PHCA – Quarterly Meeting

PISCATAWAY HILLS CITIZENS ASSOCIATION

(PHCA)

QUARTERLY MEETING

TUESDAY, JANUARY 31, 2017

 

The meeting was called to order at 7pm by PHCA President Robert Reilly

Robert Reilly welcomed and introduced our new neighbor Steve Tucker who lives on Piscataway Drive to the meeting.

-Neighborhood Watch Update/ Crime Report: George Satterthwaite reports there has been no criminal activities in the area to report on.  We do have a new COP Officer Corporal Stephen Rannacher.
“Let me introduce myself, my name is Corporal S. Rannacher #3124 and I’m a new Cops officer here at Dist. 7. I will be covering William 1, 2, and 3 beats so if you are receiving this email you are more than likely in one of my beats. If anyone want me to attend meetings please email me the dates and times you would like me to attend.”

We currently have 14 Block Captains who George will soon be meeting with and coordinating events with.

We as a community are encouraged to participate with Nextdoor.

Launched in 2011, Nextdoor allows neighborhood residents to connect with one another online, sharing classified ads, notices about nearby events, and observations and warnings about crime trends. The platform has the potential to bring out the best and worst in communities—it brings neighbors closer together, but can amplify their worst fears—and its focus on neighborhoods makes it a particularly valuable tool for law-enforcement agencies that want to understand the concerns of particular areas in a city.

-Surveillance Camera Changes:

Security cameras are a great way to provide security for our home or workplace. As well as providing you with video footage of any events which may happen, they also act as a visible deterrent to crime. Our camera needs adjustment, it needs ambient light and it needs someone to maintain the upgrades.

-FY 2017 1st Quarterly Budget Report – Discussion tabled until next meeting. Deb Kutzleb not present.

-2017 Neighborhood Telephone Directory is finished

The directory is 22 pages and we’ll need 170 copies to cover the neighborhood.  We can always print more with the most current address information if needed. The printing cost will be $225.  We’ll need 8 reams of paper for about $75 dollars for good quality clear white paper.

Volunteers are needed to collate and staple the hard copy directory. When we go to press we will need someone to come to Deb’s office in Largo to help collate and staple the booklets.

-Volunteering in the Neighborhood. Volunteers are needed for mowing grass at Lot 39, we have a tractor. We need help picking up road side trash along Piscataway Drive, fortifying the shed that secures the tractor mower, and volunteers are needed to stain and tighten the bolts in the children swing set on Lot 39.

Volunteers are also needed for the Potomac Watershed clean up on April 8th.

Please set aside some time on Saturday, April 8th from 9:00am to 2:00pm, and join your neighbors as volunteers for the most worthy event. As in years past we’ll be collecting trash on Lot 39

Along Piscataway Creek shoreline towards Fort Washington Marina

On Piscataway Creek island

Gloves, trash bags, and water transportation will be provided, as well as morning coffee & donuts and an afternoon hotdog BBQ lunch.

If walking along Piscataway Creek shoreline picking up trash is not “your thing”, we also need volunteers to:

  • Help sign in other volunteers
  • Record trash items collected
  • Transport trash collected to Fort Washington Marina
  • BBQ chef for afternoon lunch
  • Take pictures of our trash bounty and heroic effort
  • Keys to the lock at Lot 39 will be distributed at the Potomac Watershed Clean up.

Christmas in April Fundraiser
In its 28th year of rehabilitating low-income homes, revitalizing neighborhoods and giving the gift of hope and dignity to homeowners, the Prince George’s County’s Christmas in April program has grown from 600 volunteers repairing 30 homes in 1989 to now 3,200 volunteers helping to repair 81 homes, thanks to the leadership of program founder Vincent “Cap” Mona, as well as the cooperative efforts of sponsors including county government, individual donors, businesses, civic and community organizations, restaurants and churches.

From Accokeek to Laurel, Christmas in April facilitates the renovation of homes at no financial cost to the recipients — who are either low-income, physically challenged or disabled senior citizens — so they may live in warmth, safety and independence. The program, which is part of national organization with 249 affiliates throughout the U.S., grew out of the urgent need for betting housing conditions and neighbor-helping neighbor partnerships, according to the Christmas in April website.

