UPT Board Meeting Notes SE2 EP9 6/26: The Airing of the Grievances

Regular readers of this space know I have historically been pretty critical of this Board of Supervisors. However, I also think I have been fair and have called their actions as I see them.

So when this Board does something right, they deserve to be acknowledged for it.

Sure, there are still some dopey comments, and some crony favor granting happening, but that agenda, which dominated Pearson’s tenure as Chairman of the Board, seems to be evaporating with his absence in the leadership position on the Board.  And because Pearson doesn’t say a single word during this meeting, the dopey comments are limited to those emanating from the other side of the podium.

This new independence is incredibly good news for Township residents, especially where public safety is concerned. Public safety is a subject which spent all of 2018 mired in the slop that is John Pearson’s personal agenda. While we don’t have consensus on the Board, what I am finally seeing from Higgins and Calci is independent fact gathering and decision making.

And the Board has some very tough decisions in front of them regarding public safety.  I applauded their direction at the June 26 public meeting in person, but I want to do so again here. The June 26 meeting was yet another special meeting focused solely on the Township’s progress on a regional FEMS department. That progress includes a partnership with Trappe Borough and a proposal for a new, centrally located fire station.

As with all posts regarding Fire and EMS, I believe it’s critical to be thorough and fair. This meeting was an hour and 46 minutes, so this blog is going to be a long one. You were warned. Get your coffee and get comfortable.

The Politics of the Squeaky Wheel

As regular readers of this space know, Fire and Emergency Services has been a primary point of discussion that not only dominated the current Board’s agendas for the last year and a half, but the agendas of the previous Boards as well. FEMS was such a hot topic by the previous Board (of which I was a member) that the Democrats, led by John Pearson, politicized the issue and ran on it as their primary platform.

It has also been the dominant subject of this blog and the subject of at least two RTK requests filed by your Humble Blogress.

And yet, despite all of the exhaustive discussions, controversy, politicization, and special public meetings, it seems that what finally mobilized the public’s interest was not their own safety at all, but the elimination of a single, barely-used soccer field.

But before we get to that, let’s examine the Township’s presentation, which was billed as a UPT/Trappe Joint Services Update and focused on the Township’s proposal to build a centralized FEMS Building. As was covered in a previous post, the proposal to build this at Anderson Farm Park has caused quite a bit of angst with the NIMBY set.

Image result for squeaky wheel gif

This special meeting of the Board, ostensibly held as an “educational” meeting for the general public, I believe was held primarily to accommodate the “Squeaky Wheels” in the Township. The Squeaky Wheels often tend to foster the illusion that they are representing many more people than they actually are in reality. In this case, because the affected areas are all some of the Township’s “newer” developments with active HOAs and HOA email distribution lists and social media sites, it is much easier for rumors to get started and get disinformation spread than it used to be in the past.

To his credit, Vagnozzi directly addresses these rumor mills on behalf of the Township.

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

Vagnozzi handles the presentation from the Township which begins with video of two recent house fires in the Township, one of which was a neighboring property to Vagnozzi. He starts off by asking the audience, by show of hands, who present has had to call 911 for an emergency and that if they had, it was probably the longest 8 minutes of their lives.

Slide1

Vagnozzi then explains what the PA Municipal Code requires of the Board: That they are charged with the health, safety and welfare of the residents.

Slide2

This slide illustrates the population centers of the Townships before the development boom. The volunteer fire companies were established where the people were: in the villages.

Slide3

This is a familiar slide and shows the “boxes:” the first due response areas of each of the four volunteer fire companies that serve Upper Providence. The only fire company that is situated within the borders of the Township is the Black Rock Fire Volunteer Company. Vagnozzi also points out that the Township has also done a lot of work on ambulance service and there is no ambulance company domiciled within the Township borders either. Upper Providence is 18 square miles and the only township in Montgomery County without a domiciled ambulance company. Says Vagnozzi, “That will matter to you when you are on the floor, or your loved one is on the floor having a heart attack.”

Slide4

Population trends for Upper Providence

At this point, Vagnozzi acknowledges who his audience is: “Most people who are here are opposed to it because that’s typically who shows up to meetings like this.”

This is inherently true. If someone has no problem with a proposal by their government, they are happy to let the government proceed with that they are doing.

But since this is America, and there is nothing that is quite so American as “fighting the man,” it’s easy for folks to get their dander up when a clipboard wielding activist shows up at their door, or an outraged email drops in their inbox and presents them with an emotional case as to why they need to get their dander up.  I have seen firsthand such issues escalate over a single tree.  Rightly or wrongly, people get very invested in their causes.

Though Vagnozzi states that perhaps some folks are in attendance for fact gathering, the Board knows this is a hostile audience. As Vagnozzi says, “I can assure you, there is a silent group who are depending on us to do the right thing, so they stay at home.”

At the beginning of the meeting, Higgins announced that there would be a sign-up sheet for folks who would like to comment and, before they had even heard a single point from the Township, several residents immediately signed this sheet. These folks came pre-annoyed. They are the folks who were not going to change their minds about this proposal no matter what case the Township made. They were not there to listen with an open mind; they were there to make their own pre-conceived case and pound the podium, because they are emotionally invested in the fight itself, not the issue.

Slide5

This slide highlights some of the high level facts about the proposed facility, some of which are in direct contradiction to the “facts” being relayed in the rumor mills.

Slide6

Vagnozzi addresses the three previous fire studies, which recommend partnerships with Royersford and Collegeville, noting that both of these volunteer fire companies recently completely construction of new facilities. So the Township reached out to Trappe to begin a regionalization process for the reasons highlighted above.

One of the main reasons that the Township has decided to partner with Trappe is because they have the volunteer fire fighters. He points out that problem with putting a station in at the Black Rock Municipal campus is that there would be no volunteers to staff it (a later slide will illustrate this better).

Slide7

<

Slide8

This slide illustrates volunteer response areas; Yellow circle is serviced by the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company and Red circle indicates service area of the new proposed station. BRVFC is the only facility located within the borders of the Township.

Slide9

This slide illustrates possible sites for a regional fire station.

Before moving on to the next slide, Vagnozzi tells the audience that the Township had identified Anderson Park as the best place to locate this proposed station. However, they received a lot of feedback about this. Vagnozzi says that during meetings with some of the neighbors who were opposed to the Anderson Park location, those folks offered the alternative site of Bechtel Road, where the old School Administration building was located. Vagnozzi:

“That’s why some of you folks from Bechtel Road are here. But we’re [the Board of Supervisors] not saying that; your neighbors are saying that. We’re saying Anderson Park, for all the reasons we’ve identified. So the rumor mill, and the flat out lies that are flying around here, that we want to put it on Bechtel Road? I don’t. We have no intentions of putting it on Bechtel. We’ve targeted Anderson Park. Now the only caveat with that is that there’s a deed restriction on Anderson Park. And those of you who have lived here at least 20 years may know, at one point the School District and the Township got together and the Township sold the property to the School District and the School District wanted to put a school there—the school that’s on south Lewis Road, and they wanted to put a bus depot. Lawsuit ensued, they went back and forth for a couple years and there was a settlement. Part of the settlement was that the Township agreed to a deed restriction, which prohibited any use of the property at Anderson Park other than recreation or open space and parkland. So that means, unless we get relief from Montgomery Count Orphan’s Court, we can’t build a facility there.”

Vagnozzi goes on to dispel the rumor that the Board was not trying to “pull a fast one” by proposing a facility at Anderson Park;

Experience

they simply didn’t know that the deed restriction existed as there was only one member of the present Board who was a Board member at the time the deed restriction was implemented.

If you guessed that John Pearson was that Board member, you would be right. But apparently for all his meddling involvement in Fire and Emergency Services in the past 18 months, this was something about which he neglected to inform any of his fellow Board or Staff members.

Vagnozzi then tells the audience that it’s time to talk about the other sites the neighbors have asked them to look at.

Keep in mind as we go through these alternative sites, Gentle Readers, that the acronym NIMBY stands for “Not In My Back Yard.” And the operative letter in that acronym is the “M” for “My.” As we examine these alternatives, remember that these sites were already explored and rejected by the Township as unsuitable due to their failure to meet one or more of the criteria listed in the previous slide; they were also rejected by the Township because of their proximity to other residences, a consideration some of these fellow Township residents do not seem to share.

Slide10

This slide illustrates South Trappe Road at Borough Line Road, a little north of Hopwood. The numbers are the distance from the site to the closest residential homes.

Vagnozzi states that it was neighbors at Faraway Farms who suggested this as an alternative site to Anderson Park.

Slide12

This is the aforementioned Bechtel Road site. Again, numbers indicate distances to closest residences.

This was yet another alternative suggested by the very same NIMBYs who did not want this facility in their “backyard” and graciously offered the alternative of someone else’s “backyard.” Vagnozzi points out that it was the Township who considered these alternatives and rejected them as being too close to residential neighborhoods.

Slide12

Bechtel and Ithan Road, owned by the Township and another alternative proposed by the NIMBYs. Vagnozzi reiterates: The Township does not want to put a firehouse there.

Slide13

This NIMBY-proposed alternative location is right across the street from the proposed location at Anderson Park and is literally in the backyards of the folks on Tawnyberry Lane. Vagnozzi asks the question to the audience: “How would we get that property? We would eminent domain the property. We don’t want to do that.”

Slide14

This slide shows the proposed distances if the Township puts the facility on the Black Rock Municipal Campus.

Slide15

This is Anderson Park. Perhaps the format of this blog allows a little perspective that the original presentation does not. In this blog, you can actually scroll up and down between the various proposed locations and compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages of each location. Clearly, of all the proposed locations considered, the Anderson Park location offers the greatest distance between the facility and the next closest residential dwelling.

It also best satisfies the criteria the Township has defined.

Slide16

The yellow triangles on this slide denote where Trappe volunteer firemen live and the smaller red circle indicated the proposed Anderson Park location.

Note that there is only one volunteer living anywhere close to the Black Rock Municipal Campus.

Vagnozzi also notes that the Township has had discussions with the BRVFC. According to Vagnozzi, the BRVFC has stated that building a fire station at the Black Rock campus does not help them as none of their volunteers live close to there. “Why would we build a building that nobody would come to?”

Slide17

“Take a look at this building. This used to be a firehouse in Whitpain Township. This is Route 73 about 3 miles west of Route 202. Whitpain Township, the Center Square Fire Company, built this substation for the same exact reasons we’re talking about today. They wanted to provide a better service to the residents on the eastern side of town. But they didn’t find out where the firemen lived. So they quickly found out that no firemen went there. They had firetrucks in there, they had a building, and nobody showed. They closed it in 2012, but I can tell you, at least 10 years before that, nobody wanted to bite the bullet. They were wrong. But that was a firehouse. Now you can drive by it–and I’m sure you have—now its apartments. We don’t want to make that mistake.”

Slide18

So now we get to the “feedback” from the residents, which is really a nice way of saying “complaints.” It’s at this point that Vagnozzi, speaking for the Board, has the opportunity to address the objections the residents have raised in opposition to the Anderson Park location. What follows is a summary of the Township’s counter points:

Noise: There will be no house siren. The buildings are passive use, and while there may be sirens on the Trucks as they are pulling out on to the roadway, its typically the lights on the emergency vehicles that get the attention of the drivers. And since half of Trappe VFC’s fire calls are within the Township borders, residents will not hear them coming down 113 as much because they are already here, resulting in less noise.

Traffic Light on S. Trappe Road: PennDOT says they do not think that a light is necessary.

Decrease in property values: The Township talked to real estate professionals and appraisers, and unless there was a house sire, on a couple of the houses immediately surrounding the facility might have an issue. Since the proposed facility will not have a house siren, this is a moot point. In fact, there is no evidence that a firehouse would cause a decrease in property values and the appraiser told the Township that even the Limerick nuclear plant does not cause a decrease in values.

Loss of Open Space: An emotional issue, and one Vagnozzi states is the one “folks are most hyperbolic about,” thus open space gets its own slides:

Slide19

The Township has 3,359 acres of open space, which amounts to 31% of the Township. Of that designated open space, the Township owns 670 acres. And the Township is always looking to acquire more open space and does so almost every year.

“We’re looking to use 3 acres of Township-owned open space for a public safety use. To put it in perspective.”

Slide20

Here is an example of a 40 acre property the Township purchased to preserve for open space in 2017. If this property had not been purchased, it would have been sold to a developer. Vagnozzi points out that the township is doing its part to prevent sprawl.

Slide21

Above is an example of real feedback that the Township received.

Image result for old man shakes fist at cloud gif

This is exactly this kind of email that infuriates me. Regular Readers know that one of the issues that compels me shake my fist at the sky is citizen disengagement on all levels. So allow me to blow off steam in the direction of this email writer (who is in the audience and will identify himself later during public comment as Vince Benedict).

Mr. Benedict is a resident who hasn’t bothered to do even the bare minimum of research on this issue, setting up straw men and then neatly knocking them down with his pat arguments. Though Vagnozzi does a good job dismantling this email, your Humble Blogress is stepping in at this point.

Gentle Readers, if digital ink were measured in gallons, how many gallons do you suppose have been spilled in the service of educating the residents of Upper Providence in the subject of Fire and Emergency services just by this blog?

Better to ask how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Suffice to say, this blog still gets many, many hits on search terms regarding fire service in Upper Providence Township; in fact, there was a sharp increase in such hits just recently, presumably due to the Township’s search for a new FEMS Chief.

That all being said, all of the issues addressed in this resident’s email have been asked and answered multiple times just on this blog alone. But if for some reason this resident is internet challenged and cannot perform a simple Google search, there is always the old reliable Right to Know request, either from the county or the township, as the number of fire calls that occur within Upper Providence is a matter of public record. But instead of doing any of that, Mr. Benedict backs into a number with which he is comfortable, and even generously calculates the tax increase needed to cover it.

As Vagnozzi states, the number of annual fire calls in the Township is actually around 600, not 100, and the number of ambulance calls is over 1,600, so Mr. Benedict’s math, and his tax increase calculation, are already off by quite a bit.

But again, if Mr. Benedict did even the most cursory amount of research before sending this email, he would already know that the Township already monetarily incentivizes the volunteers on a per call basis, and has been doing so for years with its Volunteer Incentive Program or “VIP.” In fact, Upper Providence is one of the only townships in the immediate area to do so, and these monies are awarded to the individual fire companies at the end of the year, to be dispersed to individual fire fighters as their companies determine.

And should we talk about that resident-proposed tax increase?

This is a Board whose eyebrows are still singed from the scorching comments they got a few weeks ago when the new sewer rate hike hit. Your Humble Blogress was part of the prior Board that increased taxes specifically to pay for fire and emergency services, and even though I voted against that budget, I still had to answer angry and even tearful residents who didn’t understand why their $50 annual donation to BRVFC wasn’t enough to cover their all fire protection needs. I’m not going to revisit the Pearson-led Democrat campaign of misinformation regarding that tax increase since this is well trod territoty.

Suffice to say, I cannot comprehend the arrogance of a man who proposes to determine what is or is not a “pittance” when it comes to tax increases for the residents of Upper Providence Township.

Perhaps we should just assess his HOA for these expenses, since they seem more than willing to bear this extra cost.

As Vagnozzi says: “But wait. It gets better.”

Slide22

As Vagnozzi points out, this email writer lives right off of 113. “Here’s a guy who’s engaged in the issue and he never hears a siren.”

In this email exchange, he has asked Vagnozzi for the number of calls, which Vagnozzi has supplied to him, but because these numbers don’t fit in with his “pittance” of a tax increase, and because he, personally, has not heard 1.6 fire sirens and 4.5 ambulance sirens a day, he chooses to not believe these numbers.

As I said before: Its public record.

When one is in pursuit of one’s very own white whale, it’s always best to gather facts before making reckless assertions; yet another lesson this email correspondent could have learned from reading this blog’s coverage of the Board’s (short-lived) decision to close the Rec Center last year.

Vagnozzi goes on to clarify that those call numbers are Township-wide. The proposed facility would respond to about 400 of those fire calls and about 600 ambulance calls.

Slide23

This slide illustrates the Township’s budget and Fire and EMS currently consume approximately 13% of total operating, or about $2.2 million annually. This budget includes the the four full time fire fighters that the Township currently employs to staff Township engine 93 for 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Township’s total operating budget is approximately $17 million annually.

At another meeting with residents, the Board and staff were told by the residents, “Why don’t you just do away with the volunteers and hire full time firefighters?”

Slide24

Here’s why. Recall that the Township’s entire annual operating budget is approximately $17 million.

The annual cost of operating a full-time department is approaching $13 million annually.

And that’s before they unionize.

Vagnozzi says that when he told the residents that their taxes would quadruple if the Township pursued this, their response was, “We don’t care.”

Well I care.

I care very much if my taxes quadruple (it’s actually more than that, as we will soon see) over the loss of one soccer field. And I’m not sure, but I bet many other people will also care if their taxes increase by six times. Again, whichever development those residents were from, I believe their HOA assessment should make up this difference. They do not speak for the entire Township and they certainly don’t speak for me.

Here is what the new, nearly doubled budget would look like:

Slide25

Vagnozzi reiterates that the Township currently employs 4 full time staff members to cover daytime hours. But these folks are typically supplemented by volunteers who arrive when and if they can during the day. Eliminating all volunteers also means eliminating BRVFC and the support that the Township gives to the other volunteer stations that cover the Township: Trappe, Collegeville, and Royersford and financially crippling those organizations, thereby not only jeopardizing those organizations’ ability to continue to operate within Upper Providence, but their ability to cover the areas outside of Upper Providence that are also their first-due response areas.

That red coverage circle in the previous slide?  The area currently served by BRVFC?  That area would have to be staffed with full time firefighters as well.

And remember this: they are volunteers. Which means they are under no obligation, except their own sense of duty, to respond to a fire call. If the Township residents’ collective attitude is represented as “Thanks, but no thanks, we’d rather have one barely used soccer field than support your continued operations,” guess how motivated those folks will be to continue volunteering to save your lives and property while risking their own?

It’s a cynical, short-sighted and selfish proposal. And it betrays the depth of ignorance of those proposing it.

Here are the financial consequences for residents to save that soccer field: A 6x increase.

Slide26

Slide27

Slide28

Vagnozzi summarizes:

“So what we are trying to do here is place a facility in close proximity to volunteers, support the volunteers, supplement the volunteers with career staff during the day and place it at a location that is looking to the future and will serve the town now but look to the future.”

This Board is looking to create a regionalized, combined volunteer/career fire department which will provide the best protection in the most cost effective manner.

That’s the objective. Pay attention, there will be a test on this later which many residents will fail.

Slide29

One of the more ironic accusations levelled at this Board by residents who hardly ever hear sirens was that this is a brand new issue and the Board hasn’t studied it enough, or in angry resident shorthand, “Howcum I’m just hearing about this?”

As noted by Vagnozzi and on this blog, Township Fire and Emergency Services has been the single largest discussion point in this community for the last several years.

The slide above is a summary of actions taken by this Board, and the previous Board on Fire and Emergency Services alone.

Also as noted by Vagnozzi, all of the full time fire fighters hired by the Township are also certified EMTs, which allows them to get on scene to a medical emergency quicker than an ambulance. This is a program implemented under the previous Board.

Slide30

In 2017, the previous Board (under my Chairmanship) adjusted the funding for the four Volunteer companies that service the Township to make it more equitable. The details of this funding formula have been covered ad nauseum by this blog, and were misrepresented by the Fresh Perspective Democrats during their campaign in 2017 as “slashing” the funding to BRVFC. As has been demonstrated throughout their tenure so far, the Democrats (well, the Girls, at least) now understand and embrace this funding formula.

Vagnozzi points out that prior to 2017, the per resident contribution was heavily weighted in favor of the BRVFC as the only domiciled volunteer fire company, and that while BRVFC was operating with all brand new equipment and vehicles, the Trappe Fire Company, which has first due response in a significant portion of the Township, was operating with 20 year old equipment and a 100 year old fire house.

A partnership with Trappe represents a win/win on numerous levels as the Township can provide much needed funding with Trappe supplying the much needed manpower to service this community. Trappe Borough’s funding will go farther when combined with Upper Providence’s and the Trappe Community gains the coverage that Upper Providence’s career staff provides during the day. It’s a comprehensive solution with numerous benefits for a service that not a single person in that auditorium ever wants to need.

With regard to that soccer field, Vagnozzi informs the audience that in response to resident assertions that “My kids use that soccer field!” the Township discovered that the targeted soccer field is used on average of 6 hours per week. Of that 6 hours per week, one of those uses is a four-hour block by a group from outside of the Township who reserves the field on Sundays. “We are not displacing our children,” Vagnozzi says.

