First Business Meeting of Year Features Land Preservation, Labor Agreements and a Fond Farewell to Director of Operations Jerry Anderson
The Board of Bucks County Commissioners conducted its first bi-monthly business meeting in its new hi-tech meeting room on the morning of Wednesday, January 6. The former Courthouse Courtroom No. 1 was the setting for a brief re-organization during which Commissioner Charles H. Martin nominated colleague Robert G. Loughery to serve as board chair for the fifth straight year. Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW seconded the nomination and Chairman Loughery was appointed again. Commissioner Martin will serve as vice chair for the fifth year in a row.
Although the surroundings were new – including a state-of-the-art audio system and 150-square-foot video projection screen – several familiar themes played out during the 90-minute work session. Chairman Loughery opened by thanking the County General Services and Information Technology offices for their work in preparing the new Commissioners’ Meeting Room. Following a pair of proclamations, the board added to the list of Agricultural Land Preservation properties with the 65-acre Springer (Papa) farm in East Rockhill Township. The County will pay $378,134 plus settlement charges and adjustments toward the easement. The Springer farm, which features corn, straddles Rte. 313 and has contains 2,000 feet of road frontage. According to County Agricultural Land Preservation Director Rich Harvey, the farm is very visible from the road. The property is the 186th farm to join the program, which now totals 15,445 acres since its inception in 1989.
For the Open Space Program, the commissioners approved a $353,378 Municipal Open Space Grant for 52 percent of the conservation easement on a 56.54-acre portion of the Gorski property in Wrightstown Township. According to County Open Space Coordinator Dave Johnson, the Gorski property fulfills Wrightstown’s entire funding allocation from the 2007 Open Space Referendum.
Another highlight of the agenda was the approval of eight Human Resources contract agreements with roughly 520 members of the County workforce. “We feel pretty good about these contracts,” said Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler. According Mr. Hessenthaler, only two bargaining units remain without contracts at this time – County corrections officers and security guards. “We are in as good of shape as we have been in a long time (with regard to labor agreements),” Mr. Hessenthaler added.
The meeting included four items related to election matters in this Presidential year. For the Board of Elections, the board approved a two-year, $228,226 contract with Reliance Graphics of West Chester to provide ballots for the four 2016-17 elections (primary and general). For the Voting Machines department, Chairman Loughery and Commissioner Martin passed a nine-month, $69,901 contract renewal with Electec, Inc. of Mt. Holly, NJ for extended warranty on 765 voting machines. The pair also passed a one-year, $72,765 contract renewal for software maintenance and support for those voting machines. Commissioner Marsgelia voted against both Electec extensions. The commissioners unanimously approved a two-year, $84,030 contract with Matheson Transfer Company of Forty Foot, PA to provide hauling of voting machines for the next four elections. Board of Elections Director Deena Dean noted that the Matheson contract is a savings of more than $10,000 from the previous hauling agreement.
Among the 56 contract agreements on the agenda were 12 one-year resolutions dedicated to Mental Health/Developmental Program services, including a $1.630 million renewal with NHS of Bucks County, a $500,000 renewal with Bristol’s Lower Bucks Hospital, and a $622,614 renewal with CO-MANS, Inc. of Penndel.
On a morning when the board extended a commendation to retiring Director of Operations Jerry Anderson, the agenda included six General Services’ resolutions. The board approved a $47,700 contract with Sparwick Contracting, Inc. for repairs to County Bridge No. 132, which is located on Schoolhouse Rd. over the West Branch of the Neshaminy Creek in New Britain Township. The commissioners also amended the vendor contract for preventative maintenance for the Justice Center elevators, approving a $26,700 Emergency Resolution with Wyatt Elevator Company of Folcroft, PA and another $37,800 (plus $3,000) with Wyatt for the same elevators. “These are corrective measures and actions to improve the situation,” Chairman Loughery stated.
Trail planning has become a priority for the Bucks County Planning Commission during recent years. During the meeting, the commissioners took another pair of steps forward with the unanimous approval of the Lower Neshaminy Creek Trail Feasibility Study and a one-year $65,070 contract with Doylestown-based Boucher & James for design and engineering services for the Upper Bucks Rail Trail. Paul Gordon of the Planning Commission made a comprehensive presentation to meeting attendees about the status of proposed trails in the county, which have been aided by more than $250,000 in grant funding. Mr. Gordon’s presentation can be found at www.buckscounty.org/PlanningCommission.
The proclamation portion of the meeting included Commissioner Marseglia honoring 22-year-old Bucks County Poet Laureate Tyler Kline, who is the youngest poet laureate in the program’s history. Mr. Kline recited one of his award-winning works for the assemblage. In addition, Chairman Loughery proclaimed the one-year anniversary of the county’s Human Trafficking coalition.During commissioners’ remarks, Chairman Loughery announced the “sunsetting” of the Commissioners’ Economic Development Council (CEDC), which was formed during 2011 to act on the recommendations of the former Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB). “They were able to accomplish their goals,” the chairman stated.
Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler reminded those in attendance that the state budget impasse stands at 190 days, although some funds will be released in upcoming days. He also explained that County officials are working to address the feral cat problem that has been identified in Core Creek Park.
The next meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20 in the Commissioners’ Meeting Room (first floor), 55 E. Court St., Doylestown, PA. For a complete audio account of the January 6, 2016 business meeting, please visit the official county website, www.BucksCounty.org, and click on the “Audio from Last Mtg” link on the home page.