The sweltering conditions that blanketed Bucks County during early August eased a bit on the morning of Wednesday, August 17, just in time for the Board of Bucks County Commissioners’ annual business meeting in the Middletown Grange Fair No. 684 Entertainment Tent. The festivities included the traditional flag raising and opening of the fair by 4-H officials, the crowning of 2016 Grange Fair Queen Jacquelyn Sherman, recognition of the Bucks County Conservation District’s Fred Groshens Farmer of the Year award, and the unanimous approval of 87 contract resolutions involving 26 County departments.
Commissioner Chairman Robert G. Loughery opened the meeting with a moment of silence, asking attendees to think of the many tragic events that have occurred this summer – involving both humans and nature - and to also keep the current Olympic participants in their thoughts. “There is something about Grange Fair week,” the chairman said, thinking back to his days as a high-school football player at C.B. East. “It’s become a great part of the summer.”
The chairman presented the Fred Groshens Award to a very grateful couple, Gary and Amy Manoff, who operate Manoff Market Gardens in Solebury Township. Their 35-acre working farm currently showcases 26 acres of active cropland, which is maintained through a strict conservation plan. Manoff Market Gardens began in 1984 with five acres of tillable ground. It features 15 acres of peach trees comprised of 27 varieties and also produces two acres of apples and six varieties of blackberries, as well as nectarines, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes and cut flowers.
Commissioner Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia read a proclamation designating August 17-21 as “Grange Fair Week” throughout the County of Bucks. The Middletown Grange Fair began in 1948 as a project by Grange members entering a Farm Journal contest to raise 300 bushels of corn per acre. In 1967 the Middletown Grange Fair moved to its present location in Wrightstown with permanent buildings to accommodate multiple events and exhibits, house livestock, provide eating facilities and a new Grange Hall.
Commissioner Charles H. Martin, attending his 22nd consecutive Grange Fair as a commissioner, recognized Hellertown’s Nancy Hottle Scheerbaum upon her 2016 induction into the National 4-H Hall of Fame. The National 4-H Hall of Fame was established in 2002 as part of the 4-H Centennial Project of the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents. Ms. Scheerbaum has been a 4-H community volunteer for more than 48 years.
County Director of Agricultural Land Preservation Rich Harvey presented three farms for the board’s approval – the 53.52-acre Ballek Farm in Springfield Township, the 27.99-acre Ely Farm on Woodhill Rd. in Upper Makefield Township, and the 38.82-acre Michini Farm in Bedminster Township. The Ballek farm was ranked No. 1 on the 2016 round of applications by the County Agricultural Land Preservation Board. The Ely farm, which produces its own ham, cheese and other products, was ranked No. 2 during this year’s application round. The County’s portion of the Ballek Farm was $321,120 plus settlement charges, which the Ely Farm cost the County $335,880 plus settlement charges. The Michini Farm is owned by a young couple who became interested in preserving their land during the 2015 Grange Fair. The three farm preservations lifted the County’s Agricultural Land Preservation total since 1989 to 193 farms totaling 15,724 acres – including almost 700 acres over the last year.
The commissioners approved seven contracts related the County Area Agency on Aging, three for Behavioral Health, 14 for the Children & Youth Social Services Agency, and three for the Mental Health/Developmental Programs department. Among the C&Y contracts was a one-year, $1.065 million contract renewal with Allentown’s Valley Youth House involving dependent and delinquent youth.
An obvious highlight of the agenda was the approval of a six-year, $6.503 million contract and increase with Motorola Solutions, Inc. of Schaumburg, IL to provide maintenance and biennial system upgrades for the Countywide Emergency Radio System project. Chairman Loughery acknowledged the contract is “a significant amount of money,” but it involves the entire county and its first responders. The 911 radio upgrade project, or “narrowbanding,” was completed and put in use during October, 2015.
The board approved four contracts for the Finance Department, as well as a $410,000 General Services contract increase and extension with Warrington’s Carroll Engineering provide engineering and land development services for Justice Center Phase 3 parking area (at the corner of E. Court and Broad streets). Also in the General Services realm, the commissioners approved a $478,898 contract with Clearwater Construction, Inc. of Mercer, PA for repairs to County Bridge No. 280, located on Brownsburg Rd. over Jericho Creek in Upper Makefield Township.
For Human Resources, the commissioners terminated the County’s Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Civil Service Agreement in favor of a Merit Hire Policy & Procedure Manual. Since 1973, the County had participated in the civil service program. The board also agreed to a three-year, $1.648 million contract with Standard Insurance Co. of Portland, OR to cover County employees for Life, Accidental Death & Dismemberment, Disability and FMLA administration. That contract will begin during January, 2017.
For the second consecutive year, staff of the Bucks County Community Corrections Facility presented a basket of produce that was grown at the minimum-security facility to officials from the Bucks County Opportunity Council food bank. This year’s donation from the expanded garden included 91 pounds consisting of 47 pounds of tomatoes and 44 pounds of mixed vegetables (including 7 types of peppers). The garden is on pace to produce more than 10,000 pounds of vegetables during 2016.
Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler announced three dates on which the County Health department will offer free flus shots this fall: Saturday, Sept. 24 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. in Quakertown; Saturday Oct. 1 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in Levittown and Saturday, Oct. 15 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. in Doylestown.
The next meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, at the Bensalem Township Municipal Building, 2400 Byberry Rd., Bensalem, PA 19020. For a complete audio account of the August 17, 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.