Published On: Wed, Feb 18th, 2015

New Hope Borough Council decides to hand visitors center over to Bucks County Playhouse

Pictured (L to R) are New Hope Borough Council member Rey Velasco, Council President Shaw, Solicitor T. J, Walsh, and Council Members Nick Gialias, Connie Gering and Bill Scandone

Pictured (L to R) are New Hope Borough Council Member Rey Velasco, Council President Shaw, Solicitor T. J. Walsh, and Council Members Nick Gialias, Connie Gering and Bill Scandone

New Hope Borough Council Tuesday night handed over the New Hope’s visitors center to the Bucks County Playhouse, subject to a definitive lease. What was unexpected was that the decision was apparently reached in less than two weeks’ time and involved a “non-existent” borough council committee that a key council member and at least one applicant thought did exist.

We’ll let a few of the quotes speak for themselves.

Statement by Borough Council President President Claire Shaw, Jan. 10:

“I have been working alone on resolving the vacancy of the Visitor’ Center, as many groups have reached out to me with propositions and/or ideas for the use of the center. As a result of numerous conversations with various interests, it became apparent to me, the building must remain available to visitors and become a vibrant hub of activity for New Hope.

“The vision of what that hub of activity would look like really began to take shape when [Bucks County Playhouse Producing Director] Alex Fraser and I began talking. The possibilities of what could be are now to the point other members of  Council must be involved in the discussions.

“To achieve that involvement, I have asked Connie Gering and Nick Gialias to become a part of this process. Our goal is to provide a showcase not only for the business community but also our non-profit organizations in town. Together, we will work the process and make recommendations to Council.”

Shaw at Borough Council meeting Feb. 17:

“I have read on more than one occasion that New Hope Borough has asked the Bucks County Playhouse to take over the visitors center. This is not true. I, nor anyone else from council, approached any organization to take over the visitors center.

“On Feb. 14, I sent a letter to all persons submitting a proposal stating that because council has had ample opportunity to review your proposal, a complete presentation of the proposal is not necessary. Further, the email stated that the time would be used for borough council members to ask questions about your proposal, and it further stated that the applicant would be allowed two minutes of time to speak.

“And this is in stark contrast to the accusation that I have decided not to hear any of the proposed…but simply be ready for a two minute question-and-answer period. That’s the way that was interpreted. Tonight, we are going to give people time to speak, about two minutes…they can summarize their project for the benefit of the press and those present.

“If there’s some committee supposedly comprised of Connie, Nick and me, [sic] was never created to review the proposals. I had asked Connie and Nick to join me in a meeting with Alex Fraser. I was one of seven, and I had asked them to join in that conversation, and we were not organized as a sub-committee to review proposals. 

Tonight, I learned that Connie thought we were a sub-committee, so that might answer that, but we are not an organized sub-committee. The statement that I met with Sherri [Daugherty] and the Bucks County Playhouse staff on their proposal extensively is simply not true. I have not…I’ve never met with Sherri. And so it’s another falsehood.

“For all concerned, a sub-committee does not exist nor will be formed to review the proposals unless it’s the wish of this council to do so…council has had the proposals well in advance of this meeting, maybe about a week and a half, two weeks.”

Bucks County Playhouse Producing Director Alex Fraser at Borough Council meeting Feb. 17:

“The first thing I thought of was ‘we can make this into a big box office, and that would really be fantastic to have it right on Main Street.’ The more that I’ve become engaged with this idea, the more I’m filled with a passion really that as the Playhouse fortunes rises, so does the town.”

About the Author

- “Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." - Einstein

Displaying 3 Comments
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  1. elicash9876@gmail.com' William G says:

    I’m a big fan of the Playhouse and am usually excited about what the owners and management bring to the town – the new venture at the Four Seasons, etc. – but that last quote from Alex Fraser is scary and disheartening. If anyone from the playhouse is reading this – please do the right thing and prove to us that that quote is somehow taken out of context and not a harbinger of things to come.

    And why am I not surprised that Claire Shaw seems to be using a lot of double speak and slimy maneuvering to get what she wants yet again? I’m already shocked there’s not an outcry for investigation into how she handled the Odette’s case that stands to indirectly (or perhaps one day directly) benefit her personally through her adjacent property.

    Now there seems to be quite a bit of backpedaling for her to explain a situation that even her fellow Council members understood completely differently.

    At least in this latest case I’m hopeful that the outcome will be beneficial to the town since I have hope that the Daugherty’s will do the right thing with this opportunity, but the Council leadership’s actions once again stink of weird small town backroom deal making.

  2. origin11@comcast.net' JaneAdele says:

    If the Playhouse does take over the visitors’ center, will they also be promoting restaurants, inns and businesses in town, or is this jut an extension of the Playhouse and its promotions?

    Will they hire any of the original staff, who are well-connected and trained in matters of the business community?

  3. bethoh@gmail.com' Beth Oh says:

    Thanks Charlie for another insight into our highly functioning Borough Council. Not that I’m complaining. Anything that takes power and influence away from petty local politicians and places it with people who have competence, business acumen, and skin in the game….New Hope wins

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