Remind me again: who is “just getting into” the conversation about Fire and Emergency Services? The Board of Supervisors? Or the self-appointed panel of armchair experts in the audience carrying their torches and pitchforks in order to save a soccer field?

Slide31

Vagnozzi tells the audience that while there is some disagreement on the Board, the majority believes that the Anderson Park location is the best location for the proposed centralized facility. In order to build there, the Township will have to petition Orphans’ Court to lift the restriction on three of Anderson Park’s 75 total acres to serve a vital public safety need.

Vagnozzi also properly recognizes Higgins and Calci for their dedication and willingness to dive into this issue, which is very complicated indeed.

Having presented the Township’s case, and having adequately addressed the residents’ objections that the Board has heard thus far, Vagnozzi asks for public support in petitioning the Court for a waiver of this restriction so that the Township can build a centralized regional fire station to serve the community.

Please note: This station is going to be built somewhere. The Township would prefer the Anderson Park location, but if their petition gets denied, it will be moved to one of the less desirable alternative locations presented previously.

NIMBYs on Fire 2: Electric Boogaloo

Gentle Readers, if you haven’t already guessed by the title of this blog, many residents, having been roused by the surprisingly effective rallying cry of “Save our seldom-used soccer field from being used to protect our lives and property!” this meeting is far from over.

As noted at the beginning of this blog, many—not all, but many–of the residents in attendance at this meeting were clearly not here to listen to the Township’s case with an open mind. It was depressingly clear that there was never anything that the Board could have said to convince these folks that the Township was trying to act in their best interests.

All of which raises an interesting question, and one I want you to keep in the back of your mind as we meander through the public comment section of this meeting:

What’s in it for the Board?

Given the hyperbole and emotions attached to this proposal, what possible benefit could the Board members be getting by fighting a deed restriction to build a brand new multi-million dollar facility?

That all being said, for the first time ever, the Township adopted a procedure to sign up to comment. And though Higgins is much more adept at keeping order during the meetings than Pearson ever was, I can only assume that the Board’s past experience with this issue in their meetings with the neighbors (which are referenced multiple times, but not available for viewing) indicated that the emotional response generated by this issue has resulted in a difficulty maintaining that order. Higgins announces that residents will be called to comment in the order that they have signed up.

Gentle Readers, I attended this meeting in person and found it infuriating and frustrating. Writing up this blog post brought back that same level of frustration. At one point during the comments, as I was dutifully registering my disgust to my friend (and Trappe Borough Council Member) sitting next to me, Mr. Benedict’s wife moved over two seats to sit next to me and expressed outrage when she accused me of being in favor of the Anderson Park location. I said, “That’s right, I am. It’s the best place for it.” When she attempted to lecture me on what she thought I did not know about this proposal, I asked her if she remembered me, as I had several dealings with her during my tenure as a Supervisor. She said, “I know exactly who you are.” I asked her why she was opposed to the location and she huffed about the deed restriction, then attempted to mic-drop me with, “It’s a moral imperative!” And she moved back to her seat. Needless to say, I moved over two seats to deliver a retort for this, the gist of which is covered later on during my own public comment. And then I mic-dropped her right back.

The point being that emotions are running high based on this unshakeable belief that the folks opposed to this initiative have the moral high ground on this issue. As a result, pragmatism is falling by the wayside.

What I heard from many of our residents opposing this proposal disgusted me. Their thinking is short sighted, selfish, and ill-informed. Their arguments are hyperbolic and inherently unfair. Most disturbingly, their lack of appreciation for the service the volunteers provide is embarrassing and disheartening.

Image result for i got a lot of problems with you gif

This blog will examine all of these comments and attribute them by name to the commenter, because it’s all public record and you, Gentle Readers, deserve to know which residents are arguing against the safety of you, your family and your property, and you deserve to hear the emotionally charged manipulative arguments they are using to convince others in the Township of their point of view.

I daresay that few people outside of our governing body understand both the desire to preserve open space and the intricacies of providing fire and emergency services better than me. So when I say we’re going to look at and dissect every one of these comments, that’s exactly what we’re going to do, because I do my homework. And this is not going to be pretty.

Because at the end of the day, what these folks are effectively arguing for is a very large tax increase on every resident of the Township from a position of prejudice and ignorance. And they could very well win.

But before we do that, I’d like you to consider this recent story which was the beginning of a spate of fires in Sea Isle City culminating in the forced retirement of Sea Isle’s fire department command staff earlier this week.

Patano said she was driving from Blue Bell to her home on Central Avenue, where she was planning on staying most of the summer. Now, her car and her home are charred and burned.

Patano said she had to stand and watch her house burn as police and ambulances arrived on the scene before the fire department did. She claims 20 minutes passed between her call and the response time. Her neighbors have expressed concerns about multiple fires in Sea Isle the last several months.

“Another cop comes and I go, ‘Where is the fire truck?’ And ambulances come and I go, ‘Where’s the fire truck?’ Twenty minutes later a fire truck shows up. At that point, that entire car is engulfed in flames and it went to the house,” said Patano.

“I wrote on the box that the fire burned for 20 minutes before water was applied. Twenty minutes, can you imagine?” neighbor Kevin Brennan said.

Sea Isle City Police Chief Thomas McQuillen told CBS3 the response time, according to their records, was 12 minutes before the first fire truck arrived and 16 to 17 minutes before water started hitting the house.

Sea Isle is a summer town with very few full time residents. Do you think those residents would have been irate on a proposed increase in their taxes to cover full time fire services before houses started burning down? Of course not.  Until then, the service was working perfectly, which it always is, until it’s not.

I don’t know if the “irate homeowner” featured in this story ever complained to her local government about her property taxes (owning property in New Jersey, I’d be surprised if she didn’t), but now that Sea Isle has burned down a couple of homes, the residents are calling on their local government to hire a full time fire department. Until they see how much it is going to cost. Then they might walk that back a little and propose a more cost effective compromise solution similar to the one Upper Providence is proposing now.

But until that need to address fire and emergency services hits people in their lives and properties, everyone is content to just dial 9-1-1 and trust someone is going to show up. Nobody is clamoring to spend more tax dollars on something they don’t want to even think about, let alone consider that they will ever need.

Until they do need it and it’s not there. Then it’s too late and the only thing they can do is look for someone to blame.

First commenter: Jill Kelly

Ms. Kelly doesn’t believe there is an issue. In fact, to the best of her knowledge, no one’s house has burned down or not received emergency care in a timely manner. And as we all know, like Mr. Benedict who never hears the sirens, because Ms. Kelly hasn’t experienced any issues first hand, it must not be happening. Ms. Kelly would prefer that Upper Providence Township spend taxpayer dollars fixing the building in Trappe Borough. Why? Because that building is

Not

In

Her

Back

Yard.

Ms. Kelly goes on to say that if the building is built at Hopwood, the volunteers will have to drive an extra mile, then she asks why they can’t drive yet another mile to the Black Rock Municipal Campus. Finally, she explains that Trappe VFC has been advertising for volunteers, so she’s assuming that means they are short of volunteers, but she “still doesn’t see an issue.”

