UPT Board Meeting Notes 9/4/18 Episode 13, Part 2: Puppet Show

Welcome to part 2 of the September 4 Board of Supervisors Meeting held at the Oaks Firehouse on Greentree Road.

I’d start off this post with a copy and paste of a fluffy little anecdote from Chicken Soup for the Soul, but your time is valuable and I won’t waste it with a frivolous ego indulgence.

As mentioned in the previous post, we’re taking things out of order, so this second post is actually covering the first hour and a half of the meeting.

Bear with us for a moment during John Pearson’s interminable paper shuffling, while he gets his bearings to run this meeting. It seems like it’s always a surprise to him to find himself in charge.

We’ll pick things up right after Pearson finishes butchering the names of the Community Day sponsors.

Siren Song

During public comment, a number of neighbors from the Greentree neighborhood approach the Board to ask their assistance in getting BRVFC to turn off the outside siren. The intent of the neighbors to address this issue was telegraphed via the flyer below, which was also posted on NextDoor Oaks.

fire siren meeting notice
Flyers distributed in the Greentree Neighborhood

The first resident is David Lauser, who states that he wrote a letter to each of the Board members back on June 21 to asking to evaluate the necessity to the fire siren and eliminate it if possible. Lauser does not reiterate his points for the Board, but instead asks them for a response to his letter, since many of them have not responded.

Pearson answers that they received a letter from the BRVFC Chief that they are looking to silence it between 9pm in the evening and 6am in the morning.

Lauser asks if there is any justification for not eliminating it completely.

And because, up to this point, BRVFC policy is largely indistinguishable from Township policy, and because he hasn’t bothered to follow up on this issue independently, Pearson defers to BRVFC President Joe LoCasale to answer this question. LoCasale states that BRVFC has already reduced the number of cycles from 12 to 6; and that they have tried a number of different ways of alerting their members; he claims that the technology they are using is not 100% reliable and that the siren is the most reliable way to notify members of an emergency call.

Vagnozzi disagrees.

“I’m of the opinion that the technology does exist, that the need for this siren has passed. Many fire companies have turned it off. It’s beyond me how you can say that the siren is the most reliable way to summon firefighter to the firehouse for a fire. I’ve asked [BRVFC] about this [turning off the siren] and was basically told ‘It’s not happening,’ I’ve asked the leadership here and was told ‘It’s not going to happen.’ The folks here, they live right here, they are waking up during the night, [addressing Lauser] you, 26 years, many others who I can see are here in the audience. They live it every day. And the technology works, so I don’t know how you can now advocate to keep the siren running when most other fire companies have turned off—not all, but most—and I just have to come down on the side of the residents who live in very close proximity to this building, that you should turn it off.”

Calci asks Vagnozzi, “So what are the technologies that we don’t have that other places do have? Do you know Al?”

“We have the same technologies that every other fire company in Montgomery County has.”

“We currently have that?” Calci can’t believe it.

“We have the same technology that every fire company in Montgomery County has. We probably have the most advanced systems to notify our firefighters that there’s a fire. The siren is an emotional issue. It’s an emotional issue for the firefighters, and as a life member of a fire company, I can say it: It’s just emotional. These people live it every day. They are being woken up in the morning, in the middle of the night, can’t go back to sleep. I live on the other side of Wegman’s, and I can hear the siren. So, the technology exists, again, the minute emotion walks into the room, the ability to reason walks out of the room. I think we need the reason, and turn the siren off.”

In what is perhaps the most predictable statement of the year, Pearson then stammers through his 100% unquestioned support of LoCasale’s earlier statement on the necessity of the siren and says that their offer of shutting off from 9pm at night to 6am in the morning is “very accommodating.” Pearson then goes on to say:

“I think it’s bothersome, uhhhh…in the afternoons, of course, ummm… but I don’t think it’s waking anybody up, it’s not disturbing anybody’s sleep, unless, of course, they’re doing uhhhh…uhhhhh…a third shift type of a thing. Ummm…I, I have to go with ehhhh, with what, what ehhh, Black Rock is suggesting and ehhh that’s the direction on which I’m leaning on this thing. I don’t think we’re gonna take a vote on this thing this evening, I think it’s up to the, I’m not, I’m not really sure who’s responsibility it is.”

Vagnozzi interrupts and says, “We can’t take a vote; it’s not our siren.”

Pearson, “Well that’s what I’m getting at, wondering who’s responsibility it is, and I think that they’ve been very, very nice about doing this…but, Ma’am? Please?”

He then recognizes another resident, Heather Bitzer, for public comment.

She begins reading prepared remarks by reminding the Board that there are many ways of serving their community, and that many of the neighbors do just that as doctors, nurses, 911 dispatchers, police officers, etc. A lot of these folks work odd hours. She acknowledges that, yes, many of the folks knew the fire house was there when they moved in, and many of them have been there a decade or more. It then becomes apparent that Heather Bitzer has done her homework:

“So what has changed? Recently it has come to our attention that the use of the house siren, which we always assumed was a required piece of equipment widely used by all firehouses, is actually not mandated by any governing body or a recognized standard at all. Instead, it is a preference, based mostly on tradition, whose optional usage varies from house to house.

With that in mind, your neighbors ask the leadership of Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company that they consider to continue to best serve the needs of its volunteers and the community by modernizing and eliminating the use of the house siren. We ask you to consider your well respected and highly trained peers. We ask you to recognize the measurable, repeatable, fact-based evidence on record of the absolute excellence of the following surrounding companies who no longer use a house siren: Lower Providence, at both buildings, Royersford, Perkiomen Valley, Phoenixville, Limerick, Spring City Liberty, Norristown and Norriton, Trappe, who limits their usage to day time hours between 8am and 8pm, and Collegeville Borough, who is currently out of service with their siren due to construction, but when it’s operational, they limit their siren to daytime hours between 7am and 10pm.

These outstanding companies are the same as Black Rock; held to the same local, state and federal standards for calls, response time and redundant communication systems that are needed for backup. They serve the same community base, the same terrain, the same geography, in fact some of the volunteers even come from the same family, and arrive on scene to back up the Black Rock Fire Company at the same calls. To say that Black Rock cannot, or should not eliminate or amend its siren usage drastically is to say that these facts do not exist.”

After a brief meeting derailment regarding the spotted lanternfly, Vagnozzi circles back to the siren, noting that the Township cannot mandate what BRVFC does with their siren. Vagnozzi thinks they can do better than silencing it between 9pm and 6am and asks if BRVFC would consider silencing it between 8pm and 8am. It is unclear as to whether Vagnozzi gets any agreement on that. Since the siren went off at 6:50 am over the past weekend, my guess is no.

Siren
The most reliable technology

As usual, when the policy she’s supporting seems to fly in the face of logic, Calci seems to think this issue needs further study and, once again, asks what kind of technology the other fire stations are using. And once again, Vagnozzi says, “It’s the same.”

Barker adds, “I understand that Collegeville and Trappe only use their sirens during those times because they have a lot of college students that do not necessarily have that technology available to them.”

The next resident, Laura McAtee comes up and reiterates that many of the neighbors work odd hours (nurses and policemen) and the siren wakes them up when they have to sleep during the day. She says it’s hardest on the children, saying that it is very disruptive for children not being able to sleep through the night. She points out that children playing ball in the fields below are actually covering their ears in pain because of how loud it is.

The next resident is State Trooper Watkins, who directly contradicts Pearson’s earlier statement about not the siren not waking anyone up during daytime hours. Watkins says that the siren terrifies his children and is unequivocal in his assertion that the siren does cause problem for the community and the neighborhood.

Pearson stutters his response, “Thank you for your comments, and I’m, I’m, I’m sure that they’ll try to compromise and, and meet the needs of the neighbors….uhhh uhhh along with, you know…s-s-staying with their prac, their normal practices, so….”

Pearson, of course, does not ask BRVFC to turn off or limit their siren usage because Pearson is completely unaccustomed to making any accountability demands of this organization.

As residents approached the dais about the siren, it became increasingly obvious that the only opinions that Pearson had sought regarding the siren are those of BRVFC, because many of these residents are having issues with the siren and are indeed folks who keep odd hours: a nurse, a state policeman, people with young children and babies. Pearson hasn’t talked to any of the people who are asking for his help in negotiating for the quiet enjoyment of their homes.

On this issue, it is abundantly clear Pearson is only there to do the bidding of the fire company and his role is to sell the voting public on what BRVFC has offered in the way of “compromise” on this issue.

Just like the Cellco Cell Tower issue a few months ago, Pearson is not going to ask his political cronies to compromise their interests for the benefit of the residents of Upper Providence.

Twilight Zone

The Board heard a pre-development proposal from Pulte Homes for a zoning map amendment for 24 acres along Ridge Pike across the street from Target. Land use attorney Joe Kuhls states that all they are asking for is for the Township to accept the application. The proposal is to change the zoning from NCC Neighborhood Convenience, which is commercial zoning, to R3 zoning, which is residential zoning and allowing for approximately three units per acre. This proposal would most likely yield a townhouse development of approximately 96 units.

skip to the end

Vagnozzi, who is already cranky, wants to cut through most of the presentation.

Barker asks what exactly this application is, since his paperwork indicates that it is a zoning text amendment and not a zoning map change, as Kuhls originally said. Kuhls states it is a map amendment.

Township Planner Geoff Grace steps in and note that the applicant has not actually submitted an application because they wanted to take the Board’s temperature prior to submitting the application, a process that was previously handled in staff meetings.

The Developer’s planner begins by explaining that he believes that the NCC zoning is more for infill and that this parcel is the largest NCC parcel in the Township. Also, that demand for commercial development is very soft. In my opinion, this soft demand for commercial space is the primary reason for the request for the zoning change.

We now interrupt this meeting for an important word about zoning map changes: Near the end of my term in 2017, I met with the Township Planner and the Assistant Manager and we went over the remaining undeveloped parcels in the Township, as we were receiving many of these types of rezoning requests; either to change a commercial space to dense residential or to increase the density of an existing residential parcel. I told them that I would be opposed to all zoning change applications until we had some idea of how the Parkhouse parcel was going to develop.

Original Plan was to develop
Just changed their mind after spending $40 million.

These proposed zoning changes add residents to our township and those new residents will all require municipal services and infrastructure to support them. As this Pulte presentation demonstrates, a landowner or developer can simply approach the Board and ask that the zoning for the parcel be changed. It is entirely at the Board’s discretion whether this request gets granted.

At this time, the future of Upper Providence is punctuated with a giant, 220 acre question mark in the form of the land surrounding Parkhouse. When Montgomery County sold this open space in 2014, it threw our entire comprehensive plan into disarray, as these 220 acres were never contemplated to be anything other than Open Space. Though it is still zoned Open Space, with an institutional overlay, it can still, by rights, be used for an assisted living or another residential continuing care facility, and the development under the institutional zoning can be quite dense.

It should also be noted that as part of a cleanup of our zoning ordinances, in the summer of 2013, the Township changed the zoning on all publicly owned parcels to Open Space. The underlying zoning on the Parkhouse parcel was changed from R1 residential (one unit per acre) to Open Space. This happened immediately prior to the County announcing the parcel was for sale. And it should further be noted that the Montgomery County Commissioners fought the Township on the zoning change.

1800242_10201367935896194_1966877215_n
Your humble blogress (with fellow protestor, Janice Kearney) at a Save Parkhouse rally, January 2014

Without rehashing the entire tragic story of how those County Commissioners—Josh Shapiro, Bruce Castor, and Leslie Richards—and some of their cronies—-betrayed this community and the public trust by selling this Open Space, I have always believed that the sale of Parkhouse was all about the land from the beginning. Not knowing what the politically-connected owners of Parkhouse have planned for that space is a thought that keeps me awake at night. And knowing who is now in charge of the decision on this certainly doesn’t make me sleep any better. This Board has not exactly inspired confidence with their crony-benefitting decision making process thus far, and while there haven’t been many land development proposals before the Board this year, those land use decisions that have been heard have been utterly politicized by the Democrats.

Though great pains were taken to make it look like one, the Upper Providence First effort to expand the Board of Supervisors from three to five members was never a grass roots effort, nor was it intended to give residents more of a voice in their community, as King Pearson has so aptly demonstrated this year. Instead, that effort was designed to dilute the voices of the sitting Board members, should the wrong members get elected. It’s fairly obvious in both Democrat and Republican political circles in Upper Providence that Pearson’s buddy, fellow Upper Providence First member, and former “Republican” candidate for Township Supervisor, Bill Kasper, was supposed to be sitting where Laurie Higgins is now, with Kevin Holohan proving he was far to mercenary for any side to fully embrace.

pulling the strings

Nor did the Upper Providence First group simply dissolve once the five-member board was passed, either. These folks still meet for Quizzo at the Fitz, sip Chardonnay at “outstanding” “Make Upper Providence Great Again” parties and gleefully post about it all over Facebook. These are the folks who backed Pearson (and then his Girls® when Kasper lost the primary, because Higgins and Calci were deemed –and have proven to be–controllable by Pearson) and they continue to pull his strings to this day. Residents who are worried about the future of that 220 acres surrounding Parkhouse should perhaps be concerned about just who it is that is ultimately holding Pearson’s strings, because it strains credibility that those puppet masters expended all of that effort to put Pearson in power simply to provide Pearson with an opportunity for his own petty personal score settling. The puppet masters have an agenda of their own and that day of reckoning is coming.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled meeting.

Barker notes that there really aren’t any residential developments with frontage on Ridge Pike and asks if it would be possible to maintain the commercial frontage on Ridge and keep the residential to the rear of the property. The developer explains the challenges of the wetlands in the property and says the frontage is only about 800 feet and reiterates the problems stemming from the soft commercial market. He claims any commercial pad site put out there would just “flounder.” Barker also notes that there have been bad experiences with townhouse developments, parking and storm water management elsewhere in the Township, some of which were with Pulte.

Pearson tells the developer to start the process.

Not so fast; Higgins has something to say: “Your proposal said there were no negative impacts to the Township, but a couple of things I’d like to know is, what is the benefit to the Township? How is this going to actually add value to the Township? Also, I don’t think that the layout and the design of the homes is very creative, imaginative, new and different; they look like cookie cutter townhomes that you see everywhere and I’d like to see something different than the same old, same old.”

PultePlan

When the attorney for the developer states that they will walk the Board through the process and define the impacts, Higgins stops him and says, “Well again, what I’m looking for is an added benefit to the Township, not necessarily what the impact is. I understand what the impact is, I read your thing, it’s less impact in townhomes in terms of traffic, etc., but I’m looking for the good stuff. What’s the good stuff? What’s the benefit to the Township that’s going to bring value to the Township in general? And I’d like to see more thoughtfulness and creativity and inventiveness and vision regarding the whole development in terms of layout, in terms of individual design of the townhomes. I don’t currently see any amenities in this particular sketch plan right now, and there’s no secondary access as you have it right now. So those are the four things that concern me. But I’m, in general, not opposed.”

Credit where credit is due: I have to give Laurie Higgins props for these questions. This is exactly what she is supposed to be doing. I don’t necessarily agree with all of her comments, but she clearly did her homework on this development.

Half a million dollar hookup

Township Engineer Bill Dingman presents a proposal for a public sewer extension for 10 homes on Old State Road, between Yeager and Hafner Roads. This extension will cost approximately $440,000; approximately $76,000 would be assessed to the individual properties, with the balance to be funded through the Township’s sewer fund. Construction would be in late 2019 if the Board decides to move forward.

Vagnozzi asks if the residents are required to hook up and Dingman says no. Vagnozzi wants to know if they could put a time limit on that and Dingman responds that the planning module can be modified to include that.

sewer money

Still cranky, Vagnozzi says if it’s going to cost the Township a half a million dollars to run sewer to ten homes, then the Township needs to re-evaluate making hook-ups optional. “We should at least require them to hook up within a certain period of time, because it’s the Township’s money; it’s everyone in the audience’s money.”

In response to a question from Calci, Dingman estimates it would cost a resident approximately $20,000 in assessment, tapping fees, and plumbing to hook up to the sewer.

Three residents have indicated an interest in hooking up so far and Barker suggests a communication be sent to the affected residents outlining the plan and the potential costs to the residents for hookup.

Calci asks what the incentive would be for anyone to hook up if they are not required and Dingman says that it is unusual for a township not to require hookup.

Barker suggests that the Board hold a meeting with the affected residents, much like they did with the Borough Line, Lewis Road sewer job.

The sewer issue is eventually tabled for further discussion.

Play Money

The Board voted to engage Field Goals US to conduct a recreation needs study for the Township. This survey will cost up to $57,690 and is a direct result of the Board’s hasty decision to shut down the Township’s fitness center at Anderson Farm Park.

Recall that the Board had no idea what they wanted to do instead of the fitness center, so now they will be spending up to $57,690 of your tax dollars to figure that out.

Other Board Business

  • The Board watched a presentation from the Chester County Planning Commission regarding Phoenixville Region Multi-Modal Transportation study.
  • The Board approved the amended MS4 storm water plan.
  • Pearson directed the Township Manager to set an adoption date for the revised administrative code.
  • The Board voted to spend $1,144.14 to acquire a sanitary sewer easement at 713 Second Ave.
  • The Board agreed to waive SEI’s special events fee of $75.
  • The Board approved a settlement stipulation for an assessment appeal of a property in the Township. The re-assessment was driven by the School district, who will collect $144,000 on the settlement. By contrast, the Township will receive an additional $760 for 2016 and 2017.
  • The Solicitor asks the Board to approve a settlement on a personnel matter, which they end up tabling. The matter was already discussed in executive session, but Pearson never turns down an opportunity to have a legitimate executive session.
  • Township Planner Geoff Grace notes that the proposed apartment development behind Wegmans will be on the Planning Commission agenda for September 10. Grace notes there is quite a lot of interest in this development and that the developer has submitted revised plans. Pearson asks if the Planning Commission will be meeting at the Oaks Firehouse, and Grace confirms that they will. “That’s good,” says the guy who didn’t see a need for a bigger municipal meeting hall, “so they will have enough room in the audience for them.”

And now you know the rest of the story.

The next regularly scheduled Board meeting will be held, once again, at the Oaks Fire Hall on September 17 at 7pm.

The last fifteen minutes of this meeting are the subject of another post, which can be found HERE.

What time does quizzo start
What time does Quizzo start?

UPT Board Meeting Notes 9/4/18 Episode 13 Part 1: Between a Black Rock and a Hard Place

It’s been a month since the Board last met, having cancelled their second meeting of August. This meeting is at the Oaks Firehouse, and appropriately enough, starts and ends with the discussion of FEMS. We’re going to take things a bit out of order and start at the end. There is a lot to cover here, and I am going to split this meeting up into two posts, simply because the last fifteen minutes deserve especially close scrutiny.

This first post will examine those last fifteen minutes, which are a direct result—according to John Pearson himself—of the RTK I filed in June, received in July and published in August (see HERE for details of RTK).

We pick up the meeting at 1:32.

Be Careful what you ask for

When we last left our Board of Supervisors, Board Chairman John Pearson issued an assignment for all of the Supervisors to come up with comments for the end of the meeting. Regular readers may recall that your humble Blogress predicted that Pearson would probably regret this request.

Pearson asks for Supervisor’s comments and when Vagnozzi says, “Yes, I have a couple comments,” the three democrats whip their heads to the left to look at Vagnozzi.

Just inches from a clean getaway.

Vagnozzi:

“During the course of the first eight months of this year, our Township has worked to resolve a number of public safety concerns as it relates to fire and emergency services. I’ve been in favor of some of the changes, however, I’ve been opposed to others. During the prior several years, Upper Providence Township made significant improvements to the delivery of fire services with the deployment of paid fire fighters during the daytime hours and were working toward developing a combination fire company with paid and volunteer staff. However, things are taking place in this community that some of the Supervisors are not aware of. As a result of a Right to Know request, actually by former Supervisor Lisa Mossie, hundreds of documents and attachments were released to the public. We, as Supervisors, were copied on them and I’ve reviewed the Right to Know request and I want to say that a number of things have happened that I am not and was not aware of, with planning that has been ongoing and that I do not agree with. I’m going to refer to one email in the Right to Know request. This is from Black Rock Fire Company President, Joe LoCasale to Bryan Bortnichak.”

Vagnozzi then reads the following email from the RTK—dated June 1, 2018—into the record:

060118 Get Phil and Al on board

Vagnozzi points out that this email is stating, very plainly, that plans were being made without the knowledge of he and Phil Barker. He also mentions two documents, the Collaborative Agreement (050118 Collaborative Agreement) and Attachment F (041618 Attachment F), and says he had no idea what these documents were.

Collaborative Agreement

Vagnozzi holds the two documents up, noting that the Attachment F is an Integrated Fire Company Organization document dated April 11, 2018. Please note: This document predates the approval of the milestones on April 16.

Vagnozzi then reads the highlighted paragraph from the document (below), which is “an attempt to change Chapter 85” the Township’s Fire and Emergency service ordinance.

AttF Giving up control

“Now, what that means, if we agree to this, is that the Township is abdicating all control over the fire scene to the fire companies. And although our fire companies are extremely competent, we are duty bound as a Township to make sure that we have control of our fire and emergency services. That’s just like giving the Police Chief total and complete control without any of our authority. I will not, and I cannot even go in this direction. Ok, so my biggest problem is that I would have stopped this on April 11. I am one of five. And knowing that Phil Barker voted to change Act 85 last year to designate a Chief of Fire and Emergency Service, that leaves two people on this Board that will not support this. I don’t know if the other three, if you’ve read this…?

Calci quickly says, “I have not seen it,”

Vagnozzi continues:

“Because it’s my understanding—and here’s the other thing—Laurie Higgins and Helene Calci, have also not been kept completely in the loop. You’ve gotten a lot of emails—more than I have—but my point is, this cannot stand, all right? The Township must maintain control of fire and emergency services, that’s the fire department, that’s the ambulance. It’s our duty to make sure that the services are delivered properly. And we love our volunteers and we love our first responders but they need to act under our direction at all times. We appreciate their help and provide funding for them and they do a great job, but ultimately, when it comes down to it, the Township is in charge. Thank you.”

“It’s only a DRAFT!!!”

After a beat of silence, Pearson’s first immediate reaction is to distance himself from the whole thing.

“Did you insinuate something there about me knowing what was going on there?”

When Vagnozzi says yes, Pearson’s second immediate reaction, and the one he sticks to, is to take yet another step away from ownership of this policy:

“Did you…uh…look at that thing you were reading from there? Did that say ‘Draft’ on it?”

What follows is an argument between Vagnozzi and Pearson, with Pearson insisting that the document is a draft and asking if anything has been done on it and Vagnozzi saying that the hundreds of documents in the RTK show the direction the Township was headed on Fire and EMS. When Pearson finally gets acknowledgement that the document is a draft, he wants to declare case closed, “Then that’s it. Nothing has been done on it.”

When Vagnozzi says, “There are many, many other documents, hundreds of documents and emails that show quite the contrary. Look, all I’m saying is that we are all one of five…”

Pearson then becomes completely unhinged. He interrupts, angrily pointing at Vagnozzi across the dais and says, “Al, are these your words, or are they coming from Lisa?”

are these your words

Vagnozzi: “Lisa has nothing to do with this.”

Pearson: “Absolutely. You got her permission to do this?”

Vagnozzi: “I don’t need anybody’s permission, John. We received copies of this. It took me hours to figure this out.”

Then Calci says, “Figure what out, though? Nothing’s happened.” And then Pearson and Calci proceed to fall all over each other insisting that the document is a draft (it is indeed marked “draft” but we’ll explore what that may really mean below) and Calci says, “It’s a draft from last spring! Obviously, we didn’t move in this direction.” While Pearson is practically spitting, “Nothing’s happened! It’s a draft! It’s like…ehhhh…you know, nothing’s been done with it!”

Then Pearson starts yelling, “We haven’t taken any action on it yet! We haven’t gone in that direction! It’s a recommendation! It’s like…ehhh….”

Vagnozzi: “It’s a recommendation to the Board, but it hasn’t gotten to us. But it’s been seen. The emails were sent. To you.” This statement momentarily stops Pearson’s sputtering in its tracks. Vagnozzi then thanks BRVFC President Joe Locasale for suggesting that the Board involve Barker and Vagnozzi and tells the Board that the email was very revealing.

pinocchio

The only way Pearson can respond to this is with an outright lie.

“There is no intention to keep anyone on this Board out of anything.”

…a statement that cannot be answered with anything other than awkward silence. And that silence is broken by Calci stating that they have to work as a team for the Township.

Vagnozzi agrees and says that since early winter till late July, when all of the documentation came out, he has been kept in the dark. “I assure you, given my background, I am not, no longer staying in the background with delivery of public safety in the community.”

To which Calci snarkily responds, “Well as much as you want to be involved, be involved.”

Pearson, still angry, says, “You would not have been making an issue out of this unless Ms. Mossie hadn’t requested these Right to Knows.”

Vagnozzi immediately responds, “And I would have never seen it, either. Yes, I didn’t file the Right to Know, she filed it, we were all copied on it, and I spent hours going through it. Hours going through it. And found the issues.”

Barker then asks a critical question, “Who prepared the draft?” Pearson chuckles in disbelief. Pearson and Calci start repeating the question, looking around from help.

Image result for belushi animal house

“Who prepared the draft? Who prepared the draft?” Calci says, shrugging. “I don’t know.”

Vagnozzi says, “I believe the fire company did.”

Phil asks again, directing the question to staff. Bryan Bortnichak responds that they got the document from Joe LoCasale. They believe he prepared the document.

pinocchio

The next awkward silence and paper shuffling moment is broken by Pearson reiterating his earlier lie: “Again, no one is trying to hide anything from anyone on this Board.”

Vagnozzi: “An attempt was made to have us abdicate our responsibilities.” He says that the Board cannot give up direct control over what goes on in this community. Which provokes uproar as the board begins talking over each other:

Calci: “Well, I don’t think anybody is. I’m not sure how you are getting that from a draft from April that Joe LoCasale wrote and we had nothing to do with it.”

meddling

Pearson: “No! I’m not giving up any authority of this Board.”

Higgins, “So you admit it’s a draft and it’s merely an idea that was proposed. It’s not final.”

Barker: “But who prepared it?”

Vagnozzi: “The document speaks for itself.”

Pearson: “It’s already been explained! But it’s like… it’s already been explained! Joe prepared it, like, it’s a DRAFT!”

Calci: “I’m not sure what you are trying to stir up. No one’s trying to take power from…”

Vagnozzi: “My point is, we haven’t been informed, and I was reading an example…”

Pearson: “Nothing’s been done and you have a copy of it. What’s the problem with it?”

Vagnozzi: “I had to go dig for it.”

Pearson: “You didn’t dig for it. Someone else dug it for you!”

columbo
Just one more thing…

With that outburst, Pearson declares the matter closed, but Supervisor Barker has just one more thing. Barker asks for all of the copies of the meeting minutes of the Steering Committee. Tieperman states that the meeting minutes are part of the weekly update they receive from him.

Calci, in what is perhaps the most disingenuous comment I have ever heard her make, says, “So then you really didn’t have to dig, I guess, if it was available.”

Tieperman clarifies, “Phil was asking about the minutes. I’ve made a point of including all of the steering committee meeting minutes in my manager highlight reports.”

Calci: “Are you all right with that, then Phil? Digging through the minutes?”

Barker: “Yes, as long as it’s communicated…”

pinocchio

Pearson interrupts: “Absolutely! Nobody is…AGAIN!…Nobody is trying to hide anything from anybody on this Board. Nothing!”

Pearson, desperate to get out of the meeting before more damage is done, asks for any other comments then reads possible meeting dates for a joint meeting with the Trappe Borough Council before adjourning to executive session.

What did we just see?

The documents in the RTK paint a very clear picture of an FEMS agenda that clearly excluded at least two of the current Board members. There is plenty of circumstantial evidence this year, as well as an outright admission by John Pearson, that the three Democrat Board members are meeting and deliberating outside of public Board meetings. The disregard for Sunshine Laws is almost passe at this point.

There are several points here that cannot be denied:

“My own personal time”

This is not the first time that Pearson has been called on the carpet for proceeding on Fire and Emergency services on his own. Recall at the May 21 Board of Supervisors meeting (HERE), when Pearson tried to increase the membership in the Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night.

great scott
If my calculations are correct, you’re going to see some serious bulls***

As was revealed in the RTK, this proposal was solely at the direction of BRVFC. The documents in the RTK reveal exactly why the Township’s Fire Chief, Josh Overholt, was being excluded from this committee. When it became clear that plans to remodel the Oaks Firehouse were already underway, Barker called him out on it.

Marty, set the flux capacitor for May, 21, 2018:

Reading from an email on his computer, Barker stated, “It’s saying here that they are finalizing the drawing of the career staff offices tomorrow….and bringing them…There’s things going on here that I wasn’t aware of until I got a copy of this email. They are moving on things that we haven’t approved and have no knowledge of, we don’t know who’s paying for this, who designed it…”

Pearson’s response: “They’re not moving…you know…first of all…it hasn’t costed us…first of all…we don’t…we don’t have to approve anything that they decide to do to their facility down there. We have to approve any monies that we expend, absolutely, uhmmm…but they’re not doing anything at this point in the game until this Steering Committee meets…these are all recommendations that uhhhh, that they’ve been making all along. Uhhhmmm, so it’s not, it’s not stuff that’s in the works, its stuff that’s been recommended at this point in the game. And uh, and again and I will remind everybody at this Board no matter what happens with this Steering Committee, they will be bringing it back to us, we will be making decisions on this, it will be, it will be in front of this Board, uhhhmm. Everything that goes on down there will be in front of this Board. Uhhhmm. I don’t see, I…I personally don’t see a need to throw another person in there.”

Barker, again referring to the email on his computer says, “So John, I’m just looking right here and it says, ‘to be built to facilitate the reallocation of space for the bunk rooms we need at the Oaks Station.’ Well, isn’t that part of the per diem firefighters [proposal]? Isn’t that part of our paid staff?”

Pearson: “The whole object is to set the, set the whole thing up there, and then, when we build the facility, we move what’s happening there up to the new facility so that everybody has a chance to integrate with each other, they’re uhhhm, all, all the career guys, the Black Rock, and, and the Public Works guys, they get a chance to integrate with each other, to work with each other and everything else in a real firehouse, uhhhhh setting, and then when this is, when the new facility is done, they will be moving the the, the whole concept up to the uhhhh new facility and that’s what, that’s what, basically, this is all about.”

To which Barker responds, “It just seems like you know a lot more about this than I do.”

Pearson acknowledges this: “I…I…I do. And that’s because I chose to sit in on…on a lot of these things, uhhhh, on my own personal time.”

So here we are in September, and Pearson is still denying that he, along with BRVFC, are directing FEMS policy not only without the approval of, but without even the knowledge of the rest of the Board.

There is no other way to put it: Pearson is lying when he says the Board is being informed of FEMS policy.

Policy is being written by BRVFC at the direction of John Pearson and with the authority of John Pearson

This one speaks for itself. The Collaborative Agreement spells this out in black and white.

050118 Collaborative Agreement Scope excerpt

This document declares, via King Pearson’s unilateral authority, that BRVFC is the primary service provider for Upper Providence Township.

Regardless of whether or not this was a DRAFT proposal or a “working document,” it cannot be denied that not only did Pearson give BRVFC the authority to create this document and further, that this document was created long before the creation of Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night, it clearly spells out how fire services will move forward. If I could quote from the May 21 meeting one more time:

“The whole object is to set the, set the whole thing up there, and then, when we build the facility, we move what’s happening there up to the new facility so that everybody has a chance to integrate with each other, they’re uhhhm, all, all the career guys, the Black Rock, and, and the Public Works guys, they get a chance to integrate with each other, to work with each other and everything else in a real firehouse, uhhhhh setting, and then when this is, when the new facility is done, they will be moving the the, the whole concept up to the uhhhh new facility and that’s what, that’s what, basically, this is all about.”

This statement is simply a restatement of of a paragraph from Attachment F, conveniently leaving out the bit about the BRVFC having command and the Township’s professionals being rolled into the BRVFC.

AttachFPearson

Why was this kept from the other members of the Board? Because it clearly was.

Almost all of the documents in the RTK predate the creation of the Steering committee.

The first meeting of Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night was held on June 6, 2018. The scope of the RTK included documents from January 1 through June 25 (the date of the RTK filing) and therefore only included minutes from three meetings.

Calci’s statement about how Barker does not need to “dig” for information since Tieperman is including Steering Committee meeting minutes in his weekly Manager’s Highlights report is ridiculous on it’s face. All of the heavy lifting on FEMS policy has been done prior to the creation of this farce of a steering committee and it is clear, that regardless of whether this “Collaborative Agreement” is a draft or not, that Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night is following the policy direction outlined in that document in implementing the milestones.

How would Barker and Vagnozzi have known otherwise?

How would Barker or Vagnozzi have known about any of this that is going on behind the scenes without a private citizen filing an RTK? As I stated in the post documenting the RTK (HERE), I filed this RTK almost as an afterthought, not really anticipating that it would reveal anything breath-taking, much less something as controversial as a proposal to abdicate Township authority on FEMS to a troubled volunteer fire company.

how will I know
How will I know what John’s keeping from me?

Doesn’t that seem to be leaving things a bit to chance?

The funny thing is that at the same time Pearson seems angry about this RTK, he’s claiming that Vagnozzi and Barker have nothing to complain about anymore since they now have the documents.

No thanks to him or his Girls®.

Tieperman communicates weekly with the Board of Supervisors. This major policy “proposal” was clearly omitted from his communiques (otherwise it would have been included in the RTK). Neither Tieperman, nor Bortnichak, has any authority whatsoever on their own to usurp Board authority and implement a major policy decision without the blessing of the Board.

It seems to me that this policy direction would have naturally been communicated by the Township Manager to the rest of the Board. Unless he was specifically directed not to.

Do Board members have to file their own RTK requests to the Township in order to be informed of what King Pearson is doing?

The RTK provides an answer as to why the BRVFC was not upset when the new Board did not restore their funding.

As I have noted often in the past, the Democrats on the Board of Supervisors ran for election on one primary issue: the previous Board’s funding cut to BRVFC. The Democrats sent two Township-wide emails hammering on this issue.

Yet, when they took office, the Democrats did not take advantage of their right to re-open the budget and restore Black Rock’s funding. I found this suspicious, especially since BRVFC Vice President (and former “Republican” candidate for Township Supervisor) Bill Kasper and his very politically acticve wife were particularly vocal about this issue on social media and were attending all of the meetings earlier this year while remaining oddly silent about the funding.

Apparently, BRVFC was playing a longer game, shooting for the whole bucket of funding rather than simply a restoration of their former share of the funding.

060618 Steering Cmty Excerpt Box Assignment

How could this have been be avoided?

There are a number of ways this ugliness could have been avoided, but first and foremost among them would have been the BRVFC’s compliance with Township safety standards and policies. As the only domiciled fire company within Upper Providence’s boundaries, it’s a foregone conclusion that had BRVFC met the Township’s standards, they would have been the Township’s primary service provider. From the Township’s Staff Prepared slides January 2018:

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

The Township is responsible for providing for the safety of the residents. It can enter into contracts with outside providers to provide those services, and when it does, the Township has not only the right, but the duty to demand that their contracted service providers operate within a set of Township-defined policies and standards, especially when those standards and policies help to ensure the safety of the public and the volunteers themselves. In return, the Township provides funding and workers’ compensation insurance.

One wouldn’t hire an electrician who ignores code. Or trust a doctor who operates outside of AMA standards. Or put their lives into the hands of a pilot who doesn’t do mandated safety checks. We can respect our volunteers for the noble and heroic work that they do while also insisting that they adhere to policy. Isn’t firefighting dangerous enough without ignoring safety standards? Other volunteer fire companies can and do operate within those policies and standards; why won’t BRVFC?

But rather than be accountable to these policies and standards, it appears that BRVFC’s leadership chose to play it politically, and put all their eggs in the John Pearson basket.

Secondly, the Board could have chosen to work, in Calci’s words, “as a team for the good of the Township,” and collaborate on FEMS policy. Instead, at least two members on the Board, possibly three, were willfully excluded from input on this policy.

Third, the Board could have simply chosen to answer my letter and address my very valid concerns for the safety of myself and my family.

It’s interesting, but simply because I was a former Supervisor, that fact does not somehow forfeit my right to have a say in the community in which I live, a fact I believe is lost on some of the Board members and their supporters. They also forget that I was a political writer long before I was an elected official, and my return to blogging is simply that: a return to what I did before. I am a taxpaying resident of this Township just like everyone else and deserve answers to my questions just like everyone else. Perhaps I bring a little more insight into these matters than most other folks simply because of my experience, but at the end of the day, these blog posts are just one person’s point of view. It’s up to the reader to determine whether what I have to say has any credibility or not.

But in my opinion, what is going on at our Township is very, very wrong.

“Just a Draft” or Unofficial Guiding Document?

The Upper Providence Democrats attempted to hang on to what’s left of their public credibility with the insistence that the Collaborative Agreement and Attachment F (integration document) were just “Drafts.” The “Project Plan,” another policy document, did not even come up at the meeting.

drFT

050118 PROJECT PLAN – UPT FIRE SERVICE Revised 5-1-

050118 Collaborative Agreement

041618 Attachment F

But the real question is, what is the nature of these documents? Are they merely “DRAFTS?” Proposals under consideration, as Pearson would have us believe?

Or are they more of a secret, unofficial and unapproved guiding set of documents legitimized solely by the grace of King Pearson? The documents in the RTK tell a different story than the one Pearson and his Girls® are telling.

The first documentation of BRVFC writing policy comes at 3/22/18, well before the April 4 Special Fire and Emergency services meeting and the April 16 meeting where the milestones were approved. According to BRVFC President LoCasale’s email below, this document, which was not included as an attachment on the email, was to be discussed at the March 29 meeting at the “Oakes” Firehouse that Helene Calci was coordinating. Attendees of this meeting were Pearson, Calci, Tieperman and Bortnichak from the Township; LoCasale, and presumably Daywalt, Kasper and Callahan for BRVFC. Since the purpose of this meeting was to discuss the “Plan,” it would seem to me that something as basic as whether the Township or the BRVFC would have control over FEMS was discussed.

It is hard to believe that BRVFC would have wasted their time writing the policies which later became the Project Plan, Attachment F and the Collaborative Agreement without at least a high level blessing from the Board members present.

032218 email intergrated fire companies

4/10/18, The “come to Jesus” email to former Fire Chief Josh Overholt contains two significant bullet points about Board direction regarding the BRVFC. These directives were never publicly stated directives by the Board of Supervisors. Note as well, the Public Works employees had all filled out applications to “join” BRVFC.

josh

4/16/18 Attachment F, which is the plan for rolling the professionals and the public works guys into BRVFC, is first communicated on the afternoon before the Board votes on the milestones.

041618 Attachment F Email

5/1/18 is the first submission of the Collaborative Agreement which will be reviewed for a 5/2 meeting.

050118 Updated staff integration email

The Project Plan document contains this interesting bit of policy, specifically outlining how the Staff intergration was going to be taking place.:

050118 Project plan pros roll into BRVFC not vice versa excerpt

Attachment F shows that BRVFC was also taking “ownership” of the new Township firehouse, AKA the “BRVFC Central Station:”

BRVFC CENTRAL STATION

5/14/18 For the first time, Joe LoCasale asks when they will be briefing the Board on this policy. They are also ready to settle the collaborative agreement and start up the new organization.

051418 May 16 meeting

5/17/18 LoCasale tells Township Staff that BRVFC will be needing another member on the Steering Committee. Given the scope of the policy so far, and the fact that BRVFC is pretty much writing their ticket before the Steering Committee is even established, this strikes me as a wholly unnecessary demand.

051718 Steering committee needs one more member

5/19/18 This email reiterates the direction of the other “Draft” documents, spelling out the integration of UPT Career staff and Public Works employees into the BRVFC with BRVFC as the lead organization.

051918 Drawings for Oaks FH email

5/21/18 Board of Supervisors meeting, in which Pearson spends most of the meeting quoting the Collaborative agreement and admitting that he has been meeting with BRVFC on his “own personal time.”

6/1/18 Once again, like a long-time mistress who keeps asking when her lover is going to leave his wife and marry her, LoCasale asks –again — when they are going to brief the Board to legitimize this policy direction. He also asks when they are going to “settle” these “Draft” documents, because without that, they are “just spinning their wheels.”

060118 Get Phil and Al on board

After the creation of the Steering Committee, the minutes from the first three meetings reveal that this group was doing anything but “spinning its wheels.” The following excerpts from the Steering Committee minutes put lie to the Democrats’claims that “nothing has been done” and that they are “not moving in this direction.”

060618 Steering Cmty Excerpt Box Assignment

060618 Steering Committee Excerpt New Station Design subcommittee

Based on this partial rehash of the RTK documents presented here, it’s obvious that BRVFC was being given free and unfettered reign on creating Township policy. The RTK reveals that almost weekly meetings between the Township and BRVFC were taking place prior to the passage of the Milestones and the creation of the Steering Committee, and of course, there were an unknown number of meetings that happened on John Pearson’s “own personal time.”

leaving it to you
Abdicating control. What could go wrong?

At no time over the course of these 10 weeks was BRVFC reeled in, or asked to change direction; indeed the RTK reveals a relentless course forward. All of this correspondence took place before the first meeting of the Steering Committee and many of the policies were being written before the Board had even voted upon the Milestones.

And once the Steering Committee began meeting, the minutes from the first three meetings clearly reveal that the policy just continued forward, with Upper Providence Township moving towards placing the responsibility for Township Fire and Emergency Services into the hands of BRVFC, without briefing the entire Board, without a vote, and without a public discussion.

BRVFC was obviously comfortable enough with how the documents mentioned in LoCasale’s June 1 email were settled that they were unconcerned about “spinning their wheels.”

At the 9/4/18 meeting, Pearson and Calci repeatedly insisted that these documents were “only drafts,” and that “nothing has been done” with them, and that they weren’t “going in that direction.” In spite of these protests from Pearson and Calci, it appears that, quite to the contrary, this policy was moving along in EXACTLY that direction without anyone daring to put a stop to it.

My theory, and your mileage may vary: These were no “Drafts.” These were policy documents, designed to be implemented as soon as possible, and only to be revealed to the rest of the Board after it became too late to turn back.

The Board is totally backing off of the this policy

Oh, let us count the ways. They are practically leaving skid marks on Greentree Road as they back away.

How many times did Pearson and Calci insist that the Collaborative Agreement was “just a draft?” Answer: Too many to count.

Judas Pearson denied the BRVFC far more than three times.

After first denying knowledge of the document, both Pearson and Calci also went so far as to say that the Collaborative Agreement was considered and rejected: they decided not to go in that direction.

backing up homer simpson GIF

Calci washed her hands of the entire document, first denying she had even seen it, then citing it as something they “had nothing to do with” that was created “all the way back in the spring.”

The Democrats couldn’t distance themselves enough from this policy or responsibility to it.

Exit Questions: The RTK documents don’t lie: This is a policy that was embraced, encouraged and contributed to by at least two members of the Board, Pearson and Calci. Yet as soon as this agenda was publicly revealed, both Pearson and Calci (and Higgins) disavowed knowledge of it, denied seeing it, insisted it was not decided upon, and that it was not the direction the Township was going.

It makes one wonder: Why was this only a policy to back away from when it became public knowledge? One could almost understand their reluctance at being called out for yet another Sunshine law violation, but they disavowed the entire policy direction and washed their hands of any initiatives outlined in the “Drafts.” If Pearson and Calci were acting in the best interests of the Township for the last eight months while this policy was being “drafted” behind the scenes, exposing this policy direction to the light of day should not have derailed it.

Why the back pedaling now, if this was such a great policy direction?

Why did they immediately distance themselves from it when it became public?

Why didn’t they champion it after months of nurturing it and encouraging it?

Why not make a public case for it, now that everyone knows about it?

What happens now?

The Board approved a set of “milestones” back on April 14; what the Board did not approve was the abdication of authority over FEMS to the BRVFC.

The Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night has been created to implement these milestones, but they are doing so in a manner that has not been communicated to either the entire Board or the Public.

Sub-committees have been formed consisting solely of Township staff and BRVFC members; no volunteers from any other fire companies (or EMS companies) have been asked to participate.

Meeting the timeline has taken precedence over the manner in which these milestones are being implemented, almost as if there is a rush to get this policy established before it can be stopped.

The Township’s FEMS are currently rudderless, having lost the Township’s Fire Chief, the eminently qualified Josh Overholt, to the silliness of the past year.

Who is minding the store now?

And where do we go from here?

We’ll be watching closely to see if the Board majority intends to continue their behind-the-scenes maneuvering, or if they are going to be true to their statements in this meeting, that the Collaborative Agreement was considered and rejected as a policy direction.

There’s much more to report from this meeting.

Part 2 of the 9/4/18 Meeting Notes is coming soon.

UPT Board Meeting Notes 8/6/18 Episode 12  Cry Me a River

Two and a half hours.

That was all I could see when I looked at the August 6, 2018 Board of Supervisors meeting.

Two and a half hours.

And just to get to those two and a half hours, I’d have to sit through Pearson butchering another reading from “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Ugh.

Well, I put it off long enough. I watched the whole thing. Admittedly, there were times when it was just so boring, my attention wandered, but there are certainly a few moments worth highlighting. So let’s get to it, shall we?

Not Quite Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Due to the poor microphones at the beginning of his comments, the first public commenter’s name is not discernible. He’s a 13-month resident who just bought a new Toll Brothers house in the development at Black Rock and 29 and he wants to hold the Township accountable for what he claims is his builder’s shoddy work. He drones on, uninterrupted, for fourteen minutes, with an itemized list of problems with his house, accusations of incompetence and threats of legal action against said builder and the Township. With a list of problems this long, it’s puzzling that he is the only homeowner that has them, and he does not appear to be representing any other homeowner in the development other than himself. At one point, Vagnozzi leans back and appears to ask Pearson to put an end to the hurled accusations, but Pearson does nothing.

The resident appears to be simultaneously accusing the Township of not properly inspecting his home, while at the same time demanding the Township re-inspects it. He wants repairs effected and paid for by the builder and the Township — but at no cost to the taxpayers (which raises the question: where does he think the Township gets its money from?) Additionally, he wants the Township to delay the dedication of the entire development. If his laundry list of claims is true, it’s hard to see how he can still be living there. Perhaps he needs something a little stronger than a Township inspection.

Image result for this house is clean
I have cleaned many houses

Pearson waits until the end of this 14 minute accusation-laden dissertation to say that he doesn’t think it’s appropriate to discuss “this thing, whatever it is, because of the accusations in there.” He asks the resident to give a copy of this statement to the Solicitor (why wasn’t that done in the first place?) and promises a response within the 30 days that the resident demands. Turning to the Solicitor, Pearson asks, “Is that ok with you, Joe?” To which Bresnan responds, “Well, we might respond in 30 days.” since the Township’s liability here is hardly established.

I want the truth about your stucco
I want the truth about your stucco!

At the end of his comments, the resident starts to grill Vagnozzi directly, saying “You live in a Toll Brothers house. Aren’t you currently undergoing remediation for a stucco issue?” Vagnozzi says he and several of his neighbors filed a warranty complaint against the developer. I’m not sure if the point of this comment is to ask for advice, accuse Vagnozzi of getting some special treatment or simply to embarrass him, but Vagnozzi was not alone in getting Toll Brothers to fix the stucco on his home, many of his neighbors in that development did as well, something I witnessed first hand when I canvassed that neighborhood twice last year.

Public comments, by the way, are supposed to be limited to 3 minutes.

In any event, when the resident starts gearing up for a cross-examination, it’s Bresnan, not Pearson, who puts a stop to it, reminding the audience, and the Board, that this is getting beyond the realm of public comment.

Interestingly, the next resident who approaches the malfunctioning microphone, Marlene Magnowski (sp?) wants to talk about an impending Catskills Farms development in Mont Clare, and Pearson immediately tells her to sit down, and that she’ll have an opportunity to comment when that issue comes up on the agenda.

Which raises another question: why does Pearson allow certain residents to speak for five times the allotted time for public comment and others are told to sit down and wait until a more appropriate point in the meeting? Given the first resident’s adversarial comments threatening legal action against the township, these comments should have been curtailed in short order and directed to the Solicitor immediately.

And yet, for some reason, they weren’t.

Water, Water, Everywhere

The Catskills Farm four lot subdivision is the very next item on the agenda and it’s the development Ms. Magnowski wanted to talk about. She shouts from the audience if it’s ok to come up now, and Pearson tells her to listen to the presentation first because her question might be answered. It is not the first, or the last time that Pearson loses control of this meeting, but it happens so regularly, it’s hardly worth mentioning anymore.

The presentation gets off to an awkward start because the developer has not submitted an electronic version of his plan and there is no easel available on which to prop the drawing. So there is no visual for the residents or the viewers at home.

The discussion on this 5 acre, four lot subdivision quickly becomes all about water.

The developer requests a waiver on the storm run-off which, according to the engineer, is a de-minimus amount. The site drains to the Schuylkill River by three different flow paths.

Pearson, a self-proclaimed “expert” in all things water-related in Mont Clare, asks, “I…I wanna know where…where you’re talking about when it’s…it’s emptying into three different points, ok? Three different areas. Can you explain that to me?”

When the developer’s engineer approaches the Board with his drawings to explain this to Pearson, he tells the Board that one of the points is a drainage ditch along Canal Street, where the water goes into a pipe and drains into the river.

At this point, Pearson tells everyone that that particular pipe has a problem with drainage, that it backs up and it needs to be “addressed.”

Now “de-minimus” is a Latin term which I’m sure Pearson doesn’t understand when he says, “Running more water into that thing is not going to…help any of the residents down there.”

Yes, it’s all for the residents. It has nothing to do with this:

The Fitz

It’s times like these that I often wonder if John Pearson knows that he is, you know, actually in charge of Upper Providence Township. I wonder if he realizes that if he notices that there is a drainage pipe that doesn’t seem to be working–for fifty years!–all he has to do is pick up the phone and have someone from Public Works check it out. He doesn’t have to wait until a developer comes in who wants to put three measly houses on five acres down there. He can “address” this issue at any time he wants.

Of course, there may be a reason that time may be now, as we will soon see.

Giant Drawing
“How long am I going to have to hold this up?”

The engineer patiently explains that they are taking a 50-year post development storm and moving it all the way down to a two-year pre-development storm and that they are “way overcompensating” for storm water, but that is the Township’s regulation; “In reality, “ the engineer says, “there is way less water leaving the site.”

 

The engineer is now trapped at the front of the room, holding his ridiculously giant drawing in Pearson’s face while Pearson stammers through this wholly scientific disagreement with the engineer’s calculations:

“I’m not disagreeing with your calculations. These days, when a storm comes through it drops two inches of rain on…on a piece of ground…uhhhhh…right up the street from this particular development here….uhhhh….we had runoff from another development that was up top there and uhhhh…..ummm…it destroyed the road down there. Just…just the way that it rains these days. It’s not…you know, and maybe we ought to look at our ordinances again a re-address these things. Ummmm…and where is the third one draining?”

When the engineer tries to explain, Pearson interrupts again:

“Also, and you can…you can ask our Public Works department, cuz Tom is here, that a lot of these drains down there don’t go anywhere, you gotta run water into a…a…uhhhh…a drain down there that is clogged or…or has been that way for fifty years. Then the water doesn’t go anywhere down there. The reason I know this is cuz I lived down there for many years. So I’m very familiar with what…what…with what…water goes on down there, so it’s like and here it travels and whatever else, ummm….I’ve watched the water come up, and this is not your fault, I watched the water come up the other day, ummmm…to within uhhhhh….inches of my back door. Because of the flooding Schuylkill River. But there again, that’s not your problem, you know…when you put something in…in my neighborhood like this, ummmmm….aaaahhh…that concerns me, so, I want you…I want you to be aware of it, I’m not…I’m not…I’m not real happy with the drainage on this for some reason and I…and I don’t know that you have an answer with that. I don’t know.”

Drowning in tears
Help! My concern tears won’t drain to the river!

When the engineer says, “I’m not sure how you would make it less…” Pearson interrupts and says, “I don’t know how you would, either.”

 

The engineer incredulously points out that there is a watershed “here” (on the drawing) that Pearson is asking him account for, that drains to a river they are not doing anything to. He says they are putting storm water basins on each of the new lots.

“I know, but you are running two-thirds of everything into a system that’s not functional today. You know, you’re running water into a pipe that…that doesn’t function.”

Calci jumps in and asks, “Is the bigger question to fix the problem that isn’t working?”

Pearson responds,

“I don’t have an ans…I don’t have an answer. All I know is this one in particular runs into a pipe that is not functioning. And the one, the other one that you are running into has issues. Ummmm….I don’t, you know I don’t have an answer for you at this point in the game, that’s just…that’s just one of the scenarios. Ummm….there was…there was…mention in here about ummm….ahhh….I want to move on to something else because I don’t want to ssss…sit here and beat you up with this thing. The ummm…ahhh…each one of these lots is going to have a well on it, I assume?”

The Engineer says yes to the wells.

And NOW, after that thoroughly awkward segue way, we get to the heart of what Pearson wants:

“Have you looked into the costs of running water down Walnut Street there, or Port Providence Road, I guess it’s called Port Providence Road there?”

The engineer says they have not.

“Ok. So…w-w-w-wouldn’t it be better for your development to have public water? And maybe we could consider some of these waivers as a tradeoff for you running water down into there, which then would… would make the ummm…uhh, the water company, whoever’s running that water down there, uhhhh, you might get a discount on that, if…if…they’re looking to pick up other customers down there, there’s got to be 40 or 50 other homes down there. It’s just a thought. I’m not telling you to do that. I can’t make you do that.”

There is some awkward shuffling and questions in the wake of this pronouncement while the engineer just nods and slowly walks away from the dais.

“I’m not against your development, I want you to know that, I’m not against it, but I…I’m…I have major concerns about the water runoff. It…it’s a …uhhh..a bad, it’s just a bad area, ok? And…and…and when I sat here twenty some years ago I made the recommendation that we start buying up properties down there so that in a lifetime, we wouldn’t have this situation, that that would all eventually be open space that everybody could use down there, so, you know, uhhh…uhh…I’m sure my neighbors are not happy with me saying that, but you know, ummm…it’s…it’s an issue. Water runoff down there is a really bad issue.”

When Bresnan asks for clarification of “de-minumus”, attorney for the developer, Ed Mullin explains directly to Pearson, “I don’t know if you understood. After development, a 50 year storm has to be reduced to a two-year storm. Two year storms happen all the time. So it’s going to be better than it is today just because we are building there.” Mullin then offers to “look into that pipe” and see if there’s some way they could “unclog it.”

Pearson’s not done yet. He needs to invoke global warming, first:

“Well…well, that might help, that might help make my decision, absolutely. Ummm, but the…but you know when you guys, ehhmm, and today we all refer to storms ok? We’re referring to when storms were written up years ago, it’s like, the storm that we have today is different than the storms that we had a few years ago. You know, ummm….I’m not gonna get into the global warming thing, but you know, it’s like, ehhhh, I…I have a rain gauge on my property and…and when the storm goes by and it 20 minutes, an hour or so, and I look at my storm gauge and it reads two…two inches eeehhh…two inches of rain fell on my property…I….that kinda scares me we’re still using calculations from years ago and you go, ok, well, it’s not a big deal, well the minute you put that in there and…and you walk away from this thing, it becomes a big deal to everyone that’s living down there, it’s like, I’m trying to avoid that.”

LiquidPlumrIn response to this rather unhinged diatribe, Mullin reiterates his promise to look into the clogged pipe and says he will also draw Pearson a picture of the de-minimus storm waters waiver they are requesting (“We’ll provide a graphic representation.”). Pearson is very happy with this. He’s a “visual guy,” you know.

Vagnozzi asks if anyone at the Township has asked about running water down there. Tom Broadbelt, the Director of Public Works, says that they have talked to Aqua America, who has run water down to Container Corp, but there were not enough houses down there to justify the cost of going further, so they would be looking for financial help in doing that. Pearson seizes on this comment.

“Well, here would be the perfect example, you know, it’s like, it gonna cost them like x amount of dollars to drill a well down there on each of those properties, ok? The last time I had a well drilled it was over $10,000, and it’s like, you know, you’ve got $30,000 dollars there and I don’t know what it costs you to run a pipe, I’m sorry.”

Water line
Pipe dreams do come true!

When Broadbelt mentions that Phoenixville water would be closer, but they are going through a transition and not building anymore, Vagnozzi says that’s it’s also a fire safety issue, too, and Pearson looks like a kid on Christmas morning. He can’t agree with Vagnozzi enough.

This discussion goes on for quite some time more, with Calci questioning the sidewalks and then Pearson once again losing complete control of the meeting when Marlene Magnowski finally gets her chance to speak and approaches the dais with handouts saying she “calls bullsh*t” on the development. In one of the more ironic exchanges of the year, it takes Pearson a beat or two to chastise her about her language.

The rest is just static and the Board approved it unanimously, anyway with Pearson actually berating Ms. Magnowski from the dais on how the developer has a right to build here and then lecturing her on how they are going to make the runoff situation better, effectively putting the lie to all of his earlier histrionics over storm water.

They had him at “public water.”

So a few issues with this exchange:

  1. Besides being the owner of the Fitzwater Station, John Pearson is also the owner of Port Providence Paddle. At least one of the three water rescues that occurred the day before this meeting was from a customer of his establishment. Why would Pearson, who claims he’s “very familiar with what water goes on down there,” and has experienced many floods and flood stages, why would he even open for business when the Schuylkill River is at flood stage? And let’s not even talk about his personal pick for providing water rescue services for the Township.
  2. As mentioned previously, I think Pearson forgets that he is in charge of this Township. He likes to sit back and whine about how he, like everyone else down in Mont Clare, is a victim of Township inaction, like this clogged pipe. But he has the power to fix it! Has he never asked anyone at the Township to clear this troublesome pipe that has plagued Port providence for fifty years? And now that he has acknowledged that the pipe hasn’t been working for fifty years –a time period that spans all of his terms as an Upper Providence supervisor office—has he exposed the Township to flood liability with his long acknowledgement of the problem and his subsequent inaction?
  3. For that matter, why did he allow the first public commenter at this meeting to hurl threats and accusations about Township employees and expose the Township to liability for the problems with his privately constructed home? Once again, he thoughtlessly subjects the Township to liability for his own political ends.
  4. shakedown
    This will help me make my decision.

    Perhaps most intriguing is Pearson’s barely disguised attempt to shake down this developer for public water in Mont Clare. Remember this is a tiny, four lot subdivision over five acres. This isn’t a Toll Brothers Tract House project. He says there are 40 to 50 houses down in Mont Clare to make it worth the water company’s effort to run pipe down there. But you know what else is down there?

A dive bar.

The infamous Fitzwater Station (and Port Providence Paddle) is serviced by that $10,000 well Pearson mentioned earlier and that well is eventually going to go bad. The well in question was drilled as an “emergency” solution to Pearson’s water problem at the Fitz when the last well went bad in 2008. Pearson was issued a permit contrary to the requirements of the Montgomery County Public Health Code because he was drilling a well that encroached within 30 feet of the Schuylkill Canal. Full document can be viewed at the following link: Best Technical Guidance Fitzwater Station Well 111908

Well Encroachment

I know I’ve accused Pearson of having an agenda that consists solely of petty partisan revenge and political payback, but I was wrong. His agenda also includes getting some perks for himself.

Dollars without Sense

penywiseAt the last meeting, a recommendation by the Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night to appoint D’Huy Engineering to as the construction contract manager of a new, centrally located Emergency Services building was tabled. Craig Murray from D’Huy comes up to give his pitch, and when he asks what questions the Board may have, Pearson opens the discussion with the following obnoxious comment:

“I want you to tell me how much money you are going to save me, ok? That’s what I’m interested in because, you know, uhhhm, we’ve been doing a lot of building here lately, as you could tell, going through the Township and I’m interested in saving money on this thing, I’m not interested in overages, extra expenses for this and that, and…and…I had talked to Tim today about it, I want somebody that’s going to do their homework, and…and…that’s what I’m interested in. So convince me that you’re the guy.”

After Murray just sat through the preceding Storm Water Kabuki Theater, I’m surprised he didn’t laugh in Pearson’s face at his insistence on “someone who does their homework.” I know I laughed out loud, but I have had much more experience watching the actual lack of homework being done by this Board.

Anyway, the entire discussion is really moot and the approval is only a formality. I bring it up only to point out two things:

First, that Pearson actually asks the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company President, Joe LoCasale, if he is ok with this appointment before Pearson calls for the vote. Is this really necessary? Presumably, the Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night made a formal recommendation to the Board, so deferring to LoCasale to approve this only reinforces the notion (outlined in detail HERE) that it is the BRVFC running Emergency Services in this Township and that Tieperman and Bortnichak are really nothing more than flimsy window dressing on this poor policy decision.

penny pinch
I can think of ten good reasons not to let go of a dime.

Second, Pearson has been doing an awful lot of running his mouth about saving money. The ill-advised decision to close the fitness center at Anderson Farm Park is part of it, but the Fitness Center is the only part of the Rec Center that actually recoup some money to offset its cost. I suspect that Pearson’s ultimate agenda is to just close the Rec Center and have that great big $11 million white elephant sit empty and unused in the middle of the Township so he can say he saved the Township money on air conditioning.

Meanwhile, earlier in the year, he spent $86,100 open space money on private farmland that only one family in the Township is ever going to get to enjoy.

He looked at the ambulance issue and instead of thinking long-term, Pearson spitefully picked the most expensive and temporary option to implement, if only so he would not have to acquiesce to adding a centrally located ambulance for Upper Providence. As part of that decision, he’s purchasing and equipping a medic response vehicle that will cost about $80,000 and will be obsolete within two years and cost upwards of at least $100,000 more per year to operate than the ambulance.

A few meetings ago, he whined about the cost of fixing a bridge on Ashenfelter Road cost, later in this meeting, he whines about the cost of trails, and the cost of Township compliance with the storm water management program, of all things.

And let’s not forget, he has basically abdicated all responsibility for the design of the new centrally located Emergency Services building to a committee populated with volunteer firemen. I’m sure there won’t be anything unreasonable or extravagant in their design recommendations.

Pearson’s vision for Upper Providence Township is painfully limited to his term in office as it has been for every term he has served in office.

Membership has its privileges

In an interesting twist this year, Pearson, who usually has a problem with anyone other than the Fitzwater Station selling alcohol within the borders of the Township, approves not one, but two alcohol vendors to provide legal beverages at Community Day this year.

beer
Party time! Excellent!

Some of the Township’s frequent flyers with long memories might remember that Pearson had such a problem with alcohol vendors being allowed to sell their wares at Community Day last year that he approached the Board to comment against it during public comment last year. The vendor last year was the well-known Sly Fox Brewery, an establishment that has been around for quite some time and the owner of which was a Township resident.

This year, Pearson doesn’t seem to have any sort of problem with alcohol being served at Community Day, nor enlarging the beer garden area, nor extending the serving hours. One of the vendors will be “Pour House” from Lansdale, and I know of no local connection to the Township for this vendor.

The other vendor, however, is politically connected. “Tuned Up Brewery” out of Spring City is owned and operated by Clint Tichnell and Jeremy Burke, both of whom held leadership positions at Trappe Ambulance last year and are friends with the politically connected Kaspers of BRVFC.  It is unclear if Quizzo is offered at Tuned Up.

TunedUp

In August 2017, the Upper Providence Board of Supervisors was evaluating bids from the three local ambulance companies to provide a centralized ambulance service to the Township.  In the midst of these presentations, Mr. Burke, in his capacity as Trappe VFC Vice President, posted the following political post regarding “BS” Upper Providence politics to his homeowner’s association Facebook page. Presumably, this was posted in an effort to mobilize the public to influence the Board’s decision.  The post was intercepted and distributed beyond the homeowners association. I have redacted the needlessly defamatory portion of the post.

Burke1Burke2Burke3

According to Trappe Fire Company’s webpage, neither Tichnell nor Burke appears to hold any leadership position within Trappe VFC or Ambulance at this time. However,  both Jeremy Burke and Clint Tichnell are still listed as “Interior Firefighters.”

Regular readers may recall that there was a meeting between the newly elected Upper Providence Democrat Board Members and Trappe Ambulance immediately following the November election, wherein a completely different set of ambulance budget numbers was presented only for the Democrats to review. These budget numbers indicated that if Trappe Ambulance was awarded the contract, it would hurt them financially.  And if they weren’t awarded the ambulance contract, it would hurt them financially.

medicrespondes
A completely non-political decision

Interestingly, instead of the cheaper, more effective, and longer term option of the centralized ambulance, in April of this year, the Democrat majority on the Board voted for that great Medic Responder Unit that will be obsolete about 10 minutes after it goes into service.  (If you need a refresher, the ambulance and fire issues have been covered ad nauseum in this blog HERE HERE HERE HERE and HERE)

It’s nice that Upper Providence is giving these connected local boys some free publicity and a boost to their business as a vendor at the Township Community Day, isn’t it? Maybe they will rate some free advertising in the Township newsletter, too.

Other Business

  • A hearing on the Township’s MS4 storm water runoff plan was held.
  • The Board approved the demolition at of structures at Linfield-Trappe Road and Township Line for road widening
  • The Township’s Administrative code was briefly discussed
  • Trail master planning and connections were discussed
  • And, in a request he’s sure to regret, Pearson issued an assignment to the Board members that they are each to come up with Supervisors comments for the next meeting.

Next Meeting

Will be held at the Oaks Firehouse. Of course.

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.

UPT Board Meeting Notes 6/18/18 Episode 10: Wreck Creation

The June 18 meeting is another marathon session of 2 hours and 15 minutes, however, I’m beginning to see the benefit for Pearson to doggedly continue with these self-indulgent morality tales at the beginning of each meeting:  First, it allows him to believe he is a wise, but benevolent, leader of the community, imparting wisdom from his lofty heights on to his guileless, but nevertheless worthy, subjects.  Second, it buys him time, however short, to wallow in his illusion of competent leadership before reality comes crashing down on his head.  This week it comes during public comment at 4:30 seconds in.

Cell-abrasion

Tom Grasso, Providence Corners HOA President, approaches to remark upon the Cellco decision by the Zoning Hearing Board earlier in the week (for background on this issue, see HERE and HERE).

I’ll let his comments speak for themselves:

I’d like to take this time to remind the Board of Supervisors of the responsibility they have to all the members and residents of Upper Providence Township.  That responsibility is to do what is in the best interests of all residents, not just to benefit those that maybe are a handful of their friends.  There was recently a use variance application brought forth for the installation of 100’ cell tower on a property zoned residential.  The Township Code clearly states, “Communication towers are prohibited in a residential zone.”  The Code also references a 75’ height restriction for structures in a residential area as well.

As is customarily the case, the Township Planning Commission reviewed the application.  I think it’s important that we refresh ourselves with the duties and purpose of the Planning Commission.  Quote:  “The Planning Commission’s members review the development proposals for the Township, work in conjunction with Planning & Zoning to determine a project’s feasibility, impact on the surrounding area, and traffic in compliance with Township codes.  The Planning Commission submits development plans with their recommendations to the Board of Supervisors for approval.” End quote.  That’s directly from the Township’s website.

In this case, the Planning Commission did their work, reviewed the application and voted unanimously to recommend that this Board oppose the application that I am speaking of.  And on 10/16/2017, this Board did exactly that and voted unanimously to authorize the Township Solicitor to oppose the relief sought by the applicant in the Zoning Hearing Board case 2017-07, Cellco d/b/a Verizon Wireless, on behalf of the residents.  The applicant sought, and was granted, several continuances to delay their hearing, hoping to avoid the protests of residents.  They later approached this Board again, on 11/20/2017, with changes to their application, hoping that the Board would remove its opposition.  The Board sent them back to the Planning Commission to make their case.  In that meeting, Mr. Barker stated, that this Board rarely, almost never, goes against the recommendation of the Planning Commission for as long as he’s been on the Board.

The applicant again went before the Planning Commission, they reviewed the application, changes and all, and again, unanimously voted to recommend that the Board oppose the application.  However, on 2/5 of this year, surprisingly, in an unprecedented manner, this Board voted and decided to withdraw the Township’s opposition and go against the recommendation of their own Planning Commission.

Why would three brand new members only one month into their new roles, reverse a decision made only a few months prior and countermand the recommendation of their own Planning Commission without really knowing the facts of the situation?

It makes no sense to me.

Mr. Pearson said that he wanted to remain neutral, and was apt to let the hearing board do its job.  In this same Board of Supervisors meeting, Mr. Pearson said to me, and other residents of the community, that we were free to make our case to the Zoning Hearing Board.  However, on multiple occasions, the Zoning Hearing Board solicitor, Mr. Khoury, prevented residents from asking follow up questions of new information presented by witnesses, stating, we already had a chance to ask a question.  He even prevented one of the Board members, who eventually voted against the application, from asking questions during the hearing when the member’s questions started to get into the proof of hardship.

Mr. Pearson, other Board members, you ran for your seats in 2017 on a platform of transparency. At the time, I believe you cited an inappropriate relationship between having a Director of Parks and Recreation be employed by the Township when that person was married to a Township Supervisor.  However, members of the Board have failed to disclose to the residents their own conflicts of interest.  For example, Mr. Pearson voted to remove opposition, but failed to inform anyone that his long-time companion, with whom he shares a residence with, is a member of the Zoning Hearing Board, and voted in favor of the application.

Mr. Bresnan stated in the 2/5 meeting, that the applicant had the burden of proof to prove a hardship.  I sat through every part of that meeting and searched for evidence of a hardship for either the property owner nor the cell phone company, but none existed.  It’s shocking that our neighbors in Lower Providence Township came upon the exact same situation, the exact same lawyer, the exact same issues, providing the exact same evidence, and yet their residents were protected by voting unanimously against, and denying the application.

However, our Township, and our Zoning Hearing Board, in spite of the applicant not proving that any hardship existed, voted to approve this application.

It’s puzzling to me why the applicant was not instructed to research other sites that within the search criteria that were not zoned residential.  For example, one of the members of the Zoning Hearing Board, who also sits on the Spring-Ford Area School Board, said that if they had contacted the School District, the School District would be open to discussions of a possible additional source of revenue.  If the applicant must prove that all avenues were exhausted, that was not proven during this period.

I’m not against progress, I’m not against cellular technology.  I recognize the advances that are being made, the infrastructure that is needed to meet these growing demands.  However, cell towers do not belong in the residential area, period.  And I know you all agree with me, because you wrote it into our Township Code.  There are plenty of other areas that could accommodate such requests. By your same logic, I should be able to get relief from the Township code for just about anything, including a 100’ cell tower on my own property, simply because I want the rental income, because one day, I’m going to retire as well.  Everyone’s actions have consequences, and I’d like to remind you of that.  I only urge you to do the right thing for all the residents of this community, rather than just for a small group of well-connected cronies.

Township Solicitor Joe Bresnan then attempts to do a little damage control on behalf of the majority of the Board, stating that the Planning Commission’s recommendation is not absolute and that essentially, the Board wants to remain independent from the Zoning Hearing Board, but he refuses to wade into the admittedly deep waters of Grasso’s cronyism accusation.

Barker disagrees with Bresnan, states that the Board sent the Solicitor to oppose this application to defend our ordinance, and that the Planning Commission recommended opposing the application on those grounds.  He also notes that at one time, this Board was following the Planning Commission recommendations and now they are not.

Pearson does not address any of this.

Conflit of interestAs an aside, I would note that the member of the Zoning Hearing Board of which Mr. Grasso spoke is Gail Latch, who is not only John Pearson’s long-time companion, but was elevated to the status of “fiancé” back in 2010 upon his election that year, in order for her to qualify for Township health care benefits.

Another resident comes up (his name is not picked up by the microphones) and asks a few follow up questions about the Zoning Hearing Board decision, and says, “Well it seems that the building goes against the Code.  So who is defending the Code?”

Bresnan attempts to make a case that with this action, the Zoning Hearing Board is actually defending the Code by deciding which applications will be getting relief.

Pillow TalkIn answer to that, there is some discussion as to whether the decision will be appealed and who can be a party to the appeal process.   I hope the residents decide to appeal.

Exit question:  If the entire purpose of withdrawing the Township Solicitor from opposing this application was to maintain the independence of the Zoning Hearing Board, how exactly, is that independence accomplished when John Pearson, the Chairman of the Board, is living with, and “engaged” to Gail Latch, a member of the Zoning Hearing Board?

Spares Lane

Following the discussion regarding this development at the previous meeting, (see HERE) Attorney Mike Clement presents the applicant’s proposal to the Board:  the Developer will pay fees in lieu of development in the amount of $55,000, with $15,000 being used to widen Spares Lane for approximately 215 feet.  The Developer will place the remaining $40,000 in escrow, which they will give to the Township for Spares Lane improvements at the Township’s discretion.  But if the Township decides that Spares Lane needs a mill and overlay (which it does), the Developer can do it cheaper than the Township due to prevailing wage, and they will use money from the established $40,000 escrow for that.

Vagnozzi has talked to the residents and wants to be sure that any paving and or widening will blend with the existing lawns, and that the Township will be able to direct placement of trees.  Vagnozzi wants a commitment from the Board to look at widening the intersection of Spares and 29.

Wreck-creation

There have been some decisions made by (at least three members of) the Board with regard to the future of programming at the Township Recreation Center.  Those changes have apparently been communicated to current members of the Rec Center, but not the Township population at large (not even in the recently mailed Township Newsletter, but more on that later).

Once again, a “staff-prepared” power point is used in service to distance the Board from their own decisions, and, once again, Township Manager Tim Tieperman is tasked with presentation.

I would guess that for most residents of Upper Providence, this meeting is the first time they are hearing anything about “programming changes” at the Rec Center.  Tieperman begins by dispelling rumors that the Rec Center is closing, the proceeds to lay out a “vision” for the Rec Center going forward.

Articulating a “vision” for an entire department in the Township is a pretty bold move when two of the five Supervisors have obviously been shut out of any of these discussions.  But lets put that thought on hold for a moment and see what “staff” has come up with.

The format and approach is similar to that of the special Fire and EMS presentation last April:

  • Department Re-Org
  • Challenges/Barriers
  • Establishment of Goals
  • Reviewing Staff Recommendations
  • Proposed Roadmap and Milestones

A selection of slides from the presentation follows:

1 Rec

2 Rec

Tieperman talked about the Center’s focus on fitness oriented in a fitness saturated market and the limitation of the facility’s size and scope as compared to other fitness center choices in the private sector.  He also talked about the proliferation of private sector competition and the Township’s desire not to compete with private businesses.

Tieperman acknowledged that the Township needs to improve its marketing but this would have minimal impact on the competitive dynamic.  A feasibility study for the Rec Center was completed 11 years ago targeting 4% resident participation in the Rec Center.  The ultimate goal is to reallocate the $417,000 Rec Center budget to touch on more people–the goal being 15% to 20% of the population.

3 Rec

4 Rec

There was much discussion on the existing private businesses located both within the Township (those facilities highlighted in yellow in the slide above) and within two miles of the Township’s border.  A visual of local fitness centers via Google Earth is illustrated in the graphic below:

5 Rec

6 Rec

Remember that $360,740 expense number in the slide above.  It comes up several times in the ensuing discussion.

The 10 Step Goals of the Restructuring are as follows:

8 Rec9 Rec10 Rec11 Rec12 Rec13 Rec14 Rec15 Rec16 Rec17 Rec

 

Township Reccomendations follow:

18 Rec19 Rec20 Rec21 Rec

22 RecAt the close of the presentation, Pearson reiterates that the Rec Center is not closing, they are merely re-purposing the space to serve a broader demographic (my word, not his) of residents.  It is not, Pearson repeats, about the money.

This is an interesting sentiment coming from Pearson, who spent the better part of 2012, my first year on the Board of Supervisors, trying to convince me that the Rec Center, which had just opened in June of 2011, needed to be run like a business and that not only was then-Rec Director Sue Barker running it inefficiently, but it was losing money hand over fist.  Pearson had the finance director produce reports backing up his assertion, which included expenses like heating, cooling, air conditioning, maintenance and internet.  As I examined these reports, I asked him to explain how the accounting for these facilities expenses was handled for the Administration Building and the Public Works Building.  Those expenses, it turns out, were dumped into a “building fund” and not counted against the budgetary operating costs of the Township’s other departments.

Apparently Pearson believed that Park and Rec was the only department in the Township that needed to show a profit and the Rec Center (a building approved and constructed during his term on the Board of Supervisors) the only building that had to cover its operating costs.  This could either be a strongly held conviction of Pearson’s, or just another facet of his long-standing personal feud with Sue Barker.  Since his grudging resentment of Sue Barker’s township employment, and not the profitability of the Rec Center, was one of the centerpieces of Pearson’s 2007, 2009, and 2017 campaigns, I will let readers draw their own conclusions.

Pearson then continues with, “Recreation will always be an expense, and we want to spend it wisely.”

Well, yes.  Every service that the Township provides is an expense, from road maintenance to fire and police protection, to sewer, to planning, zoning and codes enforcement.  Park and Rec is no exception, though it does have the most ability to offset those expenses with funds other than taxes.  And the expenditure of tax dollars should always be done wisely.

reccntPearson then opens up the floor for questions, and the first resident (whose name I cannot discern on the video) asks about which programs are going to replace the ones they are getting rid of?  When Pearson says he doesn’t know, it sounds like a laugh track from a 1980’s sitcom.  As he stammers through a typical Pearson non-explanation explanation (“It’s like….you know….ehhhm”) he eventually sputters out that it’s a timing issue based upon the expiration of the leases for the fitness equipment.  Our resident then follows up wanting to know that since the Township identified Marketing as a problem, what will they now be doing different?  As a five year member of the Rec Center, she points out that there are a bunch of people who regularly hang out in the playground area and there is not even a Community Bulletin Board announcing what programs are available.

Tieperman goes through a list of potential programming, (book clubs, trail days, mother-daughter tea parties, park clean-up days, photography, nature study etc.) and by my count, less than half of these will utilize the space at the Rec Center currently being occupied by the fitness area and even fewer will be able to generate any revenue to offset the costs of this programming.  I’m not sure why the fitness center has to be shuttered to accomplish this expanded programming, and this question is never really addressed.

The resident then says, so really the whole purpose of this is to say that the fitness area is being discontinued.

Before the next resident approaches, Barker notes that Public Works is scheduled to come in and do “some kind of work” on the facility, so obviously there is some kind of plan, but he hasn’t been told what that plan is. He also notes that some of the equipment is owned by the township, not all of it is rented and has there been any consideration given to just purchasing rather than renting equipment?

Tieperman answers that the decision has been made to get out of the fitness business and shouting begins from the audience.

In a surprise move, Pearson actually picks up his gavel and brings the meeting to order.

Resident Fred Schell then prompts some discussion on profitability, admonishing the Board to remember the Pottstown YMCA, whose mission was to provide health for the community and they shut down when it became all about money.

Resident Karen Vogel is amazed that the Township is unconcerned with the health of Township residents.  Vogel’s suggestions center on how the Township could save money or raise fees for membership.  She thinks it is a terrible mistake to get rid of the quality facility that the Township has.  If it’s not being marketed correctly, then correct it!

torchesWhen Pearson says, “It’s not about marketing,” the audience shouts him down in unison, “Yes it is!”

Claudia Chieffo wants to know if any of the Board members have seen any of the two petitions that have been going around, to which some of the Board members respond that they have seen one.  She then asks the question that has been burning in my mind: what is the breakdown of the $360,740 expense noted in the slide presentation.  She says, “I can break it down for you.  Its staff members.”  She says: Its people sitting around, talking on their phones, eating their dinner, not doing their jobs.  When she says that she has seen 5 staff members on duty when she is the only one in the building, Pearson responds that this is why they are switching gears.  And Chieffo says, “But why should we pay for your mismanagement?”

An answer to the budget question is not given at this time.

Pearson then states that the reason they are looking to shut this down is because nobody uses the facility, and the reason that the equipment is in good shape is because nobody uses it.  This is met with a chorus of boos from the audience and more shouting.

At this point, Bresnan jumps in and, doing the job Pearson doesn’t want to do, brings the meeting to order, admonishing Chieffo that she cannot resort to “grilling” the Board over the habits of individual employees.

When Chieffo asks why there has been no marketing done to date, specifically directing this question at Barker (Barker wants to know, “Why are you asking me?” since he is clearly not a party to this plan), Chieffo makes a statement (that the microphone does not fully pick up) about unrealistically expecting to turn the rec center around in three months after hiring new director, and Tieperman, then Bresnan, jump in and tells her that she can make comments, but not ask questions or expect answers.

Even though this exchange got overly heated, in fairness, the residents were just invited by John Pearson only minutes before to come up to the microphone with their questions, and the Board would try to answer them.

Chieffo then states that the new director started with the Township, went into her office, closed the door and never solicited opinions from any of the Rec Center members.  Chieffo takes her seat to applause from the audience.

reccntr2The next resident then approaches (microphone cuts out during her remarks and her name cannot be heard) and makes the case for the Silver Sneakers program.  When she states, “I know questions are not allowed….” Bresnan clarifies that what they are trying to avoid is the cross examination attacks against the Board.  She says again that none of them were asked their opinion, and that all of this was just sprung on them.  Tieperman states that they will continue the Silver Sneakers program in some form.

Next resident says “This facility is the best kept secret in the whole Township.”  Again: No marketing.  No warning. No input from current users.

Next resident Jeff (unintelligible due to mic cutout) asks, “Is this a final done deal, and is anything we say here tonight going to have any impact on the outcome?”  When he is met with a beat of silence, he implores the Board, “It’s ok!  Be honest!”

boo2Pearson says, “Yeah, I’ll be honest.  We need to go in a different direction here.  It’s not working.”  Which is met with another chorus of boos.

Pearson then says that even though there is a roomful of people here, there are 23,000 people in this township and that the small amount who have showed up to express upset about the Board’s decision just says to him that they are on the right path.

Resident Jeff says he’s not interested in any of the other programs they mentioned, he’s interested in the fitness center and he’s not going to waste any time talking because their decision is already made.

Resident Steve Taggart mentions that one of the first slides talks about ROI, but that Mr. Pearson said this is not about the money.  Pearson corrects him and says he said it wasn’t MAINLY about the money.  Taggart says that Townships are not about the ROI but about service to the residents.  Pearson says it’s not about the money but “being fiscally responsible is, okay?  We understand that Recreation is always going to be a loss; it’s always going to be an expense to the Township but we have to determine what’s best, how much money is best for the Township.”

Reccntr3Taggart notes that the facility wasn’t built to service 20% of the residents and if 20% of the residents came, they would be out of room. Pearson responds that that is why they are not going to spend marketing dollars on a facility that is lacking.

Barker jumps in and says that the feasibility study they had talked about servicing 4.4% of the residents and that they are currently servicing around 3%, which is not really bad for a facility of this size.  He states that he has been a resident of the Township for 38 years, and a member of the fitness center.  He then says that this is all moving way faster than he originally thought; his impression was that they were going to try to re-negotiate the leases on the equipment, not shut the fitness center down, and he’d like to see this come up for a vote on the next agenda.

This suggestion is met with hearty applause.

Barker clarifies for the audience, “This is the first public discussion we’ve had of this issue.” And Pearson responds, “Well, we’re not putting it up for a vote this evening.”

Calci, clearly unnerved because this is her project, says how good it is that we are having this open discussion.  If it’s so great, why is his the first time it’s being discussed in public?

Taggart then notes that all of the residents were not notified by letter, they were, in fact notified via email and he wonders how many just skipped over the email or didn’t read it.

I can tell Mr. Taggart that I personally did not receive an email, or a letter, and I would guess that only active members of the Rec Center even got notified of this change.  An easy way of doing this would perhaps have been by including it in the Township Newsletter, which seemed to have more than enough space to devote to marketing the Rec Center or communicating with residents.  But more on that later.

The next resident, Jerry, comes up (and curse these awful microphones because this guy brings up a lot of great points and I’d like to give him credit!) and once again asks the burning question:  Is the $360,740 of expense noted on the earlier slide attributed to the fitness center portion of the Rec Center, or the entire Rec Center?  How much of that expense is directly attributable to the fitness center?

That is an answer that nobody knows and the resident is told that they will get back to him on that.

The $87,000 in revenues however, is all membership fees.  Jerry’s point is that it is premature to close the only revenue generating component of the facility before they have even figured out what they are going to replace it with, or taken a survey of the residents.  What is your plan to offset the costs of running this building? He wants to know.

boo1When Pearson once again states that it’s not all about the money (a point that, no matter how often it has been repeated, has not been effectively delivered during this meeting) Jerry says, “I get that your number one metric is utilization.  I just don’t understand how closing down the fitness center is going to increase utilization.  You are almost at 3% now, it’s going to drop, because I know I’m not going to use this facility anymore.”

The next resident says it would be irresponsible to close the fitness center without doing a cost benefit analysis and I agree:  the fact that no one at the township could ascertain which portion of the $360,740 expense is attributable to the fitness center and which is attributable to the operation of the building in general suggests that, at best, this analysis is incomplete. 

But this, as previously mentioned, is typical of Pearson’s grasp of financial analysis and the costs of operating a facility.  Regardless of the programming going on at the Rec Center, there will always be a cost associated with heating, cooling, maintenance, power, internet and staffing this building.  Are all of those expenses solely attributable to the fitness center?  Or does it cost $360,740 just to run the fitness center portion of the building?  The ultimate question really is, how much of this cost disappears when the fitness center is shut down?  This seems a very basic and critical bit of financial analysis for which staff should have had an answer readily available, but did not.

Pearson’s final thought on the subject after insisting that the decision has already been made numerous times this evening, is to let everyone know that they will “take it all under advisement.  Who knows what can happen?”

What?? “Who knows what can happen?”  I will tell you who knows what can happen:  the Board of Supervisors.  It’s their decision and these residents have been told at least twice in this meeting that this decision has already been made.  Now Pearson is saying, that they will “take it under advisement” and “who knows what can happen?”

Has the decision to close the fitness center been made or not?

What we have here is a failure to communicate

So amid all of this head scratching and handwringing over marketing, and how to raise awareness of the Rec Center, coincidentally, the Township Newsletter hit my mailbox on the same day as this meeting.  higginsI note with interest that there is a quarter of page 2 devoted to Laurie Higgins’ self-promotion highlighting her participation in the Perkiomen Stream cleanup.  As I stated previously, Higgins’ hobbies are not township business and belong on her own personal pages, or more appropriately, her campaign site.

Far more disturbing, however, is page six of the Township newsletter, seen below:

 

Farm

On June 19, I sent the following email to the Board of Supervisors and the Township Manager:

email to township

I have not yet received a response to this email as of the date of this post.

Point of full disclosure:  The Township Newsletter historically included upcoming programming for the Park and Rec department, including classes, bus trips and events.  In the last year of my tenure on the Board, the Board made a decision to remove the Rec programming from the Township Newsletter and make that a separate communication piece.  That being said, the goal of the Board was to focus the Township newsletter on how township tax dollars were being spent and what business was before the Board of Supervisors.

I am not sure how supporting local farms qualifies as Township Business.  Especially since one of those farm stands, Fran and Ann’s Produce Stand, is owned by the Duhovis’s who have already benefitted from a significant infusion of Township taxpayer dollars earlier this year with the preservation of their farm (see HERE and HERE for more information).

Make no mistake, I’m all for supporting local farms and this is not a commentary on the owners of these establishments.  I just don’t think the Government should be in the business of picking and choosing winners and losers with regard to local, privately owned businesses.

Didn’t we just get through a huge discussion where one of the major points for discontinuing the fitness center was that the Township does not want to be competing with our local businesses? Yet here they are, promoting three privately-owned farm stands when there are not only several supermarkets in our township, but Produce Junction and several other smaller farms stands as well.  And while I’m sure that these three privately owned farms and their businesses can benefit from the added visibility that in-home advertising can deliver, there are numerous other businesses in the Township that could also benefit from this kind of free marketing. (What’s next, Support your local Township Dive Bar?)

Our Rec Center membership program could have benefitted from this type of marketing.  For that matter, the closing of the fitness center and an outline of the township’s Park and Rec roadmap could have been disclosed through this communication with residents, rather than the ham-handed email that was delivered to only a fraction of our residents and caused so much upset.

This information occupied a full page in our thrice-annual, taxpayer-funded, Township newsletter.  That space could have been used to communicate to taxpayers about Township business or how their tax dollars are being used on township projects.  Instead, it is being used to highlight pet projects and promote friends of the Board.

Not Drawn, but Quartered

On a recommendation from the Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night, the Board is asked to grant the Black Rock Fire Company a fee waiver for minor electrical and mechanical alterations to the Black Rock Station.  Assistant Manager Bortnichak has been in contact with BRVFC’s president Joe LoCasale and says the fee waiver is consistent with the Board’s resolution with moving some of the career staff down to the Black Rock Station in Oaks.

If this issue sounds familiar to regular readers, that’s because it has come up before (see HERE).  In fact, it came up a just a month ago at the 5/21/18 Board of Supervisors meeting when apparently Barker was alerted to this development via a forwarded email immediately prior to stepping into the BOS meeting.  In that email, it was apparent that BRVFC was moving forward with work to accommodate Township employees at the BRVFC’s Oaks station.  Barker questioned why work to accomodate the Township’s agenda was moving forward when it had not been discussed by the Board and had not seen any plans for the improvements.

In the intervening four weeks, you’d think that someone could have informed Barker of the status of this project, or given him a drawing indicating the scope of this Township-dictated work, but once again, it appears that the decisions of this new five member board are being confined to just three members.

CaptureApparently, Barker is still not privy to any designs or drawings on the modifications to the Oaks Fire Station, as it is unclear what work is being performed down there.  When Barker remarks, “So, they are moving ahead with quarters?  I guess I just thought that we would get a report to tell us what’s going on down there.  So they’re just moving forward, is that it?”  Bortnichak states that the Board can be updated every two weeks when Tieperman communicates with the Board (so the question remains:  why hasn’t that happened yet?) but that staff is just moving ahead with the milestones as approved by the Board, the most urgent of which appears to be getting those career staff moved from their central location at the Township Building and re-quartered down there in the Oaks corner of the Township asap.

Other Board Business

  • Authorizing design proposal for the Aschenfelter Bridge and amendment to capital budget due to significant erosion down near that bridge.  It was identified as a deficient bridge in the 2016 budget. The cost is $119,000 and change just to do the design and the all in cost will be around $300,000 to $400,000.  Vagnozzi inquires about the traffic counts on this and wants to know if that can be two cul-de-sacs rather than a through road.  The Township’s traffic engineer states that the roads are too long for cul-de-sacs per the Township’s code. Pearson can’t get over the cost for this “little bridge” and actually suggests throwing steel plates over it, while Barker suggests that the Board should at least move forward with a design for budgetary reasons.  Unsurprisingly, Pearson opts to kick the can down the road and do nothing.
  • The demolition of structures at the Taylor Farm property needs to be discussed at a future meeting.
  • Linfield Trappe Road and Township Line intersection:  Township is partnering with Limerick Township and Rousch Chamberlain has asked that McMahon and Associates design the intersection, which creates a conflict because McMahaon would also review that plan for the Township.  The Board approves this because they will get more “bang for their buck” in having McMahon do the design and the review.  Tom Grasso approaches and asks whether the builder who built Providence Corner was supposed to be part of that intersection improvement.  Bortnichak confirms that they were, but they opted instead to escrow $352,000 with the bank towards that project.  Bortnichak also mentions that the Township is currently in negotiations with the Bank, who has apparently misplaced this money.  Later, Bresnan remarks that the litigation on this matter is proceeding and he is going to add the builder as a party to the lawsuit.
  • Black Rock trail has been approved by PennDOT and the Board approves authorization to advertising the bid package.

Final Thoughts

Several times during the meeting, Pearson complains about not being able to hear residents.  Not that it matters. He’s not listening to them anyway.  But the malfunctioning microphones were a needless distraction and my apologies if I have garbled any remarks here due to poor audio.

It’s interesting to watch Pearson’s interactions with residents when he’s not the one entreating them to grab their torches and pitchforks to storm the Board meeting.  He’s dismissive, hostile and defensive.  Additionally, I’m not sure I get the logic that allows him to draw a conclusion that a room full of people indicates that there is not much interest in an issue, something he did twice this year with the cell tower issue and now with the Rec Center.

It’s also interesting that now, after what has been a six months of irresponsible spending benefitting friends and pet projects, Pearson is trying to come across as some kind of fiscally responsible Supervisor by nickel and diming on things like the fitness center and the Aschenfelter Road bridge, but thinking nothing on blowing a quarter of a million dollars on a limited use Medic Responder or almost $90,000 on preserving a private farm.

CaptureFinally, I’d note that a pattern of non-communication has been firmly established in the inaugural six months of the five member board.  It is regularly observable that decisions have not only been made outside of the public eye, but acted upon, without the full knowledge of the entire Board of Supervisors (specifically, Barker and Vagnozzi), let alone their approval.  If the Township voted to expand the Board from three to five members under the premise that more points of view on the Board of Supervisors are better, why are two of those voices routinely being shut out of the decision making process by the very man who was a leader of this initiative?  Aren’t we just back to having a three member Board of Supervisors again?

Just a rhetorical question for contemplation.  I already know the answer.

UPT Board Meeting Notes 6/4/18 Episode 9: Arrested Development

When a meeting clocks in at a grueling 2 hours and 27 minutes, the sanctimonious dime store philosophizing from the likes of John Pearson becomes that much more insufferable. Pity the poor staff members, who, in spite of being compensated for this waste of their time with your tax dollars, are forced to stick around until the end of this meeting to essentially read their written reports to the Board.

But I don’t know. Maybe it is worth it to get the life-affirming message of “You are special” from the Chairman.

Incredibly, it’s not a hugely full agenda, but as with all things since this new Board took office, everything just seems to take a bit longer to get through.  Early on, we get fair warning that Pearson is even less competent than usual this evening, when he “forgets” that the Board held an executive session on personnel matters and announces that he is “a little off” and “a little hazy” this evening because only one hearing aid is working.  What this has to do with his memory of an executive session is anyone’s guess, but perhaps Pearson is just so used to holding meetings out of the public eye, he’s smply having trouble keeping track of which ones he has to report and which ones he can continue to keep secret.

Peanut Gallery You may approach
Members of the Peanut Gallery, you may approach.

Before jumping into the regular agenda, Pearson asks if there are any questions or comments from the “Peanut Gallery,” which is a rather arrogant and disrespectful way of asking for public comment from someone wearing a Three Stooges tie.

Stick around till the end of the post (which takes a lot less time to read than watching this interminable meeting) for an interesting update on the Cellco cell tower at 248 Rittenhouse Road an application that went in front of the Zoning Hearing Board on June 7.

Spares Lane Development: Five Lot Subdivision

The Spares Lane development is in for preliminary approval and it quickly becomes apparent that, not only are there are many Spares Lane neighbors in attendance at this meeting, but Pearson has already talked to these neighbors and, further, that he clearly has an agenda regarding this development.  The first order of business is the approval of the following waivers by the Board of Supervisors.  Attorney for the applicant, Mike Clement, outlines the eight waivers, which he states are being requested to conform with the existing topography of the site:

  1. The Township requires a 26’ vertical curve and the applicant is requesting to reduce that to 15’ vertical curve due to site grade
  2. Township requires a minimum cartway of 32’ and applicant is requesting to reduce that to 24’ to conform with the surrounding area.
  3. Existing Spares Lane may be required to be widened at the Township’s discretion, and the applicant is requesting that the road not be widened due to the possible disturbance of environmentally sensitive areas in the right of way.
  4. The Township requires sidewalks along all roads except where not necessary for public safety and the applicant is requesting a waiver of the sidewalk requirement in the cul-de-sac.
  5. The Township requires concrete curbs to be installed and the applicant is requesting that the cartways remain at the width stated above.
  6. Township requires that the grade not exceed 3%; applicant is requesting steeper slopes to conform with the surrounding area.
  7. Driveway grades are required to be 4%; the applicant is requesting a partial waiver for one of the five driveways to exceed that grade.
  8. Applicant requests a waiver for the installation of ADA ramps since no sidewalks will be constructed.
SparesLane Project
Spares Lane Project

Township solicitor Joe Bresnan notes that the Planning Commission has reviewed the waivers and recommends in favor of granting them, however, some discussion was necessary regarding fees in lieu of development requirements, specifically with regard to the widening of roads.  The township’s ordinance requires that the roads be widened, but because of the unique features of Spares Lane (which will be discussed in detail) it is impossible for the developer to comply with this requirement.  Clement agrees to this, and suggests that the discussion of these fees and amounts to be settled amongst the attorneys and the township’s engineer.

Please note:  This is a pretty standard practice for waiver granting, which Clement himself has been through numerous times in Upper Providence.  Typically, the Township engineer and the Solicitor will apply a formula to determine the dollar worth of the waivers being requested which the developer will then pay to the Township.  Clement’s request that the Supervisors grant conditional approval while the fees are negotiated is wholly reasonable and usual (as we will see later during the SEI discussion).

Clement agrees that whatever fees the Township wants, the applicant will put into Township coffers.  Vagnozzi states he wants to see this money earmarked for re-investment in the Spares Lane community.

Barker then jumps in, clarifying that the curb and sidewalk waivers are not for the new road going in, but the existing Spares Lane.  He also notes that since the road is very narrow, the developer would not be able to widen it simply because there is no space in which to do so.  Calci then confirms that she understands this concept correctly.

SparesLane
Spares Lane via Google Earth

Additionally, Spares Lane has structures directly next to it in some places.  Any widening would have to be with the cooperation from the residents for the obtainment of easements and possible demolition of those structures.

Apparently oblivious to the previous 15 minutes of discussion, Pearson asks what the developer is going to do to Spares Lane, to which Clement responds, “Nothing.”

Barker then asks the Township Engineer, Bill Dingman, what could be done if Spares Lane became a Township project, since most of these issues are off-site from the proposed development.  Dingman states that the right of way varies between 20’ and 40’ and at some parts the road is a mere 13’ wide and at others, there are actual structures in the way.  There are many property surveys and deeds that would need to researched in order to widen the road.

Vagnozzi asks about the general condition of the road, and Dingman responds that it could use a mill and overlay as it was last paved 16 years ago, so it is about due, though it is certainly not amongst the Township’s troubled roads.

So maybe we pave the roads? Vagnozzi proposes, but for some reason, (it is unintelligible on the video) it is determined that is not what the neighborhood wants.

Bresnan then says that the Planning Commission recommended that the fee in lieu be used to widen the intersection of Spares at 29.

Pearson then jumps in, and wants to know “how much money we are talking about,” and then says he wants to go back to the residents and ask them how they want the money spent.

Ok, time-out here.  The residents are at this meeting.  Why not ask them now?

Second of all, Pearson has already been talking to these folks.  Two weeks ago, he asked the Township’s Traffic Engineer for a status on his request to evaluate a one way in, one way out configuration for Spares Lane.  Why doesn’t he already know what they want?

And once again, Bresnan steps in and explains this process of negotiation between township consultants and applicants, a process that has not changed, at least since the last time Pearson was on the Board.

How much we talkinbout
How much are we getting?

But Pearson is indignant.  He wants to know how much money they are shaking down the developer for getting and wants to know how is he supposed to make a decision without knowing that?

Bresnan states that the resolution was drafted with the intention that there would be some additional discussion.

Clement reminds the Board that some of the things that are required by the Township’s ordinance are virtually impossible to perform, and while the applicant acknowledges that, he has no intention of walking away from their responsibility to the neighborhood.

What comes next is classic Pearson:

“I…I…I …I get that.  I’ve been there many many times.  And I understand.  And that’s why…that’s why it creates angst in me that I have to do something here that’s going to upset those people that have been there for generations.  And….ummmm…you know, I want to, I want to do what’s, I want to do what’s best for them.  And…and…and it always bothers me sometimes that we are charged with the health, safety and welfare of…uuhhh, the residents of this township and…and…why can’t we do it for the welfare of those residents down there?  Errr, you know, it’s like, uhhh, that kinda bothers me.  Everybody shoots, everybody, you know, aahhhh, comes to us about the health and safety, the welfare of the residents are important, too.  So…ummm, I’m, you know, aaahhh…I’m…I’m inclined to ehhhh to ask aahhh the rest of the Board here that maybe we table this, we find out what kind of money we are talking about, have another conversation with the residents and tell them what we, what we’re physically dealing with, what we actually know we’re going to get and go back to them and say, ‘This is what we have to deal with, what do you want to do with it?’”

Full stop.

What is Pearson even talking about here?  How is this land development project affecting the “welfare” of these residents?  And why does he keep insisting that he needs to “find out what kind of money we are talking about?”  First of all, it’s a formula—or it’s supposed to be a formula—based on the cost of waivers requested, as has been explained by two separate consultants in this conversation alone.  Second of all, it’s money that will be given to the township, to spend how they see fit–which this Board has indicated will go back into the Spares Lane neighborhood.  There really is no pressing need to hold up approval pending the resolution of the costs of the waivers.  That money will be used for improvements that will be completed by the Township, off-site from the actual proposed development.

In my six years on the Board, I do not ever recall holding up an approval over the dollar amount for waivers; this was a figure that consultants negotiated based on the formula; in other words, the dollar figure is going to be whatever the dollar figure is going to be based upon the work the developer is requesting to have waived.

What Pearson is doing here is skirting dangerously close to talking about pay to play.

Clement just wants to get as much approved at this meeting as he possibly can, since this development has been before the Board since November of last year and they already have their tentative approval.  He is tired of going around and around on this and wants to stop wasting everyone’s time.

So they start going through the tedious process of the consultant review letters, and Pearson grasps the “Fire Marshall’s” review letter (whose expertise is apparently sufficient when Pearson can use that expertise to suit Pearson’s purpose, but not when it comes to, you know, actual Fire and Emergency services) and asks the applicant’s engineer to read it to him, because, in addition to his hearing aid being out tonight, his glasses “aren’t too good” either.

Barker agrees with not taking any action on the plan, but he would like to engage with the community to see if they could get their cooperation in expanding the road as these improvements are “off site” and the Township cannot require the developer to complete improvements on property that is not contiguous to the development itself.

So it seems that there is some consensus from the Board as to how to move forward, and Vagnozzi, recognizing that there are residents in the audience, would like to hear comments from the residents themselves.

And Pearson says, “Would you like to do that here….or somewhere else?”

Wut????

Full Stop again.

The whole point of having public meetings is to have meetings in PUBLIC.  Where else are these issues going to be hashed out?  And why is Pearson suggesting that this discussion takes place outside of the public eye?

Here or some other place
Vagnozzi thought bubble: “Are you kidding me?”

Vagnozzi pauses a full beat before answering, perhaps because he simply cannot believe he just heard this from the guy who accused the last Board of a lack of transparency.  Vagnozzi then says he thinks it should be on the record.

The residents do come up and start voicing concerns, the primary one of which is the narrowness of Spares Lane, which is an existing issue.  They are concerned about the two year construction timeframe which would possibly exacerbate the fact that two cars cannot currently pass each other on this road.

Clement then outlines the plans for construction worker parking, keeping the roads open, and assures the Board that they will handle this issue like they have on every other development that they have done in Upper Providence.

At this point, Vagnozzi summarizes what they’ve just heard, which are construction issues and existing narrow road issues.  But none of these issues is a permanent hardship that will be caused by the development and the developer has addressed those issues that will be caused during the construction period.  Vagnozzi tells the audience, quite appropriately, that this applicant has a right to develop this land.  The Board can work with the developer to mitigate any potential impacts, but they cannot stop the development.  It’s interesting that Vagnozzi feels the need to state this; as if someone has told these neighbors that this development can just be blocked simply because they don’t want it. Vagnozzi says, “There must be more [issues] than that.  Unless there is someone we haven’t heard from yet.”

So another resident comes up, and she elaborates on another existing issue of the Spares Lane and 29 intersection.  She advocates for the aforementioned one way in, one way out of Spares Lanes, which is the issue that was brought up by Pearson at the end of the last meeting. In response, Pearson asks Township Traffic Engineer Ken O’Brien to explain to “this lady” why PennDOT would not allow this configuration.

It’s at this point that Pearson completely loses control of the meeting and he allows multiple members of the audience to simply shout questions at O’Brien without allowing O’Brien to answer.  Pearson, instead of gaveling for order, starts stammering about the criteria for PennDOT, then he announces,

“I’ll take one more question, and then, Gail, you have my cellphone number, if anyone has any questions or comments about this thing, they want to add to whatever’s happening, you can have them call me, personally, not a problem, and…and…ummm, ma’am, you, we’ll have one more question and then we’ll…that’s it.”

Full Stop.

All of these residents showed up at this meeting, and now they are not only being told they are not going to be able to speak, but that they have to deal directly with Pearson and only Pearson?

Torches
We are angry!

The classic Pearson move is to go into a neighborhood, rile them all up, and then tell them to gather their torches and pitchforks and show up at a Board meeting to shout their complaints at the Board while he sits back on his hands doing nothing except avoiding responsibility.

But he no longer has to recuit a whole bunch of actors to take part in another episode of Township Meeting Kabuki Theater to put pressure on the Board (like he did as a minority supervisor–unnecessarily—three years ago with the Mont Clare neighborhood’s Produce Junction issues).  He’s the Chairman of the Board, with the majority, and in “his girls,” he has what have so far been two utterly reliable “yes” votes this year.

So this is a bit of a different take on Pearson’s usual modus operandi.  It is obvious he’s been in communication with these neighbors, but he clearly doesn’t want them speaking at the meeting, nor does he want them speaking directly to the developer, staff, or other members of the Board.  By all appearances, it seems as if John Pearson wants to be the singular point of communication between all parties.

Look, no one likes new development in their neighborhood, and that is understandable.  New development in anyone’s neighborhood is a source of fear, anger and angst.  People tend to think that municipalities simply roll over for developers, because they think that the municipality can just “stop” development.  But as Vagnozzi states, the developer has a right to develop this land, as long as it is developed within the Township’s zoning and building codes.

It has been my experience that most of the developers who worked with Upper Providence (including Mr. Clement) were willing to accomodate the neighbors’ wishes, at least to a certain extent.  Sometimes the Board would act as an intermediary between residents and developer, sometimes an HOA or neighborhood group would deal directly with the developer, sometimes it would be a combination of both (we will see that in the SEI project, immediately following.)  What’s interesting here is that instead of facilitating communications between the residents and the developer, Pearson is trying to completely control the process, and botching it badly, and in so doing, he’s creating more fear, anger, and angst on all sides.

It was abundantly clear that Pearson, and only Pearson, had been privvy to the concerns of these residents prior to this meeting.  He could have brokered a meeting between the neighborhood and the developer; he could have come into this meeting with a list of realistic asks from the residents and presented that to the developer.  He could have educated the residents on the development process and what they would be likely to achieve as far as improvements to their neighbohood.  Of course, that would mean Pearson would have to have a basic understanding of the Subdivision and Land Development process; an understanding that he has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not have.

So the one last comment is, again, about blocking the road during construction.  Again, there is shouting from the audience unchallenged by Pearson, and Clement, who has been remarkably patient through this interminable 50 minutes of discussion, sighs, shakes his head, and says, “Ma’am, there will be a space to get your car past.”

Vagnozzi interrupts and tells her that not only will they not block the road, but it is the Township’s job to make sure that they are not blocking the road.

Clement then asks for a vote, which Pearson tells him he’s not going to get.  Barker says based on Clement’s history with the township, and always doing what he says he’s going to do, he feels comfortable saying that once the fees are negotiated and they determine what the residents want, the Board is willing to move forward.

So what happened here?  Instead of actually helping these residents by guiding them through this process and setting realistic expectations, Pearson met with them and never properly facilitated communication between all parties.  His suggestion to listen to the residents’ comments “somewhere else” and his admonistion at his unilaterally imposed end of the discussion to have residents call his personal cellphone confirms this.  My guess is that he hung his hat on the idea of making Spares Lane a one way road, with one way in and one way out on to route 29, a proposal he sold to the residents without fully exploring that option with the township’s traffic engineer.  When that solution was deemed impossible due to PennDOT restrictions, rather than deliver the bad news, the Yes Man fumbled through this meeting, muddying the process for everyone.

It almost seems like Pearson is more interested in scoring points off of the developer to notch something in the win column for himself, than he is in actually solving problems for the residents.  Several months ago, this blog discussed the campaign mode/governing mode of this Board.  At this point, it would appear that Pearson is still in campaign mode, even at this late date.

 

SEI North Campus: Phase 1

Phase 1 of the project consists of a 120,000 sf building, an access drive through South Campus of SEI, two on grade parking lots for 630 parking space and a trail connection of sidewalk from Cider Mill in front of Hunt Club, through SEI Campus and connect to the Montco trail.

SEIPhase1
SEI Phase 1

SEI’s traffic engineer outlined multiple major traffic improvements to accommodate the influx of additional employees, including:

  • SEI will finally upgrade the signal at BlackRock and Upper Indian Head Road and they will also do some significant widening to that intersection.
  • Right turn lane on Black Rock Road heading away from Egypt Road to facilitate right turns into SEI.
  • Left turn lane on Upper Indian Head Road.
  • Cider Mill and Upper Indian Head Road.  Left turn lane on every approach and signalized. Plus right turn lanes.  Driveways will be right in, right out.
  • SEI is also proposing to work with the DVRPA to do a regional improvements.

At 1:17:44, Ed Mullin, the attorney for SEI, mentions that the Planning Commission has recommended approval of all of the waivers.

Michelle Strannon speaks on behalf of the Hunt Club Homeowners’ Association.  Association has two specific concerns:

  1. Potential lighting pollution because the residential area elevation is looking down on the North Campus parking garage, and because there is no way to know what that light pollution is going to be until it is installed, that the Board impose a condition on the developer that they can address this issue in the future.
  2. The HOA would also like a condition placed on the applicant on traffic issues. Hunt Club residents live that traffic every day, and they recognize SEI’s completed traffic studies but would like the Township to require an additional traffic study to be completed as employees are added to the campus.

Mullin quickly agrees to those conditions on behalf of SEI.

1:33:50 more discussion of waivers of steep slopes.

At 1:37:00, Bresnan announces that the fees in lieu will be negotiated prior to final approval.  As is normally the case.  Some further detailed discussion occurs.

Pearson, however, does not ask to table this particular resolution until he knows “what kind of money we are talking about.”

He calls for a vote and approval of SEI’s preliminary land development plan is unanimous.

239 Grace Street: Five Lot Subdivision

Grace Street
239 Grace Street

Ed Mullin again for the applicant for tentative sketch approval.  This is a five lot subdivision, including one existing house which will remain.  The primary source of concern is the access to the development is too close to the intersection with the access to the Meadows condominium.  They will have to get a special exception for steep slopes from the zoning hearing board.

The developer will probably ask for a partial waiver for sidewalks on one side of the new street.

Pearson asks if Traffic Engineer Ken O’Brien has seen the access driveway and if he is ok with it, which Pearson would know if he read the review letters included in his packet.  O’Brien says it’s not ideal, but it’s low volume, so not concerning.

Approved unanimously, with no discussion of waivers by the Board.

Follow your passion!

Vagnozzi notes that the manager’s report makes mention of another Board member doing “due diligence” on the structures at the Taylor Farm park.  It turns out that this was Laurie Higgins, who “personally” would like to see some restoration, including the creation of an historical society.

Vagnozzi does not like that Higgins has taken it upon herself “scratch the surface” of this.  He says that things like this must be done as a Board.  He further notes that this has already been looked at by structural engineers.

Pearson of course says he doesn’t think that Higgins has stepped out of line because she hasn’t done anything official.

Calci notes that it is Higgins’ passion and she should pursue it.

While I agree that Higgins should be able to look into this, and any other side projects she finds interesting, I would note that none of what she has pursued so far requires her official capacity as a township supervisor to do it.  If she wants to start an Historical Society and preserve buildings, any private citizen can do that (and I’m sure Pearson already has his sights set on a certain privately-owned building at Cider Mill and Arcola that would make a great water ice stand on the bike trail, if only someone would put some money into restoring it).

Follow your dreamsI would further note that none of these ‘passions” should be pursued at the expense of her actual responsibilities as a Township supervisor.  But I have yet to hear her offer a relevant or independently informed comment on any of the land development projects before the board or on any of the various safety issues the Board has contemplated this year.  I find it hard to believe she knocked on all of those doors last year simply to be a “yes” vote for John Pearson’s agenda of petty score settling and personal favors for friends, though she’s certainly caught on to that latter bit earlier in the year when she voted to give taxpayer money to her neighbors.

There were three developments up for approval at this meeting, and she offered one question in the course of over two hours of discussion, and that question had already been answered at the beginning of that project’s presentation. The only question she posed at the last land development approval two meetings ago had to do with another “passion” of hers, whether or not the developer would consider adding green roof (they would not).

Development in the Township is permanent and lasting and needs to be approved thoughtfully and according to the Township’s code.  It is irresponsible to approach these issues ill-prepared and there are courses in land development that the county offers if she need help.  I daresay it’s a better use of time than borrowing the keys to Township properties and asking her friends to second guess the decisions of the prior Board.

Other Business before the Board

  • The Board awarded a bid for a new digital LED sign at the Black Rock Campus to Upper Darby Sign Company for $96,257.
  • The Board awarded the Kline Road reconstruction project to Road Con Inc. for $398,888.  There was some hearing aid/glasses related confusion as Pearson tried to award the digital sign contract to Road Con and had to slowly and patiently be walked through the error by Calci until he got it right.
  • The Board approved a capital budget amendment in the amount of $115,000 to repair the sinkhole on Cider Mill Road.  The sinkhole problem is due mostly to failing corrugated pipe.  MJ Contractors will do the work.
  • The Board approved the Solicitor to authorize a tax assessment appeal for a commercial property on Longford Road.

In which the Zoning Hearing Board “does their thing.”

On June 7, the Zoning Hearing Board granted a use variance for a cell tower at 248 Rittenhouse Road, which is a residentially zoned area.

As you may recall (see here), the prior Board had originally sent the Township Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board oppose this application.  This action was quickly undone at one of the new Board’s first meetings this year.  Pearson, whose long time fiancé, Gail Latch, is a member of the (supposedly independent) Zoning Hearing Board, instructed that the Township Solicitor would NOT be attending the ZHB meeting to oppose the application on behalf of the Township, an action that was quickly agreed to by “Pearson’s girls” and opposed by Vagnozzi (Barker was absent).

but youll get great reception
But you’ll get great reception.

As I noted at the time, during that meeting, the residents from the three surrounding developments had approached the Board to express dismay at the applicant’s repeated scheduling and then cancellation of the hearings, creating a hardship for the residents who wished to go on record against this application.  They begged the Township to continue to oppose this application.  At that meeting, Pearson brushed off these concerns and told the residents that he was inclined to let the Zoning Hearing Board “do its thing” without opposition from the Board.

I had several spotters at Thursday’s meeting, and all of them tell the same story:  At the conclusion of the meeting, words were exchanged between one of the residents and John Pearson, and at one point during the altercation, Pearson called the resident an “a**hole.”

Friendship, particularly with Pearson, has its privileges and clearly, none of these residents are in his inner circle.

UPT Board Meeting Notes 5/21/18 Episode 8: Dance into the Fire

I’m somewhat late putting this episode of meeting notes up because the meetings themselves were not posted on the website.  My understanding is that there was a technical difficulty with the hosting site.  The good news is that the fix created a brand new site, with videos that are also posted to YouTube, which makes them easily “embeddable.”  Do yourself a favor and watch the the discussion on the Steering Committee membership, beginning at 13:38.

But let’s skip right to it.  This is where this meeting really gets interesting, and of course, it’s all about the new Fire and Emergency Services Policy.

Ladies and Gentlemen:  A Tap Dance

As we noted in the previous episode of UPT Meeting Notes, there is an item on the agenda to amend the membership level of the previously discussed Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night from three members to four members.  Your humble Blogress engaged in a bit of unsanctioned speculation as to why the membership in this committee was being increased while offering unsolicited recommendations as to who should fulfill this new role:  The Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services, Josh Overholt, or perhaps a Supervisor.

The fun begins when Pearson tries to slick his way this through without any discussion and states, “I assume everyone understands what this is about, if not…”

Clearly everyone does not understand what this is about and some discussion is about to happen.

I assume everyone knows what this is about
Barker to Vagnozzi:  “Do you want to say something, or should I?”

Vagnozzi jumps in first and he wants to know who the other member is going to be and why the Chief of Fire and Emergency Services, Josh Overholt, is not engaged in this and he is concerned that by excluding him, the Board is not showing him the respect due his position.

John Pearson’s First Tap Dance:

“Well…I…I… think that we…we look at like putting our hierarchy in charge, people like…well, if you want to know who the people are, it will definitely be [Assistant Township Manager] Bryan [Bortnichak] and [Township Manager] Tim [Tieperman] and of course [Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company President] Joe LoCasale and, and [BRVFC Chief] Jimmy eehhhhm Daywalt, ok?  So they’re, they requested to have that extra person on there.  But I get that, you know, because they want to be two on two, it’s like, Ohh! We’re outnumbered here again or whatever else. Uhhm, as far as, as far as the Fire Marshall’s concerned, I…I… eehh it is my opinion that we should keep it at the level as high as possible with, with Tim and Bryan and like you said Al, everything, no matter what is proposed at these particular meetings, will end up coming back before us, so we’ll be the ones ehhhm making the decisions, not the ones that actually represent us at these meetings but we will actually be making these decisions, we’ll be approving whatever it is they decide to come back to us with, so I have no problem with that.  Uhhh…I…I… appreciate your concern with that uhhmmm….”

Vagnozzi has a bit of mercy on Pearson at this point and says he’s generally in favor of that.  Barker, however, isn’t quite satisfied.

Barker states that he has similar concerns as Vagnozzi and corrects Pearson on Josh Overholt’s title, stating he is not just a Fire Marshall, that he’s the Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services and the Township has recognized his elevated status with his credentials.

And then it gets very interesting.

Barker begins reading from an email on his computer, an email it is later revealed was forwarded by Tieperman from someone from Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company.  Pointing to his computer screen, Barker states, “It’s saying here that they are finalizing the drawing of the career staff offices tomorrow….and bringing them…There’s things going on here that I wasn’t aware of until I got a copy of this email.  They are moving on  things that we haven’t approved and have no knowledge of, we don’t know who’s paying for this, who designed it…”

John Pearson’s Tap Dance #2

“They’re not moving…you know…first of all…it hasn’t costed us…first of all…we don’t…we don’t have to approve anything that they decide to do to their facility down there.  We have to approve any monies that we expend, absolutely, uhmmm…but they’re not doing anything at this point in the game until this Steering Committee meets…these are all recommendations that uhhhh, that they’ve been making all along.  Uhhhmmm, so it’s not, it’s not stuff that’s in the works, its stuff that’s been recommended at this point in the game.  And uh, and again and I will remind everybody at this Board no matter what happens with this Steering Committee, they will be bringing it back to us, we will be making decisions on this, it will be, it will be in front of this Board, uhhhmm.  Everything that goes on down there will be in front of this Board.  Uhhhmm.  I don’t see, I…I personally don’t see a need to throw another person in there.”

We can apparently add BRVFC members all day long to this committee, but putting the Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services on this committee?  That’s simply a bridge too far.  Why “throw” another person in there?  And if BRVFC is simply working on things on their own, why send an email update to the Township?

Regular readers and those familiar with the Fire and Emergency Services issues that have been front and center in this Board’s agenda this year (see here, here, here and here) are probably already asking themselves the next question that Barker poses to Pearson:

Barker, again referring to the email on his computer says, “So John, I’m just looking right here and it says, ‘to be built to facilitate the reallocation of space for the bunk rooms we need at the Oaks Station.’ Well, isn’t that part of the per diem firefighters [proposal]? Isn’t that part of our paid staff?”

John Pearson Tap Dance #3

“The whole object is to set the, set the whole thing up there, and then, when we build the facility, we move what’s happening there up to the new facility so that everybody has a chance to integrate with each other, they’re uhhhm, all, all the career guys, the Black Rock, and, and the Public Works guys, they get a chance to integrate with each other, to work with each other and everything else in a real firehouse, uhhhhh setting, and then when this is, when the new facility is done, they will be moving the the, the whole concept up to the uhhhh new facility and that’s what, that’s what, basically, this is all about.”

To which Barker responds, “It just seems like you know a lot more about this than I do.”

Indeed. It seems like Pearson is the only one who knows anything at all about what is going on with this.

on my own personal time
My own personal time.

Incredibly, Pearson acknowledges this:  “I…I…I do.  And that’s because I chose to sit in on…on a lot of these things, uhhhh, on my own personal time.”

Would that be in between Quizzo matches, perhaps?

Barker’s next comment mirrors my own as I sat and watched this:  “But we don’t know about it.  I had no idea these meetings were taking place.”

So let’s take a short break here and consider this:  John Pearson just admitted in a public meeting that he is meeting with BRVFC members on his “own personal time” (whatever THAT means when you are an elected official) and, on his “own personal time,” he, and he alone, is apparently discussing and giving direction on the implementation of the Township’s fire policy with an outside agency.

CaptureAs a reminder, the John Pearson who is objecting to adding the Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services to his dinky Steering Committee is the very same John Pearson who insisted that a three member Township Board of Supervisors was not enough “representation” for the residents of Upper Providence Township.  The John Pearson who insinuated that three Board members were “too cozy” and not quite transparent enough for his liking, is the same John Pearson who now thinks nothing of having secret policy meetings with BRVFC without the knowledge of the rest of the Board.  The same guy who championed the idea that “more representation is better” and worked tirelessly with his Upper Providence Worst First/Quizzo pals to add two more members to the Board of Supervisors, is absolutely panicked at the idea of adding Josh Overholt to the Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night.

In response to Barker’s assertion Pearson stammers, “Well…well…well there’s …there’s nothing been decided at this point in the game, uhhhmmm….”

To which Barker responds, “Well, they’re building a bunkhouse.”

John Pearson Tap Dance #4

“They’re proposing to build this bunkhouse.  They’re not…they’re not spending any money, they’re not doing anything that they haven’t, you know, uhhhmmm….ahhh….”

It’s at this point that resident Joe Peters raises his hand and like a drowning man reaching for a life preserver, Pearson gasps, “Yeah, Joe?”

life prresPeters says, “I just presumed it would be the fire chief since he is our senior fire services individual who runs the fire services in this Township.  If we were to investigate the police department in some respect, would you exclude Chief Toomey from being a part of the process?”

Oh.  Maybe this was not the relief Pearson was hoping for.

Pearson tries to brush this off by saying it’s a different scenario, but Peters is having none of it.  He states, quite correctly, that Josh Overholt “is the most knowledgeable person in our Township qualified to advise you on fire services for the Township.  I think that without the fire chief on this committee, it’s a real injustice as to what has to happen.”

Having survived Joe Peters’ first cross examination, Pearson sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

here comes that motion
Lookout! Oncoming Motion!

Which turns out to be an oncoming freight train.

Vagnozzi makes a motion to amend the Steering Committee to be five members, with Josh Overholt as a member of the Committee.  Barker immediately seconds.

So now there is an unplanned motion on the floor that isn’t actually written out for him by Tim Tieperman and, with as much trouble as Pearson has had just forming words and getting them out of his mouth this evening, it’s nothing short of a miracle that he is able to call for the vote. Vagnozzi and Barker vote for it, then Pearson calls for those opposed, who, in a little known codicil that may or may not be contained in Roberts Rules of Order, can apparently say either “Aye” or “No” to indicate opposition.

Surprisingly, Calci puts the brakes on the whole proceeding, asking if she can think about this for a moment.  Perhaps in surprise that one his “his girls” is showing signs of independence, Pearson chuckles in disbelief, “You want to think about that for a minute?”

Calci has correctly figured out that the membership of this committee could just keep growing, perhaps without ever actually accomplishing anything.  Joe Peters, who has brought more wisdom to the discussion than the Chairman of the Board, takes the floor again and outlines to Calci the membership he would like to see.  Peters, like just about everyone except the Chairman/ Quizzo host, doesn’t understand why Black Rock needs two members representing them on this committee.

John Pearson Tap Dance #5

“I…I…I’m looking at it in a different light.  I’m looking at like, I would prefer to put two people on that board who are decision makers, ok?  Uhhhmm for the Township. And those people would be Mr. Tieperman and Mr. Bortnichak.  We are…we are trying to stay off and it was suggested that we, that we put somebody from this Board on there but I thought that’s not a good idea, because….”

So after all of that huffing and puffing in the beginning of the discussion about how this Board will be making all the decisions, now Pearson’s excuse for not including Overholt on the Steering Committee is that he wants “decision makers” on the committee.  Pearson’s desperation to keep the Chief of Fire and Emergency Services off of this committee is becoming harder and harder for him to legitimately defend.

Peters wants to know, where is the Fire Chief?  If he is the expert, why isn’t he on?  Why doesn’t he have a say?  And if he doesn’t have a say, why does the Township need him?

When Pearson acknowledges that Overholt is the most knowledgeable person in the Township on fire and emergency service in the Township, Peters demands, “Well why isn’t he on the committee?”

Pearson’s comprehensive response is, “Because….well, it’s up to this Board to put him on this committee.”

Calci, the evening’s voice of reason, then suggests that they just go back to the original three members and says, “The more people you add, the harder it is to come to a conclusion, I think.”  Calci argues that the three members worked, they have a good dynamic going, and they are a good team.  “Don’t mess with it,” she suggests.

I agree wholeheartedly and the first five months of this newly expanded five member board are a testament to the sentiment that three members are way better than five.

Pearson notes that there is a vote on the floor and that they need to decide whether to include Overholt or not.  Vagnozzi amends his original motion to make the Board three members but replacing Tieperman with Overholt, since they all answer to Tieperman anyway.

Pearson, sensing that he is about to break an unbreakable Quizzo night promise by including Overholt on this Steering Committee, quickly stammers through a clarification that what Calci actually means is that they should just go back to the original Steering Committee membership of Tieperman, Bortnichak and LoCasale.

hot
Does it seem hot in here?

Vagnozzi says fine.  I’ll withdraw the motion and we don’t have to take any action.

After all of that sweating, Pearson seems at a loss to believe that he now doesn’t have to take any action at all.  He breathes a sigh of relief having escaped providing an explanation as to why he was so desperate to keep the Township’s Chief of Fire and Emergency Services, the person most knowledgeable about these matters in our Township, off of a committee that has ostensibly been formed to merge his department with the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company.

Other Business

  • Marchetti resolution from the prior meeting was cleaned up and approved.
  • The Board implemented a new policy/procedure for approving capacity rights agreements. The only Capacity Rights Agreements coming before the Board will now exceed 25 EDUs.  All smaller capacity rights agreements will be approved administratively.
  • The Board waived a special event fee for an event benefitting the Brian Lukens family.
  • Planning and Zoning report mentioned that the PTC 106, which is the proposed apartment development behind Wegmans, will be coming in to the Planning Commission in June.
  • Barker recommended that zoning applicants should be coming before the Board so that the Board can decide whether or not to send the Township Solicitor to represent the Township on certain matters.  This process was curtailed in order to streamline things, but the Board has asked for this process to be reinstated, at least on a limited basis.
  • There was discussion, but no resolution, on the Spares Lane one way in, one way out proposal.  Traffic Engineer Ken O’Brien says that this proposal has not been submitted to PennDOT yet.
  • The Phoenixville Intermodal Study is almost complete
  • There was a discussion about working on an ultimate resolution to the property in the Mingo section of the Township, that was discussed at the prior meeting. The property was supposed to be dedicated as open space, but the Township did not want the liability of the pond on the property.  The Township engineer was instructed to try to come up with a resolution.
  • The Board noted that they will adopt a summer schedule for Board meetings of one a month for July and August.
  • The Board held an Executive Session for personnel matters following adjournment.