UPT Board Meeting Notes SE2 EP6 3/18/19: Time to Pay the Piper

At their last meeting, the Board set aside the ridiculous pay-to-play ordinance as unenforceable.  Now that that’s out of the way, it’s suddenly time to send out Requests for Proposals (“RFPs”) for the Township consultants.

Coincidence?  I think not.

It’s time to pay the piper.  The Democrat Party of Montgomery County demands tribute and Chairman Higgins is ready to comply.

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Follow me to Upper Providence!

It’s another lively discussion for this thoroughly politicized Board and it begins at the end of the meeting, at 48:17, where we’ll dive in.

The Price of Power

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Tim, can you please explain this issue I know nothing about?

As will quickly become apparent, the idea to RFP the consultant positions is Higgins’ initiative, but in the opening act of what becomes a fun little bit of political theater, Higgins announces the agenda item, then, all wide-eyed and innocent, asks Manager Tim Tieperman if this agenda item is “his.”

Really, this should come as no surprise to anyone, as the tactic of blaming staff for the political decisions of this Board was honed and perfected last year under the ham-handed stewardship of John Pearson.  Unfortunately for the Democrats, it really hasn’t been very effective in camoflaging the partisan motivations behind some of these initiatives (the FEMS policy and the closing of the Rec Center to name just two).

Tieperman is game to try, though.

The narrative behind this initiative is the “glitch” the Township hit for the Mont Clare Walnut/Jacob alignment project. The PennDOT grant that the Township received requires that the consultants used to design the project have been subject to a RFP process within the last five years.  Because the Township’s traffic and civil engineers have been doing excellent work for the Township for much longer than that, neither of them is technically “qualified” to perform this work per PennDOT’s terms of the grant; irregardless of whether they are the most professionally qualified to perform the work.

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Welcome to kabuki theater!

This is the perfect cover for Higgins to propose RFPing all Township consultants, as if this bit of state-imposed red tape is something that happens all the time and prevents Township work from being done.  In fact, this is the first time I’ve heard of this requirement since the Township regularly applies for, and receives, state grants for projects.  It was, in fact, the Township’s current traffic engineer, McMahon and Associates, who wrote this particular Grant application–no less than three times over the last three years.

Nevertheless, it’s the perfect excuse for Higgins to do what the County Democrats have likely been pressuring her to do since she first ran for office, which is, get their big donors in the lucrative Township consultancies.

Having been involved in politics for several years in this Township, Higgins’ visibility on the Upper Providence political scene is fairly recent.  However, she has jumped in with both feet, campaigning for and with various local and state level Democrats and, once elected, has been appointing friends and political cronies to resume-building positions on Township Boards.  Higgins has a connection to the Montgomery County Democrat Party that neither Pearson nor Calci has.

Tieperman continues (emphasis mine):

“Based on this experience, we’ve been asked to come up with some type of a ‘staggered schedule’ for bringing our RFP cycles up to date so we don’t run into this five-year lapse in the future.  Staff did provide counsel, that if the Board wishes to go through this process, we would ask that this be done on a staggered schedule; probably no less than six months or maybe a little bit longer to minimize any disruption to Township operations.”

Tieperman then asks for Board feedback on whether that process sounds reasonable and for suggestions for going forward.

Vagnozzi pounces.  He wants to know how this RFP process would impact the Mont Clare project.

And Tieperman’s response is where Higgins’ agenda is inadvertently exposed (again, emphasis mine):

“I think that the goal would be, and correct me if I’m wrong Laurie, but I think the goal would be to do this on a staggered basis and then get in the process where we would do maybe one consultant once a year, so that we’re within a five year process.”

Vagnozzi turns his attention to Higgins:

“So Madam Chairman, help me to understand why we would RFP all of our consultants because we have one issue with one [project].  Why are we having an RFP for all of our consultants?”

Higgins:  “So that we don’t get hit with that kind of a problem with any of them and do it on a staggered basis, just—on a repeating basis, so that every so often as a standard policy the RFPs are put out.  It’s not meaning that we’re gonna get rid of anybody or that we don’t like anybody—“

Vagnozzi interrupts, “Oh no.  I think that’s exactly what this is.”