Image result for angry and confused gif

Ms. Kelly then explains that the building will cost $9 million, but make it $10 million because of cost overruns, it should be put over on Bechtel “or one of the other locations,” and then wants to know if the property at Anderson Park was deed restricted, why did the Township build a Rec Center that is “literally useless?”

Bresnan jumps in and explains that the Rec Center building is consistent with the recreational use outlined by the deed restriction, so there is not a problem there. He does not tell her that the Rec Center was built in 2011, so comments opposing its existence in 2019 are a bit beside the point.

Ms. Kelly asks the Board how many volunteers they currently have. Higgins answers that there are 51 at BRVFC and Trappe has 25. Higgins also explains that neither BRVFC or Trappe VFC volunteers will respond out of a firehouse located at the Black Rock municipal campus. Higgins:

“I know it seems like a very short distance, only an extra mile or mile and a half, but they will not drive it because it increases their response time to the firehouse. They have to go down to the firehouse, they have to go that extra mile, which at 30 miles per hour, we’re talking an extra five minutes.”

Ms. Kelly closes her notebook and says she has “a million other questions,” but she sees that there are other people who want to comment so maybe she will come back up if there is time at the end.

I will point out that all of Ms. Kelly’s questions and concerns were addressed during the Township’s presentation.

Next commenter: Rich DeFalco

Mr. DeFalco suffered two heart attacks in the last six years and he confirms, turning and specifically addressing Ms. Kelly, that 8 minutes is indeed a lifetime when one is waiting for a response. Mr. DeFalco applauds the Board’s decision to place the facility at Anderson Park and thanks them for their work. He presents them with a number of letters from his neighbors in support of the facility. Mr. DeFalco closes his remarks with,

“Resistance in this case means loss of life. Period. So if anyone wants to resist a location, or even the concept of this, I hope it’s not a life that you love.”

Next resident: Vince Benedict

Mr. Benedict opens with acknowledgement that the emails included in the presentation were his emails and that he has had an ongoing correspondence with Vagnozzi, whom he admits has been very forthcoming with him.

Now it’s time to set up straw men then knock them down.

“I proposed paying a bounty and I thought paying one quarter of one percent tax to pay for that would be acceptable because if anyone in this room thinks that their taxes aren’t going to go up to pay for this, because of this $7 or $10 million dollar thing that’s going up over there, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you.”

I want to pause here and note Four things: First, the money for this project is already in the Township’s coffers, so raising taxes to pay for the building is simply a wrong statement. Second, I’d note that Mr. Benedict is now just hyperbolically throwing around the incorrect $10 million dollar figure that Ms. Kelly’s previous expert testimony introduced. Third, I’d remind my readers once again that Upper Providence already has a Volunteer Incentive Plan that pays volunteers per call.

Bernie

Finally, when is it ok to raise taxes, according to Mr. Benedict? One-time, $7 million expense to build a firehouse? That’s bad. Ongoing doubling of the operating budget? Meh. A mere pittance.

Mr. Benedict then doubles down on the hyperbole. He goes on to dismiss the Township’s entire presentation as “smoke and mirrors,” and says,

“It all boils down to two things in my opinion: One is the politicians’ word is not worth a thing. They’re gonna go and they’re gonna break this deed and you know it as well as I do. That they’ve decided on this situation, they are just laying the groundwork by setting us against one another by [mic cuts out here-unintelligible]. Uh, that’s point one. Point two is they are basing it on where the fire volunteers live. I’ve never heard anything so specious. Don’t volunteer fireman move? Don’t they get old, don’t they die, don’t they change areas where they live? So what happens when they are no longer available? Do we build a building where they now went? Do we build a firestation there because we want to be near the firemen? It’s nonsense! I can’t believe it! Now I proposed what I did, that bounty, I wasn’t aware that there were, what, close to six hundred calls a year? I find that number incredible. Now what’s a call? DO they actually roll trucks all six hundred times?”

What follows is Mr. Benedict grilling Vagnozzi over the number of times that “trucks actually roll.” Vagnozzi says they may get recalled sometimes, but they always get called to go, especially during the day when the station is staffed and the firefighters don’t have to “put down their pizza and report to the fire house.”

Mr. Benedict would like the number of times “trucks actually roll,” because he finds it hard to believe that there are one and a half calls a day. And as we have already determined, if the experts from the public don’t think it’s true, it’s perfectly acceptable to accuse the Board members of lying at a public meeting.

So let’s pause here a moment and consider once again: what possible reason does the Board have for inflating those numbers? And to go one further, why would they risk inflating that number in the face of a hostile crowd they were expecting, when the number of fire calls in the Township is public record and easily verifiable through an RTK or a simple call to the County?

The irritating part about these comments is that these members of the public are too lazy to obtain this information on their own, so they ask the Board for it; then, when they don’t like the information that the Board has delivered, they call them liars.

Image result for sanctimonius gif
The Emperor is displeased

You cannot have it both ways. But it doesn’t stop them from trying.

Benedict says he knows that the Board is going to take this to court, as if he is calling them out on some deception instead of simply verifying what the Board actually presented to the public on the very last slide of their presentation, which was taken down only minutes earlier. He closes with his expert opinion of “This idea of building a fire house because that’s where the firemen are is a little bit wacky, in my opinion.”

Yes, because people move all the time, don’t they, Mr. Benedict?

Next, resident, and Upper Providence Planning Commission member, Chris Caggiano

Caggiano asks about the time frame to go to Orphan’s Court and where the funding will be coming from. Bresnan states it could be a matter of months and Vagnozzi says the Township already has the money in the Bank.

Caggiano states that as a member of the Planning Commission, he is in favor of the project and thinks that Anderson Park is the best place for it.

Next up is Julie Tighe.

Ms. Tighe uses air quotes when she expresses her displeasure in the Township referring to the land as “just” a soccer field. She cites a “running program” in which her “children participate” that uses this “soccer field” because it is “flat land.” She then lists all the other uses of this soccer field–which her kids use, because it is just across the street.

First World Problems

After practically weeping over the loss of JUST a soccer field, she then questions the Board on Township’s number of full time fire fighters that would be required to replace the volunteers. She is not sure why there is a need for so many. Vagnozzi explains that if you do away with the volunteers, who have the ability to keep calling more volunteers if they are needed, you would need 84 full time fire fighters to replace them.

As is the case with all the residents who have approached the podium with prepared remarks, Ms. Tighe then takes the numbers the Township has arrived at through their consultation with industry experts and says,

“But isn’t that number really just to scare everybody when no one is saying, poof, all these other fire companies are disappearing? And I spoke to the Trappe Fire Chief the other day after I left here and I asked him specifically, is Trappe going away? Like if we don’t do this deal, you guys are closing down? He said, ‘Absolutely not.’ So Trappe is still working, and they are still going to be servicing our area, so to say that it’s gonna cost us $12 million to add 84 paid people to take over, is, I think, a scare tactic to everyone.”

When Vagnozzi disputes this, and tells Ms. Tighe that she asked to do away with the volunteers during their last meeting, a bit of disorder ensues with shouting from the audience which Higgins promptly gavels down.

Higgins scolds the audience,

“She asked a question and Mr. Vagnozzi was giving an answer. The question was to do away with the volunteers. Mr. Vagnozzi responded. At some point, we won’t have any volunteers. Thirty years ago, Pennsylvania had 300,000 volunteers. We now have 30,000 volunteers. They are dropping. It’s a fading model, but we would like to keep it alive as long as possible. The reason we would like to keep it alive as long as possible is because it saves everybody money. The reason we’re looking at regionalization is to share resources because it saves everybody money. Now, let’s all get back to being civil, and I include Mr. Vagnozzi with that.”

And the day of no volunteers may be coming sooner than anyone thinks with this crowd. This crowd is advocating to eliminate a valuable community service that dedicated men and women have been providing for decades at great risk to their own lives and limbs for….

…JUST a soccer field.

Again, I’d point out that as Ms. Tighe stated at the outset of her comments, she has already voiced her concerns to Vagnozzi, but wanted to reiterate once again for an audience. It does not matter that the Township has answered all of these questions; Ms. Tighe has prepared remarks to get through and there was no need to edit them simply because her complaints were already answered. She can just ignore those answers in favor of saving…

…JUST a soccer field.

And while we are taking a break from this set of willfully ignorant remarks, can I just point out that Ms. Tighe’s arrogant presumption that Trappe VFC isn’t going anywhere is completely false. The entire premise of partnering with Trappe is to preserve the volunteer company, who, as was explained in detail during the course of the Township’s presentation, is limping along with a 100-year-old crumbling fire house and equipment far past its useful life. I’m sure Ms. Tighe’s blythe dismissal of the service that this organization has been providing her neighborhood was found to be absolutely inspiring by the members of Trappe VFC who were in attendance.

Undeterred by Higgins or Vagnozzi’s answers, Ms. Tighe plows ahead reiterating her pre-conceived notions that had only minutes earlier been completely refuted with facts. From her hours of studying this problem, she concludes that the Township should just continue to rely on Trappe and add “X number of full time fire fighters” and the EMS service because she “personally believes that is important” and use her idea as a “compromise” instead of taking away….

…JUST a soccer field.

What Ms. Tighe has utterly failed to grasp is that the Township’s proposed solution IS the compromise.

Image result for babbling idiot gif

So to sum up: It is totally acceptable for the fire department to drive a few extra miles and take a few extra minutes to get to an emergency to save lives and property, as long as her kids don’t have to walk a few extra yards in order to find a flat spot in the remaining 72 acres of Anderson Park on which they can run around.

Gentle Readers, I want you all to keep in mind that I was sitting in the audience during this fiasco, growing ever more frustrated. I had not intended to speak that evening.

Next resident: George Rivera

I had not intended to speak, that is, until George Rivera came to the podium.

Mr. Rivera wanted to talk about open space.

After questioning some of the math, Mr. Rivera gets to the meat of his argument, which he begins by waiving around, of all things, a publication from Montgomery County: Upper Providence Township Environmental Resource Protection Plan.

“This was adopted in 2006, so I don’t think this is a new thing that snuck up on us. 196 pages long, very briefly on page 28 and 29 it talks about goals and objectives and it talks about preservation of open space for appropriate passive uses.”

He goes on at some length, citing different headings in the Montgomery County publication on open space in Upper Providence Township. After meandering through this 196 page publication for several moments citing “open space, blah blah blah, open space, blah blah blah,” Mr. Rivera gets to what he thinks is the zinger in this Montgomery County publication, and cites chapter and verse:

“Then on page 41 chapter 6, Protected and Potentially Vulnerable Lands. It talks about the importance of these, uh, the greatest protection is offered through the purchase of a property or a property’s development rights in order to restrict its development permanently. Not temporarily or modified as we go. Uhh, and it goes on and on, uhh, uhhhh, lands that are in municipality ownership for example, are protected permanently by the municipality. There’s a map on page 43 and 188 and it shows two sorts of areas, permanently protected areas and temporarily protected areas and Anderson Farm Park, where I have it highlighted, is in the permanently protected area. Uhh, uh, it talks about the value of open space. The cultural value, the physical value, and so on. And then finally, long term recommendations, uh, again this is uh, over a hundred pages long and I don’t want to bore you with it, but I didn’t write it either. Um, long term recommendations are continued parcel acquisition and preservation and that’s it. So I think it is an important thing to preserve and keep in its natural state, or at least as natural as possible.”

The irony of being lectured about open space from a 2006 Montgomery County document was, quite frankly, too much for Your Humble Blogress. You don’t quite hear my head exploding on the tape, but it was at this point I decided I needed to speak.

First we have to get through a few more commenters.

Next up: Tim Fox

Tim Fox from Faraway Farms says he is speaking for 75 residents. Mr. Fox also believes in the importance of open space and wants to know how his soccer field is going to be replaced. Mr. Fox asks for more research on just about every aspect of the Township’s proposal, which is just a long way of saying keep studying until you come up with a solution that I agree with.

And forgive my snarkiness, but having been a part of much of this study, I’m quickly running out of patience with residents whose arrogant presumption assumes that because they don’t like the proposal the Board is suggesting that it must not be well thought out. “The open space, and the things that go on in there, are the things that strengthen our community,” says Fox. After waxing poetic about how community is built around open space, Mr Fox then questions “the narrative” of the coverage. He’s taken a look at the coverage map and by his expert estimate, he sees 99% coverage. Long story short, Mr. Fox’s solution is that the open space will bring in the volunteers.

He offers no explanation as to why this already open space has not brought in those volunteers yet.

Next up: Bill Barkley

Resident Bill Barkley has used the Township’s fire and emergency services, as have his neighbors. He says the service was excellent and he thinks the service is working just fine.

“When I look at this and see the dialog that we’ve had tonight, coming from the corporate world, I don’t see any justification whatsoever. It’s ‘Let’s do this just in case.’ And I look at that, with all due respect, that’s confrontational to your residents, your constituents. Why don’t you ask us if we want to spend our money on this? Because it sounds like it’s just in case. If this was the corporate world, we’d throw you out.”

Bresnan tells Mr. Barkley that there is no legal authority in Pennsylvania for referendums so that is not an option.

“Well we elected you, and we’d like you to represent us and our wishes, and there your saying you might choose to go to the Orphan’s Court, it’s like you’re throwing it in our face. Maybe we don’t want you to do that. And again I say, we elected you to follow our wishes.”

This retort, in response to an unelected consultant, gets some ignorant applause from the folks in the audience who think this is New England where they do everything by Town Hall, or are operating under the mistaken belief that mob rule is the law of the land in Upper Providence. Barkley goes on to say he’s all for improving response times but not with his tax dollars.

“You’re just gonna spend millions of dollars, ‘just in case?’ I’m not for that.” Mr. Barkley, who has been paying attention to Township business a bit more than his other commenters, takes the John Pearson political argument against a centralized ambulance and throws it back at this Board. Pearson, of course, remains silent, as he has throughout the entire presentation.

Next up: Lisa Mossie

“First and foremost, I’d like to applaud this Board for the work they’ve done on this. You’ve come full circle on this and I have been one of your most critical….critics, for lack of a better word. So I applaud you, and I applaud the work that you’ve done to get to this point today.

There were a couple points…as a former supervisor, I lived and breathed this issue for six years. This was an issue that kept me awake at night. We’re talking about ‘just in case?’ We’re not talking about just in case. We’re talking about lives here. And if something is not done to protect the lives here, are we going to be having the same conversation when there are deaths on our hands?

And that’s something I just want everybody to kind of think about, because so far, we’ve been lucky. The luck isn’t going to hold out. There are houses that are burning down, and it could be your house next. So I just want to say, don’t argue against your own self-interest here. And think very long and hard about what you’ve heard here and try to overcome your prejudices about open space.

Because what I’m going to say about open space is, in 2013 we fought a months’ long and protracted battle to preserve open space at Parkhouse. Montgomery County owned 220 acres of open space in this Township down at Parkhouse. They sold it to a developer. I don’t recognize any of the faces here tonight rallying with me for eleven straight weeks to save that property. That property is going to get developed. That was 220 acres of open space. We still have almost 700 owned publicly. We’re talking about 3 acres. Three acres to protect your property and your lives.

That’s really all I have to say tonight. I just think a little perspective needs to be put in place on this, because I understand the notion to preserve your open space; I get that. But we’re not talking about 220 acres here. We’re talking about three. And it’s well served. It protects your lives, it protects your properties and it protects your property values. So just think about it. Thank you.”

Zoning Map with AFP over PH
Perspective. Get some.

Next up: Steven Hadfield

Mr. Hadfield comes to the podium and thanks the Board for a super informative presentation and says he’s is really glad he came tonight. He asks for a time frame on a Board decision to petition Orphan’s Court, which the Board cannot answer. Higgins notes that the next Board meeting is July 15.

Next up: Gina Westlake

Resident Gina Westlake is concerned that Anderson Park property is designated recreation area and her kids use the land. Her concern is safety with emergency services being dispatched out of the park.

Vagnozzi responds that the fire facility would be separated from the recreation area and that the responding patterns would not change. In fact, they may actually see less emergency vehicles with the firehouse there. Vagnozzi also earlier noted that care was being taken by the Township to make sure the building blended in with the other Township structures and was aesthetically pleasing.

Higgins reiterates Vagnozzi’s comments about the buffering and notes that in her mother’s neighborhood there was a playground right behind the firehouse.

But we don’t have to go all the way to Higgins’ mother’s house to find an example of this.

Macfarlan3

This is MacFarlan Park in Oaks.

Upper Providence Little League has happily and peacefully co-existed with the Black Rock Fire Company there for many years. As far as I know, not a single Little League parent has ever expressed a “safety concern” about their children regularly playing in such close proximity to the fire station.

MacFarlan2
Those little dots on the baseball field? Those are many children, happily playing baseball in the ominous shadow of the Oaks Firehouse.

Kevin Wilk is the next commenter

Based on his comment, I can only assume that Mr. Wilk has just arrived at the meeting and missed the Township’s presentation.

“I was hoping that you could possibly explain a little bit more about the relationship with Trappe since this is kind of in conjunction with them? Am I correct in that once the new facility is built, that it will be staffed by the Trappe volunteers and that it will be servicing all of Trappe as well? And is this influencing the location of the facility to be closer to Trappe because we are now going to have to be servicing them and their desire to have us as close as possible to Trappe, rather than what’s best suited for Upper Providence.”

Image result for sorry i'm late what did i miss? gif

There is so much here to unpack and I’m exhausted from hearing points re-explained the residents who simply want to sit in their own self-righteousness. What seems to be lost on Mr. Wilk is that it is and always has been the Trappe Volunteer Fire Company that has first due responsibility at his own home.

And consider that moving that station to Upper Providence is a significant pain point for Trappe VFC, who has been located within the boundaries of Trappe for all of their existence. Only six years ago, the Fire Company and the Borough were reluctant to let them move to outside the Borough for fear of losing their identity. The economies of scale alone that can be gained in this proposal make it a great deal for both municipalities.

Higgins answers with a resounding “Yes.” She points out that the whole point of regionalization is to combine resources and Trappe is supplying manpower and money for this venture.

Mr. Wilk continues:

“So my point is that isn’t that influencing the volunteer firemens’ response to, say the proposal to have it here at Black Rock saying that they wouldn’t be willing to come because they want it as close as possible to Trappe and they have their interests in mind rather than Upper Providence’s interests in mind? So I think you have to take that into account when you’re considering information that you’re collecting from another municipality that it has their best interest in mind versus ours? I’m just kind highlighting that you need to look at it from their perspective, umm, I wouldn’t trust that information as much as I would trust it coming from someone in our own Township.”

*Sigh.*

The fire company’s best interests are in keeping their response times down. If they have to drive farther to get to the station, they are simply not going to bother, or if they do, they are going to lose minutes in response times when every single minute counts.

Next up is Larry Edgar Smith

Mr. Edgar Smith’s comments seem at first to focus on form over substance. He’s not happy with the way the Township has decided to tackle this problem. He notes that volunteers are dwindling anyway, so why build the station to accommodate them? He thinks that the problem of the dwindling volunteers and the career staff are separate issues and should be handled separately. And he sees the solution the Township has proposed, but he’s not clear on the problem that the solution is attempting to address. He thinks its to reduce the response time, but he didn’t see anything in the presentation that said moving the fire station “12 yards to the left or three miles to the south” would effect response times.

I think Mr. Edgar Smith must have arrived at the meeting hall with Mr. Wilk.

He did see that the number of calls was 600, but he didn’t see that moving the station was going to reduce that. This comment is met with scattered applause from the rest of the folks in the audience who also haven’t been paying attention until now.

Vagnozzi answers these questions with a reiteration of his earlier presentation. Yes, the station will reduce response times. Yes, the Township is trying to provide financial assistance to one of it’s volunteer companies who has first due response in Upper Providence and is operating out of a crumbling firehouse and with outdated equipment. Vagnozzi states that the firehouse gets built here so that our residents reap the immediate benefits.

Mr. Edgar Smith then says he still doesn’t understand the objective. Buildings can be refurbished and fire trucks can be purchased. He is looking for a definition of the objectives.

As Mr. Edgar Smith leaves the podium, Higgins remarks,

“One of the things we’re trying to do is keep that volunteer model alive as long as possible. And the idea was if it’s on an arterial, it may get more, and if there’s a good junior program, it may get more people involved in being volunteer fire fighters where we can keep that model going as long as possible. It will save the community tons and tons of money over the long term. I can’t say that enough.”

