Board of Supervisor Minutes
March 8, 2006
MINUTES WERE APPROVED at the regular meeting March 22, 2006. MINUTES
OF MARCH 8, 2006 REGULAR MEETING:
Mr. Calabro moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of March 8, 2006. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, March 8, 2006 in the Township meeting room at 8:00 PM. In attendance were Supervisors: Chairman Anne Goren, Vice-Chairman Phillip Calabro, Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Schenkman and members Thomas Jirele and Richard Weaver. Also present were: Paul Beckert, Township Solicitor; Chris Fazio, Township Engineer; and Robert Pellegrino, Township Manager.
Call to Order: Chairman Anne Goren called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM with a moment of silence.
Invocation: The invocation was given by Reverend David Ridder of First Baptist Church of Newtown.
Additions and Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Pellegrino said that there would be no Planning Commission Report.
Swearing in of Police Officer Christian Joseph: District Justice Donald Nasshorn administered the oath of office to Police Officer Christian Joseph. Officer Joseph, a graduate of Penn State and Temple Universities, had served a number of years in Northampton before Coming to Newtown. The Board of Supervisors and the Police Department congratulated Officer Joseph.
Public Comment: Resident Nancy Crescenzo commented that the Board had agreed to follow up with the public on matters of concern brought to the podium during the public comment portion of the meeting and asked if there was anything to report.
Mr. Schenkman said that he agreed that the Board must be responsive to the public on matters of concern and suggested that, since the minutes of previous meetings are not made available to the Board until the week of the next meeting, questions of pressing concern be submitted in writing.
Mrs. Crescenzo reviewed some past public comment about the right turn lane that has been eliminated from Swamp Road at the intersection with Sycamore Street. She said that she is distressed that the Board is not planning to address this issue, but is waiting to see if improvements at the intersection of Swamp Road at South Eagle Road will alleviate some of the congestion.
Mrs. Crescenzo again complained that plants are being introduced to the Clark Nature Center that had not been there before. She referred to these as “invasive species” and expressed concern that these plants will damage the property. She said that she has notified a county agency about this issue.
Sue Herman of Lower Makefield read a statement objecting to a plan to reclassify roads in Newtown, Newtown Township and Lower Makefield before the traffic lights along the Newtown By-Pass have been synchronized. She said that this is an attempt to reclassify Stoopville Road as an arterial highway. She asked that the plan be abandoned until the light project and the Jointure’s redrafting of a master plan have been completed.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he strongly disagrees with Ms. Herman’s statements, and urged the Board to continue to improve Stoopville Road for through traffic.
Member Comments: Mr. Weaver reported that, as a follow-up to the County Summit sponsored by the Area Agency on Aging, each participating municipality is hosting a seminar for senior citizens. Newtown Township will host the seminar on March 30, 2006 at Chandler Hall from 9:00AM until 11:30 AM. Refreshments will be served, and the seminar is open to all Newtown senior citizens. Speakers will address such concerns as insurance, Medicare, living wills, powers of attorney, scams against seniors, identity theft, and transportation.
Minutes, Bills List and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Weaver moved to approve the minutes of February 22, 2006. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $418,835.64. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of Motion: Mrs. Crescenzo pointed out the cost of copier leases and supplies.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $3,213.99 Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Final Plan for Minor Subdivision/Lot Consolidation – Veterans Association – Brian Tomlinson: Mr. Murphy explained that the American Legion is seeking to subdivide its property on the east side of Linden Avenue, and to consolidate its six separate tax map parcels on the west side of Linden into one tax map parcel. The lot on the east side would be divided with lot one be consolidated with the Brian Tomlinson property on Linden, and lot two consolidated with the Yardley property on German Avenue. The Planning Commission had expressed some concern that this sale would eliminate eleven parking spaces currently belonging to the American Legion. A revised sketch plan has been submitted which identifies an area on the Legion property on the westerly side of Linden Avenue that would accommodate the loss of eleven spaces on the east side, without violating the impervious surface ratio requirements. The Legion would prefer to leave this area as green space unless or until the additional spaces are required.
In response to Mr. Schenkman’s question, Mr. Murphy said that the Legion will comply with the review letters of Boucher & James dated February 14, 2006, Remington & Vernick dated February 2, 2006 and the Bucks County Planning Commission dated February 7, 2006.
