Board of Supervisors
Minutes of May 26, 2010
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on May 26, 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 Michael Gallagher, member. 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 Pastor Jay Button of Grace Point Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski announced that the Aria Health discussion has been postponed to a future meeting.
Public Comment: Resident Richard Weaver, Executive Director of Newtown Business Commons Association (NBCA) updated the Board on efforts toward economic development in the Commons. He quickly reviewed the history of the Commons since its inception in 1965 as an industrial park. In more recent years as occupancy changed from light manufacturing to business, the name of the Commons was changed and some of the zoning updated to better reflect the business and professional environment. These changes included the addition of a hotel use.
Mr. Weaver reported that the Commons has 13,000 employees, 2000 of them residents. The Commons contributes over $3,000,000 in real estate and $200,000 in earned income taxes each year.
The Commons is working with the Goffman Group to develop a Web site which will feature some of the international, national and local businesses, including Lockheed Martin, the Law School Admissions Council and Teletronics, which moved into a retrofitted warehouse with 60 employees, but has since expanded to 200 employees. The Web site will also provide information about available vacant buildings, offices and land available for development.
As an offshoot of the NBCA, Mr. Weaver has reconvened an economic advisory group whose members include DVRPC, BCPC, PennDOT, Bucks County Redevelopment Authority and representatives of NBCA and the Newtown Corporation. This group meets monthly to discuss economic development for all of Newtown’s business districts.
Mr. Schenkman asked how Mr. Weaver would proceed if an international or national business were to express interest in moving to Newtown.
Mr. Weaver explained that after ascertaining the nature and size of the business to determine if it would be a “good fit”, he would notify the Township Manager and Fire Marshal in order to discuss a smooth approval process. He would provide information about not only doing business, but living in Newtown, highlighting our excellent school district and nearby colleges, convenience to I95, airports and railways, and the service businesses available in the Commons, including daycare, restaurant, health facilities and hotel. He noted that the hotel is doing better than expected business, with some days having 95% occupancy.
Dr. Ciervo and Mr. Schenkman urged Mr. Weaver to also notify the Board of Supervisors of interested businesses, as the Township’s officials are eager to “roll out the red carpet.”
Mr. Benchener asked whether all of the various business groups in Newtown have the same consistent message for prospective tenants.
Mr. Weaver said that while he is involved in many of the business groups, it might be a good idea to hold periodic joint meetings to discuss this.
Mr. Gallagher noted that Mr. Weaver has been actively working to promote Newtown as a business location, with Newtown Corporation and NBCA and other organizations both as a supervisor and as an interested resident for more than ten years. He thanked Mr. Weaver for his ongoing efforts.
Resident Henry Piotrowski presented a petition to the Supervisors asking that the Board focus some efforts on pedestrian safety. Of particular concern are the push buttons for pedestrians which are supposed to change traffic lights and allow sufficient time for walking across streets. He said he had written to both the Borough and Township about the ineffective functioning of these buttons some years ago. They have since been removed from Borough traffic signals. He asked that the buttons be removed from Township traffic signals as well, and also suggested recalibration of signals to allow enough time for crossing the streets and placement of countdown signals instead of the walking man signals. He urged the Board to provide public education for motorists and pedestrians on safety and to enforce existing traffic regulations. He noted some inconsistent speed limits along Newtown Yardley/Washington/Swamp Road, where the speed limit changes incrementally between 25 and 45 MPH within a short distance.
Mr. Gallagher noted that this evening’s agenda will include discussion of a pedestrian safety week and formation of a traffic committee. He urged Mr. Piotrowski to remain for this portion of the meeting and to participate in the discussion and perhaps volunteer for a traffic committee the Board will be considering.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the Township has the ability to remove the pedestrian buttons or if PennDOT would need to authorize removal.
Mr. Czajkowski said he would speak to the staff about addressing this issue. Regarding the speed limits on Swamp Road/Washington Avenue, Mr. Czajkowski explained that PennDOT bases speed limits on traffic studies which show the speed at which 85% of vehicles are traveling safely along the existing road. Since the new traffic signal has been installed at the South Eagle Road intersection, traffic speeds may have changed and a new study might show that a different speed limit would be appropriate.
Resident Shawn Ward, President of the Sycamore Street Community Association announced the June 5, 2010 “Takin’ It to the Streets” festival on Sycamore Street between Silo Drive and Durham Road from noon to 9:00 PM. The event will feature 40 vendors, food, music, dancing and face painting and the Farmers’ Market pig roast. The festival will coincide with Historic Newtown Presbyterian Church’s 50 th annual Strawberry Festival. Proceeds from the sale of strawberry drinks will benefit the Presbyterian Church’s preservation efforts. Vendors of local services and retail, including retailers from State Street, will be participating. Food will be provided by six local restaurants and caterers; the booths will be provided by Newtown Rental.
Mr. Ward also noted that at the time of the construction of Goodnoe’s Corner, the developer escrowed money for a traffic light at the intersection of Sycamore Street and Silo Drive. PennDOT had indicated that the light was not warranted, but traffic has continued to grow and perhaps this should be pursued again. He offered his and the Community Association’s support for this.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh asked whether there are ordinances in place to require the removal of campaign signs after the primary election. He said that the signs have remained along roadways, proving a hazard to public works crews cutting the grass.
Dr. Ciervo said that he believed the signs should be removed between three and five days after the election.
Mr. Garton said that the Township can remove signs in the right-of-way, but not those on private properties.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Schenkman moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of May 12, 2010. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher said that in his report on TCC Collection Status, he would like the minutes to reflect that he had asked for and received a consensus from the Board to begin using the single tax collector selected for Bucks County in 2011. He noted that the single collector must be used by 2012. He had explained in his report that he expected significant savings when the single collector is used. Since the last meeting the Committee has received four proposals, each below the current rate charged by Berkheimer.
Messrs. Schenkman and Benchener said that they did not recall agreeing to participate as early as 2011. Mr. Schenkman said that although he did not voice his concern at the May 12, 2010 meeting, he did have some reservations and would have wanted time to think about the question.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that rather than amend the minutes, he would prefer to discuss this further under “new business” later in the meeting.
The motion passed 3-1, with Mr. Gallagher voting nay.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment of bills totaling $149,364.53. Mr. Gallagher secondedand the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $1,439.78. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Dr. Ciervo announced that the annual Memorial Day Parade will be held starting at 10:00 AM at Newtown Business Commons, marching through the Township and Borough and ending at the American Legion Hall on Monday, May 31, 2010. A Ceremony honoring our veterans will be held at the Washington Crossing Veterans Cemetery at 2:00 PM. Parking will be available at Grace Point Church on Stoopville Road.
Board Members: Mr. Benchener reported that he had met with Mr. Schenkman and Financial Planning Committee member Jim McCrane to discuss the proposed revisions to the Pension Investment Policy Statement. The Financial Planning Committee has also discussed this at its most recent meeting. He expected that the Committee would have recommendations ready for the Board shortly.
Mr. Gallagher reported that the Joint Zoning Council began consideration of ordinances dealing with energy conservation and historic preservation.
Joint Traffic Committee: Joanne Bintliff Ritchie and Tim Szwedo presented a resolution making the week of May 28, 2010 Newtown Pedestrian Safety Week. The week was chosen to coincide with field day at Newtown Elementary School, affording the committee an opportunity to provide some education on safe crossing and bicycling before summer vacation. The Committee has set as a goal sponsoring two Pedestrian Safety Weeks each year, the week of Halloween and at the end of the school year.
Mrs. Bintliffe Ritchie said that in addition to providing some education to both pedestrians and motorists, she would like the police to begin a more vigorous enforcement program.
Mr. Swedo said that he has witnessed a number of instances when motorists have failed to yield to pedestrians. He urged the Board to take a position to encourage enforcement of pedestrian safety laws.
Dr. Ciervo noted that Chief Pasqualini has started a traffic enforcement unit. He will ask that the unit include enforcement of the pedestrian laws.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that perhaps a representative of the police department could attend some of the Committee’s meetings.
Mr. Benchener moved to adopt Resolution 2010-R-9, designating the week of May 28 – June 4 as Newtown Pedestrian Safety Week. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo read the resolution into the record:
Whereas Newtown Township and Newtown Borough have formed a Joint Newtown Traffic Committee (hereinafter the “Committee”) with the goal to improve pedestrian safety; and
Whereas, the Committee has outlined a program to educate both drivers and the public on pedestrian safety, especially the meaning of pedestrian crossing signs, through the assistance of our law enforcement officials; and
Whereas the Committee has determined that improving pedestrian safety and adherence to posted speed limits will ultimately lead to safer streets that will benefit both residents and visitors to Newtown Township.
Now, therefore, be it:
Resolved, the week from May 28, 2010 – June 4, 2010 is declared and recognized as “Newtown Spring 2010 Pedestrian Safety Week.”
Further, Resolved, the Newtown Township Police Department and Committee will collaborate on a program designed as a combination of education and enforcement, with the goal of raising awareness for both drivers and pedestrians for safety at crosswalks with signed sentinels and for adherence to posted speed limits during the Newtown Spring 2010 Safety Week.
Mr. Benchener suggested that the first sentence should read, “… with a goal…”.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Piotrowski suggested that the sentinels should be moved closer to the signalized crosswalks.
Mr. Swedo said that the sentinels are not recommended for signalized crossings, as motorists expect pedestrians to cross at the traffic lights. They are intended to warn motorists of crossings without traffic signals.
Mrs. Bintliffe Ritchie said that the three Township representatives on the Joint Traffic Committee would like the Township to form its own Traffic Committee; she noted that the three Borough representatives also serve on a Borough wide traffic committee. The Joint Committee was intended to focus its efforts on the downtown area. She provided the Board with a sample charter that the three members had drafted.
Mr. Garton suggested that he could draft a resolution for review at the next meeting.
Mrs. Bintliffe Ritchie suggested that if a new committee were formed it should consist of a chairman, who would serve as liaison to the Board of Supervisors, three members who also participate in the Joint Committee and one member to serve as liaison to the Planning Commission. Supervisor Benchener currently serves as a Supervisor liaison to the Joint Committee.
Mr. Gallagher suggested asking a member to act as liaison to the Park and Recreation Board, as this Board considers matters such as greenway linkages, walking and bicycle trails.
Mr. Schenkman suggested that a resolution should provide some flexibility by including five to seven members. Should the work become arduous, additional members could then easily be added.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board is supportive of the idea and a resolution would be adopted shortly.
Mrs. Bintliffe Ritchie reported that she had recently attended a one day seminar on greenway linkages. She has also been walking the trails and will provide some information to the Park and Recreation Board about trails inside of developments which do not appear on the Township’s trail map. The Joint Traffic Committee has also been reviewing the changes in speed limits along various roadways, particularly the previously discussed Newtown Yardley/Washington/ Swamp Road.
Reports of Officials
Skate Park Bid Results: Ms. Fountain reported that bids for paving a concrete pad for the skate park were opened on May 17, 2010. Only one bidder, Penn Builders & Installations Co. of Albrightsville, PA, submitted a bid for $62,156.25, considerably higher than the last round of bids and 150% higher than what had been anticipated.
Mr. Schenkman moved to reject the bid of Penn Builders & Installations for a skate park pad. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener asked why the bid was so much higher than the last round.
Ms. Fountain explained that the current bidder did not submit a bid in the first round. The Township had expected bids in the $25,000 range based on information from a particular contractor, but the previous bids were in the $40,000 range. She suggested that the bids previously submitted were already the best price those firms were prepared to offer, so they did not resubmit.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Gallagher noted that although a contractor had suggested a price of $25,000 that contractor had not submitted to either request for bids. He asked whether the project should be put out to bid again.
Dr. Ciervo said that originally the Township had been considering an asphalt pad. A local contractor had indicated that concrete, which is preferred by skate park suppliers and users, would be about the same cost. He suggested that the new bid should request proposals for either asphalt or concrete.
Mr. Gallagher moved to rebid the skate park pad for asphalt and/or concrete. Mr. Schenkman seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh, as chairman of the Newtown Democrats, said that the Democrats have authorized him to offer their support and a check for $250. He presented the check to Michael Iapalucci, chairman of the skate park committee, who was in attendance. He urged the Board to continue to pursue this project.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Gallagher said that he had been contacted by PennBid, which offers a streamlined on-line, paperless public bidding process with no cost to the participating municipalities. It is his understanding that CKS Engineering has worked with PennBid.
Ms. Fountain said that this is a different way to put public projects out. Private contractors join PennBid and are provided a list of projects for which they can download specifications.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the Township has already signed a contract with PennBid and has used it with some local contractors.
Mr. Garton said that he would investigate whether an advertisement is still necessary if a project uses PennBid.
Ms. Fountain noted that the skate park project is relatively small and small subcontractors might not be members of PennBid. She suggested that for this particular project the Township might use both the traditional method of advertisement and PennBid.
Dr. Ciervo moved to rebid the skate park pad project using Penn Bid or the traditional method depending on whether the original contractor is a member of PennBid. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman asked whether this dual bid, using either PennBid or the traditional method, could discourage other bidders.
Mr. Garton said that it would not.
The motion passed 4-0.
Referring to previous discussions about traffic signals, Dr. Ciervo asked whether TSA funds could be used to replace the walking man silhouettes with countdown signals.
Ms. Fountain said that she thought TSA funds could be used for such a project.
Newtown Township Fire Code of Ordinances: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that this ordinance which would adopt the 2009 International Fire Code with amendments as the Township’s Fire Code, had been presented at the April 28, 2009 meeting by Fire Marshal Don Harris. It has been duly advertised.
Mr. Schenkman moved to adopt the 2009 International Fire Code and amendments as Newtown Township’s Fire Code. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Gallagher asked whether this new code has to do with the amendment addressing fire pits.
Mr. Garton said that the code now includes all of the previously adopted amendments.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked whether this is the most recent International Fire Code.
Dr. Ciervo said this amendment adopts the 2009 Code, which is the most recent.
The motion passed 4-0.
Dr. Ciervo asked Mr. Garton for an update on the recently discussed extension of the Newtown Joint Sewer Authority charter.
Mr. Garton said that the charter is to expire in 2011. There is time to consider the matter. He believed that Newtown Borough has extended the charter.
Mr. Czajkowski said that this will be on an upcoming work session agenda.
TCC Collection Status: Mr. Gallagher reminded the Board that at the last meeting he had reported on the Tax Collection Committee’s efforts to contract with a single earned income tax collector for Bucks County in order to comply with the State mandate that each county have a single collector, rather than each municipality contracting separately. Act 32 requires that this be completed by 2012. The Committee expects to have a collector in place by 2011. The use of a single collector should result in significant savings to the Township. He would recommend to the Board that the change to the single collector should begin in 2011. He asked for consensus among the members.
Mr. Garton advised the Board that no motion is necessary to begin participating in 2011, but a motion against participation would be required.
Mr. Benchener asked what amount the expected savings would be and the length of the contract.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Township currently pays Berkheimer 1.9%; it is expected that the single collector will charge about 1.5%. Contracts will be offered for 2, 3 or 4 years. The Committee is currently favoring a 3 year contract.
Mr. Garton noted that the contracts cannot be for an indefinite length.
Mr. Schenkman said that this change will happen and the savings must be considered, but he has some reservations about the move toward consolidation of other municipal services. He is opposed to some forms of consolidation because of the loss of local control.
Mr. Gallagher said that many of the Committee members have expressed similar concerns but have agreed to proceed with the business of finding a tax collector because this is mandated by the State.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether Newtown Township would be charged its current rate if Berkheimer is selected.
Mr. Gallagher said that if Berkheimer is selected to be the County’s collector, Newtown would continue to pay its current rate until it opts into the County collection system. He said that he has seen Berkheimer’s proposal and it is lower than Newtown’s current rate.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would favor opting in at 2011 to take advantage of the savings, especially if our current tax collector is selected.
Mr. Benchener said that he struggles with the principle of forced consolidation. While there are instances where consolidation is a very good idea, he objects to the mandate. He would favor the Board adopting a resolution objecting to the mandate of forced consolidation of services.
Mr. Schenkman agreed that while Newtown does have to go along with the single collector, he would like to send some kind of statement to our legislators that we object to the mandate of consolidation of services. He said that some other municipalities feel the same way and he would like to object because this could be the precedent for other consolidations of services.
Mr. Gallagher said that PSATS and BCATO agree with Mr. Schenkman’s feelings, but he would not want to miss the opportunity for some significant savings. He suggested that Messrs. Benchener and Schenkman look to these organizations for information on objecting to mandatory consolidation of services.
Dr. Ciervo said that he does not oppose the use of the single collector beginning in 2011. He is also supportive of some other consolidations throughout the State. He mentioned some very small municipalities and school districts which could benefit greatly by consolidating with nearby larger entities.
Mr. Schenkman said that he is not against all forms of consolidation and pointed out the Newtown Township has already addressed this in a number of instances, such as our joint zoning and our police contract Wrightstown. He wants the Board and the public to be aware of the possible consequences and would prefer that consolidation of services come “from the bottom up.”
Mr. Benchener said that he would work on a resolution opposing the principle of mandated consolidation of services for discussion at the next meeting. He noted that he did not think there would be the necessary three votes of objection to the County wide tax collection, so it would seem that Newtown would opt in beginning in 2011.
Dr. Ciervo said that there would be no need for an executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 9:35 PM.