By Richard L. Gaw
On Aug. 5, shortly before the start of a Ross Township Board of Supervisors meeting in Saylorsburg, Pa., a gunman later identified as 59-year-old Rockne Newell approached the municipal building and started firing through a wall, using a pistol with a scope. He entered the meeting room and continued firing. Newell then left, got another gun, and was preparing to re-enter when he was tackled by a township official. Three people were killed and six were injured in the shooting.
State police later confirmed that Newell had an ongoing dispute with township officials over the possible condemnation of his property.
Ross Township is in a rural area of northeastern Pennsylvania, about 85 miles north of Philadelphia, and its township building and governance is not radically different from any township in southern Chester County. In light of the shootings, one township has begun making its base of operations safer for those who work there.
The London Grove Board of Supervisors began a dialogue at their Sept. 4 meeting to explore ways of installing security precautions at its building on Rose Hill Road, including the installation of bulletproof glass in the lobby, providing key fob devices to township employees and officials, installing interior blinds in all meeting rooms and offices, upgrading the building's door lock system, and having a police officer attend all public meetings.
"We're all citizens of this township, and it's sad that someone would want to shoot someone over a just decision," supervisor Tim Nelson said. "I'd hate to see one of our employees pay the price for a decision that we will make."
Several supervisors recommended that the township schedule an analysis conducted by a security services professional. "When you look out these windows, especially at this time of the year, we can't see out the window, but people are able to see in," said Mike Pickel, who also recommended that the township meet with a representative from the Pennsylvania State Police in Avondale.
In other business, the supervisors agreed to have the township pay the transaction costs associated with transferring a 15-acre parcel owned by the Journey family to the township, for the amount of $19,008. The costs will cover easement preparation and endowment costs.
The board issued Resolution No. 606 to commend Avon Grove Junior Bobby Rea, a member of Boy Scout Troop 191 in Avondale, for his work in building eight raised garden beds for public use at Goddard Park. Each bed measures 4' by 15' and during construction, Rea received assistance from Cub Scout Pack 191, as well as from his colleagues in Troop 191.
Due to what they perceived would lead to debris and vandalism, the supervisors rejected the idea of establishing a clothing recycling bin in the township. The bin was to have been placed behind the township building on Rose Hill Road.
Township director of public works Shane Kinsey was praised by township officials and residents at the meeting for his work in facilitating the replacement of the Garden Station Road Bridge in the township, which was damaged during Hurricane Irene on Aug. 11 and replaced.
The board approved the closing of State Road for the Avon Grove High School Homecoming Parade on Oct. 5., from 1 to 2 p.m.
The board appointed Joe Mackley to the Uniform Construction Code Board of Appeals.