Well, that didn’t take long.
After a relatively boring and uneventful meeting to start 2019, the Upper Providence Board takes off the gloves at the second meeting of the year and goes a couple of rounds this evening over—what else?—Fire and Emergency Services.
Note well: I had given the Girls’® ability to be independent the benefit of the doubt for the last post and was prepared to do so unless/until they proved me wrong.
What I never expected was for their continued subservience to Pearson to be demonstrated so incontrovertibly, and so soon.
Gentle Readers, the Girls® may be nominally in charge, but Pearson is still running the show. This will become evident as we proceed through the meeting.
A couple of quick opening observations:
What’s up with this seating arrangement?
The solicitor, who hasn’t even been seated at the same table as the board for the last year and a half, has now been awarded “sixth supervisor” status in the form of a seat directly next to Chairman Higgins. He seems more a part of the Board than Phil Barker, who has been relegated to a bookend. Bresnan is good solicitor, but he is not an elected official; he is a consultant, and should be seated as such. If Higgins cannot manage her role as Chairman without training wheels, perhaps she should not have taken it on.
The other bookend is, of course, the other Republican, as Pearson has strategically placed himself as a buffer between Vagnozzi and Calci.
Are the Girls® so delicate (and malleable) that they can’t come into direct contact with a *gasp!* Republican on the dais? Is Pearson’s hold over them so tenuous?
And, while I am eternally grateful for the end of the insipid little story at the beginning of the meetings, Higgins’ request for public comment has rapidly grown to be just as nerve grating. At both meetings this year, Higgins has called for her precision-timed public comments, and when she sees none, she remarks, “Nobody has anything to say?” Perhaps it’s just nerves, but her tone delivers this remark as a sarcastic challenge to the public and strikes an odd note. Hopefully it won’t continue for long, because sooner or later, someone will have something to say and Higgins will have to deal with it.
Higgins’ manner of running the meeting is rushed; her “moment of silence” in remembrance of Trappe Borough Council President Nevin Scholl and Joyce Kelly, mother of Township employee Don Kelly, at the beginning of the meeting was just that—a moment. Blink and you’d have missed it. There will be other instances of Higgins putting her head down and trying to plow through the meeting at the cost of cutting off the Board’s public discussion on several items—discussion, by the way, which is a critical element of a transparent and effective government, and in which she does not participate.
But there’s a lot to cover here, so without further ado, let’s dive in. We’ll pick up our meeting at 23:02 when the Board picks up discussion of the BOS By-laws.
The By-laws are something new to govern the conduct of the Board of Supervisors. I’m not sure who came up with this idea, or why it is necessary, since the conduct of all PA Municipal Boards is governed by the municipal code.
Upon reading these by-laws, though, it seems as though they are an attempt to draw some hard boundaries around Board interference in the day-to-day operations of the Township, i.e. No “hanging out” at the Township building, following the chain of command with employees, how consultants can be engaged, and so forth. Of course, these by-laws technically “bind” the Board to nothing; this appears to be an attempt to codify the Board’s behavior based on the honor system, as there is not (yet) a defined mechanism for consequences should the by-laws be disobeyed.
Higgins asks if anyone has any comments to make on the by-laws and Pearson offers the following:
“I, I, have a comment to make. Uhhhhm, I think that when emails are sent out, or any discussion outside of the Board of Supervisor or anything that’s, that’s sent outside other than the administrative personnel, that most of this oughta be, go through the Chairperson, I don’t, I don’t want anyone of us individuals speaking for the entire Board, aaahhh, I think that needs to be looked into, I think we need to set up, aaahhhh, ummm, uh, some kinda rules for that. Uhhhmm, I don’t, I don’t want, I don’t want somebody else on this Board speaking for me, per se. So it’s like, I think it’s uhhh, wise for the Chairperson to be the person in charge of this, uhmmm, I’m not sure how to, how to go forward with this as far as ummm, oh….uh, umm….getting stuff out to the public, other than, y-y-you know, running it just through the Chair. Joe, if you’ll help me out there?”
Bresnan acknowledges that if the Board wants to do this, that the by-laws would be the place to do it, however, he wasn’t sure that the by-laws were ready to be adopted at this meeting, since there is still some cleanup that needs to be done. He says that he can take a stab at some language around the idea Pearson is proposing and include that, along with any other ideas the Board has, in a document to be approved.
Calci asks for clarification, “So when someone is speaking for all five of us, or they should just never singularly communicate?”
“Correct. It should, it should basically come from the Chairperson. Ummm, it’s, it’s kinda confusing when, when it, when someone, when someone sends an email out, eh, an email out, and it, and it goes out to uhhhh, a lot of different people, ehhh, out in the public, it looks like that particular person is speaking for the entire Board and I don’t want that to happen.”
So what’s this all about? As we have learned from past history, John Pearson never comes up with any kind of idea unless it was proposed to him by someone else. What is driving this request?
Barker thinks he has an idea, and let us see if you, Gentle Reader, can suss it out of Barker’s response to Pearson (emphasis mine):
“John, I think that we are all individually elected to this Board, and I personally, you, any one of us, can communicate to any group of people out there as long as we’re making clear that it’s our personal opinion, and not the opinion of the entire Board. So I think you need to be very careful in how you word this if you are going to include it in the by-laws, that I don’t agree with to begin with. But when we select a committee like Al and Helene meeting with the different fire companies, they are representing us, but they are not making decisions, so they can communicate back to us what those discussions are. And Al, I did appreciate the communication you gave us regarding Black Rock [Volunteer Fire Company] regarding what was going on there. Rather than the five of us trying to coordinate meetings with them, that we have a committee to that. I personally, any one of us, can communicate to any number of different people within this township, because they’re the ones that elected us. As long as I don’t communicate to them that I’m representing the views of the entire Board.”
Pearson stammers his response, which begins with him, as usual, seemingly agreeing with the exact opposite of the position for which he had just finished advocating.
“I don’t, I don’t, Phil, I don’t have a problem with that. And, and, and maybe that’s why we need to have this clarified, okay? Because I don’t want somebody from this Board wha—just sending out a, eh, eh, a blanket email or letter or whatever to eh, eh, to the public, a-a-and uh acting like it’s, it’s the gospel from the whole Board. Now if you wanna put in there, if you wanna put in there that, that, y-you know, there’s a statement in the email, or the letter that goes out that says, ‘this is my opinion’ or this is, this is, this is from expressly from, uhhh, Phil Barker’s Supervisor, I don’t have a problem with that, you know, if it’s not, if it’s not, if it’s not addressed somehow, it looks like it comes from the whole Board and I, and I don’t want there to be, I don’t want anybody to misconstrue an email or a letter that goes out to anybody in the Township here.”
Gentle Readers, after a solid year of blogging about Pearson’s slimy behind-the-scenes dealings with the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company, after the RTK’s I filed and published revealed that Pearson was basically acting as a King with regard to his instructions to Township staff and their interactions with BRVFC, if somebody had told me that Pearson said in a public meeting that he had a problem with Supervisors speaking with members of the public on their own, I would not have believed it unless I heard it for myself.
But he actually said this, without any hint of irony.
If you haven’t guessed by now, the source of this proposed addition to Township code, like all additions to Township business proposed by Pearson, is yet another item in Pearson’s Petty Agenda of Score Settling and Crony Payback. As is about to become clear, the BRVFC is, as usual, experiencing some kind of butt hurt over being held accountable and Pearson is here to apply the Desitin.
Vagnozzi cuts right to the chase: “Well, if I could? You’re referring to the email I sent to the Black Rock Fire Company?”
Pearson denies this, and tries unsuccessfully to pass this off as just some random piece of policy he suddenly, without any reason, came up with by himself. “No, I’m not referring to that. This has happened to me before. But now you’ve brought it up, that’s a good example.”
Ah yes. “A good example.” Heh.
“So, we had a meeting with the Black Rock Fire Company, at their request, on December 11 of 2018. We had a lengthy conversation about various issues. You [Pearson] were present, the other Board members weren’t. We had talked about some action items, in fact I emailed the entire Board about his meeting a couple days afterward, before Christmas, I believe, and we talked at the meeting about following up with the items. Well it’s been over a month, so I sent them an email, from a meeting that I was present at, I copied all of you, and I basically sent them the same information that you had sent—I changed the verbiage so it would sound better—but it was coming from me. So I sent them, requesting a follow up on some of the action items that they told us that they would follow up on. That was the extent of it. And I’m not abdicating my responsibility. I was duly elected by the public so I am not, I will never abdicate my responsibility to communicate with the public who elected me. Now, I didn’t send an email out to all 26,000 residents, it was a meeting I was involved in and today, Ms. Calci and I went back and forth about scheduling a meeting on some other fire department issues that we are dealing with. I have no problem with Helene, Ms. Calci, organizing that and communicating with Black Rock Fire Company representatives on the meeting we had.”