Put It on Your Calendar
Fundraiser at Mama Stella’s February 8, 2017

Mamma Stella’s Ristorante Italian, at 7918 Old Branch Ave in Clinton, will donate 20% of all sales February 8th to Christmas in April. Lunch 11am-4pm, Dinner 4pm-9pm. Carryout is available

Dinner & Dance on February 18, 2017

Columbia Moose Lodge at 10404 Brandywine Road in Clinton. Tickets are $15.00 per person. Price includes food, live band, silent auction and 50/50 raffle.

Community Entrance Sign

The Beautification Committee rep of Piscataway Hills called to get a quote on a new neighborhood entrance sign to mount to our existing posts.

We’d like it to be this size: [55″ Inches Long X 11″ Inches Wide X 1 3/4 Deep] to read:
“PISCATAWAY HILLS”

We’d like it to be single sided with REFLECTIVE LETTERING (if available would be very helpful for our non-light park style community)

We’d also like a quote for each Optional NOTICE Attachments Signs that occasionally we hang below the main sign 3′ Feet Long X 5″ 1/2″ Wide by 1 3/4 Inches Deep. (We use these to notify owners of BBQ, Picnic, Community Yard Sale Sat 8-3, BOD Meeting 7pm, PHCA meeting 7pm)

Please mail us a brochure with pricing and shipping rates for the BOD & Homeowners to View and VOTE on.

Thanking you in advance.

Robert Reilly President

This letter was sent to Art Sign Works, Inc. to get quotes on replacing the current Piscataway Hills entrance sign. Six different styled entrance photographs were displayed adjacent to the sign-in sheet for the meeting. Members were encouraged to check off the best two photographs prior to the meeting. The results will be discussed at a later meeting.

Meeting Schedule for the remainder of 2017

April 18th           July 18th            September 19th

The meeting adjourned at 8:00pm after the 50/50 raffle winner was announced.

Piscataway Hills Day

Please join the honorable Rushern L Baker, III for Piscataway Hills Day at Lot 39 -Waterfront Park.  This event will happen on May 2nd at 1PM.  

Guest Speaker: Congressmen Steny Hoyer

The event will include the Proclamation of Piscataway Hills Day, a Piscataway Drive re-opening ceremony, and the recondition of a reconnected, restored and unified community.

RSVP to Paulette Jones at (301) 883-5600 or pljones@co.pg.md.us.

Draft Report on Piscataway Drive Slope Failure Released

Here is the Preliminary Piscataway Drive Slope Failure report that was released by Prince Georges County.  There is a scheduled meeting today will address questions about the report>  Representatives from KCI and the County Department of Public Works and Transportation will be in attendance.

Additionally, the Department of Social Services is distributing $500 Walmart gift cards to the impacted families of the slope failure.  These cards were donated by the Walmart Foundation.

PHCA Annual Meeting; Elections; Neighborhood Watch

With former President Gwynn Roberson, Secretary Debbie Kutzleb, and Board Member Troy Lee not running for re-election, the Piscataway Hills Citizens Association will have significant leadership changes following the annual membership meeting on September 24.

Candidates for the vacant officer positions could not be found, so under the bylaws, Vice President Dave Lishin will serve as Acting President. The position of Secretary remains vacant, but Joni Jones volunteered to be on the board and was elected unanimously. Members also approved a motion thanking Gwynn Roberson for her service as President; she will remain on the board as Immediate Past President.

Other issues discussed at the annual meeting included the neighborhood watch program, the PHCA budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, and excessively noisy parties.

Board Members George Satterthwaite and Joni Jones provided a status report on PHCA’s efforts to establish an officially recognized neighborhood watch program. The program is designed to enhance the reporting of suspicious activities in the neighborhood to the police. Piscataway Hills is to be divided into 10 zones, each with a block captain. Volunteers and other members of the community are to report suspicious activities to the block captains, who will then contact the appropriate offices within the Prince George’s County Police Department. The program will probably not include scheduled citizen patrols, George said.

The first step in establishing a neighborhood watch is to obtain signed petitions from at least 75% of the households in the community. Piscataway Hills has 172 homes, with 15 of them vacant, meaning that 117 signatures are needed. George reported that he and the other organizers, after canvassing the community and approaching residents at Oktoberfest on October 5, had collected 109 signatures and need only eight more to submit the neighborhood watch application. More block captains are also still needed, he said. Once the signatures are gathered and the block captains are trained, then PHCA would receive two free “neighborhood watch” signs and could buy additional signs. It was proposed at the meeting that PHCA purchase enough signs so that each of the 10 zones could have one.

