UPT Board Meeting Notes 11/19/18  Episode 19:  The Great Pretension

Gentle Readers, I feel I’ve been quite consistent in my contempt for John Pearson’s opening free form remarks, and have never waivered in my assertion that this practice is nothing more than an ego indulgence. Rest assured, the November 19th meeting will not change that opinion at all; however, it does mark a new low for the custom. For the majority of the year, it was bad enough that Pearson presumed to waste our time and lecture the rest of the Township with his insipid little morality tales gleaned primarily from Chicken Soup for the Soul, but the last couple of meetings, he has gone off script, preferring instead to give us the results of his timely Google searches. This week, he gave us a list of Thanksgiving facts, inclusive of this tone-setting tidbit:

“Black Friday is the busiest day for Roto-Rooter. A major plumbing service, they are called in to clean up overwhelmed sewer systems.”

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Isn’t that great? Don’t these folksy, bi-weekly, dive-bar philosopher moments enhance your life in such a meaningful way? Doesn’t it make you just want to sit down and have a beer with your oh-so-relatable Township Supervisor?

This meeting clocks in at a very reasonable 1:06, so if nothing else, we can be thankful for that. It’s a pretty routine meeting, complete with the requisite paper shuffling and confusion from the Chairman, but there are still a couple of points worth highlighting, so let’s dig in.

Squad 51 Response Checked

After a perusal of the 2019 budget, I was unable to locate the cost expenditure for the new Medic Responder vehicle, which, you may recall, was the preferred EMS alternative of Pearson, Higgins and Calci over a centrally located ambulance service. Your Humble Blogress makes a cameo appearance at this week’s Public Comment portion of the meeting, with a question on the missing medic responder unit.

Mr. Tieperman’s response to me, that it was “probably” budgeted in last years’ capital budget and the Township did not program any new expenditures for 2019, does not hold water.

The medic responder unit, which represented a higher operating cost, but a lower initial capital outlay, was budgeted for $50,000 plus a $30,000 heart monitor vs. $190,000 plus the heart monitor for the Ambulance at the April 4 Special Fire and Emergency Services Meeting. Metrics on the EMS options presented at the April 4 meeting are included below:

8i AltBudget

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No brainer

After making such a business of choosing the Medic Responder over the Ambulance last spring, after promising the residents that they were going to do something to fill the identified and acknowledged gaps in the Township’s EMS coverage, the purchase of the Medic Responder unit was put out to bid in late spring. Presumably, the bids came back sometime in July, as the minutes of the July 16 meeting reflect:

Medic Responder Minutes 071618

Gentle Readers: the Medic Responder unit has not even been mentioned at a public Board meeting since then. As has been noted numerous times on this blog, the Medic Responder was, shall we say, a unique solution to a problem that was first proposed by this Board of Supervisors and had never before been contemplated by Upper Providence. The very “uniqueness” of this solution was cause for some rather wanton speculation by your humble Blogress regarding the current Board’s members’ lack of curiosity about this solution prior to voting in favor of it.

Budget
It’s not in here. We looked.

It should further be noted that if the Medic Responder had, in fact, been budgeted in 2018, it would have had to have been done via a budget amendment, which never happened. And it was certainly not a part of the 2018 budget passed last year.

As was implied by Mr. Tieperman’s response to me during public comment, the Medic Responder unit is not included in the 2019 budget, either.

So where is it?

And if the Medic Responder unit is not included in the 2018 or 2019 budget, what does the Board plan to do in order to fill the existing EMS coverage gap, illustrated below:

Closest EMS
Red and orange areas show “gaps” in coverage.

I submitted a follow-up email to Mr. Tieperman on 11/20 asking these questions, but received an out of office reply. I will keep you updated on any response on this important Township safety issue.

In Which a Major Policy Initiative is Shoehorned into the Code at the 11th Hour

We’re going to skip ahead to the 53:00 minute mark in the meeting to revisit the continuing saga of the Administrative Code.

The advertisement of the Administrative Code seems to have been on every agenda since July and tonight was no exception. The problem with advertising the ordinance seems to be the very fluid nature of it—between Board comments and corrections, it’s been a difficulty determining when the document is mostly complete and can therefore be advertised to be approved and then implemented. The Board can always amend the ordinance at their pleasure after passage.

Today’s fluidity is thanks to Calci, who, via an email to Tieperman earlier that same day, proposed additional language preventing “Pay to play.” Bresnan explains:

“It’s an ethics provision regarding any contract that you would let that is not covered by the bidding law. In other words, if it’s something that doesn’t have to go to bid, a person could not bid to be your consultant or vendor if they had given a contribution to a candidate for Supervisor in that year or the prior year in excess of $300. That was taken largely from something that Helene had located in New Jersey, an ordinance in New Jersey. I’m familiar with those provisions in some Pennsylvania municipalities, too, with roughly similar provisions. I wrote that this afternoon, and I don’t know if it was distributed to everyone.”

Can I interject here for a second and just convey to you, Gentle Reader, how very pleased I am to learn that we are using New Jersey, the absolute epicenter of good government, as the source of the template for an ethics ordinance?

Bresnan tells the Board that this language, which they are all seeing for the first time at this meeting, is on the last page of the hard copies of the 211 page Administrative Code that they have at their places. Bresnan continues:

“The only thing that’s not in the draft is what the penalty is. I was under a time constraint when I got the request, but that’s the only thing that would require some discussion. It would be hard to penalize the candidate at the time of contribution; at the time of contribution to a candidate, there is nothing wrong about it yet. It only becomes wrong when that same person puts in to become your vendor or consultant. So you’d have to think about the best way to state what is a violation. You’re talking about an ordinance violation, so there’s a state law that limits the penalties on local ordinances. But you could also disqualify the contract and seek to charge back anyone who took a contribution in violation of the provision.

Probably the thing that ties it all together really would be the affidavit. Now you don’t have that there; the affidavit would include the same language that we use in legal pleadings, so that when the person signs an affidavit to say that they didn’t make any contributions to candidates in the last two years when they are making an application to be your vendor. If they make a false statement in that application, then they are subject to prosecution under the crimes code. That really would be the strongest part of it from a penalty standpoint. What I did was I took the essence of the New Jersey ordinance and condensed it down into what you saw, because the New Jersey ordinance was like nine pages. If I put all that in there, you’d all be jumping up and down hitting me over the head with notebooks for putting all that in there at the last minute. I don’t object to it in concept, I can tweak the language, but I wanted to have something in there so you have something to look at. I can tweak that language further if you’re interested in pursuing it.”

Vagnozzi remarks that the Board has been contemplating the Administrative code for months and, while he agrees that this is a very good addition to the code, he suggests that they advertise the document that they are all familiar with and amend the code at a later time with this new, proposed language. Bresnan concurs, and says there is some additional by-laws language they can then include and contemplate as a supplement package to the Administrative code. Pearson quickly agrees with Vagnozzi.

Calci2
Wait, I write the ordinances? Whenever I want?

Calci, apparently still unclear as to her actual role as a Township Supervisor, asks what the process is, if the code would be updated quarterly or annually or what? Bresnan tells her they can amend the code whenever they want, every month if they desire. It’s just an ordinance.

Pearson says he will entertain a motion to advertise the ordinance “as it is now,” meaning without the pay-to-play language, and Barker says, “Wait a minute. I’m not in a position where I’m ready to approve it as it is now. If you want to wait one more meeting, I’ll send you all my notes on it.”

Pearson responds that Barker can add his notes at any time and Barker asks, “Why do you want to adopt something that’s not exactly what you want to start with?”

It is unclear at this point whether Barker is aware that Pearson doesn’t have any idea what’s in the document he’s getting ready to advertise. I think the only thing about this ordinance that Pearson is sure of at this point is that if they vote to advertise “as is,” it won’t include this new pay-to-play language.

211 pages is a lot to ask someone to read, you know. That’s like an entire book and there are kitschy Google searches to do in the meantime. Pearson says, “We’re not going to adopt it, we’re going to advertise it.” The subtleties of this are completely lost on Pearson, who also wanted to make changes to the advertised budget after it had been advertised. Every document is a living, breathing document for Pearson.

Bresnan says that the advertisement would be the preamble of the ordinance and as long as the changes Barker had were not too substantial, they would not have to re-advertise.

Barker says there have been changes made to the document that he doesn’t agree with, specifically the amount of money the Township Manager can spend. Bresnan says that amount was reduced from $50,000 to $25,000 and Barker says he still doesn’t agree with $25,000. At this, Pearson calls to table the item for one more meeting and tells Barker to bring in all his “changes, alterations, whatever you want to do with it,” at the next meeting.

Calci asks that if Bresnan takes the time to work on Barker’s corrections, that he also take the time to work on her pay to play language as well.

The item is tabled.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Can I have Your Pretension, Please?

This is rich.

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to suggest monitoring campaign finance reports for pay-to-play activity when one’s own campaign finance reports are, shall we say, somewhat less than transparent.

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Pearson’s reaction to this late addition to the code which actually governs the Board was not exactly enthusiastic. In fact, in his exchange with Barker, Pearson seemed more concerned with advertising the ordinance as is, sans pay-to-play language, than he was in actually getting the ordinance right. This reaction from Pearson would be wholly understandable.

As was documented extensively back in April in THIS POST, the 2017 Higgins Calci and Pearson Fresh Perspective campaign for Upper Providence Township Supervisor conveniently left several contributions off of their campaign finance reports, such as in-kind donations for all three of the fundraisers that they held. Additionally, the campaign itself filed their final report late and paid the late fine with campaign funds, which is expressly forbidden.

Calci’s husband, Joe Haney, was the treasurer for the HCP campaign and responsible for filing their reports.

Pearson himself was under investigation for not filing ANY campaign finance reports AT ALL during his run for re-election in 2015, this, in spite of obvious expenditures and donations. He eventually documented at least the expenditures for which I had submitted photographic evidence to the County and he filed those 2015 campaign finance reports in the Spring of 2018, along with his $500 fine, at the conclusion of the investigation initiated by Montgomery County Voter Services.

And in 2016, Pearson’s five-member board PAC, Upper Providence First, omitted expenses and contributions from their year-end filing and had to file an amended report in May of 2017. Even the final amended report did not reconcile and showed outstanding bills unpaid.

Classic Transference
Ahh, yes. A classic case of transference.

And isn’t it Pearson who pals around with a notable member of the paparazzi and Upper Providence First “Republican” who was appointed to a payback Township position by the Democrat majority? A guy who no one can really tolerate but for the fact that he’s the perfect political tool:  wealthy, angry, ambitious, and not too bright, which makes him malleable and easily manipulatable. For the last four-plus years, he’s literally been throwing tens of thousands of dollars wherever he’s been directed around Mongomery County, in a thus-far unsuccessful effort to buy his way into political power.

And isn’t Pearson also good buddies with the guy who famously defrauded PennDOT out of almost a million dollars then got zero jail time due to his conveniently-timed plea bargain the day after our current crusading Attorney General got elected?

Are we to take seriously this 11th hour, high-handed moralizing about pay-to-play from folks who consistently don’t even report all of their contributions and expenses on their campaign finance reports? From folks whose campaign benefitted from programs funded by dark money contributed through county and area committees? From folks whose understanding of money in politics is nuanced, at best?

Are these the folks who are to be trusted to take up the reigns of policing money in politics?

Yes, by all means, let’s pass this heroic ordinance. After all, it won’t affect the Democrats or Pearson’s buddies, who consistently game the campaign finance system by either omitting those items that may be somewhat “questionable” from their campaign finance reports, or simply don’t bother to file the reports at all.

If you have not already done so, I stongly encourage you to read this detailed post on the subject of campaign finances in Upper Providence: ‘Stormy’ Conditions; Limited Visibility

Go ahead.  Click on through and read it now.  I’ll wait.

PTC 106 Residences at Providence Town Center

The Board voted unanimously to approve the Conditional Use application to PTC 106 aka The Residences at Providence Town Center, aka The Apartments Behind Wegman’s. The Board included a condition of contributions in their approval. The Township will receive a total amount of $585,000 in consideration of the impact on police and other Township services with a portion to be paid upon delivery of each building of the project.

The Board also approved the Tentative Land Development, and additional fees from this project will be collected by the Township upon approval of the Preliminary Land Development plan. Those fees are estimated at $288,000 for traffic impacts and $2.34 million in recreation fees.

