Two and a half hours.
That was all I could see when I looked at the August 6, 2018 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Two and a half hours.
And just to get to those two and a half hours, I’d have to sit through Pearson butchering another reading from “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Ugh.
Well, I put it off long enough. I watched the whole thing. Admittedly, there were times when it was just so boring, my attention wandered, but there are certainly a few moments worth highlighting. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Not Quite Fifteen Minutes of Fame
Due to the poor microphones at the beginning of his comments, the first public commenter’s name is not discernible. He’s a 13-month resident who just bought a new Toll Brothers house in the development at Black Rock and 29 and he wants to hold the Township accountable for what he claims is his builder’s shoddy work. He drones on, uninterrupted, for fourteen minutes, with an itemized list of problems with his house, accusations of incompetence and threats of legal action against said builder and the Township. With a list of problems this long, it’s puzzling that he is the only homeowner that has them, and he does not appear to be representing any other homeowner in the development other than himself. At one point, Vagnozzi leans back and appears to ask Pearson to put an end to the hurled accusations, but Pearson does nothing.
The resident appears to be simultaneously accusing the Township of not properly inspecting his home, while at the same time demanding the Township re-inspects it. He wants repairs effected and paid for by the builder and the Township — but at no cost to the taxpayers (which raises the question: where does he think the Township gets its money from?) Additionally, he wants the Township to delay the dedication of the entire development. If his laundry list of claims is true, it’s hard to see how he can still be living there. Perhaps he needs something a little stronger than a Township inspection.
Pearson waits until the end of this 14 minute accusation-laden dissertation to say that he doesn’t think it’s appropriate to discuss “this thing, whatever it is, because of the accusations in there.” He asks the resident to give a copy of this statement to the Solicitor (why wasn’t that done in the first place?) and promises a response within the 30 days that the resident demands. Turning to the Solicitor, Pearson asks, “Is that ok with you, Joe?” To which Bresnan responds, “Well, we might respond in 30 days.” since the Township’s liability here is hardly established.
At the end of his comments, the resident starts to grill Vagnozzi directly, saying “You live in a Toll Brothers house. Aren’t you currently undergoing remediation for a stucco issue?” Vagnozzi says he and several of his neighbors filed a warranty complaint against the developer. I’m not sure if the point of this comment is to ask for advice, accuse Vagnozzi of getting some special treatment or simply to embarrass him, but Vagnozzi was not alone in getting Toll Brothers to fix the stucco on his home, many of his neighbors in that development did as well, something I witnessed first hand when I canvassed that neighborhood twice last year.
Public comments, by the way, are supposed to be limited to 3 minutes.
In any event, when the resident starts gearing up for a cross-examination, it’s Bresnan, not Pearson, who puts a stop to it, reminding the audience, and the Board, that this is getting beyond the realm of public comment.
Interestingly, the next resident who approaches the malfunctioning microphone, Marlene Magnowski (sp?) wants to talk about an impending Catskills Farms development in Mont Clare, and Pearson immediately tells her to sit down, and that she’ll have an opportunity to comment when that issue comes up on the agenda.
Which raises another question: why does Pearson allow certain residents to speak for five times the allotted time for public comment and others are told to sit down and wait until a more appropriate point in the meeting? Given the first resident’s adversarial comments threatening legal action against the township, these comments should have been curtailed in short order and directed to the Solicitor immediately.
And yet, for some reason, they weren’t.
Water, Water, Everywhere
The Catskills Farm four lot subdivision is the very next item on the agenda and it’s the development Ms. Magnowski wanted to talk about. She shouts from the audience if it’s ok to come up now, and Pearson tells her to listen to the presentation first because her question might be answered. It is not the first, or the last time that Pearson loses control of this meeting, but it happens so regularly, it’s hardly worth mentioning anymore.
The presentation gets off to an awkward start because the developer has not submitted an electronic version of his plan and there is no easel available on which to prop the drawing. So there is no visual for the residents or the viewers at home.
The discussion on this 5 acre, four lot subdivision quickly becomes all about water.
The developer requests a waiver on the storm run-off which, according to the engineer, is a de-minimus amount. The site drains to the Schuylkill River by three different flow paths.
