Newtown Township

Board of Supervisors

Minutes of November 8, 2010

 

The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on November 8, 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, Michele Fountain, Township Engineer and Township Traffic Engineer Andrew Brown.

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 Chris McCloskey of Grace Point Church. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports

Minutes: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the minutes of October 27, 2010. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.

Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the minutes of the budget meeting of November 3, 2010. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Dr. Ciervo abstaining.

Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve payment of bills totaling $275,382.37. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.

Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $352,736.71. This amount includes transfers for payroll. Mr. Gallagher seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Sensibaugh asked what the balance in the reserve fund would be when these transfers and payments have been made.

Mr. Schenkman said that there is sufficient money to pay the bills. Although he is not sure of the exact total, there should be about $1.2 million in the general fund reserve at year’s end.

Mr. Gallagher reminded everyone that revenues continue to come in every day.

The motion passed 5-0.

Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions

Chairman: Dr. Ciervo apologized for his absence at last week’s Board meeting, as he was in Doylestown for the counting of ballots.

Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month: Dr. Ciervo asked the Board to pass a resolution acknowledging November as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, which has already been recognized as such by the United States Congress. Dr. Ciervo read the resolution, noting that pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, killing 75% of victims within the first year after diagnosis, while only 2% of the National Cancer Institute’s $5 billion budget is dedicated to research into this deadly disease. Dr. Ciervo said that his father had died of pancreatic cancer, as had Mr. Benchener’s late father-in-law.

Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt 2010-R-19, a resolution acknowledging November 2010 as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.

Board Members: Mr. Schenkman reported that he had attended the Jointure meeting last week at which members discussed a delay in the adoption of the amended Federal Cemetery Overlay District ordinance.

Mr. Garton explained that Upper Makefield’s solicitor had been reviewing tax map parcels included in the amendment, delaying advertising. The ordinance should be ready for the Boards to consider adoption before the end of the year.

Mr. Schenkman reported that the Jointure had also seen a presentation by Omni Wind Energy about the types of wind turbines being developed for residential use. This presentation is helpful as the Jointure considers adopting ordinances regulating use of alternative energy sources. Because of setback requirements, at this time wind energy might not be appropriate for residential use in Newtown, but in Wrightstown and Upper Makefield, they could be used effectively. He explained that because of the weight, noise and pressure on rooftops, roof mounted turbines are probably not appropriate for residential buildings at this time.

Mr. Gallagher said that he has read of wind turbines on poles mounted next to chimneys. He expressed some concern that the ordinance could be drafted in such a way that could make alternative energy technology prohibited in the Jointure, without anticipating future technology innovation.

Mr. Schenkman said that the goal is to draft a flexible ordinance, but it is difficult to draft an ordinance that fully addresses future technology.

Mr. Gallagher said that he has spoken to a number of residents who are bothered by receiving newspapers they do not subscribe to, which are thrown on their driveways, littering their properties. He asked whether such mailers could be banned or restricted.

Mr. Garton explained that other municipalities have attempted to ban these mailers, but when challenged in the courts, the municipalities’ ordinances have not been upheld, as there is a free speech aspect to the distribution of the mailings. An individual homeowner could try to contact the deliverer and ask that the papers not be delivered, but the municipality cannot restrict distribution.

Reports of Officials

Engineer’s Report

Skateboard Park Surface Project: Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize final payment to Rubright Construction, Inc. in the amount of $24,899.97 for the skate pad. Dr. Ciervo seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman asked whether there are any other costs still outstanding.

Mr. Czajkowski said that Public Works did most of the preparation and finish work, keeping the cost low. This bill is for the pad, only, not for the ramps.

The motion passed 5-0.

Frost Lane Drainage and Road Improvement: Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize payment #1 in the amount of $61,636.50 to A.H. Cornell for Frost Lane drainage and road improvement project, phase 2. Mr. Gallagher seconded.

Discussion of motion: Ms. Fountain explained that this is a joint project with Newtown Borough. The Township is to pay the entire amount and be reimbursed by the Borough for 50%.

The motion passed 5-0.

Newtown Office Park Certificate of Completion: Ms. Fountain explained that this project was to have included roadway improvements on the opposite side of Newtown Yardley Road near Newtown Swim Club. Because the developer was unable to acquire right-of-way access to complete the improvements, they have not been done. The developer did, however, pay a traffic impact fee of $300,000, with funds remaining to complete that work, estimated at $90,000 now and $78,000 in 2004.

Mr. Schenkman asked whether this is the same right of way that had been discussed at the Planning Commission meeting.

Ms. Fountain confirmed that this is the same parcel, the old house next to the Swim Club. There is documentation in the Township files showing the developer’s unsuccessful attempts to work with the property owner.

Mr. Garton explained that if the work had been done, the cost would have been deducted from the traffic impact fee. Instead, the developer paid the full fee.

Mr. Benchener moved to authorize final escrow release in the amount of $70,000 to Newtown Office Park. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.

Solicitor’s Report

Meglio’s – Consideration of Resolution Authorizing the Condemnation of a portion of Bucks County Tax Map Parcel 29-11-83 for Public Purposes: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that Meglio’s restaurant has entered an agreement of sale for the Stockburger property next to Newtown Plaza Shopping Center, with a goal of converting the property to a restaurant. The Township Traffic Engineer has reviewed the plan and feels that it would not be desirable to create an additional curb cut along that portion of Swamp Road. The Township has recently installed a signalized intersection and new entrance to the shopping center at its own expense. A resolution is proposed to condemn the right-of-way easement to allow access to the property through the signalized intersection.

Mr. Gallagher said that this proposed taking would be for the betterment of public safety.

Mr. Garton said that he has attempted to work out an agreement with the property owner and has notified the owner’s counsel of tonight’s proposed action. The owner has the right to contest the resolution in court. It should be noted that the Township is not taking the property, but taking the right to cross it. This is in the Township’s right-of-way. There is no loss of parking spaces and customers will still have access to the existing driveway.

Dr. Ciervo said that Meglio’s would construct its driveway to the property line of Newtown Plaza Shopping Center, where it would then access the signalized intersection through the shopping center entrance. The shopping center owner has expressed some concern that vehicles entering the Meglio’s restaurant driveway will cause a back-up of traffic.

Township Traffic Engineer Andrew Brown said that he has reviewed peak hour traffic volumes. The restaurant proposes an additional right-out option to prevent a back up of traffic. The safest traffic pattern is through the signalized intersection. The entrance is wide enough for two-way traffic.

Mr. Schenkman said that he hates to take property but nothing is being destroyed and the taking will create the safest access to the properties. It will help with traffic flow for the good of the community. It will help to promote a successful business in the Township. He noted that the Township needs to be consistent when it considers taking for traffic access, as he anticipates that this question might come up again at a site on Newtown Yardley Road.

Mr. Gallagher said that the Township spent the money to create a signalized intersection for the good of the residents, but it has benefited the shopping center greatly. The taking is the best solution to providing access to the proposed Meglio’s.

Mr. Sensibaugh asked whether it would be possible to locate the Meglio’s driveway farther to the rear of the shopping center.

Mr. Garton and Dr. Ciervo noted that the Meglio’s lot is not as deep as the shopping center lot; locating the driveway farther back would interfere with the flow of the employee parking for the shopping center.

Mr. Garton explained that by authorizing a taking, the resolution would be filed with the prothonatary. Any objection would go before a judge for a hearing. The property owner will be paid the appraised value of the taking, which is the difference between the property unencumbered and with the easement. The developer would pay all costs. The property in question is 0.07 acres.

Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution 2010-R-20, authorizing condemnation of a portion of Bucks County Tax Map Parcel 29-11-83 for public purposes. Dr. Ciervo seconded.

Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener said that he understands that this taking would make sense for Meglio’s and for the Township, but he feels that eminent domain is a very serious issue which should not be taken lightly. He would only support a taking if it were for the very clear safety of the Township. He disagrees with the shopping center owner’s reasons for not granting the easement, but he does not support the taking of property and he will not support this resolution.

Mr. Calabro agreed with Mr. Benchener and would not support the resolution for the reasons Mr. Benchener outlined.

Mr. Schenkman said that while he agrees with Messrs. Benchener and Calabro as a matter of principle, he would like to move the project forward. The resolution, if challenged will be reviewed by another court.

Dr. Ciervo agreed with Mr. Schenkman. He again noted that the Township spent a great deal of money to create a safe intersection and it is in the best interest of the residents to allow that intersection to serve all of the surrounding properties as the safest solution. He is also supportive of the resolution because it will help a Township business expand on a larger property and will allow another business to open in the shopping center.

The motion passed 3-2, with Messrs. Benchener and Calabro voting nay.

Mr. Gallagher suggested that, as the only remaining agenda items are the police report and budget discussion, the consultants be permitted to leave the meeting. At this point, Mr. Garton, Mr. Brown and Ms. Fountain left the meeting.

Manager’s Report

Police Report: Police Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that on November 13, 2010, the Department will sponsor a drug collection from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM at the Township Building. This is an event co-sponsored by Newtown Borough and funded by the District Attorney’s office for the collection for safe disposal of unused prescriptions that residents no longer need.

The Chief reported that the department has responded to 1459 calls in the past month, including 11 theft investigations and 4 attempted residential burglaries in the Rosefield development. These attempts occurred during the night, when residents reported that their doorbells were rung and someone was seen at the rear door. He urged residents to call 911 to report this type of incident even if no burglary has occurred. He said that there had also been a burglary of a local store during the night; a similar burglary occurred in the Borough the same night.

Chief Pasqualini reported that he and Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko have been working closely to monitor the skate park. He suggested that the Board consider possibly installing a fence and gate to prevent usage at night. He is concerned that someone could be injured and be unattended. He said that the department is working to make sure everyone is able to enjoy the skate park during the day, but at night it is difficult to monitor. It is not too much of a concern now, as it becomes cold after dark, but it might become a problem in the spring when the evenings are warmer. In response to Board questions, he said that locking and unlocking a gate would not be a problem for staff to work out. He suggested a 6 foot chain link fence.

Dr. Ciervo noted that he has seen people using the park after dark; there is enough light from the school, the road and the shopping center to be able to use the equipment, although not to use it safely. He said that he has never known of a skate park without a fence.

Mr. Benchener said that the Township does not have fences around playgrounds; it is the responsibility of the parents or the individuals to monitor dangerous behaviors. It is not the Township’s responsibility to protect people from themselves.

Dr. Ciervo disagreed, as the park is used by older children and teens. It is the Township’s responsibility to insure that the park is used in a safe manner. It can be more dangerous than playground equipment.

Chief Pasqualini said that the Park and Recreation and Police Departments are trying to set the tone by stopping by often to be sure that users of the park are having fun in a safe way, not bothering the merchants and drivers in the parking lots, not loitering, littering or vandalizing the equipment.

Chief Pasqualini said that he is developing a traffic report with information on the location of traffic accidents. He will forward the reports to Mr. Benchener for distribution to the Traffic Committee.

Budget Discussion: Mr. Czajkowski reminded the Board that the draft budget had been presented last week, in a form required by the State. It included a proposed millage of 3.775 mills.

Mr. Benchener asked about some of the revenues presented on page 2, labeled General Government.

Mr. Czajkowski explained that the amount is an estimate, based on activity seen in the Township. For example, last year, the developer of the Promenade had indicated that the project had deadlines, so fees were expected to be paid during this year. Since then, the Township has seen no activity. The “General Government” revenues includes fees collected for land development, zoning hearing board application, etc. Other drops in revenues are due to reduced recycling grants and DARE grants from the State and the end of the DCED Main Streets grant and FIOS franchise grant.

The Board briefly discussed the estimated local enabling taxes. Mr. Czajkowski said that although the Township has collected more than anticipated in resident and non-resident earned income taxes, he has budgeted conservatively because of the current economy.

The Board agreed that the budget could include increased revenue from the EIT rather than include a tax increase.

The Board discussed remaining expenses for Veterans Park.

Mr. Czajkowski said that a payment of $240,000 is included in the budget for the final payment. It is listed as being paid by the general fund, however if recreational impact fees are collected, the general fund would be reimbursed. It is difficult to know whether impact fees will be collected; a number of projects have been approved but no permits have been issued yet. This includes the proposed expansions for the Promenade, the NAC and Rosebank Winery.

Mr. Gallagher asked about the police overtime budget, noting that this year’s actual is below the budget but next year does not show a reduction.

Chief Pasqualini explained that the column showing actual amount for 2010 is below the budget because it is the amount used to date. He expects the overtime to come close to the budgeted $120,000 by year’s end. This number depends somewhat on circumstances which cannot be known such as snow emergencies. The overtime has been dramatically reduced in recent years. Some overtime is reimbursed by the County or by private entities. He also pointed out that only 240 hours can be kept as comp time, after which the officers must be paid. This also impacts the overtime budget.

Dr. Ciervo asked why police salaries have not gone up when the contract calls for raises.

Mr. Czajkowski explained that there have been retirements of higher paid members of the department, who have been replaced by patrolmen at a lower rate of pay.

Mr. Gallagher asked about minor equipment for the department.

Chief Pasqualini said that this line item is primarily for batteries and supplies for the AED’s and ENRADD equipment.

The Board discussed the request for three new vehicles for the police department.

Chief Pasqualini explained that he would like to continue the replacement program adding two Crown Vics and one SUV to the fleet. The SUV proved valuable in last year’s inclement weather. He noted that as the cars get older it also becomes expensive to keep them in good repair. He noted that although his budget has gone up since last year, most of the budget is out of his control, such as contracted salaries and benefits. He will provide the Board with an inventory of the fleet.

Mr. Benchener asked whether the Board could vote on some portions of the budget in segments, while not approving the entire budget.

Mr. Czajkowski explained that the State requires that a budget be advertised and then voted on. Prior to voting there are adjustments which can be made, but by year’s end, a budget must be approved in its entirety.

Mr. Benchener said that he is dissatisfied with this budget because it contains a tax increase and reduces the reserve. He would like to dramatically reduce spending to avoid a tax increase. He asked to review schedule “J” to reduce the budget by $300,000.

In response to Board questions, Mr. Czajkowski again explained that the Park and Recreation budget includes a $240,000 transfer from the general fund for final payments on Veterans Park. Impact fees, if collected, would reimburse the general fund, but as this amount is not now in the Park and Recreation Capital Fund, it must be budgeted as a general fund transfer. He noted that there is also $94,000 for Veterans Park improvements. These are new improvements.

Dr. Ciervo said that he would like to eliminate all recreation items from the budget unless or until impact fees are collected.

The Board discussed the request for narrow band radios, which are mandated by the State. Mr. Gallagher said that he believes that the County will help the municipalities by floating a bond for the purchases, with municipalities reimbursing the County over time. It might not be necessary to budget for the full amount recommended by the Financial Planning Committee.

Mr. Czajkowski said that the radios are to be in place in 2013, but the Financial Planning Committee had suggested beginning to budget for them now.

Mr. Gallagher said that he has some disagreement with the Financial Planning Committee on its technology recommendations. The Township has used a professional consultant to develop its computer replacement program. To fall behind with replacement can become more costly in the long term.

The Board discussed the Police budget, agreeing to postpone consideration of the requested new vehicles until an inventory has been provided. The members also wanted to more carefully review the benefits of the cameras in vehicles and the new rifles and mounts. It might be better to consider phasing in these pieces of equipment over time or sharing some of it among the vehicles. Mr. Benchener had some reservations about the necessity for rifles at all, as they are so very rarely needed.

The Board asked about the request for a special service vehicle.

Mr. Czajkowski explained that the one in use now by EMS is very old and has some transmission problems. This is a first response vehicle.

Dr. Ciervo asked Mr. Czajkowski to determine whether this is a duplication of an ambulance squad vehicle.

Mr. Czajkowski said that the Public Works Department needs radios as their current equipment does not work well. They do have two-way cell phones which are less effective than a radio system. The dump truck requested could be paid from the liquid fuels funds.

The Board discussed the Park and Recreation requests. Mr. Czajkowski said that the Clark house paint estimate seems high and he is revisiting that. The septic tank might qualify for a grant. There are a number of requests that the Township’s liability carrier has recommended, including rails along the stream at Clark Nature Center and at Silver Lake Park and bleacher improvements at Chandler fields. The solar lights at Roberts Ridge are for safety at the pavilion to prevent vandalism. Only half of the waterline work was done this year at Helen Randle Park.

Mr. Czajkowski reviewed some of the roadway costs, noting that liquid fuel funds cannot be used for curb and gutter replacement.

Mr. Czajkowski explained that the budget contains a millage increase for debt service, which would be for a fixed period of time. The millage is currently 1.625 and the budget proposes 1.9 mills.

The Board reviewed the EMS Budget. In response to questions, Mr. Czajkowski said that the EMS uniform budget has increased because last year there were no new uniforms purchased. Management salaries are for the chief and secretary.

The Board reviewed the Park and Recreation budget. Mr. Czajkowski said that this budget includes contracted services such as Constant Contact and MyRec.com and for park maintenance, tree maintenance, trash pick up, etc.

Mr. Gallagher suggested that the printing and mailing of the program brochures should be eliminated since the Township is paying for the recreation Web site and the quarterly newsletter includes listings of many programs.

Mr. Gallagher said that he had developed a list of capital projects which, if eliminated or postponed could avoid a tax increase and end next year with a reserve fund balance of $296,000. He agreed to e-mail the spreadsheet to the members for their consideration before the next meeting. He left the septic system for the Clark House and $67,000 for police equipment and $10,000 for computer replacements. The spreadsheet includes an increase in the projected resident and non-resident income tax revenues.

The Board agreed to consider the items discussed this evening and to review Mr. Gallagher’s spreadsheet of suggestions before the next regular meeting.

Dr. Ciervo said that the Board had not met in executive session this evening.

The meeting adjourned at 10:20 PM.

 

Respectfully Submitted:
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary

 

Attest:

Joseph S. Czajkowski, Township Manager


Robert Ciervo, Chairman

Matthew Benchener, Vice-Chairman

Jerry Schenkman, Secretary/Treasurer

Philip Calabro, Member

Michael Gallagher, Member