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Local Politics

My personal opinions on the issues that affect our community.

Preserving Perkasie: Two Big Steps This Week

Perkasie took two important steps this week toward preserving its heritage, with the unofficial announcement of the Covered Bridge project and the Council’s Historical Committee statement of making historic preservation a priority in Perkasie Borough.

Perkasie featured on WFMZ 69 News

On Tuesday, Jamie Stover from WFMZ 69 did the following feature story for their 6 p.m. news about the South Perkasie Covered Bridge:

http://www.wfmz.com/1051184905?fbclid=IwAR2kOwaTm7afMKSqxh76KvLaEoYFvknWhqlBwLW_FvSmGqDMYNavBdNQZmY

The Historical Society and the Borough are starting a campaign to raise between $150,000 and $200,000 to rehabilitate the bridge and also make it an outdoor museum. We hope to get half of this money from the state’s Historical and Museum Commission. The other half has to come from the public because of Pennsylvania’s Prevailing Wage laws. If the Borough were to pay for the project, it would cost 40% more because any contractor has to be paid at Philadelphia’s union-wage scale. Of course, there isn’t a union of covered-bridge restorers, but that’s the law here. FYI, about half of states nationwide have outlawed Prevailing Wage laws as unfair to taxpayers.

The other big step was the Council’s Historical Committee statement, which defines the historic preservation steps that will affect Perkasie Borough over the next year. In the next month, the Borough expects to advertise for a historic preservation consultant to do a one-time Historic Resource Survey to make our Town Center district eligible for the National Register of Historic Places

You can read the entire memo here from the Committee:

We expect both of these projects to be done sometime in 2020. The goal is to get the bridge fixed so it lasts another 100 years, and to get Perkasie’s Town Center its rightful recognition as a National Historic District.

I can tell you there is already a lot of interest in these projects and we need the public to pull together to make them happen. If you watch Jamie’s story, you’ll see what Perkasie can do when the people want something done!

After 111 years, a new Walnut Street Bridge for Perkasie

On Wednesday, November 21, 2018, Perkasie will witness an event that only happens every century or so – the opening of a new bridge on Walnut Street over the Perkiomen’s East Branch.

The ceremony at 11:30 a.m. is eagerly anticipated: Local residents sorely missed the former bridge for the past 14 months, after Bucks County, Perkasie Borough and contractors started building an impressive new three-span structure linking Perkasie’s Second and Third Wards.

Martin’s Bridge in 1907

This will be the third known bridge at the Walnut Street location. The first was an open wooden structure, built in 1867. Architect Adam Oscar Martin designed the second bridge, which opened in October 1907. In those times, it was known as the Branch Bridge. An estimated 2,300 barrels of cement were used to build the 1907 bridge.

Municipal electric regulation bill should be tabled

Early next year, the Pennsylvania state House will take up a proposal that could drastically change how people in 34 municipalities pay for their electric service and taxes. House Bill 1405 is well-intentioned, but it won’t solve the problems it seeks to fix. And it could lead to huge tax increases in several local towns.

These smaller boroughs have owned their electric-service companies for more than a century. The potential local property tax hikes in our area include Perkasie (488 percent), Quakertown (3,906 percent), Lansdale (154 percent), Hatfield (370 percent), Lehighton (184 percent), and Kutztown (400 percent).

perkasiehendrickshouse

Perkasie before modern electric service

House Bill 1405 blocks funds collected from electric ratepayers in these boroughs from being used for expenses other than distributing electric to customers. It also forces a regulation system similar to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on these boroughs, to be paid for by local taxpayers.

If needed, State police should also take up Perkasie’s unsolved murder

Note: This is the editoral I wrote for the Bucks County Herald in October.

On Sunday, Perkasie Borough police asked for help solving a 58-year-old murder mystery. I had requested this late this summer as a Perkasie council member, after stumbling on the case while researching another topic.

krteschmarcaseOur police have shown due diligence in considering this matter and should be commended. I also hope two other key investigators in the original case, the Pennsylvania State police and Bucks County detectives, will take part if needed in the probe.

Keep district court in Perkasie

newsherald

Late last month, Bucks County President Judge Jeffrey Finley filed paperwork to dissolve the district court located in Perkasie during the middle of a primary election to select new judge candidates. The wisdom of that decision is debatable, but the importance of having a town judge in Perkasie isn’t.

In Pennsylvania, judges are elected to office and not appointed on their merits. That’s not unusual, since 39 states hold some election to select judges. This isn’t a bad thing. Our district judges always run for re-election in a partisan election, which makes them accountable to the local community.

This idea of accountability was important to people like Alexander Hamilton, who openly feared an earlier English judicial system where the king appointed his friends to the bench. “This independence of the judges is equally requisite to guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals from the effects of those ill humors,” Hamilton said in 1788.

Our district judges hold much in common with their predecessors, the justices of the peace, who performed similar functions before their jobs were re-defined in 1969. These judges make sure important grassroots legal functions get done, and they are directly accountable to the people they serve.

In Hamilton’s time, Abraham Stout was the first justice of the peace in the Perkasie area, about 100 years before it became a borough. Stout was the most prominent Pennsylvania German of the age in Bucks County. He also voted to ratify our federal Constitution as a state delegate. But Stout’s most important job was making sure local property transactions were legitimate and local justice was maintained.

Henry G. Moyer was the first justice at the newly incorporated Perkasie in 1879. Henry and his brother, Joseph, founded much of the new borough. Henry was a state senator, and he started the first bank here that gave loans to people to buy houses in Perkasie. (Henry also owned the Perkasie Herald, the predecessor to this newspaper.)

In modern times, Perkasie has only had three district judges since 1970, when the new magisterial court law went into effect: Robert Hunsicker, Ruth Dietrich and Charles Baum. This remarkable continuity has helped our police, public servants and our taxpayers in many ways; someone well-known in our community has always made sure people were treated fairly in court.

Judge Finley’s decision takes that away from us. Taxpayers in Perkasie, Sellersville, East Rockhill, West Rockhill and Telford will pay more in taxes to compensate for extra police costs. Bucks County saves two salaries by not having to pay for District Judges in Perkasie and Lower Southampton, but it wants the state’s permission to add two Common Pleas judges in Doylestown instead — at twice the annual salary rate.

The biggest injustice here is that the timing of Judge Finley’s decision was too late to block the judge race candidates from appearing on the May primary ballot — and those votes will be thrown out right after the election. That is the “ill humor” Alexander Hamilton warned us about. It’s no laughing matter — at least not to the people of Perkasie and its neighbors.

Scott Bomboy is a member of Perkasie’s Borough Council, which unanimously opposes the move to close its district court.

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