BRISTOL BOROUGH >> With the scenic Delaware River as its backdrop, the Bucks County Commissioners gaveled its June 20 meeting to order at the newly-renovated Bristol Wharf just a few hundred feet away from the town’s brand new boat docks and fishing pier.
“There’s not a better place to be (on a Wednesday morning) than sitting here out in front of the docks along the river,” said Chairman Rob Loughery.
As power boats buzzed by on the river, Loughery and commissioners Charles Martin and Diane Ellis Marseglia presided over a full agenda of county business during their visit to Bristol, including the preservation of two Upper Bucks County farms and taking out a $35 million loan to pay for county capital projects, including major renovations to the county’s administration building at 55 Court Street in Doylestown.
On hand to welcome the county to town were Bristol Borough Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe, Bristol Borough Mayor Joe Saxton along with borough manager James Dillon, Councilman Lou Quattrocchi and Councilwoman Betty Rodriguez. They took a few moments to express their appreciation to the county for helping to make the dock project possible and presenting them with a memento if the opening.
The docks and pier have been a huge success, said Saxton, drawing boaters and people into town and boosting pedestrian traffic on Mill Street by at least 20 percent. “You made that happen,” Saxton told the commissioners.
“I just want to thank you for all you did for Bristol,” DiGuiseppe told the commissioners. “Every time we needed you, the County has come through for us.”
Saxton noted that the borough’s public works crew had just finished a complete renovation of the wharf structure where the meeting was taking place.
He said the town saved about $500,000 by doing the work in-house and publicly commended the borough workers for “doing an outstanding job with the craftsmanship” of the structure. The finishing touch - the iconic “Bristol” signs - were installed just in time for the county meeting.
The business portion of the June 20 meeting began with motions to purchase conservation and agricultural easements totaling close to 160 acres at farms in Richland, Bedminster and Tinicum townships.
The commissioners approved the county’s portion (27 percent) of a 109.53 acre agricultural conservation easement on the Bonk farm located on Meadow Road in Richland Township at a cost of $295,731 plus settlement charges and adjustments. The county is partnering with the state and the township to acquire the $1 million easement.
The highly visible crop farm, located just outside of Richlandtown Borough, is one of the largest remaining unprotected farms in Richland Township. The farm is located within miles of other farms that have been preserved by the county.
The commissioners also approved the county’s portion (40 percent) of a 55.17 acre agricultural conservation easement on the Schmidt farm located on Bedminster Road in Tinicum and Bedminster Townships at a cost of $176,544 plus settlement charges and adjustments. The county is partnering with the state to acquire the easement.
The farm, bisected by the Tohickon Creek and in production with corn, rye and wheat, is located within a one mile radius of 10 other farms already preserved by the county.
With the two purchases, the county has preserved 211 farms and 16,790 acres of agricultural land.
Under Parks and Recreation, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve the acquisition of 23.2 acres on River Road in Upper Black Eddy, Bridgeton Township, in lieu of condemnation.
The county will acquire the land from the Amy Li Matlock Irrevocable Trust, for $514,530 plus settlement charges and adjustments. The property is located adjacent to Ringing Rocks Park.
Under the General Services category, the commissioners approved contracts totaling more than $21 million for the phases 2B and 3 renovation project at the Bucks County Administration building (the former courthouse) at 55 Court Street in Doylestown.
When the court system moved out of the former courthouse and into a brand new facility across the street, the commissioners opted to renovate the former courthouse and to consolidate as many county services as possible at the location.
“This work is dedicated to finishing out the renovation of the administration building,” explained Loughery, adding that when all the work is done “we will be able to consolidate and have a smaller county footprint.
“We’re going to be able to bring in a lot departments that are currently in different buildings in Buckingham, Warminster, Doylestown,” he said. “We’ve been selling buildings. And most importantly, when this work is done we will be getting out of leases that we have where we spend more than a million dollars a year.”
The county awarded the general construction contract for the renovation project to TE Construction Services of Warminster in the amount of $9.6 million; the mechanical contract to Myco Mechanical, Inc. Telford, at a cost of $3.9 million; the electrical contract for $3.7 million to Electri-Tech Inc. of Folsom, NJ; the security contract for $2.2 million to Communication Systems, Inc. of Allentown; the plumbing contract for $580,000 to Stan-Roch Plumbing Inc., of Zion Grove; and the fire protection contract for $1.1 million to CMG of Easton.
To pay for the renovation work and other county capital improvement and agricultural preservation projects, the commissioners voted to borrow $35 million through the Delaware Valley Regional Finance Authority at an interest rate in the neighborhood of 2.8 percent.
“In addition to the interest rate environment being volatile, coupled with our triple a bond rating and our credit worthiness we’re going to be able to get a good rate at the end of the day,” predicted Loughery.
In other action, the commissioners approved a contract renewal for $600,000 with The Peace Center in Langhorne to continue providing resource and call center guidance for bullying prevention from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019.
The commissioners also approved a $15,000 allocation to the Bristol Riverside Theatre and $2800 to SCORE Bucks County.
The next meeting of the Bucks County Commissioners takes place on Wednesday, July 11 beginning at 6 p.m. at the Bucks County Horse Park, 8934 Easton Road, Revere 18953.