Amendments to Township’s Solicitation Ordinance Likely
Also: Theft from automobiles down - Margie Peters gives library report - Willow Grove 300 report - SARS report - UMPD sponsors prescription drug drop off day.
The township’s ordinance on solicitation was the major topic of discussion at last night’s Finance and Administrative Committee meeting.
John Weinrich, a real estate professional and longtime Upper Moreland resident, brought the issue of the township code on solicitation in a letter of complaint at last month’s meeting.
In the letter, he outlines his March 9 account of being detained by Upper Moreland police for placing printed material at people’s homes for his real estate business, and being forced to cease such actions or face the penalty of the township’s solicitation ordinance:
“Any person violating this chapter shall be guilty of a summary offense and shall, upon summary conviction, be responsible for paying a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $1,000 and/or be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 90 days. Each and every violation of this chapter shall be punished as a separate offense.” (from township ordinance 236-6)
His chief complaint was with the ordinance’s mandate of filing for a solicitation permit with the township, which is issued per individual solicitor, who must return to the township for the permit each day of solicitation. The cost of the permit is $100, and would cover a UMPD background check.
Speaking at the April 18 committee meeting, Weinrich stated that it would cost him $16,000 a year to comply with the current ordinance.
“This would be damaging to the business community,” he said, during the meeting.
Weinrich suggested adjusting the permit duration and fee to $10 a month or $100 for the year.
All the commissioners’ comments recognized that the current ordinance isn’t working. According to Upper Moreland Police chief Nestel, many citations are given to unpermitted solicitors every year.
“The card [issued with permit] should be good for six months to a year,” Ward 5 commissioner Kip McFatridge, who sits on the Finance and Administrative Committee, said during the meeting. “But, I also don’t want it so cheap that everybody in the world is knocking on our doors in the neighborhood.”
At last month’s meeting, as well as last night’s, commissioner and public comments revolved around the issue that lightly regulated solicitation could also lead to crime.
Nestel explained, during the meeting, that up-to-date background checks are necessary when considering solicitors.
“It’s difficult to argue this with Mr. Weinrich, because Mr. Weinrich isn’t an example of the true solicitors that we have,” Nestel said. “The solicitors that we genuinely have are day-laborers, picked up from the corners of Philadelphia … If we make it for a year, I’d be really concerned about really knowing who the people are that are getting permits.”
While only Weinrich complied with the ordinance, after his encounter with police, illegal solicitation continues throughout the township.
“I can tell you that soliciting, at least prior to this ordinance, was a very high-volume call,” Nestel said. “People in this township really care about solicitors, and not in a positive way.”
By the end of the meeting, the township solicitor was asked to draft amendments to the ordinance, containing a four-month limitation per individual solicitor at $100.
It was also discussed that, after the initial permit issue, a solicitor could check in with the UMPD by phone, instead of appearing at the township building, before they begin their solicitation day.
The draft will also include an increase of the ordinance violation to $300.
More from the reporter’s notebook
Margie Peters gives Upper Moreland Library update
Speaking to a warm reception by Parks and Recreation Committee members, Margie Peters, Upper Moreland Library director, who returned from a medical leave of absence, gave the Library Board report last night.
In the report, Peters outlined the Willow Grove Tri-Centennial events associated with the library, including Thursday’s “Kids Hands on History Night,” which will feature children’s activities of the 18th century. The event will take place at the library from 6 to 8 p.m.
She also spoke of the library’s book project, “Carousel,” which will be available in time for the Tri-Centennial celebration. The book is made up of poems and short stories from Upper Moreland school’s fourth through seventh grade students, as well as their illustrations.
“We had 400 submissions for 40 pages,” she said.
Willow Grove 300 report
Dick Sayer, chair of the Tri-Centennial commission, informed the Parks and Recreation Committee on celebration’s signature poster. The commission asked Upper Moreland High School students to create a Tri-Centennial signature poster to be displayed and sold throughout the celebration. According to Sayer, 18 paintings and 29 digital images were submitted, and are currently being judged by commission members.
During the Public Health and Safety Committee meeting, Second Alarmer’s Association and Rescue Squad (SARS) captain of operations Renee Bates reported the number of SARS responses for the month of March with 171 medical, 28 motor vehicle collision and eight fire.
UMPD sponsors a drug drop off day
Upper Moreland Police Chief announced, during the Public Health and Safety Committee meeting, the department’s participation in a prescription drug drop off event. The event will take place at the police department, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., and will allow the drop off of any unused of expired over-the-counter/prescriptions medications – no questions asked. The event addresses the national prescription drug abuse epidemic.
For more information, visit http://www.dea.gov.
Nestel also reported at the meeting a significant drop in theft from automobiles since his proposed ordinance to fine residents who do not lock their car doors, last October.
“Theft from autos were at a pretty steady rate,” Nestel said, “until this period, where we had a 49 percent reduction in theft from autos.”
Nestel reminds residents to maintain their vigilance and keep their car doors locked.