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.

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.

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