Wednesday, January 23, 2019

New Manager in Upper, New Project, Fees Waived

Photos by Evan Brandt
Michelle Reddick, center, is congratulated by her family and Commissioners Chairman Trace Slinkerd, left, after being named Upper Pottsgrove's New Township Manager.
It did not take long for Upper Pottsgrove to find a new township manager.

It was the end of November when Carol Lewis, township manager for more than four years, announced that she was leaving for a job with Valley Township.

The Board of Commissioners immediately appointed Police Chief Francis Wheatley to be interim manager, with an assist from long-time township veteran Michelle Reddick.

On Tuesday night, the commissioners unanimously made official what had been evident to many and named Reddick as the new township manager.

She will be paid $78,239.23, said Commissioners Chairman Trace Slinkerd. That's a 37.6 percent pay hike over her current salary of $56,828,

Reddick has worked for the township for 24 years and spent 13 years as tax collector.

Before being promoted, she wore many hats, including planning and zoning administrator, township secretary, treasurer and administrative lead.

"I'm very excited," Reddick said as Tuesday's meeting ended and the board went into executive session. "I'm very proud and honored to the commissioners have put their confidence in me."

Congratulations Michelle and good luck.

To Committee Or To Not Committee

Katie Schueck, right, was sworn in Tuesday night
as Upper Pottsgrove's newest Fire Police Officer.

The evolution of the township's relationship with it's upstairs neighbor, Upper Pottsgrove Fire Company No. 1, continued Tuesday night, but not as much as Vice Chairman France Krazalkovich wanted.

He tried, unsuccessfully, with three successively less specific motions, to get the commissioners to agree to eliminate the Fire Services Committee.

He argued that the fire company is capable of self-governance and that the committee, put together in 2005 when the fire company was in a financial tailspin and the township purchase the firehouse and moved into the basement, is just another level of bureaucracy.

Trace Slinkerd administers the oath of office 
to Katie Schueck.
But he failed to convince a single commissioner to even second any of this motions, which would have had Township Solicitor Chuck Garner draft a new Memorandum of Understanding between the township and fire company.

"I'm an if-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it kind of guy," said Commissioner Elwood Taylor.

But the matter is not dead. Quite the opposite.

Commissioner Martin Schreiber, who was recently named a the new president of the fire company, said he would be open to re-structuring the Fire Services Committee.

Slinkerd said it would be put on the table for more discussion at the next workshop meeting.

Krazalkovich said, he will miss that meeting because he will be at a Pennsylvania Municipal League meeting in Harrisburg.

Speaking of Committees

And while Krazalkovich, who last week announced he will seek the Republican nomination to run for Montgomery County Commissioner, wanted to eliminate one committee in the name of trimming bureaucracy, he proposed the creation of a new one a few moments later to help bolster business.

In this case, his proposal was to form a Business and Economic Development Advisory Committee.

It's purpose, he said, would be market the development of the commercially zoned strip of land along
The site plan for adding the Penske Truck rental facility
to 908 Commerce Dr.
Commerce Drive, which runs parallel to Route 100 on the northbound side, just above the intersection for Upland Square.

His suggestion received a positive response.

And Krazalkoivh immediately began recruiting Gabe Clark right there in the meeting.

Not coincidentally, Clark works with Catalyst Commercial Development LLC, which is the owner of the Mattress Warehouse store that sits right at the intersection of State Street and Commerce Drive.

He was before the commissioners seeking support for a plan to add another business to that site, a Penske Truck rental satellite.

Already endorsed by the township's planning commission, the plan not only received an anonymous vote to recommend a use variance to the township's zoning hearing board, but also several waivers, including from the land development process.

That's similar to the waiver the same development group received earlier this month from Pottstown Borough Council for the redevelopment of 1432 East High St., the site of the former Subway in the east end of the borough.

Speaking of Waivers

For our final item, we turn to fees, fines and the people who pay them -- or in this case, those who don't.

The first chapter in this two-part tale began when Commissioner Martin Schreiber said he was approached by a sewer system customer who was behind on his bill, which had gone to collection with Portnoff Assoc., which does water and sewer bill collections for the borough.

Schreiber said Portnoff's process would not allow this customer pay the current bill until the older bills, and sizable fees and penalties Portnoff imposes, were paid off.

The result, Schreiber said, would be to keep the customer in a Catch-22, always being behind and always paying more in fees and fines, instead of keeping current on new bills and paying off the old one on a payment plan.

Reddick said the township has its own process and does not follow the same one the borough does, and was instructed to contact the borough and make this clear.

Chapter two also has to do with sewer fees, but this one involved more pandering than common sense, although Krazalkovich tried his best to make it seem he was crusading on the side of the righteous.

Somehow, a proposal to waive the non-refundable $50 inspection and application fee charged to those who will be added to the sewer system as part of the $495,000 Regal Oaks extension made it onto the agenda.
The effect of Krazalkovich's motion is to waive
sewer inspections fees for some, but not others.

Approved by the commissioners in October, and partially funded by a state grant, the project will ultimately connect 33 of the 75 homes the state is mandating be connected to the system.

Many of those homes have failing septic systems and the connection is just another chapter in the long, sad story of the failed "package" sewer plant that used to collect Regal Oaks sewage and which emptied into Sprogel's Run.

It was replaced with pumps to bring Regal Oaks' sewage over the hill and down into the system ultimately treated at the Pottstown Wastewater Treatment Plan on its way to the Schuylkill River.

Krazalkovich said while he understood the project is mandated by the state, "that doesn't mean we're mandated to charge ridiculous fees. You mean to tell me we knock on their door, tell them they have to hook into the system, that they have no choice, and oh by the way, you have to pay us $50 for the privilege? " he said.

"Yes," said the adults in the room. Just like every other customer that is part of the system.

Each of the homes being connected will have to pay a $5,447 tap-in fee to the township, in addition to paying a plumber to run a line from the curb to their house. So it's hard to imagine that the $50 is the amount that is going to break those homeowners.

Taylor said that there is no way 33 homes could finance a half-million-dollar project they need to maintain their property value and not be breaking health and environmental laws. So it is the township and all the other sewer customers who are backing up that financing. 

And they all paid that fee.

But Krazalkovich managed to convince Schreiber, who lives in Regal Oaks, and Commissioner Renee Spaide, participating in the meeting by phone, to jump on board the pander wagon and all three voted to waive the fee, creating a much larger problem than they solved.

(Arguing to waive a fee without proposing a different way to pay for those administrative and engineering inspection costs sounds just like something Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale would do. Et tu France? Aren't you the guy who never wants to spend any money without knowing where it's coming from the in budget? Who pays those administrative and engineering inspection costs now?)

"If you want to talk about waiving all fees, that's a conversation I'm willing to have," said Slinkerd. "But we can't just single out one group of people and have them pay something different than everyone else."  

Audience member Keith Kehl agreed. "That's not fair," he said. "Everyone else had to pay to hook up to the system. It's not fair to waive the fee for just some people. We should get a refund."

He's right. 

Perhaps the hundreds of other sewer system customers who paid that fee, and whose quarterly payments are guaranteeing half a million dollars in financing for a project in Regal Oaks the beneficiaries could never afford on their own, should stop by the township building at 1409 Farmington Ave. and join Mr. Kehl in demanding a refund.

Maybe Mr. Krazalkovich will pay for it.

And on that note, here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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