Gauntlet thrown, Pearson picks it up:
“W-w-one of, one of the problems that we’ve had is, you know, with our relationship with Black Rock is, you, you [Vagnozzi] will go down and, and I, I will attend the same meeting, we discuss certain things, uhhhmmm, and then Helene will go down and somebody else, and discuss certain things, and then, uhhhmmm, Laurie will go down and whatever else and uhhhmmm, it gets a little bit confusing to everybody and I can kind of understand where Black Rock comes from eh, it’s like, well, these guys said this and these guys said that and we don’t all come out as a, as a unified Board, so to speak. So that’s my point is, that when it goes out, it should be from the Board, it should look like it’s coming from any one individual, that’s all.”
Hold on a second. Wasn’t it established last year that Calci and Vagnozzi would comprise the Supervisors’ subcommittee on Fire and Emergency Services? Didn’t Pearson, in fact, tell Higgins he “had no problem” with not being a part of this subcommittee? So why is Pearson still meeting with them? Perhaps BRVFC’s “confusion” stems from the the fact that they continue to talk to, and rely upon, Pearson–the incompetent Supervisor who cannot get anything he promises to them accomplished.
Also, wasn’t one of the big selling points of Pearson’s Upper Providence
First Worst initiative to expand the Board of Supervisors from three to five that there would be more diversity of thought on the Board? Now Pearson is publicly stating he just wants the Board to have one opinion. His.
“All right. I understand that, but we’re not a unified Board. We shouldn’t be. The only place we can be unified is when we vote on something. We are all allowed our opinions, we can speak to organizations in the town, we can speak to residents in the town, we can speak to anyone that we need to speak to conduct our business. The only time we’re allowed to be unified is when we vote. And I understand your issue with a message, but we haven’t had a message that singular coming from the Board because there are five opinions.” Vagnozzi says that by filtering the opinion of a Supervisor through the Chairperson, no matter who it is, is not an effective use of the elected authority. “
Right on cue, Calci then asks Bresnan what other Townships do.
Bresnan talks about a disclaimer being made a part of any correspondence.
Vagnozzi agrees with that, and notes that in his email to Black Rock he included a caveat that their additional funding of $25,000 was pending full Board approval.
Barker then proposes that a disclaimer be added as their signature block and that Bresnan can draft something for all of their approval. Calci, Pearson and Vagnozzi all agree to that.
Higgins, as usual, says nothing during the entire discussion.
So this is a bit rich in irony, and as I mentioned earlier, given his past behavior, I would not have believed that Pearson had the chutzpah to propose it had I not heard it myself. But then irony in this meeting is thicker than molasses in January and we’re just getting started.
The Main Event
We’ll skip ahead now 45:53 in the meeting, where the Board is contemplating approval of resolution number 2019-10, to wit:
This budget amendment is to spend approximately $60,000 or $70,000 (the actual amount is a little unclear per the discussion) for installation and ongoing rental of a temporary structure (a heated tent) to provide shelter for the township’s fire engines. This means moving the Township’s career firefighters and their equipment (collectively known as “Engine 93”) from their current location at the BRVFC Oaks Firehouse back to a more central location at the Municipal Campus. The old meeting hall, which was fit out as office space during construction of the administration building, will serve as office space for the paid firefighting staff, which is now providing fire protection for the township 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The temporary structure will be located in the parking lot and the proposal calls for Engine 93 to respond from this central location until the new Emergency Services Building is constructed.
The approval required here is for a capital budget amendment to fund the temporary structure.
Gentle Readers, recall that this blog spent a great deal of time in 2018 on the problems inherent in the Democrats’ politicization of Fire and EMS services in Upper Providence Township. As a brief refresher on this particular issue, your Humble Blogress was terribly vexed when this move was first proposed in last year. The entire point of having a centrally located township fire department was to improve response times, not only by providing a full time staffed engine during the day, when most volunteers are at work, but to provide a geographical advantage to reach all areas of the Township. It never made sense to me that the paid firefighting staff was relocated to the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company Oaks station on Greentree Road. This move was actually an exact contradiction of every policy direction and recommendation that the Township had made in the past regarding Fire and EMS.
It apparently made little sense to the Township’s paid Fire Chief, Josh Overholt as well, since he separated from the Township’s employ shortly after the move occured.
Of course, once the contents of the RTK were revealed, and the Democrats’ attempt to abdicate their responsibilities for Fire and EMS to the leadership of the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company, the move of the paid staff to the BRVFC station in Oaks began to make more sense, politically speaking.
And even though this was a signature part of their FEMS agenda last year, apparently the Democrats are also confused about why this move was made, as we will soon see. Let’s rejoin the meeting.
