Board of Supervisors
Minutes of September 10, 2008
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, September 10, 2008 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Thomas Jirele, Vice-Chairman Robert Ciervo, Secretary-Treasurer Michael Gallagher, and Philip Calabro, member. Also present were: Joseph S. Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Jirele called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence. Pastor Christopher Edwards of Northampton Presbyterian Reformed Church gave the invocation. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski said that the concept plan for land development for the Promenade has been removed from the agenda and that an agreement of sale has been added to the solicitor’s report.
Proclamation in Honor of Bill Marsh Ford’s 50 th Anniversary: Mr. Jirele read a proclamation in honor of Bill Marsh Ford’s 50 th anniversary in Newtown Township on Sycamore Street, after it moved in 1958 from North State Street in Newtown Borough. He thanked Joseph Merjeski of Bill Marsh Ford for the dealership’s many contributions to Newtown Township, particularly Mr. Merjeski’s support of so many civic efforts along Sycamore Street, and wished the Bill Marsh Ford organization another successful 50 years in Newtown Township.
Oath of Office for New Police Officer: Judge Donald Nasshorn administered the Oath of Office to Gregory Rupar, the newest member of the Newtown Township Police Force. Mr. Jirele, Judge Nasshorn and Police Chief Henry Pasqualini welcomed Officer Rupar.
Police Officer Recognitions: Mr. Jirele presented commendations to Newtown Township Police Officer Paul J. Deppi and Sergeant Mark Pentz for their work in saving the life of Jessica Perrigo. Officer Deppi responded to a call of an unresponsive child, and found four year old Jessica not breathing. He quickly began CPR, and when Sergeant Pentz arrived they transported Jessica to St. Mary’s Hospital. Newtown Ambulance had been dispatched and met the officers in route. A letter from the doctor at St. Mary’s recognized that Officer Deppi’s quick action saved Jessica’s life.
Perrigo family friend Christine Lloyd thanked the officers on behalf of the Perrigo family and presented Officer Deppi and Sergeant Pentz with a donation to the Newtown Police charity and a photograph of little Jessica.
Mr. Jirele presented a commendation to Officer Thomas Rawa, who responded to a call of a two year old child choking. Officer Rawa administered back thrusts, clearing the child’s airway.
Mr. Jirele presented commendations to Officers Christian Joseph, Paul Deppi, Frank Ambrose, Sergeant Mark Pentz and Detectives Charles Palko, Jr. and Jason Harris for their work in apprehending a suspect who failed to stop for a traffic violation, leading the Police on a chase that ended with the suspect hitting two police cars before losing control of the vehicle in Tyler State Park. Further investigation revealed that the suspect had committed several burglaries in Newtown Township and surrounding municipalities and is under investigation for an incident in Delaware County involving shots fired at police.On behalf of the Board, administration and residents, Mr. Jirele thanked all of the Police for their efforts and excellent work. He said that he would like to continue to recognize the Police Department, twice yearly, for its outstanding work.
Resident Laurie Weiniger said that she lives in the Windermere development and has concerns about parking along the west side of Lower Dolington Road near Roberts Ridge Park. She is concerned that small children might run into traffic when they are being taken to or from a parked car along the side of the road. She asked whether parking could be restricted, as there is ample, safe, parking in the parking lot and at nearby Goodnoe Elementary School.
Mr. Jirele said that this issue had been investigated a few years ago by the Police department. It was found that there is adequate room along the roadside for safe parking. At that time it was recommended that parking be restricted only on the east side of the road.
Dr. Ciervo said that he understands Ms. Weiniger’s concern and would like to have more input from residents of the Lower Dolington area and users of the park as well as the Park an Recreation Board and the Police Department. He said that he himself has parked along the road because of the distance from the parking lot to the play equipment.
Mr. Jirele said that he has some reservations about eliminating some on-street parking and about over-regulating behavior. This parking is also sometimes needed for overflow when school is in session and activities are taking place at school and in the park.
Chief Pasqualini agreed with the assessment of the prior police chief that the shoulder is adequate for safe parking. He would hesitate to restrict the parking because of enforcement issues.Ms. Wieniger continued to request the limitation on parking because of what could be a dangerous situation. She disagreed with Chief Pasqualini about enforcement issues, and urged the Board to re-examine this matter. She said that the walking distance from the parking lot to the playground is not long, only slightly longer than the walk from Lower Dolington Road, which is on a steep incline.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of August 27, 2008. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $290,821.67. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $179,000. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Mr. Jirele reported that he had recently attended the Joint Zoning Council meeting, at which wetland transition areas were discussed. The proposed amendment has been sent to the Planning Commission for review.
