Tuesday, April 16, 2013

No Middle Ground: Setting The Record Straight On the Interceptor

A long-awaited voice has weighed in at last. As a result, perhaps some of the he-said, she-said nonsense surrounding the interceptor project will die down.
Last week the six members of the Lower Perkiomen Valley Regional Sewer Authority (LPVRSA) members voted 4-2 to move forward with plans to place the middle interceptor on the Lower Providence (LP) side of the Perkiomen, but not without a lot of last-minute hysteria, noise, and shell games, played out in the local press, from the usual suspects on the LP side.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not unsympathetic to LP’s plight and I respect them for trying to have a voice in the outcome. However, the thing has to go somewhere, and when the line is crossed into misleading the public because your logic and arguments are defective ("LP Contradicts Its Own Case Against Middle Intercepto Placement"), it's a problem.
Allow me to shed light on several blatant attempts to mislead readers into supporting LP’s position:
·        A letter from a Fred Kaczor which appeared on April 11, 2013 in both in the print and online versions of the Times Herald (here), and online at LP Patch (here), was particularly interesting. It attempted to portray Mr. Kaczor as an independent, unbiased engineer with no political agenda weighing in on the project and how, in his opinion, the interceptor should be on the UP side of the creek. And, in case you didn’t arrive at that conclusion on your own, a very helpful comment from Cathy Beyer, (she of the hand-wringing, harp-accompanied PowerPoint dog & pony show trotted around to every member municipality ad nauseam about how the interceptor just had to go on the LP side to ‘save the environment’, as if there were no similar environment on the other side of the creek) told you so: “finally an engineer perspective with no political objective, just concern for the environment. Just pure common sense”, she gushed in an online Patch post April 10.

In reality, Mr. Kaczor is anything but unbiased. He is an affected party with land along the LP side of the creek and is the sister-in-law of Cathy Beyer. Together both (with their spouses) were appellant plaintiffs in litigation against LPVRSA (which they lost... http://statecasefiles.justia.com/documents/pennsylvania/commonwealth-court/2681-c-d-2010.pdf?ts=1323908994)
No political agenda? Hardly.

·        The LP players hung their hats on their claim that the Army Corps of Engineers sided with them in their belief that the lateral must go on the UP side. Indeed, LP township manager Richard Gestrich, in a March 12, 2013 Letter to the Editor which appeared in the Times Herald (print and online versions, here) stated, in part:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“Corps of Engineers”) indicated that it is not opposed to location of the disputed portion of the new Middle Interceptor in the same right-of-way and same trench as the existing 42” line that it replaces. Not only that, the Corps of Engineers indicated that the location of the new Middle Interceptor line in the same trench as the old line is actually the preferred location for the line…”.  and that “Furthermore, installation in the existing right-of-way and same trench [on the Upper Providence side] will lead to only temporary interference with the creek, a course which the Corps of Engineers recognized as being preferable to the permanent installation of major stream crossings”.  “With that issue resolved…”(emphasis added).
No, Mr. Gestrich, that issue has not been ‘resolved’ by the Army Corps of Engineers. On the contrary, they appear leery of being dragged into the middle of the dispute. An email dated April 15, 2013, from a Mr. Brian Bellacima, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District, Regulatory Branch to all the principal municipalities, legislators, and to LPVRSA contradicts Mr. Gestrich’s assertions. It read, simply:
To whom it may concern, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Philadelphia District, Regulatory Branch has made no permit decision on any of the alternatives associated with the project known as The Lower Perkiomen Valley Regional Sewer Authority, middle interceptor.

They could have used the same letter to offer a preference or officially take a position one way or the other, but chose not to.

I wonder when we can expect to see Mr. Gestrich issue a retraction of, or to at least attempt to walk back, the statements in his March 12 letter? If nothing else, Beyer and friends should be furious with Gestrich for appearing to have intentionally misled them on the USACE’s position, as they all now have egg on their faces.  

·        "How could LPVRSA do this when the solution is so obvious?" wailed a faux-confused Ms. Beyer in a post-decision comment on Patch.  Yes, I suppose the solution IS obvious when you are only hearing one side of the story.  If you don’t read the Times Herald, you are only getting one side of the story because Patch, particularly the LP version, has been engaged in some odd goings-on regarding the middle interceptor story.   

Online article comments submitted that did not support LP’s position have inexplicably never seen the light of day despite numerous attempts and several calls to their editor. A Letter to the Editor by UP supervisor Lisa Mossie about the project and why it should not be placed on the UP side of the creek was buried on LP Patch’s “More Blogs” page instead of on their landing page, as Ms. Beyer’s numerous letters and editorials are.   The fact that LPVRSA articles originally posted on LP Patch never made it to PV Patch is also concerning. Normally all these ‘Patches’ in a given locale share stories.

I get it that the Patch model is intended to be community-specific on issues, but if Patch is going to wade hip-deep into a regional dispute, they should be prepared to represent the views of all the affected communities so their readers can arrive at their own informed conclusions instead of being misled that there is only one ‘obvious’ answer.
Now that the Army Corps of Engineers actually has weighed in with their non-position, it will be interesting to see if the LP Board of Supervisors (and LP taxpayers) continue to engage in time and money-wasting tactics (legal fees!) to punish the other communities and LPVRSA for not siding with them. Watch for the claims that the Indian artifacts extend beyond where they originally said they did.

In addition, all the woes from the LP camp about alleged raw sewage leaking into the creek are undocumented and unproven; they are most likely untrue but have been used in order to create a sense of urgency to get LPVRSA to make a quick decision in LP’s favor, and/or to convince members of the public of same. Thus, it will be interesting to see how LP squares the circle of the "urgency" of stopping this supposed flow of raw sewage into the creek with any delays they try to impose.

Besides, if it were true, If they care so much about the creek, wouldn’t you think they’d want to ‘take one for the team’??

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