Assistant Manager Bryan Bortnichak is tasked with briefing the Board on this item, and carefully states,
“As the Board’s fully aware, we passed a resolution in 2018. Sometime thereafter, we moved the career staff to the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company, and they’ve been operating out of there since then. We’ve since brought on two additional full time employees, career firefighter EMTs, we’ve gone to seven-day, 12-hour shifts. And unfortunately being located in that section of the Township, there’s been numerous calls this year where there response was…delayed. A house fire in the Royersford area of the Township, a fire today, in fact, at Perkiomen Woods, along with numerous other calls. It’s our belief that the Township would be better served if they were located in the geographic center of the Township. Unfortunately, there’s no other place to put the fire truck—it’s got a pump on it, it’s full of water, it needs to be in a heated location in the winter time, it can’t just be stored in an out-building. SO, if the Board adopts this resolution, the idea is to bring the career staff back up to operate their office out of the former Township meeting hall across the street and to store the fire truck and QRS vehicle, from which 12 hour per day, seven day per week fire and QRS service will be provided.”
Gentle Readers, I cannot speak for you, but to me, this sounds like a
Calci has a few questions as to the actual location of the structure and then asks about the cost, since no cost was apparently included in the original packet. Bortnichak states that he got the numbers that day; the budget amendment is for $70,600 and he begins breaking the cost down for her. When she asks what the total cost would be, Pearson interrupts with an inflated dollar figure that he has pulled out of thin air, and talks right over Bortnichak:
“Over a hundred thousand dollars over a two year period. I’m in, I’m in favor of anything that gets us a better, a better time from….the time we gotta call to the time that we respond to this thing. I, I, I think that we need a little more bit more time to look into this thing. I’m not real happy with the…situation…that, that happened recently that probably created this, but I think instead of, you know, this is a knee jerk reaction, I betcha this is the first time that we’re all getting a chance to look at this, as far as the Board is concerned. And I, and I think instead of jumping on this thing right away, we put this off and maybe discuss it and then ehhhh, maybe come up with, uh…um, maybe the same plan that you have here, but at least give us an opportunity to uhhhmm to dig into it a little bit further. I’ll make, I’m, I’m suggesting that we table this. Till, till another time.”
Vagnozzi pounces on this statement:
“If I could. I don’t think this is a knee jerk reaction to a ten-minute response, Oaks to Royersford two weeks ago. This has been a concern for months. Individuals I’ve spoken with, a few other Board members, trying to get the career staff and the fire truck up here to be closer to the center of the Township. We’re paying for a first due response, not a third due response for the career staff. So actually, our public works director sold $100,000 worth of junk on an online system, that he presented to us last week, so it’s paid for by the stuff he sold last week on—what’s the system?—Oh, Municibid. So we paid for it already. Placing that truck here, heated, in a secure location, with the career staff centrally located, is in the best interest of the community. That’s my opinion.”
“I’m not saying it’s not in the best interest of the Township and its residents. What I’m saying is, its a little bit knee jerk. Because I didn’t find out about how much it was gonna cost us until this afternoon. Obviously, Helene here hasn’t found out about the cost of this thing until this evening. Ummm…I don’t see where putting it off another week or two is gonna make that much of a difference, or I should say two weeks till our next meeting. Ummm, eh, to better look at this thing and get a better grab at it. It’s like, I’m, I’m not happy with, you know, just going over there and putting a…putting an engine in a tent, you know, a heated tent, and uhhhh, you know, spending a, a, a hundred thousand dollars. I mean, um, um I mean, I’m not happy with doing that at this point in the game. If you wanna make a motion for this thing, you can, but I’m, I’m making a recommendation that we table this thing.”
Higgins’ only contribution to this discussion is asking where they kept the truck when the career guys answered out of the Township campus. Bortnichak explains that the truck was kept in the heated public works garage and the firefighters were responding out of the administration building and the second floor of the police building, but that it was not an ideal situation because of the proximity of the garage to the office buildings and it created a delay in the response. Further, Bortnichak explains that the former meeting hall is already fit out to accommodate the career staff. He explains that there was no attempt to withhold the cost of the temporary structure from the Board, he simply did not have the quote in hand until the prior day. He reiterates that this is a
Eager to curtail the discussion on this issue, Higgins calls for a motion.