Other Board Members: Mr. Gallagher reported that he had recently attended the Township Open Space Committee’s meeting. The open space inventory first draft has been completed by two Drexel University students under the supervision of the EAC chairman. The EAC must now review this inventory with some on-site comparisons, as the inventory used maps that do not reflect our most recent development. The Committee has also completed a statement of goals and objectives, with respect for property owners’ rights topping the list of priorities. In working toward the completion of the updated comprehensive open space plan, which is necessary in order to take advantage of the County Open Space Program, Mr. Gallagher presented a proposal for help from the Bucks County Planning Commission which would provide aid in completion of the updated plan at a cost of up to $3000. Mr. Gallagher noted that up to $10,000 of the Township’s allocated $580,000 open space allotment could be used for planning. This $3000 could be reimbursed by the County.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the revised Open Space Comprehensive Plan or the completed inventory would be available for public review prior to the referendum on election day.
Mr. Gallagher said that the plan and inventory are still in draft form. The plan will not specifically identify any parcels of open space to be preserved, but will instead explain the Township’s overall goals of preserving woodlands, biological diversity, wetlands, etc.
Mr. Jirele said that the 1997 plan is still in effect until a new plan has been adopted by the Board of Supervisors. That 1997 plan would guide voters as to the Township’s goals.
Dr. Ciervo asked if the Open Space Committee would be working with the Heritage Conservancy.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Heritage Conservancy could be involved in other aspects of open space preservation in the future, however the Bucks County Planning Commission would work on the updating of the comprehensive plan. There is still work to be done on the inventory that has been created, and Mr. Gallagher said he is not sure when it will be completed. This inventory still shows parcels that have recently been developed. The topography described on the maps would need to be evaluated by site visits, which will require property owners’ cooperation. The comprehensive plan, when completed, will not note specific parcels, but will, instead, describe the objectives of preserving wetlands, woodlands, farmlands, etc.
Mr. Calabro said that he is not opposed to the preservation of open space, however the process is irresponsible. He objected to the referendum on an earned income tax for open space preservation because it asks the voters to give the Board permission to tax without identifying either the goals or the specific identity of parcels that might be subject to preservation efforts. He objected to the statement that voters could refer to the 1997 plan to determine the goals and objectives. It is requiring the public to research and piece together current goals on their own. He noted that Lower Makefield has the same referendum on its ballot this year, however Lower Makefield has made its plan public and has announced the parcels it hopes to preserve. He would prefer that Newtown Township wait until the completion of the updated comprehensive plan in order to avoid any appearance of secrecy.
Dr. Ciervo said that the referendum only asks voters if they support an EIT for open space preservation, but does not levy the tax. This would not be done unless or until a parcel is identified for preservation. The referendum, if passed, would give the Township a tool to use in approaching landowners, of if approached by landowners, in order to participate in land acquisition discussion and negotiation. The tax might not be enacted for a year or two.
Mr. Jirele noted that the residents of Newtown Township supported a similar referendum at the County level by 80%.
Mr. Calabro re-iterated his position, that he is not opposed to the preservation of open space, nor is he opposed to an earned income tax to support the preservation of open space, but that he is opposed to including the referendum on this election’s ballot, when the economy is suffering and the open space comprehensive plan and open space inventory have not been completed and presented to the residents. He does support efforts being made to complete the comprehensive plan.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize the expenditure of up to $3000 to work with the Bucks County Planning Commission on an updated open space comprehensive plan. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher explained that the Township would pay the Bucks County Planning Commission for its work, but could apply for re-imbursement through a planning grant.
Mr. Calabro said that he would have liked to have seen this request as an agenda item.
The motion passed 4-0.
Technology Committee: Chairman Ed Lipski reported that this new committee has set its goals as twofold, to help with Township policy regarding technology and to be a resource to the Township. The Committee has begun to evaluate the Township’s current technology uses, both infrastructure and software. Committee members have met with representatives of the Police Department to discuss the department’s use of technology, and have spoken to Assistant Manager John Boyle. Meetings with department heads to discuss their current uses and future needs are being planned.
Mr. Jirele asked that the Committee consider the Township’s Web site and ways to make it more useful to residents, and to consider some innovations such as Web casts of meetings. He said that as the Township moves forward with plans for a municipal expansion, the Committee might be asked for input on new purchases and ways to keep costs down.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Committee has begun investigation of these things and has discussed wired vs. wireless in the new building.
Mr. Lipski noted that the Township does appear to be on a par with other municipalities in its technology use and its Web site.
Reports of Officials
Newtown Township Auditor Proposals: Mr. Czajkowski presented proposals for firms to perform the Township’s annual audit. Although the current auditor, Stanley Booze, submitted the lowest bid, the administration is recommending that the Board approve Majors and Mastro. The administration has not been pleased with the responsiveness of the current auditor nor with the timeliness of its final reports. It is Mr. Czajkowski’s understanding that Mr. Garton, in his capacity as solicitor for another municipality and school district, has run into the same issue with Stanley Booze. He noted that a few of the auditors from Stanley Booze have since joined with Majors and Mastro.
Mr. Garton advised the Board that if the Township wishes to change auditors, the public must be notified.
Mr. Jirele suggested that the Board seek input from its elected auditors.
Dr. Ciervo asked about auditing of the Tax Collector.
