Board of Supervisors Work Session
Minutes of May 16, 2011
Members Present: Chairman Robert Ciervo, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, Secretary Treasurer Jerry Schenkman and members Philip Calabro and Michael Gallagher.
Also Present: TownshipManager Joseph Czajkowski, Township Solicitor Jeffrey Garton and Township Engineer Michele Fountain.
Call to Order: Dr. Ciervo called the meeting to order at 7:30 PM.
Newtown Artesian Water Company: George Forsyth and Borus Irani of Newtown Artesian Water Company were in attendance to discuss the Water Company’s efforts to reduce its dependence on water purchased from Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority and the City of Philadelphia. The Water Company would like to establish some new wells in the Township on Township owned land in Roberts Ridge Park, Helen Randle Park and the Wiggins tract. The Water Company would pay $150,000 per acre for access easements for a 150 foot radius around each well site and access and utility easements for pipes. It is hoped that each well could produce up to 400 gallons per minute. With the Board’s permission the Water Company could perform drill tests.
Mr. Forsyth admitted that during the drilling process the sites would be unsightly. It would take one week to drill, 30 days for sample testing and 18 months to two years for the site to be operational. Once the Water Company has ascertained that the sites would be viable, easement agreements would be entered into and permits would be sought.
Dr. Ciervo asked why these sites were chosen; Clark Nature Center, the library tract and Silver Lake might be better locations for the drilling activity.
Mr. Forsyth explained that the Township is divided into basins. The wells must be in either the Neshaminy or Core Creek basins. The library tract and Clark Nature Center are in the Newtown Creek Basin.
Mr. Garton said that it is his understanding that the County has concluded that Silver Lake has restrictions on drilling because it was purchased with funds from a State grant.
Resident Allen Fidler reminded the Board that there is an area of land near Roberts Ridge Park acquired by the Township in a land swap with Toll Brothers for the construction of Newtown Walk. This land, about three acres, is near his property on the other side of the Newtown Walk retention basin and not visible from the neighboring community. This land might be suitable for a well.
Mr. Gallagher said that he is supportive of the idea, but would want input from the Park and Recreation Board as it might have some impact on park use. He asked how long the wells would be in use once drilled.
Mr. Forsyth assured the Board that work would be done when the parks are not in use in the off-season. Once operational, it is expected that the wells would be in use for upwards of 100 years.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether this has occurred elsewhere as he is concerned about possible restrictions in place on land already designated as open space. He said that he would like to consider other possible fee options and would like more information on the benefits to the rate payers.
Mr. Forsyth said that he would research whether wells exist on municipal land in other municipalities. Newtown Artesian does have wells on private properties in Middletown Township, The Water Company had attempted to establish wells in Tyler Park but it is prohibited.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the land would be restored if wells are not viable.
Mr. Forsyth said the Water Company would know within three or four weeks whether the wells are viable. If not, the land will be completely restored to its original condition.
Mr. Garton said that it is not unusual for utilities to have easement agreements. He and Ms. Fountain would need to research whether there are any restrictions in place for the use of open space for the wells.
Mr. Czajkowski asked about the size of the pump houses.
Mr. Forsyth said they would be no larger than 12’ X 12’.
Mr. Benchener said that he would be interested in learning more about possible rate reductions and about the price per acre.
Mr. Forsyth said that the Water Company had not generated information on rates until it was known whether the Township would be interested in the arrangement. The amount offered, $150,000, is what has been offered to other land owners. The wells usually involve about one acre. Once testing begins, the Water Company will also be monitoring wells in a one mile radius to be sure the new wells are not impacting existing private wells.
Mr. Schenkman said that he would be interested in ascertaining any legal restrictions on the lands in question, learning the long term cost effectiveness and the impact on our natural resources.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the Water Company wants all four sites. He asked whether there is a cost to the Township for the wells.
Mr. Forsyth said that they would look at the sites one at a time. They would like to see at least 150 gallons per minute. He noted that the initial cost of establishing the water lines is high but would yield savings over time. All costs are to the Water Company. There will be no impact to the neighbors during testing.
Mr. Garton said that there are many kinds of arrangements that could be made for the easements. He would research different options.
The Board agreed to pursue this further.
Newtown Fire Association Update
Newtown Fire Association Chief Andy Errico and Treasurer Pat Scanlon were in attendance to review the Fire Association’s work and budget. In 2010, the Fire Company answered 668 fire calls, 30 medical assists, 20 rescues and 138 assists to other fire companies. The members participated in 632 hours of training.
Mr. Scanlon said that he has been treasurer for one year. He is proud to volunteer with such a dedicated group. He said that he understood that Mr. Gallagher had attended some kind of training for managing fire company expenses and he asked for further information.
Mr. Czajkowski explained that he and Mr. Gallagher had attended training together. The Board of Supervisors has the fiduciary responsibility for the tax money collected for the fire department and must be aware of its distribution.
Mr. Gallagher said that he had learned during this training that under the State’s open records law, if the Township distributes tax funds directly to the fire company, then the fire company’s books would be subject to that open records law. If the Board reimburses the fire company for its bills from taxes collected, the fire company’s books are not subject to the same open records law. This method protects both the Supervisors and the fire company.
Mr. Scanlon said that he has concerns about the method of reimbursement because of delays experienced last year for vehicle purchase. The fire association has a truck replacement fund; last year a purchase of $635,000 was made with $150,000 of that in the form of a loan. There was a lengthy delay in reimbursement by the Township.
Mr. Czajkowski said that bills submitted to the Township are paid by the Supervisors in the next bills list. Occasionally there is an issue of timing, because the Supervisors meet twice a month to pay bills. There could be a delay of a few weeks when bills are submitted immediately after the second monthly meeting.
Mr. Scanlon said that this is not the case; some reimbursements have been held up.
Dr. Ciervo said that when the fire company submitted its request for reimbursement for the fire truck last year, it appeared on the Township’s bills list as a half million dollar disbursement without explanation. The Board had requested additional information on the request before authorizing payment. That one time the disbursement was delayed until the next Board meeting.
Mr. Scanlon suggested that perhaps better communication could remedy future delays. He agreed to provide all Board members with contact information for the fire company’s officers. Should a request appear that a Board member has concerns about, that Board member could then contact the fire company immediately, rather than waiting until the next Board meeting.
Mr. Czajkowski assured Mr. Scanlon that any bills submitted would appear on the Board’s next bills list for reimbursement. There had only been a delay one time when a very large bill was submitted. He asked that contact information be sent directly to him; he would circulate the information among the Board members. He also suggested that the fire company provide the Township with its vehicle replacement plan so that in the future, large purchases can be anticipated.
Dr. Ciervo referenced the income/expense sheet provided to the members and asked whether Newtown Borough is only contributing $10,000 compared to the Township’s $280,000 contribution.
Mr. Errico said that the Borough also pays the fire company’s workers compensation, which is about $39,000.
Mr. Benchener noted that capital projects expenses are $113,000. He asked if this were a typical amount.
Mr. Scanlon said that he would look up the amounts for the last five years and provide them to the Board. He offered to allow any Board member to copy his Quick Books accounting and review the fire company’s books at any time. Mr. Scanlon asked about a contracted review of the fire company.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Board has contracted to conduct a study of the Township’s fire protection, which is provided by a hybrid of a paid department and volunteer fire company. The goal is to learn of the best way to provide fire protection to the residents. The cost of $19,000 will be paid from the general fund EMS budget, not from the fire tax. Mr. Schenkman also suggested that the fire company submit its vehicle replacement plan and plan for other major purchases to the financial planning committee, as is done by the other Township departments as a planning tool.
The Board members agreed that they would work toward improved communication with the fire company.
Newtown Joint Municipal Sewer Authority
Warren Gormley, Manager and Kenneth Finger, Engineer, were in attendance to seek Board input on a request from the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority to provide 40 year projections of development to determine the future capacity for the Neshaminy Interceptor. Mr. Gormley explained that he and Mr. Finger have prepared a list of all open parcels in the Township and have estimated possible future development under the current zoning. Under current zoning, if all parcels were developed the interceptor could handle everything except if the Archdiocese parcel were developed. If that property were developed, it would need its own pumping station.
Mr. Gormley explained that the Township’s infrastructure is in good condition. The list already takes into account the development of the Birches, allotting 2.5 beds per EDU. Restaurants are calculated by seating. He asked whether Township staff and consultants could review the prepared list and maps to confirm the accuracy of the projections. He noted that the Authority would like to confirm that the preserved open space would remain as such and would not be developed. He explained that the County is looking for the Newtown Sewer Authority to pay “up front” for future needs.
Dr. Ciervo asked about paying for Ms. Fountain’s time to review the lists and maps.
Mr. Fidler, as Planning Commission Chairman, suggested that this review would serve as a planning tool for the Township. As the Planning Commission has familiarity with the zoning of the open parcels as well as a budget for consultant fees, perhaps this task could be given to the Planning Commission. The Commission has not had high costs this year. He said that he is concerned with the inclusion of the Archdiocese property in the calculations. The number of units seems unrealistically high and will have a very real impact on current rate payers.
Ms. Fountain noted that the number of units assigned to the Archdiocese could possibly be based on the B-14 use, which is no longer available to that property.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that Ms. Fountain provide an estimate of the time she might need to review the list.
Dr. Ciervo said that this might be a good project for the Planning Commission and asked that the Sewer Authority provide copies of the maps to the Township and that this be added to an upcoming Planning agenda.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he expected the wind turbine to be installed by the end of the month.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he expected the skate park sound improvements to be completed by the end of the week.
Mr. Benchener asked whether the sound would be retested before the park is reopened.
Dr. Ciervo favored reopening the park quickly.
Mr. Benchener suggested that rather than conducting formal testing, the Township should notify the residents that the park would be reopened and asking volunteers to test the improvements, with Township representatives conducting informal testing.
Ms. Fountain said that the sound engineer should have his report shortly.
Mr. Czajkowski reminded the Board that the American Legion would be hosting a flag raising ceremony to dedicate Veterans Park on Saturday, May 21, 2011 at 10:00 AM.
Mr. Schenkman said that he understood that Beneficial Bank has submitted plans for the Sycamore Street property where the McBride Chrysler Showroom had been. The Joint Historic Commission has some interest in the preservation of the showroom. He urged the Township to consider whether demolition of this building would be appropriate.
Mr. Benchener asked the Board to sign a proclamation honoring Linda Mitchell on Thursday, May 19, 2011. Ms. Mitchell is celebrating her 30 th anniversary at Newtown Athletic Club and has worked tirelessly for the benefit of the Township’s business and health communities.
The Board agreed to sign the proclamation in time for the anniversary celebration.
Mr. Gallagher said that Monument Bank will be hosting a ribbon cutting event on Thursday, May 19, 2011. This bank will open in the Newtown Plaza Shopping Center.
The members briefly discussed the change in occupants in Township buildings. Mr. Czajkowski said that some changes in businesses do not require a conditional use approval because they are by-right uses. In other instances, there is an administrative conditional use, which is a streamlined approval process handled by Township staff. The administrative approval usually involves changes from one permitted use to a similar permitted use. He would provide the Board with the criteria.
The members expressed interest in being provided with some information on businesses being granted administrative conditional use approval, as the Board should be aware of businesses coming to Newtown.The meeting adjourned at 9:30 PM.
Christy Holley, Recording Secretary