But before she gets that motion, Barker has something to say:
“So, this goes back to your previous comment, John, about communications going out as a Board rather than a Supervisor. I, to this day, don’t know who authorized the fire truck to go to Black Rock [Oaks]. We didn’t do an authorization as a Board to send it down there; it went down there unbeknownst to some of us. Ok, it was just ‘decided.’ I think the $70,000 expense as to what Mr. Vagnozzi said, after selling a bunch of old vehicles and equipment we don’t use for $100,000 is going to cover this expense and provide better protection for the Township residents. But this, at least this has been communicated to all of us that this was the intention. Bryan didn’t have the actual dollar numbers until today. I didn’t know what they were until I came to the meeting tonight, but I’m willing to spend $70,000 to provide better protection for the other areas of the Township that aren’t being covered adequately.”
Higgins again tries to cut off discussion and asks for a motion either to approve or table.
Vagnozzi quickly makes the motion to approve the resolution. Barker immediately seconds.
Calci has a couple “extra” questions, though.
“I haven’t looked through it and of course we haven’t had all the information, so I just want to do a little time out. The reason why we moved them down there is because so they could train together with Black Rock [BRVFC] and there’d be other benefits. So…if we move them back up, and I get that it’s a benefit to the residents, but…”
“If you could just excuse me for a second: Who is ‘we?’ That was the question I had when they moved down there. Who was ‘we?’ I don’t remember the five member board deciding to move them down there.”
Pearson then jumps in.
“I don’t, I don’t, I don’t recall us, you, you’re right, Phil, I do not recall us making a, having a vote on sending them down there. I don’t think it required a vote, to be honest with you. (Barker acknowledges this statement with a sarcastic, “Oh, ok!”) But I don’t, I don’t know, I, I believe it was probably staff, and uhhh I was part of some of that discussion about uhhh sending them down there, uhh, I thought it was a good idea, but I don’t really, I don’t remember us taking a vote on it. I don’t think it required a vote to move those guys down there. Ummm, but getting, you know, getting back to the issue, ummm, that truck that you’re gonna park over here is not gonna be there the whole time, ok? That truck is used to go out and do inspections. I also haven’t had the time to speak with Mr. Dimmerling about all of this and get his opinion on this, so holding this off for two weeks is not gonna, is not a major deal here. So if you guys wanna go ahead and vote on this, you go right ahead, I’m gonna vote no on this thing because ummm, umm, I’m not had an opportunity to look into it. Again, like I said, I only found out about the expense of it this afternoon. You [pointing at Barker] only found out bout, found out about it this evening, along with Helene, and it’s like, you know, we’re jumping, uhhh, we’re jumpin’ on this thing right away. Two weeks is not gonna make that much of a difference, but you go right ahead, Madam Chairperson.”
Time out, here. What, exactly, is Pearson going to “look into?” He has been perfectly happy to just accept “Staff Recommendations” when they have been the result of his behind-the-scenes bullying and they provide adequate cover for his inexplicable policy decisions. But now, he needs to talk to Assistant Fire Chief Tom Dimmerling personally–as if hearing this policy recommendation from Dimmerling’s direct boss–Bortnichak–is somehow not representative of the policy staff is “recommending.” The delay of two weeks here is only to provide an opportunity for Pearson to corral the Girls’® votes, check in with his masters at BRVFC, and bully Dimmerling into changing his mind.
Because if two weeks is “not gonna make that much of a difference,” why is Pearson insisting on it?
Bresnan steps in to make a point about procedure and save Pearson from actually voting against public safety, a point which is totally lost on Pearson: there is a motion on the floor in favor of, and there has been a superseding motion to table, meaning that nobody [Pearson] has to necessarily vote ‘no’ on this item. He instructs them that they can just make an interceding motion to table and therefore the Board won’t be voting ‘no’ on the substance of the motion.
To which an increasingly agitated John Pearson chuckles:
“I don’t have a problem with voting ‘no’ on this thing, but I’ll make an interceding motion to table this thing, a-a-agenda item, until we have a little bit more time to do just a little bit of research, put this thing on the agenda in the next two weeks, uhhh uhhh, I’ll be happy to discuss it, I’ll discuss it with Tom, and whoever else I feel I need to discuss it with. No problems.”
“So, Ms. Calci had a question. So look, today we had a fire, there was a house fire. Fire equipment from Lower Providence, Perkiomen Township, Collegeville, Trappe, Limerick, it was a daytime call. Our career staff was there, of course. You talk about training: the reason we do this, the reason we have those gentlemen in the back [career firefighters who had been sworn in earlier in the meeting] is because our volunteers—and I love them, and I was one—they’re not around during the daytime. It’s very difficult. There was one truck from Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company today. One. It’s not that they’re bad guys. Ok? They’re good guys. But we had one truck. So you’re talking about training. There’s no training going on during the day, during the weekday. It’s very difficult. I’m not saying there’s no camaraderie, and there’s people there. Look: ten minute response. Anybody here live on Gay Street where there was a fire? Anyone on TV here? Ten minutes to get a fire truck to your street last week! We can’t continue this. That’s all.”
