Board of Supervisors
Minutes of May 13, 2009
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on May 13, 2009 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 and Jerry Schenkman, members. Also present were: Township Manager Joseph Czajkowski, Township Solicitor Jeffrey Garton, Township Engineer Michele Fountain, and Petra Schlatter from The Advance.
Call to Order : Chairman Jirele called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence and an invocation by Pastor Chris McCloskey of Grace Point. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Mr. Jirele announced that the Board had held executive session prior to the meeting to discuss matters of litigation, and that they expected to go into executive session immediately following the meeting. There were no changes to the agenda.
Joanne Bentley, resident and candidate for township supervisor, asked when the joint traffic would be meeting. Mr. Jirele responded that the borough has a traffic committee which is studying borough traffic issues, and that when they were finished they would meet jointly with the township traffic committee.
Township resident Pam Fitzpatrick said a number of area EAC’s and other organizations, including Penn Environment, Council Rock School District, etc. were working together concerning water issues and sharing information; Lynn McMaster of Lower Makefield will be developing a website. Ms. Fitzpatrick said that after drainage pipes were installed on Stoopville Road she had noted that much water had drained from Melsky pond. She suggested that when Stoopville is being reconstructed and the trail is built this drainage issue could be resolved. Mr. Schenkman asked that Ms. Fitzpatrick send the Board a letter to that effect, including photos, which could be forwarded to the township engineers.
Ms. Fitzpatrick noted that Lynn Bush had testified to the Zoning Hearing Board that displacement of agricultural soils had been maxed out at the site on Eagle Road at which 40 twins have been proposed for construction. She said the development did not meet the ordinance. Ms. Fitzpatrick expressed concern for the integrity of the watershed and sedimentation at the site and urged the Board to consider Ms. Bush’s testimony carefully with regard to development on the site.
Ms. Fitzpatrick noted the census figures for the township’s population over the past years: 1980 population 4,527; 1990 population 13,685; 2000 population 18,206. She said that the growth reflected the construction at Newtown Grant, that represented that zoning was not in place at that time and was carefully revised afterwards. This rapid growth is why she is so adamant about protective zoning, and she noted that she would like to protect corridors such as Eagle Road.
Ms. Fitzpatrick noted the water problems in basements of the houses being constructed at Rockbridge, and suggested that the township work with the developer to resolve the issues.
Mr. Gallagher said he agreed with Ms. Fitzpatrick’s points, and complimented the cooperative work being done between the joint EAC’s; Dr. DeSilva of the Borough EAC sends him minutes of their meetings. Mr. Gallagher said the Board supports protective zoning, and noted that they have been fighting to protect the CM district. He said that the Rockbridge issue has been discussed before, noting that Mr. Schenkman had voted against development there several years ago. He said that the developer claims to have a way to keep water away from the homes.
Newtown Grant John DeAprile suggested that, now that there are sidewalks on both sides of the streets of new developments, streets be made wider to allow parking on both sides.
MINUTES, BILLS LIST AND REPORTS
Mr. Calabro moved to approve the revised minutes of the regular meeting of April 13, 2009. Dr. Ciervo seconded the motion.
Discussion of motion: In the fifth paragraph on page 1, in the sentence beginning “Mr. Jirele noted that this project …,” Mr. Jirele suggested the addition of “in part” between “funded” and “by”.
Mr. Calabro amended his motion to include the suggested change. Dr. Ciervo amended his second and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of April 22, 2009. Mr. Jirele seconded the motion.
Discussion of the motion:
Mr. Schenkman amended his motion to include the suggested changes. Mr. Jirele amended his second and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills List: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $1,223,823.18. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: It was clarified that the township cell phone carrier has been changed and that the savings should be reflected in the next bill detail. It was noted that $740,000 of expenses was from the Municipal Complex Fund. Mr. Schenkman suggested that the construction manager give the Board quarterly reports; Mr. Czajkowski said the construction manager is scheduled to give such a report at the Board’s meeting on May 27, 2009.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $161.637.26. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the township use of cell phones had been researched, and that at the number of personnel using cell phones had been slashed to 30 users, which should save the township approximately $7500 annually. He reported that 3 Public Works employees will have phones, with 10 additional carrying direct connect phones for fieldwork. Mr. Czajkowski said that the Police Department will use shift phones to cover shifts, rather than equip each officer with a phone; the same will be done in the Emergency Services Department.
