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Happy to Be Here: Looking at the year ahead


In a year like no other, the Bucks County commissioners have mighty big challenges ahead, not the least of which is an unprecedented presidential election — seismic, in fact.

But first come county priorities that affect citizens in day-to-day operations.

The three-member Board of County Commissioners met for reorganization on Jan. 2 to elect Chair Diane Ellis-Marseglia, Vice Chair Bob Harvie and Secretary Gene DiGirolamo. In a December “Bucks County Conversations,” podcast interview with Charlotte Reese, the commissioners talked about building projects, the expansion of programs that are continuing this year, and initiatives that will be in place in the coming year.

The commissioners are looking forward to completion of the county’s Stabilization Unit being built on the grounds of Doylestown Hospital, a place to direct clients with mental health issues and drug emergencies who have been sent to the hospital emergency room in the past.

“It’s a game changer,” Commissioner Harvie said.

Another giant step is building a new Lower Bucks Government Services Center, which has been functioning in an outgrown building at Five Points in Falls Township.

“We put shovels in the ground for a new building,” Harvie said, large enough to provide more services, including Veterans Affairs, that will eliminate the need for travel to Doylestown for most services.

This year, we might expect more news of co-responders, who collaborate with police to divert people in need of social services away from the criminal justice system. In 2023, after a start in Bensalem and Middletown townships, co-responders were hired to cover Quakertown Borough, Perkasie Borough, Tinicum Township, Hilltown Township, Springfield Township, Bedminster Township, Dublin Borough, Richland Township and Pennridge Regional police departments.

In 2023, the commissioners created the Energy Board to address climate change at the local level. Commissioner Marseglia said she expects that board to expand this year, and the county will release a Climate Action Plan in 2024, created with the aid of Penn State University students.

In 2023, Bucks County began receiving payments as part of the national opiate settlement agreement that will provide the county with $45 million over 18 years. The commissioners approved the transfer of $1.4 million to the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, which has been delegated to administer the funds. The commission plans to use the money to fund several measures, including a program to extend the length of treatment, prevention programs for children, peer support and case management, and improved online access to resources for families.

And lurking behind the scenes are the Pennsylvania primary election April 23, and the presidential election on Nov. 5. There’s bound to be turmoil as court cases are decided and voters around the country continue to question the legitimacy of the voting system.

The commissioners expect the county to be under the microscope as national candidates visit throughout the year.

“Here in Bucks County elections are secure,” Commissioner DiGirolamo said.

The sole Republican county commissioner, he assured voters that mail-in boxes are protected and safe.

“We’ll have another free and fair election,” he said.

And Harvie added, “Bucks County will be a center of attention. We have the biggest swing county in the biggest swing state. We’ve got a good handle on how to handle elections.”

Asked about new year’s resolutions, the candidates had different priorities.

DiGiralamo said his resolution is to continue to help people, which he feels is the county government’s function.

“We’re the safety net in the county,” he said.

Marseglia, after the 2023 local election year, has resolved to get more sleep and walk her dogs more often but that might be difficult in this election year.

Harvie, rather than naming one goal, prefers to deal with situations as they come up and “deal with them better.”

Now the commissioners have said farewell to the old year, leaving the past behind and they’re focusing on the future — and whatever it brings.

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