UPT Board Meeting Notes 7/16/18:  Episode 11 Ain’t No Sunshine

Gentle Readers, there is certainly something to be said for attending Board of Supervisors’ meetings in person, especially when the microphones are malfunctioning.   I’m not sure quite what it is that should be said, but suffice to say, there is nothing quite like being moralized to in person by the likes of John Pearson.

Sunshine Laws are something a lot of folks like to cite with regards to local government, but most people, as it will be proven tonight, don’t know what they are, how they apply or what the penalties are.  And they are plenty of ways around Sunshine Laws, particularly if no one is paying any attention.  I wrote about this issue in depth last week HERE, if you are interested.

One of the seeming benefits of expanding the Board of Supervisors from three to five members, is that it allows for much more communication between Supervisors outside of the public eye without technically violating Pennsylvania’s Open Meetings law.  The whole statute can be found here, but in a nutshell, PA’s Office of Open Records defines it thusly:

The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act, 65 Pa.C.S. §§ 701-716, requires agencies to deliberate and take official action on agency business in an open and public meeting. It requires that meetings have prior notice, and that the public can attend, participate, and comment before an agency takes that official action.

File that away for a few moments while we dive into the evening’s main event:  The resumption of the Rec Center discussion.  The audience is packed with folks who angrily wish to opine on this issue, 100% brought to you by the three folks you elected last November. This one agenda item easily takes up the lion’s share of the first hour of this almost two hour meeting.

Wreck Creation II – Electric Boogaloo

Pearson announces the first agenda item, then states that he would like to make a comment on this issue first.  In an effort to head off yet another uncomfortable meeting of his own making, he picks up his yellow legal pad and begins reading from his prepared remarks:

As chairman of this board, I take full responsibility for putting the cart before the horse on this fitness center issue.  You are right.  We should have been more transparent about our decision to re-purpose the rec center building.  We should have taken the time to give you, the residents, the courtesy of letting you know our intentions.  So here are our intentions.  We intend to purchase the equipment for $11,000 and not renew our lease for $38,000.  The fitness center will remain open until we come up with a comprehensive plan to re-purpose this facility in the next 18 to 24 months.  We will do another survey to see what the majority for our residents want and we look forward to any positive input that those here tonight would like to contribute.  (flip page on yellow legal pad)  Going forward, we will make every attempt to keep you, the township residents, informed as to how we intend to move forward with a comprehensive plan including ALL our open space and recreational facilities.  I hope the flyers at the front door answered some of your questions on our intentions to re-purpose the rec center to make it a true community center for all of Upper Providence Township.  And I know we will not have answers for all of your questions, so anyone that would like to speak, I will give you the opportunity.  Please come up, keep it brief and please try not to ask any questions that have already been asked and answered in the flyer you received.

I'm SorryLet’s keep in mind that there was no “fitness center issue” until the Board created it out of thin air by unceremoniously announcing the decision to close the fitness center at the last meeting.  As a reminder, it was apparent that only three members—Pearson, Calci and Higgins—had made this decision.  (You can get caught up on that meeting HERE.)

New and improved for this week: Apparently the Board doesn’t have enough on their plates simply re-purposing the rec center, now they’ve decided to include open space in their scope of destruction as well.  This is an interesting development, since the parks were all Master-Planned last year through a series of public meetings.  As mentioned in a previous blog (HERE) Laurie Higgins, who was not yet elected, attended that meeting and offered her opinion on the availability of parking and horse access to the Hess Preserve.

I suppose that the Board is still going to spend $400,000 on the skate park without checking to see how many residents of the community this recreation feature serves, even though Vagnozzi asked for just those metrics at a public meeting at the May 21, 2018 Board of Supervisors Meeting (HERE).  Are we to assume that the skate park will not be part of Pearson’s newly announced comprehensive park planning?  Wouldn’t that make this endeavor somewhat less than comprehensive?  Of course, horses don’t use skate parks, so maybe there is no need to look at repurposing the skate park space, after all.

Continue on, Gentle Reader and watch how three members of your five member board define transparency down, because we’re about to see exactly why that Open Meeting statute is PA State Law.

Pearson asks for comments and, unfortunately for him, his first commenter is Supervisor Phil Barker:

“Although I agree with your statement, you said that ‘we’ decided.  When did ‘we’ have a meeting that decided that? Or is that ‘you’ decided it?  I agree with the decision, mind you, but you keep saying ‘we’ and I don’t recall ‘we’ ever having a discussion about it.”

Pearson then tries to take the “Greg Brady Exact Words Defense” and smirks, “Ok then, ‘we,’ you and I then, never had a discussion about this.”

Exact words
Those weren’t your exact words.

Barker asks, “Well then who did?”

“I had a discu…we…I had a discussion with the other people at this Board and I had a discussion with staff,” Pearson stammers.

Barker wants to know, “What members of this Board?”

“I believe I had a discussion with, ummmm…” Pearson pauses, leans back and looks behind Calci at Vagnozzi, who is ignoring him. Seeing no help there, Pearson turns back to Barker and defiantly says, “I believe I just had a discussion with everybody probably maybe BUT you.”

What the still-malfunctioning microphones do not pick up effectively is the general unrest this comment has caused in the audience.  There are the audible gasps, protests and catcalls of, “That’s not very transparent!” in response to this admission by the Chairman of the Board.

Barker then asks, “So is that a violation of Sunshine Laws?”

Pearson, unnerved, offers his expert opinion:  “No, it’s not a violation of Sunshine Laws.”

We Decided.
We decided.

Barker responds, “If you had a discussion with everyone EXCEPT me, thank you very much?”

“I did not,” Pearson responds.  “I did not.”

He “did not” what?  He just admitted that he had a discussion with everyone but Barker.  Why is he lamely trying to backpedal?

Vagnozzi jumps in and notes that he and Pearson had a brief discussion that did not include purchasing the equipment.  He also agrees with tabling this decision, agrees that the announcement was premature, and says there was no decision made to purchase the equipment and that, “Perhaps you misspoke, John.”

Pearson’s Girls®, meanwhile, have literally not said a word up to this point.  Neither one has admitted to having a discussion on the Rec Center, but then why would Pearson need to actually “discuss” anything with them?  They are only there to vote yes for his Agenda of Petty Retribution and their silence during this exchange speaks volumes as to their purpose on this Board of Supervisors.

When Vagnozzi finishes speaking, Pearson, perhaps realizing that he has actually just admitted that he HAS violated Sunshine Laws—and with his own prepared remarks, no less— grasps at this meager lifeline Vagnozzi has thrown him, “That’s correct.  We haven’t officially made a decision.  I believe I have had a conversation with everybody up here except Phil.”

He “believes….?”  Does he know who he talked to or not?

Pearson then, once again, tries to welcome public comment, which he has “no problem with.”

It’s finally at this point that Calci feels she has something to add to the discussion on transparency and Sunshine Laws, and though I’m sure her intentions are to help Pearson out of the hole he’s dug himself, she only succeeds in digging him in deeper:

“One thing I want to say; we have Monday morning regular meetings at 10:00.  Two people on the Supervisor Board and I’ve extended the offer to you, Phil and it would be helpful—and I know you work during that time—but if, once in a while—and I know the last time I reached out to you, you said, ‘I’ll try to shift my schedule,’ it would be helpful if you would attend that meeting because that’s where we get filled in on some of these things and maybe that’s why you’re feeling a little…off to the side.  You know, that offer is always open—10 am Monday morning—if you’d like to come into the fold, maybe find out some of these discussions?  It would be helpful.”

This comment is met with more catcalls from the audience, and deservedly so, for two reasons, in my opinion.

secret meetingFirst and foremost, you have a glaring transparency issue.  These Monday morning meetings are Pearson’s meetings.  Since these meetings are non-public and unadvertised, only one other Supervisor, besides Pearson, can attend this meeting without violating Sunshine Laws.

In the old days, the Board used to have a monthly “Staff Meeting” on the third Wednesday morning of every month, except those meetings were advertised and the public was invited to attend.  The public rarely did attend, mostly because of the inconvenient time of day. And because all of the monthly meetings were advertised at once in January, this satisfied the letter of the Sunshine law.  I ended the Staff Meeting practice when I was Chairman of the Board because I felt too much business was being done out of the public eye.

Enter John Pearson, and we are right back to weekday morning “Staff Meetings,” except these are not advertised and the public is NOT invited to attend.

Yet here, at these Secret Monday Morning meetings, where the public is not permitted to attend, that’s where all the discussion and the decisions on Township matters are taking place.

Second point: here is Helene Calci, a woman who, because of her own busy schedule, only attended a handful of evening Township meetings prior to her election last fall, inviting Phil Barker into the fold.  My reaction to this statement was akin to biting into a piece of tinfoil.  Helene Calci has been politically involved in Township matters for all of six months.  Phil Barker has spent the last 17 years as a Township Supervisor and the six years before that on the Township Planning Commission.  Inviting him “into the fold” is not only arrogant presumption on her part, but her tone suggests that she is actually blaming Barker for not blowing off his job to attend Pearson’s secret meetings—which he can only attend if Higgins, Vagnozzi or Calci herself have not already decided to attend.

Barker then, very reasonably, asks that notes from these meetings be distributed.  Calci responds to this by asking Township manager Tieperman, “Don’t you distribute a debriefing memo on those meetings?”  When questions are shouted from the audience, Calci responds that Tieperman sends a debriefing memo to the Board every Monday morning, to which both Barker and Tieperman reply, “Not every Monday morning.”

So here is another duty to give to Tieperman: take notes of Pearson’s Secret Monday Morning meeting at 10 am, type them up, and distribute them in time for the rest of the Board to digest them before the 7pm Monday evening meeting.

The problem here is not the communication surrounding these meetings; the problem is that these meetings are happening at all.

Vagnozzi kind of sums up this point in his remarks, correctly stating that the entire point of the public meetings is to have discussion and debate on issues concerning the public, in public.

Things get even more interesting when Higgins finally breaks her silence by jumping into the hole with her own shovel and confirms the decision making process happening outside of a public meeting by explaining that the equipment purchase only came up that morning, and since it was a cost savings, it seemed like a “no brainer.”

Calci then doubles down on those comments and says,

“And again, that hasn’t been decided on, it just was a big cost saving and that’s what we’re trying to do moving forward with the fitness center, finding where we can save costs, and that’s why that was brought up.  Now whether or not we’ll vote on it or pass it….?”

