Board of Supervisors
Minutes of February 9, 2011
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on February 9, 2011 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, member. Also present were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order: Chairman Ciervo called the regular meeting to order at 7:30 PM with a moment of silence. This was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski reported that the Park and Recreation report has been removed from the agenda.
Public Comment: Karen Miller, Co-president of Newtown Business Commons Association, announced the Association’s upcoming Quarterly Luncheon on February 23, 2011 at LaSalle University. Don Marshall will discuss the land use process in the Business Commons. To RSVP e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of January 12, 2011. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve payment of bills totaling $208,487.89 for the bills list dated January 26, 2011. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman explained that this vote would affirm payments which have already been made.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $200,277.76 for the bills list dated January 26, 2011. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to approve payment of bills totaling $267,344.25 for the bills list dated February 9, 2011. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman noted that the year’s total expenditure on snow and ice currently totals $85,000. The 2011 budget total is $98,000.
Mr. Czajkowski reminded the Board that the Township has been $60,000 over budget on snow removal in 2010.
Dr. Ciervo asked about Fire Association payments.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the payments trickle in throughout the year.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $190,000 for the bills list dated February 9, 2011. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Calabro asked about the general fund.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the Township is spending down the general fund now, particularly because of the snow, but earned income tax payments are expected shortly.
Mr. Schenkman noted that the Township has recently received payments from Wrightstown and from Verizon. He noted that there is a new collector for earned income tax, but payments should arrive soon.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Dr. Ciervo reported that the Joint Zoning Council met last week and reorganized, naming Mr. Schenkman as treasurer, Chester Pogonowski of Wrightstown as chairman and Dan Rattigan of Upper Makefield as vice chairman. The Council will be working on energy ordinances and the changes to the Sycamore Street zoning in the upcoming year.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the Board has been involved in labor negotiations with the Township’s three unions in recent weeks, with the Firefighters and Police unions agreeing to certain concessions. These two unions have agreed to smaller raises and a change in health care coverage. The Township has agreed that there will be no layoffs from these two bargaining units. The non-uniformed union has not agreed to concessions as of yet, and this might impact the workforce. He thanked the administration for the extra work it has done during these negotiations. Dr. Ciervo noted that the earned income tax payments seem to have remained flat for the last three years.
Dr. Ciervo announced that he and Mr. Benchener have met with representatives of Upper Makefield to begin exploring the possibility of a regional police force. A regional force could provide benefits to both municipalities, although discussions are only in the preliminary stages.
Board Members: Mr. Calabro thanked the Public Works department for its efforts in the recent snow storms. Snow removal work has been excellent. He hopes that the Township will still have a full workforce should we have additional storms this winter.
Dr. Ciervo said that Public Works Director Gary Crossland took him out to plow during the last storm. He was very impressed with the excellent work our Township did, not only clearing the snow, but rescuing SEPTA buses and an ambulance which had all been stuck in snow drifts. He added his thanks to the Department.
Mr. Benchener said that he believes the concessions agreed to in recent labor negotiations, particularly the changed health benefits, will help the long term fiscal security of the Township.
Reports of Officials
Grainhouse Developers Escrow Release: Ms. Fountain explained that Grainhouse Developers is seeking a decrease in the maintenance security from $37,400 to $10,000. The property has been inspected; she listed a number of items that still require repair under the terms of the maintenance agreement. There are some seasonal restrictions on completing of some landscape work, but the estimate for all improvements would be less than $10,000.
Mr. Garton said that the developer would like to eliminate the letter of credit and provide the $10,000 in cash instead.
Karen Miller of Grainhouse Developers said that she is requesting a reduction of $27,400. The work still required would be completed in April.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize reduction of the amount of maintenance security from $37,400 to $10,000 for Grainhouse Developers, subject to the condition that the letter of credit be substituted by $10,000 in cash. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Lease Agreement with New Cingular, PCS, LLC: Mr. Garton explained that New Cingular Wireless wished to extend its sublease on a cell tower on Township property. The rental on the tower is shared by the County. The Township has expressed to the County that the County has already recovered its investment in constructing the cell tower and has requested that the lease now be split 50/50 rather than the current arrangement of 1/3 to the Township and 2/3 to the County. The Township would also want to see an increase in the lease to 12% every five years or some other commonly used inflation index rather than the current 7.5% increase. In response, AT&T (New Cingular) is asking for a month to month extension at the current rental rate until the parties negotiate a new sublease.
Mr. Schenkman expressed some concern that an open ended month to month lease would not provide the needed incentive to resolve the matter. He would favor a time limit on the current lease extension.
The Board members agreed that a one month extension should be adequate to come to a new agreement.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize the Solicitor to contact the County Solicitor to offer a one month extension of the current lease. The Township would then take the lead on a new sublease. If unable to reach agreement, the current lease would terminate. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked what the benefit of extending the contract an additional 30 days would be. He favored terminating the contract immediately.
Mr. Garton said that this is a courtesy to encourage progress on the new lease. He noted that if the contract is terminated the County could not sublet to another carrier without Township permission.
Mr. Schenkman noted that should the Township’s Solicitor have to take the lead in further negotiations, he would expect the County to pay the attorney fees.
The motion passed 3-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Electric Pricing Contract: Mr. Czajkowski reminded the Board that since PECO is no longer providing electricity, the Township should select a provider; PECO will still be the conduit. PECO is currently charging $0.1107 per kilowatt hour for electricity. Dominion is offering a one year contract at $0.095 per kilowatt hour or $0.092 for a three year contract. The Solicitor has reviewed the sample contracts.
Dr. Ciervo said that he favors locking in for three years at the lower rate.
Mr. Benchener disagreed, noting that as the field becomes more competitive prices will probably go down.
Mr. Schenkman said that the raw materials used to generate electricity, coal and natural gas, are escalating in price. Three years is not such a long time; he also favored locking into the three year contract.
Mr. Calabro also favored three years at a lower rate. He said it is better to choose the lower rate now and not look back. He noted that three years is not a long time and the Dominion price is a considerable savings over the current PECO price.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize the Township Manager to enter into a 3 year contract with Dominion Energy Solutions. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener said that he does see the benefit to long term budget planning with a 3 year contract.
The motion passed 4-0.
Dr. Ciervo said that he has spoken to Eric Shade of Eccologix about the wildlife management program. Mr. Shade had reported that in three months Eccologix culled 23 deer. During the controlled hunt, Eccologix has encountered some hunters who were trespassing on Township parkland. They have also encountered some ATV riders with chainsaws cutting paths through the bushes in Clark Nature Center. He asked that the Township investigate ways to better indicate what is Township property and posting that hunting is only permitted by Eccologix as part of our wildlife management program.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he understood that the ATV riders had not entered Township property from the roadway, but through other wooded properties adjoining Clark Nature Center. He does not think the riders were aware that they had moved onto Township property.
Mr. Czajkowski said that in response to a report that Verizon was not carrying meeting rebroadcasts, he contacted Verizon. There does not appear to be a problem and the meetings are being rebroadcast according to schedule.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that the Township use a consultant to review our fire protection. Newtown Township is unusual in that the Department has paid firefighters working with a volunteer force.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he has reached out to a Township Managers Association to provide a proposal for the Board to review and discuss at a future meeting. Mr. Schenkman suggested that any analysis also consider a regionalized fire department. He also asked whether the project should be put to bid, if there are other consultants offering similar reviews.Dr. Ciervo noted that the Township has been working on a formal agreement between the Township and the Fire Association. This analysis should become part of the formal agreement.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the Board had met in executive session prior to the meeting and would meet in executive session after the meeting to discuss matters of personnel.
The meeting adjourned at 8:40 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary