County Commissioners: Pandemic May Have Felt Like a Standstill, but for the People’s Business, It Wasn’t

State of the County presentation Bucks County Commissioners
Image via Zoom.
Bottom row right: Bucks County Commissioners Robert J. Harvie Jr. (Vice-chair), Gene DiGirolamo (Commissioner), Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia (Chair),

In a virtual State of the County address, the Bucks County’s three Commissioners described a committed government intent on pushing through the pandemic’s obstacles to continue to serve residents and businesses.

Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia (Chair), Robert J. Harvie Jr. (Vice-chair) and Gene DiGirolamo (Commissioner) broadcast updates on various county initiatives in a May 25 online meeting. Their overall message, hosted by the Greater BucksMont Chamber of Commerce, was optimistic. 

Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia

Commission Chair Marseglia spoke about the early days of the pandemic, when even the simplest task of holding a meeting seemed daunting. 

She noted, however, that before long, once-strange methods became second nature. Streamed agendas, she noted, are now commonplace. And it’s standard procedure to post the resulting videos regularly for the public. 

Marseglia updated the Zoom attendees on outreaches such as the county’s social services efforts. She mentioned the new Human Services Director, Rachael Neff, and the office’s new spot in Doylestown. 

A countywide “hub” will now take all social services calls — simple queries — and route them appropriately, she said. 

“This, we’re hoping, is going to help people get to the place they need to go,” Marseglia explained. 

She addressed the issue of mental health, especially as related to incarcerations. The Bucks County prison population became a significant concern as COVID-19 cases exploded. She and her fellow Commissioners worked to reduce that population responsibly, employing creative measures that didn’t impinge on community safety. 

Last, she described the assignation of “co-responders” to work with area police departments.  

“A co-responder is basically a social worker.” Marseglia said. “They respond with the police to people having a social-service crisis: domestic violence, drug addition, mental health concerns, difficulties with children and youth.” 

These additional resources free law enforcement officers for more pressing priorities, Marseglia continued. The program is currently in a two-year trial within the Bensalem Police Department. 

In wrapping up, the Commission Chair described countywide progress in promoting diversity. Efforts included specialized training and the hiring of a diversity officer. 

Robert J. Harvie Jr.

Board of Commissioners Vice-Chair Robert Harvie spoke of the County’s support of economic drivers, especially for small businesses. 

He reported that $26 million in Back to Work grants helped 1,400 small businesses in Bucks County. 

He also commended the County staff responsible for communicating COVID-19 information, especially for its timeliness. 

“When the governor announced changes [in coronavirus threat levels] at a noon press conference, we had our website updated and live at 12:05, explaining what it all meant. I was immensely proud of that,” Harvie said. 

Gene DiGirolamo

Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo cited the commissioner’s kept promise to work through the pandemic challenges without raising individual or property taxes.  

He also described the monumental effort during the Presidential election, specifically processing more than 200,000 absentee and mail-in ballots. 

“The Board of Elections did a phenomenal job,” he said. 

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