Board of Supervisors
Minutes of October 10, 2012
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on October 10, 2012 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer Ryan W. Gallagher and Philip Calabro and Robert Ciervo, members. Also in attendance were: Kurt Ferguson, 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 Hal Roberts of New Life Christian Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Ferguson said that the Police Report has been moved up on the agenda, a report from the Pension Manager, Breast Cancer Awareness Month Resolution and payment of the minimum municipal obligation have been added.
Presentation in Recognition of Herman Heston, Jr.: Mr. R. Gallagher said that former Township Supervisor Herman Heston Jr. had passed away recently. The Township would like to acknowledge Mr. Heston’s many contributions to the Township as Supervisor from 1961 to 1973. Mr. Heston was a wonderful neighbor and was a guiding force in the Township’s planning for future growth. He said that Mrs. Heston was unable to attend this evening’s meeting. He presented a plaque acknowledging Mr. Heston’s many contributions to his friend, Ms. Rosa, who accepted the plaque and thanked the Board on Mrs. Heston’s behalf.
Police Commendations: Police Chief Henry Pasqualini presented a commendation to Officer Jules Ferrara for his work in preventing a suicide in the Township by talking the victim into surrendering his firearm. This is the second time Officer Ferrara has prevented a suicide in this manner. He thanked and congratulated Officer Ferrara for his outstanding work.
Chief Pasqualini presented commendations to Officers Richard Huff, Daniel Clifton, Steven Benz and Sergeant Frank Ambrose for their work in executing an arrest warrant for a suspect wanted on a homicide. The suspect was arrested without incident and turned over to the Dover Delaware Police.
Chief Pasqualini congratulated all of the men for their outstanding work, saying how very proud he is to work with them.
Chief Pasqualini reported that the department responded to 1122 calls in the past month, including the robbery of the First Federal Bank in Wrightstown, two underage drinking events and 46 calls reporting suspicious persons or circumstances. He urged residents to continue to report any unusual activity.
Chief Pasqualini said that the department is assisting in the search for missing person Richard Naylon, age 64, who has been missing for almost one week. His family has organized searches and has posted his picture on flyers all over town. If anyone spots Mr. Naylon, please contact the department right away.
Dr. Ciervo asked Chief Pasqualini to speak again about the Lojack system.
Chief Pasqualini said the Township has two Lojack locators and has trained its officers in its use. People who could become lost, such as mentally handicapped or autistic children and elderly people, can wear bracelets which can be tracked if the wearers wander away. There is additional information on the system on the Police Dept. Website.
Pension Fund Manager: Pension Fund Manager Grant Kalson was in attendance to review possible changes to the Township’s three pension funds. He said that one of the current managers, Cadence, is not performing well and he is recommending that the Board consider changing to Genison, a mid-cap growth manager, part of Prudential life Insurance. Genison’s fee is lower than other actively managed funds and has been performing favorably compared to index funds.
Dr. Ciervo said that he agreed with Mr. Kalson about making a change from Cadence, but would prefer to invest with iShares ETF because of its lower costs.
Mr. Benchener agreed with Dr. Ciervo that he would favor a move to a passively managed index fund such as iShares. He also noted that there is less fiduciary risk with passively managed funds and he would favor protecting the Township’s fiduciary responsibility through passive investments.
Mr. Kalson noted that there has been less volatility in actively managed funds over the five and ten year performance review, whereas iShares has been more volatile.
Mr. Benchener moved to change pension managers from Cadence to iShares Russell Mid-Cap. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Calabro abstaining.
Mr. Kalson reported that Neuberger and Berman, the large cap growth manager has been doing very well and he would recommend retaining them.
Over all, in the one year since the funds have been transferred, they have all performed very well, especially the emerging market and bond funds. PIMCO has been outperforming in the bond markets and he has seen a 13% growth in the last quarter, with total pension fund assets now at $13.1 million. The Township’s MMO will be invested according to the policy statement once it has been received.
Resident Karen D’Aprile reminded the Board that Newtown Theater is involved in a fundraising effort to convert to a digital projector. The conversion will cost about $100,000 and any donations are greatly appreciated to keep this, the oldest theater in the United States, running.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Technology Committee: Chairman Ed Lipski reported that the Technology Committee has been drafting a 5-year IT plan. The members have surveyed all employees, met with all department heads and familiarized themselves with the Township’s current hardware and software use.
The Committee would like to recommend that the Township begin to focus on a long-term plan for updating and upgrading hardware and software with immediate goals of addressing the DocStar Document Management Program by either upgrading or replacing it; reviewing the current financial software for upgrade or replacement; reviewing the current office software for possible upgrades; planning a strategy for management of all IT infrastructure, service and support. The Committee would stress that this could be addressed by the Township Manager working with an IT service provider if an IT management employee were not feasible.
The Committee has also begun research into recommending hardware for Township meetings as part of the paperless initiative. If there is to be dedicated hardware to be used for meetings, only, the Committee would suggest tablets. We have researched a number of options offering larger screens and adequate speed.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he has had recent conversations with Township consultant Allen Herr about replacing DocStar. He would like to eventually move the Township’s document management to an off-site, cloud based server method.
Mr. Benchener said that he would be interested in an upgrade to the Township’s Web site.
Mr. Gallagher said that he has gotten some quotes in the $4000-5000 range, but that any future upgrade should be part of the overall content management system change.
Mr. Lipski said that upgrade of the Web site would be tied to document management; they would need to be tightly integrated.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that as part of the financial planning committee, he is looking forward to seeing the five year plan so that it can be incorporated into long term budget planning.
The Board thanked Mr. Lipski for the Committee’s work.
Planning Commission: Mr. Fidler reported that at itsOctober 2, 2012 meeting, Commission reviewed the final drafts of two energy ordinances dealing with solar energy and wood burning boilers and recommended that the Supervisors adopt both ordinances. While the ordinances permit solar and wood burning boilers by right as accessory uses, the members had concerns about strictly defining and enforcing the accessory aspect to prevent larger properties from becoming solar farms. The Commission recommended that other regulations and ordinances, including SALDO and DEP requirements, be reviewed to be certain that concerns about glare, noise and impervious surface are adequate to allow residents to use alternative energy sources without their becoming a nuisance to surrounding neighbors.
The Commission also reviewed the final draft of the TC/Town Commercial ordinance and recommended that the Supervisors adopt it, noting a typo on page #6, which could be significant. On page #4, Notes on Area and Dimensional Requirements, note 1 should read, “A maximum of two (2) storiesshall be permitted by right.”
Mr. Fidler said that the Commission sends condolences to the Heston Family, commending Mr. Heston for his farsightedness in planning for the future of Newtown with zoning for a business park on former farmland.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Dr. Ciervo read into the record a resolution declaring October Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt Resolution 2012-R-16, making October Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Other Board Matters: Mr. M. Gallagher said that he, Mr. R. Gallagher and Mr. Ferguson had recently toured the Lockheed Martin facility in Newtown. It was awe inspiring to see the satellites being researched and assembled in Newtown, knowing that the satellites currently in space were made in Newtown. He was very proud of Newtown’s place in the space program.
Mr. Ferguson noted that Lockheed employs 1100 people in Newtown. He said that Vietnam recently got its first satellite, and it was made in Newtown.
Mr. Calabro extended condolences to the Beckert family on the recent passing of Paul Beckert after a long illness. Mr. Beckert is a former Planning Commission member and Township Solicitor and spouse of longtime HARB member Harriet Beckert.
Mr. R. Gallagher added his condolences to the Beckert family.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that the Newtown Corporation is sponsoring its annual Brewfest on Saturday, October 20, 2012 at the NAC. Information about tickets is available at www.allaboutnewtown.org.
NAC Baseball Academy Certificate of Completion: Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize escrow release #1 in the amount of $516,461.54, contingent on the plans being recorded with the County recorder of deeds and all outstanding issues with Newtown Township being resolved. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Newtown Artesian Well Site (Tanner Property): Mr. Garton reported that Newtown Artesian Water Company has decided to bypass the Zoning Hearing Board for relief for a well on the Tanner property and instead has filed a petition with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to circumvent local rules and regulations. As the Board had previously voted to oppose the Zoning Hearing Board application, he asked the Board for direction regarding participation and representation at the PUC hearings. He would need to use counsel in Harrisburg to represent the Township.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board had been skeptical that this is the only viable location for a well and had been eager to protect the residents in the only portion of the Township without public water. He would favor being a party to any hearings.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would like information on whether there is any chance of success before committing to participation.
Mr. Garton said that he would make some inquiries as to the likelihood of success and approximate costs associated with participation.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to enter the Township’s presence in the PUC hearings and to authorize the Solicitor to gather information on costs and success possibilities. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
TC/Town Commercial JMZO 2012-1: Mr. Garton said that the Bucks County Planning Commission has made three small corrections of typographical errors in the Ordinance. This ordinance has been advertised. The amendment eliminates use E-11. The Ordinance has been adopted by Wrightstown and Upper Makefield.
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt JMZO 2012-1, as amended by the Bucks County Planning Commission. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener thanked all of the members of various committees, boards and commissions, including the Planning Commission and HARB, who spent many hours helping to codify the Township’s vision for the future of Sycamore Street as a town center.
Dr. Ciervo said that the changes protect the historic district and limit buildings to two stories, except by conditional use, which would require some offset by public amenities. The Ordinance eliminates auto sales and drive-through uses, and protects the larger lots on the west side of the street, which could become subject to future development.
Mr. Calabro questioned the percentages required for mixed use, noting that as stated in the Ordinance, it might be difficult for landowners to obtain financing because what the ordinance describes as mixed would be considered commercial by lenders.
The motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Calabro abstaining.
JMZO 2012-2, Solar Energy: Mr. Garton noted that this ordinance has been duly advertised. Upper Makefield has its own stand-alone ordinance.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to adopt JMZO 2012-2, solar energy. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Benchener said that the Ordinance allows residents to use alternative energy while offering guidelines to protect surrounding properties.
