Board of Supervisors
Minutes of April 14, 2010
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on April 14, 2010 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman, Robert Ciervo, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, and Philip Calabro and Michael Gallagher, members. Also present were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Robert Ciervo called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence and an invocation by Reverend Klein of Addisville Reformed Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Commander Dave Matthews of American Legion Post 440, Newtown.
Public Comment: Jeff Reamer ofthe Communications Workers of America local 13,000, speaking on behalf of the Township’s non-uniform employees, expressed his displeasure at the recent layoff of two Township employees, Patricia Purks, the custodian, with 18 years in Newtown and Kathleen Kimble, with six years in the Township, whose duties included maintenance of the Township Web site. Mr. Reamer said that he has heard that Mr. Gallagher has taken over some of Ms. Kimble’s duties. Mr. Reamer discussed the Township’s adoption of Resolution 2009-R-33. which would allow the reserve to fall to 10%. The adopted budget leaves a reserve of 13.7%, which would indicate that the layoffs were not necessary. He also pointed out that while the layoffs occurred, the Township has hired contract employees, in violation of the union contract. The reason given for the layoffs was the current economy and the Board’s unwillingness to implement a tax increase. Mr. Reamer noted that taxes have not been increased in Newtown Township in 14 years.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board had asked the non-union employees to accept a freeze in pay for this year, and then directed the manager to speak to the unions about a similar freeze. All over the country employees are accepting pay freezes to get through the current economic downturn. The economy has impacted Township revenues as well as the income of many residents, who would not be in a position to pay a tax increase this year. The bargaining units were unwilling to agree to a freeze in salary only, no change in benefits, making the layoffs necessary.
Mr. Calabro asked whether it is true that Mr. Gallagher has been working on the Township Web site and if so, whether he is being compensated.
Mr. Gallagher confirmed that he had reviewed the Web site program and made some needed updates but that he is not being compensated above his supervisor salary. He asked Mr. Czajkowski about the hiring of contract workers.
Mr. Czajkowski said that six seasonal workers have been hired, which is permitted in the contract.
Mr. Reamer urged the Board to reverse its decision and re-instate the laid off employees. He said that in addition to Mr. Gallagher working on the Web site, Township employees, including police and public works personnel, are performing some custodial duties, leaving them less time to do their contracted jobs. There is also a health concern in not maintaining clean buildings, which are open to the public throughout the day for the conduct of Township business as well as to residents for recreational programs.
Mr. Benchener asked whether other employees are now doing janitorial work.
Mr. Czajkowski said that while not a lot of time is being spent, employees are doing janitorial work.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that a few months ago he had made an inquiry about ongoing lawsuits against the Township and whether Mr. Gallagher is specifically named in these suits. He has since made a formal request under the Right to Know Act about some suits dealing with civil rights, freedom of speech and age discrimination claims. He said that these claims would have significant legal costs associated with them but asked whether there has been a change in the insurance rates as a result of judgments against the Township.
Mr. Czajkowski said that one case was settled and paid by the Township’s insurance carrier. There has been an annual increase of 6% for this insurance.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that an ombudsman be acquired to help with these ongoing personnel issues. He also asked that Mr. Gallagher recuse himself from participation in these legal matters.
Mr. Sensibaugh announced an upcoming golf outing sponsored by Good Friends, Inc, a drug and alcohol treatment facility on May 10, 2010 at Northampton Valley Country Club. For additional information phone Dick Weaver at 215-736-2861.
Resident Jim McBride, Foxhall Estates Homeowners Association president, said that Orleans has failed to complete public improvements in the development and two homes have temporary certificates of occupancy.
Mr. Garton said that the Township has secured the funds from the letter of credit for these improvements. Township Engineer Michele Fountain is generating a punch list of outstanding work. The bid will be for public improvements only, not for any issues on private property.
Mr. McBride said that since he last spoke to the Board, Orleans damaged some curbing while plowing the snow.
Mr. Garton suggested that Ms. Fountain arrange to visit the site with a representative of the Homeowners Association to review all punch list items before the bid is prepared.
Resident Dennis Fisher said that Swamp Road Residents Group has received a response from PennDOT regarding its request for improvements to Swamp Road. The group is preparing a letter in response to this letter and would like to speak at a work session about the ongoing concerns. The group is asking to downgrade Swamp Road to a major collector classification.
Mr. Fisher asked whether the union contract allows for layoffs and whether the contract was followed and who determined which employees would be laid off.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Township Manager made the decision on which employees would be laid off.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the contract’s language is vague on layoffs; he consulted with the labor attorney and met with union representatives to attempt a negotiation. This matter was under consideration and discussed for about four months before a decision was made.
Mr. Fisher said that using a labor attorney and dealing with an unhappy work force will also cost money.
Mr. Benchener said that the decision to lay off employees was difficult but necessary due to the economic downturn. The Board must represent the interests of the Township residents as revenues are down and the Township now has debt service obligations.
Mr. Calabro said that the union had offered some concessions. This is a very affluent community and the layoffs could have been prevented. The full Board was not supportive of this decision.
Resident Gary Lumpkin, athletic director of St. Andrew’s Elementary School, announced the St. Andrew’s annual Hike For Hunger on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at 9:00 AM beginning at St. Andrew’s Church with a mass. The event will take place rain or shine. Last year’s event raised $3500, and working with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, that money was able to purchase food for local pantries at seven times the $3500 value. The group was also able to assist with an emergency mortgage payment for the food pantry at Bristol Borough Community Center. Mr. Lumpkin thanked the Board and residents for their support last year and urged their continued support. This year’s event proceeds will be divided among a number of local food pantries and My Poor Feat, a charity dedicated to feeding the homeless. Mr. Lumpkin noted that the annual event is the result of a partnership with an Ancient Order of Hibernians charity championed by Mr. Gallagher and his father.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he has very mixed feelings about the recent layoff of two union employees. While he had been supportive of the Board’s efforts to present a budget which did not include any increase in taxes, he would have hoped some concessions could have been made to save the two employees’ jobs.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Benchener moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of March 24, 2010. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher asked that the minutes be changed to better reflect that he was not opposed to the proposed field swap between Little League and Softball, but only to the content of the agreement. He asked that page 6, paragraph 2 read, “…….He would be voting nay on any motion which included specific reference to field improvement spending.”
Mr. Benchener amended his motion to include this addition. Mr. Gallagher amended his second and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. Benchener moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $482,954.12 Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher asked about the purchase of volleyball nets stored at Goodnoe Elementary School.
Mr. Czajkowski explained that these nets were purchased for the Township Park and Recreation Adult Volleyball programs held at Goodnoe. The nets are stored there but are not used by the school.
Mr. Gallagher questioned a reimbursement for lodging for some officers not members of Newtown Township’s police force.
Police Chief Henry Pasqualini explained that the Department belongs to a consortium of police departments which hold monthly meetings and each month a different department handles the payment of bills associated with the monthly meetings. The expense will be reimbursed by the other member departments.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $181,501.85. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Dr. Ciervo reported that the Park and Recreation Department will have a clean up day on Saturday at Clark Nature Center, with local Brownie Troops and their families volunteering to help clear trails. He asked interested residents to come out and help the Brownies from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the Township’s Summer Camp early registration discount period will be extended to April 30, 2010. A 10% discount is offered to early registrants.
Arbor Day events are planned on Monday, April 19 at Roberts Ridge Park at 9:00 AM, when a tree will be planted, followed by games and other activities at 10:00 AM at Brian Gregg Park in Newtown Borough.
Appointments to Boards and Committees
Financial Planning Committee: Mr. Gallagher moved to appoint Warren Dallas (2011), Gaylord Swaby (2012) and Joseph Barkley (2012) to the Financial Planning Committee. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Newtown Corporation: Mr. Calabro suggested tabling this appointment as two resumes and letters of interest were received today and the members have not had time to review them. As liaison to the Newtown Corporation, Mr. Calabro said that he feels these two interested volunteers, who are both women, might bring some diversity to the all male committee.
Mr. Calabro moved to table consideration of an appointment to the Newtown Corporation. The motion failed to be seconded.
Mr. Gallagher noted that the position has been open for two months and the proposed appointee had submitted his letter of interest over one month ago.
Mr. Gallagher moved to appoint Shawn Ward to the Newtown Corporation. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro said that the reason for the late submission of the two most recent applicants was because he had been asked by the Chairman to find some interested volunteers. While he agreed that Mr. Ward would be a qualified appointee, he would have wanted to see some “new blood” and would like to open the Township’s committees to some new voices.
Mr. Benchener said that Mr. Ward, as an active and influential business owner, would be an appropriate appointment.
Dr. Ciervo said that Mr. Ward’s business and legal background make him a good fit for the Newtown Corporation. He is happy to see some new volunteers come forward and hopes to find appropriate committees for them.
The motion passed 3-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
TCC Resolution: Mr. Gallagher explained that the State has mandated, under Act 32, that municipalities contract with a single tax collector per county. The budget for this is $75,000, with each municipality contributing based on population and revenue. The Bucks County Tax Collection Committee will be making an application to the Department of Community and Economic Development for a grant to assist the TCC with start up costs.
Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution 2010-R-8, Authorizing the Tax Collection Committee to make application for a DCED grant. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 3-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Swamp Road: Mr. Gallagher said that he would like the Board to direct the Township Manager to prepare a follow up letter to the County Commissioners about the reclassification of Swamp Road as a major collector road. As a major collector the Township would have more control over the road. Messrs. Calabro and Benchener agreed with Mr. Gallagher. The matter will be discussed further with the Swamp Road Residents Group at an upcoming work session.
Budget Variance Report: Mr. Gallagher said that in response to recent discussions at the Finance Committee meetings he has drafted a sample variance report which shows revenues and expenses year to date compared to what had been budgeted. He noted that the earned income tax is on budget, snow removal is higher than had been budgeted, pension fund contributions have not yet been made and Park and Recreation revenues are down. He asked the other Board members to review this draft to see whether this type of reporting will be helpful or if there is other information they would like to see included.
Penns Trail North: Mr. Benchener said that he had requested that some traffic calming measures be instituted on Penns Trail North when a portion of Upper Silver Lake Road was permanently vacated. He said that the traffic engineer has submitted a number of recommendations, suggesting that they be tried for six months and evaluated. The traffic engineer reported speeding of about 40 MPH on the road, which is posted at 25 MPH. He asked the Board to authorize implementing these temporary measures, which include break-away posts, striping, striped crosswalks, additional signage and fold out placards. The measures would be paid from TSA funds.
Dr. Ciervo and Mr. Gallagher agreed that evaluating some temporary measures would be a good idea, as would increased enforcement of posted speed limits.
Mr. Benchener moved to adopt the temporary traffic calming measures recommended in the letter of Traffic Engineer Andrew Brown of Carroll Engineering.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would prefer tabling this until some costs associated with the measures were known.
Mr. Benchener withdrew his motion.
Reports of Committees
Park and Recreation Board: Chairman Andrew Levine announced that the Township Summer Camp discount registration period will be extended until April 30, 2010.
Mr. Gallagher noted that income for programs was somewhat below what had been expected.
Mr. Levine noted that camp enrollments have been a little slower than anticipated and this year the Department had accepted a partial payment plan with enrollment. Generally, the programs are doing well and residents are very pleased with the new community rooms here at the municipal complex.
Mr. Levine said that at its April 7, 2010 meeting the Park and Recreation Board agreed to recommend to the Board that the Woll tract park be named to honor our military veterans. Rather than name a specific person, the Board recommends naming the park Veterans Memorial Park or something similar to that. The Board discussed placing plaques to honor veterans of specific wars or branches of the service along the walking trails.
Post Commander Dave Matthews and Jim Curry of Newtown’s American Legion Post 440 were in attendance to express their support of the naming of the park. Commander Matthews said that the American Legion would like the park named Veterans Memorial Park and would like each of the six fields named for a specific branch of the service: Navy, Army, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. The Post would like to raise funds to place an American Flag and a service flag on poles at each field.
The Board was very supportive of the naming and agreed to adopt a resolution at the next regular meeting.
Commander Matthews said that the American Legion would be happy to participate in the opening ceremonies for the park.
The Park and Recreation Board will begin updating the Park and Recreation Comprehensive Plan at its upcoming meetings. There is a grant to help defray some of the costs of using a professional planner to help. Mr. Levine said that Jeffrey Marshall of the Heritage Conservancy will be updating the Borough plan and will be considered for some additional help on the Township plan.
Environmental Advisory Council: Chairman Jay McGuigan reported that the Environmental Advisory Council has worked with the Park and Recreation Board on a project to host a Tree Tenders workshop next fall. EAC member Autumn Thomas is a tree tender and has acted as liaison with the Park and Recreation Board. The Tree Tenders event will include training on pruning, using some trees here at the municipal complex for demonstration, and a tree will be donated and planted. Ms. Thomas organized a tree tenders clean up day at Clark Nature Center, where these master gardeners helped to give the magnolias a much needed pruning. Going forward, Ms. Thomas will be spearheading an effort for the EAC, in conjunction with the Park and Recreation Board, to form a “friends of the park” group to help with caring for the valuable specimen trees at the Clark Nature Center.
Mr. McGuigan reported that in considering wildlife management the EAC has collected data on deer-vehicle collisions over the past eight years and has observed a dramatic increase in these occurrences. Mr. McGuigan reviewed charts showing the dramatic increase, from 67 reported incidents in 2002 to 142 reported in 2009, with a sharp spike in occurrences every fall. The majority of the accidents are occurring along the major roadways, with 35 accidents in 2009 on a short stretch of Durham Road.
After collecting the data, the EAC has begun to investigate what can be done to reduce the number of accidents. The EAC has followed the efforts of neighboring municipalities and had met with three different organizations, White Buffalo, Eccologix and Big Oak White Tail, to learn more about controlling the herd through thinning activities. The EAC has learned how these programs have been conducted in Upper and Lower Makefield using combinations of bow hunting and sharpshooting. In Lower Makefield the efforts have been concentrated on public lands while in Upper Makefield both public and private lands have been used, with permission and full cooperation of the private property owners. Here in Newtown, the EAC has mapped the main occurrences of repeated collisions, and has seen a concentration along Durham Road, Wrights Road, Swamp Road, Richboro Road and Eagle Road. Many large publicly owned properties are along these routes, making them a good choice for consideration of a wildlife management program. The next step would be to begin gathering information on costs associated with a controlled hunt. Mr. McGuigan reviewed the maps and asked the Board for guidance as to which parcels should be included in any estimates for controlled hunts.
Mr. Gallagher said that in Lower Makefield the sharpshooting hunt was preceded by bow hunting.
Mr. McGuigan said that the State requires some public hunt before sharpshooting can be done. Lower Makefield decided to use Big Oak to fulfill that requirement.
Mr. Czajkowski noted that he had been involved in implementing Upper Makefield’s wildlife management plan and said that the costs might vary greatly among the different wildlife management contractors. This will be an important factor in formulating a recommendation as to what the Township should do, if anything, to control the herd. He suggested authorizing the EAC to get quotes to put together plans for Township owned properties.
Dr. Ciervo noted that not all of the Township owned land would be appropriate for controlled hunts; some parcels are small and are in more densely populated areas. Some are active recreation parks. Certain parcels should be excluded from consideration.
Mr. Czajkowski suggested that the EAC work with the various providers to determine which Township parcels would be appropriate for consideration.
Mr. McGuigan said that he has spoken to the rangers at Tyler State Park about the hunt in early December. The Board might want to consider coordinating a hunt with the State Park hunt as deer migrate from Tyler onto Township owned land.
The Board agreed to authorize the EAC to pursue quotes for controlled hunts on Township owned parcels.
Reports of Officials
Settlement and Release Agreement with Miller Brothers: Mr. Gallagher moved to enter a release and settlement agreement between Newtown Township and Miller Brothers for additional compensation in the negotiated amount of $25,000 for work at the signal modernization at Newtown Bypass and Newtown Yardley Road/Lower Silver Lake Road and Newtown Yardley Road and Lindenhurst Road/Campus Drive. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Traffic Signal Modernization Change Order #2: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize traffic signal modernization change order #2 at Newtown Bypass and Newtown Yardley Road/Lower Silver Lake Road and Newtown Yardley Road and Lindenhurst Road/Campus Drive. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Ms. Fountain noted that this is not an invoice. Payment for this work will be included with pay estimate #5 as part of the negotiate agreement.
Traffic Signal Modernization – Pay Estimate #5: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize pay estimate #5 in the amount of $35,152.50 to Miller Brothers for signal modernization. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Homewood Suites – Certificate of Completion: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize escrow release #1, in the amount of $244,407.55 to Homewood Suites. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that the Department had responded to 1624 calls, including 22 theft investigations, 42 traffic accidents, 80 medical emergencies and 7 struck deer.
In response to Mr. Gallagher’s question, Chief Pasqualini said that 80% of the Department has completed crisis intervention training, which teaches officers to de-escalate situations. Officers Ferraro and Keating have completed a 40 hour course.
Chief Pasqualini said that the FCC has mandated that police radios change to a narrow band frequency. This is an unfunded mandate which will cost the County $68,000,000. Newtown’s radios will cost about $2,500,000. In 1999, when a similar change had been made, the County floated a bond. Consultants are working on a possible bond issue now. The change must take place in two years. There is some concern about the time constraints as well as the cost. The second phase of the change, a software change, must be completed by 2017. Consultants are working to make sure that Phase 2 will only be an upgrade.
Chief Pasqualini reminded residents that 2010 Census workers will be in Newtown beginning April 26. They will have identification.
The Chief announced that Anthony Petsis, a CPA with offices on State Street, has sponsored a DARE fundraiser. He thanked Mr. Petsis.
The Department has received a $21,000 grant for updating record management equipment to allow officers to do reports from the squad cars.
Mr. Benchener asked about the number of abandoned 911 calls and emergency responses.
Chief Pasqualini said that the increase in abandoned calls is because of cell phones. The Department is now responding to all medical emergencies, which had not always been the case. There are not more emergencies, just more police response to the emergencies.
Dr. Ciervo noted that there was one arson response.
Chief Pasqualini said this was a soda bottle explosion in Wendy’s. It had not been reported, but it appears to have been connected with two similar explosions in Newtown Borough. The juveniles involved will be charged as juvenile first offenders. These explosive bottles can be very dangerous, as they can explode in the hands of the users. The Department will conduct some public education efforts on the dangers.
Field Usage Agreement – Girls Softball/Little League: Mr. Garton reviewed a memorandum of understanding among the Township, Rock Softball and Newtown Athletic Association whereby an existing baseball field at Helen Randle Park will be converted to a softball field for Rock Softball and the softball field at the Woll tract will become a little league field for use by Newtown Athletic Association.
Mr. Benchener moved to adopt a memorandum of understanding regarding a field swap between Helen Randle Park and the Woll tract. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Joe Garvey, President of Rock Softball, expressed some concern about conditions at Helen Randle Park, at the field in question and throughout the park. He would like the agreement to outline the improvements to be made to the park.
Dr. Ciervo said that it appears Mr. Garvey had not been provided with the most recent draft of the agreement, which does, in fact, outline the improvements to be made, including bringing public water lines to the fields, using the $10,000 budgeted for Helen Randle Park for 2010.
Mr. Garvey said that some of the fencing is damaged and there have been some minor injuries to players.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the Public Works Department has fallen behind on maintenance because of the weather, but would address the fence right away. Every effort will be made to complete the water line project as quickly as possible.
Mr. Garvey reminded the Board that opening day for softball is Sunday, April 18. Township summer camp fliers will be distributed during the opening day events.
The motion passed 4-0.
Marisa the Art of Apparel, 250 N. Sycamore Street- Certificate of Appropriateness: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that consideration of this request had been postponed to allow the applicant to present her request.
Attorney Shawn Ward represented the applicant, Ellen Tolen. Mr. Ward explained that he had been at the HARB meeting at which this application was reviewed. He noted that HARB had requested the columns in front of the store be changed to tan. Ms. Tolen would like to leave them gold because they look very good. While the shop is subject to HARB review, the building is not historic and is not in the historic district.. The Sycamore Street Community Association supports this application and to change the columns would be an undue hardship and expense. He urged the Board to support this application to encourage business in the shopping center. Some shops have struggled to survive in this location in the current economy. An effort should be made to help this applicant attract business.
Joseph McKiernan, a HARB member, said that HARB discussed but did not vote on this application. As an architect, he supports the application as gold has been an acceptable historic color for thousands of years.
Mr. Gallagher said that he agrees that the color looks very nice and matches the interior, which is visible through the shop windows. He did ask Mr. Ward to remind the Sycamore Street business owners to seek HARB approval before painting.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the Board had approved the gold color for the sign at this location.
Mr. Benchener moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for Ralph Lauren gold columns for Marisa the Art of Apparel at 250 N. Sycamore Street. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Rockbridge: Mr. Garton explained that the Board must approve a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions to participate in the County Natural Lands Program. This is the last step before reimbursement of $157,000 for purchase and preservation of the Rockbridge property. He asked the Board to review the document and unless the Board wishes to retain any additional rights other than the rights conferred upon it pursuant to the Declaration as it relates to the property, a motion is necessary to authorize signing of the document.
Mr. Benchener referred to page #3, item “c”, which discusses signage. He asked if the signs the Township has been placing on preserve open space will be permitted.
Mr. Garton said the signage is acceptable.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize signing of a declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions on the Rockbridge property. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo confirmed that the $157,000 reimbursement would be placed in the Township’s Park and Recreation Capital Fund.
The motion passed 4-0.
Foxhall Estates: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize the Township Manager to prepare bid documents for public improvements to Foxhall Estates. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Ms. Fountain reported that a punch list has been prepared with all outstanding work. She agreed to meet with a representative of the homeowners association to review her list and finalize it. She would inspect the landscaping and the fencing Mr. McBride has reported.
Mr. McBride said that he would speak to the homeowners on lost #4 and 7 about their concerns and explain that the bids would only address public improvements.
The motion passed 4-0.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the Board would meet in executive session to discuss personnel matters.
The meeting adjourned at 10:25 PM.