Editor’s note: This is one of five articles highlighting coverage from our hyper-local papers.
As the year comes to a close, the staff of the Lower Bucks Times wanted to take a look back at our coverage in your communities over the past year. While some events had county-wide or even global implications, we thought it best to reflect on the stories unique to your neighborhoods, and the people who live there.
This is the 2016 Year in Review:
Northampton residents disagree on Rails To Trails
This year, one of the most divisive issues for Northampton was whether the township should have moved forward with the county’s “Rails To Trails” proposal for a 4.5-mile stretch of abandoned railroad.
The idea was to turn the rail line into a walking and biking trail that could connect Northampton with surrounding communities. There was one major problem — many residents were strongly against the plan.
The issue is that their properties ran along where the trail was proposed and many were concerned about safety, privacy and potential expenses for fencing and other protection.
The issue finally came to a head earlier this month after about a year of debate. The Northampton Supervisors voted against a feasibility study for the proposed trail, which would have been the next step in the process.
It’s unlikely that the trail proposal will be brought up with any real momentum in the immediate future.
Council Rock community shows unity after school vandalism
The Council Rock School District community showed some resiliency following reports of racist and offensive vandalism at Council Rock High School North in the wake of the presidential election.
The vandalism included a derogatory comment about homosexuals and swastikas drawn in the bathrooms. The reports from the school drew national media coverage.
State Rep. Steve Santarsiero along with other community and religious leaders organized a vigil for tolerance and unity at the Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Lower Makefield following the reports. Hundreds of people showed up to join in the vigil.
Council Rock North senior Mason Luff spoke as a representative of the students at the school.
“The messages that few create in fear on the bathroom walls do not define us,” Luff said to the crowd. “They hurt the people that they target, and they hurt everyone who watches the victimization of their peers.”
Bucks County Community College founding president passes away
Dr. Charles Rollins, who founded Bucks County Community College in 1965, passed away in his Langhorne home in July. He was 94 years old.
A former Marine, Rollins had attended college on the GI Bill, earning an M.A. and Ed.D. from Columbia University in New York.
By the time Pennsylvania passed its Community College Charter in 1963, which mandated state and county funding for community colleges, he’d served as the dean at York Junior College in York, Pennsylvania and as founding president of Edison Junior College in Florida.
A few months after classes began at Bucks, the federal government passed the Higher Education Act, kicking off a boom in new community colleges.
“It was a brand-new concept for all but two states in the country,” said James Freeman, a longtime professor of language and literature at the school. “We probably would have eventually had it, but it would have taken a lot longer.”
Anthony’s Act highlighted at opioid epidemic hearing
Members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives heard testimony from Cris Fiore, whose son Anthony died in 2014 of a heroin overdose.
The Warrington resident spoke at a policy hearing in his town, one of five such meetings held across the state.
“Anthony had a substance abuse problem. It didn’t define him, but it dominated his life,” said Fiore. “As the parent of an addict, you are always running behind, trying to catch up. You spend all your time worrying about what’s going on with your child …
“Think, for a minute, about how hard it is to come to the realization that your child is using, they can’t be trusted, they are stealing from you … and you can’t believe anything they say.”
Fiore discussed the legislation for which he and his wife are petitioning in their son’s name. Anthony’s Act calls for state and federal legislation to pay for a minimum of 90 days of drug or alcohol treatment.
Tool and die maker retires after 52 years on the job
Seventy-two-year-old Donald Sommer retired from Tottser Tool & Manufacturing in Southampton, where he worked as a tool and die maker for 52 years.
“I wanted to walk out. I didn’t want to be carried out,” he said soon after his retirement party in July. “But they would’ve let me stay another 10 years.”
A native of Northeast Philadelphia, Sommer worked through the many changes in the United States manufacturing industry over the last five decades. In particular, many jobs like his in auto parts manufacturing moved from Northern to Southern states or overseas.
However, he persevered and enjoyed a sendoff with friends, family and past and present coworkers at the plant in Southampton.
“I enjoyed my last day as much as I did my first,” he said. “I got a great family. I got a great wife. I had a great job for 52 years.”
Newtown Little League gets new dugouts
Ryan Grimmer, owner of Grimmer Construction, donated all the time and money necessary to build two dugouts for the Newtown Little League Field.
“Business-wise, we did great last year, and we wanted to give back,” he said in March.
Grimmer got his chance after posting on social media looking for a community project. Newtown Township messaged him asking if he’d build dugouts.
A Langhorne resident who played baseball as a kid, he was excited to take it on — so much so that he expanded his original plans for them.
Both dugouts have sheathing on the inside walls as well as the outside so the interiors have a more finished look. He used 2×10 beams instead of 2×6 for extra reinforcement, and braced both dugouts with hurricane strap brackets to keep them standing through especially high winds.
“We put some serious material into it. These aren’t going anywhere for awhile,” he said proudly.