After a winter storm forced postponement of the January 22, 2014 meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners, the rescheduled January 27 session featured the approval of 36 contract resolutions involving 17 county departments. It also offered a forum for Commissioner Chairman Robert G. Loughery to offer a glimpse into the possible future of the existing Bucks County Courthouse and Administration Building.
A PowerPoint presentation that was created in conjunction with the county General Services division showcased the goals of consolidating the county operational footprint, improving efficiencies and executing proper space planning for future employees/residents, and planning for the departure of court-related departments to the new Bucks County Justice Center.
Chairman Loughery noted that the reuse projects as a four-five year plan to take place in multiple phases. “We looked at what we need to do as far as reuse of this building,” he stated. “We also want to shrink the county footprint as it exists outside the building.” The broad plan, which is subject to amendment, includes moving multiple county departments such as Children & Youth, Area Agency on Aging, Human Resources, Controller and Mental Health/Developmental Programs (MH//DP) into the current seven-story Administration Building. It also includes relocating the Adult Probation and Juvenile Probation offices to the current Domestic Relations Building (30 E. Court St.) and selling several county-owned buildings that house county offices at this time.
The reuse study looked at potential 20-year square footage needs for various departments. It also addressed the lack of meeting rooms in the current Courthouse. Chairman Loughery added that advancing technology figures to change many of those needs in addition to impacting the need to conduct out-of-building meetings for county business. A copy of the chairman’s presentation is linked here.
The meeting did not include any proclamations or commendations, instead opening with the unanimous approval of the county’s annual $2.5 million Agricultural Preservation allocation to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Farmland Preservation for matching funds. County Agricultural Land Preservation Director Rich Harvey thanked Commissioners Loughery, Charles H. Martin and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW for the ongoing support of the program, which has preserved 13,800 acres of prime farmland (comprised of 162 farms) over the last 25 years. According to Mr. Harvey, the program’s waiting list currently includes 47 farms, and the goal is preserve approximately 700 acres during 2014.
The board unanimously approved five contracts for Children & Youth totaling more than $1.5 million, including a one-year, $253,360 agreement with Family Service Association of Langhorne to provide shelter operations in Levittown, and a one-year, $236,500 contract renewal with Family Service Association to provide support services.
The board approved a $200,000 contract for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding with the Bucks County Redevelopment Authority to provide deferred payment loans to low and moderate income homeowners, as well as a $135,213 agreement for CDBG funding to reconstruct a collapsed storm drain at Morrisville Borough’s Williamson Park.
Commissioner Ellis-Marseglia voted against three one-year insurance contracts for the Finance department, each of which passed by a 2-1 margin. They included a $232,860 renewal with Safety National Casualty Corp. for Excess Workers Compensation, a $399,241 renewal for Property insurance, and a $206,195 renewal for Excess General Liability and Auto insurance.
For General Services, the board tabled a proposed $124,999.68, contract for uniform rental services with Clean Rental Services, Inc. of Philadelphia. Chairman Loughery made the motion, in order for the Purchasing department to take a look at US-made uniform options. Also for General Services, Commissioners Loughery and Martin passed a pair of Justice Center General Construction change order credits with Ernest Bock & Sons, Inc. of Philadelphia totaling just over $30,000. Commissioner Marseglia voted against the credits, as well as a $34,044.70 contract increase with Ernest Bock & Sons, Inc. for the installation of additional elevator inserts in the Justice Center.
The commissioners approved a pair of Human Resources updates, one relating to the Human Resources Personnel Manual for non-union employees and one for all county employees. Those changes will take effect on March 1, 2014.
All three commissioners approved the county’s $263,464 portion of a Municipal Open Space Program grant on a 36.64-acre portion of the Albert property in Warwick Township. County Director of Transportation and GIS David Johnson explained that the property – located off Valley Rd. near the Neshaminy Creek – will be the setting of a proposed six-foot recreation trail along Fish Creek.
During his chief operating officer report, Brian Hessenthaler reminded employees and residents that the county will participate in the United Way’s Operation Helping Hand on Wednesday, March 12. The one-day collection helps stock local food pantries. Mr. Hessenthaler also reported that the state budget was $2.6 million ahead of schedule in tax collections at the end of December, 2013, and the county plans to closely monitor the state budget. He also referred to last week’s release of 10 legislative priorities for 2014 that were released by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) last week.
Last Friday, Chief Clerk Lynn Bush attended a briefing on the Rte. 263 (York Rd.) construction project that will begin in February. She noted that it will extend from Bristol to Sugar Bottom roads at a cost of $31.5 million. The project will take approximately 3 ½ years to complete.
The next meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 in the Bucks County Courthouse Community Room, 1st Floor, Doylestown, PA. For a complete audio account of the January 27 business meeting, please visit the official county website, www.BucksCounty.org, and click on the “Audio from Last Mtg” link on the home page.