Board of Supervisors
Minutes of November 9, 2009
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on November 9, 2009 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Robert Ciervo, Vice Chairman Mike Gallagher, Secretary/Treasurer Matthew Benchener, Philip Calabro and Jerry Schenkman, members. Also present were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Ciervo called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence and an invocation by Reverend Blake Blakesley of Newtown Presbyterian Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski said that this year’s salt bids would be added to the Manager’s Report.
Public Comment: Resident John D’Aprile congratulated the winners of the recent local elections. He noted that voter turn out was only 24%, a very low participation.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Benchener moved to accept the minutes of the work session of October 19, 2009. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Schenkman pointed out an error in one of the Web sites mentioned on page 1. Mr. Gallagher asked that these sites be hyperlinked on the Township Web site.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of October 28, 2009. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the budget meeting of November 4, 2009. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. Gallagher asked about a bill on page 4 in the amount of $3394.
Mr. Czajkowski explained that this is a fire mascot suit which is being returned.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $378,151.78, less $3394. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $2465.33 Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Officials
Plan Expirations: In reviewing the plan expirations, Mr. Gallagher noted that Tudisco/De Finis Minor Subdivision was listed for an appearance at the Planning Commission in the next few weeks. He asked the Board whether this would be an appropriate application for an expedited review process.
Mr. Garton noted that the minor subdivision would result in two undersized lots needing Zoning Hearing Board variances before proceeding to land development
Dr. Ciervo said that because this application involves both variances and land development, he did not think it would be a good test case for a streamlined process.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that before discussing specific applications for expedited review, the Board should work on establishing criteria for using an expedited process.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would like to establish a streamlined process for both Zoning Hearing Board applications and land development where a waiver might be considered.
Mr. Garton and Mr. Czajkowski discussed systems in place in other municipalities which allow the Codes Department to determine whether full review or expedited review is needed. They agreed to compile some examples of review criteria used by other Townships for the Board to consider in establishing their own criteria.
Police Report: Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that the department had answered 1252 calls for service, including 2 burglaries, 20 theft investigations, 103 traffic citations and 4 DUI arrests.
Mr. Gallagher asked whether the DUI arrests were associated with the recent Brewfest. He had heard rumors on unruly conduct.
Chief Pasqualini said that there have been some discussions about the hosting of a brewfest when at the same time promoting safe driving practices. The Brewfest was a successful fundraising event and while there might have been some possibility of unruly conduct, the officers handled all situations with discretion.
Mr. Benchener asked the chief to provide a month to month comparison of data on police activity, allowing the Supervisors to monitor any spikes in particular criminal behaviors.
Chief Pasqualini said that the department is always monitoring for trends and changes and would alert the Board and the public of any spikes in crime. He will provide comparisons in his annual report, which is presented each March.
2009/2010 Salt Bid: Mr. Czajkowski explained that each year Newtown participates in a number of bidding opportunities through the Bucks County Consortium. This year Doylestown Borough submitted bid requests on behalf of the Consortium for salt, with International Salt Co., LLC providing the lowest bid. The Township has used this provider at other times in the past. Multiple deliveries are made for a total of about 1200 tons of salt. There is currently a large supply on hand.
Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the bid of International Salt Co., LLC for salt at $57.85 per ton. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month: Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt Resolution 2009-R-30, acknowledging November 2009 as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo said that this resolution is similar to one passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and U.S. Congress. This is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in America, with only a 1% survival rate. It is a very aggressive cancer with those diagnosed living only about six months.
Mr. Benchener noted that very little research is conducted on this cancer.
Mr. Schenkman suggested placing this information on the Township Web site as well as links to sites which work toward research efforts. He asked whether the Board would like to strengthen the language to include urging Congress to provide more funding for research.
Dr. Ciervo referred those interested to check Web sites such as www.pancan.org for more information.
The motion passed 5-0.
Newtown Walk Certificate of Completion #8, Phase I: Mr. Benchener moved to authorize escrow release to Newtown Walk in the amount of $147,824. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to questions from the Board, Ms. Fountain reported that construction in this development has slowed. Phase I is near completion and phase II is beginning.
Mr. Schenkman reminded the Board that during the land development phase, a land swap was to have been made with a portion of Roberts Ridge Park so that the Newtown Walk entrance would align with the entrance to Raintree on the opposite side of Lower Dolington Road. He asked that Ms. Fountain confirm that this land swap occurred.
Mr. Calabro asked whether any research had been done into the renaming of the development. He recalled that the Board had prohibited further use of the words “ Newtown” and “Eagle” in naming of developments. It was his recollection that Newtown Walk was asked for a name change.
Ms. Fountain said she has reviewed all of the approvals and this was not a requirement.
Mr. Garton said that it might be difficult to ask for a name change now, with so many residents already living in the development.
The motion passed 3-2, with Messrs. Gallagher and Schenkman voting nay.
Newtown Walk Certificate of Completion #1, Phase II: Mr. Calabro moved to authorize escrow release to Newtown Walk in the amount of $325,331.50. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 3-2, with Messrs. Gallagher and Schenkman voting nay.
Mr. Schenkman said that he will not support escrow releases until he is satisfied that that the land swap has occurred.
Signal Modernization at Newtown Bypass: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorized payment of $26,990.57 to Miller Brothers for signal work at Newtown Bypass and Lindenhurst Road and Newtown Yardley Road. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
In response to Dr. Ciervo’s question, Ms. Fountain said that only minor punch list items remain to be completed on this project.
Linton Hill Chase, Release of Stabilization Escrow: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize release of $10,000 stabilization escrow to Linton Hill Chase. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman asked what documentation is submitted to the Township showing that all work is satisfactorily completed.
Ms. Fountain said that the inspection reports and her letter recommending release are all part of the file in the Township records. A punch list of final completion items is created and after all the punch list items are completed the developer puts up a maintenance bond for 18 months to cover any failures, such as trees that do not survive.
The motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo said that he had requested information on parking at Helen Randle Park. He has concerns that parking is not sufficient for the six fields and the other activities at the park.
Ms. Fountain said that the Township Ordinance required 33 parking spaces for each field. The 1995 approval included 202 parking spaces; there are 165 parking spaces on site.
Dr. Ciervo said that he had discussed this at a recent Park and Recreation Board meeting. He would like a policy developed which would require leagues hosting events which use all of the fields to present documentation that arrangements have been made for off-site parking. His concern is that when the park is being used for tournament play, residents who come to use the basketball courts or playground will not be able to park. He intends to discuss this further with the Park and Recreation Board to urge that a policy be adopted to address the parking and if off-site parking is arranged at the Community College, that police be hired to direct traffic and crossing to the park.
Mr. Czajkowski reminded the Board that a $16,137,484 budget with a 1.225 mill increase in the debt service millage for the outstanding bond had been presented to the Board. Reserve funds are also used to balance the budget. Since the presentation, Board members have reviewed it and submitted questions. In response to some of those questions and suggestions, he provided copies of a revision which would place the Park and Recreation budget into the general fund.
Dr. Ciervo said that currently Park and Recreation is funded by a 0.75 mill tax, which equals $235,000. He would like to eliminate that tax, making it instead a debt service millage and placing Park and Recreation in the general fund, which is funded by the earned income tax (EIT). He noted that some public works park maintenance work is paid from the Park and Recreation fund. That should also be moved into the public works budget, paid from the general fund. He would like the park and recreation budget to only include park and recreation expenses, including the director, staff and instructors.
Mr. Benchener said that he supports this idea because it would create a more flexible budgeting process, with funding allocated as needed and not specifically designated to a particular use.
Mr. Schenkman said that he would like a better understanding of the original reason for a Park and Recreation millage before it is dismantled.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he is researching this. Prior to the EIT there was only a real estate tax. The State limits the general fund tax, but allows for separate assessments. It might be that as the general fund tax approached its limit, a separate park and recreation assessment was created.
Mr. Schenkman said he would like this confirmed. He noted that fees collected from developers are kept separate from the Park and Recreation millage.
Dr. Ciervo said that the budget has a $1.1 million shortfall. It must be covered by a tax increase and payment from the reserve. The Board must look for spending reductions to reduce the shortfall and need for reserve fund spending. He would like to keep taxes at the current rate and not add a debt service tax.
Mr. Garton explained that the Board could adopt a budget which includes a debt service millage but does not include millage for park and recreation.
Mr. Schenkman said that he has concerns about eliminating the millage and about long term impact. He would like to see projections of expenses and also review possible reductions in spending. He asked that the Financial Planning Committee also review the information presented on elimination of the park and recreation millage.
Mr. Benchener asked about also eliminating some of the capital funds and using their assets for general fund expenses.
Mr. Garton said that these funds cannot be eliminated and their uses are restricted. They are funded by fees and liquid fuels.
The Board considered reductions in the Legislative Body budget. Mr. Benchener suggested reducing the Board salaries and eliminating the subscriptions and memberships.
Mr. Garton confirmed that Board salaries for sitting members cannot be reduced. Many of the memberships provide benefits to the Township, such as the Bucks County Consortium, which allows for participation in bidding.