Mr. Czajkowski reported that the township has changed its internet service, which should save the township approximately $6000 annually. He said they are looking into phone landline service, hoping to save an additional $6000 a year.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Mr. Jirele had no report.
Mr. Calabro asked, as liaison to the Newtown Corporation, if the Board had any issues or direction for him to take to their next meeting. Mr. Jirele noted the Board has discussed inviting the Corporation to a work session to discuss planning and economic development ideas. Mr. Gallagher reported that the Newtown Business Commons Association (NBCA) has decided not to merge with Newtown Corporation (NC), noting that attorney Steve Harris had cautioned Newtown Corporation of the complexities of such a merge. Mr. Gallagher said the two organizations will be cooperating but not merging legally. Mr. Jirele suggested that 2 or 3 NC representatives, or as many NC Board members as wished, attend a work session. Dr. Ciervo said the Board had never “gotten back” to NC regarding their ideas, and suggested that the Board should develop a written list of ideas to give to the corporation. Mr. Jirele noted that specific action items could be developed from the work session meeting; he will contact the Newtown Corporation regarding their attendance at the next work session.
Mr. Gallagher noted that the township continues the work to move toward paperless communication, and that he is working with Olivia and Mr. Czajkowski to that end. He said they will prototype a process, using paper and CD delivery simultaneously while developing the process. Mr. Calabro noted that Doylestown uses Google calendar; Mr. Czajkowski and Mr. Gallagher have spoken to officials there. Mr. Gallagher said they are investigating various options, including DVD, CD, online, archiving, etc.; the Technology Committee will be included in the planning. Mr. Gallagher noted that the goal is to have computer terminals at the dais in the new municipal building. Mr. Czajkowski said the Technology Committee is working on technology for the new municipal complex; they are working on a demonstration of the Smart Board. Mr. Jirele said that they need to find out what works for all the Board members.
Dr. Ciervo expressed condolences to Mr. Jirele and his family over the passing of Polly Jirele.
Prevailing Wage Resolution Discussion
Dr. Ciervo said he had prepared a resolution supporting Senate Bill 648, which would return some power to municipalities to opt out of the state’s Prevailing Wage requirement for public construction projects. He said that the township might have had some savings with recent projects such as development of the Woll Tract if not required to pay prevailing wage.
Dr. Ciervo made a motion to approve Resolution 2009-R-12 in support of PA Senate Bill 648. Mr. Gallagher seconded the motion.
Discussion of the motion: Mr. Gallagher noted that the Senate bill would take away the mandate to pay prevailing wage, saying that municipalities should decide what is best for them.
Mr. Calabro asked where the savings figures cited in the resolution had come from; Dr. Ciervo said he had looked at studies, which he believed he had sent around to Board members. Mr. Calabro said that the municipality was obligated to take the lowest bid, regardless of whether prevailing wage was required, and that any savings would go back to the contractors’ pockets. He said they might hire inferior workforce, and that he was concerned with the lowering of standards as a result. Mr. Calabro said that paying prevailing wage was paying for expertise and experience of workers, and that “you get what you pay for.” He said that contractors and developers would manage the wage issue in their bids. Mr. Calabro asked if a dispute regarding prevailing wage could be appealed.
Dr. Ciervo said that contractors need to pay each different position a different wage and different benefits, and that adjustments to comply with prevailing wage in Pennsylvania is difficult for contractors. He said that seven subcontractors have bids in the township that are paying prevailing wage rates and that the municipality must pass along the cost to taxpayers. Dr. Ciervo said studies he has seen suggest that money could be saved by the township and that there would be less paperwork for contractors.
Mr. Schenkman said the resolution was flawed, that references to figures were not based in fact and many came from organizations with interest in lower paid workers. He said the resolution doesn’t take into account additional supervision and oversight required for less trained workers. Mr. Schenkman said they should look at the purpose of the original act, which was to protect workers on public projects from sub standard wages. He said that the sponsors of the proposed statute were from small municipalities and conservative areas not representative of towns like Newtown Township. Mr. Schenkman said that PSATS is opposed to prevailing wage also, and that rather than addressing the issue on its own, the township should reach out to the state organization to put together county-wide and state-wide plans to deal with the issue.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board has reviewed the issue quite a bit and information has been received from the state. He said that the Senate legislation was an opportunity to return power to local government.
Mr. Schenkman said that this legislation may not be passed, and that it was a political rather than an economic issue.
Mr. Calabro said that the township doesn’t negotiate with contractors, but is required to accept the lowest bid after consideration of the bids; the proposed senate bill wouldn’t give the township the ability to negotiate with contractors. He said that the township would still be mandated to choose the lowest bidder.
Mr. Gallagher said he sees the issue as a question of decision making power, whether it lies in Harrisburg or with the township. He said that each municipality should decide for itself, and that the township should align with other townships to support local decision making power.
Mr. Schenkman said decision making should be local, but that some things required broader authority. He said that taxpayers don’t want workers wages to be so low that they cannot support their families.
Mr. Jirele said there is some control by the government over wages paid by private companies – the minimum wage. He said he didn’t necessarily agree the issue was a partisan one, and that he did not agree that unions provide skilled workers and non-union shops did not. Mr. Jirele said he tends to agree with prevailing wage, but the problem is with how it is calculated, which results in different wages for the same work in different areas. He said that the prevailing wage is calculated based on union wage rather than an average of union and non-union wages, and that workers should get a good wage for a good job. Mr. Jirele said that the prevailing wage law needs to be changed, but did not think municipalities should be able to opt out. He said he would like to see the resolution rewritten to support the repeal of the existing prevailing wage and to support changes in a way that would be more responsible to local municipalities.
Dr. Ciervo said that the proposed legislation would repeal the current law, then give local municipalities the option to decide to go with prevailing wage or not. He noted that no other state legislation covers other occupations (than public construction) with wage mandates. He noted that a lot of public construction is related to schools.
Mr. Gallagher said that several paragraphs in the resolution have data that seemed to be under contention, and suggested amending the motion to remove several paragraphs.
Dr. Ciervo withdrew his motion, and said he looked forward to Mr. Jirele’s suggested changes to the resolution. Mr. Jirele will bring his suggested revision to the next regular Board meeting for further discussion.
Act 32 – Delegate Appointment Resolution
Mr. Gallagher said that DCED is asking for a resolution to formalize the appointment of a delegate to the county tax collection committee; he noted he had been appointed as delegate at the Board’s reorganization meeting in January. PA Act 32 mandates a delegate from each township and borough that collects EIT be appointed to participate in the EIT Collection Initiative, which will work to appoint a single tax collector for the county. He said that he and Tammy Sutton would be going for training on June 11 th. Mr. Gallagher recommended Dr. Ciervo as alternate voting representative; Dr. Ciervo agreed. Mr. Gallagher noted that the committee will work on this issue from September 2009 through June 2012.
There was no public comment.
Mr. Gallagher moved that he be appointed as delegate to the county tax collection committee and that Dr. Ciervo be appointed as first alternate voting representative. Mr. Schenkman seconded the motion, which was approved 5-0 by the Board.
Planning Commission: Mr. Fidler announced that their May 19 th meeting would begin at 8:00 pm instead of 7:30 pm, in order to give commission members adequate time to vote. This change will be posted on the cable channel teleprompter.
Mr. Fidler read his report, noting that the traffic engineer Andrew Brown had given his quarterly report at their last meeting; Mr. Brown will provide an update of his written report to the Commission on a monthly basis, in addition to attending a quarterly meeting.
Mr. Fidler said the members were concerned that Carroll Engineering had not been kept up to date on some ongoing projects, and have recommended that they be more proactive in garnering updates from the township. He said they have asked Mr. Brown to investigate criteria other than traffic counts to warrant a signal at Sycamore Street and Silo Drive.
Mr. Fidler said the Commission continued discussion of allowed uses along Sycamore Street. He complimented the large packet of information on small downtown districts provided to Commission members by Ms. Fountain. Concern for parking criteria and performance standards for uses along the street was expressed. Mr. Fidler said that residents in attendance at the PC meeting spoke about parking concerns and offered suggestions; he suggested that this are economic development issues that might be addressed by the Newtown Corporation, the Borough and the Township. He said that the Commission has asked Ms. Fountain to prepare a spreadsheet of uses/performance standards comparing Newtown with other downtowns she has researched.
Mr. Fidler clarified that performance standards would be reviewed for all uses that are currently or will be permitted in the TC district, such as historic district overlay, height and setback requirements.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that the Board should reconsider E-10 and E-11 uses in the TC district.
Mr. Fidler referenced the PC’s last approved minutes, and said that strengthening of the definition of uses in the ordinance could be constructive and could protect development in the TC district. He said the impact on the Jointure also needed to be considered, as well as grandfathered factors.
Mr. Fidler announced an upcoming Pennsylvania Downtown Center annual conference will include many topics germane to their efforts on Sycamore Street; unfortunately, the two interested commission members are unable to attend. He suggested that funding for attendance to this conference be included in the budget next year. Mr. Fidler said the workshops being offered seemed quite interesting, and suggested that past agendas be reviewed and possible future membership in the PA Downtown Center considered. Ms. Fountain was unsure if she would be able to attend the conference; Mr. Czajkowski will ask Mr. Boyle about attending.
Mr. Fidler reported that the Newtown Business Commons Association has voted to remain independent from the Newtown Corporation. He said one concern was that they collect dues from members and subsidize their activities and quarterly meetings for the members’ benefit from those dues. Mr. Fidler said that the political ramifications of joining Newtown Corporation and the loss of identity to the association superseded the decision to merge with NC; they will continue to participate with the Newtown Corporation and to collect $50 in dues, providing educational opportunities and working toward becoming a 501(c)(3) organization.
Joint Zoning Council Issue: Mr. Fidler said that the issue of House Bill 237 was brought before the Joint Zoning Council at their last meeting. This bill would define urban and rural municipalities. Concerns shared by the Council included that this is an attempt to define Newtown Township, Upper Makefield and many other municipalities as urban, which could lead to further relaxation of agricultural soil preservation of ground in rural vs. urban municipalities. He said this could also lead to a more pro-development attitude and higher density in urban areas. He said the Planning Commission would support the Jointure’s continued research as to if this moves out of committee. He said Scott Petri has been emailed with the Commission’s concerns.
Mr. Gallagher said another concern was that the state has been discussing consolidation, and that intention of the House Bill is unclear. He said the email sent to Mr. Petri asked him to help them understand the state’s purpose.
Historical Architectural Review Board
Vice Chair Harriet Beckert reported that HARB recommended approval of the Certificate of Appropriateness for the installation of a new sign at Lilly’s Cocina Loca, 255 N. Sycamore Street. The proposed sign would be 12 square feet, made of a high-density urethane, and will be indirectly illuminated from the ground.
Applicant Lilly Salvatore was present and presented a paint sample for the background color. It was noted that the sign is the one non-conforming sign in the district.
Mr. Schenkman made a motion to approve the Certificate of Appropriateness for the installation of the hanging sign at Lilly’s Cocina Loca at 255 N. Sycamore Street, as presented and in accordance with the recommendation of approval from HARB. Mr. Gallagher seconded the motion, which was approved 5-0.
Ms. Salvatore said the new restaurant will be Mexican cuisine, with a little Latin American fusion; it is the fifth in her group of restaurants. She said there will be a guacamole bar and traditional dishes as well, and that families will be welcome to the affordably priced establishment. Ms. Salvatore said they hope to open in the next two weeks.
Ms. Beckert said that HARB is in favor of expansion of the historic district, and would like to work with the Borough. Mr. Gallagher said he would like to hear about the advantages and disadvantages of the expansion, and noted that property owners should be kept apprised of any efforts. Mr. Jirele said that HARB should begin looking into the issue and bringing information to the Borough.
Reports of Officials
Manager’s Report: Mr. Czajkowski said there were no plan expirations and no action was required.
Police Report : Chief Pasqualini invited all Bucks County residents to the Bucks County Police Memorial ceremony on May 18 th at 7:00pm at St Andrew’s Church.
The Chief presented his report, noting that the department had responded to 1617 calls for service. He presented a resolution, suggested by PennDOT, to proclaim May 18, 2009 “Buckle Up Newtown Day;” the resolution would indicate the Board’s support for the use of seat belts. He noted that not using seat belts is still a secondary violation in Pennsylvania, and that Newtown police officers would be taking a proactive approach to the issue, distributing information about seat belt use; drivers would not be cited for not wearing seat belts. Mr. Calabro said he wanted the public to be aware that this effort is to educate, and that people shouldn’t get into an accident attempting to put on their seat belts.
Mr. Gallagher made a motion to approve Resolution No. 2009-R-12, proclaiming May 18, 2009 as “Newtown Buckle Up Day.” Mr. Schenkman seconded the motion, which was approved 5-0.
Chief Pasqualini noted that traffic details have been established in various locations around the township to monitor speed. Mr. Gallagher noted that a resident had inquired about traffic oversight on South Eagle Road; Chief Pasqualini said he would like to look at the situation, but as it is a private road and the township cannot enforce traffic there. He noted it is difficult to attain any high velocity on South Eagle Road due to the amount of traffic and number of stop signs.
Mr. Gallagher noted that a resident had inquired about efforts made in the reorganization of the police department. Chief Pasqualini noted that a study had been done by a firm from Harrisburg that made valid recommendations, and that the department has been reorganized. He said the chain of command has been clarified and they are moving towards accreditation, to be completed hopefully by late summer of 2010. He said they are reviewing policies now, which will comply with accreditation requirements. Chief Pasqualini said the policy manual should be completed by the end of the year and would then be forwarded to Mr. Czajkowski.
Mr. Schenkman suggested a hands free cell phone day. Chief Pasqualini noted that cell phone use is illegal in New Jersey, and that they target periodically, with the purpose of educating the public. He said that as long as it is legal in Pennsylvania, their efforts are limited.
Mr. Jirele noted that there were 372 traffic citations given in April, half of which were on Eagle Road. Chief Pasqualini said they are concentrating enforcement on one area at a time, hitting hard to slow people down; they systematically address various areas. He said that it takes approximately three months for speeds to begin to decrease significantly. He said that residents seem very happy with the increased police presence.
Dr. Ciervo asked about enforcement of the jake brake ordinance. Chief Pasqualini said that the newer trucks have jake brakes that cannot be disarmed, which creates a problem for enforcement. He said they have two officers extensively trained to handle truck enforcement. He said he is more concerned with safety equipment on the trucks and the weight of the trucks than with the jake brakes. Dr. Ciervo said he was still hearing the brakes used, and has heard complaints from residents as well. He said he was concerned that truck drivers would feel that they could use the brakes freely if the ordinance were not being enforced. Chief Pasqualini noted that there are various areas where the topography is such that allows the use of the jake brakes for safety. He said they perform Class 1 truck inspections and are finding very few safety violations. Dr. Ciervo suggested that the Board could review the ordinance with Mr. Garton sometime in the future.
Solicitor’s Report: Mr. Garton had no issues to report.
Mr. Gallagher said he had received the figures for Earned Income Tax through April, both resident and non-resident income numbers, and was thrilled to see that collection was up over the same time last year. He has a copy of the report for anyone who is interested.
Mr. Gallagher asked about the plans for the renovation of the police building and post construction build out of the municipal complex. He asked about the Board’s role and suggested discussion be started. Mr. Jirele noted that the May agenda was full and suggested that the issues be included on the June or July work session agenda.
Mr. Gallagher said he was disappointed in the letter received from PennDOT in response to the letter from the township regarding Swamp Road, which essentially said that the township should petition the state in another manner to accomplish their goals, which was not helpful. He suggested that the township draft a letter to the Department of Traffic Unit district 6 engineer Lou Belmonte, asking the appropriate person at PennDOT to review the township’s requests. It was clarified that the letter had been forwarded to Eleanor Lyons and copied to state legislators. Mr. Jirele suggested that the issues be discussed at a future meeting. Mr. Czajkowski will re-draft the letter to PennDOT to include the requests relevant to PennDOT, including: point #1 regarding planning, point #5 citing Mr. Belmonte, and point #6 regarding the Traffic Unit. It was noted that responses to other requests were relevant to different departments or organizations than PennDOT. The letter will be sent to the appropriate contact at PennDOT and copied to state legislators. Specific issues regarding Swamp Road will be reviewed point by point by the Board at a later date.
Mr. Gallagher reported that he, Mr. Czajkowski, Gary Crossland and EAC member Aliya Aslam met with OmniWind Energy Systems to see a demonstration of their wind turbine system. He noted that these turbines will generate electricity at 5 mph winds. He said that OmniWind believes that one or two turbines would generate enough electricity to provide 50% of the electricity required by the municipal complex. He said that installed cost for a PROWIND turbine on a 45 ft. tall tower would be approximately $15,000, and noted there are many grants available now for alternative energy source. OmniWind said they would be happy to work with the township and state and federal senators to locate grants.
Mr. Gallagher said OmniWind suggested that the first step would be to perform a wind study over several weeks, which would be analyzed and reported to the township. The required number and height of turbines would be determined from the study. He said that OmniWind wants to create only the energy needed, not generate revenue. Mr. Gallagher noted that since August OmniWind has created 40,000 kilowatts; Ms. Aslam had noted that her own home usage was approximately 8,000 kilowatts a year. Mr. Czajkowski noted that OmniWind’s turbines were much quieter and produced energy at lower wind speeds than other turbines. Mr. Schenkman suggested that the Board move forward with the issue, and that it could be a valuable energy source even if it produced only 30% of the municipal complex needs.
Mr. Czajkowski said the cost would be $1000 for wind data collection. He said he has spoken with Mr. McIlhenny’s office, and that Mr. McIlhenny had also visited OmniWind. It was noted that Mr. Santarsiero is also assisting with alternative energy applications.
Mr. Czajkowski noted that solar power had been suggested for the Public Works building; Mr. Jirele said the issue should be revisited. Mr. Czajkowski said the structure of the building would allow for solar array.
Mr. Gallagher made a motion to authorize a payment of $1000 to OmniWind Energy Systems for a wind test. Mr. Schenkman seconded the motion, which was approved 5-0.
Mr. Calabro thanked Mr. Czajkowski and the Public Works Department for installation of the “yield to pedestrians” signs that were installed at Silo Drive and Sycamore Street, noting that a lot of foot traffic has been generated from the opening of the Green Parrot Pub and will be generated from future development along Sycamore Street. Mr. Czajkowski said they expect to receive six additional signs from PennDOT, to be installed further up Sycamore Street near Chandler Hall and South State Street. He said they had received a number of favorable calls from residents about the new signs.
Mr. Jirele announced that there would be an executive session to discuss litigation.
The meeting adjourned at 10:29 PM.