Report from the Schuylkill Canal Association

The Schuylkill Canal and Lock 60 were taken over by Montgomery County several years ago. The Schuylkill Canal Association (“SCA”) is a 100% volunteer organization and derives the bulk of their funding from Upper Providence Township, with donations coming from membership and sometimes events (though most events admittedly lose money for the organization).

At the end of the presentation, as usual, Calci turns to Barker and asks him if he has any questions. It’s interesting, this reliance on Barker for doing the homework for the Board, especially on land-use issues. One wonders if the Democrats plan on actually learning about this subject anytime soon.

Barker notes that the Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”), which transferred the ownership of this property from the Township to the County, outlined County financial support for the organization; however, the Association reported that they have been paying for heat and electricity of the lock tender’s house, (which is County property) and the County has not provided any financial support for many years. The Association is currently negotiating a new lease with the County, which they hope will include basic upkeep (power and heat) for the lock tender’s house.

Barker says the original MOU was a three part agreement, including the SCA, the Township and the County and Barker was under the impression that we were still operating under that same agreement. If that agreement is no longer in place, when was the Township excluded from being a party to the agreement?

Betsey Daley explains that a fourth party, the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, was also a party to that agreement. She states that “a lot has changed” in the ten years since the County has taken over the area, including that there is no longer a paid, executive director for the SCA (which was formerly Daley herself).

Barker says, “I just find it disappointing on the County’s part that we entered into that agreement, and negotiated to give all of that Township property, all of those Township properties, because they wanted to improve the area, but they are not willing to support the ongoing efforts of you and Dan? I just find it disappointing on the County’s part.”

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Daley responds that the SCA is trying to negotiate with the County to make it more of an equal responsibility. So far they have not heard back from them.

Vagnozzi asks Tieperman to set up a meeting with the County to discuss this issue.

Oh, and by the way, color me shocked—SHOCKED, I tell you!—that Montgomery County not only cut Upper Providence Township out of the current MOU without telling the Township, but has not been financially supporting the property under the purview of the SCA that the Township transferred to them 10 years ago.

I just. Cannot. Believe. It.

Nudging the Budget

Agenda Item: “Consider any Board related Budget modifications that are not related to sewer.”

Huh?

Hasn’t the budget been advertised already? Why would anyone need to consider “modifications” to a budget that has already been advertised?

Unless, of course, someone missed one of the two scheduled budget workshops. And the someone who missed it just so happened to be the Chairman of the Board.

Why must the entire Township suffer for one man’s lack of engagement in his job?

Say it with me, people: “Budget IS Policy.”

The most important job a Township Supervisor has is the budget. The budget dictates what projects and items will be funded and which will be curtailed, and which will be expanded. And while I am fully aware that Quizzo night falls on Mondays, I was under the impression that, even on the off chance that this particular Fitz activity has recently declined in popularity, there was still an active and vested interest in the budget from the Quizzo regulars.

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Naturally when the Budget Modification item came up, Pearson punts it directly to Tieperman to handle, as if he, Pearson, had nothing whatsoever to do with it appearing on the agenda. Tieperman reports that the issue of “extra public works staffing” was handled in the Secret Monday Morning Meeting (which Vagnozzi attended). Interestingly, there are no modifications to the operating budget to consider.

Tieperman goes on to say that there was an oversight in budgeting programming for the Taylor Farm Park, but that funding for that will be coming from the approximate $1.0 million plus in Park and Rec Open Space capital funds and have no impact on operating.

That all being said, the Board is still considering a raise in sewer rates, which will impact the sewer budget. Upper Providence currently pays the lowest sewer rates in Western Montgomery County.

Sewer Rates
Note: The following municipalities are members of the Lower Perkiomen Valley Sewer Authority (“LPVRSA”): Collegeville, Trappe, Royersford, Skippack, Lower Providence, Perkiomen, and Upper Providence.

Due to advertising requirements, the budget will not be voted for approval until the December 17 meeting. Additionally, staff is recommending that the Board take a hard pause to consider sewer policy prior to committing to the sewer expansion project at Fruit Farm Road and Old State.

Vagnozzi summarizes that the Township has had a policy of not onlyproviding a 75% subsidy towards the installation of sewer hookup for it’s residents, but the Township has also made it a practice to not require residents to hook up once sewer lines are installed. Recall that this discussion came up at a recent meeting as well (see HERE for more information).

Barker asks about wage increases and notes that there was to be a discussion on this (a later exchange reveals that the wrong document was included in the Supervisors’ dropbox). Tieperman responds that the budget is calling for an across the Board Cost of Living increase (“COLA”) of 2.8% to mirror what the police are getting.

Prior to my tenure, it was standard operating procedure for the Township to give the non-union employees the same raise and benefits that the union employees had negotiated for themselves. When I came on Board, I asked, what was the point of even having non-union employees since they were benefitting by getting the same employment terms that the union had negotiated? I understand the thought process that says to keep the non-union employees happy so that they don’t unionize, but if they are getting the same pay raises and benefits, aren’t all Township employees effectively union? As equalizing these benefits to whatever the union had negotiated was a favorite hobby horse of Pearson’s to keep his insiders at the Township happy, especially where health benefits were concerned, I’m not surprised to see that the Township is right back to handing out the same benefits and compensation packages to union and non-union alike.

End Zone

The Board considered two zoning appeals in which to decide whether or not to send the Solicitor to oppose: DeVinny Equities at 1425, 1431 and 1441 Collegeville Road and David James real Estate at 98 Caroline Drive. The Board voted to let the Zoning Hearing Board “do their thing” on both items.

I only mention it here as noteworthy that after three six-year terms and a year into his fourth term, John Pearson has finally figured out what this action is all about and now feels confident in explaining it to the Board, even adding some authority in his delivery, and using minimal guidance from the Solicitor.

It’s almost time to take the training wheels off! Progress!

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UPT Board Meeting Notes 11/5/18 Episode 18: Chickens Return Home; Find Place to Roost

Gentle Readers, the November 5 Board of Supervisors Meeting clocks in at a brutal 2 hours and 37 minutes.

In fairness to the Board, it was a heavy agenda.

time
When it only seems like time is folding in on itself.

In fairness to the rest of us, however, my conservative estimate of how much time John Pearson wastes with general incompetence in his capacity as Chairman of the Board, during this meeting alone, clocks in at around 45 minutes. I’m not sure how he can be prepared to read his insipid little story every week (another 3 minutes of your life you will never get back), but when it comes to actual Board business, somehow his computer doesn’t work, he can’t find his notes, he doesn’t know how much things cost, or he simply needs the procedure explained to him for the umpteenth time.

This level of unpreparedness is, quite frankly, not only irresponsible and embarassing, but it’s downright inconsiderate of everyone’s time. At almost one year into his fourth term into office, there really is no excuse for this.

There is probably another 45 minutes that are devoted to the ramifications of just two of Pearson’s bad decisions of the past eleven months. Karma never loses an address.

Take out all of this Pearson-related time wasting, and you are left with a wholly reasonable hour and four minute meeting.

Before we get to public comment, we have to get through what is now becoming traditional confusion over the previous meeting minutes. This finally ends when Calci seconds the motion to approve minutes for a meeting for which she was not even present.

The Once-ler of Oaks

Resident Chuck Stoll approaches to let the Board know that SEI has cleared a section of woods that they were supposed to leave up to screen the neighborhood from their parking garage. They also altered the path of a stream, and removed several large trees. Pearson says that he took a ride to the site “the other day,” after he received Stoll’s email and verified that Stoll is correct. He tells him he doesn’t know what they are going to do, but it’s definitely on the Board’s “radar.” What a comfort.

LORAX
Ooops. Sorry.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything the Board does about this. SEI is one of the largest employers in the Township; however, their consideration of the neighbors, particularly those in Indian Head, has historically left quite a bit to be desired. If large trees have already been removed, this is irreparable damage to the screening that SEI promised the neighborhood. I’m not sure how the neighborhood can be made whole in the loss of mature trees.

Pearson says he went down there a “a few days ago,” meaning he had plenty of time to determine a course of action–for starters, calling SEI, perhaps? But Pearson has far more pressing matters to worry about this week because a couple of chickens are coming home to roost right on his shoulders.

RECkoning

Resident Jerry Prescuitti (with apologies for probably hacking the spelling of his name) approaches and tells the Board, “I want to raise the issue of the Rec Center, again, the continuing fiasco from the summer which should never have come up to begin with.”

Mr. Prescuitti states that the original hours were 6 am to 10 pm, Monday through Thursday with the Rec Center closing early on Fridays. The new hours, since the Board’s ham-handed announcement in June to close the Fitness Center with no plan to repurpose the space, are 8 am to 10 pm Monday through Thursday with an early close on Friday. Prescuitti tells the Board something he should not need to tell them: that most people’s workdays start at 8 am and end around 6 pm, so anyone who wants to work out before they go to work is out of luck under the current operating hours. Prescuitti says this is unfair to folks who want to work out in the morning and proposes that the Board open the Rec Center an hour earlier and either closes an hour earlier or just extend the Rec Center hours by one hour.

“Well Jerry, w-w-w-I’m well, you know, I got your email, okay? Uhhhm, it was sent to Tim and I, I got copied on your email, ummm, we discussed it earlier today. Ummmm… I found out that in order to change just those two hours, just to accommodate, w-w-we, they have a-a-a uh a swipe up there that every time someone comes in, we know who’s coming in and what time, okay? A-a-a-and they went back over the last year or so, and it indicated that there were two people, maximum, most of the time, on occasion there were maybe four people. The expense involved in, in, in, in turning, opening that thing up two hours early every day turns out to be roughly $10,000 a year. And we’re not, we’re not, I personally, am not going to approve something like that. I don’t know about the rest of the Board, you can ask them their opinion.”

Prescuitti counter with the following points:

First, he’s not asking for two hours, he’s asking for one hour.

He’s asking for a shift in hours, not an additional hour, and there should be no incremental cost if you shift the hours.

He would also like to request the swipe data for two years to verify the usage Pearson is saying.

(Note to Mr. Prescuitti: File an RTK with the Township. I’d be more than happy to help you with that. The link is here.)

Prescuitti then says he’d like Pearson to explain why they are cutting off access for one group of people while another group has access for four hours in the evening.

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Let’s be frank: 8 am is a ridiculous time to open a gym in the morning, since most working folks have to be at work by 9 am at the latest. As a person who goes to the gym before I leave for work in the morning, even a fitness center that opened at 6 am would be useless to me, as I must leave my house at 6:30 to begin my hellish commute to Center City, only to arrive at work just as our Rec Center is opening. My gym opens at 5 am and on the all-too-often occasions when they open even five minutes late, it messes up my day.

Barker:

“The change in hours was not determined by this entire Board, I want to make that clear from the beginning. Up until about a year and a half ago, I was a paying member of the Recreation Center, and I worked out between 6 and 8 in the morning. I am not able to do that now because of my change in employment. I would agree with you, that it should be changed, and I don’t know whether the hours are part of the ordinance that was adopted, the fee schedule, we have a fee schedule for the Recreation Center that I don’t believe is being followed now, it’s being changed. But we have an adopted fee schedule which includes sewer, permits and everything else. But I, for one, would agree with you that is should be opened earlier. And my card does not swipe anymore, but it did swipe, and I don’t know how it’s determined what’s a valid swipe and what is not a valid swipe.”

Prescuitti also wants to get the financials for the last two years and for the next year. This will be a neat trick. Good luck, Mr. Prescuitti. If they even exist, I’m not sure I’d trust the numbers. But more on that a bit later. Prescuitti continues:

“I’m pretty sure that the incompetent decision to announce the closure of that facility without any viable plan except bird identification classes, or whatever your lead candidate was, already cost the Rec Center, probably at least $10,000. I’m pretty good with data, so I’m going to go through that data, in detail, and I’m going to come back to this meeting with that assessment of how much we’ve already lost, and I guaranty you it’s already more than $10,000, because of that initial decision.”

Vagnozzi tells him he can file an RTK request or just ask the Township Manager, who would be happy to get the data for him. Prescuitti is not done, yet, however:

“When that original case was made to shut down the Rec Center because of not enough utilization of the facility by the entire community, ironically, I come home today for dinner, and I get our nice monthly flier from the Township. (Note: the Township newsletter is only published 2x per year) I see in here on page two, ‘Skate Park Project is Underway.’ Can you tell us what the costs for the Skate Park enhancements are, and what your utilization assumptions are for that usage?”

Prescuitti then asks the audience, by show of hands, if anyone present will use the skate park.

Higgins states that the people who are in the market for the skate park are not present in the room. Barker says that the skate park is the most utilized park in the Township, and that he would support it even though he doesn’t skate. Prescuitti then asks how much it costs, and Barker tells him $385,000 plus concrete. Prescuitti responds:

“So $385,000 for the skate park and it’s $10,000 to adjust the hours of the Rec Center to make it more usable for a more broader amount of people, because you are pretty much shutting out anyone who wants to work out in the morning?”

At this point, once again, Bresnan steps in to do the job Pearson is supposed to be doing in his capacity as Chairman. Bresnan says that the public comment has gone beyond the usual allotted time and it’s become more argument and demanding answers than public comment.

And as we all know by now, it’s a waste of time asking questions because Pearson has no answers for this boneheaded decision.

here comes that motion
Lookout! Oncoming unplanned motion!

Always quick to grasp the lifeline once it’s thrown to him, Pearson is noticably relieved and quick to get Prescuitti to sit down: “Eh-eh-th-thank you for stepping in and we’ll get you the information that you need.”

Oh no. Here it comes. Another Unplanned Motion!

Vagnozzi, talking over Pearson and Prescuitti:

“If I could? We either have a Rec Center, or we don’t. I read Mr. Prescuitti’s email, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request. So I make a motion that we direct the Township Manager to open the Rec Center one hour earlier, at 7 am and going forward within 30 days. Only during the week. I’ll make that motion.”

Barker immediately seconds.

After a stunned beat or two, Pearson recognized the motion on the floor and calls for a vote. Calci asks for clarification on whether the Board is voting to shift the hours or add an hour. Barker says, “Al’s motion was to open the Rec Center one hour earlier. And it’s not just the fitness center; you can’t open the fitness center without the Rec Center.” Vagnozzi confirms and Barker reconfirms his second.

The vote goes down 3 to 2 in favor of opening the Rec Center an hour earlier, with Vagnozzi, Barker and Calci voting Aye and Pearson and Higgins opposed.

Call him Ishmael

If you have not figured it out yet, this issue, which was wholly maufactured by Pearson back in June, is part and parcel of the petty score settling portion of Pearson’s Failed Agenda of Petty Score Settling and Crony Favor Granting.

mobydick

Very simply, I believe John Pearson is trying to kill the Rec Center. Parks and Recreation has been Pearson’s White Whale since long before the Rec Center opened in 2011, and he is determined to strangle the life out of it.

First a bit of history: As mentioned above, the Rec Center opened in the summer of 2011. When I was first elected to Board and took office in 2012, one of the first things John Pearson wanted me to look at was the Rec Center because he said he “knew” it was losing money. (Note well, Gentle Readers: At that time, Pearson and I were friendly; indeed it was not until 2015, a year he ran for, and lost, re-election, and fell in with the Upper Providence First Worst crowd, that Pearson turned on me.)

It was not until about 9 months into my first year in office that I realized that the origin of this gambit was Pearson’s personal vendetta against then-Rec Center Director, Sue Barker.

I asked Pearson to provide me with financials demonstrating what he was telling me: that the Rec Center was losing money and, further, that it was Sue Barker who was running it into the ground, and all this within it’s first year of operations. For several months, Pearson badgered me to act on this, while I kept responding by asking for the numbers. Because the first question I had was, if there were no existing financials on which to monitor the performance of the Rec Center, how did Pearson “know” it was losing money?

Finally, he had the Finance Director put some spreadsheets together for me. Upon reviewing the information I was provided, I noted that, among other things, the Rec Center was being charged for all manner of operating costs, i.e. electric, heat, air, internet, etc., that the Township Administration Building, the Public Works Building and the Meeting Hall simply charged off to some magical “Building Fund” in order to make the Rec Center look like it was doing worse than it was.

Please note, Gentle Reader: there is literally no service that your Government provides that makes money. Running government “like a business” is a myth and rarely achievable. Township-provided services, i.e. police, fire, road maintenance, sewer, etc: it all costs money with nothing but your tax dollars to pay for it. Ironically, the Fitness Center at the Rec Center is the one Township service where membership fees were actually offsetting some of the costs of provision. This is the service Pearson and his Girls® decided to cut. None of the replacement programming they suggested would generate significant ongoing offsetting revenue streams like the fitness center membership; in fact, almost all of the alternative programming that was suggested in June would only cost the Township money.

Needless to say, I had Pearson’s financials normalized back in 2012 and insisted on receiving them and monitoring them for two years. What I observed was not concerning, especially for a startup venture; indeed, memberships and swipes generally increased steadily during the whole first year and a half of operations before leveling off. This was accomplished, by the way, without any formal marketing plan, which, you may recall, was a major gripe of the disgruntled membership when Pearson decided to close it this past June (for a refresher on that memorable meeting, see HERE). In fact, when the electronic sign for the Rec Center was budgeted for 2016, Pearson wanted to cut it; he insisted the Rec Center was under performing (despite fiscal evidence to the contrary that he was incapable of interpreting) and did his best to hamstring the operation every chance he got.

The change in hours at the Rec Center is just a tactic to create a self-fulfilling prophesy: make it so inconvenient to work out there that members begin resigning. Without membership, the Rec Center loses more money, and viola! Justification to close it. This is an old strategy of Pearson’s, simply executed in a different way.

Image result for from hell's heart i stab at thee gif
From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee

Pearson made no secret during his numerous runs for office that one of the reasons he was running was to “get rid of” Sue Barker. Unfortunately for Pearson, Sue Barker denied him his pound of flesh when she separated from the Township’s employ last November, prior to Pearson’s taking office. The only recourse left to Pearson to satisfy his lust for revenge is to strangle the Rec Center into oblivion, destroying whatever is left of the good work she’s done there, then somehow try to pin it on her post-humously.

It’s worth noting that the word on the street is that the Township’s Rec Director, Jen Steffenauer, who was hired by this Board less than a year ago, has also tendered her resignation within the last two weeks. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two director level employees lost this year: Josh Overholt, Upper Providence Fire Chief, who submitted his resignation in July, and now Steffenauer this month. It’s not conicidence that FEMS and Recreation were Pearson’s two areas of focus this year. It would seem that his brand of political chaos doesn’t provide for a very stable work environment.

And can we talk about that penny pinching reluctance to open the Rec Center so people can use it in the morning? The excuse that the extra hour is going to cost the Township an extra $10,000 a year is lame beyond belief for two reasons: first of all, that money was already budgeted for 2018. Second, and even more ridiculous: because of Pearson ‘s ham-handed and short sighted approach to the closing of the fitness center, it is costing the residents up to $57,690 to conduct a township wide survey so that the residents can actually tell Pearson what he should do with the building.

Because he has no idea what to do with that building and he never did; he has no vision for this Township whatsoever. His thinking is small, compartmentalized and short-term. His style of governance, if it can even be called that, basically consists of tamping down one self-ignited dumpster fire after starting another. His short attention span precludes any consistent, long range, big picture or analytical thinking about what’s best for the Township. It’s only about what’s best, politically and personally, for John Pearson.

That’s why for want of saving $10,000, he’ll spend almost $60,000 on a survey to justify it.

No Relief in Slight

We’ll now move on to the crony favor granting portion of Pearson’s Failed Agenda of Petty Score Settling and Crony Favor Granting. At about 1:33:00, another bad Pearson decision chicken comes home to roost in the form of the vote on the distribution of the Fire Relief Association money.

First, a word about this funding: Relief Association money comes from the State to the Township for them to pass along to the various first due volunteer fire companies that serve the Township, and it must be distributed within 60 days of receipt of that money. As has been mentioned ad nauseum in this blog this year, the Township is served by four, first due volunteer fire companies (coverage areas illustrated in the map below). In addition to passing along Relief monies from the State, the Township also provides annual funding from the Township’s general fund. A significant portion of the local Volunteer Fire Companies’ annual funding comes from taxpayer dollars.

Screenshot_2017-05-02-10-06-58-1 (1)

At this meeting, the Board is determining the distribution of the State Relief monies only.

Gentle Readers, you can always tell when Pearson wants to avoid discussion of an uncomfortable topic, because he will announce the agenda item and immediately say, “I think we all know what this one is about. I’ll entertain a motion,” in an effort to curtail comments.

And that is exactly what happens here.

Unfortunately for him, Assistant Manager Bortnichak has a presentation to accompany this agenda item:

“Staff’s recommendation is that the formula that’s been applied to the general funding allocation to the fire companies most recently be applied to the relief funding distribution for 2018. The amount we received this year was $186,000 and change, unfortunately it’s down over $41,000 over the past two years.”

“The formula is worked out by district size, by population within that district and the call volume within that district: 30% for district size, 30% for population and 40% for call volume. So it is weighted slightly in favor of the calls that the fire companies run.”

Bortnichak then goes on to explain the allocations this year. The graphic below shows the calculation and the final award numbers:

Relief allocation

Note well, Gentle Reader: when Bortnichak says that staff recommends “the most recent formula that’s been applied to the general funding allocation,” he’s talking about the very same formula that the Democrats campaigned against last year as a “cut” to Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company’s funding. (See HERE for a detailed post about that funding).

In fact, Frequent Flyers may recall that despite numerous occasions to do so, the newly elected Board never exercised their right to reopen the 2018 budget and correct what they portrayed as a grievous slight to the Black Rock Fire Company all during the campaign of 2017, as demonstrated by the following campaign mailers they sent out last year:

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1MailersideA

What they are about to approve is a distribution of Relief monies calculated by the very same formula they told voters was a “cut” to BRVFC’s funding.

Pearson blathers:

“I know you guys are all tired of hearing me beat this dead horse to death, but I’m not uhhh, real happy with theeeee, the uhhhh, way that this money is being distributed, but so be it. I’ll entertain a motion.”

And that’s it. Vagnozzi makes the motion and Barker seconds. Pearson calls for the vote and it passes unanimously.

Let me say that again:

It. Passes.

UNANIMOUSLY.

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Pearson was anxious to put this agenda item behind him, but, unfortunately for him, when he’s just inches from a clean getaway, Barker brings the issue back up at the end of the meeting during Supervisor comments.

We’ll pick up the meeting at 2:30:00 just after Pearson promises Barker that members of the Schuylkill Canal Association will be attending the next meeting to tell the Township how they are using the money the Township has been giving them every year. Barker to Pearson:

“You raised a question about the firehouse funding and was it a fair distribution of funds? And when I look at it, the number of fire calls, we don’t determine that; that’s predetermined as far as what they report as fire calls. The second one is square miles, the other one was population within the district. So the only thing that we could change, is if we change the response district, which would increase their square mileage and the population; that’s based on the box there, the first due district. So it’s not something…it’s not something we could arbitrarily change unless we change the box.”

Pearson responds,

“I get it and, and pretty much everyone in here has seen me beating this horse, and I get it, the vote was taken, it’s fine, but, for the, and I made this comment earlier, and ma, and Al kinda corrected me, for the last coupla years, it was uhhh, it’s been a different…it’s been a different, uhmmmm…pardon me? [At this point, Calci says, “Formula?” and Pearson says “Thank you. Thank you for completing my sentence.”] It’s been a different formula. What I wanna do is, okay, don’t change the formula any more, stick with what it is, leave it the way that it is, so that, so that, so that it doesn’t get skewed any further that what it is, where it’s at. I’m not happy with the distribution either, but you know, that’s neither here nor there, I don’t wanna get, I don’t wanna get into it. I-I’ve been beating every, I’ve been beating everybody up, except for you [Barker] about it. You’re lucky because your ears would still be going agh, I wish he would shut up.”

Barker, clearly not getting or not caring about Pearson’s telegraphed message that he doesn’t want to talk about this subject any more, says,

“I just kept looking at it to see where we could change it and the only thing we could change was the box. We could change the first due box locations and maybe give them a bigger area which would then give them a bigger population. But that’s based on the distance from the firehouse and the response areas.”

Pearson:

“Well what I was hoping, what I was hoping for was that, cuz, cuz, I have no experience at this whatsoever, what I was hoping for was to take on John Muir, and I called him this morning, but he was not available, um and I was gonna ask him his opinion how other municipalities handle it, or how he would handle it, or what, or what other companies have done, and I was gonna go with something like that. I…I just, you know, I just have a problem with it, you know. It’s just, and it’s my problem, not the Board’s, so I’ve let it go.”

Calci then jumps in to ask Barker if he feels like it’s a fair formula. Barker responds that it is fair because the Assistant Manager can’t change it, the Manager can’t change it, the Board can’t change it, and Calci says, “It’s not arbitrary.”

Barker nods agreement, then says it could only be changed if the fire service decides that another fire company should service the area, which would possibly give them more calls, more square miles and more population, “But it’s not something that anyone of us could….”

“Arbitrarily change.” Calci concludes.

Bortnichak states that the formula is not subjective and Barker agrees, saying, that the formula is “not some arbitrary formula that Josh [Overholt] came up with to favor one fire company over another.”

Pearson chokes down a few more stutters in response then repeats how he doesn’t want to get in to it.

“It’s been done, it’s been voted on, ah, all I can say is that I’m not happy with it and I’m not in favor of it, you know, I voted for it because I wanted everybody to get their share, and then it’s like whatever, and move on from it, so…um um I’m ok with it, you know.”

Calci says she feels like it’s fair enough, but, as usual, defers to the experts and suggests they still check with John Muir. Pearson promises it will be one of his first questions when he sits down with Mr. Muir.

Barker then reiterates that this formula is not something that anyone of them can alter so that one fire company gets any more than another. The meeting adjourns shortly thereafter.

I didn’t see a beating. Did you?

Phew! I’m actually sweating FOR Pearson after that exchange! Could he be any more uncomfortable?

So let’s start with the obvious: when you are an elected Supervisor, and you are one of five members on a Board, what is it that you can do it you are “not happy” with a issue?

How would you express disagreement with a policy decision?

Hmmm….what is it? What could it be? What possible action could an elected Supervisor take on an issue that he was “not in favor of?”

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Gentle Readers, far be it for your Humble Blogress to propose, but if I was “not happy” with a vote I was about to take, do you know what I could do?

I could vote against it.

Yet Pearson clearly voted in favor of this funding formula. Just like he did on every single vote he took when he sat on the Board with Barker and me. Oh, he was “not happy” with plenty of those votes, but the public only found out about that alleged “unhappiness” after he got voted out of office and whined to whoever would listen about how he had been shut out. Recognize this for what it is: Nobody forced Pearson’s votes during any of his numerous terms in office; indeed, he could have thrown a “no” vote at any time on any given issue, but instead of doing that, what he did was try to take credit for the great policies that were put into place “during his tenure” when he ran for, and lost, re-election in 2015. It wasn’t until the next year, when he was trying to expand the Board with Upper Providence First Worst, that he was suddenly claiming that he was locked out and forced to vote for things he didn’t really want to vote for.

Like tonight.

He talked about beating a “dead horse to death” regarding this issue, yet from the public’s point of view, Pearson rolled over. Just like always. As an observing member of the public, I didn’t hear a single argument or point made that justified Pearson’s stance against this funding formula. Just that he was “not happy.”

And just how much beating of that “dead horse to death” did he actually do with the rest of the Board, since he was not able to convince a single Board member —not even himself—to vote against the funding formula?

Nobody even looked the slightest little bit conflicted or uncomfortable. There was no discussion necessary to justify anyone’s vote in favor of this formula.

Pearson’s assertion that he “has no experience in this whatsoever,’ is also a bald-faced lie, unless he’s going to sit there and say he’s never discussed or voted for Relief Money distributions to the volunteer fire companies during all of his previous three terms. Was he sleepwalking through those votes, like he’s sleepwalking through this term?

There is only one possible conclusion that we can come to here: Pearson’s objections are so embarrassing, so blatantly self-serving and unsupportable, that even he cannot dare to voice them at a public meeting.

Relief allocation

It’s further worth noting, and probably related, that this year, BRVFC will be getting less money than they ever have from Relief funding; this is primarily due to the overall decrease in relief monies distributed by the state. I highly doubt that BRVFC will be understanding in this regard, even though they are still, as usual, getting the lion’s share of the funding.

Call it a hunch, call it intuition, but your Humble Blogress strongly, strongly suspects that Pearson’s flop sweat has little to do with any philosophical or intellectual objection to the “fairness” of this funding formula, and much more to do with the number of promises he’s broken to the BRVFC, and the ramifications of same.

2019 Budget

The Board voted to advertise the 2019 budget, which is available for public inspection on the Township’s website. I would note that Budget is Policy and you can get a good idea of what the Board’s priorities are for the coming year by examining what it is they want to spend taxpayer dollars on.

Gentle Readers, forgive me, but after sitting through a 2 hour and 37 minute Pearson flub-fest, I simply did not have the time or the stamina to do a comprehensive review of the 2019 Budget as part of this post. Obviously, the big ticket item for next year is the centrally located Township Firehouse. I will note for the record that the Supervisors cut some $830,000 from the initial proposed budget, for which they should be applauded.

A further discussion of the Budget, if warranted, will be covered in a subsequent blog post. In the meantime, by all means, look it over yourself. Pubilc comment is open for 30 days from advertisement.

Interesting Developments

Residences at Providence Town Center: Audubon Land Development (“ALD”) came before the Board for a conditional use hearing and tentative sketch plan approval for the Residences at Providence Town Center. Residents of Upper Providence may be otherwise familiar with this project as the proposed 585 unit apartment complex and hotel between Providence Town Center and White Springs Farms.

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The developer met with the Residents at White Springs Farms to discuss their objections and make what modifications to the plans that they could.

This being a somewhat major development, Pearson at least came prepared with what past experience suggests were questions formulated by his girlfriend, Gayle Latch, who used to sit on the Planning Commission (and now sits on the Zoning Hearing Board). Pearson was even kind enough to share his crib notes with Calci, who asked about open space, specifically, “where it is and how much is set aside.” Our instructor for Township Supervisor 101 this evening was ALD’s architect, Seth Shapiro, who patiently pointed out that the open space was everywhere the buildings, the roads, and the parking lots weren’t. These areas were helpfully shaded in green on the plans shown on the screen.

The Planning Commission reviewed and recommended for approval both the Conditional Use and the Tentative Sketch plan, however, the Board requested an extension on the Conditional Use and voted to table the approval of the tentative sketch plan.

HB Frazer: This was a relatively simple approval of a 30,000 square foot office/warehouse development off Egypt Road adjacent to the Meadows. HB Frazer will be moving its headquarters from King of Prussia to Upper Providence.

Phil do you have any questions
Do we have any questions, Phil?

Apparently no Democrats bothered to do their homework on this development, because when the presentation was over, all three Democrats looked at Barker to see if he had any questions or concerns.

Land development is a difficult concept to grasp without Barker. And because Barker was ok with the development, so was the rest of the Board. Approved unanimously.

Other Board Business

  • At a previous meeting, Barker asked for the “tiny house” applicant at Lewis Road and 422 to come before the Board to explain what it was that they were trying to do so that the Board could determine whether or not to send the Solicitor to oppose the application. The land is a small plot with a tiny, overlapping building envelope. After a most annoying, contradictory, and nebulous presentation by the landowner’s attorney, the Board voted to let the ZHB “do their thing.”
  • The Board also agreed to let the ZHB “do their thing” at 615 Port Providence Road development. Regular readers may recall that this applicant, whose project is in the vicinity of a certain dive bar of some renown, was the subject of a shakedown request by Pearson for public water for the “residents of the neighborhood.” The applicant has decided to wait to see if they are granted the zoning relief before pursuing public water options.
  • The Board approved applications for the following grants:
  • Multimodal grant for the Lewis Road corridor
  • Multimodal grant for improvements to the intersection of Black Rock Road and 113.
  • Approval of a grant consulting agreement with Firehouse Grants LLC for a SAFER grant, which will offset the costs of the salaries of two full time firefighters.
  • The Board tabled approval of the latest changes to the Administrative Code per Barker’s request.

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UPT Board Meeting Notes 10/15/18 Episode 17: The Burning Ring of Fire

The October 15 meeting was truly noteworthy for several reasons. Pearson is jittery and nervous throughout the entire meeting, having trouble following the agenda, fumbling papers, losing his place. The reasons for this will soon become apparent.

Calci is not present for this meeting.

I don’t want to belabor the opening of this post with yet another snarky commentary about Pearson’s ridiculous opening “story,” but, believe it or not, this one is particularly relevant to the meeting. The story is called “The Post Turtle:”

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old Texas rancher, whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man.

Eventually the topic got around to politics and then they discussed some new guy who was far too big for his shoes as a politician.

The old rancher said, ‘Well, ya know, he is a post turtle’. Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle’ was.

The old rancher said, ‘When you’re driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a ‘post turtle’.

The old rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor’s face, so he continued to explain. ‘You know he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there in the first place.’

Fear not, Gentle Reader: I’ll have some snarky comments about this story a bit later on in this post. For now, let’s dive in to the heart of this meeting.

John Pearson’s Ten Minutes of Hell

We’ll begin our examination of this meeting at the 12:48 mark. It is at this point that the Board is contemplating the appointment of representatives to the joint committee with Trappe Borough, tasked with exploring a regional solution for Fire and Emergency Services and moving the Trappe Fire Company into Upper Providence Township. This issue was discussed at length, and agreed to unanimously at the September 20 joint meeting with Trappe Borough, the fact of which Pearson needs to be repeatedly reminded over the next ten minutes. Recall as well, Pearson has already tabled this vote once, at the October 1 meeting, and now it appears that his two week reprieve is over. Pearson:

New Business. On n-new business this evening, we have…there are two items on tonight’s new business. One is to consider appointing Township representatives to serve on a joint Fire and EMS Services committee with representatives from Trappe Borough and the second one is to consider authorizing the appointment of representatives from Trappe Fire Company on the Emergency Services Facility Design Committee.

Pearson then takes a big breath, and reads from his prepared remarks, which translates to one, big, run-on sentence. The punctuation is mine, Gentle Reader, for ease of your comprehension:

I’m recommending that we table these two items, again, this evening, until we bring Mr. John Muir aboard, before we start making any decisions with Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company and then our regionalizing efforts with Trappe, regarding Fire and EMS, we need to re-read the several fire studies the township ordered and listen to what Mr. Muir has to offer, I welcome Mr. Muir’s expertise in guiding us through this process, I am not opposed to moving forward, I have very little knowledge in this area and have decided to walk cautiously through the process, this is a major endeavor and a costly one and I want to get it right the first time around and not second guess my decisions later on down the road, ummmmm, I am open to whatever comments the rest of this board would like to make on this, but my recommendation at this point in the game, is to table these two items.

Barker asks if Trappe Borough has not already established a committee.

ehhhh
Please table this. I’m begging you.

Tieperman responds that they have appointed three members, consisting of Trappe Borough Council President, Vice President, and Borough manager.

Vagnozzi reminds everyone that there was a joint public meeting with Trappe Borough, where everyone present—including Pearson—agreed that both municipalities would move forward with a regional, combined fire company, to wit: Appoint council, share costs, and appoint representatives from each municipality, and explore moving the Trappe Volunteer Fire Company into Upper Providence Township. (Details on that meeting can be found HERE).

Vagnozzi goes on:

“Their seven members and our five, there was nobody at that meeting that had an issue with it. All were generally in favor of it, pending working out the details. During the meeting, we all spoke about the need for regionalization and improving the fire services in the northern part of town. No deference to the Black Rock Fire Company, they are in the southern part of town and we have an 18 square mile township. Trappe Fire Company is in need of a new building, and we all decided that it would be in our best interests for both communities to explore improving the building, which would improve the fire service to our Township.”

Vagnozzi then states that at this point, all that is left to do is appoint counsel and appoint two members from the Board to represent Upper Providence. This is not entirely correct, since counsel, John Muir, was appointed at the 10/1 meeting, for which Vagnozzi was not present. The confusion on this is wholly understandable since John Pearson’s desperation to avoid taking a vote on this will continue to hinge on his appeal to Muir’s authority. Everyone has forgotten he has already been appointed; a fact which Bresnan clears up later in the meeting.

Vagnozzi concludes, “Again, everybody discussed, and everybody agreed, that this was a good direction to go into.”

Ladies and gentlemen: It’s time to tap dance.

I’m not, I’m not against this, Al. I’m, I’m, I’m not opposed to, to us, you know, doing this. I’m opposed to doing it right at this moment until we get a little bit more information. Uhhhh, uhhh, I’m not, as I said, I’m not an expertise in this field, I have very little knowledge, all I, all I know is what I’ve read in some of the fire reports that we, that we’ve requested over the years. Uhhhhmmm, I wanna, I want, I want to see where Mr. Muir can take us on this, uhhhhm, I, I, I’m looking forward to somebody GUIDING us through this thing, I, I, I don’t wanna, uhhhh…..ehhhm…ahhhh,.I wanna make sure that it’s right, I don’t want, I don’t wannnaaaaahh….”

Joe Bresnan steps in and mercifully calls a halt to Pearson’s stammering before he hurts himself. But before we move on with the rest of this meeting, I just have to say:

Sounds like bullshit
Hmmm….what does this sound like? Oh yes. It sounds like bullsh#t.

Come. On.

This performance and pathetic excuse making must challenge even the most generous of those Regular Readers, who have, up to this point, still been willing to suspend disbelief and give John Pearson the benefit of the doubt where Fire and Emergency Services are concerned.

That John Pearson has “very little knowledge” about Fire and Emergency Services is a given. He was, after all, willing to hand the entire operation over to his bar buddies at the Black Rock Fire Company.

This has all been meticulously documented through numerous posts throughout the year and the post detailing the findings of the RTK I filed at the end of July. When questioned about the documents contained in the RTK on September 4, both John Pearson, and his automatic “yes” vote, Helene Calci, immediately disavowed the policy they had been pushing through behind the scenes for several months. As a reminder, this policy, which first surfaced through emails in March of 2018—before any vote on Fire and EMS Services had been taken on this matter at a public meeting—contained the following documented points, many of which were either enacted or well underway to implementation:

  • The centrally located Township paid Engine 93 crew would cease to respond from the centrally located Township Municipal campus on Black Rock Road and instead be moved to the southeastern section of the Township, to BRVFC’s Oaks Firehouse.
  • The Township’s paid crew would be merged into BRVFC’s organization (Station 99), instead of vice-versa, i.e. become a volunteer organization that is supplemented by career staff.
  • BRVFC would have command at all scenes over the Township’s paid Fire Chief
  • The Township’s paid Fire Chief would get demoted to Fire Marshall and his call number would not be 99, but 68. He would also have no ultimate authority over Fire operations.
  • Mandates for equipment reductions were removed.
  • Training standards and minimum qualifications were removed.
  • A committee to redraw the “boxes,” the service areas for all of the responding fire companies, was formed with only Township and BRVFC members included.
  • A committee to provide input on the design and specifications of the proposed, centrally located building was formed with only Township and BRVFC members.
  • The proposed, centrally located Township fire house is referenced in “Draft” policy documents as “The Black Rock Fire Company Central Station.”
  • BRVFC named the primary fire service provider of Upper Providence Townships through the sole authority of John Pearson.

Other critical points of development on Fire and EMS over the last year include, but are not limited to, the following:

Very little knowledge
“I have very little knowledge.”

For a guy who “has very little knowledge” about fire and emergency services, John Pearson sure seemed to be the only Supervisor engaged in the development of the FEMS policy that has dominated a majority of the Board meetings in 2018. Indeed, of the eighteen meetings the Board has held this year, including the joint meeting with Trappe Borough Council, in-depth discussions on Fire and Emergency Services have taken place at twelve of them; and at some of those meetings, FEMS was the only topic of discussion.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled meeting.

Bresnan, bless his heart, seems to think that Pearson’s desperation in removing this item from the agenda is somehow procedurally related. (LOL. As if Pearson has any idea of what the procedure should be that he would recognize a deviation.) Bresnan, who is admittedly unclear as to what Pearson’s problem is on this, bottom-lines it for Pearson, stating that all legal and procedural hurdles have been cleared, so he is free to take a vote on this.

Www….well, well, there’s a whole, l-look, look: I, I, I keep saying, I’m, I’m, aaahhh—I’ve got very little knowledge in this area and it bothers me. And, and whenever I need legal advice, I go to my solicitor. Whenever I need engineering advice, I go to my engineer, okay? When I have, when I have questions or comments th-that, that I need answers from, I’m going to expect that I can go to this gentleman and, and he’s gonna give me the correct answer. So all I’m saying is at this point in the game, I’m, I’m asking that we table this, I mean it’s okay if, if, if ehhh, someone wants toooo make a motion and do this, that’s fine! And we’ll take a vote on this, I don’t have a problem with doing, you know, going through the process. Uhhhmmm, you can probably already figure out which way I’m gonna vote on this thing. My, my, my point is….I wanna get it right, I don’t want any, you know, ehhhhh, having marrying two fire companies is a very difficult process and I have never seen one that goes through without any hitches. And that’s my reason for this whole thing, it’s like, ehhhh…..”

It’s easy to understand Bresnan’s confusion in response to this stammering mess. Plus, Bresnan can remain cool since he is not the recipient of the unnerving glares from BRVFC President Joe LoCasale and completely non-affiliated, non-official non-spokesperson, the unshamable Lori Kasper, who have wisely chosen to sit outside of the Township camera angles for this meeting.

“Do you mean you want to speak to John [Muir] first, before the vote?” Bresnan asks.

And now Person is panicking and clearly agitated, as if being called upon to answer for this inexplicable stance is somehow everyone’s fault but his.

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Indeed, Pearson is so worked up by the end of this stuttering diatribe that he’s practically choking on the words. In spite of his protestations to the contrary, it is abundantly clear that he does, indeed, have a problem with all of this.

“Well, no, I’m asking him to look into this information, to see, you know, uhhh, to give me uhh, an idea as to see, you know, where I am before we start taking steps forward on this. Ehhhh….I, I , I have nothing, I have no problem, I have no problem, I have no problem moving forward with this, but I’m waiting to get some more information from the expert here before I start moving forward on this thing. I have no problem with the, with the whole concept of, of, of ehhm…making one unified fire company, I have no problem with trying to regionalize with Trappe, I, I, I’m all for that. I’m just not ready to take the step now without having some expert (unintelligible) without ha–, without having some expert in here, guiding me along through this process, that’s all I’m saying.”

I have no problem I have no problem
“I have no problem. No problem with any of this. Really.”

A couple of points here before we get to Phil Barker’s coolly laid out motion, which is now on the tracks and heading downhill without any brakes straight on for Pearson.

So is Muir supposed to “look into this information” without first being engaged by the Township? Pearson’s request/excuse here is ridiculous on its face since if Muir hasn’t been appointed, he would need to be appointed before he would be “looking in to any information,” and Pearson doesn’t even want to do that. Since he has been appointed, and Pearson himself cast a vote in favor of that at the 10/1 meeting, the whole appeal to authority is moot. What “information” is Muir going to “look into” without the fully populated committee who hired him? It’s the Joint Committee who is responsible for “looking into this information” and Muir was retained to advise them, not John Pearson individually.

And let’s not forget how important sticking to the sacred Timeline for Implementation of the Glorious Milestones has been since the April 16 meeting. As has been documented in numerous blog posts, as well as by the Township’s cameras, pushing through the Fire Services policy this year has been happening so quickly, most times Pearson isn’t even waiting for a vote to move the policy forward. He is on record at several meetings this year, pointing to the need to stay on the Timeline, the overall impression being one of getting Pearson’s and BRVFC’s policy in place before anyone figures out what’s happening.

In fact, once the light of day hit this policy direction, in the form of a confrontation by Vagnozzi at a public meeting on September 4, Pearson and Calci could not back pedal away from it fast enough, denying anything had been moved forward, denying knowledge of policy points, denying that the policies BRVFC had allegedly written were anything but “drafts.”

I'm not an expertise in this field
“I am not an expertise in this field.”

Now here we are, a mere six weeks later, and suddenly it’s time to slow down. Pearson needs to re-read studies that are at least four years old. He needs to proceed with caution, to make sure we get it right. This, after Pearson went on record as being 100% supportive of the regionalization efforts at the joint meeting with Trappe Borough on September 20. This, after Pearson has repeatedly shrugged off Township issues with the Black Rock Fire Company over the course of his three terms, wherein he has opined in my presence, more than once, that Fire and Emergency Services needs to be regionalized rather than work through any issues. As is still the case today, the heavy lifting on any problems with BRVFC was left for others to do.

paint into corner

Gentle Readers, I cannot abide this, and I cannot even give Pearson the slightest benefit of the doubt here. My theory based on careful observation throughout this year, and again, your mileage may vary, is that Pearson made promises to Black Rock Fire Company and Pearson made statements at public meetings as the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and he simply cannot follow through on one set of statements without completely betraying the other. He has very neatly painted himself into a corner.

Having spent most of his previous terms on the Board of Supervisors completely uninterested in fire matters, I don’t believe that Pearson’s interest in this subject has increased; rather I believe the intent here was to simply punt again, in typical Pearson fashion, but this time to punt to Black Rock Fire Company and let them act as the “expertise” Pearson so dearly needs to “guide” him through his responsibilities.

It was a good deal for BRVFC, who instead of having to fight for an increase in their share of Township funding, would have access to the whole pot of money, especially once the “boxes” had been redrawn. They would not only have ground floor access to decision makers and influencers at the Township, but their members would be first in line when the Township starts inevitably hiring full-time firefighters. Additionally, all of that pesky accountability those noodges at the Township were demanding, that would all go away once they were in charge. It was the smart move for an organization that saw the writing on the wall for the future of volunteer fire companies and was unwilling and/or unable to adapt to the increasing demands that come with the changing industry and accountability attached to tax dollars as a primary funding source. Unfortunately for them, they put their faith in a flawed leader.

Now, once again, back to our meeting:

Barker:

“When we left that Trappe meeting, we all agreed that we would get a committee together to look into it. We’ve not made a commitment other than, develop a committee to investigate it and find a neutral person who has done this type of process before. His credentials have been forwarded to us, and I think are exactly that. So I’d like to make a motion on item number 4 to appoint Al Vagnozzi and Helene Calci, and Assistant Manager Bryan Bortnichak to our committee to represent Upper Providence Township in this joint Fire and EMS Services Committee. And along with that, to appoint Mr. Muir as the professional consultant to that committee.”

Here comes the motion
Oh God. Here comes the motion.

At this point, Bresnan interrupts and states that the appointment of Mr. Muir was handled at the previous Board meeting and his role clarified. Barker makes the motion, and Vagnozzi immediately seconds. Pearson calls for the vote.

Vagnozzi and Barker vote Aye

Pearson votes No.

Pearson then looks at Higgins and says, “I didn’t hear from you.”

Higgins: “I was hoping there would be a little more discussion, perhaps John instead of Helene, but since this is the vote….”

Barker explains that he nominated Helene because she was actively involved in all of the other fire policy discussions, and Pearson jumps in and tells her, “I have no problem not being on it.”

After which, Laurie Higgins votes Aye.

Pearson can’t move the agenda along fast enough, and when the next item, the item to appoint two Trappe Volunteer Fire Fighters to the Emergency Services Facility Design Committee, Barker throws Pearson a bone and magnanimously agrees to table that item. If Pearson wants to. Which he does. Absolutely.

But before he can just let it rest, Pearson feels compelled to address this issue one more time, and though his remarks are ostensibly addressed to the Board, I suspect these comments are really aimed at two members in the audience, who are strategically sitting off camera with their arms crossed, glaring at him (one of whomto be clear— has nothing whatsoever to do with the BRVFC):

“Just to reiterate here, okay? I want everyone at the Board here to understand. I’m not opposed to us going forward with all of this. I’m opposed to us going forward at this particular time. I, I’ve already made my case on this thing and there’s not much else I can do about it, the Board has decided it, they are going to move forward with it. So be it.”

Translation: I tried the best I could guys, but I was outvoted. It’s totally not my fault that this all fell apart. See you at Quizzo next week?

The now infamous John Muir gives a presentation to the Board at the end of the meeting. Muir has an extensive and impressive background in Fire and Emergency Services. I met him last year when I first began meetings with Trappe, Royersford and Collegeville and he came in to give the group a presentation with background on regionalization and how it had been handled in other municipalities.

During Supervisor comments, both Higgins and Pearson make a point of thanking BRVFC for the use of their hall for Township meetings. Pearson however, has taken the time to compose a love letter and reads from prepared remarks:

I wrote a little something about that too. Sometimes we lose sight of the important things in life, our parents taught us to be polite and do the right things. But even as we mature, we forget the little things in life that are so meaningful and important no matter how small. Please and thank you are important, so to Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company, please forgive me for not showing my appreciation for the use of your hall. Secondly, I thank you for hosting us while we await the opening of our facility, like Laurie said, we appreciate, ehhh, we at the Township appreciate your generosity.

Bleh. “Please forgive me for not showing my appreciation for the use of your hall….?” What the heck is that supposed to mean? C’mon man. Now you’re just embarrassing yourself.

Before we cover the rest of this meeting, there are a few things here that cannot go unremarked upon.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

First and foremost: Kudos to Laurie Higgins. Sincerely.

I am fully aware of how relentless I have been with Pearson’s Girls® this year, and there is a reason for that.

Making decisions as a Township Supervisor is both difficult and easy. It’s difficult in that, as a Supervisor, you are tasked with learning about all manner of dry subject matter: land development, sewer, planning, zoning, roads, budgeting, finance, public safety, recreation, etc. Add to that, time spent dealing with issues brought forth by the public and solving problems for your constituency. Anyone who thinks this is simply a part-time job is fooling themselves.

long way

So it naturally angered me when, after John Pearson’s Upper Providence First Worst PAC successfully campaigned 2016 to expand the Upper Providence Board of Supervisors from three to five members on the premise of having “two more sets of eyes” on the issues, those two other sets of eyes opted to be willfully blind. For the better part of the year, the two Democrat women seemed more interested in providing backup for Pearson’s Agenda of Petty Retribution and Crony Favor Granting than actually even learning basic procedure, let alone getting up to speed on the issues in front of the Board. This is doubly offensive to me when local and national Democrats are embracing identity politics and putting forward candidates whose only qualifications are their two X chromosomes.

In recent weeks, however, Higgins, at least, has been showing signs of life. She has been engaged in development projects that have come before the board, and has obviously taken the time to read the review letters and come up with relevant pointed questions.

She was on record as early as February as being interested in a regionalized solution for Fire and EMS. Yet it is abundantly clear to any outside observer of this meeting that the vote she threw in favor of the appointments to the Joint Committee with Trappe was a difficult one for her to cast: continue to provide cover for your inept political ally or do what you think is best for the Township.

Which brings us to the easy part of making decisions as a Township Supervisor: always do what’s in the best interest of the Township. I have often said that if the Board members are acting with this axiom at heart, there would be far more agreement amongst them. That judgment can only be clouded if Board members are putting their trust in others for doing the research they should be doing themselves and letting others make their decisions, which is why I harp on the homework aspect of the job so much.

To be clear, I’m not giving kudos to Higgins for voting the way I wanted her to vote, though I am pleased that she did; I’m giving kudos to Higgins for voting independently, for the good of the Township. I don’t expect that Higgins will always vote the way I’d like her to, but as long as her vote is HER OWN, and she arrived at it independently, through her own research, and in good conscience, to paraphrase another Supervisor, “I have no problem with it.”

The Post Turtle

To revisit our little fable from the beginning of the meeting, courtesy of John Pearson’s ego, let’s skip to the punchline: What is a Post Turtle?

You know he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there in the first place.

Coincidentally, a friend sent me this fable referring to Pearson sometime back in February after I started up this Blog. I actually got quite a chuckle out of the fact that Pearson used this tale as his insufferable little “story” at the beginning of this meeting.

But it raises really good questions: Pearson didn’t get up on that post by himself. He clearly enlisted the help of Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company, Republicans members of Upper Providence First Worst and Area 4 Democrats, among others, to get him up there. The Fire and Emergency Services Policy that was so rapidly being implemented between March and September of this year was very obviously payback to BRVFC for services rendered in service to his election.

Quizzo at the dive bar
Upper Providence First Worst members in a “bait” photo posted in June 2018. L to R: Julie Mullin, UPT Tax Collector, Lori Kasper, not affiliated with BRVFC in any way, John Pearson, Chairman, UPT Board of Supervisors, Bill Kasper, Assistant Chief BRVFC, Jim White, Appointed Upper Providence Township Vacancy Chair.

The Area 4 Democrats have some skin in this game as well. Not only did they wholeheartedly support the Democrat ticket in Upper Providence, but they actually endorsed Upper Providence First Worst member and proud Quizzo participant, Republican Tax Collector, Julie Mullin. Further, they didn’t even put up a Democratic challenger against her last year for her “very lucrative part time job.” They also, for some reason, endorsed a Republican candidate for School Board, who beat Laurie Higgins’ sometime canvassing partner, Democrat Kathleen Drennan. Drennan was the only Democrat on the Upper Providence ballot to lose in a year when most folks were voting straight Democrat.

What have the Area 4 Democrats gotten in return for their investment in John Pearson’s leadership?

Not a single municipal appointment or contract. Upper Providence was a ripe, rich, juicy plum ready to be plucked for Montgomery County Democrats and, almost a year later, they have absolutely nothing to show for their efforts.

The question I have is: Why?

Why did Pearson enlist so much help and make so many deals and tell so many lies to get himself elected?

Post Turtle

He’s not good at this and he doesn’t even seem to enjoy it. He truly doesn’t belong up there and he clearly doesn’t know what he is doing. He’s demonstrated little to no interest in subjects he can’t easily politicize. The subjects he can politicize, he does so ineptly. He hardly canvassed at all last year, preferring instead to let Higgins handle the door knocking while he stayed back at the Fitz, “holding down the fort.” His big contribution to the “Fresh Perspectives” campaign was the Port Providence Paddle school bus, on which he hung his obnoxious campaign banner and then parked illegally all around town, notably at Wegmans and at the Rec Center during Upper Providence Community Day.

Nobody enlists this many favors in service to their election, while exerting this little personal effort, for a job they don’t seem to have that much interest in, just to spend their entire term paying back those favors.

There is a reason that Pearson needed to win election last year.

It’s really worth pondering on a serious level: What kind of a dumb ass put Pearson up there and what is it that they want?

Meet me in the Middle

After many years, the Lower Perkiomen Valley Regional Sewer Authority (“LPVRSA”) is finally ready to move forward with the middle interceptor. This 3,000 foot section of pipe has been the source of a years’ long protracted battle between LPVRSA and Lower Providence Township, whose residents fought the placement of the pipe on their properties. The drama and histrionics of this battle have been covered in-depth elsewhere (see here for an excellent summary of the issue) and will not be rehashed here.

LPVRSA is seeking a zoning variance for the impact of the steep slopes on the Upper Providence side of the creek. Barker, familiar with the history of this issue, says there is no reason to send the solicitor to oppose the application, since it no longer impacts any structures on the Upper Providence side of the creek. After years of taking their property piecemeal for the Arcola Road Bridge, the Perkiomen Trail Bike Path, and the sewer, the home that was being impacted the most by the Middle Interceptor was finally purchased and demolished by the sewer authority.

Barker remarks that, “It’s not where we want it, but there is nowhere else for it to go.” Even though a motion opposed to sending the Solicitor to the ZHB on this matter is not required, Barker wants the record to reflect that the Township supports the project.

Twilight Zone, Again

There is another prolonged discussion regarding an item before the zoning hearing board and whether or not the Board wants to send the solicitor to oppose it. Again, general confusion

Confused Confusion GIF

is demonstrated by Pearson as to what it is that they are discussing and asked to decide upon. The application is from an individual who wants to build an oversized house on an undersized lot on the north side of 422 at the end of Yeager Road across from the entrance to the school. This is his second time before the ZHB and the ZHB denied him the first time. Barker, who agreed with the ZHB’s original decision, would like the applicant to come before the Board and explain what, exactly, his hardship is. Pearson, of course, is willing to punt to the ZHB as usual.

Barker’s concern, which I share, is if the variance is granted, that there are a lot of these small, undersized lots all around the Township and if one gets approved, they will all seek approval of this. Perhaps if the applicant comes before the Board, they can understand what it is the applicant is trying to do and maybe work with him to put something more favorable there.

Bresnan suggests that since the ZHB is scheduled to hear this on November 1, that they vote to send the solicitor, contingent upon the applicant granting a continuance, when he can come in to make a case before the Board.

Barker makes the motion and successfully makes his case, and the motion passes unanimously.

Other Board Business

  • There is a bit of confusion and discussion at the beginning of the meeting on the approval of the previous meeting’s minutes, of all things, primarily due to Calci making a motion for the wrong dollar amount.
  • The Board approves budget workshop meetings to take place on October 29, October 30 and November 1.
  • After three tries, the Township was successful in getting a $927,000 multi-modal grant to realign the intersection at 29, Jacob and Walnut Streets in Mont Clare.
  • The Township was awarded a $196,000 grant for Lot 60 Upper Schuylkill Valley Park trail.
  • Township got a 50% cost share grant for the purchase of body cameras for the Upper Providence Police.
  • Holly Brinton is introduced as the new Rec Center Manager.
  • The Recreational Needs Assessment Survey, which will determine the future of the Rec Center, should be going out to residents in November.
  • The Board approves sending a letter drafted by the Township Planner to the Limerick Board of Supervisors asking for traffic concessions for the proposed Restaurant Depot. This was a result of a resident’s concerns voiced during public comment at the October 1 meeting.
  • The Board approves to apply for a grant to improve the intersection at Black Rock Road and 113.
  • The Board approves an amendment for the contract to complete the Lock 60 trail design costs in the amount of $26,529.
  • Bresnan reports that all of Barker’s requested changes have been made to the administrative code. Barker requests that the motion to approve the code be tabled, since he only got it the Friday before and has not had an opportunity to thoroughly review.

UPT Board Meeting Notes 10/1/18 Episode 16: Hodge Podge Dodge

The October 1 Board of Supervisors meeting was held at the Oaks Firehouse.

Again.

I am not sure if this is a quasi-permanent change in venue until the new meeting hall is opened or why this change of venue was dictated by the Board. Recall that the Board was previously meeting at the Rec Center, but since September, they have been meeting at the Oaks Firehouse.

crowd
No need for a bigger meeting hall.

Was the change made to avoid still-angry Rec Center members from stopping in to a Board meeting after their few remaining workouts? Was it made as a concession to the BRVFC? The change of venue could not have been because the Rec Center room was too small to accommodate the public, could it? After the Democrats campaigned so diligently against the new building, I’m sure they’d be completely content to continue to ignore residents standing outside the glass, being unable to participate in the meetings.

Since the purpose of this change in venue was never announced, sadly, we can only engage in rank speculation as to the cause of it. At least we know the end is in sight, as in response to a question during public comment, Tim Tieperman announced that after some water problems in the existing building, they should be able to hold meetings in the new meeting hall by November.

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I could share my random thoughts!

Pearson’s tiresome “short story” this evening is not a short story at all, but as he calls it, a random collection of “thoughts.” It appears that this week, he actually is just reading bumper stickers and he’s more nervous than usual. Even though I mentioned this in the previous Meeting Notes only as a commentary and not as actual advice, the overall depth and usefulness of the philosophy remains constant.

Thanks for reading, John!

Vagnozzi was not present, which left Barker to shoulder all of the heavy lifting alone for this meeting.

The meeting clocks in at a fairly reasonable 1:21. There’s a veritable cornucopia issues to cover and, along with that, so much responsibility to avoid. Let’s dive in, shall we?

High Water Mark

The Township’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Rich Ressel, approaches the Board to explain a proposal to put another flood gauge in the Township. Upper Providence has a flood gauge on the Schuylkill River down by the Reynolds Dog Park; this is a proposal to put one on the Perkiomen Creek. The proposal needs to come before the Board because the best location for the flood gauge is on the County-owned Arcola Road Bridge and the Township needs to enter into a contract with the County in order to place it there.

As long-time residents know, the Perkiomen Creek is very susceptible to flooding and tends to rise and fall rapidly during stormy conditions.

Pearson then claims that he goes out on the FEMA website to get statistics on the Schuylkill River. He wants to know if we are going to be able to pull this information up online. Speaking of the Schuylkill flood gauge, Pearson says, “It’s a good tool for me for where I have a property, so…uh…”

Image result for titanic flooding gif
If I could just…SEE….that flood gauge…….

