Continuing an annual tradition with a visit to Bensalem Township’s Bucks County Conference and Visitors Bureau and its scenic Tree Fest celebration, the Board of Bucks County Commissioners conducted its final business meeting of the calendar year on Wednesday, December 18. The meeting featured the approval of 56 contract resolutions involving 16 departments and the unanimous approval of a $399.2 million operating budget for 2014. That approval, which holds the line on county property taxes, marks the seventh time in the last eight years that the tax rate has remained the same.
“I’d like to commend David (county Finance Director Boscola) and his team,” Commissioner Chairman Robert G. Loughery told meeting attendees. Mr. Boscola detailed some highlights of the budget, which is the result of a five-month annual planning process. It includes a $178,600 surplus that lifts the year-ending General Fund balance to $44.3 million (or well above the 10-percent of budget threshold that the commissioners prefer to maintain). Mr. Boscola thanked county department heads, court officials and row officers for their role in the budget process. The budget approval followed a December 9 public hearing. A copy of the final budget can be accessed on the official county website, www.BucksCounty.org.
The meeting opened with a welcome from BCCVB Executive Director Jerry Lepping and Chairman Loughery issuing a proclamation honoring the Holy Ghost Preparatory School’s 2013 PIAA Class AA state boys soccer championship. In attendance were senior members of the team, who accepted the proclamation recognizing their many accomplishments. On November 16, 2013, the Firebirds met West Allegheny at Hershey Park Stadium, where Matthew Crawford’s goal with 9:01 left in the first overtime clinched the title for Holy Ghost and handed West Allegheny its only loss of the season. It was the second consecutive business meeting during which the commissioners honored a state champion soccer team, as the Neshaminy High girls received accolades on December 4.
The business portion of the agenda included a slew of Community and Business Development items, as the county’s annual allocation of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) included multiple projects. Among those federally funded items was a $200,000 contract for shelter operations at the Family Services Association facility in Levittown, $22,800 to support operational costs for the Eastern Upper Bucks Senior Center, and $97,307 to support the third phase of the Neshaminy Gardens Drainage Improvement project.
The commissioners approved two items related to the ongoing Emergency Communications narrowbanding project, including a $1.083 million, 15-year license agreement with SpectraSite for a tower in Falls Township, and a $755,993, 15-year license agreement with SpectraSite for a tower in Lower Makefield Township.
Commissioners Loughery and Charles H. Martin approved a $27,108 change order with Justice Center General Contractor Ernest Bock & Sons, Inc. for elevator and floor B1 level modifications. Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW voted against the change order. The board unanimously approved a $639,385 contract with Educational Furniture Solutions, LLC of West Point, PA to purchase chairs for the new Justice Center (a low bid item) and $157,463 with Haworth, Inc. of Holland, MI to supply and install furniture in the new Justice Center.
The board approved a pair of resolutions for Chairman Loughery to sign right of way and easements purchase for construction of a direct connection between I-276 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) and I-95 in Bristol Township. The connector will be a key element in the future of commerce and transportation in Bucks County, linking two of the most heavily traveled interstates in the region.
Commissioner Marseglia voted against a pair of Voting Machines contracts, including a $98,685 contract with Electec, Inc. of Mt. Holly, NJ for a one-year extended warranty for the county’s 765 voting machines, and a $72,675, one-year contract with Electec, Inc. for software maintenance and support for those machines. Commissioner Marseglia also voted against $99,887 of CDBG funding for Doylestown Borough involving road construction along Mercer and Chapman avenues, and $88,000 of CDBG funding to provide paving of a portion of Dickert Rd. in Richland Township.
Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler thanked the Finance Department for its diligent work on the 2014 budget process. In addition, Chairman Loughery expressed his gratitude to the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) for awarding the Bucks County Municipal Economic Development Initiative (MEDI) its regional program of the year award last week.
The next meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners will be a 2014 reorganization, and will take place at 11 a.m. on Monday, January 6, 2013 in the Bucks County Courthouse Community Room, 55 E. Court St., Doylestown (1st Floor). For a complete audio account of the December 18 meeting, please visit the official county website, www.BucksCounty.org, and click on the “Audio from Last Mtg” link on the home page.