Board of Supervisors
Minutes of March 14, 2012
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on March 14, 2012 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, Secretary/Treasurer Ryan W. 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 : Chairman Gallagher called the meeting to order with a moment of silence. This was followed by an invocation by Pastor Whyte of More View Bible church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Public Comment: Resident Mick Petrucci, President of Newtown Business Association, announced that the Association, celebrating its 60 th anniversary this year, will be sending out its community guidebook shortly to all residents. He asked that residents continue to shop local and support the community’s small businesses. This year, the association will have a new Web site at the same Web address, www.newtownba.org . The association is hosting a card exchange at the NAC on March 21, which will be open to all, and will be hosting the annual Easter Egg hunt at Pickering Manor’s north field on March 31 at 9:00 AM sharp. The hunt takes about ten minutes, with 2500 stuffed eggs and over 500 prizes. The annual car show is now accepting applications.
George Wilson of Newtown Business Association announced the annual Welcome Day celebration on May 6 on Sycamore Street from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, with live entertainment, vendors, music and dancing and new this year, a Wii game station. He invited all to attend.
Resident Jerry Schenkman said that a number of community groups, including the Joint Historic Commission, HARB and Newtown Creek Coalition, along with First National Bank and Trust of Newtown, as well as many individual Township and Borough residents are very concerned with plans for repairs to the Centre Avenue Bridge. PennDOT has announced its plan to repair, but not to preserve the integrity of the bridge, one of the oldest in the state, possibly among the oldest in the country. PennDOT has indicated that the bridge walls will be rebuilt with the original stones sliced and placed on the new walls as a façade. Concerned community groups and individuals held a meeting which was attended by State Representative Steve Santarsiero and State Senator Chuck McIlhinney to discuss ways to preserve the historic bridge. PennDOT’s representative failed to attend. Senator McIlhinney and Representative Santarsiero each sent letters to PennDOT supporting a Section 106 review of the project. Newtown Borough has sent a similar letter. He asked the Township to seek consulting party status in this matter and to write a similar letter of support. While all agree that some work is necessary to keep this bridge functional, it needs to be done while preserving the historic integrity of the bridge.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board had seen copies of Senator McIlhinney’s and Representative Santarsiero’s letters and he would support the Board sending a similar letter. He asked the Manager to draft a letter for the Board’s consideration.
Mr. Garton reminded the Manager that the letter should also seek “consulting authority” status.
Dr. Ciervo said that he agreed; he had sought similar party status to preserve some buildings on the Federal Cemetery property, which helped in the preservation efforts. He encouraged residents to also ask for status in the bridge proceedings.
Mr. R. Gallagher thanked Mr. Schenkman for his involvement and for bringing this to the Board’s attention.
Mr. Benchener moved to prepare a letter of support and seeking consulting party status for a Section 106 review for the Centre Avenue Bridge. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of Motion: Paul Allen said that though he is not a resident, he owns the Prudential Building on State Street and the McMaster House on Sycamore Street. He is eager to see the authenticity of the bridge preserved. The McMaster house shares its foundation with the bridge. He would urge that any renovations to the bridge include the foundation of the house.
Kathy Fink of Newtown Borough reviewed the history of the bridge, explaining that the original common areas laid out by William Penn were divided into lots to raise funds for the bridge, which was first constructed in 1796 and for a county courthouse, which is now the First National Bank. The Bucks County Planning Commission has recorded this as the oldest bridge in the County, the fourth oldest in the state and probably among the ten oldest in the United States. It is on the National Historic Register. She thanked the Board for their support in the effort to preserve the bridge.
The motion passed 5-0.
Welcome Day Banner: George Wilson and Mick Petrucci, on behalf of Newtown Business Association asked the Board for approval of a banner announcing Welcome Day on May 6. The banner will hang between Newtown Presbyterian Church and Vince Lombardi’s home. This is the same banner as was used last year.
Dr. Ciervo moved to approve the hanging of a temporary Welcome Day banner on Sycamore Street. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Officials
McLaughlin Development: Ms. Fountain explained that in 2009, James McLaughlin was granted approval of a minor (two-lot) subdivision subject to conditions which included satisfaction of the conditions of zoning variances granted in 2005, 2007 and 2008 and compliance with the review of the Township engineers. We have reviewed the plans and have found four items not yet completed, including removal of some paving and a storage hut, documentation of PECO approval of a light on a utility pole, installation of a wearing course and installation of monuments. Mr. McLaughlin would like to postpone placing the property line monuments until after work is completed so that they will not conflict with sewer work to be done. The Township staff had agreed that this could be postponed until after construction but that no certificate of occupancy would be issued until the monuments are installed. Mr. McLaughlin had indicated that he wanted to speak to the Board about the other incomplete items so that he can begin pulling permits, but he is not in attendance.
Dr. Ciervo said that the applicant should comply with all of the conditions set by the Board and Zoning Hearing Board. He thanked Ms. Fountain and the Township staff for their diligence on this project.
2012 Roadway Improvement Program: Ms. Fountain reviewed the streets to be included in this year’s program: Declaration Drive, Sentinel Avenue, Honey Locust Lane, Eagle Road, Freedom Drive, Laurel Circle, Columbine Road, North Drive, Liberty Drive, North Park Road, East Park Road, Twining Bridge Road and Short Lane. Bids for the work will be opened on April 4. The work includes some milling and overlay, some curb and inlet repairs and crack sealing to be done by the Public Works Department.
Mr. Calabro asked how the streets were chosen for repair.
Ms. Fountain said that the Township’s previous Public Works Director had prepared a master list which the staff has used as a guide to determine which roads are to be addressed.
Ordinance 2012-O-2, Firearms in Parks: Mr. Garton explained that this ordinance would amend the provisions of the Township Code related to carrying firearms in Township parks. The ordinance has been duly advertised for a public hearing. The Board has been provided with the statutory provisions of the state code which preempts municipalities from regulating the carrying of firearms. There have been recent challenges to other municipalities’ codes and he has advised this Board to adopt this amendment to avoid similar challenges. The amendment in this evening’s packets has been slightly changed from the original in that it now refers to “PA Firearms Act” by name.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to adopt Ordinance 2012-O-2. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo confirmed that the Township ordinance can still regulate the discharge of firearms in parks.
Mr. Garton said that the municipalities still have the right to regulate discharge of firearms but cannot regulate carrying. This is in parks and does not apply to open space.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would like a similar amendment to regulate discharge of firearms on Township owned open space to avoid any conflicts with private individuals and the Township’s wildlife management efforts.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that this measure is to avoid a challenge and a possible costly judgment against the Township.
Mr. Calabro said that it is a shame the Township has been placed in this situation. It is irresponsible to carry firearms into our parks. The only regulation allowed the Township is regarding discharge and once a gun is discharged, the damage has already been done. He would have preferred the Board’s efforts to have been spent trying to influence the state to amend its laws to prohibit firearms in parks, instead.
Mr. Benchener said that he agreed with Mr. Calabro that there are other places where carrying firearms should be prohibited as it is in schools. He suggested that this ordinance is a necessary step to avoid litigation, but that the Board should consider a resolution to ask the state to change its laws to allow a prohibition of firearms in municipal parks.
The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Township Pension Ordinances: Mr. Garton said that the Board has advertised two ordinances related to the Non-Uniformed Pension Plan. The first ordinance mandates contributions to the pension of 2.5% of salary beginning in 2012. The second ordinance would provide new, non-union, non-uniformed hires after July 1, 2011 to be enrolled in a modified benefit plan with a fixed employer contribution of 5%. In response to Board questions, Mr. Garton said that the payment method is based on the amount in the plan and that recipient can opt for a lump sum payment. Employees are vested after 4 years. There is some standard language regarding forfeiture if an employee leaves before being vested.
Mr. Benchener said that he is pleased to see the Township moving toward defined contribution plans as it gives local government a way to better control expenses.
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt Ordinance 2012-O-3 and 2012-O-4. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 3-2, with Messrs. Calabro and M. Gallagher voting nay.
Council Rock Newtown Athletic Association Memorandum of Understanding: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that it had agree to accept the skinned baseball field, parking lot and restroom pavilion at Veterans Park from the contractor in order to allow Little League to begin using the field if this is partial acceptance is approved by the contractor. The League will also have access to the storage shed donated by the Boy Scouts. The League has agreed to certain improvements and maintenance of that field. A Memorandum of Understanding has been prepared to formalize the agreement between the League and the Township. The League has agreed to accept the field in its current condition and will be responsible for its upkeep and maintenance for a period of two years and will install a pitcher’s mound. The League will carry insurance and field usage fees will be waived. This does not set any precedent for other fields or other sports leagues.
Kevin O’Shea, president of Council Rock Newtown Athletic Association said that his Board has agreed to the terms of the Memorandum. He thanked the Supervisors for their help in this matter. The League has already held a field day and begun work on fields in other Township parks. Once the agreement is in place the League will hold a field day at this field to begin work.
Mr. Benchener moved to approve the Memorandum of Understanding of Field Use with Council Rock Newtown Athletic Association. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher thanked the League for helping to resolve some of the field issues so that at least a portion of the park can be open for residents.
The motion passed 5-0.
Police Report: Chief Henry Pasqualini provided the Board with the 2011 annual report and said he would be available to answer any questions after the members had had an opportunity to review it. He reported that the Department had responded to 1093 calls, including 8 thefts, 2 burglaries and a flim-flam. He reminded residents to be very careful in providing personal information, especially to telemarketers. He reported that the sallyport construction is proceeding and should be completed in a timely fashion.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Benchener moved to approve the minutes of the regular meeting of February 22, 2012. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $198,262.96. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher asked about a police vehicle repair bill.
Mr. Czajkowski said that the car had been hit by another vehicle while it was parked.
Mr. Calabro asked about payment to Northampton Township for streetlight repair.
Mr. Czajkowski explained that some time ago, Northampton acquired the necessary equipment for streetlight repair and neighboring municipalities contract with Northampton for the repairs. Streetlight repair may not always be a priority for Northampton, so he has been investigating other options.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded residents to include the streetlight’s number when reporting it for repair.
Dr. Ciervo asked about roofing on the Martindell House.
Mr. Czajkowski said that this was a necessary emergency repair, as the roof was leaking and causing damage.
Dr. Ciervo suggested that the Board consider further use for this building.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $182,386.48. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Benchener noted that Berkheimer still appears on the Bills Lists.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that PennDOT would be holding a special public meeting on the Stoopville Road improvements here in this building on March 28, 2012 at 6:00 PM.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the Board would be meeting in executive session next week on Monday and Tuesday evenings to interview candidates for the Township manager position.The meeting adjourned at 9:00 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary