Board of Supervisors
Minutes of October 26, 2011
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on October 26, 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 : Dr. Ciervo called the regular meeting to order at 7:35 PM with a moment of silence. An invocation by Father Ernest Curtin of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the pledge of allegiance followed.
Public Comment: Resident Melanie Bracie said that she is dissatisfied with the repaving being done on Frost Lane near Goodnoe Elementary School. The work, paid from liquid fuels funds, only includes repair of the shoulders, not a full paving. As the Township only receives $386,000 in liquid fuel funds and there are 80 miles of road in the Township, unless there is some other revenue source, such as a tax increase, there will never be funds available to fully repave this and other roads. Frost Lane is used by over 30 school buses making repeated trips each day to Goodnoe School and the life skills school, as well as to Roberts Ridge Park. She noted that repair of the road was ranked below renovation of the police building in the budget. Ms. Bracie said that she is also dissatisfied with the Township’s response to repairs at Roberts Ridge Park, which has remained an eyesore since it was vandalized six months ago. At some point, our Public Works Department should have begun to clean up and make cosmetic repairs to the restrooms. She also reported that she has not seen any increase in police patrols near the park at night since the vandalism.
Dr. Ciervo explained that the Township’s road repair program has been in place for some time, with partial paving of Frost Lane. It might be possible to make Frost Lane a priority for next year’s road program if funds are available. There are other roads in greater need of repair than Frost Lane, and they have been a priority.
Ms. Bracie disagreed, noting that Wrights Road did not need repaving as much as Frost Lane, and yet it has been repaved.
Dr. Ciervo explained that flooding issues on Wrights Road were addressed as part of the repair, and for that reason it was prioritized. He also explained that repairs to Roberts Ridge Park had been delayed awaiting the insurance adjuster’s settlement of the claim. Since the police have made an arrest in the vandalism case, it is also possible there could be some restitution.
Mr. Czajkowski confirmed that the insurance company has settled with the Township and repairs should begin shortly.
Resident Pam Fitzpatrick reported that in its efforts to join the Audubon Society’s Bird Town program, the Environmental Advisory Council has signed 40 families to create bird habitats in the Township. The EAC is also attempting to raise the necessary funds for the program through sales of tee shirts at $10 each and toy birds at $6 each. Items can be purchased through the EAC. She asked the Board to put this information on the Web site. For more information on Bird Town, visit www.paaudubon.org.
Resident John D’Aprile urged residents to participate in the upcoming election. He also said that he has had some difficulty with bird feeders in his townhome community. He also resented the resident demanding that the paving of road in front of her house be prioritized over repair to the police station.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of October 12, 2011. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes of the work session of October 17, 2011. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo noted that before the October 17, 2011 work session, the Board met in executive session to discuss matters of personnel and litigation.
Bills: Mr. Schenkman moved to approve payment of bills totaling $1,161,361.54. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0
Mr. Schenkman noted that almost $900,000 of this money is the Township’s minimum municipal obligation to the pension funds.
Mr. Schenkman moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $2638.88 Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Newtown Ambulance Report: Newtown Rescue Squad President Joe Swerk read into the record the following statement:
It is apparent that saving lives and helping our citizens on a daily basis has not dispelled the mystery that surrounds the Newtown Ambulance Squad. The fact is we are always there to respond to an emergency regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. People depend on us but they have little knowledge of what it takes to maintain services. We appreciate this opportunity to provide an overview of our operations and address some of the challenges we face.
We were started by the Newtown American Legion in 1952 and will celebrate our 60 th anniversary next year. We are not, nor have we ever been, affiliated with the fire company. In 1998 we separately incorporated with the legion’s blessing, and formed a 501(c)(3) charitable, non-profit corporation that operates the squad as it exists today.
As part of the Township’s emergency services – ambulance, police and fire – we consider ourselves to be the best valued municipal service in the Township. Despite our nearly $2.5 million operating budget the Township’s contribution this year is expected to be $111,000 compared to $4 million for police and over $1 million for fire service.
