Landfill, Candidates Get Noticed

Posted: March 20, 1986

With its odors and liquefied decomposed waste so worrisome to neighboring residents, a Lower Moreland landfill provided a setting last weekend for the kind of minor political drama that seems to occur most often around election time.

For three years, the Terwood Road landfill, a final resting place for demolition debris, has been the source of neighbors' complaints because of its irritating odors and the fears of possible water contamination that would affect backyard wells.

On Saturday, state Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf (R., Montgomery) conducted a 4 1/2-hour public hearing on the subject at the Lower Moreland Township Building. Greenleaf has been involved in the environmental problems from the beginning, but the public hearing was his first on the subject.

Greenleaf is running for a third four-year Senate term this year. He is unopposed, but the Democrats have until September to nominate an opponent.

The senator's staff said the hearing would be much more than a meeting with constituents; it would be an official public hearing of the state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, of which Greenleaf is a member. Witnesses would be sworn in, and a transcript would be printed and distributed.

A Greenleaf aide, Hank Hallowell, announced that the committee's chairman, state Sen. D. Michael Fisher of Pittsburgh (R., Allegheny), would attend the hearing and learn the severity of the problem firsthand. Other senators on the 10-member committee might attend the hearing, too, Hallowell said.

It would be convenient for Fisher, because he was scheduled to be the featured speaker at the annual Hatboro Republican Organization's dinner-dance that would be conducted that same night in nearby Upper Moreland Township.

Fisher is running for lieutenant governor this year. Unopposed in the GOP primary, he was the handpicked choice of a Republican gubernatorial candidate, William W. Scranton 3d, the current lieutenant governor.

Plans also were made for state Rep. Roy W. Cornell, a Republican who represents Lower Moreland, to attend the hearing and, if time permitted, take the first-ever tour of the landfill given by its owners.

Cornell is running for a fifth two-year term this year. He is being challenged by Democrat Thomas P. Murt of Upper Moreland.

Four days before the hearing, however, Fisher wrote Greenleaf that he would ''be unable to attend the public hearing scheduled to be held. I do plan to be present for the tour of the Lower Moreland landfill."

Greenleaf ended up being the only senator who attended the Senate public hearing in Lower Moreland. But the senator didn't sit alone. Rep. Cornell and Greenleaf aide Hallowell sat with him on the dais.

Fisher was unable to attend the hearing because he marched in Pittsburgh's St. Patrick's Day parade earlier Saturday. His plane didn't arrive in the area until 3:35 p.m., the same time the hearing was scheduled to end.

Around 4 p.m., Fisher arrived at the front gate of the landfill and waited for Greenleaf so they could tour the 10-acre open pit together.

But the hearing didn't end until 5:45 p.m. By that time, Fisher already had toured the landfill and gone on to the Hatboro home of Louis Sayland to shower and change his clothes for the GOP dinner-dance in Upper Moreland.

Not coincidentally, at that time the same Hatboro home happened to be the scene of a $100-a-head political fund-raiser for Cornell, an event separate

from the dinner-dance.

For his part, Cornell had left the landfill hearing one hour before it ended so he would not miss his own fund-raiser. But he missed the tour of the landfill, which Greenleaf eventually took around dusk.

As his committee's hearing went on without him, Fisher was asked in a telephone interview why he was at a political fund-raiser while the hearing continued several miles away.

Fisher replied: "I stopped in here strictly to change my clothes. This event (the Cornell fund-raiser) is not for me."

Several minutes before, Fisher's campaign manager, Jim D'Innocenzo, had told a reporter that the senator could not come to the telephone because he was greeting people at the fund-raiser. "He's making his rounds," D'Innocenzo said.

Fisher said he was represented at the hearing by his staff lawyer. He said that he had hoped to attend the hearing but that his attendance at the parade prevented it. He intended to read the transcript, he said, and talk to Greenleaf about what he missed.

Fisher's campaign manager said, "In lieu of going to the hearing, we stopped by the landfill site and we toured the landfill."

Fisher said he traveled to Montgomery County "specifically for the Hatboro Republican dinner. It was not for the hearing." His campaign committee paid his travel expenses, he said.

In addition, Fisher said that he did not try to raise any campaign funds for his lieutenant governor's candidacy at the Cornell fund-raiser.

Although he was the featured speaker at the dinner-dance later that night, Fisher did not attend that event for the purpose of raising campaign funds either, said Vincent A. Kaitz Jr., the Hatboro Republican leader and the man who invited the western Pennsylvanian to the area.

"It's exposure for Senator Fisher," Kaitz said.

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