Treasurer Don Benedict reported that PHCA ran a surplus of about $600 during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, ending with a balance of $4,368 and 60 dues-paying members. The surplus was achieved despite the one-time expenditure of $1,079 for the new playground at Lot 39 Waterfront Park. Members at the annual meeting ap- proved the proposed budget for 2013-2014, which for the first time includes a $750 premium for liability insurance, a subject that had been debated extensively at earlier quarterly meetings.

The annual meeting concluded with a discussion of excessively noisy parties in Piscataway Hills. It was pointed out that Prince George’s County prohibits noise that is audible more than 50 feet from its source from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., with fines of up to $250 for the first offense and $500 for the second offense and up to 30 days in jail.

The noise ordinance can be found at:
http://www.berwynheightspd.com/select%20county%20ordinances.htm.

Yikes! A Snake!

By Debbie Kutzleb

Why are so many people afraid of snakes? Is it because a snake (the devil) tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, or have we been trained to fear snakes by Hollywood and childhood stories? Most of us have heard stories of dramatic snake encounters where someone was surprised by a snake; almost stepping on a snake; finding a snake in the garage; seeing a snake while canoe- ing or fishing . . . While such stories can be entertaining, they also reinforce our fear of snakes. The truth is that there are very few species of poisonous snakes in the U.S. and most people have no personal adverse experience from a snake encounter—other than fear. Snakes have been revered and worshiped in mythology around the globe in India, Africa, Australia, Europe, and North American Indian societies. Pharaohs of Egypt wore snakes on the headdress with the belief that they were protective. Greeks thought snakes had healing powers, and American Hopi Indian mythology describes a “yellow-snake-with-rattles” suddenly becoming the loveliest and fairest of maidens.

While ancient mythology is hardly a reason to abandon a fear of snakes,
the truth about snakes may help “set you free” of fear. Within the United States, approximately 7,000–8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes each year, and about five of those people die. In Maryland there are 27 species of snakes, only two of which are poisonous: the Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake, and there are no Rattle- snakes anywhere near Piscataway Hills. Contrary to popular opinion, there are no Water Moccasin / Cotton Mouth snakes in Maryland. Copperheads account for more cases of venomous snake bite than any other North American species; however, their venom is the least toxic, so their bite is seldom fatal. According to Maryland Poison Control Center, only two to six people are bitten in Maryland by poisonous snakes each year, and when bitten even when untreated, death is very, very rare. Compare snake bite fatalities with other risks facing Marylanders. Each year in Maryland, 500 people die in traffic accidents; 70 drown, and 50 die from fire injury. If the fear of snakes was rational, who among us would have the courage to leave the house? In the famous words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”

In the seven years I’ve lived in Piscataway Hills, I’ve seen dozens of snakes while working in the garden, paddling the creek, or tromping in the woods. Most of them have been Eastern Rat Snakes or Northern Water Snakes, but I’ve been lucky to also see a Northern Rough Green Snake, Common Ribbon Snakes, Eastern Garter Snakes, and Northern Brown Snakes, and have been especially pleased to have seen an Eastern King Snake. Although other neighbors have reported seeing Copperheads, I have never witnessed a Copperhead in Piscataway Hills. Why am I so sure? I’m usually looking for any creature great or small, and Copperheads are easy to identify. Compared to most other Maryland snakes, Copperheads are stocky, heavy bodied snakes. They have a distinctive brown hour glass pattern, and like all poisonous viper snakes, their head is significantly broader than their neck. Copperheads often have a copper colored head and can be brown, yellow brown, pale tan, or grey.

Enough already about a snake seldom seen. Regardless of the species
of snake, all snakes are beneficial and rarely a pest in Maryland. Without snakes, it’s likely the woods would be overrun by rodents: moles, voles, mice, and rats. A single rodent-eating snake (Eastern Rat Snake) can wipe out a rat family in a matter of weeks. Rodents (particularly mice) are the source of spirochetal bacteria that is the cause of Lyme disease. That’s right, deer are not the source of Lyme disease; they are merely the last host in the life cycle of Lyme disease- infected ticks and play no role in infecting ticks with Lyme disease bacteria.

Besides helping control Lyme disease (too bad snakes don’t eat deer), snakes are great garden creatures. They don’t dig holes, although they can often be found in holes dug by other animals. Several small snakes can control the grasshopper population in a small garden, and the best cure for a chipmunk infestation is a snake. Unless harassed, snakes don’t make noise, and usually the only evidence of snakes in your garden is an occasional snake skin.

Snakes do not carry or transmit rabies, fleas, mange, or skin fungus,
and generally do not transmit diseases, although there are rare cases of salmonella infections from handling snakes. So next time you see a snake, don’t pick it up. Instead, give it a wide berth as they are mostly afraid of humans, and give thanks for all the good it does for our ecosystem.

Rabid Raccoon Attacks Piscataway Hills Resident in Driveway

racoon
Raccoon with glowing eyes just before attack

Kris Ran Court resident Pat Myers was about to close her garage door at about 8:30 p.m. on June 26 when she saw an animal run in. She looked closer and saw the glowing eyes of a raccoon.

Not alarmed by seeing a raccoon in the evening, she pulled out her camera and took its picture. But then it started walking toward her and Pat ran toward her car in the driveway.

“The raccoon then ran after me—very fast—and before I could get the car door open, it jumped on me, scratching and biting me on both hands and legs,” Pat wrote later in a Facebook post. “I screamed and was able to throw it off, but it jumped right back on me, biting me more. Finally, I was able to get in the car and roll up the window and back out.”

Neighbors Virginia and Earl Parsons heard Pat’s screams and ran over to help. They warned other neighbors and called 911, while Pat drove to pick up her daughter, Valerie, from a music lesson and then to Fort Washington Hospital.

The hospital staff said that a scrawny, aggressive raccoon was probably rabid. Pat had numerous bites and scratches on both her arms and legs and on her back, but she didn’t need stitches. She received a tetanus shot, a rabies immune globulin shot in her arm, and two rabies shots in addition to the ones on the wounds. She had to go back for a shot in the arm at three, seven, and 14 days later. The treatments were successful and Pat has fully recovered.

A County animal control officer responded the same evening to the neighbors’ 911 call. She took a report and searched for the raccoon without success. Animal Control set a trap the next evening, and something ate the bait overnight and escaped. Mike Reamy on Piscataway Court spotted a raccoon shortly afterward, but animal control officers doubted that it was the same one, because it had not acted aggressively.

The incident caused considerable concern for several days on Kris Ran Court and Pine Road, especially since the rabid raccoon was never caught. However, animal control officers assured residents that a raccoon in apparently such a late stage of rabies would die within a few days.

Kayaking Companions Sought

Kris Ran Court resident Stephanie Yankey enjoys our community’s access to Piscataway Creek and the Potomac River, but she doesn’t like to go out in her kayak alone. So she is seeking other Piscataway Hills residents with kayaks or canoes to join her in weekend or evening boating outings.

“I just don’t like to go by myself,” Stephanie said recently, explaining that boating in groups of two or more is better for both safety and companionship. It’s more fun, she said, to have someone “to go with and talk with.”

Stephanie keeps a kayak at the canoe rack at Lot 39 Waterfront Park and hopes that regular boating trips will encourage more people to make use of the amenity. She believes the $20 annual storage fee for PHCA members is well worth the cost.

Anyone who is interested in getting together for boating excursions can contact Stephanie. Those without a kayak may be able to borrow one.

Lost Dog

A small friendly black male dog with a little brown on mussel and legs, curled tail, and peaked ears followed Gwynn Roberson home and he is in her house. He has a blue cloth collar but no tags or identification. If this is your dog or you know who he belongs to, call Gwynn.

Security Measures Discussed at Quarterly Meeting

Neighborhood security issues were the chief topic of discussion at the PHCA Quarterly Meeting January 22 at the Spirit of Elijah Church. The approximately 25 members in attendance also considered various fundraising ideas and social events.

Although Piscataway Hills is statistically a very safe neighborhood, thefts and other incidents do occur sporadically. A rash of stolen automobile rims erupted last year, for example, and an earlier series of shed break-ins also caused alarm. Recent thefts from mailboxes were also mentioned.

