Board of Supervisors
Minutes of July 27, 2011
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on July 27, 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 and Michael Gallagher, members. Also in attendance 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 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 Park and Recreation Board report has been removed from the agenda.
Special Action, Skate Park Fence Donation: Dr. Ciervo reported that our Park and Recreation Director and Police Chief have been recommending fencing for the skate park. The Township has been offered donations of $6000 from the Law School Admissions Council, $2000 from Princeton Spine and Brain, and installation labor without charge from Suburban Scapes Group. The total cost expected for a fence and some signage acknowledging the donations and hours of operation, paint and supplies would cost about the same as the donated amounts.
Kathy Pawlenko, Park and Recreation Director, said that a fence would provide additional safety and would help with enforcement of hours of operation would enable the Township to keep the park closed during repairs or icy conditions. DVIT, the Township’s liability insurance carrier, has recommended the fence to separate the skate pad from the soccer field which it abuts. One of the doctors at Princeton Brain and Spine, a Newtown resident, has been interested in preventing concussions and is working with the Department on a seminar and safety instructions for skateboarding. His firm has offered a donation for the fence. The proposed fence would be 8 feet high, as recommended by DVIT for safety between the soccer field and skate park.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the cost estimates given are for an 8 foot fence around the entire pad; it will be green coated chain link.
Park and Recreation Board Chairman Andrew Levine explained that at the time the park was being planned, the fence had not been considered a critical component, but it has become apparent that the fence will not detract from enjoyment of the park and will provide additional safety and security.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Police Department is recommending cameras and lights for security in all of our parks. He questioned why a fence, rather than lighting and cameras, is being considered for this park, only. He said that fencing could send the wrong message to the users of the park that they are “trouble.” There have not been reports of problems at the park other than noise and he would like to see security handled consistently in all of our parks. He would not support fencing.
Mr. Benchener said that the cameras and lights would address security concerns in the parks, but the fence would address dangers posed by soccer balls flying onto the skate park. The fence would also help with the opening and closing of the park and would prevent noise during early morning and late night hours. He commended the community for its support of the skate park, first with the donations to build, then with donations to mitigate sound and now fence donations.
Mr. Schenkman said that he would like to see similar community support in all of our parks.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the Park and Recreation Board has been working on community involvement, including memorial gifts of trees and benches.
Mr. Calabro thanked those who have donated generously for the fence, but agrees that the fence is being considered for the wrong reasons. Policing and self-policing among the skaters has worked well and there have not been any behavior problems. He did not support fencing and giving the skaters a locked out or caged in feeling.
Dr. Ciervo disagreed, saying that the fencing will keep soccer balls off of the pad, will provide safety from the road and will help with enforcement of hours of operation or if the equipment is being repaired. As a former skater, he has never felt caged by fencing, which is commonplace in skate parks.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether fencing is being considered in other parks for security purposes.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that there is fencing at the basketball courts and around the soccer field at Staples. She considers this park a special circumstance and residents are supportive of the concept as it will help enforce the hours of operation.
Mr. Calabro asked if the park will be locked.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that the park would be locked when closed; the other fenced parks are not locked.
Mr. Benchener asked whether the donations are specifically for a fence.
Mrs. Pawlenko confirmed that these are pledges for a fence, only.
Mr. Schenkman said that the decision to fence the park should not be driven by the donations.
Mrs. Pawlenko pointed out that this is a risk management issue identified by the insurance carrier. There is an absolute need to have a fence between the skate park and the soccer field; the insurer recommended that the remaining fencing should be considered. There would be additional liability for the Township only if we were to have an attendant on duty at the park.
Mr. Benchener said that since the Police, Park and Recreation Board, Park and Recreation Director and the insurance carrier are recommending the fence, it would seem appropriate to take their advice. He also noted that there has been legal action threatened by a resident. This would help to mitigate that resident’s claims.
Mr. Schenkman asked why the fence would need to be 8 feet high.
Mr. Czajkowski said this is the appropriate height for the soccer side; it could be lower for the other sides.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the Township is assuming responsibility by fencing the park.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that there will not be an attendant and use of the park is at the user’s own risk. She explained that the insurance carrier does an annual inspection and had only recently inspected the skate park after completion of construction. It had not been a consideration before the park was built.
Dr. Ciervo moved to direct the Township Manager to get bids for a skate park fence. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Mr. Garton advised that the motion should be to direct the manager to procure fencing in accordance with the Second Class Township Codes. No bidding is necessary for this project.
Dr. Ciervo amended his motion to direct the manager to procure fencing in accordance with second class township codes. Mr. Benchener amended his second.
Discussion of motion: Resident John D’Aprile urged the Board to accept the donations and proceed with the fencing. As he has witnessed in city parks, fencing helps to protect and maintain the parks; it does not indicate that the park is “bad” or in a “bad neighborhood.” The fence will help maintain hours of operation and will cut down on vandalism. There are residents eager to help and our ordinances do not allow skate board use anywhere else in the Township.
The motion passed 3-2, with Messrs. Calabro and Gallagher voting nay.
Public Comment: Resident Joel Grosso, asked for an update on Veterans Park.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board has been meeting in executive session to discuss how to proceed with the park. There is a possibility of future legal action, as the park has not been delivered complete in a timely fashion.
Mr. Grosso, on behalf of Little League, asked whether the leagues can consider that the fields will be available for play by opening day next spring.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that the League plan as if the fields will not be ready.
Mr. Grosso asked about topsoil which had been at the park earlier, but has since been removed. He has concerns that the topsoil is needed to grow grass on the playing fields.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the soil was hauled away.
Mr. Schenkman said that the Township was not directly compensated for the topsoil, but it was used to reduce the cost of the change order for rock removal by $90,000.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve the minutes of July 13, 201. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Dr. Ciervo abstaining.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve payment of bills totaling $150,881.77. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $443,714.59 Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Pension Fund Update: Pension Fund Manager Grant Kalson of Dahab Associates reviewed the performance of the pension funds through June 30, 2011. He noted that all three pension funds continue to perform well, with a total value of close to $12,000,000. Each fund has matched or exceeded the benchmark. For the current fiscal year, the three plans are up over 23%. He provided the Board with copies of each fund’s report.
Mr. Kalson said that when the funds are transferred from Merrill Lynch there will be four new asset classes added: 15% mid cap, 10% Real Estate Investment Trusts, 5% high yield bonds, and 10% emerging markets. The current asset classes will be reduced accordingly. Mr. Kalson said he is also investigating appropriate index funds. He will be presenting the Board with some recommendations for managers for each of the asset classes; it is his intention to provide a few choices for each class, with the Board making the final decision on each manager. He expects to have these recommendations for the next regular Supervisors meeting. He urged the Board to consider a third party manager for the transition period.
Dr. Ciervo said that he had hoped that Dahab would provide some advice on the appropriate choice of managers. He asked whether there would be any advantage to moving the funds immediately, in light of the current economic environment.
Mr. Schenkman reminded the Board that the policy does not permit market timing, so this would not be appropriate.
Mr. Kalson asked whether the pension committee should be involved in selecting the managers.
Mr. Schenkman said that the pension committee members should be provided with all of the information on the new managers and should be invited to the Board meeting.
Dr. Ciervo said that at the next meeting the Board would choose new managers and would decide on whether to hire a third party manager for the transition period.
Mr. Kalson advised the Board that it would have fiduciary responsibility for the funds during the transition if a third party were not used.
2010 Audit, Major and Mastro, LLC: Linda Major of Major and Mastro, said that her firm had completed the 2010 audit and has given a clean opinion, that is that all information is fairly stated. The Township has $51 million in assets, which includes $44 million in infrastructure. There is a $1.1 million liability and a $10 million long term liability. There was an $872,000 shortfall in the general fund. Charges for services were down over previous years. She provided the Board with copies of the full audit report.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the elected auditors have been involved in this audit.
Mr. Gallagher said that the elected auditors will be reviewing the professional audit. They do not have contact with one another.
Planning Commission: Vice ChairmanRobert Whartenby reported that at its July 19, 2011 meeting, the Planning Commission reviewed two Zoning Hearing Board applications. WEN-Hamilton, 54-84 Durham Road, seek relief for increased impervious surface, steep slopes and disturbance of a floodplain for construction of an assisted living facility in the R-1 zoning district. It was explained that the plans have not changed since this applicant appeared for a previous variance. The base site calculation has changed because of a change in the right-of-way. The Commission agreed to recommend that the Supervisors pass this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Daniel Benster of 2 Cloverlee Lane was in attendance to review his application for a special exception for construction of two additions to his home on a non-conforming lot. The members agreed to recommend that the Supervisors pass this application to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment.
Attorney John VanLuvanee, Engineer Joel Dellicarpini, Architect David Schultz and Joseph Coyle of Beneficial Bank were in attendance to review Beneficial’s applications for land development and conditional use for a bank at the intersection of Centre Ave/Richboro Road and Sycamore Street. This application shows a 3,186 square foot two story branch bank building with associated parking, access drive improvements, landscaping and stormwater management facilities in the TC, Town Commercial zoning district. The existing auto showroom is to be demolished. Mr. VanLuvanee said that the issue of whether German Avenue and Howard Avenue are public streets should be resolved by the Township’s attorneys, as that determination would impact base site calculations and setbacks. If these are not public streets, then no additional right-of-way is required. The other issue to be resolved is the building setback, which must not be further from the ultimate right-of-way than the minimum front yard (6 feet) plus ten feet, although the Ordinance does allow a greater setback at the discretion of the Board of Supervisors. The plan shown has a 39 foot setback. The Commission spent considerable time reviewing the letters of our consultants. Mr. VanLuvanee indicated that for the most part, the applicant will comply with these reviews. The plan shows a single use with the building’s orientation toward Richboro Road. The bank drive-through aisles face the Sycamore Street side of the building. The elevation of the site and the screening to be provided mitigate the view somewhat, but it was a disappointment to the Commission that the building is a single use and does not consider the vision for a streetscape view along Sycamore Street. Mr. VanLuvanee and Mr. Schultz each discussed the restrictions on the site because of its shape and size. They stressed that to accommodate the building’s use, its required parking and the drive-through, this is the only orientation that would function properly. The Sycamore Street Community Association participated in the discussion. The Association’s members were also dismayed that the plan did not consider the vision for Sycamore Street. Some of the members also felt that the proposed use did not meet the ordinance criteria for conditional use approval, as it is not “in the best interest of the community,” as described in section 1301.
The applicant will return to the Planning Commission with revised plans after the matters of the paper streets and the setbacks have been resolved. The members agreed to recommend that the Supervisors allow the additional setback. This would provide more greenspace and screening of the parking field and would provide a public area with flagpole and benches at the corner intersection. The Commission would like a copy of the traffic study to be supplied to Newtown Borough and also requests that our traffic engineer be present at the Planning Commission when the applicant returns for a recommendation.
Mr. Benchener said that he is in agreement with the Planning Commission’s concerns about the bank fitting in with the vision for Sycamore Street.
Mr. Gallagher noted that, as the Supervisors act in a quasi-judicial capacity during conditional use hearings, it might be advisable to reserve comment until the applicants are before the Board.
Mr. Whartenby noted that Beneficial had been to the Planning Commission last year with a different plan and the members had urged Beneficial to revise their plans to be in keeping with the Sycamore Street streetscape plans.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the applicant had given any indication of its plan for the additional parking at the site.
Mr. Whartenby said that the applicant would be amenable to public use of the lot during off hours.
Mr. Schenkman noted that the plan has less impervious surface than the current site.
Reports of Officials
2011 Roadway Improvement Program: Mr. Gallagher moved to award Mid-Atlantic Site Contractors the contract for the 2011 roadway improvement program for a cost of $565,179. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Ms. Fountain said that Mid-Atlantic, the low bidder, is known to CKS and has had favorable experience.
Mr. Gallagher asked about curb replacement.
Ms. Fountain said that curbs included were at the recommendation of the Public Works Director. This is about $70,000 of the contract.
Mr. Czajkowski said that some of the smaller projects are done by Public Works. Residents are notified if work is done on their streets.
Dr. Ciervo suggested notifying homeowners associations as well.
The motion passed 5-0.
Tax Assessment Appeals: Mr. Garton explained that Council Rock School District has settled three tax assessment appeals with the property owners. The Township did not participate in these proceedings. He asked the Board to authorize him to execute the agreements on the Township’s behalf.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize the Township Solicitor to execute tax assessment agreements for Tax Map Parcels 29-10-77-8, 29-10-77-17 and 29-10-77-12. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Benchener abstaining.
Pension Ordinance Amendment: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that it had expressed interest in amending the Non-Uniform Pension Plan by removing all non-union members from the defined benefit approach and offering a defined contribution plan instead. The Board will need to determine what benefit it wishes to provide. He explained that the benefit would have to be the same approach for all to qualify for state aid.
Mr. Gallagher said that he would like the employees to have some flexibility as to the percentage of their contribution. From year to year, employees might find they are in a different position to make larger or smaller contributions.
Mr. Benchener said that he favors a 1 to 1 match up to 4%.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he would research what would be required to qualify for state aid.
Mr. Garton said that he would begin to draft something; this would apply to new hires for non-uniformed, non-union employment, only.
Zoning Hearing Board, WEN-Hamilton, 54-84 Durham Road: Attorney Ed Murphy explained that there is a technical issue with the plans, requiring a change in percentages for impervious surface, disturbance of steep slopes and disturbance of floodplains. The plans have not changed, however there had been some confusion about the ultimate right-of-way, which has changed the base site calculations, requiring additional zoning relief.
Ms. Fountain noted that Bowmansville floodplain soils, not floodplains, are being disturbed.
Dr. Ciervo asked the size of disturbance of the floodplain soils.
Mr. Murphy said that he would estimate about 1,000 square feet of soil are involved. This is in the access to Eagle Road.
Mr. Gallagher said that this application should proceed to the Zoning Hearing Board without comment. The other Board members agreed.
Mr. Czajkowski reported that he is working with the insurance adjuster to get estimates for repair or replacement of the restrooms at Roberts Ridge Park.
Mr. Czajkowski asked the Board to consider a request from Eccologix to have access to all of the Township’s open space properties and to work with private property owners on wildlife management this fall. Eccologix would like to include the property owned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in next fall’s program.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that the EAC be asked to participate in this discussion. He suggested that Eccologix come to a Board meeting in late August.
Mr. Schenkman said that he understood that Beneficial Bank will be on the August 10, 2011 agenda.
Mr. Garton said that Beneficial wishes to discuss the question of setbacks with the Board.
Mr. Schenkman said that he would like the Joint Historic Commission to be notified whenever Beneficial is on an agenda.
Mr. Gallagher suggested that the Board authorize the Planning Commission to have the traffic engineer in attendance when Beneficial returns. The other Board members were in agreement.
Mr. Calabro asked for an update on the Zoning Hearing Board applications for deer fencing on Washington Crossing Road.
Mr. Garton said that he and Ms. Fountain met with the applicants and developed a modified plan for enclosing portions of the property.
The recording secretary reported that the applicants asked the Zoning Hearing Board to consider their original application, rather than the modified plan. After some lengthy discussion the Zoning Hearing Board decided to grant a variance for a four foot fence along the front yard, only, and to deny the request for 7 foot fences.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Police Chief has provided the Board with information on bids for the sallyport addition. He asked the members to review these proposals to discuss on the next agenda. The construction costs would be paid with the remainder of the Township’s construction bond for the municipal complex.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the Board had met in Executive Session prior to this evening’s meeting to discuss matters of litigation.
The meeting adjourned at 9:45 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary