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Pope 35 Miles Away, But We’ll Feel His Impact

SANATOGA PA – The upcoming late September visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia will have a huge impact on the city’s infrastructure and resources, Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Michael Foltz acknowledged Monday (Aug. 3, 2015), but he expects the township and much of western Montgomery County to also feel its effects.

“It’s going to impact us out here,” Foltz assured the Board of Commissioners during its meeting in the Buchert Road municipal building, and warned its members his department may incur thousands of dollars in overtime costs shortly before, during and after the Sept. 25-27 papal visit.

Foltz, other police chiefs and emergency management coordinators in the county have already been involved in several planning meetings to determine how best to handle the millions of people who are anticipated for the event. A sizable number have booked hotel rooms here in the western suburbs, the chief said, because lodging closer to the city filled up months ago.

Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Michael Foltz, second from left, was among dozens of public officials who attended a July 21 Montgomery County Public Safety meeting about the papal visit

Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Michael Foltz was among dozens of public officials who attended this July 21 Montgomery County Public Safety meeting about the papal visit

The next such meeting, Commissioner Stephen Klotz reported, will soon be held in Upper Providence Township. The plans are intended to address items like gaining emergency access to blocked highways, managing crowds at facilities, and dealing with hundreds of buses and motor coaches that will shuttle visitors to papal events, Foltz added.

Lower Pottsgrove also will consider opening its emergency operations center for the period, and “designating a local emergency declaration” with the visit.

That declaration may have logistical and later financial benefits, Foltz noted. Although federal and state governments have not yet indicated they will cover any related local costs, declaring the emergency puts the township in a position to seek reimbursement if it becomes available.

The greatest hit to the department, Foltz told commissioners, may come in the form of policing manpower needed to respond to mutual aid calls. The township has we-help-you, you-help-us agreements with several neighboring municipalities, and he indicated the volume of those calls could rise significantly during the visit.

In July alone, according to the police department’s latest report, it provided mutual aid assistance on nine calls and received help on five.

Related (to the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ Aug. 3 meeting:

Top photo from the World Meeting of Families 2015
Bottom photo from the Limerick Police Department via Facebook

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