Board of Supervisors
Minutes of February 8, 2012
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on February 8, 2012 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, Secretary Treasurer Ryan Gallagher and Philip Calabro and Robert Ciervo, members. Also in attendance were: Joseph Czajkowski, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order : Mr. Benchener called the meeting to order with a moment of silence. This was followed by an invocation by Reverend Gail Moore of Macedonia Baptist Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Czajkowski said that discussion of the bond refinance has been moved to follow minor approvals.
Public Comment: Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that the general fund was to have contained over $1,000,000 but it had been necessary to borrow from the TSA fund to meet the debt service. He asked what the current balance of the general fund is.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the current balance is about $650,000.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that during the discussion of borrowing from the TSA, it had been stated that the fund was not earning any interest. He suggested that the funds should be invested in CD’s to gain some interest.
Resident Warren Dallas thanked the Board for adding sound barriers along the Bypass to the TIP. He noted that the homes in Newtown Place were built in 1987; at that time a large berm blocked noise from the Bypass. When Newtown Place was completed the berm was removed, and with the recent rerouting of truck traffic to the Bypass and increased traffic in general, the noise is growing considerably. He urged the Board to prioritize this project on the TIP, as the quality of life for Newtown Place residents is very negatively impacted.
Resident Joe Garvey, representing Rock Softball, said that the program is growing and the organization is eager to help maintain the fields and landscaping at Helen Randle Park. The parent organization would like to work with the Township to come to an agreement on field maintenance, including watering and purchase of dirt, in exchange for a reduction of field usage fees. The parent volunteers are asking for a one year trial to see if the arrangement is beneficial to both the Township and the Rock Softball organization. He provided the Board with list of maintenance responsibilities, some improvements and some goals. He noted that the organization is insured and will be tracking the work being done by its volunteers throughout the year. He noted that the organization has already improved the entrance to the park by planting a rose garden. Mr. Garvey said that Rock Softball’s girls travel team placed second in the US in tournament play. He thanked Mr. Czajkowski and Interim Public Works Director Ron Weaver for their help and support as the organization gears up for spring.
Mr. Benchener said that the proposal is interesting and worth discussing further at a work session. The Board is not prepared to make any decisions this evening.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would like Mr. Garvey to speak to the Park and Recreation Board. The Park and Recreation Board has discussed this idea in the past and is interested in pursuing a similar arrangement for other sports leagues.
Mr. Garvey said that it is his understanding that the Park and Rec Board was waiting on some specific information from the Public Works Department on its time and budgeting for park maintenance.
Police Sallyport Addition – Bid Award: Ken Duerholz of Boyle Construction was in attendance to review the bids received for the sallyport construction on the police building. Mr. Duerholz said that the Township had received 13 bids on the project and he had provided the Board with a comparison of the bids, noting that the lowest responsible bid was from Gavin Construction for $170,068.
Mr. Czajkowski confirmed for the Board that Boyle’s estimate had been $164,000.
Mr. Calabro asked whether Gavin has done comparable work elsewhere in the area.
Mr. Duerholz said that Gavin’s experience has been primarily in residential work and renovations and additions to historic homes. This project is similar to residential construction, as it involves wooden trusses and no metal work.
Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Duerholz to provide the Board with the names of Gavin’s owners.
Dr. Ciervo asked what is meant by “responsible bid.”
Mr. Duerholz said that a responsible bidder will have filled out all of the bid paperwork correctly and will have included all details of the bids; the responsible bidder will have adequate insurance. The forms which are required would eventually reveal any difficulties the bidder might have had, such as outstanding lawsuits.
Dr. Ciervo moved to award the police sallyport bid to Gavin Construction Company in the amount of $170,068. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Bond Refinance: Ryan Bronfman of PFM Group Public Finance Management was in attendance to discuss refinance of the Township’s municipal bond. He reminded that Board that in 2008 the Township had issued a $10,000,000 bond for capital improvements and to refund 2007 notes. PFM has been monitoring refinance opportunities and until a few weeks ago, there was no economic advantage to refinancing. Conditions have changed, and rates are at a historic low so that at this time, a refinance would have a net benefit of $300,000. This refinance would have a five year call date, which would allow the Township to refinance in the future. The bulk of the savings would be in 2012. He provided a timeline for the transaction, with adoption of the parameters by ordinance on February 23 and settlement on April 5, 2012. In response to Mr. Benchener’s questions, Mr. Bronfman said that demand for municipal paper has been strong and rates have been coming down since late last year. The five year call date is recommended because investors want the security of the call feature.
Mr. Calabro asked whether this would be reviewed by Moody’s. He said that the Township has recently borrowed from one of its funds and might do so again this year.
Mr. Bronfman said that what has been presented is based on a rating of Aa3. He did not know whether this would change the rating, but noted that this is the Township’s only debt. If the rating is downgraded it might no longer be beneficial to move forward on refinancing.
Mr. Garton said that if the Board is inclined to move forward with the refinance, he would prepare a resolution to be acted on at the next meeting.
The members were in agreement that they would want to take advantage of this opportunity, however Mr. Calabro said that while he is supportive of the transaction, he does not consider it a solution to the Township’s current financial problems.
Planning Commission: Secretary Peggy Driscoll reported that the Planning Commission reviewed Goodnoe Elementary School’s plans for replacement of modular classrooms with an 11,538 square foot classroom addition, an entrance addition of 972 square feet and a stage addition of 2034 square feet. The plan also includes some internal renovations and a reconfiguration and restriping of parking, changes to the bus pickup/drop-off and parent pick up areas and kindergarten playground location. The applicant will revise the plans to comply with the Township professionals’ review letters. The members discussed the proposed changes to the pick-up/drop off procedures and had concerns about considerable stacking which could spill into Frost Lane, especially during bad weather situations. Planning Commission member Paul Cohen offered some suggestions to make some changes to alleviate some of the stacking. The applicant will provide a more detailed plan for traffic circulation and will investigate Mr. Cohen’s recommendation. There are a few existing setback non-conformities which will continue with the new plan. It was the Planning Commission solicitor’s opinion that these would not require variances. A number of variances will be needed, however, for elimination of some curbing, landscaping, setbacks for playing fields and loading berths. Some members of the Commission were not supportive of the widening of Frost Lane to 30 feet, the addition of acceleration and deceleration lanes at the entrance or at the intersection with Lower Dolington Road. A resident of Newtown Borough discussed concerns with the addition, possible future student population and pick-up/drop off procedures. The Commission members agreed that the plan needed to be cleaned up considerably before a recommendation could be made to the Supervisors. We agreed that after the plans were revised to comply with the review letters and necessary variances are granted, the Commission would consider a second review as preliminary/final.
As two of the Commission’s long time members were not in attendance and four new members who are unfamiliar with the TC District proposed changes, we tabled the review of the Sycamore Street Ordinance.
Board Members: Dr. Ciervo reported that former Upper Makefield Township Supervisor David Kulig passed away suddenly this week. Mr. Kulig had served his community and the Jointure as a volunteer on the Planning Commission and as Supervisors for many years and Dr. Ciervo relied on his knowledge and understanding of zoning and of the Jointure’s history as Newtown Township addressed its concerns with development. Mr. Kulig will be missed by all in the Jointure and on behalf of the Township he extended sympathies to the Kulig family.
Reports of Officials
Authorization to Advertise 2012 Roadway Improvement Program: Ms. Fountain presented the report of work to be included in the 2012 roadway improvement program.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the remainder of Frost Lane is included in this year’s program.
Ms. Fountain said that because of planned construction at Goodnoe Elementary School, Frost Lane was not included in this year’s program.
Mr. Calabro said that he understood representative of the School District were to have met with staff today to discuss possible roadway improvements required for the expansion.
Mr. Garton said that the District will come to a work session to discuss the project in detail.
Mr. Calabro said that he is concerned that the Township may be requiring expensive roadway improvements as part of the District’s project. These improvements would be funded by our taxpayers.
Mr. Czajkowski said that he believes there may have been some misunderstanding on the part of the School District as to possible improvements to Frost Lane.
Dr. Ciervo said that he was only asking whether the remainder of Frost Lane was included in this year’s plan. No decisions have been made regarding improvements to the entrance to the school.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize advertisement of the 2012 Roadway Improvement Program. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded.
Mr. Sensibaugh said that he would like to see improvements to Newtown Crossing included in the plan. He asked whether the Supervisors had conducted a roadway tour to prepare the list.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the Public Works Department and the Township Engineer had conducted the tour to evaluate conditions.
The motion passed 4-0.
Stockingworks II: Attorney Timothy Duffy and Developer Allan Smith were in attendance to review three proposed sketch plan concepts for the old Stockburger Chevrolet dealership on South State Street in Newtown Borough. Mr. Garton reminded the Board that the sketch known as Plan “A” is currently before Borough Council for conditional use approval. The Township has sought party status in this application.
Mr. Smith provided the Board with a summary booklet outlining each of the three plans. He explained that when Newtown Borough and Township joined the State’s Main Streets Program and formed Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation, a visioning committee was formed which developed a map of the State and Sycamore downtown areas, projecting out 50 years. He used the visioning map as a guide in developing the three plans for the Stockburger site. Plan “A” involves only the Stockburger property and includes 121 condominiums, 40,000 square feet of commercial space and a two story parking garage. He noted that the existing liquor store building is included in the commercial space. Plan “B” , which uses the Borough owned parking lot and state liquor store property, includes a public piazza space, creek walk, 42,707 square feet of commercial space, 16,000 square feet of office space, a two story parking garage and 109 condominiums. Plan “C”, using only the Stockburger property, includes 78 condominiums and 35,155 square feet of commercial space, including the existing liquor store.
Plan “B” most closely resembles the visioning map. It would direct traffic through the development with no exit onto Centre Avenue. All traffic would exit onto lower State Street. This is the only plan with open public space, which would include a possible open air movie theater, balconies and a small ice rink. Newtown Borough would not allow a conditional use application for this proposed plan because it involves publicly owned property.
In response to questions from the Board, Mr. Duffy said that all of the retail is “village retail” which is limited to specialty retail, not restaurant uses. A restaurant use would change parking calculations. All three of the proposed plans meet Borough parking requirements. The residential uses will have private, underground parking. Each condominium will have either one or two bedrooms, requiring 2.5 to 3 parking spaces per unit.
Dr. Ciervo expressed some concern about the proposed density, as this will impact both Borough and Township traffic. He asked how much commercial space exists on the properties now.
Mr. Smith said there are currently 27,000 square feet of retail space, 15,000 square feet is in the Stockburger dealership.
Mr. Duffy said that traffic studies have been done and these studies have included Sycamore Street and Jefferson Street.
Mr. Benchener asked about the cost of the public improvements in Plan “B”.
Mr. Smith said that these improvements would cost about $3,000,000. The additional residential units and office space would cover the cost of these improvements.
Mr. Benchener asked whether it would be possible to develop a plan which would improve traffic by prohibiting exits onto Centre Avenue if Plan “B” is not available.
Mr. Smith pointed out that the existing liquor store building would prevent extension of the roadway through to State Street.
Mr. Gallagher asked whether the plans would improve the existing small parking areas behind each of the State Street businesses.
Mr. Smith noted that Plan “B” envisions new buildings in the area where the existing parking lots are now. Any improvements to those smaller lots would require cooperation of the property owners. There has been some resistance on the part of some of the owners to make changes to their parking. In each of the plans, shared parking for the commercial uses is anticipated, in compliance with the Borough’s new ordinance.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the creek walk could be included in other than Plan “B”.
Mr. Smith said that easements would be needed and the walk would have no beginning or end.
Mr. Calabro thanked Mr. Smith for bringing the presentation to the Township and answering the Board’s questions.
Dedication of Foxhall Estates: Mr. Garton explained that the Township staff has recommended accepting dedication of Foxhall Estates.
Ms. Fountain said that all but a few punch list items have been addressed. She recommended an escrow release of all but $25,000. She said that the developer will need a maintenance bond for 18 months after dedication.
Dr. Ciervo moved to accept dedication of Foxhall Estates, subject to adoption of a resolution at a future meeting. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Interfund Loan Resolution: Mr. Czajkowski said that he had presented to the Board a request for an interfund loan from the TSA fund to the general fund, however, on Monday the Township received an earned income tax payment of $500,000. The loan is no longer an urgent necessity. He said that the cable franchise fees are also expected shortly.
Mr. Benchener noted that this amount is higher than anticipated.
The Board agreed to table consideration of an interfund loan at this time.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Dr. Ciervo moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of January 25, 2012. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $159,809.02. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $194,889.26. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Benchener announced that the Board would meet in executive session to discuss matters of personnel after the meeting.The meeting adjourned at 9:45 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary