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Public Comment Policy Roils Upper Frederick Meeting
Written by Mark Nolan, Correspondent

            The April 13 Upper Frederick Board of Supervisors meeting opened with a review of the public comment policy as Township Solicitor Ken Picardi reminded participants that procedures and decorum need to be observed.

            Picardi expressed concern that recent meetings "have not been all that productive. We're trying to balance the public's right to participate while at the same time not to interrupt or cast aspersions against the gentlemen who sit up here."

            Picardi went on to read the current policy, written two years ago, and stated the need to enforce the policy to ensure more orderly meetings. Picardi asked residents to please follow the rules and should anyone wish to make a comment, to make them productive. The floor was then opened for public comment.

            Les Benzac requested clarification regarding the number and timing of the public comment periods. Of chief concern was whether there would be a public comment period at the end of the meeting after all agenda items had been discussed. Another concern was whether residents could comment and/or ask questions as agenda items were being discussed.

            Picardi said the meeting would have a public comment period at the beginning and end of the meeting, as stated on the meeting agenda, but a final decision would be deferred.  "This board is going to decide whether they'll do it," Picardi said.

            During the civil engineer's report, a resident raised his hand with a question regarding the Faust Road and Sweisford Road project. Chair Sean Frisco told the resident to hold his question until the end of the meeting.

            The resident complained that his question was pertinent to the agenda item being discussed. Frisco asked Picardi if questions would be taken in the middle of the meetings, and Picardi replied that entertaining questions mid-meeting was not required. Frisco then told the resident that he could speak after the meeting.

            Once the business of the meeting commenced, Township Manager Tracy Tackett informed the board that the Perkiomen Crossing hydrant study, prepared by Spotts, Stevens and McCoy, had been received and would be presented at a meeting on May 4 at 6 p.m. at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, 3206 Big Road, Zieglerville.

            In September 2021, firefighting in the Perkiomen Crossing development was hampered because fire hydrants did not provide enough water pressure to effectively fight the fire which destroyed three homes and displaced four families.

            Separately, the Perkiomen Crossing Operation and Maintenance Manual and Emergency Response Plan was passed unanimously.

           The water supply ordinance authorization was deferred so that the planning commission can add additional advertising requirements.

            Among other things, this ordinance will incorporate bonding language that stipulates developers must maintain a fund to remediate any detrimental impact to surrounding wells as a result of the development for up to seven years and increases the monitoring of local wells from a one-quarter mile to a one-half mile radius surrounding any new development.

            The board authorized a public hearing to also be held on May 4 at 6 p.m. at St. Luke's.

            A resolution officially authorized Thomas Trojansky to conduct township business, sign checks, township documents, etc. Trojansky replaced William Tray, who was forced to resign as the result of an ethics violation.

            Later in the meeting, Picardi attempted to defend Trojansky's controversial selection to the board.

            "There have been some expressions about Mr. Trojansky's potential for conflict of interest here and whether he was the appropriate appointment, etc," Picardi said before stating that he witnessed Trojansky receive a substantial award at the Montgomery County Courthouse.

            "So if you just watch that you would think that you're lucky to have him in your township."

            Many attendees felt it inappropriate for the solicitor to endorse a board member before an election and that Trojansky's character was a factor in a legal matter.

            The township is working with an architecture firm to come up with concepts for an enlarged meeting room, renovations to the administration department, and expansion of the public works area.

            Alternatives for the current meeting room include the schoolhouse recently purchased by the township, utilizing the rear portion of the current township building, which would require renovations, or expanding the current township building.

            The township recently received a $100,000 grant for the restoration of the schoolhouse, which was purchased for use as a community space. The township also has approximately $400,000 in COVID relief funds that could be applied to this project.

            Frisco's motion to authorize the township manager to obtain a proposal from Carnevale Eustis Architects to prepare construction plans for the conversion of the schoolhouse to a meeting room and finalize concept plans for two alternative future meeting rooms, one as an addition on the front of the current township building and the other utilizing the lower-level, three-bay garage, passed unanimously.

           A final decision on the use of St. Luke's for future supervisor meetings will be delayed until after May 4. Utilizing the church would cost $150/meeting and the location of future meetings must be advertised in advance.

            Frisco's motion to authorize the purchase of pipe from LB Waters for the Faust Road and Sweisford Road project was passed. The cost totals $32,026.78 for Faust Road and $1,850.32 for Sweisford Road and will save the township money.

            At last month's board meeting, township residents expressed concerns that the county was considering the creation of a homeless shelter in Green Lane Park. Tackett confirmed that Montgomery County was contacted last fall by "an organization in Norristown" that seeks to provide homes for the homeless for the winter. This organization was looking at locations throughout Montgomery County for possible housing.

            This topic never got to the township for discussion because the proposal was deemed to be infeasible. Tackett was not aware of the name of this organization, but Trojansky pledged to find out.

            The meeting ended with a second public comment period. Residents expressed a desire for more information in the meeting minutes, for the meeting minutes to be published sooner, and for the ability to ask questions during the meeting while specific agenda items are being discussed.

            Benzac asked if there had been any progress regarding the topic of videotaping and/or livestreaming of the meetings. Tackett stated that they are waiting to get the website set up before proceeding with this issue.

           William Landman expressed concern that the board chair was ceding too much authority and deferring too often to the solicitor for important decisions. Landman's concern is that Picardi is an employee of the township and not an elected official and questioned who was actually running the meeting, the chair or the solicitor.






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