Board of Supervisors Minutes
June 12, 2002
MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting June 26, 2002. REGULAR MEETING OF 6/12/02: Mr. Weaver moved to approve the minutes of the 6/12/02 regular meeting with one change. The last sentence of the Sycamore Street Committee report should read: “Mr. Lombardi said that he would like to see…”. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, June 12, 2002, in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Scott Harp, Vice Chairman Tom Jirele, Treasurer Richard Weaver, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer Anne Goren and Member Raymond Goodnoe. Also present were: Sycamore Street Committee Chairman Vince Lombardi, Planning Commission Vice Chairman Allen Fidler, Park and Recreation Board Chairman Bernie Bires, HARB Vice Chairperson Elinor Campbell, Township Solicitor Stephen Harris, Township Engineer Chris Walker, Township Manager Bob Pellegrino and Township Finance Director Elaine Gibbs.
CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Harp called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence.
INVOCATION: Given by Father Larry Snyder of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
ADDITIONS TO THE AGENDA: Mr. Harp announced that there will be an executive session for matters of litigation and land acquisition; and Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions will be presented before the discussion of the Council Rock School District Redistricting petition. He also noted that several Boy Scouts from Troop 380 are present tonight to fulfill a merit badge requirement.
MINUTES, BILLS LIST AND REPORTS:
APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
REGULAR MEETING OF 5/22/02: Mr. Weaver moved to approve the minutes of the 5/22/02 regular meeting with one correction. In the discussion of Mr. Goodnoe’s motion regarding the Newtown Community Center Alliance in New Business, the first sentence should read”… the appearance of a commitment of financial support for a Township owned community center.” The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously.
WORK SESSION OF 5/20/02: Mrs. Goren moved to approve the minutes of the 5/20/02 work session. The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously.
BILLS LIST: Mr. Weaver moved to pay bills totaling $775,982.41; the motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously.
INTERFUND TRANSFERS: Mr. Weaver moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $210,000.00; the motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.
POLICE PENSION MANAGER - RECOMMENDATION: Mr. Weaver said that a year ago the Pension Committee recommended that the Township change the manager of the Police Large Cap Growth Fund. At that time the Board decided to postpone the change. The Pension Fund has once again recommended a change from Provident to Ashland. Mr. Weaver said that Ashland has a good record.
Mr. Weaver moved to change the manager of the Police Large Cap Growth Fund from Provident to Ashland. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Goodnoe asked if the PBA representative on the Pension Committee is in agreement with this change. Elaine Gibbs, Township Finance Director, was present and stated that the representative was advised of the recommendation and did not express an opinion. Mr. Goodnoe said he will consider his silence to be consent.
Mr. Weaver’s motion passed unanimously.
PUBLIC HEARING - RCN - REQUEST TO MODIFY THE CABLE TELEVISION FRANCHISE: Mr. Harp said that RCN has asked that the public hearing be continued to 8/14/02, and has waived the requirement that the hearing be held within 120 days of the request. Mr. Harp opened the hearing.
Mr. Jirele moved to continue the hearing on RCN’s request to 8/14/02. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously.
REPORTS OF COMMITTEES, BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS:
PLANNING COMMISSION: Vice Chairman Allen Fidler reported on the Commission’s 6/4/02 meeting. The Commission reviewed a report from the Traffic Engineer and reviewed a sketch plan for an addition to the Newtown Fire Company. They also reviewed a conditional use application from Green Tea, Inc., for a restaurant and retail shop in the Village of Newtown, and recommended approval of the application.
The Commission discussed buffer standards in the ordinance, and is looking into a proposal to make buffer standards part of the conditional use process. The Commission also reviewed several proposed JMZO amendments and decided to ask the Regional Planning Commission’s solicitor to come to a future meeting to discuss the amendments in detail. Members discussed possible zoning changes for the remaining undeveloped tracts in the OR District and will be studying data on traffic and tax revenues. JMZO amendments on riparian corridors and forestry will be reviewed in the future. Mr. Harris said he recently wrote a memo on this subject, and will send copies to the Planning Commission.
PARK AND RECREATION BOARD: Bernie Bires, Chairman of the Park and Recreation Board, reported on the Board’s 6/5/02 meeting. They approved a proposal from a Boy Scout to clean up the Clark property as an Eagle Scout project, discussed the Roberts Ridge playground, heard about a DVRPC grant for more trees, recommended changing the name of Swamp Road Park to Helen Randle Park, and heard from a subcommittee that met with residents near Hidden Lake. There will be no July meeting.
