Board of Supervisors
Minutes of March 14, 2007
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, March 14, 2007 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, James Watson, Township Engineer and Robert Pellegrino, Township Manager.
Call to Order: Chairman Anne Goren called the regular meeting to order at 8:00 PM
Invocation: Pastor Harry Whyte of More View Bible Church gave the invocation. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to Agenda: Mr. Pellegrino asked that signing of Mylars for St. Andrew’s Convent be added to his report, and that approval of minutes of February 21, 2007 be tabled until the next meeting.
Public Comment: Resident Mike Gallagher announced that the Newtown Crossing Homeowners Association is attempting to gather information about recent ceiling collapses in the development with a goal of working with contractors to negotiate repairs. Of particular interest is whether this problem is limited to a particular style or model of home. He asked anyone with information or concerns about this problem, which has recently resulted in one resident’s serious injury, to contact the Association at www.newtowncrossing.info
Mr. Gallagher announced that the Ancient Order of Hibernians would host its annual St. Patrick’s Day party on Saturday, March 17 at 7:00 PM at the Newtown American Legion Hall. Admission is $20. On Saturday, March 24, the Newtown Theater will have a special showing of the movie “Emerald Diamonds” at 1:00 PM. This is a documentary on the Irish National Baseball Team.
Referring to the collapse of ceilings in Newtown Crossing, Mr. Pellegrino said that the Township was not made aware of this problem until the most recent event. He said that the Township Code Department is not sure why this has happened, but will continue to investigate. The homes in Newtown Crossing were constructed under an older building code that had not required the use of drywall screws. This might have contributed to the problem. He urged anyone with concerns to contact the Codes department as well as Newtown Crossing Homeowners Association. He was very disappointed in the Courier Times’ editorial comments about the Township, when, in fact, no homeowners had ever reported the problem until the most recent event that resulted in injury. The Township does care about this problem and wants to help affected residents.
Mrs. Goren said that she had noticed some problems in her ceiling. Her home is about 19 years old and is not in Newtown Crossing. She urged those in homes built prior to the present building code to be aware of the problems.
Mr. Weaver suggested that the Newtown Crossing Homeowners Web site information be placed on the Township television channel and Web site.
Resident Robert Ciervo congratulated Mr. Pellegrino on his new position as Manager of Northampton Township. Newtown is losing a valuable asset. He asked for an update on plans for a sidewalk on State Street from the Bypass to Freedom Drive.
Mr. Pellegrino said that this paving is part of the road program, and would be conducted during the early summer, probably after school closes.
Mr. Ciervo said that he had attended the most recent Park and Recreation Board meeting, at which a presentation was made by a high school student about bringing a skate park to Newtown. The presentation was extremely well done. Mr. Ciervo had attempted to bring a skate park when he was in high school, and hopes that now, after more than twenty years, the park will be built. When considering possible locations for the park, he advocated the field behind Staples (no-name park) as the most convenient location for skaters and skate boarders. It is within walking distance of the high school and middle school, and is in close proximity to shopping areas where skaters could walk to get refreshments.Mr. Pellegrino said that the Township owns 3.25 acres of the no-name field area. The playing field takes up almost all of the Township’s land; if a skate park were placed there the field would be lost. He has spoken to Mr. Levine about other locations, including the municipal complex.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Bills List: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $262,490.87. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $329,431.42. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously. Mr. Schenkman made a motion to authorize interfund transfers from the general fund to the Payroll Money Market Fund totaling $150,000, and from the Parks & Recreation fund to the Payroll Money Market Fund totaling $10,000; a combined total of $160,000. Mr. Weaver seconded the motion, which passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Parks and Recreation Board: Chairman Andrew Levine reported that at its meeting of March 7, 2007, the Board heard a report on skate parks presented by Marcus Zotter. A very large number of parents and children were in attendance to support the concept. The Board discussed possible locations for a park and hopes to make a recommendation on location after its spring meetings. The Board has considered temporary locations, with a goal of moving the equipment to the Woll tract in two years when that park is completed, because the park equipment is built in components that are easily moved. The no-name field is the Township’s only soccer field, and there is some reluctance to lose it for a skate park, but there is the possibility of working with the shopping center owners about using some of the available land near the field. Carl Sedia Park has been the subject of ongoing discussions with senior citizens at Chandler Hall. Changing plans to make it a skate park would have to be discussed with those seniors. The open area across from Newtown Elementary School would need work to make it accessible to cars for parking and drop-off. The municipal complex, if space permits, would be a good temporary choice until the Woll tract is completed. Other considerations for the Board to consider before a recommendation can be made would be safety precautions, requirement of helmets and pads, and whether a fee would be charged, and if so, how the fee would be collected.
The Board also heard a presentation on artificial turf from a firm that packages the turf with sports lighting at a considerable discount. The artificial turf, while more expensive to purchase than grass fields, requires far less maintenance, and can be used constantly without damaging the surface. In response to Mrs. Goren’s question, Mr. Levine noted that there had been more injuries on astro-turf, but the new monofilament product has reduced injury substantially. In response to Mr. Jirele’s questions, Mr. Levine said that the Board had not yet gotten information on impervious surface ratios with the artificial turf, although the installation includes stormwater retention. In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Levine said that the Board hopes to make skate park recommendations after its May meeting. Once the Board of Supervisors has approved the park, the site would have to be prepared, after which fencing and installation of equipment would take about six weeks. The total cost for the skate park would be about $250,000. Fundraising efforts would not be undertaken until the Board of Supervisors has approved the recommendations.Mr. Calabro asked that Roberts Ridge Park also be considered as a possible location for a skate park.
Planning Commission: Vice Chairman Jay Sensibaugh reported that the Planning Commission had reviewed a conditional use application for Rouget, a restaurant in the location formerly occupied by Tasteful Teas. The Commission had some concerns about trash and about parking. The Commission recommended that the Board approve the application with conditions.
Following up on the Rouget discussion, the Commission discussed its concerns about trash and parking at the Village a Newtown South Shopping Center. The Commission recommended that the shopping center owners be invited to meet with the Supervisors to discuss the dumpsters and the current parking situation.
The Commission recommended approval of the minor subdivision of the Archdiocese’s property and for the rezoning of this conservation management property to municipal services.
The Commission voted to recommend approval of JMZO 2006-11, Landscape Contractor.In response to Mrs. Goren’s question, Mr. Sensibaugh said that Rouget would have a similar menu to Tasteful Teas, but would remain open for dinner.
Land Development Projects:
Reports of Officials:
Mr. Weaver moved to accept bids from Atlas Flasher of Norristown, PA and Garden State Highway of Vineland, NJ, for sign materials and posts. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Jirele’s question, Mr. Pellegrino explained that while the Township usually awards the lowest bidder, two companies went outside of the set bid with delivery time and shipping costs, therefore, they have been disqualified from the bid process.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Weaver moved to accept the bid of Eureka Stone Quarry and Hanson Aggregate for road materials. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Pellegrino explained that the Bucks County Consortium is an organization made up of 75% of the townships and boroughs in the county. Each member municipality prepares bid specs for different materials on behalf of the members to seek quantity discounts. Newtown has been a member of this consortium, and Mr. Pellegrino said that he has served on its executive committee. New Britain Township prepared the bid specs for the road materials on behalf of the consortium. Both Hanson Aggregates and Eureka Stone Quarry have been used in the past, and neither has any personal connection with Township or Board personnel.
The motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize signing of Mylars for St. Andrew’s Convent. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Old Business: Mr. Jirele said that he had asked the engineers about the floodplain analysis at the proposed Rockridge Development along Washington Crossing Road. He asked that this be addressed at the next work session.
Public Comment: Mr. Ciervo said that he has spoken to residents on Merion Drive who have concerns about flooding if the Rockridge development is built. They also have some concerns about recent discussions by a group called the Newtown Creek Coalition. They are concerned that there might be plans to provide public access to the creek behind their houses.
Mr. Schenkman said that he has attended some of the Newtown Creek Coalition meetings, and suspects that the use of the word “reclaiming” might be causing some confusion. This group is in the earliest stages of drafting a mission statement.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that many residents whose property abuts the creek have been in attendance at the meetings. The creek is being considered for possible enhancements, including cleaning and reparation of banks. He urged residents with concerns to attend the next meeting, Saturday morning, March 17 at 9:00 AM at Newtown Borough Hall.
Mr. Ciervo asked whether the trailers at Goodnoe Elementary School have had permit extensions. It had been his understanding that these were temporary. He also questioned whether they are monitored for safety and code violations.
Mr. Pellegrino said that the trailers had been permitted on a temporary basis and have had subsequent permit extensions. He referred Mr. Ciervo to the Codes department for updated information on safety inspections. In response to Mr. Calabro’s question, Mr. Pellegrino said that the Township does have the authority to force closure if the trailers were found to be unsafe.
New Business: Mr. Jirele moved to appoint Peggy Driscoll to the Planning Commission to fill out the term of former member Michael Piazza until December 2007. Mr. Weaver seconded and the motion passed 3-2, with Messrs. Calabro and Schenkman voting nay.
The meeting adjourned at 10:30 PM.