Board of Supervisors

Just in . . . Paoli Business & Professional Association Supports Reinstatement of Fire Company Budget Cut

I am on the Board of Directors of Paoli Business and Professional Association and I am pleased to report that our organization has approved the following statement of support for the reinstatement of the fire company budget cut. A copy of the statement will be emailed to each member of Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors.

__________________________________________________

Dear Tredyffrin Township Supervisors,

Our organization supports the Paoli, Berwyn and Radnor Fire Companies and the volunteer firefighters. Our support does not include Tredyffrin Township’s proposed 5% reduction in contributions for local fire and emergency services. We ask that the Board of Supervisors maintain the 2010 fire company funding at the 2009 level.

Sincerely,
Board of Directors
Paoli Business and Professional Association

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Board of Supervisor Meeting – Monday, December 21

Here is the agenda for the Board of Supervisor Meeting for Monday, December 21, 7:30 PM.  The final budget will be approved at this last meeting of the year. Will the fire companies see their 5% cut reinstated?  Will the ePetition make a difference in the decision-making process? (Over 460 people have signed it, is your name on the list?)  Will the audience hear any follow-up to the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk issue . . what is the status on the subcommittee which was formed? 

Based on the last 2 Board of Supervisor meetings, I am forecasting another episode of action packed, reality must-watch TV for Monday night!

Immediately following the Board of Supervisor Meeting, there will be a Public Hearing to:

  • Amend the Pension Ordinance to change the employee contribution
  • Increase the Sewer Utility Rate for the year 2010 to $250/EDU
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Let it Snow. . . Let it Snow. . . Let it Snow

There may be a run on milk, eggs and bread today at the grocery stores!  A major storm warning has just been issued for Chester, Montgomery, Delaware, Philadelphia and So. Jersey.  The warning goes in to effect Saturday morning, 1 AM and snow is expected to continue throughout most of Saturday before ending late Saturday night.

It is being suggested that this could our first major snowstorm of the season!  Accumulation will depend on the storm’s track but I just looked at the national weather and it looks like Tredyffrin may be getting 8-10 inches! 

Wonder if this will affect Monday night’s budget decisions — didn’t we loose some Public Works employees in the layoffs?  What was the final decision on the snow removal contract for 2010 — is it in or out?  I remember saying at the candidate debate (as some of the other candidates talked of cutting services) I encouraged no further cuts in emergency personnel and public works.  Actually said that I hoped there wasn’t a blizzard this winter or we could have a problem!  

But maybe since this snow removal will come out of 2009 budget rather than 2010 budget, we will be OK?!  Our volunteer fire fighters and police department may also be called in to service with this weather prediction.

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Progressive Budget Decision re Earned Income Tax

At times misunderstood when campaigning, I often suggested that the township needed to explore Earned Income Tax (EIT) as a possible revenue source.  There was (and continues to be) a lot of inaccurate information circulating about Earned Income Tax.  An example of misinformation occurred at the last Board of Supervisor Meeting, when Supervisor Chair Warren Kampf indicated that those individuals who lost their jobs would pay Earned Income Tax (if Tredyffrin were to have an EIT).  I hope that Mr. Kampf did not intentionally try to confuse the public with his words;  the fact is that individuals receiving unemployment benefits would not pay Earned Income Tax; unemployment benefits are not subject to EIT.

I thought it might be useful to list examples of income which are not subject to Earned Income Tax:

  • Retirement Pensions
  • Disability Payments
  • Active Military Pay
  • Unemployment Compensation
  • Insurance Proceeds (non-business)
  • Workmen’s Compensation  
  • Bequests
  • Stock Dividends (non-business)
  • Gifts/Lottery Winnings
  • Social Security
  • Interest (non-business)
  • Military Bonuses

Earned Income Tax is based on gross wages, salaries, commissions and other earned compensation. As stated numerous times, approximately $3 million is being paid to other municipalities by Tredyffrin residents.  If an EIT were in place, this revenue would return to the township.  Dave Brill, Township Finance Director, has offered that the potential township revenue could be as high as $8 million (should Earned Income Tax be instituted). 

Assuming that we get through the township budget discussion on December 21 with the proposed draft budget more or less intact, I still contend that the 2010 budget is nothing more than a Band-Aid solution to a far greater financial problem.  I believe that the township will limp along through 2010 with the budget in place.  However, without financial foresight, this time next year the township will be faced with a far greater problem than the reinstatement of $20K to the Fire Department.  The 3 new supervisors all campaigned (and were elected) on the ‘no new taxes’ mantra and they will probably take office on January 4 with that promise intact.  However,  it doesn’t take my London School of Economics education to believe that their promise will be short-lived.  Financially the township is in a very precarious financial situation and we are going to witness firsthand the result of shortsighted financial planning.

I know that this posting of Earned Income Tax discussion will bring opposing comments, and I actually encourage the dialogue.  Tredyffrin’s 2006 Tax Study Commission and voter referendum overwhelmingly were against imposing an EIT.  Warding off that particular argument, clearly 2010 can not possibly be compared economically to 2006; it is a vastly different financial climate facing this township.  I may have been one of the voters in 2006 who opposed an EIT; believing that the township at that point did not have severe financial needs to warrant that taxation approach.  However, if in 2009 this township’s annual budget of $37 million can not fund $20K to our firefighters, something is dramatically different in this current picture.  Each and every taxpayer needs to take a careful look at the proposed 2010 township budget — I believe the future is going to require more than simply tightening our belts as has been suggested by some of our township leaders, as a response to our economic problems!

I came across an interesting article from December 11 concerning the borough of Yeadon, Delaware County — a community located close to the Philadelphia Airport.  I pulled up the demographics to compare Yeadon with Tredyffrin; as you can see they are vastly different.  The median income of Yeadon is approximately one-half the level of Tredyffrin, with 3 times the number of people living under the poverty level.  The point of the comparison is that Yeadon is making a progressive budget decision for 2010 and instituting an Earned Income Tax!  The borough manager believes the move will diversify the tax base and help the seniors stay in their home (the EIT will reduce their property taxes).  I have no idea what the average education level is in Yeadon, but I’m going to make a broad guess and bet that it is far lower than the average Tredyffrin resident.  Why do you suppose than that Yeadon’s leadership was able to conclude that the severity of the economic situation required an Earned Income Tax?  I am  guessing that paying an additional 1% tax to residents of Yeadon is going to be a lot more difficult than a similar tax would be to Tredyffrin residents.  It’s probably a safe assumption that our average Tredyffrin taxpayer is in a far better financial situation than a Yeadon resident. I salute Yeadon Borough for analyzing their economic climate and making this progressive budget decision.

Below is a demographic comparison of Yeadon vs. Tredyffrin with the article concerning Yeadon’s progressive 2010 budget decision. 

Demographics of Yeadon, Delaware County:  As of the census of 2000, there were 11,762 people, 4,696 households, and 2,967 families residing in the borough. The median income for a household in the borough was $45,550, and the median income for a family was $55,169. The per capita income for the borough was $22,546. About 14.6% of the population were below the poverty line.

Demographics of Tredyffrin Township, Chester County: As of the census of 2000, there were 29,062 people, 12,223 households, and 7,834 families residing in the township. The median income for a household in the township was $90,915 and the median income for a family was $121,809. The per capita income of the township was $47,584.  About 3.7% of the population was below the poverty line.

Yeadon Adopts EIT, Decreases Property Taxes

Published: Friday, December 11, 2009

YEADON — Officials will end the year with two bold financial moves.

Council voted 4-0 Monday to impose a 1 percent earned income tax, expected to channel about $900,000 into borough coffers annually.

While municipalities often adopt EITs to close looming budget shortfalls, Interim Borough Manager Paul Janssen said he recommended it as a means of diversifying the tax base.

“Seniors have to pay property taxes like crazy to be able to stay in their house. If council can shift this to an EIT and add a property tax cut it has huge benefit to seniors.” And “They get a tax source that grows.”

Officials plan to use the new tax to decrease property taxes by 1 mill, lowering the rate from 9.89 to 8.89 mills, about 10 percent. The reduced rate had been advertised and is scheduled for adoption Dec. 17. The EIT will also eliminate need to dip into the borough’s fund balance. Janssen said Yeadon had a balanced budget, but it included $197,000 from reserves.

Said Vice President Jack Byrne, “The EIT will generate more revenue for the borough and we’re going to reduce taxes. We have a lot of seniors here and it’s going to be helpful for them.”

Byrne noted that many residents who work outside the borough already pay the EIT, but to the municipality where they work. Adopting an EIT will allow Yeadon to capture those monies.

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As I See It . . . Commentary on Board of Supervisors Meeting & Call to Reinstate the Fire Company Budget Cut from Another Township Resident

Over the last few days there has been much discussion about Supervisor Bob Lamina’s  As I See It: Supervisor’s take on Tredyffrin budget: Fair and balanced recent article in the Main Line Suburban.  There was another equally as powerful article in the paper, written by Malvern resident Kathleen Keohane which offers her opinion on the last Board of Supervisor Meeting and includes support to the fire company’s reinstatement of their budget cut.  For the sake of fairness, I want Ms. Keohane’s As I See It: Not much good, but plenty of bad and ugly at Tredyffrin meeting article to receive the same degree of attention.  As taxpayers and residents of Tredyffrin Township, I think we all need to reflect on our expectations from our local government, our leaders and where this township is heading in 2010.  Post your comments here, on the Main Line Suburban’s website or directly to the township supervisors at bos@tredyfrin.org

As I See It: Not much good, but plenty of bad and ugly at Tredyffrin meeting

In all the years I’ve lived in Tredyffrin, I have never seen such theater as I witnessed during Monday night’s supervisors’ meeting!

First, a long-serving supervisor decided to leave office with her integrity intact by clearing the air on an issue the board had tried to sweep under the rug – the source of $50,000 in potential revenue recommended by the Business Advisory Working Group (BAWG) in their report. A concerned citizen had stood up at the last BOS meeting to ask how such a recommendation could have made it into the report to the township. Chairman Kampf refused to answer. The topic on the agenda was the budget, he said, and since the $50,000 did not appear in next year’s budget, he would not address it.

In refusing to answer Ms. Benson’s straightforward questions, Mr. Kampf looked like a foolish prevaricator. Ms. Benson remained standing and asked again. Then it became theater of the absurd as every township official and BAWG member sat mute. Apparently no one knew anything about this money. Not even members of the BAWG, who ironically had just received plaques for their hard work on behalf of the community.

The stonewalling raised more questions, but as of last week’s board of supervisors’ meeting, it seemed there would be no answers – until supervisor DiFilippo matter-of-factly reported at Monday’s meeting that the $50,000 offer had come from supervisor Paul Olson last year but had never been put in writing. It was a rare moment of truth.

The origin of an offer by St. Davids Golf Club to pay the township $50,000 was made to get out of a contractual agreement signed back in 2004. The offer became public at a special meeting last month when BAWG chair Tom Colman made a presentation of recommended budget cuts and additional revenue sources. When the offer was made, St. Davids was already in breach of its agreement to construct a sidewalk along the north side of its property on Upper Gulph Road. In addition it turns out that supervisor John Shimrak is a board member of St. Davids and BAWG member Rob Betts is also a member of the golf club.

Ms. DiFilippo stated her opinion that 1) if the township were ever to consider the offer, St. Davids should have to pay the equivalent of the actual construction costs, 2) the funds should be held in a separate Sidewalk Fund, and 3) only the planning commission could approve such a decision, having imposed the sidewalk requirement in the first place as part of a building permit. Not surprisingly the Planning Commission had already denied St. Davids’ waiver request in 2008, at which point it was in breach.

While the facts behind this backroom deal settled over the room, recently retired supervisor Bill DeHaven stepped to the microphone to express some strong opinions. He called the entire sidewalk controversy a red herring. And then he proceeded to criticize his former colleagues’ 2010 budget as one of misplaced priorities, with no evidence of planning – a “get-by budget,” he called it.

DeHaven, a retired police officer, made an emotional plea to restore the fire companies’ funding for 2010. “I love this township. I want it to stay as great as it is and move forward. And I’m willing to pay for it.” He urged the imposition of a dedicated fire tax so that residents would know exactly how much they contributed for fire and emergency medical services.

Supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson defended the fire cuts as necessary. At that point supervisor John DiBuonaventuro responded that he was truly offended that $21,000 for fireworks remained in the budget while funding for the fire companies had been reduced by an equivalent amount. And that ironically firefighters would be expected to work for free on the Fourth of July. He reminded the board that its first responsibility was to protect the township’s residents.

If all of this wasn’t dramatic enough, a township clerical worker bravely stood up and spoke bluntly to her bosses. She said that she was one of 24 office workers who had formed a union several years ago because they felt it was the only way they would be able to make a decent living. The elimination of their longevity pay in next year’s budget meant 6-14-percent cuts in their salaries. And since seven clerical workers had been laid off in October, those remaining were expected to take up all the slack. Their average salary: $40,000. The woman expressed her feeling that the supervisors’ decision to make steep cuts instead of raising taxes to pay for necessary services was a mistake. You get the level of service you pay for, she said. She urged everyone to study the budget cuts carefully.

As the emotional pleas from board members, former board members and residents wore on, supervisor Bob Lamina announced that he had decided that he could not support fireworks over fire companies. John DiBuonaventuro immediately asked that the fire companies’ funding be reinstated. Anti-climactically, BOS chair Mr. Kampf refused to consider it. And then he launched into an emotional defense of all the budget cuts as necessary given the current economic climate. “We have a choice,” he said, “to go to the taxpayers or look to ourselves. So we decided to tighten our belts.”

The entire meeting lasted about 75 minutes but it seemed an eternity. In the process, a backroom deal revealed. Emotional pleas for and against budget cuts. All peppered with insulting remarks made by supervisors and citizens alike. You must watch a rebroadcast of this meeting. And then weigh in as a citizen. You can contact your supervisors at bos@tredyffrin.org.

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As I See It from a Tredyffrin Resident

There has been much discussion concerning Supervisor Bob Lamina’s As I See It article  in this week’s Main Line Suburban newspaper. In my opinion, sitting Supervisors have to be very careful of public criticism of residents, either in public meeting or as this case, in written form in a newspaper.  I support freedom of speech but I stand firm that supervisors were elected to represent all the people, regardless if the citizens opinion is in opposition of their own.  Whether it is reading Supervisor Lamina’s article in the paper or reflecting on the behavior of some of the supervisors towards citizens at the last two Board of Supervisors meetings, we do have to wonder if they want to know what we think?  Do they believe that they should do our thinking?

Most people are aware of the form of censorship defined by the American Library Association as “the removal of material from open access by government authority.” But there are other not so blatant forms of censorship, which can be just as damaging to the free and public exchange of ideas so crucial in a democratic society.

These forms of censorship occur through unofficial government actions usually by individual officials and their supporters. Two of the most common methods of this subtle form of censorship are the demonization of people who dare speak against the status quo, and the marginalization of ideas contrary to those supported by government officials.

These types of censorship are not always easy to spot and are not necessarily the result of any thoughtful process by the official. In fact, they are just as likely to be the result of an emotional unthinking reaction. However, demonization and marginalization constitute a very real form of censorship because they inhibit and discourage citizen participation in our local government.

Attempts at censorship and control of citizens opinions by our elected officials harm us all. Personally, I am glad that we have local citizens who care enough about Tredyffrin to offer comments, ask questions and share their community ideas that can improve our local government (for all the community) not just the politically connected.  Likewise, I want to believe that our elected officials value the opinions of the entire community. We know they did on election day.

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My Reflections Evoke Thoughtful Comments from Residents

I was surprised by the commentary on yesterday’s posting.  Thank you to Kate of Malvern, John of Berwyn and Matt of Berwyn for reflecting on our local government and then taking the time to send me your comments. Also, thank you to those of you have called and sent personal me personal emails; much appreciated! Please take the time to read the comments on this topic, along with other comments posted in the last few days.  Many of you are following Community Matters, and I thank you.  I would encourage more of you to put pen to paper and send me your thoughts – for me, it has been very therapeutic.

Always believing in the positive, half-glass full approach to living life, I am going to count on this community (and our elected officials) to take that higher road going forward, starting at the next Board of Supervisor Meeting on December 21.  We can all agree to disagree on the budget and its contents, whether its longevity pay, fire company and library contributions, fireworks, etc.  The point that has been driven home to this community in the last 2 Board of Supervisor Meetings is related to actual behavior.  Decisive, antagonistic behavior is not going to make it easier to get through these tough economic times.  On the other hand, a bit of compassion and understanding of others opinions just might. 

I am heading out to the airport shortly for a few days away.  Much to my husband’s chagrin, I will be taking my laptop but have promised that I will keep my Community Matters updates to a minimum during the next week. 

Let me know your thoughts . . .

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Reflecting on Radnor Township and Tredyffrin Township Leaders

Over the last year, I have followed Radnor Township’s governmental problems, including how their former Township Manager Dave Bashore ran the township without any real oversight during his eight years of tenure.  An outside accounting firm’s audit suggests that Mr. Bashore apparently spent over $600K of township money without documentation or approval.  These expenses included an apparent misuse of a township-issued credit card on personal purchases (which were reimbursed by the township).  In addition, Mr. Bashore gave himself and other township employees annual bonuses, without approval from the Board of Commissioners. 

What can we learn from our neighbors misfortune?  As taxpayers, we must trust that our elected officials are acting in our best interest, governing without self-interest, and are mindful that they represent all residents.  In today’s Main Line Suburban Life, editor Tom Murray presented interesting comments about the Radnor Township/Dave Bashore situation.  Tom includes an email exchange from one of his newspaper writers, Sam Strike.  Here is a section of that email: 

I think some of the things that come out of this are the importance of things like community participation, governmental checks and balances, the importance of transparency and providing documents, and truly welcoming the opinions and participation of the people.

In democracy the people are at the top, the representatives work for us and the administration works for us via them. That wasn’t the way things seemed to have been run recently.

Read these paragraphs and then think about our own township and our last two Board of Supervisor Meetings.  Have Tredyffrin’s elected officials been as transparent as they should? Think about St. Davids Golf Club and the alleged $50K offer.  Two meetings ago, I posed questions about St. Davids and no one answered.  I knew (or at least had a fairly good idea) the answers to all those questions before I asked them, but I thought it was important that the public heard the questions and then was able to hear the Supervisor responses.  Only we didn’t hear any answers that night.  Fortunately for all of us, one of the supervisors, Judy DiFilippo, had the courage at this week’s Board meeting to answer those questions and to set the record straight about who had prior knowledge about the offer and which Board members and BAWG members were members of St. Davids Golf Club.  But I have to wonder, if I never asked the questions, would the $50K alleged offer from St. Davids Golf Club just have remained in the BAWG report and never been questioned.  I guess so.

Continuing with the excerpted comment above, do our elected officials “. . . truly welcome the opinions and participation of the people”?  I am still recalling in detail this week’s Board of Supervisor Meeting.  As an audience member, I watched as brave souls took their turn to comment on various topics.  At times, their comments were greeted with antagonism or dismissiveness.  This leads me to wonder, do our elected officials really welcome our participation and involvement in the process?  I think some do and some don’t.  I think that there may be some Supervisors who are OK with commentary from the community, as long as it agrees with them.  

I’d like to make a suggestion to the members of the Board of Supervisors.  Perhaps before the next Board Meeting on December 21, you take the opportunity to reflect that it was the voters who elected you to serve them — that is, elected you to serve all the residents.  Including those who may have differing opinions.  I think that it is perfectly acceptable for our Supervisors to disagree with each other and also to disagree with the residents.  However, I don’t think it is OK to do so with a personal agenda or malice.  

Remembering the words of John Quincy Adams,

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

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Must See TV — Watch a Rebroadcast of December 7 Board of Supervisor Meeting

I have had a number of people ask me about Monday night’s Board of Supervisor Meeting.  I am one of those people who rarely re-reads books or is interested in watching reruns of TV shows.  However, . . . in the case of the Board Meeting, I think I might change my mind.  A couple of days later and people are still talking about it — certainly one to be remembered for a long time.  Although I tried to capture the essence of the evening, I have told friends that they really need to watch it.  I went online and found the rebroadcast schedule.  Assuming that it is correct, below are the days and times for the Supervisor Meeting.  And if you were at the meeting, so much was going on at once, it was hard to take it all in so you might want to re-watch it.  I encourage everyone to see it before the next Board Meeting on Monday, December 21.

T-SPAN (Supervisors’ Meeting)

Air-Times:

  • Sunday, 1:30 PM
  • Monday, 7:30 PM
  • Tuesday, 7:30 AM
  • Tuesday, 1:30 PM
  • Friday, 7:30 PM
  • Saturday, 7:30 AM
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Lights, Camera, Action . . . Board of Supervisor Meeting!

Lights . . . Camera . . . Action!  A Hollywood screenwriter could not have scripted last night’s Board of Supervisor meeting any better.  Drama, Comedy, Suspense . . . the night had all the elements for a made-for-TV movie!

During the New Matters section of last night’s agenda, the audience watched as the individual personalities of the supervisors emerged; at times leaving the audience wondering who exactly was in charge.  Joining the cast of characters was ex-supervisor Bill DeHaven who chimed in multiple times from the audience-side of the dais.  Larger-than-life personality, Mr. DeHaven’s passion in his support of the fire companies was evident to all.  He chastised the supervisors for not having a long-range budget plan, suggesting that their current proposed budget was shortsighted and represented a band-aid solution to a far greater problem.  He further suggested that the supervisors go back to the drawing board and figure out how to ‘fix’ the proposed budget before December 21.  One of his recommendations was a ‘fire tax’ that would help fund the fire companies’ expenses.  (Interesting concept, why not explore further?) Mr. DeHaven’s criticisms of the proposed budget incensed Supervisor Bob Lamina, escalating to an angry exchange of words. 

Supervisor John DiBuonaventuro tried to steer the boat to a higher ground, with his continued support to reinstate the township’s 5% budget cut back to the Fire Company budget. An interesting player last night was Supervisor Mark DiFeliciantonio.  I’m not sure if Mr. DiFeliciantonio’s behavior was due to his lame duck status on the Board or his impassioned support of the Fire Company and EMS services.  Unfortunately, from my perspective Mr. DiFeliciantonio overstepped his position, when suggesting to resident Ray Clarke that he was not interested in hearing what he had to say; declaring that he was tired of Mr. Clarke saying the same thing, meeting after meeting.  Shame on this elected supervisor – when you are elected by the people of this township, you are elected to serve, and to listen to them all.   

Although I support open public debate among Board members, last night represented a fine line between respectful discussion and overt, antagonistic personal attacks.  At one point, Supervisor Warren Kampf offered a lengthy personal diatribe supporting his position to accept the proposed 2010 budget, which continues to be offered to the public as a ‘balanced budget’. (Several residents made public comments in support of raising taxes in lieu of reduction of township services).  It was during Mr. Kampf’s closing remarks that Mr. DiFeliciantonio abruptly stood up, walked through the audience and out the door.  Not sure what we were to take from his dramatic exit . . . what kind of message was this elected official looking to send?  Following Mr. Kampf’s remarks, Mr. DeHaven had the last word of the evening, suggesting that Supervisor Kampf was campaigning from the bench.

Last night this taxpayer had some questions answered (the mystery surrounding the alleged $50K offer from St. Davids Golf Club was put to rest by Supervisor Judy DiFilippo, which I addressed in my last posting) but other questions still remain. I am struggling to understand the sewer fund/streetlight issue.  I thought that the sewer fund was a stand alone operation and any additional fees proposed in the budget were to simply cover expenses.  Does the sewer fund actually subsidize the township streetlights? I do not understand the connection. If there is someone who has a better understanding of the sewer fund/streetlight issue, I’m appealing for some clarification. 

Between now and the final Board of Supervisor Meeting of the year, on December 21, if you have thoughts about the proposed budget, post a comment here, write a Letter to the Editor, send emails to the Board of Supervisors and the Township Manager.  I encourage you to get involved; let your voice be heard.  If you have a chance, please look for the rebroadcast of last night’s Board of Supervisor Meeting.  The meeting presented an up close and personal look at our elected officials and shed an interesting light on the inner workings of our local government.

Stay tuned for the next installment – update on the Fire Department later today.

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