John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Upper Makefield Township Offers Tree Rebates

UMTree Grants 

Available for Spring Plantings from April - June or Fall Plantings from September -November 

Upper Makefield Township (UMT) announces availability of a limited number of tree planting grants. The UMTree Grants target the following areas of reforestation: 

  • Riparian Buffer Areas (properties located near streams/creeks) 
  • Properties Impacted by Severe Weather and Flooding 
  • Properties Promoting Wildlife Habitat 
  • Thermal Protection of Homes (shade in the summer and wind barriers in winter) 

All property owners are eligible to apply for rebates, per the following guidelines: 

  1. UMT will reimburse up to $50/tree (total tree cost, plus shipping) for Pennsylvania native trees, $25/tree for tree planting, and $6/tree for deer protection. 
  2. The maximum reimbursement per parcel will be $975 or up to 12 trees. 
  3. UMTree Grants are limited in availability and will be awarded on a first come/first served basis. 

These grants are funded through contributions from local land developers and not through tax dollars. 

Any tree that appears on the following list is eligible for reimbursement: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources Native Plant Landscaping brochure 

Reimbursement requests must be submitted to the Township as soon as possible after planting with the required documentation listed below. All requests are subject to review by Township staff, the Environmental Advisory Council and the Board of Supervisors. 

UMT reserves the right to refuse payment if grant specifications are not met. 

If you have questions about tree species or size, please contact codeoffice@uppermakefield.org  or call the Township office at 215-968-3340. 

All grants are on a first come/first served basis, and please note there are a limited number of grants available. 

Posted on 29 May 2021, 01:39 - Category: Environment



Newtown Township Park Restrooms To Be Re-Opened

Closed restroom in Roberts Ridge Park
with porta potty.

The restrooms in Newtown Township parks, including: 

  1. Chandler Fields
  2. Veteran's Park
  3. Robert's Ridge Park
  4. Helen Randle Park

have been closed since the spring of 2020. This was due to the risk of contamination from COVID-19 and lack of staffing to thoroughly clean them. Porta potties were installed starting in September 2020 due to complaints from residents about lack of toilet facilities in the parks (see story below). Good news! At the May 26, 2021, Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisors approved a contract with BCS Facilities Group in the amount of $1,213.00/month for service of restrooms. Each restroom will be clened two times per week - at the beginning of the week and at the end before the weekend.

Note from Megan Prusienski, Parks & Recreation Director: As of today, May 18th, the restroom facilities in our park system remain closed. Seasonal bathroom maintenance is usually taken care of by temporary workers and after speaking with Public Works and advertising in various places, there have been zero applications for this position*. The department has received numerous complaints from residents, pavilion renters, league organizers and parents. The Porta Potties that have been issued (one per park) are not adequate, have been vandalized numerous times, and are not maintained more than once per week. After contacting the company, they are unfortunately unable to come out multiple times per week to clean. As a result, these Porta Potties have become unsightly and unsanitary.

According to a May 25, 2021, personal communication from Mr. Lewis, “we have 2 part time employees, with an anticipated 2 more starting soon. Mr. Lewis stated “This contract … could be amended, or terminated should we begin to hire seasonal employees.” However, more seasonal employees are needed.

Want to help #NewtownPA save money by cleaning park restrooms part-time this summer? $15 per hour! Other neat chores as well like mulching, mowing! Apply here.

Posted on 27 May 2021, 01:19 - Category: Misc



The Slaves of Bucks County, 1783 - 1830

On May 4, 2021, Doylestown Township passed a resolution that designates June 19th as "Juneteenth Freedom Day" (read “Doylestown Township Passes Juneteenth Freedom Day Resolution”). This is in recognition of the date in 1865 that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and enforced President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation order, freeing the slaves in Texas two and a half years after it was first decreed.

I was told by Kevin Antoine, Chief Diversity Equity Inclusion Officer at Bucks County Community College and Chair of the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission, that down south where he grew up, he and other black people celebrated June 19th as their equivalent of the 4th of July.

On June 19, 2019, PA Governor Wolf signed legislation that designates June 19 as “Juneteenth National Freedom Day” in Pennsylvania. So why the Doylestown resolution?

Most importantly, the Doylestown resolution offers a bit of local history. It states, for example, that the last people legally enslaved in Bucks County were freed from slavery in Doylestown Township in 1824 only to be transitioned into “indentured servitude for decades longer.”

Questions

This was a bit of history I did not know about until I read the resolution. But I had questions: Were slaves “freed” in other townships prior to and after 1824? Who owned slaves in Bucks County? Where did they live in Bucks County? How many slaves did they own?

I got some answers to my questions from the “Register of Slaves” in Bucks County from 1783-1830. The register was maintained by Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Office of the Prothonotary and was published as part of the University of Pennsylvania History Commons (source: Wright, Robert E., "Slaves in Bucks County, Pennsylvania," 01/01/97 - 01/01/97. 6. Philadelphia, PA: McNeil Center for Early American Studies [distributor], 2015. http://repository.upenn.edu).

It is interesting to note that Pennsylvania “abolished” slavery in 1780, but it was an “Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery,” which allowed the institution to survive, in various guises, for decades. Hence, the Register of Slaves documents the ownership of slaves in Bucks County through at least 1830. In fact, the last enslaved Pennsylvanians wouldn’t be freed until 1847. And let’s not even talk about indentured servitude!

The Bucks County Register of Slaves includes the name, occupation, and township of an estimated 179 enslavers as well as the name, gender, and age of an estimated 514 persons enslaved in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (1783-1830). Obviously, there were many more slave owners and slaves BEFORE this record was started in 1783.

Sample Page from the Register of Slaves in Bucks County. See the entire register embedded at the end of this post or download the PDF file.

The first thing I looked at was the names of slave owners. Was there anyone in the list who is famous in Bucks County or whose name is enshrined somehow?

Who Owned Slaves in Bucks County?

We have all read of the controversy of naming military bases after Confederates and statues of slave owners being torn down in the south, but what about the north? Recently the NY Times reported on a new campaign called Slavers of New York, which is aiming to call out — and eventually map — the history of slavery in New York City. The effort highlights the streets, subway stations and neighborhoods named after enslavers. Coming from NYC, I know these areas well: Nostrand Avenue, Boerum Hill, Lefferts Gardens, and others.

There are several Lefferts in the Register of Slaves in Bucks County: two Arthurs (Bensalem and Northampton), one Peter (Newtown) and one Leffert (Northampton). I don’t know if these slave owners were related to whomever Lefferts Gardens is named after in NYC.

Another name that stuck out was Thomas Yardley, a Farmer in Lower Makefield, who owned 9 slaves (see Sample Page). The Wikipedia entry for Yardley PA states that William Yardley founded Yardley, PA, and a Thomas Yardley was his nephew. Is this the same person as the slave owner Thomas Yardley in the register? During the American Civil War, Yardley was a station for the Underground Railroad.

I next looked to see if there were any slave owners in Newtown and I found 9 who owned 16 slaves (see below). According to W. W. Davis' History of Bucks County, there were 23 slaves registered in Newtown (read “Newtown and Slavery”).

Newtown slave owners found in the Register of Slaves

The majority of slave owners in Bucks County were farmers. I count 78 farmers in the register. Perhaps at the time these farmers were referred to a “planter aristocrats," which is what the Pennridge School District called southern slave owners (read “Did Pennridge 'Planter Artistocrat' lesson sanitize slavery?”).

Pennridge HS assignment asked freshmen to “imagine” what is was like to be
a member of the “Planter Aristocrat” class in the south.
List of Bucks County Slave Owners

The following is a list I created from the Register of Slaves. I grouped together the data from the same slave owner to calculate the total number of slaves that person owned. You can also download the PDF file.