JMZO 2012-3, Outdoor Wood Fired Boilers: Mr. Garton said that this ordinance has been duly advertised and provides setbacks and height requirements while allowing the boilers as an accessory use.
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt JMZO 2012-3, outdoor wood fired boilers. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Comcast Telephone and Internet Service: Mr. Garton explained that the Township Manager has negotiated pricing with Comcast for telephone and internet service which will save the Township money. He has reviewed the agreement which is now presented for Board approval.
Mr. Ferguson said that Comcast offers a 30 day transition period to insure no interruption of services. There is a more modern billing system which will be helpful and will overall save the Township $6660 per year.
Dr. Ciervo moved to approve the Township’s agreement with Comcast for telephone and internet service. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher thanked Mr. Ferguson for his efforts to save a significant amount of money.
Rescinding of Township Defined Contribution Plan: Mr. Garton explained that the Board had approved a defined contribution plan under the previous manager, believing it had been reviewed by the Township’s actuary. Since that time some issues have arisen requiring that the Board consider rescinding that plan and instead adopting a 401A Defined Contribution ICMA Plan. ICMA requires that the previous ordinance be rescinded before entering into ICMA’s plan.
Mr. Ferguson said that ICMA is the state’s largest public sector retirement manager and offers a 401A plan which meets the Board’s objective of offering a defined contribution with a five year vesting.
Mr. Garton explained that the Board would be authorizing to advertise rescinding the ordinance which established the defined contribution plan.
Mr. Benchener said that the Board has the fiduciary responsibility to select the investments for the plan and he would favor researching the best and safest investment before making changes.
Mr. Ferguson said that the Township’s 457 plans are invested with ICMA, which offers a very favorable fee schedule for public sector investors.
Mr. M. Gallagher suggested that the Board authorize advertisement this evening and Mr. Benchener could help Mr. Ferguson review other investment options to compare with ICMA.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize advertisement to rescind the ordinance which created the Township’s Defined Contribution Plan with a goal of establishing a 401A plan with ICMA or possibly with another provider after researching investment options. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Benchener abstaining.
Mr. Benchener said that he is abstaining because he is an employee of Vanguard, a provider of defined contribution plans. He would not participate in votes where there could be a perceived conflict.
Mr. Ferguson announced that the Township’s Finance Director, Elaine Gibbs, has announced that she will be retiring at the end of the year. She will be greatly missed. He said that he will begin crafting a job description so that he can work with the Board to locate a replacement for Ms. Gibbs.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of September 19, 2012. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $470,958.02. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $383,985.54. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
The motion passed 5-0.
Minimum Municipal Obligation: Mr. Ferguson asked the Board to authorize payment of the MMO, noting that the total amount would be $1,032,045, with the State contributing approximately $350,000.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of the Township’s MMO, with payments of $631,482 for the police, $121,478 for firefighters and $279,445 for non-uniformed personnel. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked when the payments would be made and how much would remain in the general fund after payment.
Mr. Ferguson said that the checks are ready for Board signatures this evening. There would be $180,000 remaining in the general fund. He noted that he expected to see higher collections in earned income tax than had been projected in October.
The motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo extended his condolences to the Beckert family on the loss of Paul Beckert. He had not been aware that Mr. Beckert had died.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he has researched when and whether it is appropriate for Supervisors to abstain from voting on matters brought before the Board. He has learned that as representatives of the people, Board members are expected to vote on all matters unless there is a possible conflict. He noted as an example that he abstained from voting on an application for a waiver from his employer. The Ethics Code says that Supervisors should explain the reason for the abstention and send a letter to the recording secretary to be affixed to the minutes.
Mr. Garton said that the letter is only necessary if no explanation is on the record at the time of voting.
Mr. Gallagher said that going forward Board members should explain their abstentions at the time a motion is made.
Mr. Calabro said that he has been made aware of a number of ongoing concerns between the residents of The Villas and its builder, who is represented by the same firm as our Township Solicitor. He asked whether a conflict attorney has been appointed for the Township.
Mr. Garton said that a letter came in asking whether the Township had any funds in escrow for the Villas and he did provide that information, but gave no legal advice. Should legal advice be needed he would refer the matter to attorney Don Williams.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the Township has a conflict attorney in general.
Mr. Garton said that attorney William Bolla had been the Township’s attorney on matters involving the Promenade but he is no longer available. At the most recent proceedings, Mr. Williams has represented the Township.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has been asked questions by residents of the Villas directly, not by Mr. Caracappa, the residents’ attorney. He has answered the residents questions directly. He has also asked the Township Engineer to review whether the escrow will be adequate for public improvements.
Resident John D’Aprile thanked Chief Pasqualini and Mr. Ferguson for their efforts in resolving some small issues before the Newtown Grant Homeowners Association.
Mr. D’Aprile extended condolences to the Beckert and Heston families.
Mr. Ferguson asked the Board members to forward any concerns residents might bring to them regarding signage, parking, speed limits or other such matters. He and the Chief will make an effort to resolve matters for any individual residents or homeowners associations.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board would remain for executive session on matters of personnel.
The meeting adjourned at 10:30 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary