Expected influx of passengers to see the pope prompts emergency declaration in Bucks

 Middletown is home to one of the five train stations in Bucks County that SEPTA has chosen to serve tens of thousands of people visiting Center City the weekend of Sept. 26 and 27. I-95 and Route 1 also pass through the township. (Kim Paynter/WHYY)

Middletown is home to one of the five train stations in Bucks County that SEPTA has chosen to serve tens of thousands of people visiting Center City the weekend of Sept. 26 and 27. I-95 and Route 1 also pass through the township. (Kim Paynter/WHYY)

A Bucks County township has declared a state of emergency for the papal visit, while several others are reportedly preparing to do the same.

Middletown is home to one of the five train stations in Bucks County that SEPTA has chosen to serve tens of thousands of people visiting Center City the weekend of Sept. 26 and 27. The township’s Woodbourne station only has 400 parking spots. I-95 and Route 1 also pass through Middletown.

That’s why Police Chief Joe Bartorilla recommended the state of emergency declaration to the township’s board of supervisors.

However, he has gotten some backlash. Take one person who tweeted at the township’s account, “Couldn’t you call it a State of Extreme Excitement?'”

C’mon @MiddletownTwp – couldn’t you call it a State of Extreme Excitement? #popeinphilly #imageproblem http://t.co/rUIKpoyP6D via @phillymag

— William Riechers (@hashtagsongs) July 27, 2015

“We have to call it something,” Bartorilla said. 

While he would prefer “state of preparedness,” the former inspector with the Philadelphia Police Department explained the declaration ensures all necessary public workers will be on deck that weekend.

It also makes Middletown eligible for any state or federal funding that might become available to pay back police overtime or other costs, although he doubts there will be any money coming from the federal government. Bartorilla said it also doesn’t guarantee that the township will have to shell out any money for overtime. 

Bristol Township, which also hosts a SEPTA-designated train station, will likely declare a state of emergency for the papal visit, according to emergency management director Kevin Dippolito who noted the final decision will come from the township manager in September.

His chief concern is not funding for overtime. It’s the increased potential for accidents on major roadways that pass through the township — especially since those accidents could be more likely to involve high-occupancy vehicles such as chartered buses.

“Having emergency declaration allows us to make whatever decisions we need to make to handle the situation,” Dippolito said.

The Bucks County Courier Times reported Tullytown and Warminster are also planning to declare states of emergency. 

Bensalem, another town on SEPTA’s approved train route, is leaning against it, said public safety director Fred Harran.

Bartorilla and Dippolito both said Bucks County officials are considering whether to declare a state of emergency countywide, although spokeswoman Theresa DeSantis said “nothing is set in stone.”

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