Archive: April, 2013
For the past few months, the Chester County commissioners have been hosting what they call "on-the-road" meetings in various communities around the county. March's was in East Vincent Township, in the northernmost reaches of the county; discussion at that meeting touched on everything from preserving farmland to dealing with the construction of natural gas pipelines in the area.
Commissioners say it's a way to connect with residents in a county with so many different faces -- from Main Line towns like Malvern to rural areas like Cochranville. It's also a way to let residents know exactly what the county government actually does -- with one city, 15 boroughs and a slew of smaller communities in Chester County, it's easy to overdose on local government.
This month's meeting was in Nottingham, home to many, many mushroom farms and the national treasure known as the Herr's potato chip factory. (The meeting itself was actually at the Herr's factory, which meant lots of free chips for attendees -- reason enough to go in my book.) Here's a rundown of what was discussed:
- The Chester County Economic Development Council is hoping to revitalize the area along Route 1 in the southern portion of the county. The aim is to preserve rural land in the area while capitalizing on a potential 3 to 4 million square feet of commercial and industrial property, development adviser Bob Grabus said. The development council is launching a marketing campaign and a bus tour for prospective developers in the near future, he said.
- Oxford Borough is building an affordable housing development comprised mostly of three- and four-bedroom homes to help house farmworkers in southern Chester County, for whom finding affordable housing is sometimes tricky. It will be the third such development in the township.
- Representatives from Westgrove and Oxford talked about the county's community revitalization program, which grants funds to the county's "urban centers" -- Coatesville and the 15 boroughs -- for projects like streetscape improvement and infrastructure repairs, all designed to help attract more residents and businesses to the area. Westgrove alone has recieved seven grants from the program since 2003; Oxford credits a $1.2 million streetscape improvement program for helping keep their small town alive.
Alexandra Bigelow's trip to El Salvador last summer centered around building a nurse's clinic in a tiny town outside San Salvador -- standard fare for a high-school mission trip.
But Bigelow, a senior at Villa Maria Academy in Malvern, came away from the trip with a different goal in mind.
On her last day in-country, she asked community members in La Delicias -- the small town where she and her classmates had been volunteering for the past 14 days-- how she could help from home. Their answer wasn't one she was expecting: Women in the community, they said, were in dire need of sanitary napkins.
Human trafficking isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to crime in Pennsylvania -- but two local politicians are aiming to increase awareness and toughen penalities on human traffickers with proposed legislation this session.
State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) and State Rep. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) are among the co-sponsors of SB 75, which aims to prevent trafficking and crack down on offenders. Under the bill, "subjecting an individual to involuntary servitude" would become a first-degree felony; johns who knowlingly have sex with a victim of human trafficking would face second-degree felonies. The bill would also make it a third-degree felony to destroy passports or immigration documents in order to keep a trafficking victim from escaping.
The bill was tabled in the Senate in February, but Greenleaf and Dinniman say they are working to schedule a vote soon.
West Chester city councilman John Manion had just finished his fourth Boston Marathon and was relaxing in his hotel room when he heard a loud “boom” from down the street.
“My daughter said, ‘What’s that?’” Manion said. “She’s 9 years old, and I told her it was probably a truck dropping off a dumpster, but it was way too loud for that. Then we immediately heard the next one – and there was no way it was going to be two trucks.”
Manion and eight other runners from a West Chester running group were staying at Marriott Copley Place a few blocks from Boylston Street Monday afternoon after the race, and were blocks from the finish line when two bombs exploded there in quick succession, killing three and wounding dozens more. Manion’s wife had been standing in the area where the second bomb exploded for much of the race before he finished, he said.
The alleged theft of $80 in tickets to movie houses in February 2013 may have tripped up West Brandwyine Township Manager Ronald A. Rambo, Jr., the police criminal complaint against him suggests.
Rambo was arrested and charged by the Chester County District Attorney’s office on April 11 with “misappropriating township funds” totaling $456.30. He is charged with two misdemeanors — forgery and theft by unlawful taking.
Six of the seven allegations involve falsifying medical expenses in 2010. But the seventh involves this year’s movie tickets.
The affidavit of probable cause, made public by the District Attorney’s office, states that “Rambo said he and his wife earn approximately $160,000 per year, and that he does not need the money,” that he is accused of misappropriating.
“Rambo repeatedly said he does not know why he did it.”
The affidavit states that “Rambo said he was having financial problems in 2010 and that his mortgage increased from $2,200 to $2,800 per month.
“Rambo said that he had had a significant credit card debt at the time and was under a lot of job related pressure.”
On April 11, Rambo’s office assistant said that he was not available for comment on the Inquirer report of the arrest and charges.
Here is how the more recent story unfolded, according to the affidavit.
On Feb. 6, West Brandywine Police Chief Walt Werner told county detective Thomas J. Goggin<NO1>(CQ)<NO> that someone who worked with Rambo said “Rambo took a sheet of eight movie tickets from the office without paying for them.”
The accuser was a township employee who is unnamed in the affidavit but is known to Goggin.
On Mar. 18, that employee told the detective that “the township obtains movie tickets from Regal Cinema for the benefit of townshop residents. The tickets are shipped to the township and arrive in sheets of ten with “West Brandywine Township” printed on the back. The theater tickets are sold to residents for a discount rate of $8 per ticket.”
The township employee “said Rambo asked for a sheet of movie tickets on 2/06/1013. Rambo took the sheet of tickets and did not pay for them at that time,” and that “Rambo did not pay for the tickets as of 3/18/2013,” the date of the interview with the detective.
A second township employee has since “moved the tickets to a cabinet near the front window because it is closer to a security camera,” so the detective reported that that employee told him.
The April 11 affidavit states that on April 1, Goggin “asked Ronald Rambo if he paid for the movie tickets he removed from the township office. Rambo said he would check his records … On 4/03/2013 Rambo admitted that he did not pay for the movie tickets.”
The April 11 press release from District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan painted with a broader brush.
Noting that the “Township Manager has broad authority over financial issues for the township,” Hogan stated that Rambo “reviews and approves employee remimbursement requests, even when the employee reimbursement request is submitted by the Township Manager himself.”
For the most part, Rambo was accused of falsifying reimbursements.
When Hogan’s county detectives looked into the Rambo matter, they “were advised that the defendant had been confronted with prior instances of misappropriating funds and had agreed to repay the Township, but then continued to misappropriate funds.”
— Walter F. Naedele.
The Old Caln Meeting House near Coatesville certainly has a history, given that its older section was built in 1726 and its other section in 1801.
But it’s distinctive for another reason.
When there was a theological split among Quakers in the 1800s, the two factions in the Old Caln congregation continued to worship in that same meeting house, though separated by a moveable wooden wall.
“This was one of the rare meetings that in the great split — they kept meeting here,” side by side, Adrian Martinez, a trustee for the congregation, said as he walked the ground, for an April 8 Inquirer story.
The Old Caln Meeting House, at Caln Meetinghouse Road and Route 340, is not an active place of worship. But its six trustees, all members of Downingtown Meeting, do worship also at Old Caln and hope eventually to attract enough folks to form a functioning congregation.
The major 1800s scism among Quakers is explained in this website.
“The most eloquent and charismatic leader of this movement was Elias Hicks (1738-1830),” it reads.
“His opposition to the wealth and power of city Friends in such centers as Philadelphia drew support from many …
“Finally, in 1827, there was a formal schism within Philadelphia Yearly Meeting into ‘Orthodox’ and ‘Hicksite’ branches …
“Orthodox Friends in Philadelphia met at the 4th and Arch Strets meetinghouse, while Philadelphia Hicksite Friends built a meeting house at 15th and Race Street …
“To confuse matters further, each group continued to refer to itself as Philadelphia Yearly Meeting: that is, each assumed that it alone represented the authentic Quaker perspective and practice.
“Orthodox Friends were dominant in the city of Philadelphia; and Hicksite Friends, elsewhere in the region.”
Adrian Martinez noted in a Thursday, April 11 interview that, “in the 1950s, they got back together,” the Orthodox and the Hicksites.
But in the 1800s at the Old Caln Meeting House, he said, “the legend is … they met at the same time, but at different sides of the building.”
And because “there were many more Hicksite than Orthodox out there,” Martinez said, the Hicksite worshipers met in the larger section of the meeting house, the one built in 1801.
The factions’ members “were very friendly,” he said. “They just went their ways during meeting.”
— Walter F. Naedele.
‘Tis the season for undercover cops in waders!
Folks heading out to the trout-stocked waterways of southeastern Pennsylvania this week might consider whether to haul in more than the legal limit of five trout a day.
The fisher next to you might be an out-of-uniform officer from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, keeping a count.
One undercover officer, who asked that his name and hometown not be disclosed, said in an interview as he was helping stock a Chester County stream that the job can be hazardous.
Typically, he doesn’t cite an offender, but calls in a uniformed Fish and Boat officer and points out the folks whom he suspects to be illegally stocking up a freezer-full of future fillets.
That’s what he did one recent year in Pennypack Park in Northeast Philadelphia.
“The next year,” he said, “I was recognized,” and fellow officers “had to come and get me out of there.
“About 20 guys were chasing me up the hill.”
On another occasion, the undercover officer recalled, he caught a fisher hiding — under an overhang — the trout that he had caught, more than the limit.
“They’re convinced that we have a submarine,” however miniature, that searches the streams and lakes for just such hidden catch.
No, he said, no submarine.
But, “I can’t tell you how we do it.”
The Fish and Boat Commission website states that “fishing without a license is the single most prosecuted fishing offense under the Fish and Boat Code.”
The base fine for that is $50, but “an amount equal to two times the cost of the required license and permit is added to the base fine.”
The cost of a license can range from a low of $2.70 for a member of the National Guard or Reserve to a high of $52.70 for a non-resident, according to the commission’s website, http://www.fish.state.pa.us.
For taking more than the legal limit of trout, the fine is $20 per fish.
A platter costs less at the local fish-and-chips counter, dude.
(In 2013, the trout season in the 18 counties of southeastern Pennsylvania opened on Saturday, Mar. 30. The season opens in the rest of the state on Saturday, April 13.)
Walter F. Naedele.