SOUDERTON — Along with holding its reorganization meeting the first Monday of the new year to set the stage for the future, Souderton Borough Council also looked back, noting the contributions of a long-time employee who retired, two outgoing council members, the recent death of two volunteer firefighters and the death of a former congressman.
Mayor John Reynolds and state Rep. Steve Malagari, D-53, each made presentations honoring Willie Powis, the borough's public works foreman who retired after 40 years as a borough employee, and outgoing council members Richard Halbom and Jeff Gross.
Powis, a 1974 graduate of Souderton Area High School, started working for the borough in May of 1979, initially rotating between positions at the Souderton Wastewater Treatment Plant and Public Works before moving full-time to Public Works, Reynolds said.
"He always demonstrated a strong work ethic that carried throughout the crew, always displayed a positive attitude," Reynolds said. "Willie readily accepted a challenge and was integral in the completion of many successful construction projects along with many maintenance tasks."
Powis was also a volunteer member of the Souderton Area Community Ambulance Association and volunteered with Perseverance Volunteer Fire Company of Souderton to provide assistance to the fire company during daytime hours, Reynolds said.
"Willie was never afraid to talk about anything or talk to anybody," Public Works Director Steve Coll said.
"Willie always had something to say," he said. "He knew a lot. He's a very intelligent guy."
Powis said his 40 years as a borough employee was the opportunity of a lifetime and that the borough has the best road crew anybody could hope for.
"I just hope the residents of this borough understand and realize all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes that make this borough click as well as it does," he said. "I truly enjoyed my time here with everybody."
Adding to Powis' comments, council President Brian Goshow said Souderton's Public Works Department saves the borough a lot of money by doing work that gets contracted out in other municipalities.
Following the presentations to Powis by Reynolds and Malagari, he received a standing ovation from the audience and council members.
Halbom served on council from Dec. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2019 and chaired council Highways and Sanitation committees, Reynolds said. He said Halbom continues to be the borough's representative to the Northern Montgomery County Recycling Commission.
Gross served 12 years on council, chaired the Recreation Committee and was on the Souderton-Telford Main Streets board, Reynolds said. Gross, who remains on the Souderton Borough Planning Commission, was very involved in the pool renovations, reconstruction of the Souderton train station and the planned Souderton Community Park improvements and additions, Reynolds said.
Malagari said Halbom, Gross and Powis each "demonstrated remarkable knowledge, ability and integrity carrying out his many responsibilities in service of the residents of Souderton Borough."
New council members Donna Rogers and Daryl Littlefield, who took the oath of office at the Jan. 6 meeting, replace Halbom and Gross on the council. Returning council members Julie Munden and Dan Yocum who begin a new term, were sworn in with Rogers and Littlefield.
"You all work so well together and I know that this newly-elected body will do the same thing," Gross told the council. "You all bring something wonderful to the table and I know that there are good things in store for Souderton in the future because of that."
Gross also praised Borough Manager Mike Coll, other borough workers and the police department for their work.
During the reorganization, Goshow was again chosen as board president, Munden was picked as vice president, replacing Gross who held that position last year, and council member Ned Leight was again chosen as president pro tem.
In other reorganization matters, Mike Coll was re-appointed borough secretary and treasurer along with his manager's job; the Landis, Hunsberger, Gingrich and Weik law firm was re-appointed as borough solicitor; Boucher & James was re-appointed as borough engineer; and Dan Houser re-appointed Vacancy Board chairman.
At the beginning of the meeting, a moment of silence was held in memory of two Perseverance Volunteer Fire Company members who recently died.
Robert "Bob" Greiser, 72, died Dec. 20.
"It was a line of duty death, coming back from a call," Mike Coll said.
On the morning of Jan. 6, he also found out that Ken Schuler, another of the fire department members, had died, Coll said.
Reynolds said he served on council in the 1990s with Ken Schuler's father, Sam Schuler, and sends his condolences to the family.
"Bob was a true wonderful resident of the borough," Reynolds said of Greiser.
"He wasn't very vociferous. He didn't speak a whole lot, but he got things done," Reynolds said. "He was unassuming, but Bob Greiser was one of the good guys."
"Bob served the fire company for 46 years. He was the chief engineer," Yocum said.
Greiser drove in borough parades, was fry cook at fire company fundraisers and was a Meals on Wheels volunteer, Yocum said before being overcome with emotion.
Yocum also noted the Jan. 6 death of former U.S. Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick, at age 56 of cancer.
Souderton was on the outskirts of Fitzpatrick's district, but "Mike was here with some regularity," Yocum said.
"I had the pleasure of working for Mike for a short time while I was in Washington," he said.
Fitzpatrick served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before not running for re-election in 2016.
"He only stepped down because of his strict belief in term limits," Yocum said, describing Fitzpatrick as a "moderate in a time of increasing polarization."
Mike Fitzpatrick's brother, Brian Fitzpatrick, now holds the seat.
The Jan. 6 Souderton Borough Council meeting also included formal approval of an increase in trash collection fees. The new rates had been announced during discussion of the borough's 2020 budget.
For residents using the tote system, the bill will now be $65 per quarter year, up $5 from the previous $60 per quarter. For people using the bag system, the base rate will be $22 per quarter year, up $2 from the previous $20 per quarter.
In another matter, Something Better owner and Souderton Business Improvement District Chairwoman Margaret Zglinicki said the BID and Souderton-Telford Main Streets are planning to combine into one organization focusing on Souderton.
"We're doing that so that it's less confusing for people to know who to come to, who is going to be working on things for them and with them," she said. "We are also refocusing so that we can support this town the way that it should be."
Not all the things that are planned will happen this year and some parts could take a number of years, she said.
"Some things that we've done in the past, we want to do better," Zglinicki said. "There's some things we haven't done yet and we are going to begin doing them."
Work has begun with a marketing specialist to brand Souderton, she said.