Posted on 21 May 2021, 01:41 - Category: Discrimination



Doylestown Township Passes Juneteenth Freedom Day Resolution

A RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF DOYLESTOWN TOWNSHIP, BUCKS COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA DESIGNATING JUNE 19th AS JUNETEENTH FREEDOM DAY

WHEREAS, Juneteenth is recognized as the oldest commemoration of Black economic liberation in the United States; and

WHEREAS, the last people legally enslaved in Bucks County were freed from slavery in Doylestown Township in 1824 into indentured servitude for decades longer; and WHEREAS, President Abraham Lincoln first issued the Emancipation Proclamation effective January 1, 1863, freeing enslaved people in the South. However, southern slave owners ignored that order. On June 19th , 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and enforced the President's order, freeing the slaves two and a half years after it was first decreed. This day has since become known as Juneteenth; and

WHEREAS, Through other systems of oppression, such as sharecropping, Jim Crow, redlining and mass incarceration true equality has yet to be realized for Black Americans; and

WHEREAS, Today Black Americans face inequities in our judicial system, medical systems, employment and housing as the lingering effects of enslavement and racism; and

WHEREAS, Juneteenth was recognized as a state holiday in Pennsylvania on June 19, 2019.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THIS 4th day of May, 2021, that the Doylestown Township Board of Supervisors adopts this resolution and designates June 19th, as "Juneteenth Freedom Day", recognizes the historical significance of Juneteenth Freedom Day to Doylestown Township, and supports the continued nationwide celebration of Juneteenth to provide an opportunity for the people of the United States to learn more about the past and to better understand the experiences of the Black community that have shaped the United States and to rededicate ourselves to work toward freedom and equality for all.

DULY RESOLVED THIS 4th Day of May 2021.

[Download the PDF version]

Posted on 06 May 2021, 11:27 - Category: Discrimination



Incorporating Zoom Into Live BOS Meetings

An important mission of the Newtown Township Technology and Communications Committee (TC&C) is to improve communications between the Township and its residents through the use of technology.

At a recent TC&C meeting, I was asked to provide some examples of how other townships use technology to improve communications with residents. To answer that I posted "Some Ideas for Improving Township Communications with Residents," which includes a comparison of how local municipalities use social media compared to Newtown.

Today I visited the Doylestown Township website to find out more about the passage of a resolution recognizing Juneteenth; i.e., June 19, which is on a Saturday this year. I did not find the resolution, but I did view the webast of the May 4, 2021, regular meeting of the Doylestown BOS during which the resolution was passed.

Doylestown's webcasts of BOS meetings show how technology can improve communication between supervisors and residents. The May 4 meeting was interesting to me not just because of the Juneteenth resolution, which I have yet to find, but because it demonstrates that live meetings can include participation by residents via Zoom as well as in person. See the screen shots below:

In addition to showing the agenda below the video of the BOS speakers, the
Doylestown webcast is capable of a split screen, which is shown here, where
a speaker at the podium is shown side-by-side with the BOS chair person.
It's a nice-to-have feature but not something necessary to have.
What is really interesting is that residents can participate in the meeting via Zoom
as well as in person and the Zoom screen/video is included seemlessly into
the webcast!

At recent Newtown Township BOS meetings, one or another supervisor has asked when live meetings will return. So far, no specific date has been set, but I have already commented that when live BOS meetings return - which may be after Memorial Day - I hope that somehow we can include participation by residents via Zoom. So far, however, no one has discussed how the township can implement that with the archaic system it has in place. Unfortunately, the May meeting of the TC&C has been cancelled because it was scheduled for Monday, May 31 - i.e., Memorial Day! I hope, however, to bring this up again at the next BOS meeting.

P.S. If you would like to help us implement better technology-enabled resident communications in Newtown, please consider joining the Technology and Communications Committee. It’s difficult to achieve a quorum with only 4 members currently. The TC&C meets only once per month via Zoom.

If you are interested in serving, please submit a letter of interest and resume to Olivia Kivenko, Newtown Township, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA 18940, by email to oliviak@newtownpa.gov 

Posted on 06 May 2021, 01:38 - Category: Communication



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