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Commissioners Conduct First Business Meeting Since February in The Aftermath of Bucks County's Weather Afflicted March

The wave of Nor’easter storms that battered southeastern Pennsylvania over the last three weeks forced the postponement of consecutive business meetings for the Board of Bucks County Commissioners. On the afternoon of Monday, March 26, 2018, Commissioners Robert G. Loughery, chairman, Charles H. Martin and Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, LCSW convened to consider the business of both March 7 and March 21 – a total of 35 days after their last public meeting.

“Due to the snow issues, there is a lot on our plate today,” Chairman Loughery said at the outset of the one-hour, 20-minute session that included the issuance of four proclamations, one resolution that named local artist Alan Fetterman Bucks County’s first-ever “Artist in Residence” and the approval of 69 contract resolutions involving 24 County departments.

In addition to the Artist in Residence celebration, the board proclaimed March, 2018 as Intellectual Disability Awareness Month, Advance Care Planning Conversations Month and Social Work Appreciation Month. The commissioners also recognized this week as the 50th anniversary of the outset of the Vietnam War, which claimed the lives of 137 Bucks County heroes (with another four still missing). Bucks County Director of Veterans Affairs Dan Fraley, a Vietnam War veteran, spoke poignantly of arriving in Asia as a 19-year-old Marine. He thanked the commissioners for their support of the veterans’ community and their maintenance of the Bucks County Memorial Courtyard in Doylestown Borough.

The meeting also was noteworthy for a Human Resources agreement with the Bucks County Rangers Benevolent Association approving an Act 111 Arbitration Award for approximately 12 rangers. According to Human Resources Director Travis Monroe, the agreement means that all of the County’s bargaining units are under contract through 2019, 2020 or 2021. That represents a significant milestone for the current administration.

In the Agricultural Land Preservation realm, the commissioners approved the addition of a pair of farms in Bedminster Township, the 23-acre Slick property on Keller’s Church Rd. and the 40.16 acre Leatherman property on Old Easton Rd. The Slick farm, which grows hay on 18 of its acres, is located within a one-mile radius of 700 previously preserved acres. According to County Agricultural Land Preservation Director Rich Harvey, the Slick property also includes an historic farm house that dates back to the 1700’s. The County paid $34,500 plus settlement charges and adjustments for the easement. The Leatherman farm is the 35th preserved in Bedminster. The County paid $60,240 plus settlement charges and adjustments for the easement, bring the Agricultural Land Preservation total acreage to 16,634 acres involving 209 farms.

Mr. Harvey also is in charge of the County Open Space program, to which the commissioners added 84.85 acres through a Natural Areas Program grant for a tract of Galearis Woods in Haycock Township. The acquisition through the Heritage Conservancy cost $169,700 and brings the County Natural Areas Program total to 112 projects consisting of 4,098 acres. The Galearis Woods property is forest land and includes a stream that flows into Lake Nockamixon, boulder fields and many unique types of flora and fauna.

The commissioners also approved five Area Agency on Aging contracts, a $331,811 Behavioral Health contract increase with the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, Inc. to provide training per the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and to provide short term housing. Also approved were 10 various Children & Youth Social Services Agency agreements, among them a one-year, $824,000 renewal with Bethanna of Southampton for visitation support services and a one-year, $985,000 renewal with Doylestown’s Edison Court, Inc. to provide residential and case management services.

For the Community & Economic Development department, the board approved six contracts related to the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, including a two-year, $340,000 agreement for 2017 dollars for the Opportunity Council building renovations and rehabilitation. They also agreed to a three-year, $290,000 expenditure for Bristol’s Interfaith Housing Visions for the home rehabilitation program.

Ten General Services’ contracts met approval, including the purchase of 19 vehicles for various departments and a $157,909 contract increase with CMG of Easton, PA for Phase 1 of the Administration Building rehabilitation project. According to Director of Operations Kevin Spencer, the increase was due to the change of scope of the project as well as changes in which offices were relocated.

During his Chief Operating Officer report, Brian Hessenthaler offered his congratulations to the Bucks County Correctional facilities for earning a 100 percent score on a March 6, 2018 Title 37 inspection. “That is a great accomplishment, and lot of hard work went into that,” Mr. Hessenthaler said. He thanked Director of Corrections Chris Pirolli, Deputy Director Clarke Fulton, Warden Paul Lagana, Community Corrections Director Kevin Rousset and Administrative Staff Specialist Sue Ellen Ott. His report also included a thank you to the General Services and Emergency Management departments who worked many extended hours during the recent storms. 

The next meeting of the Board of Bucks County Commissioners will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, at the Pennridge Community Senior Center, 146 E. Main St., Perkasie, PA 18944. For a complete audio account of the March 26, 2018 business meeting, please visit the official county website, www.BucksCounty.org, and click on the “Audio from Last Mtg” link on the home page.