Pearson, a self-proclaimed “expert” in all things water-related in Mont Clare, asks, “I…I wanna know where…where you’re talking about when it’s…it’s emptying into three different points, ok? Three different areas. Can you explain that to me?”
When the developer’s engineer approaches the Board with his drawings to explain this to Pearson, he tells the Board that one of the points is a drainage ditch along Canal Street, where the water goes into a pipe and drains into the river.
At this point, Pearson tells everyone that that particular pipe has a problem with drainage, that it backs up and it needs to be “addressed.”
Now “de-minimus” is a Latin term which I’m sure Pearson doesn’t understand when he says, “Running more water into that thing is not going to…help any of the residents down there.”
Yes, it’s all for the residents. It has nothing to do with this:
It’s times like these that I often wonder if John Pearson knows that he is, you know, actually in charge of Upper Providence Township. I wonder if he realizes that if he notices that there is a drainage pipe that doesn’t seem to be working–for fifty years!–all he has to do is pick up the phone and have someone from Public Works check it out. He doesn’t have to wait until a developer comes in who wants to put three measly houses on five acres down there. He can “address” this issue at any time he wants.
Of course, there may be a reason that time may be now, as we will soon see.
The engineer patiently explains that they are taking a 50-year post development storm and moving it all the way down to a two-year pre-development storm and that they are “way overcompensating” for storm water, but that is the Township’s regulation; “In reality, “ the engineer says, “there is way less water leaving the site.”
The engineer is now trapped at the front of the room, holding his ridiculously giant drawing in Pearson’s face while Pearson stammers through this wholly scientific disagreement with the engineer’s calculations:
“I’m not disagreeing with your calculations. These days, when a storm comes through it drops two inches of rain on…on a piece of ground…uhhhhh…right up the street from this particular development here….uhhhh….we had runoff from another development that was up top there and uhhhh…..ummm…it destroyed the road down there. Just…just the way that it rains these days. It’s not…you know, and maybe we ought to look at our ordinances again a re-address these things. Ummmm…and where is the third one draining?”
When the engineer tries to explain, Pearson interrupts again:
“Also, and you can…you can ask our Public Works department, cuz Tom is here, that a lot of these drains down there don’t go anywhere, you gotta run water into a…a…uhhhh…a drain down there that is clogged or…or has been that way for fifty years. Then the water doesn’t go anywhere down there. The reason I know this is cuz I lived down there for many years. So I’m very familiar with what…what…with what…water goes on down there, so it’s like and here it travels and whatever else, ummm….I’ve watched the water come up, and this is not your fault, I watched the water come up the other day, ummmm…to within uhhhhh….inches of my back door. Because of the flooding Schuylkill River. But there again, that’s not your problem, you know…when you put something in…in my neighborhood like this, ummmmm….aaaahhh…that concerns me, so, I want you…I want you to be aware of it, I’m not…I’m not…I’m not real happy with the drainage on this for some reason and I…and I don’t know that you have an answer with that. I don’t know.”
When the engineer says, “I’m not sure how you would make it less…” Pearson interrupts and says, “I don’t know how you would, either.”
The engineer incredulously points out that there is a watershed “here” (on the drawing) that Pearson is asking him account for, that drains to a river they are not doing anything to. He says they are putting storm water basins on each of the new lots.
“I know, but you are running two-thirds of everything into a system that’s not functional today. You know, you’re running water into a pipe that…that doesn’t function.”
Calci jumps in and asks, “Is the bigger question to fix the problem that isn’t working?”
“I don’t have an ans…I don’t have an answer. All I know is this one in particular runs into a pipe that is not functioning. And the one, the other one that you are running into has issues. Ummmm….I don’t, you know I don’t have an answer for you at this point in the game, that’s just…that’s just one of the scenarios. Ummm….there was…there was…mention in here about ummm….ahhh….I want to move on to something else because I don’t want to ssss…sit here and beat you up with this thing. The ummm…ahhh…each one of these lots is going to have a well on it, I assume?”
The Engineer says yes to the wells.
And NOW, after that thoroughly awkward segue way, we get to the heart of what Pearson wants:
“Have you looked into the costs of running water down Walnut Street there, or Port Providence Road, I guess it’s called Port Providence Road there?”
The engineer says they have not.
“Ok. So…w-w-w-wouldn’t it be better for your development to have public water? And maybe we could consider some of these waivers as a tradeoff for you running water down into there, which then would… would make the ummm…uhh, the water company, whoever’s running that water down there, uhhhh, you might get a discount on that, if…if…they’re looking to pick up other customers down there, there’s got to be 40 or 50 other homes down there. It’s just a thought. I’m not telling you to do that. I can’t make you do that.”
There is some awkward shuffling and questions in the wake of this pronouncement while the engineer just nods and slowly walks away from the dais.
“I’m not against your development, I want you to know that, I’m not against it, but I…I’m…I have major concerns about the water runoff. It…it’s a …uhhh..a bad, it’s just a bad area, ok? And…and…and when I sat here twenty some years ago I made the recommendation that we start buying up properties down there so that in a lifetime, we wouldn’t have this situation, that that would all eventually be open space that everybody could use down there, so, you know, uhhh…uhh…I’m sure my neighbors are not happy with me saying that, but you know, ummm…it’s…it’s an issue. Water runoff down there is a really bad issue.”
When Bresnan asks for clarification of “de-minumus”, attorney for the developer, Ed Mullin explains directly to Pearson, “I don’t know if you understood. After development, a 50 year storm has to be reduced to a two-year storm. Two year storms happen all the time. So it’s going to be better than it is today just because we are building there.” Mullin then offers to “look into that pipe” and see if there’s some way they could “unclog it.”
Pearson’s not done yet. He needs to invoke global warming, first:
“Well…well, that might help, that might help make my decision, absolutely. Ummm, but the…but you know when you guys, ehhmm, and today we all refer to storms ok? We’re referring to when storms were written up years ago, it’s like, the storm that we have today is different than the storms that we had a few years ago. You know, ummm….I’m not gonna get into the global warming thing, but you know, it’s like, ehhhh, I…I have a rain gauge on my property and…and when the storm goes by and it 20 minutes, an hour or so, and I look at my storm gauge and it reads two…two inches eeehhh…two inches of rain fell on my property…I….that kinda scares me we’re still using calculations from years ago and you go, ok, well, it’s not a big deal, well the minute you put that in there and…and you walk away from this thing, it becomes a big deal to everyone that’s living down there, it’s like, I’m trying to avoid that.”
In response to this rather unhinged diatribe, Mullin reiterates his promise to look into the clogged pipe and says he will also draw Pearson a picture of the de-minimus storm waters waiver they are requesting (“We’ll provide a graphic representation.”). Pearson is very happy with this. He’s a “visual guy,” you know.
Vagnozzi asks if anyone at the Township has asked about running water down there. Tom Broadbelt, the Director of Public Works, says that they have talked to Aqua America, who has run water down to Container Corp, but there were not enough houses down there to justify the cost of going further, so they would be looking for financial help in doing that. Pearson seizes on this comment.
“Well, here would be the perfect example, you know, it’s like, it gonna cost them like x amount of dollars to drill a well down there on each of those properties, ok? The last time I had a well drilled it was over $10,000, and it’s like, you know, you’ve got $30,000 dollars there and I don’t know what it costs you to run a pipe, I’m sorry.”
When Broadbelt mentions that Phoenixville water would be closer, but they are going through a transition and not building anymore, Vagnozzi says that’s it’s also a fire safety issue, too, and Pearson looks like a kid on Christmas morning. He can’t agree with Vagnozzi enough.
This discussion goes on for quite some time more, with Calci questioning the sidewalks and then Pearson once again losing complete control of the meeting when Marlene Magnowski finally gets her chance to speak and approaches the dais with handouts saying she “calls bullsh*t” on the development. In one of the more ironic exchanges of the year, it takes Pearson a beat or two to chastise her about her language.
The rest is just static and the Board approved it unanimously, anyway with Pearson actually berating Ms. Magnowski from the dais on how the developer has a right to build here and then lecturing her on how they are going to make the runoff situation better, effectively putting the lie to all of his earlier histrionics over storm water.
They had him at “public water.”
So a few issues with this exchange:
- Besides being the owner of the Fitzwater Station, John Pearson is also the owner of Port Providence Paddle. At least one of the three water rescues that occurred the day before this meeting was from a customer of his establishment. Why would Pearson, who claims he’s “very familiar with what water goes on down there,” and has experienced many floods and flood stages, why would he even open for business when the Schuylkill River is at flood stage? And let’s not even talk about his personal pick for providing water rescue services for the Township.
- As mentioned previously, I think Pearson forgets that he is in charge of this Township. He likes to sit back and whine about how he, like everyone else down in Mont Clare, is a victim of Township inaction, like this clogged pipe. But he has the power to fix it! Has he never asked anyone at the Township to clear this troublesome pipe that has plagued Port providence for fifty years? And now that he has acknowledged that the pipe hasn’t been working for fifty years –a time period that spans all of his terms as an Upper Providence supervisor office—has he exposed the Township to flood liability with his long acknowledgement of the problem and his subsequent inaction?
- For that matter, why did he allow the first public commenter at this meeting to hurl threats and accusations about Township employees and expose the Township to liability for the problems with his privately constructed home? Once again, he thoughtlessly subjects the Township to liability for his own political ends.
Perhaps most intriguing is Pearson’s barely disguised attempt to shake down this developer for public water in Mont Clare. Remember this is a tiny, four lot subdivision over five acres. This isn’t a Toll Brothers Tract House project. He says there are 40 to 50 houses down in Mont Clare to make it worth the water company’s effort to run pipe down there. But you know what else is down there?
A dive bar.
The infamous Fitzwater Station (and Port Providence Paddle) is serviced by that $10,000 well Pearson mentioned earlier and that well is eventually going to go bad. The well in question was drilled as an “emergency” solution to Pearson’s water problem at the Fitz when the last well went bad in 2008. Pearson was issued a permit contrary to the requirements of the Montgomery County Public Health Code because he was drilling a well that encroached within 30 feet of the Schuylkill Canal. Full document can be viewed at the following link: Best Technical Guidance Fitzwater Station Well 111908
I know I’ve accused Pearson of having an agenda that consists solely of petty partisan revenge and political payback, but I was wrong. His agenda also includes getting some perks for himself.
Dollars without Sense
At the last meeting, a recommendation by the Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night to appoint D’Huy Engineering to as the construction contract manager of a new, centrally located Emergency Services building was tabled. Craig Murray from D’Huy comes up to give his pitch, and when he asks what questions the Board may have, Pearson opens the discussion with the following obnoxious comment:
“I want you to tell me how much money you are going to save me, ok? That’s what I’m interested in because, you know, uhhhm, we’ve been doing a lot of building here lately, as you could tell, going through the Township and I’m interested in saving money on this thing, I’m not interested in overages, extra expenses for this and that, and…and…I had talked to Tim today about it, I want somebody that’s going to do their homework, and…and…that’s what I’m interested in. So convince me that you’re the guy.”
After Murray just sat through the preceding Storm Water Kabuki Theater, I’m surprised he didn’t laugh in Pearson’s face at his insistence on “someone who does their homework.” I know I laughed out loud, but I have had much more experience watching the actual lack of homework being done by this Board.
Anyway, the entire discussion is really moot and the approval is only a formality. I bring it up only to point out two things:
First, that Pearson actually asks the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company President, Joe LoCasale, if he is ok with this appointment before Pearson calls for the vote. Is this really necessary? Presumably, the Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night made a formal recommendation to the Board, so deferring to LoCasale to approve this only reinforces the notion (outlined in detail HERE) that it is the BRVFC running Emergency Services in this Township and that Tieperman and Bortnichak are really nothing more than flimsy window dressing on this poor policy decision.
Second, Pearson has been doing an awful lot of running his mouth about saving money. The ill-advised decision to close the fitness center at Anderson Farm Park is part of it, but the Fitness Center is the only part of the Rec Center that actually recoup some money to offset its cost. I suspect that Pearson’s ultimate agenda is to just close the Rec Center and have that great big $11 million white elephant sit empty and unused in the middle of the Township so he can say he saved the Township money on air conditioning.