Mr. Harp noted that the First Fourth celebration is set for 7/6/02.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL: Mr. Weaver said he was unable to attend the most recent meeting. He asked the Board of Supervisors to adopt Resolution 2002-16 amending the membership structure of the Council. He also provided copies of a 6/12/02 letter from the Council.
Linda Mitchell of the Newtown Business and Professional Association said the letter asks the Board of Supervisors to review the issues of medical uses in the LI District, the appointment of a Supervisor as a liaison to the Newtown Community Center Alliance, and the denial of the Law School Admissions Council’s expansion plan. She said it also asks that more detailed reports on the Council meetings be presented at the Board of Supervisors meetings, and that the Supervisors solicit input from Council members through an agenda circulated prior to the Council’s meetings.
RESOLUTION 2002-16: Mr. Weaver moved to adopt Resolution 2002-16 amending the membership structure of the Business Development Council. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Goodnoe asked if the resolution was approved by the Council; Mr. Weaver said it was.
Mr. Weaver’s motion passed unanimously.
JOINTURE: Mr. Weaver said the June meeting of the Jointure was canceled, and the next meeting will be in August.
HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD: Moved to later in the agenda.
SYCAMORE STREET COMMITTEE: Committee Chairman Vince Lombardi reported on the Committee’s recent meeting. The Committee continues to try to keep most of the heavy work in the evening hours. The Committee is also developing a plan for street enhancements, which will include sycamore trees, benches, planters, cross walks, etc. HARB Chairman Terry McLean discussed fences and lighting with the Committee, including a fence on the bank of Newtown Creek. Members are also working on obtaining construction easements from Sycamore Street property owners. Mr. Lombardi congratulated the members of the Committee, whom he described as dedicated and hard working.
Mr. Jirele said that the Committee will probably be able to do all of their list of desired enhancements, thanks to the grant received recently from the state.
Mr. Goodnoe asked if there will be a traffic light at Silo Drive. Mr. Lombardi said it was not approved, but the Committee will submit a revised application to PennDOT. Mr. Goodnoe asked if the Newtown Creek bank is being stabilized as part of this project. Mr. Lombardi responded that it is not part of the current project, and a different grant must be sought for that work. Mr. Goodnoe said that he would like to see a “Friends of Newtown Creek” group formed.
FINANCIAL PLANNING COMMITTEE: Mr. Weaver said the Committee met on 6/11/02 and heard Mr. Harwood present the future capital needs of the Public Works Department. Mr. Harwood told them that more road resurfacing will be needed as the Township’s infrastructure ages. New road equipment will be needed, including a replacement for an aging road sweeper.
Mr. Jirele said the need for a new road sweeper was brought up a few years ago, but it turned out that someone could be hired to do the work of the sweeper for ten years for the price of a new one. Mr. Harp asked Mr. Pellegrino to research this alternative and bring a recommendation to the Committee.
SPECIAL ACTIONS (CONTINUED):
COUNCIL ROCK SCHOOL DISTRICT - REDISTRICTING PETITION: Mr. Harp said the Board of Supervisors will be discussing three plans that have been submitted to the court, and will give instructions to the Solicitor regarding how to represent the Township at a conference on 6/13/02 with Judge McAndrews. Mr. Harris explained the purpose of the conference on 6/13/02 is to prepare for a hearing on 7/12/02. Mr. Jirele asked Mr. Harp to begin by describing the three plans being considered.
Mr. Harp said the three plans are the Byrne/Rogers plan, the Wrightstown/Upper Makefield plan, and the School District’s plan. He asked for public comment first, after which the Board will discuss the plans.
Mr. Goodnoe asked if tomorrow’s conference was a process or policy discussion. Mr. Harris said the judge will largely determine that. He added that the attorney representing the Byrne/Rogers plan has filed a petition to strike the Wrightstown/Upper Makefield plan because it was not filed with the required number of signatures on the petition, and it had few other technical deficiencies.
Mr. Harp asked Allen Rogers, one of the petitioners who proposed the Byrne/Rogers plan, to explain the plan to the public. Dr. Rogers stated he is a former School Board member. He explained that when the Council Rock School District was formed in 1967 it encompassed about 18,000 residents; it now has about 70,000 residents. The School District is required to have nine members, and they are currently elected from nine districts which now range from about 3,000 to about 18,000 residents, resulting in uneven representation on the School Board.
Dr. Rogers said that his plan calls for three districts, each of which will elect three directors; the other two call for nine districts. He said that his plan will mean not only more even representation but also better governance.
Mr. Jirele asked that the other two plans be explained before the merits of each are discussed. Mr. Harp asked Dr. Rogers to complete his presentation.
Dr. Rogers displayed three maps showing how the District would be divided up by each of the three plans. He said that neither the School Board plan nor the Wrightstown/Upper Makefield plan would distribute the population as evenly as his plan does. He also said that some of the districts in the latter plan would be in noncontiguous segments.
Mr. Jirele asked if districts are required to be contiguous. Mr. Harris said the law does not refer to this question.
Dr. Rogers said his plan is superior because changes in population will not affect the evenness of representation as much as they will in the nine district plans. He also said that it is more likely in a nine district plan that some regions will pay more in school taxes than others. He said that under the present plan, people paying less in taxes actually have more votes. He further stated that under his plan, there will be a wider base from which good candidates can emerge, and it gets away from the present orientation towards municipalities.
Mr. Jirele said the principal of one man, one vote should prevail. He said that what someone pays in taxes should not affect their representation.
Jerold Grupp, a member of the Council Rock School Board, asked why Dr. Rogers, Mr. Byrne and others dissatisfied with the current structure of the School Board did not contact him to discuss it before filing a petition in court. He said the Rogers/Byrne plan will result in factions on the School Board, make it very expensive to run for a seat, and mean the loss of several very good current School Board members.
Mr. Harp observed that all three plans seem to be driven by consideration of the distribution of population. Mr. Jirele said he regretted that no one was invited to speak on the Wrightstown/Upper Makefield plan.
Glenn Beasley, a Township resident, said he would like to see a structure which guarantees Newtown Township residents at least two seats on the School Board, and none of the plans do this. He outlined an alternative plan, in which Northampton Township would have five districts, Upper Makefield would be one district, Newtown Borough, Wrightstown and part of Newtown would be one district, and the rest of Newtown would be two districts.
Paul Salvatore, a Township resident, said that School Board Directors should represent the whole area, not just the district in which they are elected. He said he is concerned about references to representation of particular districts, as well as connecting representation to the amount of taxes paid. He said the issue should have been brought to the public before expensive legal services were involved.
Mrs. Goren said the Board of Supervisors were initially told that they could not discuss the issue, which would have been using taxpayer money. Mr. Jirele said the Board could have discussed it without using public funds.
Mike Iapalucci, a Township resident, said that rapid development in the area will bring changes in the distribution of population in the near future.
Nancy Cresenczo, a Township resident, said no one went to the School Board and asked them to work on redistricting, although the judge said the people in this community should get together and come back with a plan.
Nancy Carroll, a Newtown Borough resident, said that Northampton Township has also developed a plan for redistricting which is similar to the School Board’s plan. Ms Carroll said she favors a nine district plan because it will cost less to run a campaign in a smaller district, will prevent Board members from forming factions and keeps Newtown Grant residents together. She said that the Byrne/Rogers plan could result in Northampton getting all nine seats.
Mr. Harp asked for comments from Board members.
Mr. Goodnoe said he does not favor a three district plan. He said that Mr. Beasley’s suggestion is similar to the Wrightstown/Upper Makefield plan. He stated he favored the School District’s plan because it is a good balance of fair representation and geographic consistency.
Mr. Harp said he favors the Byrne/Rogers plan. He said he likes the idea of more frequent voting. He does not like the way that the Wrightstown/Upper Makefield plan puts Newtown Township into four different districts, and the School District’s plan puts the Township into three districts.
Mr. Weaver said he favors the three district plan because it gives Newtown Township the best opportunity for fair representation.
Mr. Jirele said the three district plan is an improvement over the present structure, but it might even lead to Newtown Township being over-represented. He noted that Newtown Borough opposed the three district plan. He suggested that the various groups in the community follow the judge’s request to get together and try to find a solution. This would avoid further litigation, and would make the students the focus of the discussion.
Mr. Jirele moved to instruct the Solicitor to bring all the parties together to work out a mutually agreeable solution. The motion was seconded by Mr. Goodnoe.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Goodnoe said this should have been done long ago.
Mr. Salvatore said he agrees with Mr. Jirele’s motion. Dr. Rogers said the discussion should be with the School Board, not with the municipalities. Mr. Jirele said the School Board could be involved as well.
Mr. Grupp said the court can consider only the most recent census, not demographic projections. He said the School Board can reorganize the districts each year if necessary.
Mr. Jirele said that if all parties can get together they can come up with a lasting solution.
Mrs. Goren said there are too many disparate interests among the parties; the authority of a judge is needed to find a solution.
Ms Cresenczo suggested that the Township ask the judge for an extension of the deadline for the hearing.
Ms Carroll said she attended the original hearing, and Mr. Jirele’s motion follows the judge’s wishes.
John D’Aprile and Mark Byelich, Township residents, said they support Mr. Jirele’s motion.
Mr. Beasley said he also supports Mr. Jirele’s motion, but he still wants the Township to advocate for at least two designated Newtown seats on the School Board.
Mr. Jirele’s motion passed 3-2, with Mr. Harp and Mrs. Goren voting “nay”.
Mrs. Goren said the other parties have already taken a position, so the Township needs to take one at the conference tomorrow. Mr. Harris said the judge is likely to ask him where the Township stands. Mr. Jirele said the Township can state it does not have a position, but it wants to discuss the issue and work with everyone to find a good plan. Mr. Weaver said that is the stated purpose of the conference. Mr. Harp said the Board of Supervisors needs to give Mr. Harris some direction.
Mrs. Goren said almost anything is better than the present situation, but she favors the three district plan.
Mrs. Goren moved to adopt the three district plan presented tonight as the Board of Supervisors’ recommendation. The motion was seconded by Mr. Harp.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Jirele pointed out that the judge’s order instructed the various parties to meet and discuss the issue. Mrs. Goren said she would like to instruct Mr. Harris to advocate for the Byrne/Rogers plan, but to state that the Township is open to discussion.
Mr. Goodnoe said he saw no need for the Township to go into the conference with a position. Mr. Jirele said the Township should be as open minded as possible.
Dr. Rogers said it was attorneys for the Byrne/Rogers plan and the School District who suggested tomorrow’s conference.
Mr. Salvatore suggested instructing Mr. Harris to say the Township is in favor of the three district concept, not the Byrne/Rogers plan.
Mrs. Goren’s motion passed 3-2, with Mr. Jirele and Mr. Goodnoe voting “nay”.
Mr. Harris said his understanding is that he is to work to get all parties together to discuss the issue, but the starting point for Newtown Township is the Byrne/Rogers plan.
REPORTS OF COMMITTEES, BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS (CONTINUED):
HISTORIC ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW BOARD (HARB): Vice Chairperson Elinor Campbell reported on HARB’s 6/11/02 meeting, at which they reviewed and approved an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for a new roof for Del Purscell’s building on Sycamore Street. Mrs. Campbell thanked Mr. Jirele for his services as liaison between the Board of Supervisors and HARB.
Mr. Jirele moved to approve a Certificate of Appropriateness for Delano and Phyllis Purscell for a new roof for their property at 127 South Sycamore Street, in accordance with the recommendation of HARB. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Goren and passed unanimously.
DONATION TO POLICE DEPARTMENT: Mr. Weaver thanked Dave and Nancy Harris for donating masks to the Police Department. The masks will protect against biological and chemical agents.
SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER: Mr. Jirele asked what was happening regarding the School Resource Officer. Mr. Pellegrino said funding for this item will be discussed by the School Board later this month.
Nancy Cresenczo expressed concern that three of the five Supervisors do not want to talk about important issues.
Nancy Carroll said the Board of Supervisors needs a “Plan B” for tomorrow’s conference on redistricting.
Glenn Beasley suggested the Township research what the costs of operating a community center would be, and rethink the decision about the Law School Admissions Council building. He said that the LSAC project would generate over $100,000 on tax revenue. He said the Township should create a better environment for businesses and appoint a liaison to the Newtown Community Center Alliance.
John D’Aprile, A Township resident, expressed concern about the political content of the discussions tonight.
Paul Salvatore said he disapproves of an insulting newspaper advertisement placed by Mr. Harp’s faction and the politically motivated voting on the Board of Supervisors.
Alan Harvison, a Township resident, quoted several local newspaper stories about the community center issue. He said that those involved with the Newtown Community Center Alliance are trying to eliminate competition.
Rick Abramson, a resident of Newtown Grant and a School Board member, said he supports the School Board plan.
REPORTS OF OFFICIALS:
VACANCIES: Mr. Harp reported there are two vacancies on Township Boards for which candidates have been brought forward.
CABLE ADVISORY BOARD: Mrs. Goren moved to appoint James P. Monahan to the Cable Advisory Board. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.
JOINT HISTORIC REVIEW BOARD: Mrs. Goren moved to appoint Gail Laughlin to the Joint Historic Review Board. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed 4-1, with Mr. Goodnoe voting “nay”.
GAS MASKS: Mr. Harp noted that gas masks were donated to the Police Department.
