through linking statements by BRVFC’s members themselves, either via their newsletter or through Facebook.  It has also never been stated on this blog that BRVFC does not need additional UPT funding; on the contrary, if you have received a fund drive mailer from BRVFC, I encourage you to donate.

This blog has, however, on numerous occasions, wondered aloud why the Democrats campaigned against and misrepresented the Township’s new fire funding formula, but then, once elected, did not restore the funding during the 30-day period in which they could re-open the budget.  This blog has further pondered why members of BRVFC have thus far neglected to hold the Democrats accountable for this slight. Indeed, the funding formula change is glossed over as “forecasting a reduction in 2018 income” on the BRVFC fundraising flyer.  I can only assume that it is far more politically expedient (and less awkward on Quizzo night) to blame “recent blog posts by certain individuals” than to bite the hand that puts you back on equal footing in determining Township fire policy.  I get it.

1MailersideA
100% drop in interest in this issue since taking office

“Objective Recommendation of Staff…?” 

As Vagnozzi has repeatedly and validly noted with regard to the Township’s provision of EMS services, the safety of the residents must take precedence over the interests of the organizations providing these services.  It would seem, based on the results of the RTK, that not only was the EMS portion of the April 4 public presentation altered from Staff’s original presentation, but the fire services portion was altered by the Democrats as well.

adam12
We’re investigating a complaint on improper use of the word “objective.”

Chairman John Pearson and “his girls” want to avoid responsibility for the new Fire and EMS policy by calling it an “objective recommendation of Staff.”  I think it is safe to say that the public presentation of April 4 was changed significantly enough that it cannot be legitimately be called objective or be attributed to Staff.  This plan is the Democrats’ plan for providing Fire and EMS services to the Township.  Staff’s fingerprints on that April 4 presentation are barely visible.

Parting thoughts:

Should the Township be able to determine the needs of their residents and therefore be permitted to dictate the best way to provide for the safety of its residents?

Or should elected officials defer to their bar buddies to hammer out FEMS policy over beers after Quizzo the service providers to tell the Township the level of service they are willing to provide?

Which option do you think will keep us safer?

 

State sanctioned murder

This.

This I cannot understand.

I am at a loss to understand how a child can be denied food, water and oxygen, and essentially be held prisoner in Britain under the guise of “healthcare?” CNN:

Judges on the UK Court of Appeal once again ruled against 23-month-old Alfie Evans’ family.

Wednesday’s ruling rejected new arguments intended to overturn a decision by the High Court on Tuesday that prevented the terminally ill toddler from leaving Britain for medical treatment, said Roger Kiska, a lawyer with Christian Legal Center and part of the legal team representing Alfie’s parents.

As staunch pro-life advocate, I can grasp the legal arguments in in favor of abortion, even if I vehemently disagree with them and think they are wrong.  I can even understand the legal arguments that resulted in the death of Terri Shiavo, even if I vehemently disagree with them and think they are wrong.
But this?
How does the British court justify this willful taking of life?  How does British society justify holding this child prisoner in a country that refuses to even try to treat him, while denying him the elements of basic sustenance?
Last July, Charlie Gard was killed under similar circumstances.  CNN:
At the end of January, Charlie’s parents launched a GoFundMe page to raise money to bring Charlie to the United States for that treatment. In three months, they exceeded their £1.3 million ($1.65 million) goal to cover the costs, but the hospital stepped in and opposed this effort, stating that it was not in the best interest of their patient.
In February, the hospital decided, based on Charlie’s status, that treatment was unlikely to benefit Charlie. Unable to agree, the hospital went to court to have a judge decide, hoping to be able to remove Charlie from life support.
I have no special insight on this, just utter despair.  Is there no way to just take Alfie out of the hospital and fly him to Rome, where he has been promised care?  Is there no one who will defy this inane British law and rescue this sweet boy?
What is the state’s interest in making sure that he dies?
Say a prayer for sweet Alfie and his poor tortured parents.  We are living in evil times. Our regard for the sanctity of life has dropped so low that this boy can be killed on the world stage while we all stand by, helpless to do anything.  This is so very wrong, and we all know it.
How can this be called anything but state sanctioned murder?