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Local Government – Bensalem Township

Bucks Election Board Addresses Changes in Election Procedures & Equipment

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Full Press Release from Bucks County

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New voting equipment and election law changes will give Bucks County voters greater security and flexibility this election year. But the conversion to verifiable, hand-marked paper ballots and expanded absentee and mail-in voting also could slow the reporting of election results to the public, the county’s new Board of Elections learned at its first meeting this week.

“This year we are opting for a ballot that can’t be harmed,” County Commissioners’ Chair Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia said during Wednesday’s meeting in Doylestown. “So (voters) are going to have to be a little more patient” in waiting for results to be tallied and posted.

Marseglia, who along with fellow commissioners Bob Harvie and Gene DiGirolamo compose the elections board, referred to significant changes in state-mandated equipment and procedures that will be in effect here for the first time this year.

The biggest change is a new fleet of voting machines that scan and store hand-marked paper ballots, replacing the county’s old electronic machines. Touted as more secure and verifiable than the old machines, the new Clear Ballot systems will be in use here for the first time this spring.

The 2020 elections are also the first to be held since the passage of Act 77 of 2019, considered the most significant change to Pennsylvania’s Election Code in decades. Gov. Wolf signed it into law on Oct. 31.

Among other provisions, Act 77 enables voters to cast their ballots by mail up to 50 days before an election, if the ballot is ready, without requiring them to provide a reason. For more details of the new law, click here: https://www.votespa.com/About-Elections/Pages/Voting-Reforms.aspx

While the mail-in option is expected to vastly increase the number of early votes cast, it also will change the way that they are counted. Previously, absentee ballots were sent from the Board of Elections office in Doylestown to individual polling places, where they were counted at the close of voting on Election Night.

The new act requires mail-in and absentee ballots to be kept at the Board of Elections office, where the counting must begin within three days after the election and conclude by the eighth day. But in addition to scanning those ballots, elections workers in Doylestown will also have to verify that nobody who cast a mail-in ballot also voted provisionally at a polling place.

All of which could delay the mail-in tallies.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Board of Elections Director Thomas Freitag said it was unlikely that mail-in ballots could be counted the night of the election, and possibly not for a few days later.

“So if there’s an election that’s somewhat close, it’s really going to be up in the air until two, three days later,” DiGirolamo said.

Another challenge will be educating and acclimating voters and elections workers to the new Clear Ballot voting systems. An extensive schedule of public training sessions throughout the county was announced this week (details here: https://tinyurl.com/sjnxyat), and poll workers were sent a separate schedule of trainings as well.

On Election Day, voters will encounter special voting tables with partitions for privacy at each polling place. There will be at least one table at each precinct, which will allow up to four people to mark their votes at one time.

Marseglia said that larger polling places would need additional tables. The board agreed to provide more tables to about 20 of the largest precincts, and to have extra privacy dividers available if needed to speed up voting.

Once the hand-marked ballots are filled out by voters, they will be fed into scanners, which record the votes and deposit the physical ballots into containers. The paper ballots and USB sticks will be transported to the Board of Elections, where they can be uploaded to the county’s unofficial online results.

“But it won’t be as instantaneous as it was in the past,” Freitag said.

Adding to the urgency of scheduling poll-worker training and voter education was last week’s announcement that a special election for DiGirolamo’s former state House seat will be held March 17 in Bensalem. The seat became vacant when DiGirolamo was elected to the Board of County Commissioners in November.

In response to that announcement, elections officials scheduled two additional voter training sessions at the Bensalem Municipal Building, 2400 Byberry Road, prior to the special election. One will be held Feb. 26 from 5 to 8 p.m.; the other March 10 from 1 to 4 p.m.

The countywide general primary will be held April 28.

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Cops, Courts & Fire -Bensalem Township

PECO: Treefall Causes Damage to Powerline, Roadblocks in Bristol

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A PECO power line pole in Bristol Township went down calling out area first responders Sunday night causing road blockages on Rt 13 and surrounding the area.

Bristol area first responders shut down access to Bath Road from Beaver Dam to Bristol Commerce Park, from Rt 13 and Bath St and even closed a small two block section of Bath Street in Bristol Borough from Buckley Street, to Rt 13.

Credit: Motorcycle Joe

PECO confirmed a fire-police call was initiated and their crews responded to the scene. They deemed the area safe from their standpoint and no outages in Bristol were reported, a spokesperson said.

Initial unconfirmed reports coming into Lower Bucks Source were a powerline pole caught fire.

The PECO Outage Map, as of 8:15 pm noted two outages in the Bristol -Bensalem area currently with over a dozen customers impacted.

There were no reported injuries.

In an unrelated incident, PECO said the Bensalem area is experiencing an outage and work crews are on-site with power restoration estimated to be four hours.

Efforts to reach area first responders for comment on the outage and reported fire were unsuccessful as of 8:35 pm

Updates as they come in

Credit: Motorcycle Joe

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Human Interest - Bensalem Township

Giant Donates 15,000 Thanksgiving Turkeys to Community Partners

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Today, The GIANT Company announced it will donate a record number of 15,000 Thanksgiving turkeys to food banks and community partners in the Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia communities it serves.

“Since 1923, The GIANT Company has been committed to helping its communities eliminate hunger year-round, but it’s especially important this time of the year to ensure that everyone can enjoy a warm holiday meal with their loved ones,” said John Ruane, president, The GIANT Company. “This year’s donations will deliver more than 125,000 servings of protein to families while creating moments to connect around the table.”

Turkeys will be donated to nearly 40 local food banks and community partners across its footprint. The GIANT Company team members will once again volunteer at food banks packing hunger relief boxes and organizing and restocking shelves in advance of the busy holiday season.

“We are extremely grateful for corporate partners like The GIANT Company for all they do in support of our work to feed the hungry in Berks and Schuylkill counties,” said David Delozier, chief development officer, Helping Harvest. “Together with their generous gifts and volunteer support we are able to make a difference for thousands of children, families, and seniors in our region.”

Customers are also invited to join efforts to combat local food insecurity this November. From Nov. 10 through Nov. 23, customers can also donate free turkey certificates at the register in-store to a local food bank. In addition, customers can purchase reusable bags to benefit Feeding America®.

For more information on the turkey redemption program, including how to donate your turkey certificate, visit giantfoodstores.com/pages/free-turkey-earn.

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Health - Bristol Township

Family Services Plans Buildout, Redevelopment of Levittown Shelter

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The Bucks County Emergency Homeless Shelter in Bristol Township operated by, Family Services Association (FSA), is planning to expand, overhaul, and build new facilities  

the nonprofit has been working on a plan to expand the shelter and provide better services to those experiencing housing displacement, officials say. 

“We have been thinking about how to make the shelter better,” said Julie Dees, the CEO of FSA, during an appearance at the October Bristol Township Council meeting. She was on hand seeking Council’s approval to submit a Statewide Local Share
Assessment Grant to the Department of Community and Economic Development
(DCED) for the Shelter in the amount of $ 1 million which they did.

Dees said, the shelter currently serves about 80 people, including children and has a wait list of more than 200 people.

The men’s dorm barely fits 20 guests, with cots lining right and left walls, and a narrow walking path leads to three bathrooms. The open space floor plan for the women’s side of the facility, where children stay, also presents all all sorts of issues, which the redevelopment will help solve with the creation of private rooms for guests, `Dees said.

The redevelopment plans consist of constructing a new two-story structure in front of the current site. The first floor would be for medical offices, case management and childcare services, the second floor would house 30 individual rooms with bathrooms for guests. 

The first floor of the building would be open to the public, she said.

The current shelter would remain open while renovations take place to increase living spaces also. It will also continue to house the cafeteria the largest common area space in the facility. 

The current communal living design is “not ideal,” and FSA wants to create a more “dignified” guest experience, Dees said.

Dees said about $7 million is already secured for the project, with the total cost expected to be in the $10 to $15 million range. 

“There’s such a need for a new and improved version of the shelter,” she said.

Dees also pointed out The new space would allow FSA to lease out parts of the first floor of the new building to bring in revenue. Adding the shelter often operates at yearly loss of  about $385,000.00 due to lack of onsite billable service offerings. 

With the anticipated new space, FSA will be able to provide on site many of the mental health substance abuse related services it provides at their Langhorne branch, Dee said.  

The proposed new building still has to go through the land development approval. FSA took over operations of the shelter 2012 from the American Red Cross.

FSA plans to hold a community meeting at the Levittown Library on November 17 for a more detailed discussion on the redevelopment project.

This is Bucks County’s only 24/7 shelter and is located in Bristol Township’s Levittown section. The property around and adjacent to the Shelter that’s owned and operated by Bucks County is also being redeveloped. Ground was broken  on that project in September

A possible indirect benefit for FSA’s expansion project is the where the new two-story building would be, now the parking lot. Homeless folks who are not “guests” at the Shelter often park their vehicles in the facilities lot. Oftentimes living out of cars, trucks, vans or often abandoning them in the lot. It has been an issue for staff to deal with in the past, officials have said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The project is expected to take about three years to complete, Dees said, once all the funding and approvals are secured. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We have been thinking about how to make the Bucks County Emergency Homeless Shelter better,” said Dees.

 

 

The new building and renovation of the existing facility would be part of a rebound for the site, which sits a few yards away from the new Lower Bucks County Government Services Center.

 

Council President Craig Bowen and Councilperson Patrick Antonello both spoke in support of the project.

The proposed new building still has to go through the land development process.

The Family Service Association plans to hold a community meeting at the Levittown Library on November 17.

 

 

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