Stay the course in Bucks County
When we look at Washington, we see a dysfunctional bureaucracy, mostly crippled by elected lawmakers who put political ideology ahead of productive compromise and cooperation.
Our elected leaders in Harrisburg aren’t much better. They can’t even get together on a budget.
It’s easy to understand why so many people have lost faith in government at the federal and state levels.
County government is a whole different story, however. Here in Bucks County, the government is efficient, things get done and for the most part the needs of residents are addressed effectively and in a fiscally responsible manner.
Many people contribute to good government in the county; the three county commissioners would be the first to admit that. But the contribution of the commissioners themselves — Republicans Robert Loughery and Charles Martin and Democrat Diane Ellis-Marseglia — can hardly be minimized. It is the board of commissioners that sets the tone for the kind of government that emanates from the courthouse in Doylestown.
Loughery and Martin are running for another four-year term. Ellis-Marseglia, too, is seeking re-election, and has teamed with Falls Township supervisor Brian Galloway to form the Democratic ticket. On Nov. 3, voters will choose two of the four candidates; the top three vote-getters will form the new board of commissioners in January.
Among their achievements over the past four years, Loughery and Martin cite completion of the long-awaited justice center, a continued focus on farmland preservation, solid fiscal management reflected in two superior bond ratings and reasonable taxes. They also point to effective delivery of social services, which is where much of the county budget is spent.
Ellis-Marseglia and Galloway believe more should be done to create job opportunities and affordable housing. The theme of their campaign is a time for change after almost three decades of Republican-dominated county government.
Certainly there are challenges ahead. Martin noted as priorities a decision on reuse of the old courthouse, workforce expansion and job training along with housing and community development. The Democrats would not disagree. But we do not believe changing the makeup of the board of commissioners is necessary to achieve those ends. Nor is it wise. Loughery with his business acumen; Martin with his long experience as a commissioner and Ellis-Marseglia with her strong background in and advocacy for social services together have proven to be an excellent team.
We see no reason to break up the team. Our two votes go to Loughery and Martin. Voters who choose to pick one of the Republicans and one of the Democrats would do well by casting a vote for Ellis-Marseglia.
Candidates for Bucks commissioner debate heroin treatment, horse recreation
By James McGinnis Staff Writer
It’s a contest over heroin addiction and horse recreation, college tuition and corporate subsidies. Yet the voters may take little interest come Election Day.
Nine dozen people filtered into the auditorium at Bucks County College on Friday morning for the one and only debate scheduled in the race for Bucks County's Board of Commissioners.
Four want the job. Only three can sit on the committee overseeing the fourth most populous county in Pennsylvania.
“People don’t know who the commissioners are,” said Democrat Diane Marseglia, who’s held that position since 2008. “They don’t know what we do. We need to take more of a leadership role.”
Republicans Rob Loughery and Charley Martin, also incumbents, touted the county's ‘AAA’ bond rating, its fully funded pension system, the 10 percent reduction in government employees, and subsidies for companies interested in expanding operations locally.
Martin said the county had also privatized operations and saved money with the Bucks County Horse Park, Moravian Pottery and Tile Works and Van Sant Airport for vintage airplanes.
Democratic challenger Brian Galloway, a Falls Township supervisor, said Bucks County had absolutely no business owning such properties. "We have to speak to the challenges of our day, whether it's the heroin epidemic or the decrease in middle-class households in every community," Galloway said.
Marseglia argued money spent on the horse park and tile works could be better spent on drug recovery programs.
“It does trouble me, at times, that we own a tile works,” Marseglia said. “It troubles me, at times, that we own a horse park. There were 137 people that we turned away from drug treatment last year.”
All four candidates agreed Bucks County probably has enough open space. Farmland conservation easements currently span an area equal to 23 square miles by county estimates.
But they disagreed on more cash for the community college.
Galloway and Marseglia pitched the idea of a countywide referendum on increased funding for the college, with campuses in Bristol Township, Newtown Township and Perkasie.
Under the Community College Act of 1962, tuition costs are to be shared equally by the state government, the county government, and the students.
BCCC's students currently pay about 50 percent of their tuition cost, with the state and county contributing the rest. Since 2008, Bucks has budgeted an annual $8.47 million subsidy and tuition costs have remained low, compared with other schools from the region.
Still, it should be lower, argued Galloway and Marseglia. “It’s our responsibility,” Marseglia said.
Loughery expressed some shock at those statements. “It would probably require another $14 million," he said. "I’m not sure where we would get that [money] in the budget.”
Property owners would likely pay the price, Martin predicted. “You would either have to take that money away from something else or raise taxes."
Responding to a question from the audience, the four candidates also sparred on natural gas.
Galloway and Marseglia said they opposed fracking for natural gas in the region. Loughery argued such drilling could be done with care for the environmental impact. Martin said fracking for natural gas wasn’t a decision for the county commissioners, though personally, he enjoys paying less at the gas station and to heat his home. “I favor energy independence,” Martin said. “I favor my SEPTA buses running on cleaner, natural gas.”
The hourlong discussion was, for the most part, amicable, however.
At times, Loughery commended Marseglia's focus on heroin treatment and outreach programs. Marseglia, in turn, praised Loughery for an assortment of grants and low-interest loan programs to promote business growth.
In the end, the candidates were asked for their top priorities, if elected on Nov. 3.
Galloway said his top concern would be a “livable wage” and “retirement with dignity” for residents of Bucks County. Marseglia she’d spend the next four years focused on drug addiction and recovery programs. Loughery stressed the need for more affordable housing. And, Martin said he'd work to ensure Bucks maintains its status as “the envy of the commonwealth.”
Groundbreaking Planned For Sept. 11 Memorial at County Justice Center
By KARA SEYMOUR (Patch Staff)
“The sculpture is a testament to the resiliency of the American spirit and honors all who have been affected by the events of 9/11/2001.'
There will be an official groundbreaking Wednesday for a Sept. 11 memorial sculpture at the County Justice center in Doylestown.
The Renew. Resolve. Remember. sculpture, which will incorporate an I-beam from the World Trade Center, is being gifted to Bucks County by the Travis Manion Foundation. It will be located at the county Justice Center.
“The sculpture is a testament to the resiliency of the American spirit and honors all who have been affected by the events of 9/11/2001,” the Travis Manion Foundation said in a statement.
Bucks County commissioners Robert Loughery, Diane Ellis-Marseglia and Charles Martin will be at the groundbreaking ceremony, along with artist Alan Goldstein and Travis Manion Foundation President Ryan Manion Borek.
In 2009, Ryan’s late mother, Janet, (founder of the Travis Manion Foundation) applied to get an artifact from the World Trade Center.
As a result, the Travis Manion Foundation was awarded a 20-foot, two-ton I-beam from the Twin Towers. The foundation’s aim was to create a public memorial “that symbolized the resilient spirit of America.”
The sculpture is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 11, 2015.
The Travis Manion Foundation is accepting donations to fund the memorial. Donor recognition opportunities are available. For more information, visit www.travismanion.org/911memorial.
By Crissa Shoemaker DeBree Staff writer
Bucks County officials on Thursday marked the next phase in a plan to breathe new life into a vacant property in Sellersville.
As heavy machinery worked on the remains of what used to be the U.S. Gauge manufacturing facility on Clymer Avenue, county and local officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking at the 44-acre site for what will be called the Sellersville Business Campus.
"We felt that for businesses in the area that wanted to expand but couldn't at their current location, or needed to renovate their current location but couldn't, this is an ideal site," said Bucks County Commissioners Chairman Robert Loughery. "There's not a lot of land out there. We felt that putting in the infrastructure could help spur those (economic) ripples again."
The county's Industrial Development Authority has invested $5 million to purchase the site from owner Ametek and do site development work, including demolition, the installation of water and sewer infrastructure and construction of an access road. The authority has been awarded a $4.5 million low-interest state loan; the county is kicking in the rest through economic development funds.
It's the first project of its type in Bucks County, officials said.
The property will be divided into six lots for sale, all of which come with five years of tax abatement under an agreement with county, state and local officials. The tax breaks, along with the fact that site development work has already been completed, should help drive interest in the site, Loughery said.
"For quite a few years, the council contemplated what to do with this site," said Sellersville Council President Robert Rudick. "We were at a loss. I'm really looking forward to seeing this site go back into productive use, and to bring some jobs into Sellersville. This is really a great first step in our plans to revitalize the borough."
More than 1,000 people worked at what was known as the Gauge, which closed in 2008.
"It was quite disappointing when Ametek decided to pull its tent and leave the area, and leave this area vacant," said retired state Rep. Paul Clymer, who grew up nearby and remembers when the site was farmland. "I commend the county commissioners and all the related agencies who had a part in putting this together to bring jobs, to bring income back into the community."
Several businesses have already expressed interest in the site, including reportedly a local safety and cybersecurity firm.
"The only thing better than coming to a groundbreaking is coming to a ribbon-cutting," said Commissioner Charley Martin. "We look forward to being able to do that."
Bucks County Gets AAA Credit Rating
Bucks County is one of three AAA-rated counties in the state, officials said Monday.
By KARA SEYMOUR
Bucks County has again received a Triple A rating from Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, the county announced Monday.
Bucks County is one of three AAA-rated counties in the state.
“These ratings confirm that the financial course we have charted is continuing to pay off for the residents and taxpayers of Bucks County,” Commissioner Chairman Robert G. Loughery said.
“This is a significant achievement that did not happen overnight. It’s about a long-term, disciplined approach. We are extremely pleased that both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have recognized that approach by reaffirming the Triple-A rating we have achieved during recent years.”
In its report, Moody’s expressed a stable outlook for Bucks County. “Bucks County has solid management evidenced by recent conservative budgeting and modest operating surpluses,” the Moody’s report said.
Commissioner Vice-Chairman Charles H. Martin hailed the ratings, adding, “these Triple-A ratings validate our emphasis on sound financial management.”
Bucks County invests in early-stage companies
By James McGinnis Staff writer
Bucks County is taking another $353,500 from its employee retirement fund and investing it in wireless technology, health care and medical research startups from Bensalem to Hilltown.
Four companies — Atrin Pharmaceuticals, H20 Degree, OrthogenRX and PrescribeWell — could all receive government money under the recently launched Venture Capital For Bucks County program.
Fourteen months ago, county officials announced a venture capital program with Ben Franklin Technology Partners. Ben Franklin is a state-funded program luring high tech investors to the region to create jobs.
The local VC4BC partnership aims to provide as much as $4 million in county and state dollars for emerging and growing businesses interested in developing advanced technologies, officials said.
Ben Franklin said it would make available $2 million for local investments. Bucks committed another $2 million from a pension fund, valued at more than $600 million, officials said.
Bucks has so far committed $678,500 to local, early stage companies, said Bucks County Commissioner Rob Loughery.
“It’s a very rigorous process," said Loughery. "There were 22 applications that we received and seven that went onto commitments. Ben Franklin staff and then outside consultants are scrubbing these applications."
H20 Degree is scheduled to receive $166,000 from Bucks and another $334,000 from Ben Franklin under the program. The Bensalem-based company sells wireless devices that instantly track the flow of water through pipes. Apartment renters — and their landlords — can use that information to spot leaks and for the purposes of monthly billing, for example.
Meanwhile in Buckingham, Atrin Pharmaceuticals said it’s tracking proteins for the purposes of killing cancer. The medical research team said it’s working to identify and kill the proteins necessary for the survival of cancer cells. Bucks is investing $25,000 and Ben Franklin is committing $75,000, officials said.
Also in Buckingham, the medical devices manufacturer OrthogenRx could receive $187,500 from Bucks and $387,500 from Ben Franklin, officials said.
Another $100,000 could go to PrescribeWell Inc., of Hilltown. The company said it helps doctors create wellness and obesity prevention programs for patients that are reimbursed by insurances companies.