Mr. Garton explained that the Township is currently meeting all auditing requirements. The Township is not required to audit the tax collector, who is audited by the School District, the County and the State. An audit would be mandatory if the tax collector were to leave office.
After further discussion, Mr. Czajkowski agreed to get input from the elected auditors on the choice of new auditor and to investigate whether the Township can access State or County audits and whether to include an audit of the Tax Collector in the proposal from Majors and Mastro.
Minimum Municipal Obligation for 2009: Mr. Czajkowski read into the record the following statement provided by William Asay of Mockenhaupt Associates, the Township actuary for the pension plans:
“Mockenhaupt Associates has provided the 2009 Minimum Municipal Obligation (MMO) reports for the Police Pension Plan, Firefighters Pension Plan and Non-uniformed Employees Pension Plan. It is required by the State Auditor general that the report be submitted to and read into the minutes by a member of the Board of Supervisors by September 30, 2008.
Financial requirement and the 2009 Minimum Municipal Obligation for the Newtown Township Police Pension Plan will be $485,580.
Financial requirement and the 2009 Minimum Municipal Obligation for the Newtown Township Firefighters’ Pension Plan will be $106,739.
Financial requirement and the 2009 Minimum Municipal Obligation for the Newtown Township Non-uniformed Employees’ Pension Plan will be $303,543The Board members acknowledged that they have been advised of the Minimum Municipal Obligation.
Police Chief’s Report: Chief Pasqualini reviewed his report of Police Department activities within the past month, noting that the Department had answered 1,093 calls, issued 202 traffic citations, participated in 29 traffic details and one truck detail.
Chief Pasqualini reviewed a recent event involving overdosing of an herbal substance by four Council Rock North High School students. Renee Hurst, the Newtown Police Department representative at the High School, handled the matter with cooperation of the School administration and staff. Reports are still outstanding on the content of the substance ingested. All four students have recovered, but this was an example of foolish behavior, with the students taking “a pill” without knowing its contents. The Police Department has a very good relationship with the School District, as exhibited by the resolution of the incident.In response to Mr. Jirele’s comments, Chief Pasqualini agreed that his priorities in upcoming months are staffing, facilities, structure of the Department and coordination/cooperation with the School District. He said that he would like to discuss these priorities in more detail during an upcoming work session.
Acquisition of Open Space: Mr. Garton reported that the Board had met in Executive Session to discuss acquisition of tax map parcel 29-10-13-2. This seven acre parcel is located on Washington Crossing Road. The property contains wetlands and abuts the Newtown Creek. There is currently a court approved subdivision of the parcel into three building lots. Mr. Garton presented the proposed subdivision and outlined the portion of the property to be purchased by the Township. This property will reduce the subdivision to only two building lots, and lot #1 will provide an access easement. A quit claim deed will be signed giving 0.06 acres of abandoned right of way to the developer, who will seek approval for a two lot development. The Township will agree to pay $325,000 for the 7 acres.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has toured this property with Mr. Jirele and Ann Rhoads of the Morris Arboretum. Ms. Rhoads has agreed that the parcel constitutes a “natural area”, as it contains environmentally sensitive wetlands. An application will be made to the County‘s Natural Area Grant Program for a grant for 50% of the purchase price. This application would not affect the Township’s allocated $580,000 allotment under the Open Space Program. Mr. Gallagher noted that there is a sewer line area that would serve as a trail.
Mr. Jirele said that the purchase of this property, opposite the Cliveden development, is unrelated to the County Municipal Open Space Program or the upcoming open space referendum question. The Township owns land on the opposite side of the Creek from this parcel, and the addition of this parcel creates a greenway area. Money to pay for the purchase will come from the Park and Recreation general fund.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the money had been taken out of the Park and Recreation 2008 budget and placed in a fund for preservation of open space. Once this parcel is purchased that fund will be depleted. If the County reimburses the Township for a portion of the purchase price, we could then revisit Park and Recreation projects that were deferred.
Mr. Calabro said that he is in full support of this purchase.Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize signing of a purchase agreement with Gigliotti Avignon to purchase tax map parcel 29-10-13-2. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Engineer's Report :
2008 Road Program Payment: Ms. Fountain reported that this work, mostly along Mill Pond Road, has been completed satisfactorily and she recommends that the first payment be made. She explained that work on Mill Pond Road is not complete, the portion for which the Township is being billed has been completed.
Mr. Calabro moved to authorize payment #1 of the Roadway Improvement Program in the amount of $109,183.54. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
109 Pheasant Run: Mr. Calabro moved to authorize escrow release to 109 Pheasant Run in the amount of $110,408.94. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
In response to Dr. Ciervo’s question, Ms. Fountain said that the stormwater basin in the Newtown Walk development is a sediment basin during this construction phase; water is released over seven days. It has been inspected and is functioning properly. It has been approved by the Bucks County Conservation District and the DEP. Toll Brothers has used the required tablets to prevent breeding of mosquitoes, which might carry West Nile virus.
The meeting adjourned at 10:00 PM.