Yello legal padA few things here:  First of all, it most certainly was decided upon.  The only reason Calci is backpedaling here is because Pearson found himself in hot water on Sunshine Law violations at the beginning of the meeting, having been caught stating on the record, from prepared notes, that they HAD, in fact, made a decision about this very thing.  A reminder, from Pearson’s written statement that started off the discussion:

“So here are our intentions.  We intend to purchase the equipment for $11,000 and not renew our lease for $38,000.”

We were told repeatedly at the last meeting that the closing of the fitness center was not about dollars and cents.  We were told that it was about serving more of the community.  all about the moneyBut here’s Calci, effectively tipping the Board’s hand and admitting to the agenda behind the closure of the Fitness Center.  And I’m skipping ahead a little bit here, but while we started off the meeting with Pearson’s Great Mea Culpa of 2018, the Board (at least three members) are not changing directions with the fitness center.  All they end up doing here is kicking the can down the road.  They don’t plan on re-opening the Center at 6AM, and they certainly don’t plan on marketing it to involve more of the community.

Calci admits here that the closing of the Rec Center is, in fact, about dollars and cents and all they have done is give it an 18 to 24 month reprieve, during which time they will strangle the lifeblood out of it and membership will drop, as members look to another venue knowing that the Rec Center is going to close.  In fact, Collegeville’s Anytime Fitness already got the word and distributed flyers to the cars in the parking lot during the meeting.

Solicitor Joe Bresnan weighs in on the Sunshine Law question, and states that the advantage of the Monday morning meeting is that two supervisors can meet and they don’t constitute a quorum of the Board, therefore Sunshine Laws are not breached.

Bresnan goes to great lengths to mitigate the question of a violation by tap dancing around semantics —perhaps use of the “royal we” is inappropriate.

Pearson just mis-spoke, is all.

It’s a feature, not a bug, of the newly expanded Board.

While this discussion has been happening, Barker has been busy locating the legendary debriefing email on his laptop.  Barker then states that he’s looking at it right now and there no mention of the rec center discussion.

Pearson then gets defensive, grilling Barker on whether or not he got the FAQs, (which were distributed in the Friday packet and linked below) and then he backpedals on saying that no decisions have been made.

Higgins then just wants to call it a “mis-statement.”

Pearson, at this point, is done being put on the hot seat and decides it’s better to talk to the angry residents than continue to have to defend his complete contempt for Pennsylvania’s Sunshine laws.

apologize
I’m really, really sorry.  I apologize unreservedly.

Residents come up and express their displeasure with the original decision to close, and incredibly, some of them even thank Pearson for giving the decision another 18 to 24 months, as if it wasn’t his bone headed move that put the whole thing up for debate in the first place.  It’s more than a little disappointing that not even the public is willing to hold him completely accountable.  It was Barker and Vagnozzi, and the commenting members of the public at the last meeting, who made Pearson so uncomfortable that he had to bow to the pressure.  They stopped this item of Pearson’s Agenda of Petty Retribution; not Pearson.

There are some additional comments from the public regarding the future of the Rec Center, but most of the remarks are a rehash of what has already been discussed.  Some residents come up with some good ideas worth exploring, but it’s obvious, to me at least, that these ideas are falling on deaf ears.  Pearson wants to kill the fitness center.

The main takeaway is that this was a dumpster fire entirely of Pearson’s making; his grand gesture of “taking full responsibility” rings completely hollow as he hasn’t heard the concerns; he’s not changing direction, he’s simply kicking the can down the road.  He is not investing anything in trying to make the fitness center a profit center, or increase its usage to more of the community.

The infamous FAQ’s, which I did not receive upon entering, are scanned at the link below.

4 – Agenda Item #3 – Recreation Center FAQs

The $1,250,000 Transfer from Reserves

The Board approved Resolution 2018-23 which approved the transfer of $1.25 million from reserves into the capital fund and post-retirement healthcare.

Let me say that again.

The Board approved Resolution 2018-23 which approved the transfer of $1.25 million from reserves into the capital fund and post-retirement healthcare.

This resolution created a bit of a buzz in the audience.  Finance director Rich Livergood explained that the Township is short $500,000 in their post-retirement healthcare fund according to their actuaries.  And they need to transfer $750,000 into the capital expenditure fund to help with the costs on the administration building.

Why are they transferring money from reserves for the Administration building? The Township has financing in place to pay for that.

And how do they get caught $500,000 short of post-retirement healthcare benefits?

And weren’t residents told by these Democrats during last year’s election cycle that using cash to pay for capital projects was bad (even though Pearson himself signed off on that?)

It’s only July in a fiscal year ending in December and they are already transferring $1,250,000 out of Township reserves to meet budget.

Troubling.

Irreconcilable Differences

The Board adjourned into Executive Session at the end of the meeting.  Pearson invited the audience to stick around until they come back, but immediately staff begins cleaning up the chairs, so to my knowledge, no one stuck around.

An Executive Session is a meeting of a quorum (or more) of the Board of Supervisors outside of the public eye.  There are several reasons to justify an executive session, but mostly, they have to be regarding litigation, land purchase or personnel issues.  A quorum (majority) of the board cannot meet outside of a public meeting to make decisions on Township business.  Executive Sessions not only must be announced for the record, but the reason for the meeting must be announced as well.  The announced reason for this executive Session was to discuss personnel matters.

Upon reconvening, the Board voted to approve the severance package discussed during executive session.

Although I did not know it at the time, the Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services, Josh Overholt, had just tendered his resignation.

Please indulge your humble blogress in a bit of wanton speculation regarding another Board created quagmire: the Township’s Fire and EMS Services.

As was famously noted by this blog (HERE), the newly created Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night did not include the presumptive expert on the relevant subject matter, the Township’s paid Fire Chief, Josh Overholt.  In fact, as was meticulously documented on the UPT Board Meeting Notes of 5/21/18 (HERE), great pains were taken by Pearson and Pearson’s Girls® to specifically exclude Overholt from the committee while simultaneously attempting to add more members to the committee from the Black Rock Fire Company.

The slide show presented at the April 4 meeting regarding Fire and EMS had significant changes from the original presentation that was put together by Overholt.  Specifically:

  1. After citing “geographical challenges” as a primary concern in the 4/4 meeting, the Township instead moves ahead with relocating the Township’s paid daytime fire crew from their central location at the Black Rock Municipal campus to the Oaks fire station located in the south east corner of the Township. Overholt’s original presentation called for the merging of the volunteers with the Township paid staff only after the completion of the proposed new Fire and EMS Station at the Black Rock Municipal Campus.
  2. Training standards and minimum qualifications for the volunteer companies contracting with the Township were included in Overholt’s presentation. Those requirements were absent from the 4/4 presentation and have not been made a part of the Township’s Milestones.
  3. Overholt’s original presentation included a slide stating that both the Oaks and Mont Clare Stations struggle, but implied that the Mont Clare Station should be closed to effect cost savings—a point BRVFC leadership had asked the Township to help with for several years. The revised 4/4 presentation wants only to “evaluate the viability” of the Mont Clare Station while identifying possible upgrades to the Oaks station.  As we have seen, those improvements have moved forward with very little discussion from the Board.
goodbye
Hitting the road

Now, to be clear, I have not talked to Overholt, so what follows is pure speculation.  But hypothetically speaking, if I’m Josh Overholt, and I’m faced with implementing a series of Fire and EMS policies that directly contradict policies I recommended based on my hard-earned expertise and qualifications, I may just come to the conclusion that my expertise not only doesn’t matter, but further, that I may end up as the fall guy when the policies fail.  If I’m Josh Overholt, I might just bail out of my job.  And because I have some kind of leverage over my employer, if I’m Josh Overholt, I may be in a position to negotiate some sort of severance package that has to be approved in an Executive Session.

 

Hypothetically speaking, of course.  Needless to say, the Township’s decision on who will replace Overholt bears close watching.

Other Board Business

  • Chief Toomey recognized the following Upper Providence Police with commendations:
    • February 2018:  James Enright, Steve Dise and Shea Johnson recognized for saving a woman who slit her own throat on Station Avenue.
    • September 2017:  Sgt. Matt Tobin, Detective Pat Haines and Officer Shea Johnson professional conduct resulted in a successful prosecution of a burglary.
    • Sgt. Bill Dixon received a letter of special achievement for completion of a bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s University.  Received the criminal justice award for the student with the highest GPA for a criminal justice major with Alpha Sigma Lambda graduated Summa Cum Laude
  • Ashenfelter Bridge repair bid for design of replacement is tabled by Pearson with no discussion.
  • Tentative sketch plan for the BRW Health Center was approved; conditional use was approved at the last meeting.
  • The Board tables a recommendation by the Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night of appointing D’Huy engineering to complete the pre-design phase of the new Fire/EMS building at the Blackrock Campus. Total spend will be $18,500.
  • The Board appoints Maillie to perform the audit of the Township’s financials. In a change from past years, the Board approved Maillie for two years instead of it’s customary one year contract.
  • The Board adopted a series of PennDOT resolutions in connection with a previously awarded Green-Light-Go grant.
  • Tieperman reports that they have received four responses to their RFPs for the Medic Responder unit.  Staff is currently reviewing.
  • PennDOT proposing to finally reconstruct the culvert on 2nd Ave.
  • GSK has received their wetlands permit, so they can complete the trail along Black Rock Road.

Let the Sun Shine

Image result for let the sunshine 40 year old virgin

As is becoming more and more apparent, the only township decisions that actually matter are those decisions taking place somewhere other than at a scheduled, advertised and public Board of Supervisors meeting.

Regular readers have probably already discerned a pattern with this new Board.  The three newly elected Supervisors (Democrats, all) arrive at Monday evening meetings with prepared talking points and votes decided before any public discussion has taken place.  This doesn’t just happen occasionally; it happens

All.

The.

Time.

Is this the transparency you were promised with the expansion of the Five Member Board?  Was the systematic exclusion of the two Republican voices on the Board part of the “additional veiwpoints” you thought you’d get when you were told we needed more representation?Yello legal pad

Perhaps this is a good time to refresh readers on his earlier remarks; the remarks he prepared and wrote out in preparation for this meeting and read into the record from his yellow legal pad (emphasis mine):

As chairman of this board, I take full responsibility for putting the cart before the horse on this fitness center issue.  You are right.  We should have been more transparent about our decision to re-purpose the rec center building.  We should have taken the time to give you, the residents, the courtesy of letting you know our intentions.  So here are our intentions.  We intend to purchase the equipment for $11,000 and not renew our lease for $38,000.  The fitness center will remain open until we come up with a comprehensive plan to re-purpose this facility in the next 18 to 24 months.  We will do another survey to see what the majority for our residents want and we look forward to any positive input that those here tonight would like to contribute.

“Here are our intentions”  sounds an awful lot like a decision to me.

Calci then doubles down on the lack of transparency by telling the public all about Pearson’s Secret Monday Morning Meetings that only a select few are briefed upon.

Higgins puts the cherry on top by explaining that the decision to purchase the equipment was a “no-brainer.”

To be clear: the problem here is not that Barker can’t, or won’t attend Pearson’s secret Monday morning meetings.

The problem is that these meetings are even happening at all.

One of the neat tricks of expanding the Board of Supervisors from three to five members, is that having a discussion with another Supervisor outside of a public meeting no longer constitutes a quorum.  On a three-member Board, two members constitute a quorum; on a five member Board, three members constitute a quorum. I think John Pearson believes that as long as he doesn’t have a quorum of the Board present in the same room, he’s not violating Sunshine Laws because, as the Greg Brady Exact Words rule goes, he’s only talking to one Board member at a time.

Exact words conseq
Were those your exact words, Greg?

And maybe he’s correct, technically, but this practice, which has been going on since the new board members took office, certainly violates the spirit of the law.  And the Open records statute is very clear on one point: the Board cannot make decisions outside of a public meeting.

We all know how “Exact Words” worked out for Greg Brady.  Let’s see how it works out for John Pearson.

Voter Fraud Alert!

As covered in a previous post, MCRC Leadership was more than a little miffed when some of their endorsed state committee candidates showed up on the Republican Club ticket.   Below is an email from Executive Director Jim Saring addressed to all endorsed State Committee candidates regardng the arrival of the first Republican Club mailing piece:

Saring Process

So what do they think of the endorsement proces?  Well, apparently not much out in the Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth.  Here is the newsletter sent out by Chairman Liz Havey via email under the subject line “Voter Fraud Alert!” yesterday:

Fooled1fooled2

Missing from the list of endorsed candidates on this official communication is the name of Gil Cox.  Gil Cox was endorsed for State Committee by a quorum of the Montgomery County Republican Committee at an endorsement convention held on February 1, 2018.

Chuck Wilson, the last name on that list, was not endorsed at the MCRC Endorsement meeting.

But Gil Cox also sinned against the Leadership of MCRC by simply appearing on the Republican Club ballot in addition to MCRC’s endorsed ballot (and presumably refused to pay the $1,000 sin tax levied by Chairman Bill Donnely).

So here are my questions to the few remaining committee members who voted at the February 1 endorsement meeting:

  • Were you asked by any official of MCRC whether you wanted to rescind your endorsement of Gil Cox?
  • Are you ok with Gil Cox’s name being removed from a list of endorsed candidates on an official communication from the Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth (“RCLMN”)?
  • If you are ok with that, are you ok with his name being arbitrarily replaced with that of Chuck Wilson?

I can only assume the Committee people reading this cast their endorsement votes in good faith.

So I am wondering:

How does it feel to not only have YOUR endorsement vote summarily cancelled by a few elite individuals running your party…

…but to also have that endorsement vote simply transferred to an individual you did NOT support? 

It really IS nice to know what some people—especially MCRC Leadership—think about the endorsement process.

Vote wisely tomorow.  Here’s how:

RCMC Ballot

Swamp Thing

So fellow Montgomery County Republicans:  Are you tired of all of this winning?

If you were a Republican candidate in the municipal elections last fall, are you forever grateful for MCRC’s efforts on your behalf?

Or are you, like me, like so many I have talked to, utterly surprised at the level of energy and passion of which this Party is capable only when their comfy power structure is legitimately threatened?

doing somethimg
I feel like there is something I’m supposed to be doing….

Are you, like me, wondering where this energy and passion was last fall?

Are you wondering where this energy and passion was when the Democrat-controlled County Voter Services lost thousands of absentee ballots during the 2016 Presidential Election?

Where was this energy when Montgomery County Voter Services was denying our candidates entry on to the Ballot last February for typos?

Where was this energy when I was begging them to help me resolve the many campaign finance issues I documented HERE?

How many Montgomery County Commissioners’ meetings did someone from MCRC attend to fight the politicized Voter Services office on your behalf?

How many press releases did they send out on behalf of Republican candidates?

Why did MCRC only run one judge for Court of Common Pleas when there were two positions up for grabs?

Where was all this money for mailers and robocalls when our municipal candidates were getting pummeled by the Democrats’ mailers and GOTV operations last fall?

When the County Commissioners raised taxes for two years in a row, what did MCRC have to say about that?

What case have they made to the voters for Republican governance in recent memory?  What have they done to counter the energized far left?

The last time we saw this level of energy was when the Party leadership mobilized against another Republican, Joe Gale, and as a consequence, we let Josh Shapiro waltz right into re-election and every County candidate MCRC supported lost. Josh Shapiro waited a whole seven days after his second swearing-in to announce his run for Attorney General, and a year later, our former Chairman is working for him in a specially created hack job.

So. Much. Winning.

Over half of the local Committee seats are empty, mostly due to resignations.  But where there is some poor sap willing to volunteer, MCRC won’t make the appointment if he’s not the right sort of sap.  And where there are vacancies in Area Leadership, MCRC refuses to appoint Vice Chairs if they are not loyal to MCRC Leadership.

reasonable
Trust the endorsement process

For the lay people out there, a little primer on the inside baseball:  At next Tuesday’s primary election, you will see races for local and state Republican Committee people on the ballot.  Your local committee people are the folks you see working the polls on Election Day and handing out material for candidates.  The State Committee people are typically a subset of this group, and they meet in Harrisburg to offer support for statewide candidates.  Usually, these people are handpicked by the Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Committee and reliably loyal to him.  This allows the Chairman to make deals for statewide office; he can make promises on delivering or withholding support on behalf of Montgomery County.

Typically, endorsed State Committee Candidates are endorsed because they cement the existing power structure.  They were hand selected by the Chairman because the Chairman feels comfortable telling statewide candidates he can deliver their votes.  Theoretically, anyone can run for State Committee, but the MCRC Chairman frowns on that, for all the reasons previously mentioned.  For an idea on how much he frowns on that, please refer to the correspondence below:

Letter from Chairman 042318

Ah yes.  The beatings will continue until morale improves.

sadswampthing
I’ve finally done it.  I’ve killed the Party.

Supporting endorsed candidates is apparently only important enough for the Chairman to rouse himself when the Chairman himself has personally endorsed them.  When Upper Providence Republican Committee members were supporting my primary opponent, I was told that there was nothing in the by-laws preventing them from doing that.  But when Joe Gale ran unendorsed for County Commissioner in 2015, supporting him was treated as treason by then-Chairman Mike Vereb.  In fact, even supporting Joe Gale in the general election—after the voters decided—was treated as treason.  And this regime has done nothing but continue to foster further division.

Selective enforcement of the by-laws in any organization is a morale killer.

It often occurs to me that Party leadership has forgotten that MCRC exists to support its candidates; the candidates are not supposed to be endorsed based on the amount of support they can give the Party. And lest you think Party Leadership is limited to Bill Donnelly, think again.  There is a whole squad of folks up there running this failing circus and they are already lining up their sock puppets for a run at the officers’ spots which go up for election in a few weeks.

Don’t think for one minute that this whole temper tantrum is about anything other than a threat to the current MCRC power structure. The highlighted section in the email below is from Ralph Grasso, municipal leader of Lower Merion Township, and rumored candidate for the Vice Chairman of MCRC in a few weeks:

Grasso Letter

Point of full disclosure:  Mr. Grasso signed my petition for State Committee.  And yes, this is about the future leadership of MCRC, a battle in which he is every bit as engaged as the Republican Club, despite his claims of the moral high ground.  Otherwise he’d have no reason to write this letter.

Here’s another interesting email from the Executive Director, Jim Saring, actually threatening an injunction against the Republican Club for supporting an MCRC endorsed candidate on their ballot!

Saring Injunction

Are they really talking about filing legal action against the Republican Club for supporting their endorsed candidates?  You may be thinking that this is insanity.  Why wouldn’t candidates want all the support they can get to win an election?

Because this has very little to do with the Candidates themselves and everything to do with who controls the keys to MCRC.

mustcrush
Must. Crush. Tom. Ellis.

There are vocal and hardworking folks on the Republican Committee, good soldiers,  who will tell you the problem in the Party is not leadership.  The problem, they say, is “divisive” folks like me, and Tom Ellis, and several others working with the Republican Club. The good soldiers tell us that “for the good of the Party,” we should look the other way when we see problems in the Party, suck it up when the Party attacks us personally, and for God’s sake, shut up.

Folks involved with the Republican Club of Montgomery County don’t blindly march in lockstep with the Party Leadership. We dare to speak up when we see something is wrong, and we want it to change for the better.  The Republican Club believes that it is our current leadership who is divisive and vindictive.

This is a post I didn’t want to write, let alone post.  Who needs to stick their neck out only to be subject to these type of unhinged and often shadowy attacks on one’s characters simply for speaking up for one’s beliefs?  Personally, as the subject of more than my fair share of this type of treatment, I’m more than a little tired of it, and that’s why this post was never going to be published.  But the events of the last few days have left me distraught and disgusted, and so ashamed of so many of my fellow party members, I simply cannot remain silent.

Because silence is consent.  There is something deeply wrong with an organization that relies on fear of reprisal to extract loyalty from it’s members.

The filthy ad-hominem attack on Tom Ellis, by pathetically using a reheated and thoroughly discredited 14-year-old smear campaign from Joe Hoeffel, is really beyond the pale.  The meat of this latest attack, as usual, was distributed anonymously, just like certain recent and notable “news” stories, mysterious videos and whisper campaigns that have attacked the character of other dedicated Republicans who dared challenge this leadership.  It’s no wonder that people are fleeing this party.

gentleswamp
Fly away, little Democrat.  I won’t harm you.

