Visions for the future were at the forefront of the Feb. 1 Montgomery County Commissioners’ meeting, as a status update on the Montco 2040 comprehensive plan and bid approvals for renovations to One Montgomery Plaza were presented.
Montco 2040, as its name implies, is a forward-thinking initiative adopted in 2015 to lay out a strategic plan for the county’s development heading into the next half of the century.
It consists of three themes:
• Connected Communities, which consists of roads and infrastructure projects, fostering collaborative public/private and institutional partnerships, support for downtowns and mixed use areas, and the expansion and maintenance of the county’s greenways, trails and parks.
• Sustainable Places, which focuses on energy efficiency, neighborhood preservation and enhancement, resource conservation, stormwater management and affordable housing initiatives.
• Vibrant Economy, a set of objectives designed to attract businesses, residents and tourism, improve transportation, and encourage development.
The Montco 2040 presentation was made by Jody Holton, executive director of the Montgomery County Planning Commission, who highlighted some of the major plan achievements of 2017 and the goals to be accomplished this year.
Holton mentioned well-publicized major projects — such as the Lafayette Street extension in Norristown and the proposed King of Prussia rail line — and lesser known ongoing elements— such as the improvement of county bridges made possible by the county’s $5 vehicle registration fee, and the near-completion of the modernization of the county’s public safety radio system.
The commissioners thanked Holton and her team for their work on the plan and the compilation of the presentation.
And at the request of Commissioner Ken Lawrence, Holton went on to discuss the Montco 2040 implementation grant program, which, in 2018, will provide $1.5 million for municipalities and further the initiative’s goals of developing downtowns and community destinations, expanding and enhancing walking and biking options, and assisting with the integration of environmentally friendly infrastructure components of new development.
The full plan and updates are available on the county’s website, www.montcopa.org.
One Montgomery Plaza
The commissioners were not all in agreement when it came to the $23.4 million assets and infrastructure contracts for the re-skinning of One Montgomery Plaza, the county administration building at 425 Swede St. in Norristown.
Commissioners Val Arkoosh and Lawrence, both Democrats, voted in favor of the contracts; the bulk of which went to developer TN Ward for general contracting — $20 million — followed by Hobbs & Company for electrical — $1.7 million — Cooks Service Company Inc. for HVAC — $1.3 million — and Stan-Roch Plumbing —$225,000 for plumbing and fire protection.
But Commissioner Joe Gale, the lone Republican, voted against the awarding of the contracts citing concerns over the low response rate (less than 1 percent) to the request for bids sent out by the county.
For each contract, 500 or more inquiries were made but only one response, which wound up being the awardee, was received for the electrical, plumbing and HVAC contracts, respectively. And only four responses, of which TN Ward was the lowest responsible bidder, were received for the general contract.
County CFO Lee Soltysiak said it’s not uncommon for certain projects — depending on their unique specifications, duration and scope — to receive limited levels of interest from area contractors.
And Capital Projects Program Director Tom Bonner said the various departments do due diligence to formulate packages designed to cast a wide net of competitive bidders.
Bonner added that the county was fortunate to get the responses it did, and said he was “eminently confident that the project will be delivered pursuant to the plan and within the constraints of the contracts that were entered into with each of (the) bidders.”
In Other Business
• The commissioners approved a municipal planning assistance contract for $123,000 (split evenly between municipal funds and county services) for the Pottstown Metro Area Regional Planning Commission.
• A grant of easements paving the way for a new water transmission line near Perkiomen Creek in Skippack was approved for the North Penn Water Authority at no cost to the county.
• Timothy Hinchcliff and Bria Kuklinski were unanimously appointed as Montgomery County Ambulance Association representatives to the Montgomery County Medical Services Advisory Council. Both appointments are for two-year terms.
• Varsovia Fernandez and Napoleon Nelson were unanimously appointed to the Montgomery County Community College Board of Trustees.
• Announcements of advertisements for RFPs were made on behalf of Adult and Aging services for senior community centers in Lansdale and Harleysville; and on behalf of Assets and Infrastructure for engineering on County Bridge 275, Waverly Road in Cheltenham, and the rehabilitation of County Bridge 243, Old Reading Pike, over Yeagers Creek in West Pottsgrove.
Following the public comment portion of the meeting Arkoosh invited the public to an exhibition and forum in consideration of the county’s prospective new voting machines at the Montgomery County Community College’s Health Sciences Center on Feb. 24, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Residents will have the opportunity to test out the machines and provide feedback to the commissioner’s, which will be taken into account as they draft RFPs for vendors who will replace all voting machines currently used in the county. Inquiries should be made to Montgomery County Public Affairs Manager Corrie Emerson at 610-278-3023.
The commissioners and Montgomery County Director of Assets and Infrastructure Chris Smith honored Jerry Griffith, Mike Courtney and Andy Lattanze for their roles in avoiding a “major catastrophe” when an electrical fire broke out in one of the large vehicle and equipment storage barns at the county’s roads and bridges facility in Worcester.
When the blaze ignited, Griffith and Courtney — working under the supervision of Lattanze — sprung into action, calling the Emergency Operations Center, then procuring fire extinguishers to immediately begin firefighting operations.
Thanks to their fast thinking and actions, the fire was quickly snuffed out and the Worcester Fire Department verified the building’s safety.
“Commissioners, I would like to formally recognize Jerry Griffith, Mike Courtney and their Foreman Andy Lattanze for their unwavering dedication to the County and its constituents,” Smith said. “Their actions exemplify the selflessness of your employees across all of County government and are worthy of commendation.”