Political roundup

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The Bucks County Records Improvement Committee has approved the expenditure of $5,000 for restoring historic will records kept by the Register of Wills Office. The money is for the first phase of an initiative to restore and preserve valuable historic county resources.

Committee members “were impressed by our plan to identify and prioritize historic records worthy of restoration,” Donald Petrille, Bucks County Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans’ Court and a member of the committee, said. “As time goes on, we will work with our Historic Records Advisory Panel to continue to identify records worthy of further preservation expenditures.”

The $5,000 expenditure will allow for the preservation of Will Book 1 and Will Book 2, which contain public records of wills probated from 1701 through 1759. The books are consulted by historians and genealogists who review how Bucks County citizens lived in colonial Pennsylvania.

The Records Improvement Committee is created in each county by statute. In addition to Petrille, it consists of Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler, representing the county commissioners; Clerk of Courts Mary Smithson; Prothonotary Judi Reiss; Sheriff Milt Warrell; and Treasurer Thomas Panzer.

The office of Register of Wills and Clerk of the Orphans Court is responsible for admitting wills to probate, appointing administrators of intestate estates, collecting inheritance taxes on behalf of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, issuing marriage licenses and processing filings involving estate disputes, incapacitated persons and adoptions.

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Bucks County’s Maps and Data Portal, unveiled to the public a little more than a year ago, has been honored with a 2019 Award for Projects, Programs and Practices by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association.

The award, presented recently to the Bucks County Planning Commission’s staff, recognizes the portal as “work [that] exemplifies the best and brightest in Pennsylvania planning,” according to the awards committee.

The award was presented at the PA Chapter of APA’s annual awards luncheon in Reading, attended by almost 500 people. In July 2018, the Planning Commission launched its web-based open data portal to provide information about initiatives of the County Commissioners and the work of the Planning Commission.

The portal offers a variety of documents, datasets and interactive maps to users on topics including open space preservation, subdivision and land development proposals, the opioid epidemic, recycling and hazardous waste, trail planning, pipelines, tax parcel maps, transportation, parks, elections and other topics.

The portal, developed by the Planning Commission staff with commercially available software, also links to related data from other organizations’ websites. It can be accessed at dataportal-bucksgis.opendata.arcgis.com.

The portal was initiated after the Planning Commission decided to use GIS software to provide interactive maps and other information to the public as a means of helping the District Attorney’s Office and the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission combat the opioid epidemic.

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In response to efforts by U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Dan Kildee, there will be a review into the Department of Defense’s use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) at military sites. Fitzpatrick and Kildee are co-chairs and founders of the Congressional PFAS Task Force.

In July, the Congressional PFAS Task Force led a group of lawmakers in sending a letter to the Defense Department Inspector General, asking the office to examine the Defense Department’s use of PFAS at military sites. The Inspector General’s office responded to Fitzpatrick and Kildee that they will be launching a review of the Defense Department’s use of PFAS at military sites around the country.

“It is unacceptable that the Defense Department put the health of Pennsylvania families at risk with these chemicals, whether it was intended or unintended. Every American has a right to clean drinking water. The federal government created this health crisis and it is important that the government is starting to take responsibility,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m happy to see that the Inspector General will be further reviewing this issue and look forward to seeing their report.”