This is as good a place as any to note that the Board could have gone two ways with this.  They could have built the station at the Black Rock campus and simply continued to offer the limited financial support they’ve been giving for years to the four volunteer companies that support the Township.  This would have essentially hastened the end of the volunteer companies in this area and there is simply no way to tell how long that would take.  With limited manpower and funding, (not to mention, ungrateful residents) the volunteer companies cannot continue to exist without significant taxpayer support.  This would result in a full-time, taxpayer supported fire company, the costs of which were explained by the Township.

But there is a good bit of life yet left in the local companies, and a municipal partnership with one of those companies allows those men and women who are called to service an opportunity to contiue to serve their community and get others involved.  This is a cost effective solution to an issue that is constantly evolving. Though the proposed firehouse location does not provide immediate protection to my area of the Township, I still believe that this is the best possible solution for the Township at this juncture.  Discarding our volunteers is premature, and a partnership may yet breath new life into those organzations, giving us a repreive from the inevitable 100% paid department.

Curtain calls

For his encore performance, Mr. Benedict would like to know,

“Since this is a combined effort of Collegeville and Trappe, can I ask what Trappe’s financial contribution is going to be? What’s ours? $10 million? $ 7 million? Pick a million.”

This is a particularly rich comment coming from the guy who’s advocating for a tax increase to fight for his “moral imperative.”

Vagnozzi says that the Board is not in a position to reveal any of that because the agreement is still in negotiations. Vagnozzi says it will be somewhere around 90% UPT and 10% Trappe.

“Oh, that’s fair.” Benedict quips.

And since Benedict got to speak twice, Jill Kelly wants a second crack at the Board as well.

“Ok so a couple of things. This meeting lacked transparency. We’re just finding out that there isn’t a deal already structured with Trappe Fire? You guys have already determined that you’re building this firehouse an ambulance station. That—you guys have already made your mind up apparently. So I think first…”

Higgins interrupts and says that the Board has not made any final decisions on anything and they are still in negotiations.

“Mr. Vagnozzi already said, this building’s being built, the question is where.”

Higgins confirms this and reiterates her earlier points.

“I guess it just comes back to my very first question. I think Larry Edgar Smith mentioned this? You guys never defined the issue! Are people not getting the service that they need? And if we’re hearing that no, Trappe is responding to us, Trappe is a quarter of a mile from my home! I-I can’t comprehend how you guys can sit here.

The other question I have is how much is it gonna cost to go to Court of Orphans? How much is it gonna cost in legal fees to do a deal with Trappe if they’re willing to do the deal and I question if they’re willing to do the deal because one of the women here had mentioned that she already spoke to the Chief of the fire, uh Trappe Fire Company and he assured her that that division is going to remain open.

I would really appreciate if you guys stood back and really made, made a better decision and thought about, what is the issue, and do we really need this new building, and do we need it now? Do we need to spend $10 million now? Or can we wait 10 years?

And as it relates to volunteers, when was the last time we ever did an initiative to see if people were willing to volunteer? Has there ever been a sign at Black Rock, across the street? Has there ever been something, uh, over at Anderson Park? There are hundreds of new families coming in to Upper Providence on a regular basis. The houses in our development alone are sold within 24 hours. Guess who’s coming in? Young families! So maybe we need to look for our own volunteers before we decide to build a $10 million building. Which, there’s not a doubt in my mind that it’s gonna cost more than that!”

Signs for vols
“But I’ve never seen any signs!”

I’d remind you that in Ms. Kelly’s first trip to the podium this evening, she notes that she’s seen Trappe Fire Company advertising for volunteers and now, less than an hour later, she’s forgotten about thos seigns and wonders why nobody is putting up signs asking for volunteers.  And the volunteer companies are their own organizations. It’s really up to them to recruit; the Township can’t effectively recruit into another organization, though the Township did “do” and initiative on this two years ago.

This meandering and ironically pointless tirade is met by yet more ignorant applause and a couple of hoots and hollers. Seems you don’t have to make an effective point or know what you are talking about, as long as you sound upset and yell at the Board, you’re doing your job for this audience.

Image result for self righteous anger gif

Brava!

John Frisco, who has not yet been to the podium, approaches and asks the Board to consider is adding the Trappe firehouse as a possible location and look at the rehab cost and buying Trappe new equipment.

And with that, the meeting is thankfully adjorned.

Final Thoughts

As Vagnozzi stated at to the outset of this meeting, the Board knew who their audience was tonight. People who are in favor of this proposal, or are generally agnostic on it, stayed home and trusted the Board to do the right thing.

So let’s revisit that Squeaky Wheel principal once again. Thirteen residents spoke tonight. Of those thirteen, three, including yours truly, spoke in favor of this proposal. So while we are splitting hairs over whether the firehouse is going to take up 1% or 5% of the 75 acres at Anderson Park, it’s probably worth noting that 10 residents in a community of approximately 25,000 accounts for 0.04% of the entire population of Upper Providence Township.

It seems like a lot more because they were the Squeaky Wheels. And those Squeaky Wheels—0.04% of our population–are arguing in favor of raising your taxes because they haven’t bothered to inform themselves of the issue. The fact that several of these commenters could not even identify the issue even after the Township’s presentation, should give you an indication of the depths of ignorance here.

They haven’t bothered to consider or research just what it takes to make sure that the Township continues to deliver an effective response to your panicked 9-1-1 call, should you ever need it.

I’m not going to revisit this point for point; we covered it above and frankly I’m exhausted from reliving it, as I’m sure you are as well. As regular readers of this blog know, I take fire and emergency services very seriously; I don’t pull punches when I see lives are being endangered, whether it’s from a dopey Supervisor’s political agenda or residents who don’t know how to act in their own best interest. And this evening, those residents were not only playing with their lives and pocketbooks; they are happily volunteering to put yours at risk as well.

This is not harmless ignorance; there are real consequences to getting this wrong.

And as passionate as I am about open space, no one ever died because we didn’t have enough of it.

The Board is to be applauded for their work on this so far. If you are a member of the 99.96% of the population who did not speak, but agree with the Board’s direction, reach out and tell them so (there email addresses can be found HERE).

I know from personal experience, this is a lonely job. The support can’t hurt.

Thank you

One thought on “UPT Board Meeting Notes SE2 EP9 6/26: The Airing of the Grievances

  1. Mark Porter

    “In this case, because the affected areas are all some of the Township’s “newer” developments with active HOAs and HOA email distribution lists and social media sites, it is much easier for rumors to get started and get disinformation spread than it used to be in the past.”

    I can’t speak for any of the other HOA’s of the communities involved, but we (Estates at Providence Reserve HOA Board) were very careful to only use our email distributions and community Facebook posts to provide purely factual information. I’d be happy to provide you with all of our communications to our residents in order to demonstrate that. Rumors and speculation by our residents were purposefully not approved for Facebook posting and were never emailed.

    Alternatively, Township Operations overall continue to fail in the critical area of community socialization and communication of initiatives (recent examples include the services tax, sewer rate, firehouse location). Why that is allowed to continue is beyond me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s