Thursday, June 29, 2017

Second hearing takes place with SRBC

The second hearing with the PA Legislature and Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) took place on Monday, June 26 at the Shrewsbury Borough Municipal Building. Approximately 10-15 individuals from the golf industry showed up along with numerous media and local citizens interested in the day's proceedings. In fact, the turnout forced creation of an overflow room where individuals were presented with a live streaming of the action.

The session kicked off with opening remarks from Representative Kristin Phillips-Hill (R) of District 93. Her remarks were followed by a testimony and questioning of SRBC Executive Director Andrew Dehoff. Dehoff noted that the SRBC recently decided to not increase fees for municipal water users, but representatives of the committee seemed not impressed.

The SRBC is facing scrutiny in large part because of the fees they charge for renewing dockets, fines levied for seemingly minor (if not imaginary) offenses, their excess $40 million bank reserves, and the commission's reaping of state employee pension plans, even though they are not an official state agency. The latter point seems to create ambiguity with regards to the standards for which the SRBC must conduct business. For example, even though SRBC's staff participate in the state pension plan, the Commission is not subject to some of the regulations created to promote transparency with state agencies, such as the Rights to Know Act.

Throughout the day, the Legislature heard additional testimonies from Range End Country Club Superintendent Pete Ramsey, and municipalities from Adams, Cumberland, and Lancaster counties. Each testimony given had a similar message, in that the SRBC is overreaching the bounds of the federal-interstate compact that was put in place back in 1970, and costing taxpayers, private businesses, and municipalities undue and exuberant expenses for the access to water.

At the conclusion of the hearing, state representatives assured members of the golf industry and others that they intend to take action on this issue, but that action will take time. Possible outcomes include a reduction or total cut in state funding for the SRBC, or possible legislation that could help reign in the pseudo-power that the SRBC seems to have self-created over the past several decades. With regards to legislation, that route could prove to be a little more tricky, given the compact's original creation was a collaboration with New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the federal government, and creating legislation would be a tricky endeavor of further collaboration between these 3 states.

More comments and perspective on the matter from Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill can be found here.

Attendees of the hearing have a seat in the overflow room to view a live streaming. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

SRBC hearing takes place, another hearing scheduled

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) is under scrutiny by Pennsylvania legislators. The Commission, which charges consumptive users (including golf courses) for withdrawing water from the basin, is suspected of overreaching their authority. For more on the history and workings of the SRBC, check out this previous blog post

On June 12, there was a hearing scheduled to listen to testimonies from consumptive users, and question the operations of the SRBC. Pete Ramsey, superintendent at Range End Country Club, was on hand to give testimony on behalf of the golf industry. The following is his first-hand take on the outcomes of the hearing, as well as information for the next scheduled hearing on June 26. 

Pete said:

The hearing held on June 12 went very well. Members of Central Penn GCSA, as well as Keystone, were in attendance. The Pennsylvania Legislature heard testimony from Andrew Dehoff of SRBC, two municipal water suppliers, as well as myself. There were 17 State Representatives present. The Reps questioned Dehoff on excessive charges, SRBC’s mission, redundancies with DEP, staff compensation and benefits, intimidation tactics and overreach. The committee appears to have a unified opinion the commission has gone way beyond the boundaries of the compact of 1968. 

My testimony was very well received and the meeting exceeded my expectations. This issue is picking up steam fast and now is our time to be heard. I was asked to testify again at the next meeting. Any input you have would be appreciated. Please call or email me. The biggest impact we can have is attendance to the upcoming meeting in Shrewsbury. I need 50+ people to show up. There will be ample opportunity to speak one-on-one with the representatives after the meeting. They have a lot of questions and are very empathetic to consumptive users. Please clear your schedules and attend the meeting! The next meeting of the Pennsylvania Legislature is Monday, June 26 at 9:00 a.m. in the Shrewsbury Borough Municipal Building, 35 West Railroad Avenue, Shrewsbury, PA 17361.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

First Green takes off in Philly

If you haven't read or heard anything about First Green, take a look at this previous blog post, because this STEM-based education program is spreading through GCSAA chapters and schools across the country, turning golf links into teaching labs. Its most recent success took place at Philadelphia Cricket Club on June 6, when GCSAA Class A member Dan Meersman helped organize one epic field trip.

Dan, the director of grounds at Philly Cricket, was quick to praise the allied associations that had a hand in hosting this all-encompassing field day for the students from Whitemarsh Elementary. During the two-hour visit, students participated in labs focused on turfgrass, soils, golf, water, trees and putting.

What also made this field trip so impressive was the breadth of experience represented by individuals across golf and even non-golf disciplines. In attendance were representatives from Philly Cricket, PAGCS, Golf Association of Philadelphia, Philadelphia PGA, GCSAA, USGA, Temple University, Morris Arboretum, First Tee and a representative from the local conservation district. Wow!

Not only did this day do so much for the 90 students in attendance, but it was also fantastic outreach for the club and industry as a whole. The folks from "Inside Golf," a local golf show that airs in the Philadelphia market, were there to film footage and interview participants. And with that footage, "Inside Golf" will feature the day's activities in a story that will air in the coming weeks on the Comcast Network.

Check out the pictures below for a look at all the fun and educational activities during the Philadelphia Cricket Club event: