It looked like a coup was taking place in Quakertown, Bucks Co., on Wednesday night, when more than a dozen uniformed police officers suddenly and solemnly marched into borough council chambers and silently stood facing the room, their backs against the wall.
Even borough manager Scott McElree was in uniform and literally wearing a different hat, as Quakertown police chief.
But a coup was unthinkable, especially on the eve of Quakertown’s day-long celebration of what council president James Roberts called the 237th anniversary of the birth of our nation.
Most of the police department was present to join council in formally welcoming the newest member of the force, and to witness several colleagues receive commendations as well as the swearing-in of a new fire police officer.
“We are proud of all of you,” Roberts told police. “You do an outstanding job. We are very grateful and thankful for what you do and you have our heartiest support.”
The new police officer, Sergio Rodriguez, was introduced by Roberts as a native of Mexico who moved to the United States in 1997 and graduated in 2002 from Phillipsburg High School in Phillipsburg, N.J.
Rodriguez is working toward a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at DeSales University in Center Valley. He is a Marine veteran who became a U.S. citizen in 2010.
He considers citizenship the greatest gift a person could receive, said Roberts.
While Rodriguez already had been sworn in by a judge, he took the oath of office before council, with his mother, wife and son watching in the audience and his new colleagues standing at attention. The oath was administered by council member Michael Johnson.
McElree said Rodriguez is the eighteenth member of the Quakertown police department, bringing his department to full strength for the first time in three years.
An Outstanding Service Award was presented to Officer Kristopher Baccari.
Last December, Baccari pursued a stolen car that had rammed his police vehicle when he tried to stop it, and he coordinated efforts by other officers who came to his assistance to capture three occupants who fled on foot.
Department commendations were presented to Officers Mario Cabrera, William Newman and Bryan Lockwood. Lockwood received two of them, which may have been appropriate since Wednesday was his birthday.
In May 2012, Newman and Lockwood assisted Richland Township police when a suicidal male said he was going to come out of a house with a rifle, point it at police and make them kill him. When the male came out, the two officers were able to take him into custody “without further incident.”
This past April, Cabrera and Lockwood were able to take another armed man into custody at his home and recover a .22 caliber revolver in his unlawful possession.
Officers Harold Gross, Mark Watkins and Steven Stoneback were recognized for “far exceeding the minimum requirements” of the police department’s voluntary physical fitness challenge program.
Teresa Wesley was sworn in as the borough’s newest fire police officer, a volunteer position.
In other business, McElree figuratively put his borough manager hat back on to inform council he is drafting a new policy for council’s consideration. It will require any organization receiving financial support from Quakertown to have “rigorous” internal financial controls and to regularly present audits to the borough.
That action is being taken in response to the recent arrest of Rosezonda “Rose” O’Brien, former manager of the Upper Bucks Senior Center, who is charged with stealing $22,880 from the center as well as making unauthorized purchases of food for her personal use.
Since 20009, Quakertown has been contributing $700 a month to help with rent payments for the Upper Bucks Senior Center, which is based in Milford Township but was in Quakertown until its quarters were destroyed in a fire in 2007.
McElree said he will be meeting with the county-wide director of Bucks County’s 11 senior centers and will be in contact with managers of other local municipalities that also support the Upper Bucks Senior Center.
The borough manager said he will have a draft policy for council’s consideration within a few weeks. He said the policy will ensure funds made available to any organizations by the borough are handled responsibly.
Council also unanimously approved paying Traffic Planning and Design, Inc., up to $11,700 to do an analysis aimed at possibly changing traffic patterns on Broad Street in the center of town.
The study will look at Broad between Front and Fourth Streets. McElree said it will take about six weeks to complete.
That study could result in Broad again becoming a two-way street.
Currently two lanes of eastbound traffic and two lanes of westbound traffic go through the center of town. Even residents may not realize it, but McElree said westbound traffic actually is on Branch Street, which parallels Broad. He said if Broad becomes a two-way street, traffic would be restricted on Branch Street.
Council member Ed Scholl said traffic moves too dangerously fast in a town that council is trying to make more pedestrian friendly. He said that section of Broad is “the only passing zone where you can speed up to get around other cars” on Route 313 between Route 309 and Doylestown.
McElree said making a Broad a two-way street might improve downtown business as well as safety. He said the state Department of Transportation estimates 17,000 vehicles a day use Broad Street. He said now only half of those cars pass in front of the stores along Broad.