Calci says, “You know what? And I think we all agree on it and I’m on Board for it, I’m also, I think we can work in a consensus manner and wait two weeks and then vote on it.”
Higgins interrupts here asking for a second on the tabling motion. Which Pearson ignores.
“You know, I, I, I take a little umbrage here at the indication by these remarks by Mr. Vagnozzi that I’m not for supporting the fire company, you know? I think its imp, you know, I think it’s one of the…(sputter)…That’s what we’ve been dealing with the most on this Board for the, [at this point, Vagnozzi begins talking over Pearson, saying “Yeah. But it’s delay, delay, delay.”] since I got elected and I am not gonna, you know, uh…(sputter) doom and gloom! You can’t give me the doom and gloom side of this thing!”
I’m not sure where Pearson got that Vagnozzi was implying that Pearson doesn’t support the fire company. In fact, my read on Vagnozzi’s remarks was that Vagnozzi was implying just the opposite: that Pearson is supporting the BRVFC’s interests over those of the residents, which are, unfortunately, diametrically opposed on this particular issue.
Pearson, Vagnozzi and Calci all begin talking over one another. However, Calci’s remarks are unintelligible.
Vagnozzi: “Delay, delay, delay, delay. Two more weeks.”
Pearson: “I don’t have a problem with putting this on the next agenda!”
Vagnozzi: “It’s just another two week delay.”
Higgins, who has contributed absolutely nothing to this conversation, is only anxious to end it. “Please. Please. Please. There is a motion to table the previous motion. Is there a second for the tabling motion? Do I have a second to the tabling motion?”
Calci: “I’ll second that. I just want to make clear (looking to the sixth Supervisor, Solicitor Bresnan) if we table it, it’s gonna come back exactly the way that it is, we’ll just have two more weeks to think about it. That’s how it works?”
Bresnan, since at least he knows he is not a Board member and cannot make motions for the Board, opines that he believes that was Pearson’s motion, and Pearson agrees.
Relieved she can at last move the meeting along and finish up this uncomfortable business of, you know, actually governing the Township, Higgins says, “So I have a motion and a second to table the current motion to adopt Resolution 2019. All in favor of tabling the motion 2019-10, say aye.”
Calci and Pearson vote aye. Barker and Vagnozzi are opposed. Barker notes that Higgins has forgotten to vote and the Board is tied 2-2, which, once again, brings attention to Higgins’ deciding vote on Pearson’s pet project of destroying the Fire and Emergency Services in Upper Providence Township. “I have to vote,” she giggles. This time, she votes with Pearson but ironically, she uses Vagnozzi’s words to cast her vote: “I-I’m gonna vote for the two week delay. Aye, to table. So that motion passes. So we’re tabling that one. Moving on.”
So, obviously, this ridiculousness cannot pass unremarked upon.
Gentle readers, if all of the Board members agree with this proposal, why was it so critical to wait two weeks to vote on a simple measure that will dramatically improve response times? What more is there to “look into” that will change the results of a fire engine responding from a location that is more central to all of the residents of theTownship, and not just those in the Oaks area?
If the Upper Providence fire truck is doing inspections and is not down at BRVFC in Oaks all the time, as Pearson claims, why is he making such an issue of moving it back up to the municipal campus?
And after all the times that the Democrats have hid behind the implied “Staff Recommendation” for political cover, it is quite ironic that when given an actual “Staff Recommendation,’ they balk over adopting it and need to look into things for themselves.
Pearson even has the audacity to try blame staff for the original move to BRVFC, mumbling something about staff being involved (back when a “Staff Recommendation” actually meant something–like absolving him of his responsibility for this move), while simultaneously acknowledging that he authorized it without a vote of the Board. Further, he didn’t need the Board’s consent to do so. This is simply the height of arrogance, especially since it precisely contradicts what had been Township policy prior to his tenure on the Board. Numerous studies had been commissioned by the Township recommending a centrally located fire station to better serve the Township residents. As mentioned previously, the BRVFC is located in the far southeast corner of the Township (see graphic above for a visual representation of the problems inherent in this move).
Pearson’s accusation that this move was a “knee jerk reaction” is another arrogant statement, especially when we are talking about numerous calls with delayed responses since the career staff has been moved to Oaks.