When was the last time you saw MCRC go after a Democrat like that?  Have they targeted Sean Kilkenney, who is collecting municipal solicitorships like charms on a Pandora Bracelet while happily dancing on the edge of the Pawlowski scandal in Allentown?  Or how about Val Arkoosh, who was the architect of the mess at Voter Services?  Or Josh Shapiro, who has wiped his feet all over the red carpet MCRC laid all the way to Harrisburg for him?

No.  Our party saves its best energy only to unleash it against one of our own.

Ask yourself this:  Is the appropriate response for mailers accurately suggesting that the endorsed state committee candidates are beholden to the Party bosses, a wholesale character smear against a dedicated Republican, or is that maybe a little over the top?

If you are a Republican and you are happy with the performance that the Montgomery County Republican Party has turned in for the last few years, if you think silencing dissent with the threat of character assassination is a great way to foster an esprit de corps, then by all means, voting for the endorsed candidates is one way to help ensure that MCRC will continue to deliver the same super awesome results into the foreseeable future.

But, if you want to signal to the rank and file that it is time for a change in their inept leadership (and it is), then you can do that by voting for unendorsed candidates.  They are listed below.

Let’s start winning elections again.

515920-050818

 

UPT Board Meeting Notes 4/16/18 Episode 6: EMERGENCY!

I arrived at the 4/16 Township meeting a couple minutes late on purpose: I specifically wanted to avoid John Pearson’s tedious recitation of his handpicked passage from Chicken Soup for the SoulCrowd outside Meeting 1While I thankfully missed Pearson’s pocket sermon, unfortunately, the meeting room and the reception area outside the meeting room were absolutely packed.  I couldn’t get into the meeting room, so I missed the promotion and awards ceremonies. I was finally able to find a seat in the room after those ceremonies were over and some of the people cleared out.

It should be noted that PA Municipal Code states that the Board of Supervisors cannot hold a meeting if all those wishing to attend are denied access to the meeting.  It is a sunshine law violation.  I can only assume that everyone who wanted to attend the 4/16 meeting stuck around till the hall cleared out and did eventually attend.

Crowd inside meetingAnd, just to note, this is the second time in their first four months in office that the current meeting facilities were proven inadequate to serving the public.

As usual, no embedding is permitted, so the meeting can be found HERE.

We’re going to take things a little out of order and get to the heart of the meeting, which was the passage of two resolutions regarding the future of Fire and Emergency Services in Upper Providence Township.  The rest of the meeting’s business is summarized at the end of the post.  This meeting clocks in at 1:45, so it was yet another marathon session for your humble blogress at the keyboard.

Fire Ordinance

coveryourbuttThe Agenda only contained line items approving two Ordinances, one for Fire and one for EMS, but no elaboration of what those ordinances actually contained, which were a rather lengthy outline of various milestones the Township intends to meet for the provision of Fire and EMS services.  Pearson seemed to want to gloss over these ordinances (“You’ve all seen this…”) and get them passed with no discussion, which Vagnozzi thwarted, insisting on presenting a summary on the reasons the Township was proposing to implement more full-time staff, build on a combined volunteer/career fire service and construct a centralized fire and EMS facility.

Evan Brandt, of the Pottstown Mercury, does a great job on his own blog with the recitation of these milestones.  The Fire Ordinance Milestones are as follows:

A. Phase 1 Milestones: – (0 – 6 months):

  1. Form a joint Township – Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company steering committee to address the integration of career and volunteer firefighters who shall operate as one combination fire department.
  2. Identify space at the Oaks Station and relocate daytime career staff to the Oaks station.
  3. Consider supporting a volunteer stipend program or volunteer live-in program to bolster the volunteer response.

B. Phase 2 Milestones: – (6 – 36 months) 

  1. On or before October 1, 2018 finalize the design, bid specifications and cost scope for a new emergency services facility.
  2. Transition career firefighter/EMTs to twelve-hour shifts (6:00am to 6:00pm) seven days per week beginning January 1, 2019
  3. Fund the hiring of two full-time career firefighter/EMTs and the transition of existing career firefighters to 12-hour shifts as part of the 2019 budget.
  4. On or before January 1, 2019 advertise and award bids for a new emergency services facility. April 16, 2018 BOS Meeting Page 148 of 162
  5. Relocate career firefighters to the new emergency services facility upon completion of the facility which shall act as the main hub of fire service delivery to Upper Providence Township.
  6. Develop a plan for the disposition of the Mont Clare Fire Station and support Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company in evaluating and making needed upgrades to the Oaks Fire Station.

C. Phase 3 Milestones: – (3 – 5 years)

  1. Consider forming a committee of elected and appointed officials from Upper Providence Township, Trappe, Collegeville and Royersford Boroughs to explore ways to improve cost efficiencies and to develop a regional solution for providing fire services.
  2. Seek regional grant support and professional consulting assistance from Harrisburg to help forge a realistic, regional fire services blueprint by 2025.
  3. Explore the formation of a Council of Governments to maintain a regular dialogue among area elected officials, not only on fire-related issues but all areas of municipal service.

Though the ordinance passed unanimously, there was some discussion over costs and the particulars of the prescribed milestones.

Most of this discussion centered around the re-location of the Township’s engine 93 and the daytime township staff from their centralized location at the BlackRock campus to the Oaks Firehouse on Greentree Road and the implementation of a stipend plan.

Heartburn
Don’t worry.  You are going to get paid, Johnny.

What’s interesting about this discussion is that there does not seem to have been any thought regarding the mechanics of how all this will work, except amongst the Democrats on the Board.  Barker questioned how the stipend program will be controlled, with specifics on how volunteers will get paid, and how many volunteers will get paid.  Calci interrupted with the admonishment not to get “too deep in the weeds” right now, while Pearson assured everyone that the volunteers who get paid the stipend will be “qualified.”

And while no specifics were offered, the Democrats’ collective reaction indicates that plan, at least in concept, was dictated by them.  Perhaps details on how the volunteers will be paid will be hashed out in the coming weeks after Quizzo at the Fitz.  Or maybe at that private meeting in the side office, that took place immediately after the Board meeting, between Pearson and the Kaspers.

So is this the right place to mention that the difference in funding for Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company is $138, 676 between the old fire funding formula and the new one passed last May that the Democrats politicized with this mailer? 1MailersideA

I think it is, especially since there has been nothing but silence from the Democrats regarding restoring that funding.  As detailed below, the difference between the ambulance option and the medic responder option—conservatively—is $87,000.  Yet surprisingly, this Board, who made such a business of the change in fire funding, has made no attempt to restore that funding. Indeed, they are proposing to spend over ONE AND A HALF TIMES MORE THAN THE DIFFERENCE on their preferred, vastly more expensive medic responder option for EMS alone.  Of course, they are also now proposing to actually pay the volunteers a stipend, so maybe the fire funding formula wasn’t the critical public safety issue we were led to believe it was last fall.

The Township has already proposed (but not approved) an approximate $207,000 increase in fire funding to take the township career staff to 12 hour shifts, seven days a week, a plan which will be implemented with the 2019 budget.

EMS Ordinance

I’ll defer to Evan Brandt’s blog once again to outline the particulars of the ordinance since Pearson didn’t want to go over it in the meeting.

A. Phase 1 Milestones: 

  1. On or before June 1, 2018 prepare and circulate a competitive request for proposal (RFP) for staffing an ALS medic responder twenty-four (24) hours per day, seven (7) days per week.
  2. On or before August 1, 2018, present for the Board of Supervisors’ consideration a written agreement with the contracted agency.
  3. On or before August 15, 2018, and in compliance with Commonwealth bidding laws, procure and upfit a vehicle to provide an ALS medic responder capability for use by the contracted agency utilizing proceeds from the DOW grant.
  4. On or before September 15, 2018 formally deploy the ALS medic responder at an interim, centralized location within the Township.
B. Phase 2 Milestones: 
  1. On or before October 1, 2018 finalize the design, bid specifications and cost scope for a new emergency services facility, which will include a dual design for a future full-service ALS ambulance.
  2. In preparing the 2019 operating and capital budget, increase the EMS portion of the public safety levy to fund the ALS medic responder.
  3. On or before January 1, 2019 advertise and award bids for a new emergency services facility.
  4. Maintain current QRS capability through January 1, 2019 and expand QRS capability after January 1, 2019 to coincide with expanded firefighter/EMT shifts.
  5. Relocate the ALS medic responder to the new emergency services facility upon its completion.
  6. Annually evaluate EMS call volume and response statistics beginning in February of 2019 for the prior year to determine when it may be appropriate to deploy an ALS ambulance.
C. Phase 3 Milestones: – Over the next 3-5 years and before deploying an ALS ambulance:
  1. Consider forming a committee of elected and appointed officials from Upper Providence Township, Trappe, Collegeville and Royersford Boroughs to explore ways to improve cost efficiencies and to develop a regional solution for providing emergency medical services.
  2. Seek regional grant support and professional consulting assistance from Harrisburg to help forge a realistic, regional EMS blueprint by 2025.
  3. Explore the formation of a Council of Governments to maintain a regular dialogue among area elected officials, not only on EMS-related issues but all areas of municipal service.

Predictably, there was quite a bit more discussion on this ordinance, as the Ambulance/Medic Responder decision is the most contentious issue in front of the Board—at least this week.

johnnyandroy
State of the Art

Barker led off the discussion, noting that the Medic Responder option seems to be an old process that was popular in the 1980’s.  Barker states that he made some calls to Montgomery County and that there is no one in the County that uses this old format anymore.  This model was abandoned because so many people became paramedics.

Pearson jumps in, insisting that they didn’t do away with the Medic Responder model and that there are other facilities that use it, but he doesn’t know which ones they are.  Floundering in deep water, he then throws it immediately to Josh Overholt, Director of Upper Providence Fire and EMS, to rescue him.

Overholt responds with a bit of background on the Medic Responder model, stating that they were originally provided by hospitals.  Overholt then elaborates:

There were some concerns that putting an ambulance here may actually take calls from some of the agencies and we could ultimately hurt those agencies.  So where it is an older model, it kind of fits what we’re looking to do if that’s still a concern.

Bad idea
Trying to remember where there are existing medic responder units….

Overholt, notably, does not offer the names of any municipalities within Montgomery County where this model is in use, but his answer is instructive in identifying the majority of the Board’s motivation for the Medic Responder.  Overholt further notes that the Medic Responder would address response times but it is not transport capable.  Who will actually be staffing this unit, be it EMTs or Paramedics, will be determined when the responses to the RFP are returned.

