The future of the historic Lansdowne Theater will soon be brighter thanks to a grant from Delaware County Council that will fund restoration of the theater marquee.
Delaware County Council presented a Community Development Block Grant for $126,500 to restore the entrance of the theater to its original splendor and to make it energy-efficient with 98 LED lights instead of the original incandescent bulbs.
“The revitalization of our first-generation communities is an ongoing priority for Delaware County Council,” said Jack Whelan, councilman of Delaware County. “We are pleased that we can contribute to the preservation of remarkable buildings like the Lansdowne Theater and to support cultural endeavors that draw people to our towns.
“But this theater, in all of its Hollywood-style grandeur, is much more than a building. It’s a cultural center that will bring people together, just as it did decades ago, when it was a movie theater. We look forward to the day when people across the county come here to see a concert, to visit the local restaurants and stores, to work here, and to have fun here. When people come here for a modern-day concert, they’ll be getting a dose of local history.”
The Lansdowne Theater has been closed for 24 years, since 1987 when an electrical fire caused the evacuation of 100 people attending a screening of “Beverly Hills Cop 2.” The Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation purchased the building in 2007. Since taking over the theater, repairs have been made to the roof, a fire detection system has been installed, second floor offices have been renovated and retail space has been brought into compliance with building codes.
The County Council grant is just one piece of an ongoing effort to restore the theater to its original glory. The theater is conducting a capital campaign to finance the renovation, expected to cost about $9 million. A “Tour and Pour” fundraiser is set for Nov. 6 when the public can tour the pre-restored theater and learn about restoration efforts.
“The renovation of this theater is a great example of partnerships between the arts community, business, and all levels of government,” Whelan said. “When we all work together, we not only preserve our historic communities, but we help them thrive for generations to come.”
The project will result in seven jobs involving electricians, carpenters, and neon fabricators. It is estimated that the overall restoration project will create jobs for 100 workers over a 15-month period.
“We are working hard during this challenging economic climate to fund this restoration,” said Matt Schultz, executive director of the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation. “When the Lansdowne Theater opened on June 1, 1927, the times were completely different. In those days, movie tickets were priced from 15 cents to 35 cents.
“Since then times have changed, but one thing that hasn’t is how important this theater is to this community. We are doing everything in our power to not only restore the theater to its prominent days, but to make it a focal point for the arts and entertainment in the community once again.”
With the flags of all branches of the military posted in his courtroom, Senior Judge Frank Hazel accepted the first veteran into the Delaware County Veterans Treatment Court program, stressing to the veteran that as “the first,” he has a responsibility to succeed as his success will impact the future of the program.
The veteran, a member of the U.S. Army who saw combat in the war-ravaged country of Somalia, stood before Hazel along with Public Defender Michael Harper and his assigned mentor, a fellow veteran who will support him through the intense 12-month treatment program.
“You will need to bring the same bravery and determination that you brought to your combat service to this mission now to succeed in this program,” Hazel told the veteran. “And you are not alone on the front lines. You have many people supporting you in this program.”
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan, who as County Council chairman was instrumental in establishing the Veterans Treatment Court, was also in the Courtroom.
In 2011, Whelan formed a Veterans Justice Initiative task force to establish the Treatment Court as a third track to the existing treatment court options in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas.
“This veteran is a perfect candidate for Treatment Court. He has no prior charges. This is a non-violent offense. He is a family man,” Whelan said. “We need to emphasize the importance of giving veterans an opportunity to receive the treatment they need.”
Whelan said the goal of treatment court is to treat the offender in order to prevent them from repeating criminal behavior, so success benefits the individual and the whole community in terms of public safety and criminal costs.
“Today, although you are tendering a plea to a criminal offense, you are also the first veteran we have the honor of helping through this Treatment Court,” Hazel said as he explained the requirements of the Treatment Court program.
The veteran will have to complete various requirements and appear before Hazel on a bi-weekly basis. His program will be coordinated and monitored by Diana Zinnie, the Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) coordinator for the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Coatesville.
Harper, who is the Public Defender’s supervising attorney for diversionary programs, said the defendant will have to successfully complete treatment for issues related to combat under strict court supervision.
When the veteran said he was a “grunt” on the front lines in the Army, Judge Hazel said: “We are going to rely on you to be a grunt again, to do the really hard work necessary to complete this program.”
“We sincerely believe we have to give more than lip service to our veterans who risked their lives in hostile nations to protect our freedoms here at home,” Hazel said. “That’s why we are offering this Treatment Court program. I trust you understand that being the first veteran accepted into the program carries responsibility to succeed.”
Linda Barbera, Delaware County Treatment Court Coordinator, said there has been significant success with the defendants who have gone through the other treatment court tracks.
Delaware County established the Mental Health Treatment Court Program in 2008, which involves collaboration between prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, social workers and treatment providers. Under Judge Hazel’s leadership, many non-violent offenders have been diverted from the prison system and, with help, have turned their lives around.
In honor of Veterans Day, Delaware County rededicated its Delaware County Veterans Affairs Department office, now located on the ground floor of the Government Center in Media.
The office will feature, military displays, upgraded veteran affairs services and outreach established to help veterans access benefits and programs to which they are entitled.
The Veterans Affairs Department has been enhanced with a new computer management system, a new outreach liaison, a redesigned website and a display of historic military items.
“We have introduced a Veterans Information Management System, to assist veterans,” said county council chairman Jack Whelan. “The VIMS system helps us maintain vital information of veteran clients, preparing computer-generated forms, extracting data to assist in filing claims and other forms, tracking actions and maintaining data.”
An upgrade of the County’s veteran’s website provides links for county, state and federal programs, information about other programs and links for forms and publications. The Veterans Affairs webpage can be accessed on the Delaware County website. Veterans outreach seminars are also being conducted by the new Veterans Affairs liaison, Ralph Galati, a Vietnam veteran and former Prisoner of War.
The Veterans Affairs Office features a display of articles on loan from the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum in Media. Items on display date from as far back as the Spanish-American War of 1898 and includes World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and up to the present time.
Also on display in the lobby is Armed Services Tribute Board which features photographs of Delaware County residents who are currently serving in hostile areas in the world such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Any visitor who enters the Government Center lobby is greeted by these tributes to those serving in the military today and to those who served in all our nation’s wars, even those remembered only in history,” Whelan said.
In addition to the new office, Delaware County is also building on the Veteran Justice Initiative. The initiative mission is to connect veterans with treatment and support services through public and private resources, including the county Office of Human Services and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
“We are seeing that veteran’s face a number of challenges and combat-related illnesses when they come home from the chaos and dangers of combat,” Whelan said. “We want to take a proactive approach with a specialized treatment court that can better meet the needs of our veterans.
“We are grateful to our veterans for putting their lives on the line to protect the liberties we enjoy here at home and it is important for us to connect veterans with the treatment and support services they might need in all areas, including criminal justice,” he added. “There are benefits to the individual and to the community in improving lives and reducing criminal costs.”
Delco Council to hold initiative to dispose of expired prescription drugs
Delaware County Council will be participating in the national “Take Back” drug event.
The initiative aims to collect potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs and properly dispose them.
The event will take place on April 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at various locations throughout Delaware County.
Deaths caused by drugs have now topped traffic-related deaths. The rise in drug-related deaths is due in large part to an increase in overdoses from prescription drugs. This is the first time drugs have caused more deaths than motor vehicles since the government started tracking drug-related deaths in 1979, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“The ‘Take Back’ initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue,” said Jack Whelan, district attorney of Delaware County. “Many people are not aware that medicines that [sitting] in home cabinets are at a high risk for misuse and abuse and their misuse can be deadly.”
The county’s first event was held in September 2010. The area collected 277.4 pounds of drugs. The second event was held in April and collected over 900 pounds of drugs.
Nationwide, 4,000 state and local law enforcement agencies participated in these events, collecting and destroying more than 309 tons of pills.
“I think it’s important for people to participate in this national event because a lot of people do not know how to properly dispose of medication,” said Cierra Porter of Media. “I’ve worked in a hospital for many years and we were always told how to properly handle the disposal of medication, but a lot of local residents leave their old prescription bottles and over the counter products around.
“An event like this will not only teach residents how to properly dispose of their medication, but it will also bring awareness to abuse of prescription drugs,” she added. “I’m hoping it will be a good turnout and that people will continue to participate in this event for years to come.”
