Board of Supervisors
Minutes of October 24, 2012
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on October 24, 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 Margaret Kelly of Holy Family University and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Proclamation Honoring Vincent Lombardi: On behalf of the Township, Mr. Gallagher read into the record a proclamation honoring Vince Lombardi for his dedication to Newtown Township as a former supervisor, planning commission member, Historic Architectural Review Board member, chairman of the Acme Visioning Committee, Sycamore Street Revitalization Committee and the Sycamore Street Community Association. The Township has dedicated the street at 123 North Sycamore Street as Vince Lombardi Way.
Mr. Lombardi thanked the Board for this recognition of appreciation for his twenty-one years of service to the community.
Representing the First Fourth Committee, Paul Salvatore, Mick Petrucci and Margo Gordon presented the Township with a check for $400 for Newtown Township Police Department’s DARE program. The donation is from proceeds of the First Fourth events.
Mr. Petrucci, President of Newtown Business Association, said that the Association is involved in planning for the upcoming Holiday Parade through Newtown Borough and Township. The parade brings over 5000 spectators and has 1500 participants. It is the County’s largest holiday parade and will be held December 2, 2012 beginning at 2:00 PM. He asked the Board to consider waiving the fee for police coverage for the event.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Board has discussed when and whether to waive event fees and has considered formulating a policy.
Mr. Benchener said that he is not sure whether a blanket policy is the right approach and would favor considering each request on a case by case basis.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize police coverage for the annual Holiday Parade free of charge.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the Borough had also been asked to waive its fee and what the cost to the Township would be.
Mr. Petrucci said that the Borough has already agreed to waive its fee. The Police usually block traffic on Sycamore Street at Washington Avenue, Durham Road and Jefferson Avenue in the Township and the Borough blocks State Street at Washington Avenue. He believed last year’s cost was about $1000.
Mr. Ferguson said that the fee is based on the number of officers paid at overtime rates for four hours.
Mr. Salvatore said he believed that last year seven Borough and Township officers worked the parade, monitoring the three closed intersections.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that since the parade committee is working with a deadline, he would favor considering this event only, and developing a policy at a later time.
Mr. Garton noted that the issue does not only involve parades, but other events sponsored by non-profit groups. He suggested that the Board ask Township staff to generate a list of events for which event permits and police coverage are needed and for which waivers are sought.
Mr. R. Gallagher seconded Mr. Benchener’s motion.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo said that this Board has been very careful with its budget and has reviewed every line item, sometimes being forced to eliminate donations to very worthy causes in order to bring in a balanced budget. Township revenue has dropped and the Board can no longer afford to waive fees, especially a fee that Mr. Petrucci has estimated as about $1000. The local businesses which benefit from the parade should bear this expense.
Mr. Calabro said that while he feels this is a very worthy cause and deserves the Township’s support, he is not comfortable voting to waive a fee when he does not know what the fee would be. He asked whether more information could be gathered before the NBA reached its deadline.
Mr. Petrucci said that the event has an $8000 budget which must be used to pay the performers, and promote the event. The local businesses which are sponsoring the parade are the same businesses which sponsor all of the Township’s many events throughout the year.
Mr. Salvatore said that perhaps the Board could consider a waiver of fees up to a certain amount. He could then attempt to work with the police and with volunteers to get adequate police coverage within the set amount.
The members discussed past needs and past billing for parades, noting that adequate coverage is based on police evaluation of the need, not on a budget. After some further discussion, Mr. M. Gallagher suggested that NBA work with the police to determine needs and possible budget and return to the Supervisors November 14, 2012 meeting for further consideration of this request.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to table Mr. Benchener’s motion. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Resident Jay Sensibaugh said that he has recently reviewed the 2011 Township Audit and noted that the 2012 budget was based on a reserve fund balance of $1,052,570 however the audit shows a 2011 year end reserve balance of $513,567. He asked whether the 2013 budget will have deficit spending. He said that he would like the Township to post the proposed budget on the Web site prior to the first budget meeting so that the public can participate in discussions. He also asked that the audits for the past few years be posted as well.
Mr. Gallagher said that he was supportive of posting the budget draft in advance of the first budget meeting, however noted that the budget is tweaked repeatedly up until the start of the meeting. Whatever might be posted could become outdated very quickly.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked about the general fund balance as of today.
Mr. Ferguson said that the balance is approximately $105,000 after this bills list and payments to the Township’s three pension funds. The payment of $1,032,000 has already been made. The state contribution was $361,000 and the Township’s portion was $660,000.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked about replacement of streetlights.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Township contracts with Northampton to replace streetlights.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked about large light poles recently installed on Mill Pond Road.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the poles in Newtown Crossing were erected by American Cell Tower and authorized by the Public Utilities Commission. American Cell Tower replaced the street light poles with cell poles and affixed the lights to them. The Township Manager has been trying to see whether these poles could be moved. He explained that the PUC can allow cell tower companies to bypass local zoning. The Township is trying to work with the Tower Company and PUC to try to move the towers to less obtrusive locations.
Mr. Garton explained that the Township and residents are considered notified of the towers by publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Local zoning is bypassed and it is difficult to oppose. Road opening permits were required for the towers.
Holiday Parade Banner: Mr. Petrucci asked the Board’s permission to hang a banner promoting the holiday parade from Bill Marsh Ford across Sycamore Street to Vince Lombardi Way.
Dr. Ciervo moved to approve hanging of a holiday parade banner on Sycamore Street from two weeks before the parade until two days after the parade. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Historic Architectural Review Board: William Maher of HARB explained that GreenStraw Smoothies has agreed to modify its sign colors. He provided sample colors, noting that the sign will feature Finneran and Haley Grassy Meadow and Valspar Montpelier Green on its sign.
Mr. Benchener moved to grant a certificate of appropriateness for signage for GreenStraw Smoothies, 243 North Sycamore Street, with colors as outlined this evening. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.,
Jeff Troy, owner of GreenStraw Smoothies, thanked the Board for the approval and said the shop will sell healthy fruit smoothies and snacks. He hopes to open on December 1, 2012.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Chairman Allen Fidler reported that at its October 16, 2012 meeting the Commission reviewed applications of Thomas Ames, 61 Gaucks Lane and St. Andrew’s Church, 135 South Sycamore Street for Zoning Hearing Board relief and voted to recommend that the Supervisors not oppose these applications.
The Commission reviewed the Planning Module for The Promenade, 200 North Sycamore Street, and agreed that it is consistent with the land development plan it has already reviewed and approved. The Commission voted to approve and sign the Planning Module as required by the DEP.
The Commission reviewed the plans of Goodnoe Elementary School, 298 Frost Lane for 16,924 square feet of additions to the building, increased parking, improvements to vehicular and pedestrian circulation patterns, a new play area and an underground infiltration system. The applicant had presented the plans to the Commission some months ago as a sketch plan and the fully engineered plans have incorporated the Planning Commission’s recommendations. The Commission discussed whether the requirement to improve Frost Lane should be waived, and is recommending that this should be reviewed further by the Supervisors and possibly by our traffic engineer. Ms. Kaminski did an informal review at the site on a rainy afternoon dismissal and saw no traffic issues which would have required roadway improvements, however the Commission had anecdotal evidence that mornings, and particularly bad weather mornings, have more parent drop-off traffic.
The Commission members recommend that the Board of Supervisors grant Preliminary Plan approval only, as there are many “will complies” and unresolved issues to be worked out to the “satisfaction of the Township professionals.” There are a few possible zoning concerns that must be addressed and may require additional Zoning Hearing Board relief. This recommendation to approve as preliminary is conditioned on compliance with our professionals’ review letters and zoning clarifications or relief. The property also will need some rezoning so that the entire parcel is zoned EIR. The recommendation includes granting of some waivers but leaves to the Board of Supervisors whether to grant waivers from the requirements to widen Frost Lane, pay a traffic impact fee or conduct a full traffic study. Once all plans have been revised to comply with the review letters, the Planning Commission would like to see the plans again before final approval is granted.
Dr. Ciervo asked what kinds of road improvements were discussed by the Planning Commission.
Mr. Fidler said that Commission discussed possible widening of Frost Lane at the frontage of the school property and possible deceleration or left turn lanes. This will be the Township’s only opportunity to address traffic concerns at this location and the waiver should be carefully evaluated. There has been no formal traffic study, and all discussion was based on observation by Commission members, only. Some members felt that the current roadway conditions serve as traffic calming in a location where speeding should be discouraged. The Commission noted that while staffing levels are not expected to change with this addition, they are different from what they had been at the original conditional use. New parking is part of the plan, but some residents have questioned whether that parking will be adequate.
Appointment of Township Treasurer: Mr. M. Gallagher moved to appoint Township Manager Kurt Ferguson as Township Treasurer. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Goodnoe Elementary School, 298 Frost Lane: Mr. Garton explained to the Board that Council Rock School District representatives would like to discuss three issues which the Planning Commission has left to the discretion of the Supervisors during its preliminary land development review:
District Facilities Manager Doug Taylor, Project Engineer Terry DeGroot and Superintendent Mark Klein were in attendance to review the plans and these three questions.
Mr. Taylor showed the plans for improvements and reviewed current traffic patterns for parent and bus drop-off/pick-up and the changes which will be implemented with the new plan. He noted that all buses will use the west side Frost Lane entrance and drop off at the Andrew Drive side of the building, while parents will enter the site from the east side near the Sail School and stack on school property while circulating to drop off at the front entrance. They will then exit at the same west side entrance. The driveway has space for thirty cars to stack. A gate has been added to prevent cars from driving to the bus entrance area. Parking has been increased from 141 spaces to 148 spaces, with a second lot added near the Township property for a total of 185 parking spaces. Current enrollment is 800 students. There are 8 modular classrooms to be removed and replaced with 11 new classrooms. One classroom inside the main building will be lost with internal renovations, so that only two new classrooms are being added. This would allow for possible increase of 50 students and two staff. There would be no increase in traffic or in buses.
Dr. Ciervo asked what the school’s maximum population could be in the future if all classrooms were filled to capacity.
Mr. Taylor said that this would have to be researched however the District has been seeing a drop in enrollment throughout.
Mr. Klein said that the District has been doing enrollment studies and has no plans for redistricting. He noted that the two new classrooms are add alternates to the plan and may not be built. The current enrollment is 800 students and it should remain at that or decrease.
Dr. Ciervo said that other districts are experiencing decreases in enrollment and are closing schools and consolidating. For this reason it is a concern what the Goodnoe maximum capacity could be
Mr. Klein said that the District must first work to eliminate all of the modular classrooms.
Mr. Benchener said that it could be another thirty years before the Township would have an opportunity to revisit roadway improvements at Frost Lane. He also said that possible redevelopment of Newtown Swim Club as residential housing could impact Goodnoe’s enrollment.
Mr. Garton said that the Board could include a provision for certain events triggering roadway improvements.
Mr. M. Gallagher noted that the Township Traffic Engineer favored addressing traffic issues on the campus rather than on the street and he had some concern that improvements on the street could increase travel speeds. Safety should be the primary concern.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the Board favored waiving the requirement to conduct a traffic study.
Mr. DeGroot said that the Traffic Engineer had recommended this waiver because the plan does not increase traffic impact. The possible addition of two classrooms will only have minor impact on occupancy. He did note that no prior studies had been done.
Dr. Ciervo said that he favored requiring a traffic study which would inform the Board of current conditions. He would rather have the information from a study before deciding whether to waive roadway improvements. He asked Ms. Fountain to explain what road improvements would be required by the Ordinance.
Ms. Fountain said that the SALDO could require widening Frost Lane for 850 feet in front of the school to a width of 30 feet, or increasing the School’s side of the street by 5.5 feet.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that while he agrees that the road seems too narrow, he also agreed that the narrow road discourages speeding. He said that he had concerns that the improvement would only be directly in front of the School’s property and would not extend to Lower Dolington Road.
Ms. Fountain noted that the widening would involve curbing and stormwater management. It would not impact impervious surface calculations.
Mr. Calabro said that he did not think speed would be impacted if the road were only widened for 850 feet. He said that it could improve safety.
Mr. M. Gallagher said he did not support widening Frost Lane.
Mr. Benchener said that he would want more information before deciding but he would also like more information about possible maximum enrollment at the School before deciding on whether to require a traffic study.
Mr. DeGroot said that the District anticipates a maximum of 850 students, however would agree to a certain maximum number which would trigger a traffic study.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would want the traffic study. He does not know that a traffic impact fee has ever been paid and he would like to know what the fee would be before agreeing to waive it.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that we already know what the traffic is now and the proposed increase is minimal. He does not favor a traffic study.
Ms. Fountain said that the Board must decide three questions: waiver of widening of Frost Lane, waiver of traffic study, and waiver of traffic impact fee. A study may not show whether widening is necessary. A study would reveal whether there is an increase of PM peak traffic trips. The Traffic Engineer has suggested that there would be no new peak PM trips.
Mr. Ferguson said that he could ask the Traffic Engineer to observe PM traffic and discuss it further with Township staff and the Board.
Mr. Klein said that he would provide the Township with information about future maximum enrollment possibilities. He said that he is eager to resolve these issues and reminded the Board that this could add up to a half million dollars to the project and that Township and District revenues are from the same source.
Newtown Borough Resident Nancy Carroll said that she does not think the road improvements are necessary. The internal improvements will keep stacking on the school property and alleviate traffic problems. She does not think the proposed parking will be adequate. She said that Goodnoe has had as many as 1,000 students in the past and it could go that high again. Staff is at 121 right now with only 148 proposed parking spaces. Parking is inadequate for special occasions when parents are on site.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether there have been any parking variances.
Ms. Fountain said that the parking requirement has been met; no variances were necessary.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that the Police be consulted to determine if there have been accidents at the site; this may give some indication of safety. He also said that he knows of a school which had widened the street along the frontage but not along the entire street and it became a safety concern when the street was snow covered and the narrowing could not be seen. He said that the road should only be widened if the entire length were widened.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he favors widening the road; this is no longer a little country town and roads should be improved to accommodate suburban traffic.
Location of trees from The Birches: Mr. Garton explained that as part of the land development approval for The Birches, 27 trees which should have been replaced on the property would instead be located elsewhere at the Township’s direction. Cliveden Estates has asked for ten trees to add to its landscape buffer between the site and its open space and the remaining 17 trees are to be planted on Township property. The Park and Recreation Board and Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko have suggested selecting Kwanzan Cherry Trees to be planted at Silver Lake Park.
Mr. Ferguson said that the trees will add color and create a welcome to the Township along the Bypass. They are to be planted in clumps along the edges of the park and its parking area.
Dr. Ciervo said that he thought it was 37 trees and he asked why they are not all going on Cliveden property.
Ms. Fountain explained that ten trees will be planted at the Birches and Cliveden has requested ten buffering trees. The remaining trees must be deciduous and are not needed for the Cliveden buffer, but will be planted in Township parks instead.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would rather not plant the trees at Silver Lake but would want some additional shade trees added near the playground at Roberts Ridge Park.
The other Board members agreed that some trees at Roberts Ridge would be a good idea.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to accept 27 trees from The Birches, with ten trees to be located in Cliveden Estates’ open space and 17 to be located in Township parks including Silver Lake and Roberts Ridge. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. D’Aprile said that he did not think any trees should be planted at Silver Lake Park. He favored only planting at Roberts Ridge.
Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that the EAC should be consulted on the selection and location of trees.
The motion passed 5-0.
Ms. Fountain reported that Rosebank Winery has asked for a final inspection. A punch list was prepared today.
Newtown Artesian Well Site: Mr. Garton reported that Newtown Artesian has bypassed Township zoning and has filed with the Public Utilities Commission for permission to drill a well at the Tanner property on Washington Crossing Road. He has reached out to two law firms in Harrisburg which advised him that it would be difficult to oppose the filing and could cost between $40,000 and $50,000. Both firms suggested that the Township could participate in the proceedings and seek certain concessions from the PUC. It might also be possible to get the PUC to hold its hearings here in Newtown Township. This would cost about $8-9,000. He read a letter to the Board from Newtown Artesian which states that it provides water to over 500 homes in the CM Conservation Management Zoning District as well as providing fire protection to all of the homes in the CM district.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would favor hiring attorneys to represent the Township to try to get some concessions from the PUC and to hold the hearings in the Township.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to ask the Township Manager and Solicitor to select attorneys to represent the Township in seeking concessions from the PUC and in efforts to hold hearings in Newtown Township. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Resident Peggy Driscoll thanked the Board for its support in trying to keep this out of the CM district. She asked whether the Water Company petitioned the PUC as a way to bypass Township zoning regulations.
Mr. Garton said that this is the reason.
Mr. M. Gallagher amended his motion to include that if the hearings are held in Newtown Township in the Township meeting room, that they be televised. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Memorandum of Understanding with CRNAA: Mr. M. Gallagher explained that Council Rock Little League would like to use the Township’s pole barn at Veterans Park to store its lawn maintenance equipment, since it has agreed to help maintain the playing fields. They would like to modify the building by installing doors with locks. The memo defines Township and CRNAA liability issues.
Mr. Ferguson pointed out that the Township would still have access to the barn and the open storage area.
Mr. M. Gallagher authorized signing of a memorandum of understanding with CRNAA regarding improvements to and use of the pole barn at Veterans Park. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that the Township’s Finance Director, Elaine Gibbs, has announced that she will be retiring at the end of the year. He asked the Board to authorize advertisement for a replacement for Mrs. Gibbs.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize advertisement for a replacement for the Township Finance Director. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has provided Mr. Benchener with the fee structure for ICMA to manage the 401A plan for employees. ICMA currently manages the Township’s 457 plans. He would like to move quickly on this since there are funds which should be invested.
Mr. Benchener said that he has reviewed ICMA’s fees and found them to be a little high. He would favor going through a more thorough selection process by comparing a few different options.
Mr. Gallagher asked Mr. Benchener to work with Mr. Ferguson to explore some other options for comparison, so that this matter can be addressed in the next few weeks.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of October 10, 2012. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Benchener noted that on page #2, he would like the wording changed in his statement regarding passively managed funds so that it is clear that there is less fiduciary risk to the Board of Supervisors, not necessarily less investment risk with passively managed funds.
Mr. Benchener moved to amend the minutes of October 10, 2012 to reflect this requested change. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $158,913.84. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher noted that there are fees for a Tedesco/DeFinis subdivision on the bills list. He asked Mr. Ferguson to provide the Board with an update on this project.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $709,925.82. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher said that this transfer includes a loan to the general fund from the TSA funds in anticipation of expected 3 rd quarter earned income tax.
Mr. Sensibaugh asked whether this is the second time such a loan was necessary.
Mr. Gallagher said a loan had been authorized but not needed.
Mr. Ferguson said that the general fund has a balance of about $150,000 after paying the MMO. The loan will be to cover any possible difficulties if there are delays in receiving the anticipated earned income tax. The loan will be fully repaid before the year’s end.
The motion passed 5-0.
.CWA Collective Bargaining Agreement: Mr. Ferguson asked the Board to approve the proposed collective bargaining agreement with the Communication Workers of America, the non-uniformed staff’s bargaining unit. The contract would run for four years beginning January 1, 2012. It has no raise for 2012, but 3% raise in the next three years, for an average of 2.3%. The new contract shows a longer time to earn vacation and restricts the amount of time allowed for union business. There is an adjustment in the language regarding lay-offs, so that it is by classification and not straight seniority. The union has also agreed that new hires will be given a defined contribution 401 A plan with a 5% match. Medical insurance will have a higher co-pay. The contract will have a savings of $57,614 with the raises at $95,814 and the medical insurance savings at $152,000.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the public had seen this proposal prior to this evening’s meeting.
Mr. Ferguson said the terms had not been made public in advance.
Dr. Ciervo said that he is not supportive of this contract because it does not adequately address his chief concern, the defined benefit pension plan. The employees do not make any contributions, while the Police and Fire Departments do contribute. The employees’ plans are completely taxpayer funded. The Township will also continue to offer a voluntary pre-tax match to a 457 plan up to 4%, which is costing $40,000 per year. He did not think the union was making adequate concessions and he favored further negotiation.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he understood the concern about the pension plan at a time when private industry has moved away from defined benefit toward defined contribution plans. He considered it a big win that the union has agreed to move away from this for new hires. This will give the Township more flexibility in the future. He was also pleased with the savings on health care. He felt that this was a fair compromise.
Mr. Benchener said that he would vote no on this contract for the same reasons as Dr. Ciervo. During difficult financial times the defined benefit plans are becoming too much of a burden on municipalities. Our Police and Fire unions were willing to make concessions when asked in order to help the Township through difficult times. The firefighters agreed to no Township match on its 457 plan and he would have wanted to see similar concessions from the CWA. Overall this contract only saves $14,000 per year.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that he has heard that in a good negotiation, nobody wins, and that is the case here. There are substantial savings on medical coverage and Newtown Township will be the first municipality in the county to move toward a defined contribution retirement plan. The contract provides raises which the employees should be entitled to and the contact accomplishes some meaningful goals.
Dr. Ciervo said that in addition to wanting to see some contribution to the pension plan by employees, he would have wanted to see a health care contribution, and not just the higher co-pay. He urged the Board to continue to negotiate.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to authorize the Township Manager to sign the agreement with CWA. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener continued to express disappointment that the CWA did not make concessions when asked, although both Police and Firefighters did cooperate. This contract saves only a very small percentage of the Township’s budget and he would urge further negotiations.
Dr. Ciervo said that he also favors further negotiations.
Mr. M. Gallagher pointed to the eventual elimination of the defined benefit in favor of defined contribution and called it a long-term win for the Township.
Mr. D’Aprile said that as a union official and as a taxpayer, he sees both sides of the discussion, but feels that the employees are entitled to fair treatment. A 3% raise is fair, and the Board should not compare unions. Police and Firefighters are very different and should not be considered in the same light. He said that these are government jobs and have traditionally offered lower salaries in exchange for security and benefits. The Township should treat its employees fairly and what has been described sounds fair.
The motion passed 3-2, with Dr. Ciervo and Mr. Benchener voting nay.
Mr. Garton said that the Board met prior to the meeting and would remain for executive session on matters of personnel and litigation.
The meeting adjourned at 11:05 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary