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Jerome Becker: Observations--Nine years and counting

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There can be no disagreement that one of the most contentious issues facing the residents of Tinicum Township has been the nine-year delay in constructing a new Headquarters Road Bridge over Tinicum Creek.
It has pitted neighbor against neighbor, with the majority supporting a new bridge to be built and owned by PennDOT, at its sole cost and expense. A vocal minority favor the rehabilitation of the bridge because of its history. Were the bridge rehabilitated, ownership would revert to Tinicum Township.
The inconvenience to the residents has been immeasurable. Although PennDOT is presently moving ahead with building a new bridge, awaiting in the shadows is a lawsuit against it, initiated by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
 
The suit appears at this time in a holding pattern. It is anticipated that when PennDOT begins the actual construction phase, the Riverkeeper Network will attempt to stop the project’s forward movement by injunctive relief. The chances are the injunction will be granted by the court, which will propel the lawsuit into a no man’s land of protracted litigation that could last several years.
 
Another major threat has surfaced because of the diligence of one resident who exercised the rights afforded a citizen under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents that were obtained under the disclosure law, which consisted of emails, have been brought to my attention. First, some background.
In a letter dated Feb. 11, 2020, the Bucks County commissioners wrote to Gov. Wolf. To paraphrase the letter, it states that it was written on behalf of the residents of Tinicum Township for the purpose of seeking the governor’s assistance in resolving a stalemate over the future of the Headquarters Road Bridge – a future that does not result in the destruction of a historically significant span.
Upon receiving a copy of the commissioners’ letter, the Tinicum Board of Supervisors wrote a reply to both the commissioners and the governor clarifying representations they considered “misleading” about the Headquarters Road Bridge project. It is to be noted that at no time did the county commissioners ever communicate their interest in the bridge with the supervisors. Nor did they ever made their thoughts known to the residents at large.
 
Some of the emails found by the resident reveal that Commission Chair Diane Marseglia was instrumental in an effort to derail the project. The proof suggests she was also behind the commission’s letter written to the governor, which occurred after her meeting with the Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum.
 
One email from van Rossum to Marseglia said, “Thank you so much again for the meeting and interest in sending a letter to the governor. Attached is some suggested text.
 
An email from Marseglia to Barry Seymour, executive director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, said, “I need to get it off the TIP.” “It” meaning the new Headquarters Road Bridge, which is scheduled to be funded under the PA Transportation Improvement Act (TIP). The act is a financing mechanism whose purpose is to construct roads and bridges under the auspices of PennDOT.
A later email from Marseglia to staff: “Anyway, push has come to shove … and the rehab-ONLY people have my attention. I would love to get it OFF the TIP.”
 
An email from Barry Seymour to Marseglia: “At this point, I suggest you reach out to Ken McClain, the district executive director of PennDOT.
An email from Marseglia to Tim Cashman, a resident of Tinicum Township, in response to his email complaining about TDRK, where she replies to him: “Thank you Tim. This is a very complicated and long issue. Because this is not a county bridge there is very little we can do.”
 
That statement raises a whole series of key questions:
 
A – Why would Commissioner Marseglia advocate so strongly on behalf of the TDRN, who has stymied the majority of Tinicum’s residents by its delaying tactics that have slowed the construction of a new bridge for nearly a decade?
 
B – Why would Commissioner Marseglia deliberately attempt to stop the $3,000,000+ TIP funding set aside for the construction of a new Headquarters Road Bridge?
 
C – What did Commissioners Harvie and Digrolamo know about the chair’s effort to undermine the TIP funding, inasmuch as it is difficult to believe they were ignorant of the backroom machinations, since they signed the letter to the governor?
D – Since the commissioners’ letter to the governor was written on behalf of the residents of Tinicum Township, which residents did they meet with? When and where?
 
E – Inasmuch as Commissioner Marseglia states in her email to resident Tim Cashman that there is very little the commission can do, since it is not a County Bridge, why was the letter to the governor written in the first place?
When you turn this rock over, you find it can lead to many more questions that should be asked, besides these few, from an engaged public. All questions posed must be answered publicly by the commissioners in order to restore their constituent’s faith in them, which loss of trust happens when they are suspicions of a lack of objectivity.
 
This entire situation appears to be a case of undue influence that has crossed the boundaries of fairness by public officials. The situation brings to mind an old saying, “when the head of the fish stinks, the whole fish stinks.”

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