In 2010 we were dispatched to over 2100 911 calls resulting in 1592 emergency transports. Our non-emergency side of the business did over 8,000 medically necessary transports for the citizens in our area. All tolled we performed nearly 10,000 transports in 2010.
Three years ago, when our millage was eliminated, the board agreed by resolution to support the Squad with an annual contribution of 25% of the collected local services tax (LST), thus accounting for the ups and downs of the economy. Every year there seems to be confusion about much the annual contribution will be and when it is to be awarded.
Apparently there is a level of uncertainty regarding the ultimate disposition of those funds and concerns about the value to the township and taxpayers. Let me clarify some of the issues and then give you the opportunity to ask additional questions.
Many in our community believe that EMS personnel are primarily volunteer workers. While we do have an active volunteer program, it serves mainly to help individuals determine if a career in EMS is right for them. We have 65 employees – with a corresponding $2 million payroll – who pay taxes and spend money in the community. Our Workers Compensation insurance premium alone is $61,000 with a $10,000 deductible. Our fuel bill this year will also be $75,000. Few people realize that staffing a single 911 ambulance with an EMT and Paramedic 24 hours a day costs well over $300,000 per year. This does not include the cost of vehicle, equipment, supplies, employee benefits, or administrative overhead.
Our goal is to replace 2 vehicles per year, but we have settled for the bare minimum of 1.5 vehicles per year due to economic constraints. Three of our 15 fleet transport vehicles have odometer readings over 100,000 miles and two are over 200,000 miles. Therefore it is essential that we bear the costs of an aggressive preventive maintenance program. We must ensure vehicle quality standards for the protection and safety of crews and patients and to protect our assets.
While the cost of doing business rises as a matter of course, sustaining adequate revenue has its own set of challenges. As a charitable non-profit organization, we donate or write off services equivalent to 5% of our operating budget to maintain our tax exempt status.
Insurance companies require us to be an in-network provider for non-emergency services. As such, we must accept payment according to the terms of their contracts. A federal study in 2007 by the General Accounting Office (GAO) revealed that on a national basis, Medicare reimbursement rates are 6% below the cost to provide service in urban areas….
Contracted commercial insurance rates are usually a fixed percentage (65 to 100%) of Medicare rates. PA Medicaid reimbursement rates are even lower and out-of-state Medicaid carriers pay nothing at all.
An unfortunate consequence of these trends is that our staff went 3 ½ years without raises prior to modest increases in 2011.
I share this information because, like you and others, we have expenses that continue to escalate. At the same time contributions from the Township remain at 1990’s levels and maintaining an adequate income stream is more challenging than ever.
The Township’s contribution is roughly 2.25% of our overall budget and continues to be an important part of our annual financial plan and we thank you for your ongoing support.
Mr. Benchener asked the average cost per ambulance trip.
Mr. Swerk said the average is about $220 per trip. The net income for 2010 was $1,023,971.72. This included donated land and income from a trust
Mr. Schenkman thanked Mr. Swerk for his informative and concise statement.
Dr. Ciervo asked about the contributions of Newtown Borough and Upper Makefield, which are considerably lower that the Township’s.
Mr. Swerk explained that both other municipalities have smaller populations. He noted that Upper Makefield’s residents also donate about $23,000. The Squad serves three nursing homes and writes off services provided to indigent patients. Mr. Swerk said that the squad’s annual membership appeal is to be mailed this week and he urged everyone to join. If member families need ambulance service, the squad will accept insurance payments, only and will not collect any co-pay.
Mr. Schenkman asked about training to become a paramedic or EMT.
Mr. Swerk said that the squad has one certified trainer for ongoing training for already certified EMTs and paramedics. Training to become an EMT or paramedic takes about three years.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the squad has gotten any casino impact money.
Mr. Swerk said that so far grant applications have been unsuccessful. He said that he is hoping to receive some grant money for the mandated radio upgrade program.
Breast Cancer Awareness Resolution: Mr. Gallagher moved to adopt Resolution 2011-R-9, a resolution of the Board of Supervisors of Newtown Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, acknowledging October 2011 as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Planning Commission: Vice Chairman Robert Whartenby reported that at its October 18, 2011 meeting the Commission reviewed the application of New Life Christian Church, 646 South State Street, for a daycare facility, Use C-10, at a 1.3 acre lot with a single family dwelling in the TC-2 Town Commercial Zoning District, adjacent to the Church. The applicant intends to use the facility for daycare on Monday through Friday for up to 24 children and 8 employees working in two shifts. The Commission voted to recommend that the Board approve this use, subject to certain conditions. Included in the conditions are that the second floor of the home not be used for daycare but that the use of the second floor be limited to the occasional lodging of visiting clergy as an accessory to the Church; that an easement agreement be made between the property and the Church for employee parking; that the access drive be one-way, only; and that the Township permit 4 parking spaces to be held in reserve. The applicant asked for a waiver of land development for this project. The Commission voted to recommend that the Township grant the waiver, subject to a few conditions, including that the applicant submit stormwater and impervious surface calculations to the Township Engineer for review.
The Commission reviewed the changes made to the Neshaminy Creek Act 167 Watershed Plan by the DEP and Bucks County Planning Commission. These changes will eliminate some of the onerous requirements for property owners contemplating small projects involving disturbance of soils and increased impervious surface. After reviewing the suggested language changes provided by Ms. Fountain to amend our stormwater ordinance, the Commission voted to recommend that the Supervisors authorize advertisement.
In response to requests from the Supervisors’ Board Chairman, Mr. Whartenby and Planning Commission Chairman Allen Fidler prepared a detailed review of the Newtown Borough Traditional Neighborhood Ordinance. A packet of information will be provided to the Commission in their packets and this will be discussed on the November 15, 2011 agenda.
Park and Recreation Board: Chairman Andrew Levine reported that the Board reviewed the plans for McDonald’s restaurant at Village at Newtown and an outdoor pool and baseball academy at the NAC and recommended that the Township accept fees in lieu of open space for both projects.
The Park and Recreation Board learned that Public Works Director Gary Crossland has resigned. The Board will miss him and wishes him well in his new endeavors.
The Park and Recreation Department reported a very slight decline in revenue but an increase in participation compared to last year, with 3072 people participating in camps and recreation programs and classes. The Department collected $18000 in field usage fees, including tournament fees. Feedback on this summer’s camps has been very positive. Enrollment of non-residents was down.
Mr. Levine reported that Chris English of Gilmore & Associates attended the last Park and Recreation Board meeting to report on conditions at Veterans Park, where ongoing work is being done to grow grass on the playing fields.
Historic Architectural Review Board: HARB member Bill Mahler was in attendance to review two applications for signs on Sycamore Street.
Mr. Calabro moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for Sycamore Street Grill, 253 North Sycamore Street, as outlined in a memo dated October 20, 2011. Mr. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Joe Feracco, owner of the Grill, showed sample colors chosen for the signage. He said that he would be opening a pub style restaurant at the location at Thanksgiving.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Schenkman moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for Attorney Steven Berkowitz, 281 North Sycamore Street, as outlined in a memo dated October 20, 2011. Mr. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Mahler asked whether the Board has reviewed the draft book of appropriateness HARB has submitted.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board had discussed the book during a work session. Harriet Beckert of HARB was in attendance. The Board asked that a brochure outlining some of the highlights of the book be developed and that the book be available on the Township Web site.
Stormwater Ordinance Revision: Ms. Fountain explained that in response to the concerns of many municipalities about the time, effort and expense involved in implementing and enforcing the new Ordinance, DEP and Bucks County Planning Commission have revised some of the language in the Act 167 plan to state that volume controls for those activities that increase impervious surface by 1,000 square feet or less are “not applicable.” Property owners will not be required to install stormwater management controls for small projects unless the activity is found to be a contributor of pollution to waters of the Commonwealth. The Planning Commission has reviewed the sample language and recommended that the Township adopt the revisions.
Mr. Gallagher moved to authorize advertisement of an amended stormwater ordinance. Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Corner Bakery Café: Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the conditional use decision for Corner Bakery Café at 3 West Road. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that one condition had been installation of parking held in green; the applicant would return for a modification if a walkway is installed between the Café and Village at Newtown.
Mr. Schenkman asked whether there would be a time limit for the applicant to comply with the requirement for traffic calming.
Mr. Garton said that this is a requirement for the certificate of occupancy.
The motion passed 5-0.
New Life Christian Church, 646 S. State Street -Conditional Use and Waiver of Land Development: Mr. Garton said that this conditional use application had been advertised on October 6 and 15, 2011 in the Newtown Advance. The application, advertisement and reviews of the Township Engineer and Planner have been incorporated into the record. The Planning Commission has recommended approval of the application.
Dr. Ciervo opened the hearing. He asked whether anyone wished party status. There was no response.
Attorney Don Marshall represented the applicant.
Reverend Norman Leve was sworn in,
Mr. Marshall explained that this is an application for a daycare facility, Use C-10, at a 1.3 acre lot with a single family dwelling in the TC-2 Town Commercial Zoning District, adjacent to New Life Christian Church. Associated parking and access drive improvements are proposed. Mr. Marshall said that the residence consists of a 1500 square foot first floor and a 1200 square foot second floor and a 1500 square foot basement. The site complies with setback and impervious surface requirements. Among the proposed improvements are: the installation of 4 parking spaces, with an additional four held in green, a handicapped ramp, and improvement to the first floor restroom for handicapped accessibility. The driveway will be 20 feet wide and one-way, although the applicant could show a 25 foot driveway on the plan with 5 feet held in green. The driveway will extend the existing driveway to Freedom Drive, and will be one-way, and parent drop off will be intermittent, so no traffic issues are anticipated. The playground will be a 2100 square foot yard, fenced with access through the house, only. Employees will park in the Church parking lot, leaving four paved spaces for parent drop off and pick up. The site is served by public water and sewer; an additional EDU is to be purchased. Deliveries will be once daily by the Church’s van. The garage will be used for storage only. The application has been amended to show that the facility will have 24 children and eight employees, four per shift.
Mr. Garton reviewed the conditions recommended by the Planning Commission.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant would comply with the review letters and all recommended conditions. An easement agreement will be drafted for employee parking.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant will also be seeking a waiver of land development; the only improvement will be the driveway extension.
Mr. Schenkman asked what would happen to the agreements if the daycare property were sold separately.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant would sign cross easements for the parking. He noted that the daycare is being considered as a way to finance the purchase of the property.
Mr. Benchener asked whether the hours of operation would be sufficient to accommodate the use.
Reverend Leve said that an additional hour in the morning and evening could be helpful for late pick-up.
Mr. Gallagher asked whether the facility would be for Church members only.
Reverend Leve said that the facility would be open to the public.
Dr. Ciervo said that he had some concern about the ratio of employees to children, noting that a greater ratio might be needed for the care of infants.
Reverend Leve said that he has just begun the licensing process. One of the Church members has only attended one class to get started. It seems the ratio for small children is one worker per seven children.
Ms. Fountain said that the number of required parking spaces would be different if the two shifts overlap.
Mr. Marshall said that the applicant would have a maximum of eight employees and can provide more parking if required.
Mr. Gallagher moved to approve the Conditional Use application of New Life Christian Church of Newtown for Tax Map Parcel #29-010-002, 646 South State Street, Newtown Township, Pennsylvania 18940 to operate a C-10 Child Care Facility within a TC-2 – Town Commercial District, subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Schenkman seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Garton reviewed the Planning Commission’s recommended conditions for a waiver of land development, including that the Township Engineer would review the impervious surface calculations.
Mr. Gallagher asked whether the daycare would be non-profit.
Mr. Marshall said that it would be, as part of the New Life Christian Church.
Dr. Ciervo said that he is not supportive of waivers of land development.
Mr. Benchener asked Mr. Marshall to review the reasons for the request.
Mr. Marshall said that the plan proposes no public improvements; the only improvements are the driveway extension and parking spaces. The land development process is costly and time consuming. The applicant will still pay for the review of stormwater management, but would avoid the costly engineering and filing fees.
Dr. Ciervo asked if any other fees are being waived by this waiver.
Ms. Fountain noted that the Township is not required to waive traffic impact fees or park and recreation fees.
Mr. Benchener said that the plans will not impact the community and the proposed daycare will improve the Township.
Mr. Marshall reminded the Board that the Church had a concern about the possible commercial development of the property, which is the reason for the purchase.
Reverend Leve said that there had been some commercial interest in the property. The Church was interested in preserving the land surrounding the house and keeping the residential feel of the property. He asked the Board to show some mercy on the Church, which is attempting to preserve the land and prevent commercial development.
Mr. Gallagher moved to grant a waiver of land development for New Life Christian Church subject to the following conditions:
Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Schenkman said that part of the function of good government is to exercise good judgment. This is a small community church entering into a small enterprise which will have minimal impact on the surrounding neighbors.
The motion passed 4-1, with Dr. Ciervo voting nay.
The Birches Tree and Traffic Issues: Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to review some of the outstanding concerns on this land development project.
Mr. Garton explained that the Supervisors have already approved the conditional use and preliminary plan for land development for the assisted living facility. The extent of traffic improvements and the location of replacement trees were left until final plan approval. An analysis reveals that the applicant will not be able to replant 284 trees on the site, but has agreed to either plant 25% of the trees elsewhere or pay a fee in lieu in the amount of $300 per tree. In addition, there has been a request by Ron Weaver to make certain improvements to the traffic lights at Eagle and Durham Roads, as outlined in a memo provided to the Board. The cost of doing all of the suggested improvements would total approximately $145,000. The applicant is willing to pay for all but the video detection, the interconnection and the new cabinets, provided the traffic impact fee and tree dollars be applied to the costs. This would mean that the applicant would be contributing an additional $50,000 for signal improvements.
Mr. Murphy said that he has met with the Township consultants and his clients and they have all agreed to this suggestion. The applicant will do the project as outlined. In addition, the applicant will plant 37 trees on the property, or would consider making a donation for the 37 trees.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the outlined improvements would make the intersection signs ADA compliant.
Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the tree and traffic agreement as outlined by Mr. Garton, with the Birches paying for intersection improvements at Durham and Eagle Roads as recommended by Ron Weaver (except for the fiber optic connection). The Township agrees that the traffic impact fee and tree fee will be credited toward this project, with the applicant paying the balance.
Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Resident Judith Norkin said that she would like the additional trees planted on the field at Cliveden Estates.
Mr. Garton said that the question of planting of additional trees has been deferred to final plan approval.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Czajkowski announced that Veterans Park would be open for the public to visit and walk the trails from 8:00 AM to dusk on Friday, October 28 through Sunday, October 30, 2011. He asked that visitors stay on paved areas.
Public Comment: Mrs. Bracie asked whether the Township is interviewing for a new public works director if Mr. Crossland has resigned.
Dr. Ciervo said that Ron Weaver has been named acting public works director and a new director is being sought.
Mrs. Bracie said that she had not complained about conditions on Frost Lane because it is in front of her house, but because the road is unsafe for the many school buses using it.
Dr. Ciervo reported that the timing of the traffic light at Sycamore and Jefferson Streets has been corrected to eliminate the back-up on Jefferson Street.
Mr. Gallagher asked the Manager to present this year’s budget with an estimate of revenues and some recommendations for changes and comparisons to past years, noting where changes have occurred.
Mr. Benchener asked that the budget not include a tax increase.
Mr. Gallagher explained that he would like the budget presentation of project revenues and to have the budget reflect anticipated revenues.
Mr. Schenkman disagreed. He said that the budget should be presented as it usually is.
Mr. Benchener said that the budget as it has been presented in the past allows the administration to dictate policy. He would like to treat the budget more like a business budget, with expenses projected to better match expected revenues.
Mr. Schenkman disagreed with Mr. Benchener, saying that the Supervisors dictate policy but that the administration estimates our expected revenues and costs. Government cannot be run like a business; there is no product to sell. We are a public service.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he can provide a budget that does not include a tax increase.
Dr. Ciervo announced that the Board would remain after the close of the meeting for an executive session to discuss matters of personnel and litigation.The meeting adjourned at 10:30 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary