Convening for the first time in almost a month, the Board of Bucks County Commissioners considered a large slate of business on the evening of Wednesday, July 17. Following a picnic dinner in a grove adjacent to Lake Galena, Commissioners Robert G. Loughery, chairman, Charles H. Martin and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW relocated to the head table in the air-conditioned wing of the Peace Valley Nature Center. With a room full of interested onlookers, the board conducted a nearly two-hour meeting that featured contract resolution approvals involving 20 county departments.
County Executive Director of Parks and Recreation Bill Mitchell welcomed the commissioners, county officials and residents to the 1,500-acre park. The Peace Valley Nature Center, located in New Britain Township, is a 250-acre educational complex that attracts thousands of visitors each year. It is also built on the site of a former lead mine.
While the meeting featured no formal proclamations or commendations, it included a number of land preservation items. The board unanimously approved the county's $71,910 portion of a 39.95-acre agricultural conservation easement on the Atkinson farm on Rushland Rd. in Warwick Township. According to county Agricultural Land Preservation Director Rich Harvey, the Atkinson farm is a corn and hay farm with 80 percent of land in production. It ranked third of 55 preservation applications during 2012, and is the second farm in Warwick Township to be preserved by the commissioners. The preservation lifted the total of farms in the county Agricultural Land Preservation to 158 comprising 13,514 acres.
Although county Open Space Coordinator Kris Kern will be leaving county government service after eight years in that role, her final meeting included four Municipal Open Space items. The commissioners thanked her for her service and expertise, subsequently voting to approve the $165,000 acquisition of a property on Poquessing Creek in Bensalem Township, $38,000 for project costs related to development of a veterans memorial in Ivyland Borough's Memorial Park, and $117,934 (or 37 percent of project costs) to plant 500 trees in Sellersville Borough's Lake Lenape Park. In addition, the board approved a $233,204 improvement grant for recreational facilities on 6.78 acres of Telford Borough's Municipal Park. According to Ms. Kern, it was the first opportunity Telford Borough has had to take advantage of the improvement grant option.
For the Planning Commission, the commissioners unanimously approved a grant of easement for Doylestown Township to continue developing a bike/hike trail over county-owned land at Pine Run Reservoir. The easement will be part of 20 miles of trails that will be available to recreation enthusiasts.
The evening's most detailed discussion involved a proposed $600,000 contract increase with Justice Center architect Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, P.C. to provide design services. Noting that the contract involves an hourly rate, Chairman Loughery proposed that the amount be reduced to $300,000 - a figure that subsequently was amended and passed. Commissioner Ellis-Marseglia voted against the amended HOK contract, and also dissented on a pair of change orders with Justice Center General Contractor Ernest Bock & Sons, Inc. ($23,324 for remobilization costs associated with the pouring of a section of the 6th floor, and $66,570 for added masonry detail at the top of the elevator shafts).
According to county Director of Operations Jerry Anderson, the Justice Center project is approximately 54 percent complete, running an estimate 1.18 percent over the initial construction budget of $84 million. The current projection for "substantial completion" of the Justice Center is August/September of 2014, with occupation by court departments anticipated during the fourth quarter of 2014.
The commissioners approved seven annual contract extensions for senior care services as locations throughout the county, and also signed off on administration agreements with the Bucks County Industrial Development Authority for a pair of revolving loan funds. Commissioner Marseglia also voted against a $3,900 insurance contract to provide accident insurance for court referred alternative sentencing and community volunteers.
During his chief operating officer's report, Brian Hessenthaler noted that Register of Wills Don Petrille and his office on the third floor of the Courthouse have set up a collection point for United Way's Bucks "Knocks Out Hunger" campaign. Also, Mr. Hessenthaler joined the Health Department and Emergency Management Agency to announce that the county's 8th Annual Pandemic Flu Drill will take place on Saturday, September 28 at multiple locations around the county.
The next meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, August 14, 2013, at the Middletown Grange Fair No. 684, 576 Penns Park Rd., Wrightstown, PA. For a complete audio account of the July 17 night meeting, please visit the official county website, www.BucksCounty.org, and click on the "Audio from Last Mtg" link on the home page.