After all, we are only talking about the lives and property of the people he is charged with protecting.
Let’s face it, though Calci and Pearson hung their hats on tabling this vote based on their just finding out about the cost of the temporary structure, but we all know that this is yet another bit patronage for Pearson’s cronies at the BRVFC. Higgins did not even give the public the courtesy of commenting or explaining her vote to delay improving public safety. And both Calci and Higgins live well outside of the BRVFC’s first due response area: they are truly endangering the lives and property of their neighbors with this nonsensical vote.
And they don’t even know why.
Does anyone out there think that’s its odd that not a single member of the Board could articulate the reason that the career staff was moved to the BRVFC station in Oaks? It is completely absurd that Calci thinks they are regularly conducting any kind of training together. The whole point of having a career staff is because there are no volunteers around during the day.
It is the opinion of your Humble Blogress that the entire reason that the Township’s career staff was moved to the Oaks firehouse was for jobs. Sure, a tertiary goal of this move may have been to help the two organizations work more effectively together—but how was that going to be accomplished when the majority of the volunteers work during the day? I truly believe that this move—like every other decision made on the fire services since the Democrats took office—was all about giving the BRVFC leadership the edge on any full time hiring the Township would be doing. As always, your mileage may vary.
But nobody, least of all Pearson himself, can make a case for keeping the career staff down in Oaks. The best they can do is delay, delay, delay.
As part of supervisor comments, Calci begins reading from a (staff prepared) presentation on the 2018 year in review. She begins by stating that 2018 was a “big year” in Upper Providence, and then proceeds to list the accomplishments of the Township and the Board during the Democrats’ first collective year in office.
Regular readers know that this is well-covered ground in this blog, and for a refresher (or palate cleanser) upon completion of this segment, click HERE.
Calci’s “highlight” bullet points in bold, with my commentary in italics, are below:
Administration and Finance: 2018 marked the first full year for UPT under a five member board of supervisors.
Is this really an accomplishment? I had suspected when the five-member board was first proposed that, like other Townships who had expanded their Board, issues would become overly politicized. Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened. Other than procedural votes, all of the policy of this Board is based on politics. As I have said countless times in the past: if the Board is doing what is best for the Township, there should be far less division amongst them.
2018 saw the completion of the new municipal center and this modern, well-equipped meeting hall.
The municipal campus and modern well-equipped meeting hall that the prior board initiated and she and her running mates vigorously campaigned against? Now they are taking credit for it?
The Township reduced its reliance on debt for the funding of major public projects. The new municipal center used only half of the funds earmarked for construction.
This is really an accomplishment of the Township’s construction representative, Chris Caggiano, who kept the contractors on task. And the Township had been debt-free prior to the construction of the municipal campus; its first borrowing occurred in 2017, so “reducing reliance on debt” is as much of a stretch as the Democrats taking credit for it.
Public Works: Kline Road was completely reconstructed
A project initiated by the prior board.
DPW also completed reconstruction of Cider Mill Road and Walnut Street culverts after each was washed out from storm water.
An emergency project which had to be completed; there was no initiative here, just an acknowledgement that the culverts needed emergency repairs.
Two grant awards for the Schuylkill River trail and the Black Rock Campus trail
I don’t recall when the Township applied for the Schuylkill River Trail grant, but my recollection is that it was a County initiated project. I do, however, vividly recall when the Township applied for the Black Rock Trail grant in 2016, because the Township had received a letter of support from then-State Representative (and now errand boy legislative liaison for Josh Shapiro) Mike Vereb, who, shortly thereafter, inexplicably withdrew that support. In response, I penned a letter to the Pottstown Mercury, and in response to that, Vereb appeared in front of the Board of Supervisors for a bit of political theater, along with an entourage of of Upper Providence First Worst bit players: John Pearson, Current Vacancy Board Chairman Jim White, Tax Collector Julie Mullin, and disgraced PennDOT Contractor Chris Czop.
Park and Recs: Toddler time and story time at the recreation center, increased rental income from the recreation center
What, no mention of all the money they are saving by closing the fitness center? No mention of the great township wide survey to help them figure out what to do with the center they want to close? No talk of the reduction of staff, specifically, the abrupt resignation of Park and Rec Director Jen Steffenaur—whom they had hired a mere six months prior?
And completed half mile loop trail on the administration campus
Accomplishments are so thin on this Board that apparently, they must resort to double counting. This trail, planned by the prior Board, was already mentioned as part of the prior bullet point for the grant award.