Higgins continues, “Just to keep them….you know, sharp, and up to date.  Have that policy as a staggered repeating policy and…it’s just to see what’s out there.  It’s due diligence, in my opinion, to have that, go through the process on a regular repeating basis every few years and this was just an example of not having a current RFP or proposal for that project down in Mont Clare and, you know…let’s…”

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The illusion is so dazzling they can hardly see the hackery

Before we continue, let’s be clear about something:  RFP’s are not like heartworm shots you get for your dogs; there is no reason to keep the inoculation “up to date.”  There is no requirement in the Municipal Code that consultants must be chosen by an RFP process within a certain time frame.  This would effectively amount to an “unfunded mandate” from the state, as Municipalities must incur costs to go through an RFP process.  In fact, PennDOT’s requirement for the RFP process on this particular job also amounts to an unfunded mandate that eats into the grant award for the project and makes no sense on its face.

The Township’s current traffic and civil engineers, McMahon and Gilmore, are the ones who have been working on a solution to the problem at this intersection for years. They are the ones who wrote the grant application in the first place.  McMahon and Gilmore have tons of institutional knowledge on this problem.  Now they, and the Township, are being punished monetarily by being forced to select another engineer—someone with far less familiarity with the issue—to complete the project, simply because of a random PennDOT requirement for the grant.

And it’s this random requirement that Higgins is grasping to justify the time and expense of going through an RFP process for all Township consultants.

Vagnozzi: “So are you sure that an RFP process would have picked that up?”

Higgins responds, “Yes.”

Vagnozzi (emphasis mine): “I just think it’s ironic that there’s an attempt on this Board to basically throw out all of our consultants—because there’s no doubt in my mind that that’s the attempt here—it’s ironic that we had a pay to play discussion and nothing was said, now all of a sudden, we put the pay to play ordinance to the side, and now there’s a request to RFP all of our consultants on a rotating basis.  Consultants that have performed extremely well for us, for reasons unknown, which is probably political.  There have been no—and correct me if I’m wrong—but there have been no questions or concerns about any of our consultants as far as their performance, as far as delivering a product to the residents of this community, so I’m just wondering why there is a need to RFP our consultants when our consultants are performing the way we asked.  We all five of us voted in the affirmative to retain them in January.  [Higgins confirms this as “Correct.”]  There’s been no correspondence with the Board, no public comment about the performance of our consultants.  If you look at our consultants, you look at Mr. Dingman here; he probably knows where every piece of pipe is in this Township…”

Higgins interrupts, “As stated, there is no plan to replace anybody.  There is no disagreement that anybody has done a good job.”

Image result for you're lying gifAnd Vagnozzi interrupts this: “When you RFP, you are replacing. That’s what happens.”

Higgins responds: “That’s not necessarily true.  I do know of other Townships that do it on a regular every two to three year basis, it’s not because people are being replaced.  It’s just to get new information and do due diligence and keep things up to date.”

Vagnozzi:  “Well to do an RFP process, we need to create legal documents to RFP. That costs tens of thousands of dollars to create the documents, [Higgins raises her eyebrows in disbelief at this statement] Yes!  Tens of thousands of dollars to RFP, to have them reviewed by attorneys, to have them issued to prospective consultants, to have them come in here and make presentations.  That consumes the time of the staff, it consumes the time of the Supervisors, it consumes the time of our solicitors to review everything that takes place for what type of savings?  Are you looking for a savings?”

Higgins:  “I’m looking to keep the information up to date.”

Vagnozzi:  “What information are you looking to keep ‘up to date?’?”

Higgins points to the project in Mont Clair and Vagnozzi quickly asks, “What else?  Can you tell us one other thing, one other issue?”

Higgins: “I think that’s enough. We were out of date on that.”

Vagnozzi, “We’re out of date on a lot of things, a lot of policies.”

Higgins:  “Why not bring it up to date and be current and find out what’s new?  Find out who else is out there and do due diligence on the best options for the Township.”

This statement belies Higgins motives.  As stated earlier, there is no requirement in the Municipal Code to keep consultants “up to date.”  This sudden interest in due diligence, from a Board who randomly made a decision to close the Rec Center with absolutely no plan in place for the space, is just to give this hackery a veneer of legitimacy.  “Seeing what’s out there,” and looking for “the best options for the Township,” reveal that Higgins either has some unspoken problems with the current consultants, or she’s simply lying.

Barker jumps into the discussion, “So in the 17, almost 18 years I sat on the Board, the only time we did an RFP was when we had McMahon [Traffic Engineers] and there was a reason that we did that, okay?  We are very satisfied with what McMahon is doing.  Why couldn’t McMahon submit the proposal that was generated by both of them for that project, because they were selected by an RFP process?  Didn’t they do most of the traffic work for the intersection down there?”

There is a discussion amongst staff confirming that McMahon has been on board with the Township for more than five years, making them, to use Higgins’ term, “out of date.”

Barker continues, “If we go with an RFP process and somebody comes in at a lower price and we have no experience with them, what’s going to cost to get that consultant up to speed with what we’re doing in the Township, it’s going to cost us a lot of money.  In McMahon’s case, they were working in the Township right next to us, they did work for other contractors in the Township, they were up to speed with the transfer from FAZ Associates almost immediately.  You were part of the process, John [Pearson] and you agreed that McMahon were the right ones to go with.”

Two quick points here.  First:  The traffic engineer position was RFP’d after the Traffic Engineer and another consultant were told that the Board was unhappy with their performance.  Both consultants were given six months to step up and correct their performance with specific, Board-directed criteria.  One consultant did so; the other fell short.

Second:  We have a group of three Democrat Supervisors who cannot be called “newly-elected” anymore.  In fact, they are about a quarter of the way into their second year in office, and they regularly demonstrate that they are still are not up to speed on basic township business and municipal code—including Pearson, who is serving his fourth term.  Since any new consultants will be “their” people, just imagine how much of your tax money will be spent chasing down blind alleys and partisan pipe dreams on the direction of the three Democrats.

There is so much Umbrage to be Taken

Pearson:  “Yes.  I, I—you’re right, I, I agreed with the McMahon, uhhh, I vote for McMahon.  But uhh, a long time ago, ummm, Bill’s job was on the line, okay? And ehhh, you were probably part of when you sat, was it uh, I think it was umm, uhh, Bob, Bob and ummm, I can’t think of his name.  Ummm.  I forget.  Umm.  And they got rid of Bill [Dingman] and then several and I disagreed with that and they, and they brought Bill back.  Bill, I don’t know what [unintelligible] I don’t know what any of you—I kinda take umbrage a little bit here, Al, because w-w-when you make it political, ok, it’s not political.  I don’t know what affiliation Bill is.  And I have no idea what Joe [Bresnan] is. Ehh, uh and I’m not real sure, uhhh, what Geoff [Grace] is over here, so I kinda take umbrage here with you making that a political statement, okay?  Uhmmm, and I, and I, I, I don’t have a, I don’t have a problem with this, okay?  I’m very comfortable with the people that we have here, okay?  And I think that, I think that the other Supervisors that sit here are comfortable with the people that we have.  I, I don’t have any, uhh, it doesn’t bother me that, that someone sitting here wants to put this out, put this out to proposal.  I don’t have a problem with that.  If it takes staff a little bit of time, so what?  But please do not make this political because I have no idea what these, what affiliation these guys are, ok?”