Meanwhile, earlier in the year, he spent $86,100 open space money on private farmland that only one family in the Township is ever going to get to enjoy.
He looked at the ambulance issue and instead of thinking long-term, Pearson spitefully picked the most expensive and temporary option to implement, if only so he would not have to acquiesce to adding a centrally located ambulance for Upper Providence. As part of that decision, he’s purchasing and equipping a medic response vehicle that will cost about $80,000 and will be obsolete within two years and cost upwards of at least $100,000 more per year to operate than the ambulance.
A few meetings ago, he whined about the cost of fixing a bridge on Ashenfelter Road cost, later in this meeting, he whines about the cost of trails, and the cost of Township compliance with the storm water management program, of all things.
And let’s not forget, he has basically abdicated all responsibility for the design of the new centrally located Emergency Services building to a committee populated with volunteer firemen. I’m sure there won’t be anything unreasonable or extravagant in their design recommendations.
Pearson’s vision for Upper Providence Township is painfully limited to his term in office as it has been for every term he has served in office.
Membership has its privileges
In an interesting twist this year, Pearson, who usually has a problem with anyone other than the Fitzwater Station selling alcohol within the borders of the Township, approves not one, but two alcohol vendors to provide legal beverages at Community Day this year.
Some of the Township’s frequent flyers with long memories might remember that Pearson had such a problem with alcohol vendors being allowed to sell their wares at Community Day last year that he approached the Board to comment against it during public comment last year. The vendor last year was the well-known Sly Fox Brewery, an establishment that has been around for quite some time and the owner of which was a Township resident.
This year, Pearson doesn’t seem to have any sort of problem with alcohol being served at Community Day, nor enlarging the beer garden area, nor extending the serving hours. One of the vendors will be “Pour House” from Lansdale, and I know of no local connection to the Township for this vendor.
The other vendor, however, is politically connected. “Tuned Up Brewery” out of Spring City is owned and operated by Clint Tichnell and Jeremy Burke, both of whom held leadership positions at Trappe Ambulance last year and are friends with the politically connected Kaspers of BRVFC. It is unclear if Quizzo is offered at Tuned Up.
In August 2017, the Upper Providence Board of Supervisors was evaluating bids from the three local ambulance companies to provide a centralized ambulance service to the Township. In the midst of these presentations, Mr. Burke, in his capacity as Trappe VFC Vice President, posted the following political post regarding “BS” Upper Providence politics to his homeowner’s association Facebook page. Presumably, this was posted in an effort to mobilize the public to influence the Board’s decision. The post was intercepted and distributed beyond the homeowners association. I have redacted the needlessly defamatory portion of the post.
According to Trappe Fire Company’s webpage, neither Tichnell nor Burke appears to hold any leadership position within Trappe VFC or Ambulance at this time. However, both Jeremy Burke and Clint Tichnell are still listed as “Interior Firefighters.”
Regular readers may recall that there was a meeting between the newly elected Upper Providence Democrat Board Members and Trappe Ambulance immediately following the November election, wherein a completely different set of ambulance budget numbers was presented only for the Democrats to review. These budget numbers indicated that if Trappe Ambulance was awarded the contract, it would hurt them financially. And if they weren’t awarded the ambulance contract, it would hurt them financially.
Interestingly, instead of the cheaper, more effective, and longer term option of the centralized ambulance, in April of this year, the Democrat majority on the Board voted for that great Medic Responder Unit that will be obsolete about 10 minutes after it goes into service. (If you need a refresher, the ambulance and fire issues have been covered ad nauseum in this blog HERE HERE HERE HERE and HERE)
It’s nice that Upper Providence is giving these connected local boys some free publicity and a boost to their business as a vendor at the Township Community Day, isn’t it? Maybe they will rate some free advertising in the Township newsletter, too.
- A hearing on the Township’s MS4 storm water runoff plan was held.
- The Board approved the demolition at of structures at Linfield-Trappe Road and Township Line for road widening
- The Township’s Administrative code was briefly discussed
- Trail master planning and connections were discussed
- And, in a request he’s sure to regret, Pearson issued an assignment to the Board members that they are each to come up with Supervisors comments for the next meeting.
Will be held at the Oaks Firehouse. Of course.