The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Honey Brook Township becomes weekly site for Congressional satellite office


By Justin Finneran, Editor@TriCountyRecord.com, Journal Register News Service

Monday, February 4, 2013

Every ten years, following the United States census, the Pennsylvania Legislature redraws the boundaries of the State’s congressional districts. As a result of the most recent redistricting, which took place in 2012, Pennsylvania’s 7th District now includes a larger portion of Chester County and, for the first time, portions of Berks County and Lancaster County. Republican Congressman Patrick Meehan (a former United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and a former Delaware County District Attorney) is the representative of Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, and last week his home office officially opened several new satellite offices in the area. Among those satellites sites announced was the Honey Brook Township Building, located 500 Suplee Road, which will house one of Meehan’s staffers every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Other new locations announced were (note that each satellite office’s hours are from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.) Monday - Amity Township Building – 2004 Weavertown Road, Douglasville, PA 19518; Tuesday - Paradise Township Building, 2 Township Drive, Paradise, PA 17562; and Wednesday - Whitpain Township Building, 960 Wentz Road, Blue Bell, PA 19422.
According to Meehan, there are multiple benefits to sharing facilities with municipalities. Among those named were saving taxpayer dollars by sharing facilities between different levels of government, and increasing the level of communication between the municipalities and Meehan due to the congressional staffers frequently interacting with those in municipal government.
“We all have to work with a limited budget, and we appreciate that we are allowed to use space in these municipal buildings. It is impractical to spend taxpayer dollars to set up (standalone) regional offices. It is cost efficient and natural for our offices to be set up in the municipal buildings.”
Meehan said that the satellite office staff will assist local residents with issues such as helping veterans who have benefit issues, and helping senior citizens on social security and disability questions.
“We can help with all manners of engagement with federal agencies, depending on the unique problem that person has,” said Meehan. “Staffers will come into these municipal buildings so that people can engage in face to face constituent service meetings.”
These satellite offices reinforce the belief that it makes a big difference when a person can sit across from one of our staffers and get answers. He provided the following example:
“At some times seniors are confused with things such as a change in regulations – they will be looking at five pages of documents trying to figure out how something is affecting them – and we are a lot more capable of helping them cut to the chase.”
He said that having satellite offices will also allow for his staff to aid local industry and business. He offered the following thoughts on providing assistance to local farmers.
“In this area we are dealing with a lot of questions about issues like the Chesapeake Bay watershed and run off regulations. So, how do farmers (do their jobs) while simultaneously having a relationships with the EPA and the other regulatory agencies, and how do we accommodate these things realistically? Those are just some of the challenges that we will bring back to Washington to fight for.”
Congressman Meehan’s staff will also be available to help the municipalities with issues as well.
“We are here to listen – I have been meeting quite a bit with local township administrators (in the area) and the questions we have for them are ‘How are you impacted by the federal government and regulations?’ and ‘What is important to you? What should we be focusing on as your representative (in Washington, D.C.)?’”
Among the difficulties he sees municipalities facing is how they are affected by regulations, particularly those which place requirements on small municipalities. For example, there are plenty of administrative reporting requirements for these small municipalities, and the municipalities often do not have the staff to do it. There are also municipal issues such as transportation.
“I am on the Transportation Committee, and we do a lot of work in roads and bridges. One big problem we see municipalities having is being able to stay on top of the infrastructure that they are responsible for locally. One of the things we worked on (the last time as a committee) was identifying areas where there are a high percentage of structurally deficient bridges, and targeting those areas as a priority for transportation infrastructure repairs.”
He added that people in the area should not be surprised if his satellite staffers show up seeking them out as well.
“(My staff) will be in the offices from 9 a.m. through 2 p.m., but (before and after) those hours they will be doing things like setting up meetings with constituents and organizations as part of our outreach efforts. In some cases they will be doing introductory meeting with groups that are pre-identified, and there will also be cold calls for the purpose of introducing ourselves and that we are here.”
Meehan described the outreach as being a great way for us to get out and get to know the neighborhoods.
“That is what my staff does, and they enjoy doing because it makes their job valued.”
To visit Congressman Meehan online go to http://meehan.house.gov