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Gentle Readers, in case you haven’t been paying attention, “taking umbrage” is what Pearson says when he is caught out on political maneuvering and is about to launch into a lie to explain it.  Pearson launches into this particular umbrage word salad by ironically choosing to cite an example of when Township Engineer Bill Dingman was replaced by the Township for solely political reasons.  Bill Dingman was rehired when the politically-connected engineering firm was unceremoniously fired.  This chain of events predated my time on the Board, and although I have been told the reasons for their firing, I was not a first hand witness to the allegations, and therefore will not recount them here.  Make no mistake, however, the firing of this politically-connected engineer had long reaching ramifications, including, but not limited to, my primary challenge to the former Chairman of the Board, the expansion of our Board of Supervisors from three to five in 2016, and the election of the Fresh Perspectives Democrats in 2017.  So if you need an example of the dangers of hiring, or not hiring, politically connected consultants, this is a case study.  It’s a lesson Higgins and Pearson have certainly learned.

And by the way, for the non-politically astute among you, this issue has nothing whatsoever to do with the political registration of the individual consultants, and John Pearson knows this very well.  This issue has everything to do with the political affiliation of the firm, and which party the firm chooses to support.  This is why the pay-to-play issue was so problematic.  Most consulting firms donate to both parties and both parties’ candidates, but they usually favor one party over another.  Some firms exclusively support one party and usually show up when the Board flips majorities.  As the last meeting’s discussion over pay to play indicated, it is not only very easy to “hide” that money so that it is not a direct contribution to a candidate, but it is impossible to enforce.  Now that we’ve set that toothless ordinance aside, Higgins is free to heed her master’s call.

Vagnozzi:  “Well, I’ll say this, that’s right, I have no idea who has political affiliations, but I know the affiliations up here [on this Board], and I can tell you that the pay to play piece that we talked about, my only issue with that was that it got too long.  I’m ok with keeping this…”

Calci interrupts, “Then why would you tie these two together?”

Vagnozzi:  “There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s factions in the county on the Democratic side that views this [these consultants] as legacy consultants.  You look at the engineers in his firm, the attorneys in his firm, the engineers in his firm, they’re Republican and Democrat as much even as everybody else.”

Image result for clueless gifCalci:  “Then why would it be political?”

Vagnozzi:  “Because, because, what’s going to happen—there’s influences.  If the Republican Party came down to me and said, ‘Hey, we’d like you to do something,’ I would tell them to hit the road as fast as anything.”

Calci: “you’re making a lot of leaps here…”

Vagnozzi: “No, well, because this is what happens.  This is what happens when control in the community changes.  This is how large contributions are made to political campaigns from prospective people…”

Calci: “Well if you put the pay-to-play in, you wouldn’t have large contributions.”

It’s really almost comical how politically naïve Calci is.  It’s almost like this kabuki theater is being performed by Higgins and Pearson exclusively for her benefit, because she’s the only one buying it.  I truly don’t think this babe-in-the-woods act is faked, but after over a year on the Board and visible scars from being burned over Pearson’s ham-handed political blunders last year, one would think she’d have gained a small measure of wisdom by now.

Vagnozzi: “That’s what I just said.  My issue with the pay-to-play was that it just got too long.”

Calci: “Then let’s work on it together.”

Vagnozzi: “I would.”

Higgins:  “Then take the pay-to-play out of this discussion.  Because they are not connected.”

Vagnozzi:  “Actually, they are. [To Calci] I will work on it with you.”

Calci: “I’ll work with you on it, because lookit:  even if things are changing in this Township, then it should be in place for whoever is in the majority.  Let’s put that in place.”

Vagnozzi:  “I agree.  I would agree with probably the first two pages of that pay-to-play ordinance.”

Calci:  “Then we go back to the original.”

Vagnozzi:  “I agree with that.”

Pearson:  “I think if you put pay-to-play in there is would save the uh, consultants up here a few dollars.  They wouldn’t be so concerned with, you know, I, I, I have to give, you know, they would say, well, you know, the limit that I can contribute is $250 bucks.  Leave it at that.  They’d be tickled pink only to…”

That’s right.  Their firms can just give to the Party apparatus, who can then pass it on to you.

Vagnozzi:  “The people watching TV, you members of the audience:  you watch how these consultants are going to disappear.  I love them all, they’re nice guys, we hold their feet to the fire, but you watch.  Mark my words:  you say you’re going to do this every three years?  As long as she’s on the Board [pointing to Higgins], it will never happen again. They’ll replace them, we’ll bring people in with questionable reputations, I’ll tell you this right now—questionable reputations who’ve been appointed by other Boards in other townships, who’ve—just read the news.  I’m just telling you that I think this is a mistake, that we have great, great consultants here.”

Calci:  “We’re not replacing anybody here, Al. You’re making a lot of leaps.”

Vagnozzi:  “Let’s see what happens.  That’s all.  Ms. Calci, I’d love to work with you on the pay-to-play.”

Calci: “Yes.  Let’s do that.”

Pearson:  “I haven’t heard one derogatory comment from this Board about any consultants.  Not one derogatory word.”

Vagnozzi:  “Right.  That’s my point.”

Higgins:  “Your points are very confusing, Mr. Vagnozzi.”

Calci:  “Then why would you leap to your own conclusion that we’re replacing everybody?”

Vagnozzi:  “I just think that that’s the goal.”

Calci:  “You’re making a big leap.”

Vagnozzi:  “I think that’s what’s going on.”

Calci:  “We’re just doing our due diligence and making sure w-w-w-w-w…”

Vagnozzi: “We have someone that’s been here for many many years, we have a Township resident over there and we have somebody that’s been approved by the prior Board also, so…we have good people.”

Bresnan now jumps into the discussion:  “I followed the part about creating the criteria, you know, creating the RFP criteria to see whether the consultants meet those criteria; that in itself doesn’t bother me because, between me and my firm, there’s no objective criteria that you can come up with that we don’t meet.  But where you lost me, Laurie, was when you said, ‘Talk to people and see what’s out there.’  That means actively bringing people in to interview.  I would think that you would satisfy your due diligence by adopting an objective set of criteria and then measuring your current people against them and then saying, yeah, they meet those criteria.  I went through that process when I acquired Mr. Skypala’s firm.  We had tours of the office for the elected people, we met individually with everybody, we distributed firm resumes, we made sure that everybody knew that we were one of the more well-respected municipal firms, and that was only three years ago.  And then, this past January, we were reappointed without any comment.  So I don’t mind being measured against objective criteria any day of the week; it’s the part about ‘seeing who else is out there,’ that gives me a little pause, speaking only for myself and not the other consultants.”

Higgins:  “To respond to that, my assumption, and correct me if I’m wrong on assuming things, because we all know how dangerous that is.  My assumption is that for RFPs you do come up with objective criteria for what you want met, and when I say, ‘talk to who’s out there,’ I mean those applicants that respond to the RFP and compare and, and contrast with the objective criteria that are asked for.”

Bresnan:  “That’s what I was asking, was it if was enough of a due diligence to create the criteria, so that you knew…”

Higgins interrupts:  “I, I totally agree with that.”

Bresnan: “…as opposed to actually going to RFP.  I guess I’m making a word distinction between RFP criteria, versus going out to RFPs two months after we were all reappointed.”

Higgins:  “Well, that’s a two prong question.  One is, there definitely should be, I agree with you, that there should be criteria that need to be met.  But…if…at what point in the calendar year do you decide that you want to create this policy of doing, uhhh, RFPs on a regular basis.  When you reappoint everybody in January, are you supposed to wait till June to suggest this?  So am I supposed to wait until September to suggest this?  Or wait until December to suggest this?”

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We’ll just talk about the timing, and not why we’re doing it in the first place.

This is an interesting tactic at redirect.  Higgins is sidestepping the entire question on whether the RFP process is even necessary or political, by whining about the timing, as if when an RFP process can be started is the major stumbling block here and not the fact that Higgins wants to start this costly process based on a paper thin premise.

Bresnan:  “I’ve been through this process, okay, and I can tell you this much:  The interviews aren’t going to tell you whether or not the people meet whatever objective criteria you’ve established in your documents.  If you come up with objective criteria, or ask some other person to create those criteria for you, or get them from another municipality who has them, all you have to do is line them up with the qualifications of each of your consultants.  I think what you’re really saying is, we don’t really know if know if they meet our criteria until we bring them in and talk to them.  Well, that’s what you do to find out who you like.  That’s not what you do to find out who meets the objective criteria in your RFP criteria.”