Barker then asks, if the transport capable ambulance is the only one capable of billing for services, what would be the incentive for an EMS provider to bid to staff the Medic Responder in Upper Providence, since the medic responder will not be able to bill?

The answer is that the taxpayers of Upper Providence will pay.  It will be a Township expense, to the tune of $250,000 per year.

At 108:15, Vagnozzi has “a couple of comments:”

My largest concern is cost—and just to make sure nobody tosses it back in my face that human life should not have a cost, my point is, I agree with that, but when there is a cheaper alternative that is every bit or more effective, then the proposal cost does come into play.

Vagnozzi reiterates that the Medic Responder will cost the township $250,000 per year and he sole source of revenue for that operation will be from Upper Providence Township taxpayers. Citing the PA State ALS equipment checklist, Vagnozzi notes that the estimate for the vehicle is, by his calculation, probably in excess of $100,000 and that the proposed Medic Responder unit is, equipment-wise, essentially “an ambulance without a stretcher.”  He notes the dichotomy of the Democrats’ resistance to purchasing the ambulance, but their willingness to purchase a Medical Responder unit.

These numbers don't add up
These numbers don’t add up, Dixie.

Vagnozzi also says he disagrees with the figures presented at the April 4 meeting and that the budgeted numbers are short about $100,000 in donations and subscriptions. Additionally, the quote for the operating costs of the ambulance are overestimated by about $65,000 per year.

Vagnozzi states that there seems to be agreement on the Board that in a few years the Township will be going with an ambulance, so why wait?  Why purchase a vehicle we will need to replace before it outlives its useful life?

Pearson then insists that he’s not going to jeopardize the outside services to Trappe, Royersford “or wherever else these guys go,” and “that’s the reason we’re doing it this way.  One of the reasons we’re doing it this way.”  Mr. Transparency, clearly wanting to get out of this discussion of life and death matters in the Township, says:

And Al, we’ve beat this thing up to death, some of the same people are in the audience here.  You’ve gone over this a million bazillion times, I understand your angst about all of this…uhhhh, can you kinda wrap it up a little bit?

chips
This is a pretty groovy piece of equipment, Jon.

This lays the groundwork for the heart of the disagreement.  While Vagnozzi continues to insist he agrees with everything on the resolution but the medic response unit, he acknowledges the Democrats’ concerns about a new Upper Providence ambulance service affecting the existing squads.

Vagnozzi says each squad must operate their business efficiently and that,

There is no doubt in my mind that Upper Providence is subsidizing EMS delivery to Phoenixville and some other towns around here.

If the squads aren’t making money, they need to go to the municipalities they serve and ask for money.  Vagnozzi states baldly that the Democrats are putting the health and well being of the squads over and above that of our residents.

idontthinkso
I’m not sure you understand your responsibilities here.

Pearson counters with his argument that if we jeopardize the soundness of the other squads we are jeopardizing the well-being of the community and he’s not going to tell any of the squads how to run their businesses.

Pausing here for a time out, but excuse me, Mr. Pearson:  Then why are the squads dictating to you how you do Township business?  The mandate of the Board is to provide health and safety to our residents.  If the squads’ manner of doing business is the only thing that prevents the Board from doing that in the best, most cost-efficient manner, then the squads need to adjust to the changing times, not lobby the Board to maintain the status quo.

It’s at this point at 1:17:00 in that Calci interrupts with, “I have something to say,” and Calci Prepared Notesproceeds to read from prepared notes.  Higgins reads a prepared statement immediately thereafter, but before I quote these statements in their entirety (and offer my thoughts on each) it should be noted that once again, there was no executive session to report, yet both Higgins and Calci (or Pearson’s “girls,” as he likes to call them) take the unprecedented step of preparing what are essentially “signing statements” to justify their votes.  This is just one of many moments that looks like a choreographed performance by this board.  Sunshine laws prohibit a quorum of the board meeting in a non-public session, and there are too many of these moments of complete synchronicity amongst the Democrats to ignore.

Calci’s prepared statement:

After an exhaustive 360 degree look at fire and EMS, the staff including Tim Tieperman, Bryan Bortnichak, and Josh Overholt, came up with a comprehensive presentation for the residents and supervisors of Upper Providence Township.  They spoke with subject matter experts from within out Township, such as Oaks Fire Station President Joe LoCasale and the various EMS agencies that serve the area.  They collaborated with experts outside of our township, such as Cheltenham Township and Montgomery County, even reaching up to the state level to make sure what they were representing and bringing to us was on track and made sense for our situation.  These discussions helped formulate forward thinking solutions for the increasing emergency services needs for our residents.  A matrix was created scoring the various solutions.  The dashboard scoring points us to the best recommendation for the Township, which I am voting in favor of.  As conditions change, such as an increase in call volume, enough to support an additional ambulance, we will re-evaluate the fire and EMS situation.  I want to take this moment and thank the many people who worked hard in order to provide me with the information to vote on this resolution.  We are fortunate to have such competent staff.

A few thoughts on Calci’s statement.

First, the appeal to authority, while a nice try, isn’t going to work.  Neither Cheltenham, Montgomery County nor Harrisburg knows how best to run Fire and EMS in Upper Providence Township.  That is what YOU were elected to do.

Second, the laying off of responsibility for this plan on to staff is also lame, especially in light of Vagnozzi’s viable claim that staff was bullied into this recommendation.  Backing up Vagnozzi’s assertion is the fact that the Medic Responder option is an option that was never explored, or considered, until literally 12 days prior to this meeting when it was rolled out as part of the special Fire and EMS meeting.  In January, the Democrats were crying that they needed more time to study this issue because they had only been in office for 35 days, then at the April 4 meeting, they had ZERO questions about this brand new, never-before-proposed option.  While they all continue to insist that this is “staff’s” presentation, in the face of the facts on the ground, this statement simply defies credibility.  This is the Democrats’ option.  Why won’t they own it?

Third, let’s talk about that scoring matrix.

8h AltScoring

Cost:  I am not sure why the ambulance is getting only a 2 score here, since the Township has to choose between two options; it does not get to choose “none of the above,” which presumably would be the option that would earn a 3. Therefore, the comparison between cost options is only between the two options and one is clearly much better than the other.  The medic responder, by ALL accounts, is the more expensive option; the costs never go down, and they are not offset by Ambulance company billing or subscriptions.  Why isn’t the Ambulance getting a 3, since it is actually much more cost effective?

we aren't buying it
Ready to respond with uptime availability

Response Times and Crew Uptime Availability:  Why are these two separate line items on the matrix?  I am not sure what metrics went into these two line items or for that matter, what differentiates them, so I filed a Right to Know request with the Township last week to get that information.  To my mind, they should be one line item, but hopefully the results of the RTK will clarify these line items on the matrix.

Impact on Regional Providers:  This line item is the primary reason the Democrats have cited for being against the implementation of an ambulance, but the actual data to back up this impact has been anecdotal at best.  I also filed a Right to Know request for the information that went into scoring this particular data point.

Exclusively Serves UPT:  I think we settled this one during the last meeting and, interestingly, this point wasn’t even brought up at all in the discussion on 4/16—almost as if the Democrats were told, yes, a medic responder WILL indeed leave the Township boundaries, if necessary.  As an aside, it’s awfully ironic that for all of this concern for the community at large, the Democrats don’t seem all that anxious to share this newly-established resource with our neighbors.

Higgins prepared notesQuality of Service to Residents:  Isn’t this really the only metric that should matter?  Doesn’t this one line item factor in all of the other data points?  It’s almost as if the matrix was specifically designed to give them cover.

At 1:18:51, Higgins reads her “signing statement:”

My comment is, I am voting for the ALS responder unit for all of the reasons I’ve stated in the past.  We’re not an island unto ourselves; we have to work together with our neighbors.  We have to work regionally, such as a council of governments of C.O.G.  We are highly dependent on the other agencies whether or not we get our own ambulance or have an ALS.  When our unit is busy or needs more help, we need the other agencies to back us up.  All units get called out to other calls all the time and there’s no guaranty that any specific unit will be at any specific spot at any specific time.  Because we’re dependent upon the other agencies, we don’t need to negatively impact them financially.  The Hippocratic Oath says, ‘First do no harm.’ Response times was given as the single most important issue. The ALS Medic Responder answers this problem while providing advanced life support just like an ambulance would while not offering transports which means it does not impact the other agencies in a negative way.  Finally, my guiding principle is to do what’s best for the Township as a whole, not just for one person, or one neighborhood or one business or one agency.  I look at the whole picture and try to pick the solution that helps the most people, hurts the fewest people while benefitting the community as a whole.

Oh, serving everyone and not individuals or neighbors.  Kind of like that Farm Preservation a few weeks back.

Vagnozzi’s response to this was,

I am shocked and dismayed. I didn’t need anything pre-written to read to the audience.  There is no doubt in my mind….that our staff was bullied by some members on this Board to produce a matrix that was favorable to the Medic Response Unit.

It’s at this point in the video that Calci can be heard whispering something unintelligible to Pearson, to which Pearson responds, “Not yet.”

To answer the earlier appeal to Cheltenham’s expertise, Barker asks if Cheltenham Township uses a medic responder.  When staff answers no, Barker continues:

Nowhere in Montgomery County is a medic responder unit used.  It is used in rural areas where there are not enough paramedics to man an ambulance and they use a medic responder to cover two or three different townships, maybe even a whole county.  There’s nobody that uses this model anymore.

By now, Pearson is visibly shaking his head and working up a self-righteous anger, kind of like Hulk Hogan when he was coming out of an Andre the Giant sleeper hold.  But instead of providing his own “signing statement” or some sort of rationale for his vote, Pearson instead launches into this:

The Times Herald on Friday, April 13, there was an egregious attack on this Board and our Township staff by one of our own Board members in regards to this fire and emergency services issue.  I spent my weekend contemplating just how to respond to this attack about the lies and accusations by this individual.  I chose to take the high road and not respond.  I’ll let the actions of this Board speak loud and clear to everybody up here.  It is our intention to serve the residents of this township with fidelity.  If you don’t know what that word means, look it up.  Fidelity.

While I nearly burst out laughing at John Pearson’s moralizing on the meaning of “fidelity” (a word I’m sure he looked up himself when he got the script for the promotion of Det. Sgt. Pat Haines earlier in the evening), I was also vividly reminded of Mike Vereb’s bout of righteous indignation in front of the Board several years ago, after I wrote a letter to the paper calling him out on his shenanigans. The Township was witness to similar huffing and puffing and all the attendant political theater that’s baked into the cake of a Mike Vereb visit.  It’s clear that Pearson has learned from his master well.  The only thing that was missing were the  “Hear! Hear’s!” of political sock puppets Chris Czop, Jim White and Pearson himself.

The letter in question is here:

VagnozziLTE

Now just a moment to address Pearson’s little diatribe: By reacting in such a way, he has chosen to react; this is not “taking the high road,” nor is it “not reacting.”  The fact that he spent the weekend chewing over how to respond to this letter, rather than contemplating the impact of the vote he was about to make, speaks volumes about his priorities and decision making process.

facepalmPearson’s style is to have everyone go along to get along up on the dias, after hashing things out in the backroom.  On more than one occasion, he has whined about Vagnozzi arguing points in a meeting that he insisted were settled before the meeting.  “I thought we agreed we weren’t going to do this,” is a now familiar Pearson trope.

Pearson and “his girls” are desperately trying to distance themselves as the architects of the Medic Responder reccommendation and attempting to shift the responsibility for this decision on staff.  They are trying, unsuccessfully, I think, to promote an appeal-to-authority narrative that they are doing this because staff said to do this.   Is the dog wagging the tail or is the tail wagging the dog?

Is this the transparency you voted for?

Anyway, unsurprisingly, the vote came down 3-2 in favor along party lines. The Democrats now own this.

Promotions and Life Saving Awards

As mentioned earlier, the room was packed because many folks came to see the Township recognize some extraordinary individuals.

First, Detective Pay Haines was promoted to Detective Sergeant in the police department.  Sgt Haines has served Upper Providence since 1998 and, I can say from first hand experience, that his promotion is well deserved.  Congratulations Detective Sergeant Haines!

Lifesaving1Josh Overholt then took the floor and recognized the life-saving efforts of bystanders and first responders in saving the lives of two people who were stricken by sudden cardiac arrest.  Maeve Quinn is fifteen years old and was stricken while playing softball at Pope John Paull II High School.  The quick work of her coaches in the use of an AED and CPR saved her life while awaiting the arrival of the ambulance.

livesaving2Joe Gold was stricken on the job and was saved by a co-worker and a 911 operator who gave him instructions on CPR while awaiting the arrival of the ambulance.

Planning and Zoning Report

Since the Board doesn’t bother attending Planning and Zoning meetings any more (though I am pretty sure Barker still goes pretty regularly) Township Planner Geoff Grace is tasked with staying until the end of the meeting to give the Board a report.

  • Marchetti at 229 Blackrock Road is looking for a minor subdivision
  • Pulte at 1701 West Main Street is looking to change zoning from NC to R3 and put in Townhouses.
  • Future of Lidl site is undetermined at this point
  • DiVini Equities are coming in with a plan for a daycare and dental office at Route 29 in front of Patient First.
  • The Board approved the publishing of a preliminary opinion by the Township planner on the use a for the Institutional overlay parcel behind the Meadows for Providence Business Park III.  The Township Solicitor Joe Bresnan, explained that this is a safeguard for developers, which has the Township issue an opinion stating that the proposed development is generally compliant with the zoning.  It forces any challenges to the development up front, as opposed to after much time and effort has been expended by the developer.  The use proposed is for a private re-hab center.
  • On the next Planning Commission agenda May 3:
    • SEI variances
    • Wawa trash enclosure
    • Temporary signage at 429 Lewis Road.

Other business

  • The Board approved an application for a $20,000 matching grant with Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management to conduct multi-phased a transportation demand Management study.
  • The Board adopted the Montgomery County Hazard Mitigation Plan which will enable the Township to receive federal funds to address properties impacted by hazards.
  • The Board approved a stormwater conveyance and construction easement for the Founder’s Reserve development project on Valley View Drive
  • The Board approved a $31,585.63 change order to mill and overlay the Pavillion parking lot at the Black Rock campus.paving
  • The Board awarded paving contracts for six roads in the Township.
  • The Board announced Drug Takeback Day between 10 am and 2pm on April 28, 2018.  Unwanted prescription drugs can be dropped off at the police administration building during that time,

Arkoosh airs Dem dirty laundry in service to the Sisterhood

Can anyone please explain to me what, exactly, the Democrats mean when they talk about empowered women?

Are they women who are strong, self-assured and capable, or are they whiners who cower in the face of a primary challenge from a man?  Are they happy that legions of women are now “woke” and assertively marching to the polls, or are they worried that their fellow pussyhats are not smart enough to vote for anything other than name recognition?

In liberal circles, there has been much clutching at pearls and calling for the swoon bottle in response to poor old Joe Hoeffel merely doing what Joe Hoeffel does, which is: run for office.  The tone from supposedly empowered females is almost universally accusatory towards Joe:  Why are you playing the spoiler in this election? Why are you putting your mean old name recognition up against our strong, independent, capable women?

You are denying our ladyparts a seat at the table!  How DARE you!

As if the only reason that Joe Hoeffel is running for office is so that it doesn’t fall into the grasping little hands of Madeleine Dean.  Joe Hoeffel could no sooner deny his nature as breathe.

Joe Hoeffel, a Democrat Party stalwart in Montgomery County since, well, as long as I can remember, is now being asked to leave the race by Montco Commissioner Val Arkoosh in a way that can only be described as the airing of dirty Democrat laundry.  WHYY:

Arkoosh said Hoeffel’s name recognition from his years in politics could attract voters, but she said she remembers what county government was like after Hoeffel finished his last term as commissioner in 2012.

“I was very disappointed to find the mess that Joe left behind at the county, and I continue to this day to clean that mess up,” Arkoosh said in the video.

She cited the depletion of the county’s financial reserves, its failure to make payments to the pension fund, a bond downgrade, and “a grand jury report that raised serious ethical questions about Joe’s behavior.”

Arkoosh’s facebook video can be viewed in it’s entirety below.

It’s interesting that Val is co-opting that tired tag line of Josh Shapiro’s, a MAN, in order to make her point about Joe Hoeffel’s maleness getting in the way of the ladies, especially since the bulk of that “mess” was “cleaned up” long before Val was appointed to the Board as a result of Leslie Richards departure to become head of PennDOT under Governor Wolf.

But I am always more than willing to revisit that chapter of Montgomery County history, and I’m grateful to Val for bringing it up.  Democrats have always escaped scrutiny during this era, thanks primarily to the high volume of The Bruce Castor Show, a non-stop media circus that kept the press focused on Castor’s personal internecine Republican Party wars as opposed to what his Board of County Commissioners was actually doing.

Hoeffel was one of three Montgomery County Commissioners during that term, along with Jim Matthews and Bruce Castor.  Even though there was much contention on that particular Board, (the press nicknamed them “the Bickersons,”) the vote was unanimous to invest $24 million of Montgomery County taxpayer money into the Norristown Studio Centre at Logan SquareAP_100129025282-768x536, a project that was being billed with much fanfare as “the Hollywood of the East.”  The “completed” project didn’t come close to living up to the hype and amounted only to a refurbished Sears/Ports of the World building and a parking garage.

In Montco circles, it is only quietly remembered that the Studio Centre project was Hoeffel’s baby, and that the former chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, (and, until just recently, the chairman of the PA State Democratic Party) Marcel Groen was the attorney for the project developer Charles Gallub.

Of the $56 million that was spent on this project, $24 million dollars of that was Montgomery County taxpayer money, all of which was lost when the developer claimed bankruptcy in October 2013.

In March 2014, Josh Shapiro, Bruce Castor and Leslie Richards voted unanimously to sell 220 acres of county-designated open space to fill the budget hole and cure the resultant downgrade of Montco’s bond rating that was created by the bankruptcy of the Studio Centre project.

The grand jury investigation into wrongdoing by County officials predictably went nowhere.  How all of that money was actually spent was never answered, and the whole sordid mess was neatly swept into the memory hole.

That is, until Val Arkoosh, to the abject horror of some Montco Dems, decided to bring it all up again.  This is the first time I can remember any Democrat calling out Joe Hoeffel by name for his part in his pet project going south.  I doubt there are many folks in Montco who even knew that there was a grand jury investigation into that administration, let alone that it raised “serious ethical questions about Joe’s behavior.”

Perhaps we should re-open this investigation.

In the meantime, I think Joe should stay in the race.

 

 

 

UPT Board Meeting Notes Episode 5: Special Fire & Emergency Services Meeting

I attended the April 4 special meeting in person, but even so, there were things I missed, or comments I did not note at the beginning of the meeting that had special relevance to the overall presentation and the conclusions about that presentation, so rewatching it online was instructive.  If you haven’t watched, and you live in Upper Providence and you want to keep on living, I highly recommend you educate yourself on this topic as decisions are going to be made on this issue on Monday.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been pretty vocal in my assertions that the newly elected Democrats shamelessly lied and politicized Fire and Emergency services during their campaign to get elected and in doing so, did a great disservice to the residents of this Township.  For those of you who may be wondering if this meeting has changed my mind on the competency or integrity of the Democrats decision making process on providing public safety services to the Township, it has not.  In fact, this meeting only solidified my opinion of these Board members as short-sighted, lacking in vision, and timid in their committment to do what is best for the residents of this Township.

During my term as Township Supervisor, I spent countless hours devoted to the issue of providing Fire and Emergency services to the Township, and as such, I have definite opinions on how such services should be provided.  As detailed in an earlier post, the previous Board had adopted a way forward on the provision of Fire and EMS services in March of 2017 via an objective, Township staff-prepared confidential fifteen-page white paper that included findings of fact and recommendations.  Based on the information presented in that memo, the previous Board decided to order an ambulance and conducted interviews with the three township EMS service providers to determine which company would staff the ambulance.  The contract was not awarded because of the election results.

At the 2/5/18 meeting, the newly elected Democrats refused to move forward with this plan, cancelling the purchase of the ambulance and whining that they had only been in office for 35 days and therefore needed another 60 days to “study” this issue.

Apparently, “study” does not mean read the 15 page staff white paper or any of the body of work produced under the previous Board or watch any of the meetings on this issue.

One of the presentation’s first slides asks the question, “Why are we here?”  I have a slightly different answer to that question than the one provided by Township Manager Tim Tieperman and it comes later on in this post.  Be warned, this post is a long one, to give this important topic the attention it deserves.

As usual, embedding is not permitted, so the video can be found HERE.

The Challenges

What follows is an abbreviated version of the publicly presented slide show at the 4/4/18 meeting.  This is a summary only, and again, if you live in Upper Providence Township and you care about your life and your property, you really should watch the meeting in it’s entirety.

1 BuckStopsHere

Tieperman started off the presentation by reminding everyone in the room whose responsibility this is.

2 Fire Challenges

Because of the odd shape of the Township, the geographical challenges are the same for Fire and EMS services.  The following map (which is not from the slide presentation) illustrates how a centrally located Fire and EMS facility will provide better coverage to the interior of the Township, an area which has experienced the most recent growth in population.

2b Centralized EMS

Demographics and geography are factors affecting Fire response times.

2c Response times

Moving on to EMS challenges:

3 EMS Challenges

Geography and call zones impact response times for EMS service, which, it should be noted, are within acceptable parameters according to the State:

3a EMS Response TImes

The Goals

The Township Staff recommended measurable goals for the provision of Fire and EMS responses.

4 Goals

Staff’s policy recommendations for achieving these goals:

5 FirePolicy1

6 FirePolicy2

The addition of personnel and hours that the paid crew will operate the Township’s Engine 93 was further analyzed on the following slides.

6a FirePolicy2aStaffing

6b FirePolicy2bStaffingBudgetA little elaboration is called for at this point.  I agree wholeheartedly with this recommendation, and I presume that the Board does as well, but it should be noted that this proposal is calling for a $206,841 increase in the township’s fire protection budget and the hiring of two additional staff members to accomodate the additional hours.

The four volunteer fire companies (Black Rock, Trappe, Royersford and Collegeville) and the three EMS squads (Friendship, Trappe and Lower Providence) who provide first due service to Upper Providence are funded collectively in the amount of $290,000 per year.  Up until two years ago, none of that funding pool was being distributed to our EMS squads.  And only last year, the Board adopted a new fire funding formula, which reallocated that funding to more fairly compensate the service providers according to their level of service.  The details of that funding formula can be found HERE.

Point being, the level of service that we have been receiving from the volunteers has been declining (as evidenced by the need to provide 12 hour/7day a week paid fire staffing), but the township funding level of those services has remained constant for decades.  This is not an indictment of any of the volunteer fire companies, simply a fact, and one that is not unique to Upper Providence. As Tieperman notes in detail at the beginning of the presentation, volunteerism is way down all across the Commonwealth and municipalities are struggling with the fiscal ramifications of providing fire protection without volunteers.

At the 58:27 mark in the question and answer section at the end of the presentation, resident, (and Montgomery Township firefighter) Frank Colleli raises an excellent point about how the future plans for the centralized fire station will affect the Township’s funding levels for the volunteer companies.  Currently, Upper Providence supports four first due companies which are funded by the Township because of their first due status; Colleli’s question notes that the centralized station would make the Township first due at many locations throughout the Township and our volunteer companies would go from first due status to mutual aid.  As Colleli correctly notes, we spend a lot of money on the volunteer companies, and other Townships, like neighboring Limerick, do not financially support companies like Trappe, a company who is often responding to calls within that Township under mutual aid.

For now, the Board has no plans to adjust the current funding formula, a point Assistant Township Manager Bryan Bortnichak reiterated at the end of his response to Mr. Colleli’s question.

At this juncture in the post, I’m simply going to remind my readers of the following representations made by the Democrats during the campaign last fall.

1MailersideA

Moving on.

7 FirePolicy3

This is another recommendation I agree is necessary, but I want to pause here and note that in order to build this necessary facility, the Administration facility had to be built first, so a lot of the Democrats’ demagoguery surrounding the new Township Administration Building is, again, short sighted and lacking in vision.  As mentioned previously, the Black Rock Campus improvements were outlined in the Township’s 2010 Comprehensive Plan Update starting on Page 29 which was approved by John Pearson, Phil Barker and Bob Fieo.

The cost for a centralized Fire and EMS facility, which is contemplated to be built across the street from the Police and Administration buildings, is estimated between $3.2 million and $4.0 million according to Bortnichak.

I should also note that a mere 90 days into their term, the new Board has already held a meeting that necessitated a much larger venue than is currently available through existing Township facilities, even if the old meeting hall was still usable.  When I mentioned to Pearson after the meeting that it was too bad that the new Administration facility wasn’t done yet, he chuckled first, then snapped, “I still think it’s too big.”  Oh really?  Based on what?  Our shrinking population?  Again: short sighted.

8 FirePolicy4

I’m going to skip policy recommendation #4 for right now and come back to it at the end of the post, since it is the main reason for the meeting and there is a lot—quite a lot–to unpack on this subject.

9 Budget analysis

Staff’s proposals would result in an 18.8% increase over the Township’s current FEMS budget and greatly improve public safety in the Township.

11 PSLevy

For all of those who got the Democrats campaign mailer above and were wondering, “Where did that money go?” Here is the answer to that question.  This levy was implemented because the prior Board knew that the costs for providing Fire and EMS services were going to increase, and increase quickly.  As you can see, the levy does not even cover the entire current fire budget, and it only offsets a portion of the police budget, which is approximately $6 million per year.  Of course, now that the Democrats know where that money went, do you think they will apologize for lying to the public about it?

11a PSLevyPrp

11b PSLevyBrkdn

Staff is proposing to change the allocation of this money to more adequately support the areas that most need the dollars to support them.

14 UPTTax

And we are the seventh lowest in Montgomery County overall.

Long Range FEMS Plan

After noting what has already been accomplished on this issue, Tieperman presented the following milestones:

12 MilestonesP112a Milestone12b Milestones12c Milestones12d Milestone12e Milestones13 LTStrat13a LTStrat13b LTStrat

Why are we here?

For this:

8 FirePolicy4

Here’s the real reason why this meeting was necessary.

As readers may recall, since I reminded you all of it at the beginning of this post, there was a great hue and cry over having to make a decision on this issue after “only being in office for 35 days!”  The newly elected Democrats insisted that they needed an additional 60 days for “further study” on this issue.  The result of that “study” was this meeting.

The Township proposed two options for meeting the EMS needs of the township, outlined in the following slides  Alternative 1 is the full service Ambulance Option:

8b Alt1b

8c Alt1c

As a point of full disclosure, these two cons were also sticking points for me during the ambulance evaluation process.  At about 55:15 in the meeting, Vagnozzi addresses these “cons” points with some statistics. He notes that there were 1,602 EMS calls in the Township last year and of that number, a full 25% were not responded to by the first due ambulance assigned.  Vagnozzi’s argument is that the only reason for this is because the “ambulance squads are busy,” and their response areas are kind of like a “jigsaw puzzle,” in that whoever is closest, responds. Additionally, he notes that the coverage area for the three squads assigned to Upper Providence is bigger than it appears on the map that was presented, which only looked at areas within the boundaries of Upper Providence.  These squads have first due responsibilities in other municipalities and take about 4,000 calls per year each.

At 1:19:40 Vagnozzi talks about the “tethering” of the ambulance or medic response unit to the township and states that in practical application, it will not happen.  He contends that a paramedic or EMT is going to go where he is needed, whether he is in an ambulance or a medic response unit.  Our fire companies and our police regularly respond to the call for mutual aid outside of our boundaries; it is folly to think that a medic responder won’t do the same.  He also elaborates on how these services are delivered, reiterating that the squads are “busy” but noting that this first due issue he brought up earlier is a “capacity” problem, and that a centrally located ambulance in Upper Providence will alleviate some of the capacity issues and allow all the squads to better serve their response areas.

Regarding mutual aid and the “tethering” of a medic responder to this Township, I have to agree with Vagnozzi on this unequivocally.  Upper Providence has no “home” ambulance; we therefore rely on the services of EMS providers who are located outside of our boundaries.  We also have only one “home” volunteer fire company, Black Rock, that covers approximately 55% of the Township, with the other 45% of the Township being covered by volunteer fire companies located in other municipalities.  Additionally, there are many other local fire and EMS companies with no first due responsibilities to this township who respond to emergencies here.  Having a medic responder resource that we are unwilling to “share” with our neighbors in the spirit of mutual aid not only seems short-sighted, but downright selfish and un-neighborly.

The Medic Responder unit alternative was discussed next.

8d Alt2a

8e Alt2b

8f Alt2c

8g Alt2d

Budgetary comparison, Year One Analysis:

8i AltBudget

The Year One analysis presented above is inclusive of the capital outlay for a vehicle, either an Ambulance or a Medic Responder unit.  The payroll would be for a contracted employee, therefore, there is no additional insurance expense or increase in Township staff levels (I asked).  Vagnozzi notes throughout the presentation that these numbers are not inclusive of subscriptions to the ambulance companies or corporate donations.

8j AltBudgetyrs2

After Year One, the operating costs of the ambulance decrease dramatically and will continue to decrease as housing comes on line and call volume increases.  Indeed, it is conceivable that within the next two to five years, the call volume will be so high that the Ambulance could be self-sustaining. On the other hand, the costs for the Medic Responder will never decrease, regardless of call volume.

8h AltScoring

The grid above is a handy visual, but I have a few problems with it as the categories are not weighted.  If the Board is following it’s mandate, the first three line items in this grid should be given more weighting than the other three, especially since line items 4 and 5 are in contention and Vagnozzi, with whom I have had my issues in the past over this very subject, makes compelling arguments on both of these points.

I would also take issue with rating the Ambulance option as a 2 for cost impact as opposed to a 3 since there were no subscriptions or corporate donations taken into account for the budgetary analysis and the costs for the ambulance decline year over year while the budgetary impact of the medic responder never decreases  With these items properly weighted and adjusted, the impact of either option is about equal.

…..And here’s where the politics comes in

At 1:25:00, Vagnozzi states flat out, “If we do a medic responder, we are failing this community.”  He then states that, “There are people on this Board who are caring more about the organizations that serve us than the community itself.”

Now as a little bit of inside baseball, in August 2017, Trappe, Friendship and Lower Providence ambulance squads all prepared and presented proposals, including budgets, for their respective companies to contract with Upper Providence and provide staffing for our Township-owned ambulance.  After the election, but before I left the Board, one of those squads (and I am not going to say which one), met exclusively with the newly elected Democrats before they were sworn in and gave them a completely different set of budgetary numbers than they presented to us in August.  Those numbers, which I have seen, show that if the Township awards them the contract, they will be negatively impacted and if the Township doesn’t award them the contract, they will be negatively impacted. In fact, the only option that will sustain their Organization is for the Township to do nothing.

I think the Democrats were perfectly happy doing nothing based solely on this limited information, until they got backed into a corner by the facts and Vagnozzi.  So the next best thing to doing nothing is to do as little as possible.

The diffference here is between supporting an expanded service versus an additional service.  Many people in Upper Providence already “subscribe” to an ambulance service and even more pay for healthcare insurance that covers ambulance service.  Implementing an ambulance service in Upper Providence would only require subsidizing the income of an existing ambulance organization to staff a centrally-located, Township-owned ambulance, with reducing costs year over year, until the service eventually pays for itself.

The costs of implementing a Medic Responder not only never decrease, but the Township is essentially asking the residents to double pay for this service in perpetuity.  If they need transport, the ambulance company will still bill their insurance company (or the patient directly) and their need for an ambulance subscription will not go away even though their tax dollars are supporting an additional service.

Resident Dr. Icenhower, apparently seeing that the majority of the Board is leaning towards the Medic Responder option, asks if this issue hasn’t been batted around enough and whether the Township going to get the best “bang for it’s buck” with this option.  At 1:31:59, Higgins responds that, “The Medic Responder Unit is the easiest way to go, in my opinion, at this point.”

Calci follows up those remarks at 1:32:34 with, “For right now, this is what we are looking at, till the next two years when we’ll build the central location for Fire and Emergency Services location.  At that point, when the numbers in the center of town maybe increase, then we can re-calibrate whether we are on the right track.  So I don’t want to say that we’ll never get an ambulance.  Maybe in two years it will make more sense to do that.”

At 1:33:27, resident Frank Colleli returns to the microphone and brings up the obvious budgetary point about the ambulance vs. the medic responder in years two and beyond.  He asks, “Isn’t there more cost benefit to the residents” by choosing the ambulance?

Pearson responds with a defensive, “If all you care about is dollars and cents,” and a snarky, “you’re entitled to your opinion,” which is becoming typical disrespectful treatment by Pearson of residents with whom he disagrees.  Funny how at the beginning of this meeting he was “still struggling with what most of these [EMS] terms mean,” and by the end, he’s the expert, lecturing a professional firefighter on EMS services.

Resident and Black Rock Fire Company member Steve Smith approaches and wants to know why the Board never considered putting an ambulance at Black Rock Fire Station, claiming it does not have to be centrally located.  To that, Calci responded, “We didn’t want to disrupt the applecart and pick an agency to fill the spot and disrupt the other circles that surround the Township.”

Predetermined Conclusions

The Democrats have a palpable aversion to the idea of buying a full service ambulance, as if buying equipment for emergency services is some ground breaking precedent (the Township buys equipment for Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company all the time).  But somehow, the idea of a purchasing limited use Medic Responder unit is not at all offensive.  I’d give real money to understand their objections here.

In the two solid years that the Board debated this issue, the idea of having a medic responder as an alternative to a full service ambulance was never proposed or considered.  Bearing in mind that it was a brand new idea, and remembering that the Democrats’ whole reason for the 60 day delay was to “get educated” on this issue, why weren’t there any questions on this service from Pearson, Higgins, or Calci?

Why was there only a vigorous defense of their pre-determined conclusion?  A conclusion which did not offer a solution to the problem, but instead, was about only what they would NOT do:  put a centrally located Ambulance in Upper Providence Township.

How much staff time and corresponding tax dollars were wasted in having staff generate yet another report when they just did this same analysis only a year ago?

It’s fun to sit on a dais and subject people to your little “tidbits of wisdom” and give away tax dollars to your friends and pass meaningless resolutions against Donald Trump, and maybe that’s all they thought this job was going to be.  And maybe some of you elected them to do just that.  But for a bunch of supposed liberals offering a “fresh perspective,” they sure are pretty closed-minded.  Despite all of the information they have been given, and all of the staff hours spent in service to this project, they had already decided what they were going to do on this issue way back in December.  They just needed 60 days to create a fact set to back up their politically derived conclusion.

Each Board member talked about doing what was “easy, ” or “quick.”  They talked about “revisiting” this issue at a later date, about this being the best solution for “right now,” or “at this point.”  About “not disrupting the applecart.” Calci herself talked about implementing the ambulance option in two years–which, if the Medic Responder unit is really the “best” option that Pearson says it is, why even talk about it as a temporary solution?  Shouldn’t the Medic Responder unit BE the long range solution?  Didn’t Pearson promise us a “comprehensive approach to Fire and Emergency Services and a plan that will take us into the future” at the very beginning of the meeting?

Instead, we are asked to believe that this short-sighted, limited-term option is the best solution for our residents.

Let’s be very clear about one thing:  The decision on how the Township will provide Fire and EMS services rests with the Board of Supervisors, and ONLY the Board of Supervisors.  They can try to generate “cover” for their decisions with their appeals to authority.  They can direct staff to come up with a nice dog and pony show for the public and they can ask staff to make a recommendation, and they can poll the county and talk to ambulance workers, but at the end of the day, it’s their decision how this matter is handled.  If a preventable tragedy occurs now that these deficiencies have been identified, and the Board’s response to that information is found to be inadequate, this is not on anyone but them.

The buck, after all, stops here.

 

 

 

 

UPT Board Meeting Notes Episode 4: Love Thy Neighbor

The regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors on April 2, 2018, has no icon on the Township’s web page, but the video is indeed up.  It appears that I was the first one to watch it.

As usual, no embedding is possible so video can be found HERE.

This meeting clocks in at a very reasonable 63 minutes, perhaps because Villanova was playing for the National Championship at 9:30.

All in all, a pretty routine meeting, with a couple of issues worth highlighting.

Less than a minute to win it

Remember six weeks ago, when the Board actually tried (and failed) to come up with a legitimate justification to spend tax dollars to preserve a farm belonging to Laurie Higgins’ neighbors?  It seems like just yesterday that the Democrats were grasping at the slim possibility of putting in trails to nowhere to legitimize this spend, even though the landowner was on record as having no intention of granting public access to his land.

Ah yes.  Good times, good times.

This proposal had been before the Board three previous times and denied three times, (for all the reasons documented in detail HERE) and yet, despite no material changes to the proposal from the last time it was before the Board in October of 2017, by some miracle, it reappeared on the agenda a mere four months later.

At the 4/2 meeting, the Democrat Board majority didn’t even pretend that there is some kind of a public benefit for the spend on this land.

free moneyIt took the Board less time to vote on giving Laurie Higgins’ friends $574,000 of your tax money than it did for John Pearson to read his insipid “tidbit of wisdom” at the start of the meeting.  With no discussion, $86,100 of township tax dollars, with the balance coming from state and county funds, were spent on a property which offers our residents no amenities and pays a mere fraction of the property taxes you and I pay.

The vote went down along party lines, 3 to 2, but of course there was no executive session…

…..to report.

Anyway, there’s nothing else to say on this matter except welcome to a Fresh Perspective on fiscal responsibility.

Intersection of Opportunity

Silver Rhino came in with an interesting proposal for a development at the intersection of Route 29, Hopwood and Yerkes, arguably the Township’s most problematic intersection.  Development has been thwarted here because of the requirement to improve that intersection.  29 is a state road, and therefore falls under the purview of PennDOT, but improving that intersection is not high on PennDOTs to do list.

had me at green roof
You had me at ‘green roof.’

The project that the developer presented was 45 units on 10.25 acres abutting the Perkiomen Trail and the creek.  The units would be mostly 2 bedrooms, about 1,000 sf each.  The developer places a premium of environmentally friendly design, and talked about reflective light roofs and green roofs to disperse a heat island effect.

Specifically, the developer was requesting a change in the zoning to R4, which is the township’s multi-family zoning, or approximately 12 units per acre.  Additionally, they would need relief on the height restriction of approximately 35 feet to go to 55 feet.

The developer was looking for direction from the Board as to whether this is a project that the Township has interest in pursuing.  Though there is a lot of ground to cover as far as designing and funding the improvements for that intersection, having a developer who is willing to work with the Township on this is a start.  It will be interesting to see if this gets to the next stage.

Yerkes StationThe May Meeting

During Manager’s comment’s Tim Tieperman noted that Mike Jacobs called to request a meeting with the Board and Dr. Rifkin at the end of May.  These folks are either the owners, or represent the ownership interests of the Parkhouse property, it’s kind of hard to get a clear answer on their roles.  Since no purpose or agenda for this meeting was announced, I’m not going to jump to conclusions, but I will be keeping a very close eye on this meeting.

Various and Sundry

  • The Board asked for volunteer to fill a vacancy on the Ag Security Council.  If you care about what kind of land we’re going to be spending taxpayer dollars on, you may want to volunteer for this.
  • The Board voted to reduce the speed of Linfield Trappe Road from 45 to 40 miles per hour.
  • Chief Toomey noted in his report that the Department had reached out to the trucking companies on Hollow Road about cleaning up their trash.  They recognized this was their responsibility and cleaned up the road.
  • Toomey also noted that improved signage was placed on Hollow Road to prevent truck drivers from turning down and getting stuck at the 10’ bridge.  There was nothing they could do about GPS.
  • Toomey finally noted that the highway safety officer has been working with the school bus drivers on complaints about drivers passing stopped school buses. In addition to targeted enforcement, the police have also moved our lighted highway sign to problem spots around the township to increase awareness of school bus traffic safety.  For their responsiveness, our police department has been thanked by the school bus drivers.
  • Township Engineer, Bill Dingan, noted three grant opportunities for the township.
    • A sewer infrastructure grant for 2,000 feet of sewer line on Old State Road connecting 8 residences.
    • A PennDOT grant to replace a culvert at Second Ave between Hafner and Old State Roads.
    • An offer to provide financial and structural assistance from a local business owner on the Schuykill River Trail connection project.

Next Up

The Board’s special Fire and Emergency Services Meeting held on 4/4/18