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.
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.
Join your neighbors for an Easter Egg Hunt Fundraiser with games, crafts and more! The cost is $5 per child for tickets purchased in advance and $8 the day of the event. A portion of the proceeds will go towards the PHCA’s Surveillance Camera Fund.
The event will be held Sunday, March 24, 2013, 12 p.m.-2 p.m., with the Easter Egg Hunt starting at 12:30 p.m. It will take place at the PHCA Waterfront Park, where the event pavilion will be set up. It is strictly BYOB: “Bring Your Own Basket”
To purchase tickets, contact Gwynn Roberson (301-957-0401); Christie Hunter (646-841-4472); or Brad Bartee (202-600-6537).
There are still open slots available for helping to keep our neighborhood looking good. If you can lend a helping hand, take a look at the Piscataway Drive Trash Cleanup Committee Schedule and contact Etrulia Lee (or leave a comment).
PHCA members approved plans for a new playground at Lot 39 Waterfront Park during the June 26 quarterly meeting. It will be the first play equipment installed at the park since an old swingset made of telephone poles was dismantled more than 25 years ago.
The new playground equipment is to cost $3,200, with PHCA to provide $1,200 and the rest coming from a special fundraising campaign. Supporters of the playground said that as of mid-September, $1,478 had been donated, leaving $522 still to be raised.
Residents who are interested in the playground are being urged to send donations to PHCA or drop them off with Treasurer Don Benedict as soon as possible. “I would really love to help make the playground a reality, but I can’t do it alone, nor only with the help of 4 other families,” wrote playground organizer Maureen Bartee in an August 14 message to the community. “Please consider making a contribution very soon so we can install the playground this fall.”
Designed for younger children, the new playground is to include a sliding board, a covered climbing platform, swings, and a rope ladder. It is to be assembled by volunteers and be located in the northwest corner of Lot 39, near the volleyball area and farthest away from the water.
The members also authorized PHCA to purchase liability insurance, which was estimated to cost between $500 and $900 per year for $500,000 of coverage. With average PHCA membership of about 70 households, the cost per member would be about $10 per year. PHCA President Gwynn Roberson said the Board of Directors had been advised that liability insurance would help prevent PHCA from losing control of Lot 39 in case of a lawsuit.
Concerns were also raised that individual board members might be liable for damages in certain cases. It was later determined that PHCA had carried liability insurance until about30 years ago.
Opponents of the liability insurance proposal contended that, because Lot 39 is not considered a buildable lot, it has little value and so would not attract lawsuits. Insurance coverage of $500,000, it was argued, could actually encourage lawsuits by increasing the potential payout to plaintiffs and lawyers. In addition, they pointed out that, even if PHCA lost Lot 39, residents would still have the right to use the property as stated in their deeds.
Immediately after the discussion, members voted 27-16 to authorize PHCA to buy liability insurance, and the playground proposal was approved by a vote of 37-6. Funding for the playground and liability insurance in the 2013 budget will be considered at the next PHCA quarterly membership meeting, Tuesday, September 25, at 7 p.m. at Spirit of Elijah Church.
With more children likely to be playing at Lot 39, especially after the playground is installed, efforts to reduce unsanitary dog droppings were discussed. One idea was to install dog cleanup bags on a post in the park. In general, dog owners were strongly encouraged to clean up after their pets.
The children’s playground which was announced by fellow resident Maureen Bartee at the Spring PHCA Quarterly meeting was selected. Voting for expenditures for the playground will take place at the Summer quarterly meeting.
The playground includes a trapeze swing, tire swing, wave slide, clatter bridge and tower, climbing ramp and rope, rope ladder, built-in picnic table, sandbox, Tic-Tac-Toe spinner panel, telescope and more.
To see additional details, click here: Blue Ridge Pioneer Peak.