Thursday, February 16, 2017

No Pool for 2017 in West Pottsgrove, But Commissioners OK With Marijuana Growing Facility

I will say this for the West Pottsgrove Commissioners, when called upon, they certainly know how to pack a whole lot of news into a short period of time.

In a 40-minute long meeting, they announced the township pool will not be opening for 2017; that they have no opposition to a 100,000-square foot medical marijuana growing and processing facility being built on the property of the former Stanley Flagg Brass site; that they are reducing Dek Hockey hours at the West Pottsgrove Elementary program run by the Pottstown Police Athletic League and that they were withholding payments to the West End Fire Company for reasons that were not entirely clear to me.

That's a lot of stuff.

The reason some thing were not clear to me, quite frankly, is due to technical problems. I always struggle to get a signal in the township meeting room and only managed to Tweet out after I hit upon the idea of using my iPhone as a "hot spot" for my iPad -- all very frustrating I assure you.
The West Pottsgrove Pool will not even be filled this year.

But several things were quite clear.

First among them that the township pool will not open for the summer this year, largely because any company that has been approached about managing the pool wants a guaranteed return, something Commissioner Pete LaRosa said the township is not prepared to provide.

He and commissioners Charles Valentine and Dominic Gentile agreed to serve on a committee to find a way to open the pool for the summer of 2018 "with no cost to the township," LaRosa said.

The bigger story, perhaps, was the commissioners' unanimous decision to sign a letter saying, in essence, they have no objection to a medical marijuana growing facility being erected on the site of the former Stanley Flagg Brass plant.

Keith A. Morgan, a partner in the Holistic Farms operation, said the growing and processing facility will all be under-roof; in fact in a concrete building with no windows that is so secure, it has been described as a "Fort Knox."

Not only is the proposed 100,000 square-foot replete with cameras, the lock if so
An indoor medical marijuana growing facility in Maryland.
complex it costs $4,000, he said by way of example.

Once up and running at full size, it could provide as many as 150 jobs, according to information he provided at a previous township meeting.

But this is by no means a done deal.

Morgan explained that Pennsylvania, the 28th state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, will issue only 12 permits statewide.

The state has been divided up into six regions for this purpose and Morgan's company will be competing with others for one of only two permits to be issued in the 11 counties which comprise the Southeast Pennsylvania region.

He said his company is hedging its bets by also pursuing a license for another site in New Castle, Lawrence County in the Northwest region.

To apply, Morgan said his company must pay $10,000 application fee, as well as a $200,000 cost if the license is approved. The license is good for one year costs $30,000 to renew every year.

The cost to build the facility is estimated at $10 million but the potential returns are significant given that this is anticipated to be a $1 billion a year business in Pennsylvania in five years.

In the meantime, if approved, the West Pottsgrove facility would slowly amp up, starting in a temporary growing building, particularly given that there may be as few as 3,000 citizens enrolled statewide in the first year.

By the third year however, given that 17 different ailments are certified to receive marijuana prescriptions, the number of enrollees may rise as high as 50,000, said Morgan.

The proposed facility in West Pottsgrove -- which would still need to go through the land development process to be built -- would grow the plants, remove the THC and CBD, the chemicals of medical use.

The chemicals would be processed at the site into pills, lotions or ointments, said Morgan.

The state is scheduled to make a decision on which companies get the license in June, but Morgan said most believe an Aug. 15 date is more likely.

Residents at Wednesday night's meeting offered observations that ranged from endorsement, to caution.

Tina Himes said the facility would be good for jobs and for the tax base, while Gladys Frain wondered if the road construction project of Route 422 or the fact that the site is in the 100-year flood plain would post any problem.

Morgan said no.

Another resident worried about potential crime, but Morgan and Police Chief Matthew Stofflet said the facility will be extremely secure, if built.

In other business, Stofflet said he had met with the board of Pottstown PAL about residents complaints about the Dek Hockey program run at West Pottsgrove Elementary School on Grosstown Road.

He said PAL agreed that there will be no more Friday games, and that blocks of time will be blocked off from play. They include: April 10 to April 16 for Easter; May 26 through May 29 for Memorial Day; May 14 for Mother's Day; June 18 for Father's Day as well as no Sunday games after 6 p.m.

Additionally, a smoking ban will be instituted and parking will only be allowed on the school grounds.

And with that, here are the limited Tweets I was able to get out from the meeting:

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