Some of the collection sites for the event will include the Aldan Municipal Building, Brookhaven Municipal Center, Upper Darby High School, Sharon Hill Borough Hall, Springfield Township Building, Media Police Department, Ridley Park Police Department, Nether Providence Police Station, Radnor Township Municipal Building, Pennsylvania State Police Barracks, Giant Food Store in Springfield and Eddystone Police Department at Lighthouse Hall.
The collection sites will anonymously accept both prescription and over-the-counter products that are solid in nature (tablets or capsules) with no questions asked.
However, any intravenous solutions, injectables, needles, or illegal substances such as marijuana or methamphetamine will not be accepted.
“Many residents do not know how to properly dispose of their unused medicine, often flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away, both potential safety and health hazards,” Whelan said. “The prescription drugs collected at the event will be burned at an undisclosed location. For the people who are unsure in what to do with their unused or expired medicine, [they] can also ask their physician or pharmacist how to dispose of unused prescription medications.”
Police from six municipalities and the county now have specialized training to de-escalate encounters between law enforcement and community members challenged by mental illness.
The Delaware County Office of Behavioral Health conducted an intensive, four-day training program earlier this month for local police officers who will be part of a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), a nationally recognized program for law enforcement officers to de-escalate a psychiatric crisis.
CIT training is designed to give police officers the skills needed to effectively and humanely respond to public safety situations involving persons in psychiatric crisis.
The training was delivered by mental health professionals, CIT law enforcement instructors and other experts in the field.
On June 7, 18 officers graduated from the CIT training and are now certified as the first members of the Delaware County CIT program.
The officers and their police departments are: David Gasiorowski, Aston Township Police Department; Timothy Habich, Brookhaven; Nicholas Spayd, Delaware County Park Police; Robert Frazier, Ridley Park; George Faulkner, Sharon Hill; Nicholas Paytas, Andrew Graff, Andrew McKinney and Patrick McKenna, all Springfield; Thomas Thompson, Frank Guille, James Hoback, Eric Colella, Robert Wheatley, Kelly Seace, Joseph G. Mazzone, Donald Peterson and Amanda Pombo, all of Upper Darby.
Police are often called upon to respond to public safety situations involving people in psychiatric crisis. The situations have the potential to be dangerous to all who are involved, including the person in crisis, family members and the police.
“CIT Training provides officers with the tools to interact effectively and humanely with people who have mental illness,” said Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan.
“These situations can be high-risk and sometimes escalate into an incident that requires force. With CIT training, we hope to minimize the risk to the person in crisis and the responding officer, and to lessen the need for the use of force.”
The goal of the program is to integrate police-based crisis response, behavioral health intervention services and community-based services.
A Delaware County CIT steering committee was formed in 2011 to develop the initiative, based on a successful national model.
Members of the steering committee include William Chambers, deputy administrator for the County Office of Behavioral Health, Upper Darby Police Captain David Madonna, Springfield Police Officer Joseph O’Berg, and representatives from Crozer Keystone Health System, Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, Holcomb Behavioral Health, Horizon House, the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Widener University, Forensic System Solutions and the Family Training and Advocacy Center.
Goals include the safe response to a crisis that reduces violence and injury, reducing the number of times a person with a behavioral health disorder has contact with the police, connecting individuals with services, and promoting system wide communication.
Chambers said there are 10,000 people receiving behavioral health services in Delaware County. He pointed out that statewide, a large number of prisoners have mental illness. Out of 1,900 inmates at Delaware County Prison, 95 have a serious mental illness.
“The best way to keep people with mental health challenges out of prison is to connect them to treatment programs, housing, and supportive services,” Chambers said. Police nationwide have complained that people who have mental illness would be better served in treatment facilities instead of being arrested and incarcerated.
CIT training classes focused on engaging the homeless, veteran’s issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, cultural issues, risk to officers, family and consumer perspectives.
County Council Chairman Tom McGarrigle and Councilman John McBlain thanked the graduates as they received their CIT certificates on Thursday.
“It is a sad fact that we have residents who suffer from mental illness and drug abuse, and they often don’t have the resources or ability to get the help they need,” Chairman McGarrigle said. “Our goal is for the Crisis Intervention Team to have the tools they need to de-escalate a situation safely and to refer the person to services that might help them.”
“The CIT approach helps everyone collaborate, to work with our community partners, and to coordinate our efforts. So on behalf of County Council, I sincerely thank you all for working toward a better outcome for these situations, these individuals and their families.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Health in cooperation with the Delaware County Department of Intercommunity Health is scheduled to conduct a walk-in flu shot clinic on Dec. 1 at the Garrettford-Drexel Hill Fire Company in Drexel Hill.
The clinic will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is open to all residents age 6 months and older. Patients under the age of 18 who received the vaccination had to be accompanied by parents or their legal guardians.
“This is a great collaboration aimed at keeping our residents healthy this flu season,” said councilman of Delaware County Jack Whelan. “The walk in clinic is for a seasonal flu vaccine. We are pleased that our members of the Department of Intercommunity Health and members of the Garrettford-Drexel Hill Fire Company are partnering with us to provide this important service for our residents. We want to ensure that the residents of Delaware County remain healthy during this year’s flu season.”
The clinic is free, but people are asked to bring a canned good or non-perishable food item for donation to a local food bank.
Vaccines will be given to all residents age 4 and older. People will be asked to complete a brief screening to determine if they are allergic to eggs, or have ever had a reaction to a flu shot.
The flu season usually occurs from fall through early spring. The peak of flu season has occurred anywhere from late November through March. The overall health impact of the flu, including infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, varies from year to year.
“I think it is very important to continue to have clinics like this throughout the Delaware County area,” said Darby resident Aaliyah Jameison. “Everybody is still suffering from hard times due to the recession and many people are still without medical insurance. Walk-in flu shot clinics like this will not only help the residents who are unable to afford a flu shot, but it will also protect them from getting the flu.
“A clinic like this is especially special because it caters to the community,” she said. “It brings awareness to people’s health and it also informs them that taking better care of their own body should be a number one priority.”
In addition to immunization, there are everyday preventative measures that inhibit the spread of influenza virus, including frequent hand-washing with antibacterial soap, the proper disposal of tissues, and if people are sick with flu–like illness, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that they stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.
For more information on the flu clinic, call (610) 891-5311 or visit www.co.delaware.pa.us.
The hills of Rose Tree Park sparkled with hundreds of colorful holiday lights when the annual Festival of Lights for Peace opened last weekend.
The illuminated display dates back to the late 1970s and has become a holiday tradition in Delaware County.
“Every year, Council is pleased to present this holiday display for the enjoyment of our families,” said Delaware County Council Chairman Jack Whelan. “The Festival of Lights is a wonderful, free activity for people of all ages. Seeing the lights — whether you are walking in the park, or driving by puts you in the holiday spirit.”
Each year for three decades, the festival lights up the Rose Tree Park landscape with 70 sparkling trees and colorful displays that depict toy soldiers, a miniature courthouse, Santa Claus and his sleigh, Frosty the Snowman and cartoon characters Snoopy and the Peanuts gang. The display features more than 10,000 lights.
The program for the opening ceremony included remarks from Delaware County Council, holiday music performed by the Springton Lake Middle School Chorus, a visit from Santa Claus and the traditional lighting of the trees.
The festival runs through Jan. 2 and is open 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. nightly.
“This is my second year coming to the festival, and I definitely think it’s better than last year,” said Justine Marshall of Media. “It’s like the local version of Longwood Gardens in Chadds Ford. The lights that are on the trees are beautiful, the atmosphere is peaceful and it’s a great way to spend the evening with your family.
“It’s nothing more important to me around the holidays than to spend time with your family and the people that you love,” she added. “This is a Christmas festival that not only my daughter and I can both enjoy, but it is also starting to become a tradition. She’s a teenager now so any mother–daughter time that we can spend together, especially around the holiday time, is very special to me.”
In 2009, the Festival of Lights was revitalized with the addition of 10,000 Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights donated by PECO. LED light bulbs save money and energy because they burn longer, use less energy and are less fragile and more resistant to cold winter temperatures.
Chester resident Hakeem Buchanan came to the festival with his wife and twin daughters after his mother told him about the festival a year ago. Buchanan said the festival was a good event for the whole family.
“We just came out to see what everyone was talking about,” he said. “My mother told me last year that this was something special that I could do with the family, so when I heard about the date for the opening ceremony I took her advice and brought the family out. I’m glad I came. The entertainment was good and there were a lot of activities to do.
“My daughters had a good time — they’ve been pointing to all the different trees that they like,” Buchanan added. “This was the perfect event to come to because it’s setting the tone for this holiday season. This was also the perfect event for me and my wife — I always enjoy spending time with her.”
The 2012 Delaware County Council kicked off the new term in office with a strong focus on strengthening the business and employment climate in Delaware County.
The current County Council is chaired by Thomas J. McGarrigle of Springfield, with Mario Civera Jr. of Upper Darby as vice-chairman and fellow Council members Colleen P. Morrone of Concord, John P. McBlain of Aldan and David J. White of Ridley Township.
All of the current Council members are either small business owners or have extensive business experience.
“One of the most critical challenges for County Council during tough economic times is putting people to work and keeping people in work,” McGarrigle said. “Job creation and job training are two major goals that we want to address.”
The new Council took office on Jan. 3, and immediately asked for an economic development blueprint to be developed jointly by the Delaware County Commerce Center and Office of Employment and Training.
All of the Council members know firsthand the economic challenges facing County residents. In addition, they all have experience as municipal leaders serving in their communities, which continually face budgetary concerns and issues of smart development balanced with preservation of open space.
At the Jan. 18 County Council meeting, Councilwoman Morrone announced that Council has asked Frank Carey, the county’s director of Employment and Training, and Patrick Killian, director of the Commerce Center, to work together to create a local economic development strategy.
Meetings are now ongoing to develop a strategic process to position county government in the most effective role it can play in economic development.
According to officials, County Council is committed to public safety and will partner with District Attorney Jack Whelan and the law enforcement community on such initiatives as homeland security, Internet safety, protection of senior citizens and safe schools.
County Council also intends to hold the line on government spending through the use of technology, energy efficiency and conservative fiscal planning.
County Council meets at 10 a.m. Wednesdays in the County Government Center, 201 W. Front St., Media. Council also holds some evening meetings in the community to make it more convenient for residents to attend a Council meeting.
On March 14, County Council will meet at 6 p.m. at the Chadds Ford Township Building, 10 Ring Road. Members of the public are encouraged to come out and get to know their County Council leaders.
In an effort to stop motorists from texting while driving, Delaware County Council recently launched a text ban awareness campaign called Stop the Texts, Save Lives.
The campaign is to alert drivers of all ages that Pennsylvania law prohibits texting while driving. That law also includes the banning of reading emails, sending emails and Web surfing while driving. Violators of the texting while driving law will have to pay $50 fine in addition to court fees.
“Not only is texting against the law, it is also a serious risk to people lives,” said District Attorney Jack Whelan. “The statistics are alarming. There are countless examples of tragic accidents, some fatalities, caused by a distracted driver who had his eyes off the road to read or send a text. This has to stop.”
County Council Chairman Tom McGarrigle said the County is partnering with Delaware County Transportation Management Association to conduct an outreach campaign to reach young people attending county schools. The campaign will include pledge forms for students to sign.
“With increasing demands on their time, people feel they have to juggle many tasks at once. As a result, there is a new safety epidemic on our roadways and that’s distracted driving,” McGarrigle said. “We want people to know it’s against the law now; but we also want people to know the risks. We have to focus on ways to change people’s behaviors, not just through legislation, but through enforcement, public awareness and education, we need to stop distracted driving.”
The risk of crashing while driving and texting increases by 23 times. Reading or sending a text diverts the driver’s eyes from the road for at least 4.6 seconds, the same as driving the length of a football field, blind, at 55 miles per hour. Studies show that texting while driving has a greater negative impact on safety than driving drunk, according to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Association.
“In 2009, nearly 5,500 people in the United States were killed and a half million were injured in distracted driving crashes,” Whelan said. “Text messaging is of heightened concern because it combines three types of distraction — visual, manual and cognitive. Texting takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off your driving. Granted, there are many distractions activities that cause accidents, but texting is the most alarming distraction.”
One of the criticisms of Pennsylvania’s ban on texting is that it will be hard to enforce because it will be hard for the police to distinguish if someone is texting or talking. In Pennsylvania, people are still permitted to talk on handheld phones.
A Consumer Reports poll shows that young drivers who grew up in the age of technology are more likely to use mobile phones behind the wheel, with 30 percent of them admitting they’ve recently texted while driving.
“Despite all the warnings about cell phone use behind the wheel, many drivers, especially young ones, still aren’t aware of the serious danger, or they are willing to risk it,” Whelan said.