Police: The Department prepared throughout the year to transition through the retirement of Sergeant William Dixon after 37 years of service on the police force with Upper Providence. Sergeant Dixon is to be replaced by Sergeant Jeffrey Hilt. Three officers were promoted in 2018: Eric Saurmelch was promoted to Sergeant, Scott Reynolds was promoted to Corporal and Pat Haines was promoted to Detective Sergeant. The detective unit has also undergone some changes following the promotion of Sergeant Haines. The department permanently appointed two detectives: Shea Johnson and Sean Franchini provide investigative support to the unit. In 2018, the detective unit saw a clearance rate of 40% of reported crimes, well above the national average. And lastly, in 2018 the department achieved all the requirements for re-accreditation; this process follows on the accreditation the department achieved at the end of 2017 and puts the department squarely on track to full re-accreditation in 2020.
The wisest thing the Democrats did in 2018 was to keep their fingers out of the police department, and the accomplishments of the department reflect that. Accreditation, which was first achieved in 2017, was an initiative of the prior Board.
Zoning and Planning: The Board of Supervisors granted conditional use approval for the Residences at Providence Town Center (aka the apartments behind Wegman’s) to allow the construction of several apartment buildings and a hotel on a parcel of land between Wegman’s and Toll’s White Springs at Providence. The proposal still requires land development approval and has submitted land development plans for review.
I’ll give this one to you, Democrats. 100%.
And lastly, Fire: 2018 marked the first full year of QRS response. After gaining certification and licensure from Montgomery County and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to respond to medical emergencies in the Township.
Claiming credit for this one takes quite a bit of chutzpah. First of all, this program was implemented under the prior Board, but second of all, it was entirely the brain child of former FEMS Chief Josh Overholt, who unceremoniously separated from Township service under the pall of the Democrats disastrous Fire and EMS policy.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services also hired two full time fire EMTs and expanded coverage from 40 hours per week to 84 hours per week. They now provide fire and QRS service 7 days a week, from 6 am to 6 pm.
I’ll give this one to them as well, even though technically, this is a 2019 accomplishment, as the two firefighters were sworn in earlier in the evening and the 7/12 coverage was implemented at the beginning of January. Funny how there was no mention of all of the other “accomplishments” of the Board’s FEMS policy, which was their major area of policy focus for 2018.
And I wanted to personally say thank you to everyone, it’s been quite a first year. I think we did some great work and let’s see how 2019 rolls out. Thank you.
Higgins then also thanks everybody for coming to the meetings and educating her and teaching her “a whole lotta stuff about how the Township works and what this job entails.”
Township supervision: it’s just a learn-as-you-go, self-improvement program for the Democrats.
Other Board Business
- The Board participates with Friendship Ambulance in recognition of 11-year-old resident Allison Felder who remained calm in the face of her mother’s medical emergency, and provided critical medical information to first responders, saving her mother’s life.
- The Police Department adds a chaplain program. Pastor Scott Wendel and Pastor Greg Joyner are sworn in as chaplains; Pastor Lamar Eifert will be sworn in at a later date. All three pastors are from Valley Forge Baptist Temple. Vagnozzi notes that the Church has been an ongoing valued resource for the police department.
- The Board swore in two new career firefighters: Brandon Sisca and Russel Layre.
- The Board adopts a DEP sewer planning module for Old State Road. Whether or not the Board will hold an informational meeting for the residents impacted by this project was not addressed in this meeting.
- The Board avoids further discussion of the pay-to-play ordinance
- The Board approves advertisement for a no parking ordinance 30 feet back from the intersection on Norwood Street at 2nd Avenue in Mont Clare
- The Board adopts a revised/corrected fee schedule for 2019.
- The Board hears a proposal for a new event, the UP! Music festival. Because no replacement for Park and Rec director has yet been hired, this event is actually going to be run by a resident. The Board is tasked with approving the sale of beer at the festival. Though they end up tabling this motion as well, it’s interesting to note that Pearson, who objected to the establishment of a beer garden for the 2017 community day, now has “no problem with the beer!”
- The Board approves an RFP for design services to design the intersection at 29 and Jacob and Walnut. A condition of the grant is that the design portion of the process must be awarded through a competitive bid process, which is why the Township’s civil and traffic engineers were not just automatically awarded this job. Gilmore and McMahon intend to submit a joint proposal.
- The Board approves a widening and signal improvement project for the Linfield-Trappe – Township Line Road intersection.
- Barker asks for consensus from the Board to support a request from a local Eagle Scout to create a veterans memorial at the municipal campus.