Get our newsletters

Split votes abound as Dems take over in Upper Makefield


Members of the Upper Makefield Board of Supervisors clashed during a contentious Jan. 2 reorganization meeting, with the battles playing out along partisan lines as Democrats assumed control of the five-person board that had previously been majority Republican.

Debate primarily centered on several key issues, including the appointment of a new township engineering firm and the appointment of which supervisors would serve as liaisons to key township boards, committees and organizations, such as the police department and fire department.

There was also divide on the naming of the 2024 board chair, who presides over supervisors’ meetings and is essentially the board leader.

Democrat Supervisor Yvette Taylor was named chair, replacing longtime township Supervisor Tom Cino, a Republican, in the lead position he’d served in for years. Cino remains a board member.

The chairperson change came following a partisan vote that saw Taylor’s appointment supported by fellow Democratic Supervisors Ben Weldon and Braun Taylor — both of whom were sworn in to six-year terms on the night.

Cino and fellow Republican Supervisor Tim Thomas opposed the chair going to Yvette Taylor, as they did the vice chair going to Weldon and the treasurer post to Braun Taylor. The Democrats voted each other into the roles with their three-person majority.

Still, the biggest issue causing consternation related to naming a new engineering firm to consult the township. Cino and Thomas accused the Democrats of blindsiding them with their desire to replace previous township engineering consultant Tri-State Engineers with Gilmore & Associates.

The Republicans accused the Democrats of making the decision in advance on their own without getting input from them — something they said is not customary. All elected board members are supposed to discuss such major moves in advance, they asserted.

“Decisions were made in secret,” said Cino. “We were not allowed to participate.”

As Upper Makefield looks to combat major flooding issues, control development and engage in ongoing legal battles related to controversial residential development projects, the township engineer is an important post.

Cino was concerned about the lack of continuity that could occur with letting Tri-State go; he additionally worried that Gilmore would have conflicts because, he said, it also represents developers keen to build in the township.

Yvette Taylor kiboshed claims of secrecy and partisan tactics, asserting she communicated openly with Thomas, for instance, about the engineering issue. She stated that Gilmore isn’t a Democrat firm, any more than Tri-State is a Republican one.

Weldon said his support of Gilmore had nothing to do with politics. He added that after interviewing eight engineering firms and speaking with other townships, he felt that Gilmore would be best positioned to help Upper Makefield tackle pressing issues, particularly flooding.

The Democrats maintained they didn’t hide anything and shared about the desire for Gilmore with their Republican counterparts prior to the reorganization meeting.

Thomas and Cino’s issues had more to do with them “being upset about the result of an election” that allowed Democrats to take a board majority, Weldon said.

Ultimately, the board appointed Gilmore & Associates with a divided vote that occurred along party lines. In another move, approval was given to allow Tri-State Engineers to continue consulting work on select key projects already in play, including certain township legal battles related to land development. Tri-State could also potentially step in if Gilmore has a conflict. Whether the firm will agree to that arrangement was an open question at press time.

Voting was also split when it came to appointing supervisors to liaison positions. The Republicans, in essence, felt that they were being shouldered out of certain important roles, including ones where they believed Cino’s seasoned experience in particular could prove beneficial.

Andy Block, a former Council Rock School Board president and Upper Makefield resident, was among the citizens to address the board at the meeting. He encouraged board members to set aside any partisan issues and work in the collective best interest of the township.

“We’re going to hold you accountable,” Block said.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.