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.)
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 email@example.com 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.
Letter from the President
As we move into a new year of resolutions and goals, PHCA has set the bar high for 2013. Our focus last year was on family and family-oriented amenities by creating the waterfront playground. This year our focus will be on neighborhood security. Although we do feel like we live in a gorgeous safe haven out here, we are not completely immune to crime. The extent of our crime is primarily an occasional car vandalism or shed theft, but no matter how minimal, the affected neighbor feels a sense of insecurity and violation. So let’s all come together this year to make this goal a reality.
The two goals of security we plan to accomplish this year will be:
- the implementation of a county recognized Neighborhood Watch; and
- a surveillance camera system with multiple cameras strategically placed throughout the neighborhood.
The Neighborhood Watch will be spearheaded by Joni Jones and George Satterthwaite, both residents of Holly Road. They will set up a core team of block captains from neighbors who have already volunteered (volunteers still needed) and create a neighborhood watch schedule that would be conducted during day and evening hours. We hope that all households would volunteer to do a short shift of patrolling during a time of day or night that is convenient for your schedule. Once this is complete, along with the assistance of our PG County Community Police Officer, Officer Mullendore, we will acquire official signage from the county that will be posted at the entrance. With the diligence of every resident this can and will be a very successful program.
The surveillance system would be a huge deterrent to theft, being that we would be able to obtain make, models, and tag numbers of vehicles entering or leaving the neighborhood during the timeframes of suspicious and criminal activities. We would ultimately want to strategically place 3-4 cameras throughout the neighborhood. We plan to accomplish this in phases. The first phase, which we would like to have completed by year end, would include installation of a camera at the Piscataway Hills entrance and a camera at the Waterfront park. We anticipate the first phase equipment and installation to cost in the range of $2,500 – $3,000. Although we can’t put a price tag on our families’ safety, this is a very expensive undertaking, which we plan to accomplish through fundraising events conducted throughout the year. So we ask that everyone please participate either through attending fund- raising events or making a monetary donation payable to the association towards the Surveillance Camera Fund.
I look forward to another productive year in Piscataway Hills, and seeing everyone out and about with better weather coming soon.
As many as 100 Piscataway Hill residents (but who’s counting) thronged to the annual Oktoberfest at Lot 39 Waterfront Park on October 20.
Especially noticeable this year were the large number of young families in attendance, perhaps eager to inaugurate the new playground equipment that had been assembled by community volunteers the previous weekend. The playground clearly met the approval of the kids, who spent hours sliding down the sliding board, swinging on the swings, climbing the climbing ramp, and crossing the suspension bridge.
Attendance was probably helped also by the perfect fall weather. People were able to relax at the picnic tables in the warm sun and enjoy the traditional Oktoberfest offerings of bratwurst, apple sauce, potato pancakes, and a large variety of desserts. There were so many revelers, in fact, that the beer ran out by mid-afternoon, for the first time in anyone’s memory. Luckily supplies were replenished by an emergency trip to a generous resident’s refrigerator, and the party continued without interruption.
The many residents who stayed to the end of the day were treated to a spectacular orange sunset over Piscataway Creek and then enjoyed a bonfire as dusk arrived.
For those who may be unaware, the PHCA offers the use of a Canoe Rack which provides individual slips of up to 12 canoes or kayaks. The Canoe Rack was the idea of one of our past Board Members and residents, Leo Morowski, who passed away before the structure was built, but in whose name it is dedicated. To offset the cost of maintaining the structure and to ensure active slip usage (by residents who canoe several times annually), the PHCA Board has decided to assess annual fees of $20 per slip for PHCA members and $40 per slip for non-PHCA members. The fees will be implemented on the first Saturday of April 2013, the same day as the Annual Potomac River Clean-Up Event.The annual usage fee year will run from April 1 to March 31. Piscataway Hills residents who want to start or continue using one or more of the spaces on the canoe rack should contact PCHA Board Member Calvin O’Neil at the contact information below.
Current slip users will receive first preference to maintain your existing slip. The slip usage fee must be received no later than March 31 to maintain usage or your boat will need to be removed by April 6, 2013. Any boats left in an unpaid slip on April 6 will be determined to be abandoned and disposed of during the Annual Potomac River Clean-up event.
Safety and security of our residents and property are two primary and ongoing concerns of the Pis- cataway Hills Community Association (PHCA) Board Members. It’s been over 10 years since the last replacement of the lock and issuance of new keys for the gate to the Piscataway Hills Waterfront Park (aka Lot 39). During this timeframe, we have experienced many home sales with old neighbors leaving the community and new residents taking their place. Therefore, the PHCA Board has decided it’s time to change the lock and issue new keys to the Waterfront Park gate. This will occur the first week of March 2013. If you wish to obtain a new gate key for vehicle access to the Waterfront Park, you can do so by contacting PCHA Vice President Dave Lishin.
Taste up to 10 varieties of top-rated wines from various regions along with light appetizers, and hear a live jazz performance by Piscataway Hills’ very own Keith Wilson. This event will support the work of your neighborhood association, and a portion of the proceeds will go towards the Surveillance Camera Fund.
The PHCA Wine Tasting Fundraiser will be held Saturday, May 18, 2013, 4-6 p.m., at the Waterfront Park Pavilion. It costs $25 per person in advance ($30 per per- son on the day of the event). Tickets can be purchased from any board member.
As residents have undoubtedly noticed, Piscataway Hills was among the first neighborhoods to be affected by a huge sewer life extension project now being implemented by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
Called the Piscataway Creek Basin Sanitary Sewer Repair, Replacement, and Rehabilitation Program (or “SR3” in WSSC jargon), the project started at the beginning of 2013 and is to be completed by the end of 2015. The first phase will replace or repair sewer lines along public streets, such as the work recent- ly completed on Piscataway Drive. Sewer work in environmentally sensi- tive areas, such as in Piscataway Park between Piscataway Drive and Fort Washington Marina, is now in the planning stages and is expected to start this fall.
Several Piscataway Hills residents attended a public meeting about the sewer project with WSSC officials and contractors at the Surratts-Clinton Memorial Library on February 27. WSSC told the meeting that the project would repair, rehabilitate, or replace 16.5 miles of sewer lines and 476 manholes at 88 sites throughout the 44,000 acre Piscataway Creek basin. About 85% of the work is expected to be carried out without trenching or other excavation, with liners installed within existing pipes, sealing of joints, and other repair methods.
The sewer refurbishment is required by a 2005 consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations to prevent sewage from leaking into local waterways. Not only can sewage leak from broken pipes and manholes, but a leaky system allows rainwater to infiltrate and overwhelm the entire system, causing large overflows during storms. WSSC officials noted that parts of the current system are more than 90 years old and need refurbishment. The refurbishment project is intended to extend the life of the system by at least 50 years.
One issue raised by meeting participants was the repair of streets and driveways after sewer work is completed. WSSC officials said that temporary surface repairs would be in place until all work on a street was finished, which may include water line replacement and other projects. Once everything is done, permanent street repairs, including complete repaving of the affected area, is supposed to be finished within 60 to 90 days.
Residents who are not satisfied with work done on or near their property were urged to contact the WSSC Customer Advocate for southern Prince George’s County, Kevin Woolbright, at 240-205-3684, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For dangerous situations, such as leaks or collapsing pavement, residents were told to call the WSSC 24-hour hotline at 301-206-4002.
Recent water and sewer rate increases of 7-9%, plus another planned increase next year, will pay for the sewer repair work, according to WSSC officials. Repair work is also underway on the water supply system, including water mains, meters, and water towers. However, water mains in Piscataway Hills were already completely replaced within the last seven years and so are not included in that project.