Mr. Czajkowski agreed to provide detailed information on the costs and benefits of each membership. The Board Programs line item refers to the homeowners association organization and the citizen recognitions.
The Board briefly considered elimination of training and meetings for Board members. Mr. Gallagher suggested that although he agreed with Mr. Schenkman that training is important, perhaps Board members should pay for these classes from their salaries.
The Board discussed its donations. Mr. Schenkman said that while the donations are not an obligation, it should be considered what impact on the recipients’ budgets our withholding of donations would have.
The Board discussed a reduction of its contribution to Newtown Corporation to four payments of $4000. Mr. Schenkman said he would also like to give Newtown Corporation direction to do more cross-marketing programs to enhance the local business community.
Mr. Calabro noted that Newtown Borough did not contribute last year. If Newtown Township is the only contributing governing body, he would like to see more concentration of efforts promoting Township enterprises.
The Board discussed elimination of the contributions to Newtown Library and Wrightstown Library and the Council Rock Senior Center. The members agreed to first learn what impact this would have on the institutions before a decision is made.
The members agreed to consider a reduction or elimination of the First Fourth contribution, which pays for the fireworks display.
Mr. Czajkowski agreed to determine which training for staff is mandatory. The Board would like to reduce this budget to $2500.
Mr. Benchener asked about a salary freeze, motor fuels, communications and subscriptions, financial professional services and advertising and printing.
Dr Ciervo said that salaries are contracted.
Mr. Czajkowski said that fuel is part of the contract and is used for transportation during the work day. He has continued to look for savings on communications. He will provide more detailed information on subscriptions, which are for the local newspapers. Financial Professional Services is the auditor.
Mr. Garton noted that the State mandates advertising for certain municipal business such as ordinance changes, zoning applications, etc.
The Board reviewed administrative services contracts.
Mr. Czajkowski said that there will be some reduction with the move to the new building, as some copiers can be eliminated.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the Township has a policy of replacing five computers each year. It might be possible to skip a year.
In reviewing the engineering budget, Mr. Schenkman noted that the Township Engineers participated in the Planning Commission’s review of the TC district, which involved a great deal of work. The Engineer acted in place of a planner. Going forward this cost will be decreased, as the Bucks County Planning Commission will be working on the project at a much lower rate.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that going forward, the professionals keep the Township informed as to when it is approaching the end of its budgeted amount.
Regarding the storage units, Mr. Czajkowski said that the budget is phasing them out, expecting to have them completely closed by mid-year.
The Board reviewed the Police budget. Dr. Ciervo asked that overtime be kept at $120,000. He asked for more detailed information on the Police support staff, uniform budget and minor supplies. He suggested that the Department hold off on accreditation until the building renovation is completed.
Mr. Gallagher suggested moving legal expenses for Police to the general administration budget. He asked for more information of Police operating supplies and equipment maintenance.
The Board discussed police car washing. Dr. Ciervo suggested that with the new public works building, perhaps the police cars could be washed in house.
Mr. Schenkman said that the cost of Township employees’ time, plus supplies, must be factored before that decision could be made.
The Board asked for information on police training, suggesting that only mandatory training be included in this year’s budget.
The Board discussed a change in the current policy of replacing five police cars every two years. It was agreed that this year only two cars would be replaced.
The Board asked Mr. Czajkowski to provide detailed information on the EMS operating expenses, training and meetings and fire prevention budget. They also wanted information on the shoe allowance. They discussed vehicle maintenance and the need for a copier.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would like the Township to reduce its reliance on Keystone in the Codes Department.
The Board briefly discussed the costs associated with the Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Board but made no changes.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the Public Works budget should include the $40,000 currently appearing as park maintenance under Park and Recreation.
Mr. Benchener questioned the overtime for Public Works employees.
Mr. Czajkowski explained that snow removal overtime is listed separately. Other overtime is generally weather related, as well, including evening and weekend work when storms or flooding cause damage to roadways, for example. He will provide more detailed information to Mr. Benchener.
Dr. Ciervo noted the line item for Sycamore Street supplies. He asked if the Community Association would assume any portion of this expense.
Mr. Czajkowski said this includes flowers for the planting beds along the street and at the signs at the entrance to the Township.
The Board discussed the Park and Recreation budget for advertising. Dr. Ciervo and Mr. Benchener advocated eliminating printing and relying entirely on the new Web site and e-mail blasts.
Mr. Schenkman and Mr. Calabro suggested some intermediate steps toward an eventual elimination of printing and advertising, noting that some residents do not use the internet and would want the brochures. Mr. Calabro suggested printing fewer brochures, and rather than mailing them directly to residents’ homes, placing them in central locations where people gather regularly.
Dr. Ciervo said that the bulk of participants are children whose parents are computer users. He would favor the continued presence of advertising in the Township newsletter and press releases to local papers.
After some further discussion the Board agreed to a transition period with a reduction of the advertising budget by half.
Mr. Benchener urged that the Park and Recreation department be entirely self sufficient. Even the current rate of 95% seems misleading as the staff salaries and benefits are not included in the calculation. He would like the Department to focus its efforts on profitable programs only.
Dr. Ciervo said he would like to see expanded offerings in the camps, as they have been very profitable.
Mr. Benchener suggested reducing the budget for equipment repair and maintenance.
Dr. Ciervo said that he disagreed, that the parks must be maintained.
The Board agreed to more closely monitor these expenses on a quarterly basis.
The Board discussed expected revenues. Mr. Benchener said that the real estate market is gradually improving, especially in the starter home market. He would suggest increasing the projected revenue on transfer taxes to $700,000.
Mr. Calabro said that real estate sales are usually flat in the early months of the year and it is difficult to project what the spring and summer sales might be.
Mr. Gallagher noted that of the current year’s $688,000 transfer tax collection, close to $500,000 was collected in the second half of the year. With that in mind the Board agreed to increase the revenue projection to $700,000.
Mr. Czajkowski pointed out that the fee structure for Township fees was last adjusted in 2007. The Board agreed to re-examine the fees at the next meeting.
Mr. Schenkman said that as the Board considers a streamlining of the permit and zoning process, the fee schedule should reflect these changes so that residents contemplating small improvements are not burdened by increased fees.
The Board reviewed park and recreation revenues, with Mr. Benchener urging the Board to seek a match of revenues and expenses. He pointed out that currently the Park and Recreation budget shows revenue from programs and fees at $431,000 and expenditures at $583,000.
Mr. Benchener suggested that all departments should have a reduction in spending. He would like to budget a specific amount to each department, with department heads determining their priorities to meet the amount budgeted. This will result in a reduced budget.
Dr. Ciervo said that right now he would first want to review the budget with all of the proposed cuts and with the Park and Recreation millage moved to the general fund.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that the Park and Recreation Board review the field usage fees. Fees do not seem to have generated significant income.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the various sports organizations maintain the fields in season.
Mr. Schenkman said that he has some significant concern about the budget changes being proposed, as they only address the coming year. He would like to look ahead at the next two or three years.
Lease Agreement with Mark Woodward related to the Wiggins and Library Tracts: Mr. Garton presented a one year lease between the Township and Mark Woodward, which does not provide any rent but does require the tenant to maintain insurance and to maintain the property in a manner consistent with good agricultural practices.
Dr. Ciervo said that with this lease, Mr. Woodward will take care of the 47 acres, relieving the Public Works Department of this task.
Mr. Schenkman expressed some concern about monitoring this arrangement and about the Township’s liability. He also asked for information on the cost saving if these tracts are no longer maintained by the Township.
Mr. Garton said that since the arrangement with the farmer is for the foreseeable future he will remove language referencing Township liability.
Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the lease agreement with Mark Woodward with page 3, paragraph 6 removed. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro said that at one time the Township had considered leasing land for $1.00 to the YMCA for its facility, but was met with protests from owners of for profit fitness facilities. This would be a similar situation, giving one local farmer an advantage over others, such as Mr. Sterling.
Mr. Garton suggested that this lease is for one year. Other farmers could be sent solicitations for future years. This is done in Lower Makefield.
Dr. Ciervo said that Mr. Woodward was approached because he is already farming land adjacent to the Wiggins tract. He did agree with Mr. Calabro that the opportunity should be presented to other local farmers in coming years.
The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Mr. Garton reported that he has been reviewing the issues with Gilmore & Associates about the additional expense of rock drilling at the Woll tract. He is hoping to resolve this in the Township’s favor.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he has been collecting information about the Sewer Authority’s dealings with Gilmore & Associates at the Woll tract.
Dr. Ciervo reported that he is working on a letter in support of the R-8 Newtown SEPTA line.
Mr. Gallagher asked the Township Manager to address the proliferation of commercial signs in the ground at various street corners and intersections.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that a review of fines and fees for these signs might be in order.
Mr. Benchener asked the Board to develop a summary minutes or expanded agenda for the Township Web site.
Mr. Schenkman said that changes to the agenda format or meeting synopses should be postponed until next year.
The meeting adjourned at 12:05 AM.