Mr. Beckert said that with the consolidation of the subdivided lot with the Yardley property on German Ave, the Yardley property would have access onto Linden Avenue. He reminded the Board that the Yardley property had been the subject of the Soccer & Lacrosse conditional use.
Mr. Jirele asked whether the neighbors were aware of this transaction.
Mr. Pellegrino noted that it has been advertised. The recording secretary has sent notices where required.
In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Murphy said that the distance from German Avenue to the lot line between the properties is about 85 feet.
Mr. Schenkman moved to grant approval of a final plan for minor subdivision of tax map parcel into two lots, with lot #1 consolidated into tax map parcel 29-11-27 and lot #2 consolidated into tax map parcel 29-11-39 with the conditions that:
Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Officials
Manager: Mr. Pellegrino noted that action is required on the Community Association Realty revised final plan at the March 22, 2006 meeting.
Mr. Jirele moved to award a contract for a Flail Head Mower to R&S Equipment Repair for $21,279. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Jirele moved to award contracts for sign materials and posts to Garden State Highway and U.S. Municipal Supply in the amount of $20,000. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Jirele moved too award a contract for road materials to Eureka Stone Quarry. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to extend the Zoning Hearing Board variance on the Dinardo property at 49 Stoopville Road to June 1, 2006. Mr. Jirele seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Beckert said that there is an outstanding matter of financial security and suggested that this be addressed as a condition of the signing of Mylars.
Mr. Weaver moved to authorize signing of Mylars for the Dinardo/Fowler minor subdivision with the condition that a financial security agreement is provided. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Pellegrino reported that HARB and Mr. Harwood are working to resolve some outstanding compliance issues with the new owners of the Pryda Property. LSAC has ordered a second light fixture and is awaiting a globe. Once it is installed the Newtown Gate HOA will choose which of two fixtures the homeowners prefer. A misprint in the Newtown Newsletter wrongly stated that an ordinance had been passed regarding Verizon. A consortium has been working to bring cable competition to the area. Verizon’s road opening permits are being updated.
Public Hearing on Emergency and Municipal Services Tax Ordinance: Mr. Beckert reported that there had been some concern about collecting and later refunding the tax to those who are exempt. The proposed ordinance has been revised to provide that an employee can file an affidavit stating that the employee’s income will not exceed $12,000 and that he would be exempt. The employer would then not be obligated to collect the tax from employees who have provided the affidavit. In response to Mrs. Goren’s question, Mr. Beckert said that Berkheimer would provide an affidavit form and it can be posted on the Township Web site.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that she had asked that the Board look for ways to reduce spending rather than raise taxes. She said that the Township should not spend more than it takes in.
Mr. Pellegrino said that the Township does not spend more than it takes in.
Mrs. Goren said that the tax would insure that those people coming into the Township to work will contribute to the services that they use.
Mrs. Crescenzo expressed concern about the future needs of the community and about the impact the new tax will have on businesses. She again stressed the need to reduce spending.
Mr. Schenkman pointed out some savings realized by purchases that have been below the budgeted amount.
Resident Robert Ciervo expressed concern that the $52 tax is an increase of 470%. He said that the Board should be looking at ways to reduce expenses. He said that the businesses in Newtown are already contributing through earned income tax and property tax. He noted that the proposed tax is excessive, raising more revenue than is needed to recoup the lost from the previously proposed home inspection fee. He said that $270,000 is needed and the tax will generate $535,000. He suggested that the Board look to reduce the budget by making the Park and Recreation Department 100% self-sufficient. He said that under-attended programs should be eliminated and successful programs, such as the summer camps, should be expanded. The cost of summer camp should be increased to be 100% self-sufficient. He noted that 4000 residents of Newtown are also employed here, and the tax is on these residents, not just those who come here to work.
Mr. Weaver said that the summer camp must rely on the space available through the schools, and cannot expand beyond the space available.
Mr. Calabro said that many of the 4000 residents employed in the Township would be exempt from the tax, based on income.
Mrs. Goren pointed out that many of the surrounding municipalities have already instituted this tax.
Mr. Jirele said that the Board should act responsibly in collecting the money that is needed, but only what is needed. The proposed tax would raise twice as much as is necessary, and there are no plans for what is to be done with the excess. Raising the tax to $30 would generate the needed $270,000, and he said that he would like the Board to only raise the tax to that amount.
Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the revised Emergency and Municipal Services Tax of $52 with an exemption on incomes below $12,000. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Jirele voting nay.
Sexual Predator Ordinance: Mr. Pellegrino provided updated maps of the Township with 1500 and 2000-foot radii around schools, daycare centers, playgrounds and some larger private facilities shown. The Board discussed whether to draft an ordinance prohibiting convicted sexual predators from living within these radii.
Mr. Schenkman said that within both distances there are ample housing options, and he said that he saw no legal reason not to use 2000 feet as the limit.
Mr. Calabro and Mr. Weaver agreed.
Mr. Jirele noted that with the inclusion of the private facilities, much of the southern portion of the Township is excluded.
Mr. Beckert said that an ordinance that would still provide a variety of housing options not excluded would be defensible if challenged.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize advertisement of an ordinance prohibiting sexual predators from living within 2000 feet of schools, playgrounds, daycare centers and the private facilities discussed. Mr. Weaver seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman said that the ordinance does not address the issue of sexual predators on the Internet and those who are known by their victims, such as family members. He suggested that the Board look into public service announcements about these concerns.
The motion passed unanimously.
Public Comment: Mrs. Crescenzo read aloud from the Bucks County Courier Times a list of activities specifically for senior citizens being offered in other communities. She said that Newtown needs a community center for senior citizens. She said that the trailers that are at the Newtown Middle School had been approved five years ago for only two years and they are still there.
In response to Mrs. Crescenzo’s comment about trailers at Council Rock High School North, Mr. Jirele said that the temporary trailers had been removed.
Mrs. Crescenzo asked whether there is a weight limit on the culvert at the Silver Lake Park parking lot. She noted that there is no guardrail and it could be dangerous.
Mr. Schenkman said that he was unfamiliar with this parking area and agreed to visit it and follow up on Mrs. Crescenzo’s comment. Mr. Jirele agreed with Mrs. Crescenzo and suggested that the Township Engineer should look into this.
Mrs. Crescenzo read the fee schedule for road opening permits, and inquired whether Verizon had been paying for these permits, and re-applying every sixty days, as required. She asked if she could look at records to confirm that Verizon’s fee payments are up to date.
Mr. Pellegrino said that Verizon had obtained permits under a 2004 fee schedule for work done in 2005. Money has been placed in escrow for permits and engineering inspections, and that escrow account is replenished when it falls below 50%.
Mrs. Crescenzo asked about a deck on a building on Sycamore Street that does not have the proper gate required by HARB.
Mr. Pelligrino said that Mr. Beckert and Mr. Harwood are working to enforce compliance with HARB on that Sycamore Street property. If Mrs. Crescenzo submits a written request for records, she can come into the Township Building and review those records.
Mr. Ciervo asked whether the public comment portion of the meeting could be used to put questions to Board members. He expressed concern about the appointment of Remington & Vernick as Township Engineers. He said that his criticism of the appointment is not “sour grapes” over the election results, but concern about the firm’s history and qualifications. He said that the public has a right to know why this firm was chosen. He attempted to read aloud from a newspaper article about the firm.
Mrs. Goren said that personnel matters are not open to public discussion, and that the Board has a right to make appointments.
Mr. Jirele disagreed and said that appointments are not personnel decisions and the public has a right to inquire as to the firm’s qualifications.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that Mr. Ciervo submit his concerns in writing to the Board so that the members can review his findings and be better prepared to respond to his questions.
Mr. Ciervo said that there has never before been a policy of written submission of public comment.
Mr. Jirele said that this is not what Mr. Schenkman was asking. He said that Mr. Ciervo can make public comment, but if he has information that he would like the Board to respond to, that information should be provided in advance of the meeting and the issue added to the agenda.
Mr. Ciervo began to sum up a newspaper article that accused Remington & Vernick of wrongdoing in another municipality. He said that the public has a right to know why the firm was chosen and what its hourly rate is.
Mr. D’Aprile asked about using reserve funds to balance the budget.
Mr. Pellegrino explained that the Board has made decisions to use certain reserve funds for certain projects, which is not the same as spending more than is brought in.
Mr. D’Aprile said that it has taken the new Board less than three months to raise taxes.
There would be an executive session after the meeting.
The meeting adjourned at 10:15PM.
Respectfully Submitted: ____________________________________
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary
Minutes Approved as submitted __________ as corrected___________
Robert M. Pellegrino, Manager Anne Goren, Chairman
Phillip Calabro, Vice-Chairman
Jerry Shenkman, Secretary/Treasurer
Thomas Jirele, Member
Richard Weaver, Member