Higgins: “I’m happy to do it that way.  I’m, I’m just suggesting that to keep things current, to go to a regular RFP, on a, on a, you know, every five year basis for each consultant or whatever, just to keep things…current.  And if that means coming up with objective criteria for the RFP, sure, absolutely.  Let’s do that.”

Vagnozzi: “I’m perfectly ok with your [Bresnan’s] suggestion that if you come up with the qualifications and match them against our consultants, and if they meet it, great, if not, how can they, what do they need to do, maybe we would have found this issue with McMahon. We just went through this process with the police department.  The police department was just accredited several years ago.  Chief, how many policies did you re-write?  Like every one of them?  Only because you had to meet certain criteria in the accreditation.  So our police department, as did nearly every other police department in the County re-wrote every single policy, every single process.  We built a new police station because the building they were in, they were not even capable to meet the guidelines.  So, to Mr. Bresnan’s point, I’m fine.  If we want to come up with criteria that our consultants need to adhere to as far as guidelines, which none of us know, we’d have to put them together and then match it up against consultants.  If they meet it, unless we have a major problem with their performance, there’s no reason to replace them.”

Calci: “Just us going through this in a logical way, and not going down ‘this is all rigged and we’re gonna get rid of everybody,’ stirring trouble, is a good way.  Getting to this conclusion is where we want to be.  It doesn’t have to be us versus you, that’s not what it’s about.  We just want what’s best for the residents of this Township.  That means getting the criteria and if that matches up, then that’s what we should be doing.  Not pointing fingers—and we’re starting—and we’re gonna get rid of everybody, that’s not the intention here.”

Calci is either completely naïve as to the workings of partisans in government, or she deserves an Oscar for this performance.  I kept waiting for the camera to pan to the members of Delta House storming out of the meeting while humming “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  You can’t hold a whole party responsible for the behavior of a few sick individuals.

Resident Joe Peters is recognized.  “What I’m hearing is like a solution looking for a problem.  I think from what I have experienced through the few years that I’ve been witnessing all of these proceedings, all the activity that’s transpired, I think we have great consultants.  I’m not here to judge or say yes or no.  But, what I think is that, you guys just elected unanimously the slate of consultants that we have three months ago.  I would suggest that the next normal cycle would be next January to reappoint them and in the interim, perhaps, if you really can define what the problem is as to why these consultants are performing adequately, up to your expectations, ethically, professionally, etc., etc. then, you know, evaluate them on performance and proceed with an RFP to replace maybe one of them on their performance rather than some bureaucracy—not bureaucracy, but process that isn’t really necessary.  I mean, these guys know this Township inside and out and they have invaluable insight.  Replacing them is going to cost a lot of money, training, experience, and they’re not going to be able to provide you need for quite some time in the future, once you replace them.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t, I’m just saying you should do it according to performance.”

Barker:  “I would agree with Mr. Peters, and there’s no good time of the year to do it.  I mean, with Bill, we’ve just done road projects that’s he’s probably been working on for three months, sewer projects, he’s always working on a project. You put out an RFP and change engineers, then the process, which I’ve experienced, is getting that information to the new engineer and getting them up to speed, and Bill knows exactly what I’m talking about from when we changed engineers the last time.  This is more of question for Mr. Bresnan; to satisfy the state in that grant application process can we prepare an RFP and select maybe four or five firms to send it out to, because the last time we sent it out, every engineering firm in eastern Pennsylvania sent us a proposal.  Staff had to go through it first, then we had to go through it and the interview process.  You were a part of that John.  It took time.  It took staff time, it took our time.”

Pearson: “It takes a lot of time, you’re right.”

Barker: “But to satisfy the state, could we do it on a…”

Bresnan: “Although I’ve never seen criteria specifically that the state has that they put limits or require the broadest possible inclusion, my general experience is, you can contact certain firms that you know you want to hear from, but you also keep it open and broad and advertised, but you don’t interview all of them, you decide which ones you want to interview.”

Related imageAgain, nobody really knows what it is that would satisfy this particular requirement of the PennDOT grant application.  It’s basically a random requirement and just a bit more red tape with which the Township needs to comply in order to get the State grant to fix an intersection with a State road.  In my six years on the Board, we applied for many grants for trails and intersection improvements.  To my knowledge, none of them had this requirement. And it’s counter-productive because it costs the Township more money which means ultimately, it costs you more money.  Because all of the State and Township dollars spent for any project is funded by you.

Barker notes that every firm from Eastern PA sent in a proposal, and Pearson confirms:  “That’s right.  And, and, and when, and when we did that Phil, it was whittled down for us to three, I think, three firms.  Yeah. The final was three firms. So it wasn’t, it wasn’t a lot of work for us, it was a lot of work for staff, but it wasn’t…too deep for us.”

Barker:  “I don’t know.  It was a lot of time consumed, going through those RFPs and going through the process.”

Have you ever heard the term, “time is money?”  This Board continues to think nothing of wasting Staff time and the Township dollars that pay for staff time on political whimsy.

How much Staff time funded by your tax dollars were wasted on the FEMS initiative last year, only to have them cave and ultimately completely reverse course after their agenda was revealed through an RTK? At this point, since the departure of Chief Josh Overholt in July of last year, the Township still does not have a Department head for FEMS and the paid staff is responding from a location in the far southeastern section of the Township, impacting response times and making taxpayer’s lives and property less safe for purely political reasons.

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How much Staff time, funded by your tax dollars, was wasted on the decision and fallout surrounding the hasty and partisan decision to close the Rec Center?  At this date, the Parks Department is also without a department head, following the resignation of Jen Steffenhauer last summer.  If you follow the UPT Parks and Rec Department on Facebook or Instagram, you will see multiple promotions for classes at the Rec Center.  Why are they promoting membership at the Rec Center when they indicated that they were going to close the Center less than a year ago?  A survey was completed last year, and a resident inquired at this meeting during public comment as to when those results will be available and when the public will be informed about the future of the Rec Center.  Higgins scrambles to answer the question, because there was no plan after the “no brainer” decision to close the center.  They threw the survey to figure out what to put there.  A year later and the members of the Center still have no idea about the future.  She predictably punts to staff to answer the resident’s question.

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And let’s talk about the staff time funded by taxpayer dollars that were being used to prepare for and document the handholding meetings:  The secret Monday morning meetings of last year and the semi-secret Board Briefing meetings that were recently discontinued this year. (Results of RTK on these meeting notes are forthcoming.  I am still awaiting results from the secret Monday morning meetings.)

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I could go on and on, but these are the most egregious time/money wasters demonstrated by this Board.  Point being, this RFP process is just another time/money waster for our Township staff, who is currently operating without two critical Department heads due to the political whimsy of this incompetent Board.  There is no doubt in my mind that the decision to RFP these positions is 100% political and I judge Higgins protestations to the contrary as disingenuous.  She is simply using the RFP process for cover, to give any partisan hack she needs to appoint for political payback a sheen of legitimacy and objectivity.  If she was responsible with your tax dollars, she’d simply name the hacks she wants to consultant positions and skip the costly kabuki theater of the RFP process.

Bresnan:  “Well I just went through it and it took a year. I’m happy to say they decided to keep me after 33 years, keep me for year 34.  But I’d be happy to share the criteria that they developed for their consultants. They made all their consultants interview.  I won’t get into what the initial motivations were for the motion, but there were some.  But at the end of the day, the kept all of us.”

In this week’s installment of “What do other townships do?” Calci asks:  “Can I ask what Township?  Do you mind?  And did they do all consultants at once?  Cause that’s a big…”

Bresnan:  “It was Ambler Borough.  And they did do everybody at once, but it took a long time.  The motion was made in January; I think the motion was made at the re-organization meeting, actually.  I didn’t interview until October or November.  But we all interviewed in the course of one week.  They were working on the criteria back and forth for that long.”

