Board of Supervisors
Minutes of April 28, 2010
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on April 28, 2010 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman, Robert Ciervo, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, Secretary/Treasurer Jerry Schenkman 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 Monsignor Michael Piccard of St. Andrew’s Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski said that an amendment to the Pension Policy Statement has been added to the Manager’s Report.
Public Comment: Resident Joanne Bintliffe Ritchie said that she was disappointed with the special meeting between Upper Makefield’s and Newtown’s Boards of Supervisors to discuss possible changes to Phase II of the Stoopville Road improvement project which was held earlier this evening. Although interested residents have been discussing the Stoopville Road project and attending meetings about it for more than ten years, the residents were given very little notice of the scheduled meeting. The public announcement had been made only two days ago and there was no effort made to contact interested residents directly or through homeowners associations. Ms. Bintliffe Ritchie said that this was not open government. At the conclusion of the meeting it was agreed that the Supervisors would meet again to continue discussion. She urged the Board to notify residents, many of whom could offer valuable insights.
Dr. Ciervo said that this meeting was only recently planned. The aim had been to ascertain whether there is consensus between the two municipalities on Phase II of the Stoopville Road improvement project. Since the project was originally planned, both Newtown Township and Upper Makefield’s board membership has changed. There has been some interest in making some modifications to Phase II, but any changes would be voted on at an advertised public meeting.
Resident Michael Iapalucci, representing the skate park committee, reported that the committee has raised $3500 with an additional $2000 pledged to the project. A local resident and business person has expressed interest in making a $10,000 donation if he could be involved in the naming of the park. This would bring the raised funds to the needed $15,000, which the Board had voted to match 4 to 1.
Resident Chris Davis, an Eagle Scout candidate with Pack 99, said that he would like to install a bench and safety signage at the skate park as his Eagle project. The Boy Scouts will not approve his proposal unless he has some assurance that the park will be built. Approval would be given once the pad is in place. He asked the Board when that would be.
Ms. Fountain explained that the original bids for the project had been too high. The Township re-bid the project. Bids will be opened at 10:00 AM on May 17 at the Township building. The Board would then vote on whether to award the bid at a public meeting, probably on May 26, 2010.
Dr. Ciervo said that if the numbers are acceptable the Board would vote on the bids authorize installation.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that Mr. Davis investigate alternative locations for his project. He noted that the Woll tract park will be needing benches and signage as will the new playground at Helen Randle Park.
Mr. Iapalucci said that Jim Worthington of the NAC has been eager to make a $10,000 donation to the skate park to support athletic activities for children who are not enrolled in organized team sports. He would, however, want to be involved in the naming of the park.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that Mr. Worthington present the Board with some naming suggestions. Any naming would be approved at a public meeting after discussion, as had been done with the Woll tract and Helen Randle Park.
Mr. Benchener commended the skate park committee for its efforts to form a public/private partnership to build the park.
Mr. Iapalucci noted that in addition to private donations, Upper Makefield’s and Newtown Borough’s recreation departments have each made $500 contributions to the fund.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that at the meeting with Upper Makefield Supervisors held earlier this evening, Dr. Ciervo had made a motion to transfer funds currently allocated to Newtown Township to Upper Makefield and Wrightstown. He said that the two days notice of the meeting and the early hour prevented interested residents from attending and contributing to the conversation. The proposal Dr. Ciervo made would eliminate trails and stormwater management from Newtown.
Mr. Sensibaugh announced that the Newtown Creek Coalition will sponsor a creek clean up day on Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 9:00 AM at the Centre Avenue bridge. Invasive species will be removed under the direction of the Heritage Conservancy. George Leck & Son has donated a dumpster to haul collected trash.
Dr. Ciervo again stated that the meeting was held to determine whether there was a consensus among the two municipalities’ supervisors on possible changes to Phase II of the Stoopville Road project. There are other options still to be considered. Some Board members have concerns about the proposed trail crossing at Stoopville and Eagle Roads. Any action on the project will be taken during an advertised public meeting.
Resident John D’Aprile said that the time to complain about Stoopville Road would have been ten years ago. The improvement plans are a bad idea and the medians are very dangerous.
Mr. Benchener said that the meeting this evening should have been better publicized. He urged the Board to notify residents of the follow up meeting so that the Board could hear public comment, although he did not think that the scheduling of this evening’s meeting was in any way a political “back room deal.”Le Sheppard of Wrightstown Township said that he had attended the earlier meeting and was supportive of the Jointure working to address issues together for the good of the community. He said that the two boards had discussed installing a traffic light at the intersection of Stoopville and Durham Roads. He objected to this suggestion because it would create back-ups along Stoopville Road, blocking driveways. He suggested instead that turning lanes be considered.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the work session of March 15, 2010. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Benchener abstaining.
Mr. Benchener moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of April 14, 2010. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Schenkman abstaining.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $277,741.25. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman explained that he had deducted $1988.94 from the bills list presented to the Supervisors in their weekly packet for a bill from Paetec, which appears on page #7 of the list. This bill is for phone and internet, but the Township did not have internet connection with Paetec for this month.
Mr. Gallagher noted that on page 8 of the list is a bill for Skotleski Video Productions for consulting in the amount of $400. Skotleski had been contracted for installation of a wireless sound system for the public meeting room, which Skotleski was not able to install. He is not satisfied that the microphones installed instead are an adequate solution, as the Board members and the public must activate the microphones every time they speak and if they are left activated the sound quality on the televised meeting is poor. Although Skotleski has already been paid, withholding this amount for additional consulting would provide the Board with some leverage to rectify the microphone issue. He noted that the $400 charge had been for some training of staff and video consultants. He had attended a portion of the training and felt that it had been satisfactory.
Mr. Schenkman noted a bill from the architects on page 15 in the amount of $11270.38 for LEED certification. He would like more information on the work done before authorizing this payment.
Mr. Schenkman moved to amend his motion to authorize payment of bills totaling 266,070.87, which amount deducts the items discussed. Dr. Ciervo amended his second and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $285,600. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh said that this transfer includes $170,000 from the general fund. He asked whether the general fund still maintains the 10% as required by the resolution passed in December.
Dr. Ciervo said that the transfer is for payroll. The 10% is a budget policy.
Mr. Gallagher said that the percentage in the reserve will fluctuate throughout the year depending on revenues received and expenses paid.
Mr. Schenkman said that at this time the reserve is above the 10%. The Township has already collected revenues from earned income taxes for residents totaling $5300 and non-residents totaling $48,600; property taxes above $500,000 have already been collected.The motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Board Members: Mr. Gallagher reported that most of the Board attended a meeting earlier this evening with Upper Makefield’s Board of Supervisors to discuss Phase II of the Stoopville Road improvement project.
Mr. Gallagher reported that he attended the Financial Planning Committee’s meeting earlier in the week. New members participated and the Committee reorganized.
Mr. Gallagher reported that he attended the Technology Committee meeting this week. That Committee has been discussing ideas for updating the Township’s Web site to include video steaming of the Board meetings and other user friendly ideas. The members are suggesting that the Township reserve a dot.gov domain name at a cost of about $125.
The Board authorized the Manager to reserve the new domain name.
Mr. Schenkman reported that he had attended the Joint Historic Commission meeting. The members discussed the condition of the Toll House at Village at Newtown Shopping Center. He asked to place the Joint Historic Commission on an upcoming work session agenda and invite both the members and the shopping center owner to explore ways to preserve this historic structure.
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its April 20, 2010 meeting the Commission reviewed the application of Smith, Ace Hardware, 2670 South Eagle Road for variances for an individual establishment sign 84.2 square feet where 20 square feet is the maximum and with a height of 22 feet where 9 feet is the maximum. The sign appears to be similar in size and height to the Petsmart sign in the same building. The members did not object to the size or height provided this is the only sign for the business. The size is necessary to be visible from Eagle Road. The Commission passed this application to the Board without further comment.
Although the applicant was not in attendance, the Commission discussed the application of DMJ & Associates on behalf of Paul Lang, 201 Pheasant Runfor a variance to permit installation of an 8 foot diameter roof mounted satellite dish without screening. The members had some concerns about what appears to be a self-imposed hardship and had some questions about the proposed use for such a large dish. The Commission also had some questions about the method of mounting and the ability of the roof to support the weight of the dish. Ms. Fountain did assure the members that should a variance be granted by the Zoning Hearing Board, these questions would be investigated as part of the permitting procedure. The Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the Board of Supervisors oppose this application unless the applicant provides sufficient data to address the concerns of the Commission.
Dr. Ciervo asked for more input on the Commission’s objections to the satellite dish.
Mr. Fidler explained that what the members were seeking was data on the use, the location and the structural integrity of the dish. If these questions were satisfactorily answered at the Board meeting the Commission would no longer recommend that the Board oppose the application.
Mr. Fidler reported that Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush and her staff gave a presentation on a vision for future development of Sycamore Street. The Commission discussed the various ideas presented and were very enthusiastic and supportive. The only concerns the members had were with the plans to open Howard Avenue, to create an access road between Sycamore and Eagle Road along side of Newtown Presbyterian Church and the creation of a through street from the Borough at Green Street. All of these plans would involve development on private property, and would create additional access points on an already congested Sycamore Street. The BCPC will provided the Commission with some guidance for future discussions of use regulations and performance standards at the ordinance for the TC district is reviewed. The Commission reviewed the letter of Carroll Engineering dated March 17, 2010 in response to PennDOT’s letter regarding the Terry Drive extension. The members discussed the economic benefits for the extension and thought the Newtown Business Commons Association might be able to provide some concrete information on the economic impact that traffic has on development in the Commons. We will be asking the traffic engineer to focus his quarterly report to us on Terry Drive.
EAC Liaison Dennis Fisher reported to the Planning Commission on the EAC’s wildlife management research. The Commission would recommend that the deer vehicle collision report be placed on the Township Web site as a way to keep the public informed.
Mr. Fisher also reported that he had discussed the Planning Commission’s review of some recent Zoning Hearing Board applications with the EAC. The Planning Commission had suggested to a few residential applicants for variances for increased impervious surface to consider ways to mitigate the additional run off. In discussing this with the EAC the idea was suggested to provide residents seeking impervious surface variances with some literature on ways to address stormwater management on small projects. Ms. Fountain has agreed to help the two committees explore this further.
Reports of Officials
Swamp Road/Eagle Road Signalization Project Pay Estimate #3: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize pay estimate #3 in the amount of $57,911.43 to Armour & Sons Electric for Newtown Plaza signalization. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bucks County Consortium Fuel Bids: Mr. Czajkowski reminded the Board that in recent years, as fuel costs have fluctuated, the consortium has not been able to lock in prices. The memo outlining bids are for floating prices on gasoline, diesel and heating fuels’ fixed delivery charges.
Mr. Gallagher moved to accept the bids for motor fuel and heating oil as outlined in a memo dated April 23, 2010. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Pension Policy Statement: Mr. Czajkowski explained that at its most recent meeting, the Pension Committee voted to recommend that the Board amend the pension policy to allow an allocation of up to 80% equities to 20% bonds. The policy currently limits equities to 60% and bonds to 40%. There are other aspects of the policy which will still need to be carefully reviewed. This would be an interim adjustment to allow the pension manager to invest the over $900,000 in cash held by the three pensions.
Mr. Benchener said that the Financial Planning Committee had discussed this recommendation at its last meeting. He asked Jim McCrane, a Financial Planning Committee member who also works in the bond business, to address this recommendation.
Mr. McCrane explained that the pensions are defined benefits. The members do not contribute but are guaranteed a certain pension upon retirement. If the investments do not perform well, the Township, that is the taxpayers, are responsible to fund the benefits. Changing the investment policy as recommended would be exposing the Township to more risk. The investments should remain conservative, especially as those enrolled get nearer to retirement age. Assets would have to be liquidated for the payouts.
Dr. Ciervo said that if this interim measure were taken all of the other restrictions in the investment policy would remain, only the total percentage to be invested in equities would be increased. Right now the investments are over 62% just because of recent gains. The goal is not to maintain an 80% investment in equities, only to allow flexibility with a goal of closer to 70%. This is the strategy the Pension Committee, whose members represent the union members, have agreed to.
Mr. Benchener pointed out that a pension manager is being paid to invest the pension funds. He cannot take full advantage of the current market. It is his understanding that the actuarial goal is 7.5%, which cannot be met without some flexibility. He did agree that the current policy does not adequately define the limits within the equities and bonds investments.
Mr. Schenkman agreed that he would want the policy to have more controls within the 80/20 investment policy. He did not think the Board could form a motion without some research and some suggestions written as to the limits for the types of equities and bonds the funds would invest in.
Dr. Ciervo expressed some concern about the cash on hand and about the current balance with equities above 62%.
Mr. Schenkman said that while the funds do have to be adjusted this is not an immediate requirement. Balancing can be done at some later point.
Mr. Gallagher said that because this had not appeared on an advertised agenda he is uncomfortable taking action.
Mr. Garton noted that should the Board decide to amend the Pension Investment Policy Statement an ordinance would be necessary.
The Board agreed that the Financial Planning Committee, Pension Committee and Pension Fund Manager would meet to further review the investment policy before action would be taken.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize the Pension Fund Manager to exceed the current limits in equity investments provided the excess is limited to passive index funds. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Other Business: Mr. Czajkowski reported that he had recently discussed the service agreement with the Fire Company staff. He has been researching similar agreements between other municipalities and their fire companies.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the project to bring water to the fields at Helen Randle Park will be moving forward. It is expected that the price will be below $10,000.
Mr. Garton suggested that the sports leagues sign the usage agreement first.
DMJ & Associates, on behalf of Paul Lang, owner, 201 Pheasant Run: Sal Campo was in attendance to review this application for a variance to mount an 8 foot satellite dish without screening on the roof of the building. He had been out of town the night of the Planning Commission meeting. He explained that the dish is needed for the applicant’s business, which is testing software. Data is coming from a specific satellite. The building owner will not permit the roof to be penetrated. The ballast mount is used frequently when mounted where penetration is not permitted. The location is necessary because of the surrounding vegetation at the property. This building is surrounded by wooded areas. He will submit architectural information on the structural questions if a variance is granted as part of the permit application.
Ms. Fountain confirmed that this would be a requirement for a permit.
Mr. Campo said that the frame for the dish could not support screening.
Mr. Schenkman expressed some concern that the large dish would be visible from the Bypass.
Mr. Campo said that the building is set back some distance from the road, has no residential neighbors and is surrounded by a heavily wooded area. It would be screened significantly by the vegetation.
Mr. Benchener noted that the Planning Commission had concerns about unanswered questions, which have now been addressed. He favored supporting a local business trying to work in an industrial area.
Mr. Gallagher said he would like to send this to the Zoning Hearing Board without any opposition from the Township.
Smith Ace Hardware, 2670 S. Eagle Road: George Smith was in attendance to review this application for an individual establishment sign 84.2 square feet where 20 square feet is the maximum and with a height of 22 feet where 9 feet is the maximum. He said that the Petsmart sign, which appears similar in size is 219 square feet. Mr. Smith said that he would not be using the existing band signs in front of the building. This would be his only sign.
The Board passed this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Ordinance - Amendment to the Code of Ordinance to Adopt the 2009 International Fire Code, with Amendments, as the Newtown Township Fire Code - Authorization to Advertise: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize advertisement of an amendment to the code of ordinances adopting the 2009 International Fire Code. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Fire Marshal Don Harris said that this amendment has no major changes to the existing fire code, but amends it to reflect 2009 codes. The amendment deals with existing buildings and addresses monitoring of blasting.
The motion passed 5-0.
Banner for "Summerfest" across Sycamore Street, May 1 - June 10, 2010: Mr. Gallagher moved to grant approval of a temporary banner sign above Sycamore Street advertising “Summerfest.” Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dave Burns, representing the Sycamore Street Community Association, showed a sample banner and explained that the event would take place June 5. The proposed banner is 3 feet by 26 feet, double sided. It will hang between the Lombardi property and Bill Marsh Ford. The sign has wind slits to prevent damage. He provided proof of insurance with the application.
The motion passed 5-0.
County of Bucks, Radio Transmission Tower: Mr. Garton explained that the County Solicitor has written asking what conditions the Township would require in order to extend the sublease between the County and New Cingular Wireless as successor to Metrophone. In 1984 the County and Township entered into a lease agreement as a result of which the County constructed a communications tower on Township property . The lease runs until May 2034. The lease permits the County to sublet space on the tower provided that the terms and conditions of the sublease meet the approval of the County and Township. New Cingular Wireless entered into a sublease some years ago and now wishes to extend the sublease for a potential of three additional five year terms. The proposed extension increases the rent 7.5% at the beginning of each five year term.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the Township currently splits the lease funds with the County 2/3 to the County 1/3 to the Township. Currently the Township is paid $12000 annually. In addition the Township receives $37,109 from the tenants on the other tower and $5000 for the antenna on the water tower.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that the Township should be paid ½ of the lease, as the County has recouped its investment.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the 7.5% increase is a standard amount, as it seems low.
Mr. Benchener said that 7.5% every five years does not keep pace with inflation.
After further discussion, the Board agreed that Mr. Garton should speak to the County Solicitor about a ½ split of the lease and a 12% every five years increase, or some other commonly used inflation index. Mr. Garton will also inquire as to the rents in 1990 and 2010.
Mr. Gallagher reminded the Board that he had asked about instituting a purchase order procedure to allow the Board greater oversight over spending. He would like to start discussion of a policy whereby purchase orders of around $1000 would require Board approval before orders are placed or purchases made. He would not want to include any of the normal bills in this procedure.
Mr. Benchener said that he supports the concept but does not want to hinder the administration.
Mr. Czajkowski suggested that the Board review some bills lists to see whether there are items they would want more information about. This might guide the members in determining what types of purchases they would like to review and authorize.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that perhaps a certain percentage of a budget line item would generate a purchase order review.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that the Board seek some guidance from organizations working with finance directors to see what some other municipal policies and procedures are. He said that whatever the procedure, it must be followed. Sometimes purchases precede the purchase order.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he could start a Board approval procedure for capital purchases immediately.
Mr. Garton suggested seeking some advise from an organization called FASBO, which deals with school business offices. This organization might have policy and procedure advice.
Mr. Calabro asked the Board to discuss the financial information provided by the non-profits that the Township contributes to each year. He would like to put this on an upcoming work session agenda, perhaps with a representative of each recipient organization in attendance. He would like to discuss the Township’s contributions to some organizations which also have well paid Boards of Directors.
Mr. Gallagher agreed that the Board and the public should have a clear understanding of where the taxpayers’ money is going.
Mr. Benchener asked whether the Traffic Engineer had provided any costs associated with temporary traffic calming measures for Penns Trail North.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he did not have the breakdown of costs but the total amount for all recommended traffic calming measures was approximately $5000.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize implementation of temporary traffic calming measures on Penns Trail North. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman said that an authorization to spend $5000, even though it is from TSA funds, should be an advertised agenda item.
Dr. Ciervo said that before the Board acts on the measures the traffic engineer should inform the homeowners association of the proposal.
Mr. Benchener withdrew his motion.
Dr. Ciervo said that there would not be an executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 10:05 PM.