Ressell says that will be available “eventually.” He also says that our Schuylkill River flood gauge is the only flood gauge in the country with its own Twitter feed, where people can get updates every 20 minutes. According to Ressell, The USGS will not put a flood gauge on their website until there are two solid years of data available. At this point, the Schuylkill flood gauge has only been active a little over a year. The same thing will be true of the proposed Perkiomen Creek gauge, but, according to Ressell, that information will be available to “us.” I am unclear as to whether this means Township employees or the general public. The Schuylkill Twitter feed is available to the public and can be found here. Presumably, the Perkiomen Creek flood gauge will have the same Twitter functionality, but the proposal here is for a camera as well, so folks can actually see how high the creek is.

Imagine how useful this will be for someone who, for instance, owns a kayak rental business! Someone whose home fronts the Perkiomen Creek and whose Canal Street business fronts the Schuylkill!

Kayak Rescue

Patch, October 8, 2018:

PHOENIXVILLE, PA — Two kayakers were rescued after they became stranded on the Schuylkill River near Phoenixville over the weekend.

The incident occurred at around 1:45 p.m. on Sunday on a small island near where French Creek empties into the creek.

Two boats, one from Phoenixville Fire Department, and one from Friendship Fire Company Diving-Rescue Unit, were dispatched to assist.

Once rescuers located the kayakers, they had to cross a shoal and a deeper stretch of river to reach them, officials said.

The two individuals were taken safely back to Canal Street in Port Providence without any injuries.

WFMZ, August 6, 2018:

UPPER PROVIDENCE TWP., Pa. – Two kayakers were rescued from the Schuylkill River Sunday afternoon.

Officials say the rescue involved a man and woman in Upper Providence Township, Montgomery County.

The man’s kayak flipped over when it hit debris. Officials say he was hanging onto that debris when he was rescued.

The woman’s kayak did not flip but emergency crews helped her out of the water.

Officials are warning people to be careful around rivers in the area after the past two weeks of heavy rain.

Missed Appointments

You can always tell when Pearson doesn’t want to have too much discussion on an issue before the Board. When the agenda item to appoint attorney John Muir as a professional consultant regarding Fire and Emergency Services matters comes up, he tries to curtail any discussion and immediately asks for a motion:

I think…I’m, I’m pretty sure we all know what this is all about. Ehhh, we wanna hire this guy to give us some direction to get us moving in the right direction with our fire and emergency services situation. So I’ll just entertain a motion on that.”

nothing to see

Not so fast.

Barker wants to know: “Will he not come before the Board to do a presentation of some sort?”

Bresnan says that the direction he got from the joint meeting with Trappe was that all parties wanted to move forward with Muir as a consultant. Further, Bresnan’s direction from staff was to move this forward as quickly as possible so the joint Trappe-UPT committee can begin to have meetings regarding Fire and EMS.

Barker says he is willing to take him on as a consultant, but if the Township is unable to work out an agreement with Trappe, then Muir will have nothing to do.

Bresnan responds that this is just preliminary to get the ball rolling and see Muir’s fee schedule. Barker agrees to that and makes the motion to appoint, which passes unanimously.

Moving right along, Pearson continues on to the next agenda item, which is an event fee waiver, but before we move on, Gentle Reader, there is the small matter of the two missing agenda items, highlighted on the agenda below.

Draft Agenda1

I know, I know: “It’s just a DRAFT!”

Agenda Item 8 is to put two Supervisors on a joint committee with Trappe to hammer out the details of a regionalized Fire and EMS department with Trappe Borough.

Agenda Item 9 is to put two Trappe Volunteer firefighters on the building committee. This committee will provide input into the design and specifications of the Township’s proposed new centrally located Fire and EMS building.

Recall that previously, the Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night had appointed only BRVFC members and Township staff to this committee, there were no volunteers, representing either EMS or Fire, from any of the Township’s other responding organizations, though, presumably, they would have been using this building as well. Interestingly, there were two Trappe Volunteer Firemen in the audience, yet no one was present from BRVFC, unless you count BRVFC’s non-official, non-spokesperson Lori Kasper.

Why were these items tabled, but the appointment of John Muir was not?

Caution: More Rank Speculation Ahead:

speculation

I would assume that the appointment of Muir was necessary in keeping the timeline for moving forward with the joint Trappe-UPT meetings simply because Muir represents an outside third party, and they cannot afford to dawdle with his engagement. After all, the Township is committed to the consulting attorney per the joint meeting on September 20. The appointment of the two supervisors to the joint committee and the appointment of the Trappe Firefighters, however, those could be, and were, put off until the next meeting, October 16 because they are appointments internal to the municipality.

My guess is that Pearson simply did not have enough cover, or guts, at the October 1 meeting to be seen as a leader continuing to steer the township away from its previously determined (and promised) course (as outlined in the “Draft” documents found HERE) on Fire and EMS. And though I truly wasn’t paying attention, I would bet that I was not the only recipient of a glare from Mrs. Kasper—who, to be clear,  per her facebook page (which has since gone private) is NOT affiliated with the Black Rock Fire Company, no matter how much she presumes to speak for them or involve herself in their business. Indeed, Pearson couldn’t scurry to her side fast enough at the conclusion of the meeting. Would a discussion of a Quizzo night strategy warrant his anxious rush to have a hushed conversation with her?

Taking for Grant-ed

The Township’s Traffic Engineer, Ken O’Brien talks about the Black Rock Trail connection from Route 29 to the Township campus. PennDOT recommended that the right turn lane from 29 on to Black Rock Road be improved, as the turn is too tight and trucks cannot properly make the turn, and they are consistently running over the curb and damaging it. The cost for the change order is $38,140.98.

Mr. Grant
How about another $38,140.98?

Barker wants to know: what was the total amount of grant money the Township received for this project? O’Brien says the Township initially requested $250,000 and the state approved $196,000. The estimate for this project was $205,000 before the PennDOT requested change order. The Township has already spent $75,000 in engineering and inspections.

Doing the math, Barker notes that the Township is approaching $300,000, leaving them on the hook for about $100,000 for this project and asks O’Brien if they will increase the grant. O’Brien says he does not anticipate that they will, but that he can ask.

It’s a problem making the motion to approve the change order, because neither of Pearson’s Girls® is quite sure how to do it. Eventually they “move to make a motion” and end up approving unanimously.

Code Breakers

Most of the last half hour of the meeting is spent by the Board— rather, just Phil Barker— discussing the Administrative Code. For the uninitiated, the Administrative Code is essentially the law, or ordinance, that determines how the Board of Supervisors will govern.

So in other words, it’s THEIR code. It’s kind of a big deal–at least it should be— for that reason.

Nothing to add
Phil’s got this. Nothing for us to do but sit on our hands.

Unsurprisingly, Barker appears to be the only one who has done his homework on this issue. Pearson’s Girls® did not even bother to bring their laptops to this meeting, so they have no documents to reference for this, or for any other agenda item at the meeting. Pearson, who has his laptop, doesn’t squint at it at all. They sit on their hands and look at Barker, while Barker reads and discusses questions he has marked up and annotated on his printed copy of the proposed code.

Ironically, the Township’s Administrative code has not been updated for many years, but the expansion of the Board of Supervisors makes these changes to it quite a bit more of a necessity. And Pearson, who along with his Upper Providence First Worst PAC, drove the expansion of the Board. Now that he has satisfied his goals towards increasing his own personal his power, he apparently has no interest in dealing with the ramifications of the very initiative he championed.

For all of the Democrats, it’s like this whole issue affects someone else.

And sitting in the audience, it was abundantly clear that none of them had read the document.

I get it. Some of this township stuff is pretty dry. I understand that to the average layperson, development plans, engineering, sewer, fire and emergency services, etc. can be pretty dry stuff.

So I’m left wondering: Why in the world did these folks campaign for these jobs?

These Democrats wanted these jobs so badly they walked miles, knocked on hundreds of doors, talked to hundreds of people, (well, Higgins walked miles, knocked doors and talked to voters; Calci accompanied her a couple of times. And Pearson only hung out back at the Fitz, to “hold down the fort”). They also spent thousands of dollars and told countless lies in order to get these jobs. And now that they have these jobs, it truly seems like they have no idea what they are supposed to be doing, and they show little interest in figuring it out.

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I have no responsibility here whatsoever.

It’s like they came in with a little personal to do list and if the mundane business of actually, you know, governing the Township comes up, they leave the heavy lifting on that to Barker and Vagnozzi.

To be clear, it doesn’t matter whether they are interested in a particular subject or not, or whether they can politicize it, or whether it’s on their list of particular hobby horses: they are responsible for all of this stuff, and the least they could do is make an effort to appear interested and informed. Thus far, only Higgins has shown sporadic flashes of this type of engagement.

I understand Pearson’s interest in being a Supervisor, even though I think he’s the worst one we’ve ever had. Pearson came in with an agenda and made promises to his cronies. He has yet to deliver on his sponsor’s agenda, and his success in delivering his own agenda has thus far been mixed at best.

But Higgins and Calci I just don’t understand. I find I am constantly asking myself why anyone would do all that work to win an election, and then sit up on a dias just to be a “Yes Girl” to Pearson’s Agenda of Petty Revenge and Favor Granting. Why would anyone sign up to take responsibility for Pearson’s embarassing and ham-handed political manuevering?

It just never ceases to boggle my mind.

Plan ahead

Township Planner Geoff Grace notes that a meeting was held to form a subcommittee of the Planning Commission to look at the Comprehensive Plan. I attended this meeting and submitted a letter of interest in participating in this subcommittee. The development of the Comprehensive Plan update will be a 12 to 18 month process with probably monthly, hour-long meetings. Interested residents should email Geoff Grace at ggrace@uprov-montco.org with a letter of intent and/or a resume, but do it soon.

Just Making a Living

Laurie Higgins mentions that she attended a County program called “Farmer to Brewer” at the property known as Two Particular Acres. Higgins says that it was a good meeting for farmers to meet up with potential buyers so that they can actually “make a living” farming.

hobby farm

Regular readers may recall that Two Particular Acres was the subject of a bit of controversy earlier in the year, as it was the owner of this property who was seeking, and won, a zoning variance to put a cellphone tower on his property. His property is zoned residential and cell towers represent a variance from existing zoning law. Recall also that the previous Board, in concert with the Township’s existing zoning and the wishes of several surrounding communities, sent the Township solicitor to oppose this zoning change.

Recall as well that one of the first actions of the new board this year was to reverse the previous Board’s decision to oppose this action, after which, the cell tower variance was approved.

For the uninitiated, cell tower leases are a great deal for the landowner. Like billboards, owners incur virtually no expense and basically just collect rent. I have no idea how much this cell tower lease was worth, but according to this website, top tier providers, like Verizon, are paying up to $156,000 per year.

An income stream like that would sure take the pressure off having to rely on growing barley and selling it to local brewers, to “make a living,” right?

Speaking of not having to rely on the income from one’s farm to “make a living,” in addition to the Foleys, who own the property, Higgins made a point of mentioning that the Duhovises were also in attendance.

Other Board Business

  • During citizen comments, resident Chris McQuaid is concerned about a Limerick proposal to put a Restaurant Depot at the Corner of Buckwalter and Township Line Roads and he is looking for help from the Township. As the project in question is in Limerick, Pearson recommends that Mr. McQuaid attend the Limerick Planning Commission meeting, but that the Board will reach out to Limerick Township.
  • Ashenfelter Road Bridge is not urgent; the repair is recommended to be reviewed in context of the 2019 capital budget. The Board tables this recommendation indefinitely.
  • The Board approves a restrictive covenant for an in-laws quarters at 137 Buckwalter Road
  • The Township authorizes the Township Manager to sign a contract with PennDOT for completing improvements with a Green-Light-Go grant award of $232,000 Township Line Road and Linfield Trappe Road. Barker notes that the Township has already spent $125,000 on this intersection, and, addressing resident Mr. McQuaid and his concerns about the Restaurant Depot, notes that Upper Providence has not had much success in the past with cooperation from Limerick. It is noted that there is other money escrowed for this project, contributed by a developer, and is currently the subject of litigation.
  • The Board discusses a timeline for beginning Budget discussions. The goal is to act on the preliminary budget by November 5, with the final budget by December 3. Big discussion items will be capital items related to Fire and EMS expenditures.
  • The Township Police Department will be partnering with Lowes at a public safety event on October 20 from 11 am to 3pm

UPT Board Meeting Notes 9/20/18 Episode 15: UPT Joint Meeting with Trappe Borough Council

It wasn’t widely publicized, but the Board met twice during the week of 9/17: the regular Board meeting of Monday, 9/17 and a joint meeting with Trappe Borough Council on 9/20. In fact, the only mention of the 9/20 Joint Meeting was as a housekeeping item at the end of the 9/4 meeting when the Board was asked to come up with some dates for this meeting.

While I have no doubt that this meeting was properly advertised, I found no notice posted on the Township’s Facebook page or on the News section of the Township’s website. An agenda was posted on the Township’s “Meetings and Agendas” page on September 19. It was, however, a public meeting held at the Trappe Borough hall and I attended that one in person. There is no video available for this meeting.

The primary purpose of this meeting was to discuss the regionalization of Fire and Emergency Services between Upper Providence Township and Trappe Borough.

Upper Providence and all of our neighboring municipalities are each supporting domiciled volunteer fire companies monetarily. However, Upper Providence funds three additional first-due fire companies (see HERE for details on fire funding in Upper Providence Township). The township has one domiciled fire company, the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company, which covers approximately 60% of the Township. The other 40% is covered by three other companies, as illustrated by this coverage map, below.

Screenshot_2017-05-02-10-06-58-1 (1)

Trappe Borough Council was represented by Nevin Scholl, Scott Martin, Kathy Johnson, Brett Yeagley, Pat Webster, Phil Ronca and Stewart Strauss. Also in attendance for Trappe was Borough Manager Tamara Twardowski and Solicitor Dave Onorato, who also chaired the meeting.

Upper Providence was represented by the full Board: John Pearson, Helene Calci, Al Vagnozzi, Laurie Higgins and Phil Barker. Also in attendance for Upper Providence were Solicitor Joe Bresnan, Manager Tim Tieperman and Assistant Manager Bryan Bortnichak.

Agenda is below:

Agenda

John Pearson sets the Tone

Onorato began the meeting by going around the dais and asking each member to introduce themselves and briefly state what it is they hoped to get out of this meeting. John Pearson was the first elected official to speak.

Pearson stated his reason for being there was to facilitate the creation of one regional Fire and EMS service company.

This statement represents a vastly different direction than was envisioned in the “Draft” documents revealed in the RTK.

Perhaps it will come as a surprise to some readers, but Pearson has been touting regionalization of our FEMS for quite some time. As readers may recall, Pearson served with me until December 2015, and during all that time, he demonstrated little patience or support for the BRVFC, and any problems the Township had working with them were usually answered by Pearson with a dismissive suggestion that we needed to regionalize this service. He had little interest in actually doing any of the heavy lifting to accomplish this, or solve any of the problems; it was more like he thought of regionalization as a way to relieve the Township of some of this responsibility.  I always assumed Pearson did not want to be bothered with FEMS and indeed, his relatively new, documented coziness with the BRVFC is something that only developed after his defeat in the 2015 election and his subsequent efforts with Upper Providence First to expand the Board.

As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows, and now that he has accomplished his objective of getting elected, there seems to be little reason for continuing to stick his neck out for the BRVFC.  The surprise here is not that this alliance appears to be falling apart; the surprise is that it existed in the first place and lasted as long as it did.

I can only imagine the reaction to this change in direction.

Patrick Spongebob Squarepants What Thats Insane

As they went around the dais, it was clear that all representatives from both municipalities were on board with this idea.

It should be noted that although this regionalized approach to Fire and EMS Services is on the UPT Board’s milestones, approved at the 4/16 meeting, regionalization was not scheduled until “Phase 3,” which was not anticipated to be addressed for another 3 to 5 years. In my opinion, it is smarter to look at regionalization sooner rather than later, and I was pleased to not only see the UPT Board taking this step, but to see them acting unanimously on matters of public safety for a change.

For what it’s worth, regionalization discussions with Trappe, Royersford and Collegeville had already started to take place under my leadership in the summer of 2017, given that a regional approach, especially for Upper Providence, who supports four, first-due fire companies, is the only logical long-term solution for the challenges in the delivery of public safety. The growing tension is in efficiently and effectively providing Fire and EMS services with rapidly dwindling volunteerism and while not breaking the bank. Regionalization is the best solution for tackling these objectives.

Discussion of the Problems

Scholl outlined some of the financial and infrastructure problems that Trappe Borough is facing with regards to the Trappe Volunteer Fire Company, to wit: Trappe VFC is operating out of 100-year-old building and their ladder truck was purchased circa 2000. And unsurprisingly, like every other volunteer fire company across Pennsylvania, they are experiencing a decline in volunteerism.

At this, Pearson asks Trappe VFC Chief Brian Long, who was in the audience, how many volunteer there are at Trappe. Long gives a refreshingly honest answer: they pull from about 15 to 20 regular volunteers.

Figure 3 Population density and station proposal
Chart from 2014 FPA FEMS Study commissioned by Upper Providence Township

Vagnozzi notes that Upper Providence has experienced significant growth in population in the center of the Township in the last 20 years. These are the areas that were traditionally farmland prior to the development boom. He also notes that because there is no centrally located firehouse in the township, it is this area that has experienced the most significant fire losses in recent years. When the Oaks and Mont Clare fire compaies were established over 100 years ago, they were built where the population centers were at that time. He states that you have to build a firehouse where the volunteers are and, referring to a map (to which the public was not privy) notes that many of the Trappe Volunteers live either within Upper Providence’s boundaries, or in close proximity to the proposed new firehouse location at 113 and Hopwood.

Vagnozzi also states that the Fire and EMS divisions of Trappe VFC must separate their financial statements; fire and ambulance must each create separate P & L statements and balance sheets. Currently Trappe VFC’s financials are blended and in order to move forward there can be no commingling of funds; the municipalities must have a definite idea of the profit and loss of each organization.

There is enthusiastic agreement around the dais to this suggestion.

Because no meeting of the Upper Providence Township Supervisors is complete without taking a detour for a lesson in Township Supervisor 101, Calci takes this opportunity to ask Trappe Borough Council how Trappe Ambulance gets their money.

facepalm
Oy vey.

Uhhhhh…wut?

Why doesn’t she already know this????

I realize I’ve been pretty brutal on the Upper Providence Board for what I view as their continuing refusal to come prepared to a Board meetings, but this question not only betrays a willful ignorance, but glaring irresponsibility to her duties as a Township Supervisor. How could Helene Calci have possibly cast an informed vote on 4/16/18 deciding how EMS services are delivered in the Township if she still doesn’t have a basic understanding of how the ambulance companies are funded?

Calci Prepared Notes
Reading her Pearson-approved signing statement on 4/16/18

Wasn’t that the crux of the Democrats’ argument in favor of the lame medic responder unit? That putting an ambulance in Upper Providence would have a negative financial impact on the companies currently servicing the Township?

Wasn’t Calci the a member of the Board’s subcommittee tasked with studying this issue for the first three months of the year?

Finally, before casting her vote on the ambulance, wasn’t it Calci who read the following prepared (and vetted) statement into the record:

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

Look, I understand asking questions at a meeting in order to get clarity or better understand an issue. But upon review of the meetings leading up to and including the Board’s vote on the Township’s Fire and EMS milestones on April 16, Helene Calci did not ask a single question about how the ambulance companies were funded.

Yet she cast her vote on this issue based solely on ambulance financing, a concept of which she clearly does not have a thorough understanding.

Apparently, Trappe Borough Council has no time to provide this week’s lesson and the meeting moves right along.

Image result for i don't have time for this gif

Scholl insists that Ambulance and Fire should continue to solicit subscriptions/donations after the merge.

Barker points out that there will be a tax impact to both municipalities if/when they decide to move forward to 24/7 paid crews. And the implementation of a tax could impact the companies’ ability to solicit donations.

Vagnozzi says that the new firehouse will require changes to be made in first due responses.

How will this be managed by the municipalities?

Council and Board discussed three primary options for managing the intermunicipal cooperation. The options are summed up below, in order of municipal control:

  1. Trappe Borough and Upper Providence Township fund the new building; Trappe VFC relocates to the new building in Upper Providence and shares the space with Upper Providence’s paid staff. Black Rock Fire Company would continue to operate out of the Oaks Station. All companies operate independently.
  2. Each home municipality adopts a new ordinance that operates under on entity under control of Upper Providence Township. Black Rock Fire Company merges into the Trappe VFC/Township organization.
  3. Create a legal entity called a “Cooperation of Governments” or “COG” so that both the Borough and the Township have control and provide direction for the new regional fire company.

A general discussion ensued, with option 1 being almost immediately dismissed as lacking in vision. Vagnozzi stated it was little more than picking up Trappe VFC and moving it to Upper Providence Township.

Options 2 and 3 with regard to the level of municipal control, as well as the fire command structure, were discussed at length. A flavor of that discussion follows:

As an example of a COG, Scholl cited the Collegeville-Trappe Public Works and Water Company.

Vagnozzi urged those present not to overcomplicate this and Webster responded by asking him to keep an open mind on the COG. She said that her vision for this option would be to provide high level oversight. As elected officials, they have the right and the responsibility to demand accountability as to how taxpayer dollars are being used. Ronca proposed that with a reliable stream of income, these organizations could operate differently. Johnson noted that the Fire and EMS guys just want to fight fires and respond to emergencies. If the municipalities are providing resources, then they should also provide oversight. Barker stated that the organization would be regulated through joint meetings with a set of standards, and Pearson noted that the Upper Providence Recreation Committee grew out of an existing COG.

Related image

Vagnozzi countered the COG discussion by pointing out that the paid staff, which will also service Trappe Borough through the new regional organization, are employees of Upper Providence. His vision is to decide on a capital contribution from Trappe to offset the cost of the new building and determine an annual operational contribution as well. Upper Providence will unavoidably be absorbing most of the costs of this proposal.

A need to involve the volunteer fire companies was discussed, and Barker suggested perhaps a return to the old FEMS committee if there is one company.

Scholl noted that if the companies do not blend, there could simply be separate cost centers for Trappe VFC, BRVFC and the Township staff.

Barker notes that this meeting represents a change in course for the Township’s previous direction with BRVFC.

Bresnan states that currently the volunteer organizations are completely independent from the municipalities except for workers’ compensation insurance. Bortnichak adds that the volunteer entities can still remain independent and Bresnan says the municipalities can provide oversight of all organizations, and if they are unsatisfied with how they are operating, the municipalities can withhold funding.

Calci wants to know if the Fire Chief will have control over the entire organization, and Bortnichak, who is apparently still operating from those “Draft” documents that supposedly “nothing has been done with,” instead of the Township’s Chapter 85, which designates “Chief,” says that the Director of FEMS would write and enforce the policies with Onorato adding that each company would continue to operate independently, a united fire company with two different command structures. Barker says that the municipalities need to have some control.

Conclusion

Unite the clans

While nothing was decided on the ultimate structure of the regional organization, in my opinion Upper Providence does not improve their position in keeping three separate fire companies, each with their own command structure. The whole point of regionalization is to combine resources and gain economies of scale; maintaining three different companies (Trappe VFC, BRVFC and Upper Providence Township), with three different command structures, simply continues the status quo from the Township’s perspective. The Township gains nothing unless a true regionalized solution is adopted, under a single command structure.

And, as was demonstrated earlier this year, having the Township’s paid Chief of FEMS (or Director of FEMS, or whatever it is they are calling Overholt’s old position this week) enforce Township policy is ineffective at best, especially if the politicians are involved. The regional solution needs to be set up like the police department, with one chief empowered to enforce policy and a command structure under him for day-to-day operations and the municipalities providing high level oversight and budgetary approval.

It also has not been decided if BRVFC will be part of the new regionalized company, and if so, if it will continue to operate out of Oaks.

thumbsup

Board and Council members agreed to get feedback from their respective fire companies and reconvene for another meeting. They also decided to create a subcommittee consisting of two elected officials from each municipality, the Managers and the solicitors. They also agreed to engage an attorney specializing in mergers and regionalization of Fire Companies.

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.

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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.