HELEN RANDLE PARK: Mr. Harp said the Swamp Road Park will be dedicated on 6/29/02, and a resolution will be needed to officially change the name to Helen Randle Park.
Mrs. Goren moved to prepare a resolution changing the name of Swamp Road Park to Helen Randle Park. The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously.
INTERIM REPORT TO THE COMMUNITY: Mr. Harp announced that an Interim Report to the Community from the Board of Supervisors is available to the public.
WORK SESSION OF 6/17/02: Mr. Harp said the agenda for next week’s work session is light. With no objections, Mr. Harp canceled the work session.
OTHER BOARD MEMBERS:
BUCKS COUNTY TRANSPORTATION MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION (BCTMA): Mrs. Goren reported that on 6/11/02 she attended a meeting of the BCTMA. The group heard about the latest transportation initiatives, a new DVRPC grant, changes in SEPTA schedules, and a presentation by Andrew Warren, PennDOT District Six Administrator.
PLAN EXPIRATIONS: Mr. Pellegrino said there are no expirations needing to be addressed.
ST. ANDREW’S RECTORY - DEMOLITION PERMIT: Mr. Harris said that St. Andrew’s Church granted the Township an extension on the deadline to issue a demolition permit for the rectory in order to allow the Newtown Joint Historic Commission time to make a plan for the preservation of the rectory. Unfortunately the cost of having the utilities moved is excessive. The Supervisors had copies of letters written by Representative David Steil to PECO and Verizon asking those companies to donate at least some of those costs.
Larry Fink, Chairman of the Joint Historic Commission, said he felt the Commission has made substantial progress in planning. He asked that the church grant an additional extension.
Mr. McKernan, attorney for St. Andrews, said his instructions were to offer an extension of two weeks to a month. He said the church’s costs are going up, and he sees no real progress. Mr. Harris asked if the church would grant an extension. of 30 days, and Mr. McKernan said they would. Mr. Harris said no further appearances before the Board of Supervisors will be necessary at the end of that period.
Mr. Jirele asked Mr. Pellegrino to contact PECO and Verizon on behalf of the Joint Historic Commission. He also asked if the utility companies could donate the costs to the Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation. Mr. Harris said there is a program allowing utilities to donate to community groups for such causes as historical preservation.
ACME BUILDING - DRAFT AGREEMENT WITH REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: Mr. Harris provided copies of a draft agreement with the Redevelopment Authority. He said the draft will be revised further.
ENGINEER: Mr. Walker provided a report on current engineering projects, and asked if there were any questions; there were none.
OLD BUSINESS: None.
ESCROW RELEASE - NEWTOWN OFFICE COMMONS: Mrs. Goren moved to release $1,582,266.04 in escrow funds for the Newtown Office Commons project, based on Certificate of Completion #1. The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously.
resolution 2002-17 approving merger of comcast and at&t: Mr. Harp said the Cable TV Advisory Board and Fred Polner have recommended approval of the merger.
Mr. Weaver moved to adopt Resolution 2002-17 accepting the merger of Comcast and AT&T. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jirele and passed unanimously.
COMMUNITY COMMENT (CONTINUED):
Nancy Cresenczo asked if all members of the Board of Supervisors approved the Interim Report. Mr. Harp responded that he and Mr. Pellegrino developed the report. Ms Cresenczo asked about funding for the improvements to the Clark property. Mr. Pellegrino said that the Township will install the parking lot. Ms Cresenczo asked the Board to work with other municipalities on regional traffic problems.
John D’Aprile asked about the asbestos problem in the Acme building. Mr. Pellegrino said the building is being used for storage, and the asbestos is not being disturbed or causing a problem.
EXECUTIVE SESSION: At 12:30 AM the Board adjourned for a brief executive session to consider a matter of land acquisition. The Board returned to the public meeting at 12:35 AM.
ROAD WIDENING - LOWER SILVER LAKE ROAD: Mr. Harris explained that the Township needs to acquire a right of way from PECO to widen Lower Silver Lake Road. He said that PECO is asking $12,800, and the Township Appraiser agrees with this price.
Mr. Jirele moved to authorize the purchase of the necessary right of way along Lower Silver Lake Road from PECO for $12,800. The motion was seconded by Mr. Weaver and passed unanimously.
ADJOURNMENT: With no objections, Mr. Harp adjourned the meeting at 12:40 AM, 6/13/02.
Gretta Stone, Recording Secretary
Minutes Approved as submitted _______ as corrected _______
Scott R. Harp, Chairman
Thomas Jirele, Vice Chairman
Anne Goren, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer
Richard Weaver, Treasurer
Raymond Goodnoe, Member