Perched atop the brand new deck of the Middletown Grange Fair No. 684 entertainment tent stage on the morning of August 13, the Board of Bucks County Commissioners celebrated the 66th annual event with a full slate of County business. Highlighting the agenda were the crowning of 2014 Grange Fair Queen Danielle Sherman, the recognition of 2014 Bucks County Conservation District (BCCD) Frederick S. Groshens “Farmers of the Year” Eric Vander Hyde and Linda Shanahan of Doylestown’s Barefoot Gardens, and the agricultural preservation of the 195.89-acre Hager/Haney farm in Durham Township.
Prior to the meeting, Commissioners Robert G. Loughery, chairman, Charles H. Martin and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW joined members of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s largest county 4-H contingent, fair officials, and attendees to open the five-day fair (which runs through 5 p.m. on Sunday, August 17). That ceremony included a flag raising, the singing of the National Anthem, and a brief speech from 2013 Fair Queen Madison Ochoco.
“The weather is cooperating, and we are excited to have our meeting here at the 66th annual Grange Fair,” Chairman Loughery stated. While proclaiming August 13, 2014 as “Bucks County 4-H Day,” the chairman observed that the Grange Fair is Bucks County’s “true county fair.” More than 7,100 Bucks County youth are involved in 4-H programs annually – a total that is greater than any of the Commonwealth’s other 66 counties.
The highlight of the business agenda was the preservation of two farms. The first, the Hager/Haney property, “is a gorgeous farm,” according to County Agricultural Land Preservation Director Rich Harvey. A panoramic farm that features views of Hunterdon, Lehigh and Northampton counties, the farm is the “signature farm” of the 2014 preservation cycle. It also is significant in that it will help a fifth generation to farm a property that grows hay, corn and wheat and raises beef cattle. Members of the Hager/Haney families were in attendance as the farm was preserved (the County contributed $881,505 plus settlement charges). At 195.89 acres, it is the fifth largest farm preserved since the program began in 1989.
The commissioners also voted unanimously to preserve the 70.64 acre Wayne and Nancy Tretter Long farm in Plumstead Township. The County contributed $317,888 plus settlement charges to preservation, which is located adjacent to Rte. 413 in Pipersville. The farm’s business is called Durham Crest Nursery, which markets hay, straw and corn in addition to nursery plants. With the Hager/Haney and the Long farm preservations, the County Agricultural Preservation total stands at 168 totaling 14,250 acres. The program goal remains 17,000 acres by the end of 2017.
For General Services, the board approved a $766,799 contract with Professional Construction Contractors, Inc. of Bethlehem, PA for repairs to County Bridge No. 240 on Schwenkmill Rd. over the East Branch of the Perkiomen Creek, located in East Rockhill Township. The bridge is one of 115 owned and operated by the County of Bucks.
The commissioners also approved 10 contracts for the Mental Health/Developmental Programs department, including services for individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental health diagnoses, inpatient services and to provide supervised living and adult developmental training services.
In addition, Tullytown Borough was the recipient of a $249,995 Municipal Open Space grant for improvements to Canal’s End Park. The 4.36-acre parcel is adjacent to the shopping center located at Rte. 13 and Levittown Parkway. According to County Open Space Coordinator Dave Johnson, the grant will help facilitate a trail connection that will benefit the Borough for years to come.
Commissioner Marseglia voted against a $17,503 Finance contract for the one-year renewal of the County’s Flood Insurance Policy for nine property locations.
At the outset of the meeting, representatives of the Penn State Cooperative Extension presented farm baskets to the three commissioners. They included typical produce items that are grown in Bucks County annually.
During miscellaneous comments, Chairman Loughery announced the formal rollout of the “Taste & Tour Bucks County” program. He noted that the loan program is intended to use repurposed dollars to assist agriculture and tourism in the County. He stated the intent to “meet what we think are the needs of the marketplace.” He also pointed to the now-preserved 14,250 farm acres as a reason to support the Taste & Tour venture. “We’ve made a big investment (in the agricultural community,” he added. Information about the Taste & Tour venture is available through the Bucks County Industrial Development Authority website, www.BucksCountyIDA.com.
Also during the miscellaneous portion of the meeting, Chairman Loughery provided an update of the County’s financial status. He highlighted workforce reduction, increased general fund balance, operating budget surplus and actuarial valuation of the retirement fund as four components of strength. “This is good news for the County,” he added. The financial presentation is available as a PowerPoint on the Finance Department page of the county website, www.BucksCounty.org.
The next meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners will take place at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, September 2, 2014, at the Doylestown Inn, 2nd Floor Conference Room, 18 West State St., Doylestown, PA 18901. For a complete audio account of the August 13 business meeting, please visit the official county website, www.BucksCounty.org, and click on the “Audio from Last Mtg” link on the home page.