Each of the investments announced this month must be matched with dollars from the private sector, said Jason Bannon, director of marketing at Ben Franklin.
"Each investment is structured to suit the specific needs of the company and reflects the deal structures common in that sector; but in general, our investments are five-year, structured exit arrangements that are a combination of convertible debt, often with equity features," Bannon explained.
Three other Bucks County businesses were approved for VC4BC funds in September.
Brad’s Raw Chips, of Bedminster; life sciences firm CRO Analytics, of Solebury; and Grassroots Unwired, a mobile entertainment firm in Bristol, received a total of $325,000 through the VC4BC program, officials said.
"The success of this program is something that will take time to measure," said Loughery. "It’s probably got a window of another two years before we can tell if it’s working."
For more information about VC4BC program investments and eligibility, visit www.buckscountyida.com
Bucks County Works With United Way To Launch Program To Help In Disasters
By Tom Sofield
A new volunteer group is being readied to prepare for any large-scale disaster or emergency that could hit Bucks County.
At Wednesday’s Bucks County Commissioner’s meeting at Bucks County Community College’s Lower Bucks campus in Bristol Township, the Bucks County Emergency Management Agency and the United Way of Bucks County announced the establishment of the Bucks County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (Bucks VOAD).
Scott T. Forster, director of emergency services for the county, said the group will be able to assist those impacted by disasters. Whether getting back in their homes or opening schools, the VOAD is rounded in the 4 C’s: cooperation, communication, coordination, and collaboration, to help disaster relief run as efficiently as possible, according to officials.
VOAD will join together nonprofits, faith-based groups and businesses, Forster said.
Individuals interested in helping will register and be matched with a group that meets their skill set. In a time of need, those individuals and groups could be called to help, officials explained.
“Every county should be able to provide assistance to people affected by a disaster. It’s okay to rely on other counties when we’ve exhausted our resources, but there are many organizations in Bucks County that can help in an emergency. Without Bucks VOAD, we wouldn’t know their willingness to help or their capabilities. When we get these organizations involved in Bucks VOAD, they are able to help in their own backyard in times of need,” Forester said in a statement.
Jamie Haddon, United Way of Bucks County CEO, said his nonprofit has received many calls from people looking to help during local emergencies. He said a program like VOAD would help match those people with groups that can assist.
From Bucks County:
Anyone interested in becoming part of Bucks VOAD can sign up at www.bucksVOAD.org. Individuals should select “yes” when asked if they can be contacted during an emergency. They then can build a profile indicating their interests and skills to optimize their impact when disaster needs arise.
This platform is also used for volunteer activities in non-disaster times. Nonprofits are able to build profiles and post their volunteer opportunities during both peace times and times of disaster. Individuals can browse and sign up for any opportunities they are interested in.
Anyone with further questions can contact Katie Pilot at firstname.lastname@example.org.
High-tech jobs coming to Falls
By George Mattar Staff writer
A portion of the former USX Fairless Works site in Falls will be home to about 100 high-tech jobs thanks to about $20 million in investments and $2 million in direct financing and a loan guarantee from Bucks County.
Keystone Network Access Point will become the first advanced data center in the Northeastern United States capable of meeting the needs of today’s Web-scale enterprises.
Keystone NAP is being built for customers who rely heavily on network-based applications, as well as companies delivering cloud-based solutions, said Bucks County spokesman Chris Edwards. The company basically keeps companies’ servers at its location, so they can focus on their business and let experts handle those servers.
The funds will be used by Keystone NAP to replace the roof and siding, and install all new high-tech equipment in a building formerly used by USX at the Keystone Industrial Complex, said Shawn R. Carey, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing.
On Thursday, Bucks County Commissioners Rob Loughery and Diane Marseglia along with company officials announced that the funding for Keystone NAP is coming from six investors, both public and private. The $2 million loan is being guaranteed by the Bucks County Industrial Development Authority.
In making the announcement, Loughery said the county had been working for about two years to get the funding in place.
“We’re pleased to be at the beginning to start something spectacular here at the the Keystone Industrial Port Complex and bring high tech jobs to Bucks County,” he said.
“I was driving here (Thursday) and went past the cemetery where some family members are buried and my father’s old farmhouse in Morrisville. I remember this (steel mill) when many friends from high school got jobs here and then lost them when the mill closed, so it is great to see new jobs coming back here,” she said.
The company was founded by a team of IT executives and is run by John Parker, who said he can’t wait to start serving new customers in a few short weeks.
“Bucks County saw the vision and this will lend tremendous vibrancy to the local economy. This was not possible without the county commissioners and the Bucks County Industrial Development Authority,” he said.
Parker said about 30 to 50 workers are employed at the site now to get the building ready.
Loughery said Keystone NAP will bridge a crucial technology gap on the East Coast, adding there is no such business for the growing Philadelphia market.
Carey said the closest similar business is in Edison, New Jersey, about 50 miles up Route 1, but that doesn’t have the capabilities of Keystone NAP.
Loughery added that “location, location, location” is key to Keystone NAP and that the KIPC is a prime area for the company to be based.
Meanwhile, he said, “This investment of $2 million in public funds will not only leverage nearly $20 million in private funding, but will light up the entire KIPC complex and beyond with the unparalleled network connectivity of an advanced data center.”
Carey said the company’s new fiber-optic network equipment is being built in North Carolina and will arrive soon by tractor-trailer.
‘Apple Store’ of banking opens on Swamp Road in Newtown Township; Univest celebrates with ribbon cutting
By Jeff Werner
NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> The latest in banking has arrived on Swamp Road in Newtown with the grand opening of Univest Bank’s new prototype state-of-the-art financial center.
“We’re delighted to expand our presence in Newtown and firmly plant our roots in this community,” said the bank’s CEO Jeffrey Schweitzer who joined county and local government and business leaders in officially cutting the ribbon on the new branch on March 18.
“We’re also excited to finally unveil this new model. This is an exciting time as we move in a new direction of consumer banking,” said Schweitzer.
A step inside the new branch, located next to Meglio Pizzeria and across the street from La Stalla, customers will quickly discover this is not their grandparent’s bank.
Gone are the traditional teller lines seen in many banks, including Univest’s former location in the Newtown Business Commons. They have been replaced by an “Apple Store” of banking where customers are greeted by a state-of-the-art space equipped with the latest in technology and personal bankers ready to assist from start to finish.
“They will greet you and help you through the experience of this location and guide you to where you need to go to meet your financial solutions,” said Schweitzer. “Our customers won’t need to balance between a teller, a sales rep and the branch manager. The personal banker is trained and highly skilled to meet all of the customer’s banking needs.”
Equipped with portable iPads, the team of personal bankers is available to conduct every banking service from withdrawals and deposits to loans and a myriad of other services at any location throughout the branch.
Customers can also use a self-service station equipped with a large video screen that offers help with online banking, calculating financial opportunities and requesting appointments. There’s even a gaming option to keep the kids occupied while their parents do their banking.
Founded in 1876 and headquartered in Souderton, Montgomery County, Univest prides itself on its local ownership, leadership and locally-based decision-making while holding true to its core values – tradition, integrity, excellence, community and spirituality.
It takes particular pride in its core value of community, giving back more than $1.2 million through its local giving and philanthropic programs. Last year, Schweitzer noted, Univest employees also gave back more than 15,000 hours of personal time to local non-profits.
“We look forward to welcoming our existing customers here as well as welcoming new customers as more people learn about Univest, our capabilities and our exceptional people who truly differentiate us from our local competitors,” said Schweitzer.
A team of three personal bankers assigned to the new financial center is led by Dana Rose, who has been with Univest Bank for 13 years.
“We’ve taken the time to develop what we think is one of the best staffs at any of our locations in our extended market,” noted Schweitzer, adding that every Univest banker stands ready to serve as a “trusted financial advisor.
“We’re your investment broker, your insurance broker and your home loan consultant as we provide a variety of services,” said Schweitzer.
To provide customers with additional convenience, Schweitzer said the new branch will be piloting an after- hours service.
“Knowing that our hours and all bank hours aren’t always conducive to your lifestyle, we have set up a process here where you can make an appointment with a personal banker, a home loan consultant or a financial advisor after hours to meet your needs,” said Schweitzer.
On hand to welcome Univest to its new location were Bucks County Commissioner Rob Loughery; Newtown Township Supervisors Ryan Gallagher, Mike Gallagher and Kyle Davis; Dan Bates, president of the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce; Mick Petrucci, president of the Newtown Business Association; and Rosemary Wuenschel, Chief of Staff for State Rep. Steve Santarsiero.
Univest’s investment on Swamp Road continues the commercial growth sparked by the Sycamore Street Revitalization Plan, which is transforming the street into a walkable, downtown corridor for the township.
“We’ve been working hard to fulfill that vision,” said Davis. “There were a couple dilapidated buildings here. Now we have this state-of-the-art bank. We’re getting things cleaned up. We’re bringing new businesses in here. This is just the next step. We’re excited that we’re making progress.”
Recent additions to the corridor have included Beneficial Bank. And coming soon will be the long-awaited Promenade, a mixed use structure that will bring luxury apartments and more retail space, including the women’s fashions store Anthropologie, to the street this spring.
Plans are also moving forward for a redevelopment and in-fill project that will see Meglio Pizzeria relocating its eatery to the street between Washington Avenue and Burns Auto Repair. Plans are also moving forward on an improvement project at the Luk-Oil Station at Swamp Road and Sycamore Street.
Schweitzer said the decision to move from the Newtown Business Commons to the Sycamore Street corridor made a lot of sense from a location point of view.
“People aren’t just walking in like they used to,” he said. “We feel real excited about this location because of the traffic pattern and what is going on Sycamore Street. The more that happens and makes it a place for people to go to and a destination point that just helps us and makes Newtown a very attractive place to be.”
Schweitzer also made it a point of commending the township for working with Univest and making the planning process a smooth, business-friendly one from beginning to end.
“We appreciate how smooth the process went and the support we got. That's a big plus for Newtown,” he said. “In other places you run into a lot of people who want to tell you how to do it,” he said. “Meanwhile you’re trying to bring jobs. You’re trying to spur some economic activity.”
Free loan workshop for Bucks business owners
Free loan workshop for business owners
WARRINGTON Bucks County Commissioner Robert G. Loughery will serve as the keynote speaker at a March 21 workshop to help owners of local businesses apply for small business loans.
The free event, called "Prepare to Meet the Lenders," is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. at the Homewood Suites on Kelly Road in Warrington. It is being hosted by SCORE Bucks County, the local branch of a national small-business counseling service that is affiliated with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
"It's for anyone who's already the owner of an existing business or start-up," SCORE workshop coordinator Tim Fielder said, adding that the session is especially beneficial to new business owners.
Loughery was a founder and former managing director of Keystone Redevelopment Group L.L.C. He has worked with Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and small businesses to develop nearly one million square feet of space.
On April 28, SCORE Bucks County will host another event, "Meet the Lenders," which will essentially serve as a speed dating round between business owners and 50 lending agencies.
To learn more, visit this site. - Ben Finley
Bucks County Herald
By Cliff Lebowitz
Loughery, Martin launch re-election campaigns
By James McGinnis Staff writer
Bucks County commissioners Robert Loughery and Charley Martin officially launched their re-election campaigns Wednesday.
The 72-year-old Martin, of Upper Southampton, will seek another four years in the post he’s held since 1995.
His Republican running mate Loughery will pass up on a possible congressional run in 2016. Many in the party predicted Loughery, of Bedminster, would replace Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, of Middletown.
But Loughery, 45, said he'd rather be a commissioner.
Together as commissioners, the pair pledged to finish work on the county's new emergency communications system, close and sell unnecessary county offices, and improve access to affordable housing.
In January, the commissioners formed a housing task force. “Young people are leaving the county,” Martin said Wednesday. “One of the reasons is that they can’t afford to live here.”
Among their accomplishments, the pair listed construction of the $85 million justice center, reducing the county’s budget and workforce and “holding the line on taxes.”
In 2012, they voted to raise taxes 5.7 percent, and in the months that followed, implemented a hiring freeze on nonessential workers.
Across the aisle, Democrat Diane Marseglia has signaled plans to run again for county commissioner. She continues the search for a running mate.
Every four years, Democrats and Republicans battle for control over the three-member committee. Regardless of the vote, the commissioners must contain one member representing the minority party.
Martin joined the board after the resignation of then-chairman Andy Warren. He left for a post at PennDOT.
In 20 years, Martin has seen the county through a 15 percent increase in population, according to U.S. Census estimates.
Bucks had about 85,000 fewer residents in 1995 and many of them were watching "Seinfeld." Gasoline averaged $1.12 per gallon and the American dollar had about 34 percent more buying power, according to federal statistics.
Like Martin, Loughery also started out as an appointee.
A panel of judges selected the Bedminster business developer to fill the seat vacated by Jim Cawley, who took a post as lieutenant governor.
Loughery made a name for himself after founding the Keystone Redevelopment Group and refashioning building sites in Bristol, Morrisville and elsewhere.
Since 2012, he's led the commissioners as chairman. A graduate of Dickinson College and Central Bucks High School East, Loughery has shifted focus from business development to building tourism and housing.
War over new Bucks County courthouse over
Bucks County Courier Times
By Gary Weckselblatt Staff Writer
Years of angst on whether tens of millions of dollars should be spent on a new justice center in Doylestown
officially ended Saturday with a ribbon-cutting inside the eight-story, 285,000-square-foot complex.
Approximately 250 people, many of whom could form a who’s who in Bucks County politics, were on hand to eyeball the $85 million structure.
“It’s an auspicious and historic day for Bucks County,” Robert Loughery, commissioners chairman, said in the facility’s ceremonial courtroom.
While he described most of the tasks commissioners perform as routine, Loughery said “this endeavor occurs very rarely. ... We are part of history today. I know this facility will serve the residents of Bucks County and the judiciary well into the future.”
And though temperatures outside were frigid, the sides who squared off in two decades worth of battles over the project agreed to a thaw.
Diane Marseglia, the minority commissioner on the three-person board, has been an ardent no vote to the justice center proposal, calling the building a “Taj Mahal” and the plans “reckless.”
On Saturday, she said “the war is over” and described herself as “closer on the relationship scale” to her counterparts.
Commissioner Charley Martin, seated next to her on the raised judicial bench with other dignitaries, placed his arm around her and feigned a smooch.
Marseglia also presented President Judge Jeffrey Finley with a rectangular sign that read “Mission Accomplished.”
Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley said the political battles should not be minimized. During his six years as a Bucks County commissioner he said the project was “a real pain — and it should have been.
“It should have had the emotions that flared and ended up (in headlines) on the front page of the newspaper. We are stewards of the money of the people of Bucks County. This process took varying ideas and interests which naysayers said would cost two to three times what it did.”
He used the acronym VBC for “Victory Bucks County” to describe the day’s meaning for him. “Courts should be no less than excellent and today is a recommitment to that excellence,” he said. “You have made Bucks County a better place to live because of this project.”
Det Ansinn, president of Doylestown Borough Council, was among 22 past and present members of council in the new building Saturday. He said the sweat and strife “is what makes a building like this happen.
“This is a building that will serve generations beyond us ... a monument to how much Bucks County values justice and values the rule of law.”
Several members of the Bucks County delegation to the Pennsylvania General Assembly were on hand along with former Gov. Mark Schweiker, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, former commissioners, past and present county judges, row officers and other political figures.
Andy Happ, a former Doylestown councilman, called the decades of debate “part of the human condition. Everyone has their own perception of what is best for all.” He said the process has yielded “a gorgeous and functional” result.
Lou White, who served with Happ, said the project is an example of county government and the borough “coming together. The commissioners have been very respectful of the borough’s role.”
Much of the debate over the courthouse occurred during the recession, he explained, and that’s why Doylestown did not want to lose the hustle and bustle of courthouse traffic that “keeps the town vibrant.”
Finley, the president judge, said times have changed greatly since the courthouse on the other side of Main Street
was built in 1962. Since then, the county’s population has doubled and the number of county judges has tripled. The new complex is designed for 19 courtrooms and 87 meeting spaces, each with motion-sensor lighting. It includes dedicated elevators for the transfer of accused violent offenders into the courtrooms. Other security elements include more than 300 interior and exterior cameras as well as a separate, secured entrance and garage for prisoner transfers. Finley said the modernized building was needed because of an increase in required judicial hearings for children and families, vast improvements in technology and because security has become a critical issue as some people “express some warped political viewpoint.”
He praised past judicial and political leaders for their “vision and perseverance.”
Martin called the building “attractive but not ostentatious.” He said the public “won’t get the idea their money was wasted. It’s tasteful but not overdone. ... The motto has been to do it right, not necessarily to do it fast.”
State Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-31, agreed with Finley about the need for more court space and security.
“I’m really pleased it’s finally here and appreciate it turned out as well as it did,” he said. “It’s a great asset for the county and, unlike the previous building, this will not be obsolete in a short period of time.”
The county is holding a special open house Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. for public tours. Free public parking is provided at the county garage at Broad and Union streets in the borough.
Jerry Anderson, county director of operations tasked with directing the project was asked his thoughts on reaching its conclusion. “Thank God,” he said.
Loughery is voted to Bucks Chairman
DOYLESTOWN For the fourth straight year, Bucks County Commissioner Robert G. Loughery will serve as chairman of the county's three-person governing board, the county commissioners decided Wednesday at their first meeting of 2015.
Charles H. Martin will also retain his role as vice chairman.
Both Loughery and Martin are Republicans. Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia is the Democrat on the board. The three commissioners vote to determine who earns what position for each calendar year.
Martin, officials noted, is entering his 21st year as a commissioner, having been elected to the position in 1995.
Bucks County commissioners unveil budget with no tax increase
By James McGinnis Staff writer
It was a public hearing on $393 million in government spending, yet no county resident showed up to put in their two cents.
Tuesday night’s 2015 Bucks County budget presentation was attended by no one except for the press.
“Is it a public hearing when there’s no public?” commissioners Chairman Rob Loughery asked at the start of the hearing.
A similar public hearing was also held last year at the county courthouse in Doylestown. No one attended that meeting, either.
The county plans no tax increase in 2015 — a re-election year for commissioners Rob Loughery, Diane Marseglia and Charley Martin.
It has been three years since the board voted to hike property taxes 5.9 percent. The owner of a home assessed at the county average of $35,800 pays about $800.
This year, Bucks County says it’s tightening the belt. The spending plan for 2015 is about $5.7 million leaner than last year’s budget. That equates to just 1.7 percent of spending overall.
There’s also little change in the money devoted to things like the county’s nursing home at Neshaminy Manor ($40 million), the community college ($8.4 million), libraries ($5.8 million) bridge repairs ($4.8 million) and county parks ($4.6 million).
Every year, Bucks collects about $187 million in real estate taxes. The other 60 percent of county spending is financed by state and federal grants and government fees. Bucks also relies on millions of dollars charged for court services, property records and marriage licenses. Next year, those fees are expected to generate about $2 million less. Officials point to a drop in property reassessment fees as the reason.
Next year, most of the county’s budget will go to dispensing justice. Bucks budgets $61 million for its court system and another $39 million on the prisons. Those figures also would remain little changed from last year.
Ten percent of the budget could go toward paying off loans for long-term projects like the $85 million justice center. The county expects to spend $38.5 million on debt financing. Bucks has about $290 million in bonds and loans, officials estimate.
The county is also sitting on a $49 million fund balance, which could grow slightly next year with the reduced spending, officials said.
Copies of the county’s preliminary budget are posted online at www.buckscounty.org.
A final version could be adopted at a 10 a.m. meeting on Dec. 17 at the Bucks County Conference and Visitor Center on Street Road in Bensalem.
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