Palmer Township rope-swing tree comes down, social media mourns

PALMER TWP., Pa. – Palmer Township has always taken pride in its facilities for youth sports. Now, it's getting in touch with its older population by adding five pickleball courts at Mill Race Park.

About 20 pickleballers showed up at the township supervisors' meeting Monday to promote their pastime. More might have been there, Palmer resident John Fisher said, but a lot of the players are "snowbirds" who go south for the winter.

Pickleball is a racket sport popular among senior citizens. The township has two courts at its Charles Chrin Community Center and three at Fairview Park. A vacant blacktop at Mill Race will be converted into five more courts this spring at a cost of about $25,000, Dan McKinney, director of parks and recreation, said Monday.

Fisher said there are more than 80 regular players, which means lots of time is spent waiting for courts. Pickleball is played in 17 countries by about 8.5 million people, he said. The game has gained in popularity, while tennis has declined.

"We are acknowledging that the demographic of Palmer Township is changing" by adding an activity for older residents, Supervisor Ann-Marie Panella said.

The supervisors also made two moves to bring in more money without raising taxes or fees.

The board approved Fire Commissioner Stephen Gallagher's proposal for the fire department to seek reimbursement from insurance companies for fire calls. Gallagher said about 80% of the calls related to traffic accidents do not involve township residents, and can cost $500 to $1,000 for use of apparatus and supplies. The department will use a third-party collector that will take 15% of reimbursements collected.

Township property owners will not be billed except in cases of recurring false alarms. Gallagher estimated that the collections could bring in $25,000 to $40,000 annually.

The board also voted unanimously to have Portnoff Law Associates of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, go after delinquent property tax, sewer and hauling bills.

Supervisor Chairman David Colver said about $900,000 total is due for overdue bills. He said delinquents should "stay tuned" because they will be hearing from Portnoff. Colver and Panella were joined by K. Michael Mitchell, Jeffrey Young and Robert E. Smith in the 5-0 vote.

In other business, the supervisors approved a proposal by the Sheetz chain to transfer a license to sell alcohol to a proposed 100 Trolley Line Drive location, near the Route 33 interchange. Unlike the Sheetz on Route 248, this location is not near houses, Colver said. Neighbors of that location complained last year about late-night noise from customers.

Attorney Paul Namey of Flaherty & O'Hara, a Pittsburgh law firm that specializes in liquor law, said the new Sheetz will look like the Route 248 store. It will not have outdoor seating and the entire property, including the parking lot, will be monitored by security cameras. Only beer and wine will be sold, and most alcohol sales will be take-out, Namey said. Consumption at the store will be limited to the indoor seating area and every customer will be required to show proof of age.

Deputy Fire Chief Jim Alercia gave a year-end report to the supervisors. In 2019, the fire department responded to 744 incidents, about 2 per day. An arson, a fire at a strip mall and a three-alarm blaze at the Palmer Plastics warehouse were among the department's biggest challenges for the year, he said.

Alercia, who is head of training for the department, said this year firefighters will visit businesses in the township to survey properties so the department will be ready when there is an emergency.

After the meeting, the supervisors and Township Manager Robert Williams and solicitor Charles Bruno went into a private session to discuss legal and personnel issues.