As the remnants of Winter Storm Stella framed an icy tableau around the Bucks County Administration Building, the Board of Bucks County Commissioners took up the issue of green and land preservation inside their first-floor meeting room Wednesday, March 15, 2017. In addition to approving three significant labor contracts with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Commissioners Charles H. Martin, chairman, Robert G. Loughery and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW unanimously agreed to three significant land preservation items.
After hearing from County Agricultural Land Preservation Director Rich Harvey, Chairman Martin noted that the 20.40-acre Myers farm in Hilltown Township and the 69.12-acre Engle farm in Milford Township represent the 198th and 199th farm preservations since the program’s inception in 1989. The County will pay $117,300 (or half) of the conservation easement on the Myers farm, which is located on Blue School Rd. It is a “key component” in the program, according to Mr. Harvey, as it is part of 500 previously preserved acres surrounding Blooming Glen. A crop farm, it ranked ninth during the 2016 round of applications.
The Engle farm is a crop (soybean) tract located on Old Plains Rd., for which the County will allocate $290,304 (or 40 percent) for the easement. Mr. Harvey said it ranked 11th on the 2016 round of applications and expressed the hope that it serves as a “catalyst for farmland preservation in the (Milford) area.” To date, the County has preserved 199 farms totaling 16,032 acres. The commissioners plan to acknowledge the 200th farm with a special ceremony in upcoming month.
In the Municipal Open Space realm, the board signed off on a $500,000 Natural Areas Program grant with Bensalem Township for approximately 59.4 acres. According to County Open Space Coordinator Dave Johnson, the County’s $500,000 allocation represents the cap available to protect this entirely wooded area, which was highly recommended for preservation by state officials. The commissioners also agreed to a $271,719 Municipal Open Space Improvement Grant for the Quaker Penn Park in Falls Township. The highly used facility is located on the Delaware River just south of Pennsbury Manor and will be used to enhance river access, kayaking, etc.
Also among the 34 contract resolutions affecting 16 County departments was a one-year, $943,000 Area Agency on Aging contract increase and extension with Metz Culinary Management, Inc. of Dallas, PA to provide congregate and home-delivered meals. According to Human Services Director Jon Rubin, demand for that service has increased recently. The agreement runs through March 31, 2018.
The commissioners approved nine contracts for the Children & Youth Social Services Agency, including a one-year, $900,000 renewal with Tabor Children’s Services of Doylestown to provide independent living, life skills and other supportive services and a one-year, $510,000 renewal to provide intensive family services.
The three AFSCME labor contracts each feature four-year terms, according to County Human Resources Director Travis Monroe. The first agreement involves 451 employees in various departments; the second one impacts 212 in court-related departments. The third AFSCME contract involves 16 sergeants in the Department of Corrections.
For Information Technology, the board agreed to two significant items, the first a three-year, $640,458 contract with AVAYA of Oklahoma City, OK to provide maintenance and support for the County telephone system and the other a three-year, $118,797 contract with Conferencing Advisors, Inc. for conferencing software. Chief Information Officer Don Jacobs said the conferencing equipment will allow for multiple uses, including Skype and after hours court work such as arraignments.The meeting opened with a pair of proclamations involving March, 2017. The first, read by Commissioner Loughery, recognized “Intellectual Disability Month” and The Arc Alliance. Commissioner Marseglia declared March “Problem Gambling Awareness Month,” presenting the document to Diane Rosati of the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, Inc.
Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler provided a recap on a “major project” that involved last weekend’s planned power outage to install new electrical equipment in the Administration Building. He noted that the outage impacted most if not all County departments, and substantial planning went into its execution. “I am very happy. The project went extremely well, and it was a rousing success in my mind,” Mr. Hessenthaler said. “Our IT (Information Technology department) stepped up, big time.” He also thanked Project Manager Steve Brauns for his role in coordinating the electricians.
Mr. Hessenthaler also offered kudos to the County General Services and Emergency Management offices for their handling of Winter Storm Stella, which included an opening of the Emergency Operations Center and many hours of site preparation and snow removal.
Chief Clerk Lynn Bush reported that the winter storm extended deadlines for several Board of Election functions. She also congratulated Mark Cook Landscaping from Doylestown for winning the Philadelphia Horticultural Society Flower Show Cup “Best in Show” Award. Ms. Bush concluded with an update on the I-95 Scudders Falls Bridge construction project, which will include the building of new piers sometime during the summer of 2017.
The next meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in the Commissioners’ Meeting Room (1st Floor), 55 E. Court St., Doylestown, PA 18901. For a complete audio account of the March 15, 2017 business meeting, please visit the official county website, www.buckscounty.org, and click on the “Audio from Last Mtg” link on the home page.