Board of Supervisors
Minutes of December 5, 2012
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on December 5, 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, John Torrente, Township Solicitor (late) 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 Mary Catherine Miller of Newtown United Methodist Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Mr. Gallagher congratulated the Newtown Business Association for the great success of the holiday parade, which brought thousands of spectators to Sycamore Street on Sunday.
Police Report: Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that the Department responded to 1088 calls for service including 8 burglaries and 12 fraud cases. He reminded residents that in Newtown solicitors must have permits. There have been reported incidents of “home repair” solicitors knocking on doors to ascertain whether anyone is at home. Residents should be alert to strangers in their communities and report any incidents. There had also been a recent incident of an adult in a car attempting to attract a child. It is a good idea to regularly review with children to be polite but wary of strangers and never approach a stranger’s car.
Chief Pasqualini said that in the coming year he would like to begin working with homeowners associations on neighborhood watch committees to help prevent burglaries and other crimes.
The Department will participate in a Blue Light ceremony honoring police killed in the line of duty on Thursday in Doylestown. Residents can participate by putting a blue holiday light it their windows.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked whether Newtown’s police had been involved with a recent case involving a meth ring.
Chief Pasqualini said that the case did not involve Newtown at all, but the Department has been cooperating with other departments in solving cases successfully, sharing information.
Law Enforcement Services Agreement: Chief Pasqualini said that the agreement to provide police protection to Wrightstown Township is about to expire. The arrangement has been beneficial to both Townships and Wrightstown would like to continue. The new contract, like the previous contract, would run for ten years, with a two year notification required to break the contract. Each year would have a 5% increase in cost. Wrightstown will pay $545,680 for 2013.
Mr. M. Gallagher agreed that the arrangement with Wrightstown has been very positive for both municipalities.
Dr. Ciervo moved to approve the ten year contract for police services with Wrightstown Township. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Amendment to Administrative Code for Police Job Descriptions: Chief Pasqualini asked the Board to authorize advertisement of an amendment to the Administrative Code which would redefine the position of lieutenant, eliminate the office of captain and amend the description and title of business manager to Police Executive Assistant. He explained that the lieutenant would be second in command; some of the criteria have been changed for the position. He expects to appoint someone to the position in January.
Dr. Ciervo questioned the educational requirement for the position, which no longer requires a bachelor’s degree and only two years of experience in a supervisory position.
Chief Pasqualini explained that in the past, the Township had a requirement to obtain the bachelor’s degree within five years of taking the position, but the Township paid for the required education. That benefit is no longer offered. He is asking for flexibility to choose the best person for the job based on a proven record rather than on formal education.
Dr. Ciervo said that the two years’ experience does not seem sufficient for a second in command. That person would run the force should the police chief be taken ill for an extended period. This is a professional position and he would want to see more stringent qualifications.
Chief Pasqualini said that the prior description required no experience but required that the degree be acquired within five years at the Township’s expense. The new requirement acknowledges that the Township is not paying for the education, but is requiring experience. It gives more flexibility in future hiring and promotions. At this time a person with a bachelor’s degree and many years of experience is being considered for a promotion to the position in January.
Mr. Benchener said that while he agrees with Dr. Ciervo that education is important, the candidate is selected by the Chief with the approval of the Manager and the Board. This allows some flexibility to hire or promote the best possible candidate.
Mr. M. Gallagher noted that the executive assistant position allows direct contact with Township professional consultants. It has always been the Township’s position that all contact with the consultants has been through the Manager.
Chief Pasqualini said that he would remove that portion of the description.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize advertisement of an amendment to the administrative code regarding police job descriptions with changes as discussed this evening. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Manager’s Report Continued: Mr. Ferguson explained that he has added a $7000 payment to the bills list for this evening. The budget presentation of November 28, 2012 had assumed a certain payment for long-term and short term disability and life insurance, however he has been notified by The Hartford that these costs were to increase 53%. He researched and found comparative coverage through Lincoln Insurance at a rate $70,775 below the projected Hartford cost so will be making a change. The bills list includes a payment to Lincoln to begin the coverage effective January 1, 2012.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has sought proposals for HVAC maintenance and received two proposals; one from Tuscan Mechanicals for $5976 and from Worth, the Township’s current provider, for $6400. He recommended that the Board select Worth, which the Township has a satisfactory history with and which has a familiarity with certain issues the Township has faced.
Mr. Benchener noted that although Tuscan is less expensive, its hourly rate for service is higher.