PHCA Board Member Neil Ayers presented a status report on planned security initiatives, particularly the formation of a Neighborhood Watch. To establish a police-recognized Neighborhood Watch program and receive official signs, Piscataway Hills would need a minimum number of committed volunteers and block captains, Ayers said. Volunteers should contact George Sattherthwaite at 301-292-2312 or Joni Jones at 30-292-9558.

Board members anticipated that Neighborhood Watch volunteers would perform 15-30 minute patrols around the neighborhood several times a month, perhaps totaling about 2 hours per month. Such neighborhood sweeps could be on foot or by car. The idea was raised that cars could have magnetic flashing lights on top to increase visibility. Ayers said he hoped to have the Neighborhood Watch begin operating by this summer.

Progress was also reported on developing plans for neighborhood surveillance cameras.

President Gwynn Roberson circulated information on surveillance systems that would cost $1,600-$2,000, not including installation, and include up to four cameras. She suggested that cameras could be installed at the entrance to the neighborhood (through which all vehicles must pass), at the Piscataway Hills Waterfront Park (Lot 39), and maybe at isolated locations such as the end of Pine Road. Signs would be prominently posted about the cameras to deter criminals from entering the neighborhood. Further plans for the cameras and more precise cost estimates are to be presented at future meetings.

Security at the Waterfront Park is to be enhanced by changing the lock on the gate (see separate article). It was noted that the current lock has been in place for more than 10 years, and that PHCA does not know how many people now have keys. As a result, the PHCA Board announced that the lock would be changed in March, after residents have been notified, and that it should be changed regularly in the future, perhaps every three to five years. Residents can continue getting free keys by contacting a PHCA board member.

The chief fundraising action announced at the meeting was the establishment of annual fees for keeping boats at the Waterfront Park canoe rack (named for former Board Member Leo Morawsky). In addition to raising money, the fees would free up spaces on the rack, which is currently full. “There are boats that have sat there for years,” not being used, Roberson said, adding that some may have been abandoned by residents who have moved away. (See separate article for fee details.)

New Manager at Fort Washington Describes Planned Improvements

Early 20th century view of Fort Washington (NPS photo)
Early 20th century view of Fort Washington (NPS photo)

After about a year on the job, the new manager of Fort Washington Park and other local units of the National Park Service described the status of the parks under her jurisdiction and plans for improvements at the PHCA quarterly meeting on September 25, 2012. PHCA mem- bers also reelected President Gwynn Roberson and other officers and board members, as well as approving a budget for the 2013 fiscal year.

The guest speaker at the meeting was Brandi Bradford, Southern District Manager for the National Capital Parks-East Region of the National Park Service. She explained that the Southern District includes Fort Foote, Harmony Hall, Fort Washington Park, and Piscataway Park.

Fort Washington Park is the primary unit in the Southern District. Dating back to 1809, the fort is located at the end of Fort Washington Road overlooking the Potomac. Bradford reported that the visitors center is being repainted, and fences and roads will also be repaired. Restoration of the Fort Washington structures is a continual project because of weather and shifting grounds. Restoration of the main fort is complete and the drawbridge is scheduled for restoration.

Fort Foote, constructed in 1863 as part of the Civil War defenses around Washington, is located along the Potomac River on Fort Foote Road. Bradford reported that the welcoming station is scheduled for repair.
The Harmony Hall red brick mansion was built in 1769 and is surrounded by 65 acres of land on Broad Creek. It is separate from the adjacent Harmony Hall Regional Center, which hosts local arts activities. Bradford noted that currently the Mansion is not open to the public and “historical documentation” is required before the site can be further developed.

Bradford provided business cards and urged PHCA members to contact her with question and comments at brandi_bradford@nps.gov or 301-763-4601.

In approving the fiscal year 2013 budget, PHCA members discussed the planned purchase of lia- bility insurance. Firm cost estimates had not yet been developed. President Roberson noted that liability insurance is a “safeguard” to protect association and board members from the liabil- ity of an accident at the Piscataway Hills Waterfront Park.

Several attendees expressed opinions on the moral and legal merits of purchasing liability insurance. Others expressed a concern that liability insurance would attract litigation. To pay for the added expense, Roberson proposed a $10 increase in annual dues. A motion was raised and seconded to omit liability insurance from the budget. By a show of hands the motion was not passed by meeting attendees.

Editor’s note: Thanks to PHCA Secretary Deb- bie Kutzleb for the detailed minutes of this meeting.