Calci:  “So, they set the criteria, then…what was the steps?  They set the criteria then…?  Did you have competitors or…?”

Bresnan:  “Oh yeah.  I think there were, I don’t know, maybe in the neighborhood of ten law firms that submitted.  And then there were maybe four who interviewed.”

Calci:  “But in the end, everybody kept their same position after all of that?”

Bresnan:  “Yes.  There was nobody that—well, all of them met the objective criteria.  They all met the objective criteria.  And so, once you’re to that point, there’s no way that you’re going to come up with one small advantage that offsets the experience of the people who are there already.”

Higgins:  “I would welcome the criteria, if you would be willing to share.”  Bresnan agrees to this.

Lesson time still is not over, however.  Calci:  “Is there any better way to do it?  Or is that the best way to do it?”

Bresnan:  “The one thing that I completely agree with is that it shouldn’t be some kind of free ride where we shouldn’t be subject from ever being scrutinized whether I meet objective criteria.  Some of the money you spend out of the budget is spent on the consultants and it’s a lot of money.  So I would never say that you shouldn’t look at whether we’re qualified.  I would suggest to you that unless there’s a problem that you don’t necessarily need to adopt criteria until the next time you decide to go out for RFPs, at which time you absolutely have to have criteria before you do it.  But, if it makes you more comfortable to be able to look at your elected people and say, these guys aren’t just there because somebody likes them; they are there because they match up against other people in the county, but that you pull up short of actually putting us through the somewhat grueling process to keep a job that everyone concedes you are doing a great job on.  Yeah, I would welcome that.  But I don’t want to not be scrutinized or compared to a standard.  I know how good the other consultants are and their firms are and I know that we meet any realistic objective criteria, the ones I’d be happy to share with you.”

Calci and Vagnozzi thank Bresnan for his comments and Higgins moves the meeting along without any resolution of how the Board intends to proceed.  No doubt, like most of the Board’s political whims, the actual decision and instruction given to staff will occur outside of the public view.

As usual.

Other Board Business

Gentle Readers, forgive me, but there is far, far more nitpicking that I could do during this meeting; a quick perusal of the following bullet points will make this apparent.  There is an awful lot of meandering and pointless conversation that takes place before we arrive at this meeting’s hacktastic RFP discussion.  With apologies, this post is already running long, so we’ll abbreviate the balance of the meeting.

  • The Board swears in a new police officer George Pelletier.
  • The Board accepts dedication of Fell Drive and Wilson Way.
  • The Board grants final approval to SEI’s north campus development plan.  The Board’s continued lack of understanding on the approval process of development plans is too exhausting to delve into at this junction, so we will just leave it at this bullet point.  If you can’t get enough of stupid procedural questions by Board members who still don’t do their homework, please feel free to click on the video above and begin watching at 13:58.
  • The Board belabors the discussion of the $85 mailbox replacement policy.  This is an issue that Pearson has actually researched, and he tells everyone he has gone down to Lowes to price out mailboxes.
  • The Board authorizes the re-purposing of the proceeds of the Township’s line of credit to be used for the construction of the new FEMS building, the locations of which has not yet been decided.
  • The Board awards road project A and Summit Ave culvert replacement projects
  • The Board approves EMS contracts and approves distribution of half of the annual allocations. Questions about EMS arise and result in another painful class in Township Supervisor 101.
  • The Board waives event fees for a Laurel House event.
  • The Board discusses a potential firefighter stipend program as proposed by Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company.  This conversation starts at around 37:08.  The Board takes no action on this, but there are a lot of questions over how this program will be administered. I’m sure this issue will be revisited at a later date.
  • The Township amends the code to allow solicitation up till 8 pm or ½ hour after dusk, whichever comes first.  This was in response to a legal challenge from an out of state company that solicits door to door as part of a legal challenge to municipalities all across the country.
  • The Board does not discuss to rules for their meetings
  • The Board cancels the April 15 meetingNew Officer

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