Mr. Benchener moved to enter a maintenance contract for HVAC service with Worth and Company. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Benchener moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of November 28, 2012 as corrected. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $205,687/14. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo noted that the list includes payment to the Newtown Fire Association in the amount of $47,186.72. He said that as the Township does not have a signed agreement for fire protection with the Association, he would favor withholding the payment.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has met with the Fire Association and discussed training requirements, who’s in charge at fires and who would be the primary responders to calls. He expects to have a response shortly and for an agreement to move forward.
Dr. Ciervo said he favors withholding the payment as an incentive to sign an agreement and to have set payment amounts in 2013. This bill could be paid at the December 19, 2012 meeting if the agreement is signed.
Mr. M. Gallagher and Mr. Ferguson each said that there had been delays in review of the agreement on the part of the Township as well, but they are optimistic that all issues should be resolved and an agreement in place shortly.
Mr. Benchener said that while he shares Dr. Ciervo’s frustration he would not want to be antagonistic during negotiations. He favored paying all bills including to the Fire Association.
The motion passed 4-1, with Dr. Ciervo voting nay.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $4,463.60. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Solicitor’s Report (Mr. Torrente arrived at this point.)
Birches Land Development and Financial Security Agreement: Dr. Ciervo moved to approve the Birches land development and financial security agreement. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Weglos Dental Offices Land Development and Financial Security Agreement: Dr. Ciervo moved to approve the Weglos Dental Office land development and financial security agreement. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Ferguson said that the Birches should have demolition permits and begin DEP clean-up shortly.
Michael McCormack of The Birches said that he has a preconstruction meeting with the Township on Tuesday morning. There is some minor DEP clean-up of oil tanks and asbestos to be done and then the site can be prepared. He expects the demolition to be completed within three months.
JMZO Change in R-2 Zoning District: Dr. Ciervo said that he has been reviewing the R-2 zoning district requirements after the recent discussion of the Newtown Swim Club and has noticed that in R-2, uses permitted by right are: single family homes, single family cluster homes, PRD developments, pools, home occupations and mobile home parks (use B-13.) Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush said that the last mobile home park built in the County was Buckingham Springs, twenty years ago. In reviewing the performance standards for the by-right uses, Dr. Ciervo noted that only single family clusters and mobile home parks are permitted on parcels with a minimum of 15 acres. PRD’s require 25 acres but must have a mix of housing types. Currently the permitted density for a mobile home park on 15 acres is 3.9 units per acre. He would like to address this permitted density and suggested that the Ordinance be amended to require 25 acres for a mobile home park, the same criteria as for PRD’s. To amend the Ordinance would require review and approval by all three municipalities in the Jointure and can be a lengthy process. He would like to get the discussion started.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize the Township Solicitor to draft a letter to the Joint Zoning Council asking to advertise a change to the JMZO to require 25 acres for a mobile home park use (B-13.) Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher said that he has some concern about opening the Jointure up to challenges and litigation if the criteria for mobile home parks were made more restrictive. He noted that in some instances the courts have sided against municipalities’ on such zoning matters. While he understands and agrees with the goal, he does not want to expose the Jointure to expensive litigation. He suggested that the Township consider the opinions of the more senior members of the Joint Zoning Council, some of whom have been with the Council since its founding and have a better understanding of its history and challenges it has seen.
Mr. R. Gallagher expressed similar concerns about possible challenges. He noted that in reviewing the Jointure’s zoning map, there are no available parcels in Newtown which could meet a 25 acre requirement and only one other parcel is above 15 acres. He also pointed out that any change to the Ordinance would probably not change the Newtown Swim Club plans.
Dr. Ciervo noted that the Jointure was successful to challenges in the past when the PRD use was eliminated from the CM zoning district. The jointure already has enough high density uses to avoid a possible challenge. He would like to at least start a discussion with the Jointure partners.
Mr. Torrente reviewed the process for such a review. The Township solicitor would write to the Jointure partners about the suggested change including a draft ordinance for discussion. In addition to Joint Zoning Council and Regional Planning Commission review, each municipality’s planning commission and board of supervisors would review the ordinance before it could be advertised for adoption. He noted that if the criteria were changed so that no parcels would qualify for mobile home park use, it could expose the Jointure to challenge and a possible curative amendment.
Resident James Bowe urged the Board to support the motion and move the discussion forward. It does not hurt to investigate this option.
Resident John D’Aprile questioned that a mobile home park is a permitted use at all in the Jointure. He favored proceeding with the discussion with the Jointure.
Mr. Benchener said that this is a sentiment he has heard from many residents, all questioning that mobile homes are permitted at all.
Mr. Torrente said that if you do not provide for uses in zoning it is considered exclusionary zoning and is subject to a cure.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded the Board that the Jointure has attempted to address other challenges by providing locations for uses such a fireworks sales and adult book stores.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Gallagher announced that the Board would remain for an executive session.The meeting adjourned at 9:00 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary