Board of Supervisors
Minutes of January 9, 2013
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on January 9, 2013 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Secretary/assistant treasurer Ryan W. Gallagher and Phillip 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 Pastor Gerry Newswanger of First Baptist Church of Wycombe and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ordinance Amending the Administrative Code to Eliminate the Position of Police Captain: Mr. Garton announced that this ordinance has been duly advertised for adoption in the Newtown Advance. A public hearing to adopt the ordinance must be held.
Mr. M. Gallagher opened the public hearing. He said that the ordinance will eliminate the office of police captain, allowing for one police lieutenant who will be second in command to the police chief. The qualifications for this position as well as the job description have been modified to more efficiently fit the needs of the police department. In addition, the position of police business manager has been eliminated, with those duties now part of a new position of police administrative assistant.
Resident Francis X. Mooney said that he had recently telephoned the police and spoken to someone claiming to be the executive assistant.
Mr. Ferguson explained that the administrative code had not been modified in many years, whereas the various positions and duties within the department have changed and evolved. This ordinance will codify what is the current use within the department, and the administrative assistant job description is being officially added, with the former position, business manager, being eliminated. The same person will now be known officially as administrative assistant.
Mr. Mooney said that he wished to discuss a matter regarding a preliminary hearing with Judge Nasshorn, who is in attendance and with Police Chief Pasqualini.
Mr. M. Gallagher explained that this is now an official hearing on the matter of an amendment to the administrative code. Only public comment on the ordinance is permitted at this time.
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt Ordinance 2013-O-1, amending the administrative code, eliminating the position of police captain, creating the position of lieutenant as second in command and creating the position of administrative assistant. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Promotion of Robert A. Matthews to the Position of Police Lieutenant: Police Department Administrative Assistant Jean Tanner, in the absence of Police Chief Henry Pasqualini, said that upon the retirement of Police Lieutenant Glenn Forsyth, Chief Pasqualini assessed the needs of the department and the qualifications of the Department’s sergeants and has selected Robert A. Matthews to assume the role of second in command in the rank of lieutenant. Lieutenant Matthews has been with the police department since 1985, when he joined as an officer. He has served as a detective and in 1997 was promoted to sergeant. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice as well as advanced training at the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety. Chief Pasqualini is proud to promote Lieutenant Matthews and regrets that illness has prevented him from attending this evening.
Judge Donald Nasshorn administered the oath of office to Lieutenant Matthews.
Lieutenant Matthews thanked his family, fellow officers and firefighters in attendance for their support and thanked the Chief, Township Manager and Board of Supervisors for the confidence they have placed in him as he proudly accepts this promotion.
Resident Dave Wagner, representing the Headley Trace Homeowners Association, said that the Homeowners Association held a special meeting to discuss the proposed mobile home park at the Newtown Swim Club property. Headley residents are united in their opposition to the proposed development. They have enjoyed a cordial relationship with Swim Club owner David Platt for many years, and were supportive of his prior plan to develop the property as a townhome development. Headley residents feel that the Supervisors did not represent the best interest of residents when they voted to oppose the proposed townhome development. He urged the Board to reconsider its position and work with Mr. Platt on a townhouse plan rather than the currently proposed mobile home park. Headley residents intend to work together with the homeowners associations of the other surrounding developments to oppose this plan.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that because the Board of Supervisors serves in a quasi-judicial function when considering land development, it would be inappropriate for the Board members to comment this evening.
Mr. Garton said that the applicant has submitted a plan for a PRD with mobile home pad sites. The Township must go through a review process before the project can begin. The Township Manager will have information on when the plan will be on upcoming agendas.
Mr. Mooney said that he has concerns about natural gas fracking and its impact on groundwater downstream of the drilling. He urged the Board to represent Newtown residents’ interests to state and county officials.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board members would bring residents’ concerns about fracking to our representatives in Harrisburg.
Newtown Borough Resident Paul Salvatore said that he owns property in the Township and his home is near Newtown Swim Club. He asked whether the mobile home park developers have submitted plans and whether any waivers or variances are needed.
Mr. Ferguson said that the plans have been accepted and are being reviewed by the Township’s engineer, traffic engineer and planner. The Planning Commission will begin its review on February 5, 2013 and it is tentatively scheduled for Supervisors review on February 13, 2013.
Mr. Garton said that this is a by right use, which means that if the plan meets all requirements, the applicant is entitled to approval. As the reviews are not yet completed, he did not know whether any waivers or variances would be sought.
Resident Gretchen Schwenzer said that she is a thirty year Township resident and currently lives in Headley Trace. She attended last night’s homeowners’ association meeting and reviewed the Supervisors meeting of November 28, 2012, at which the Newtown Swim Club Zoning Hearing Board application was discussed. She said that she was appalled at the Supervisors’ lack of leadership in this matter and urged the Board to reconsider its position, as residents have far fewer concerns about a townhouse development and the Board is wasting residents’ time and money with this process.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Chairman: Mr. Gallagher thanked the organizers of the First Night celebration, which was a tremendous success, providing a wonderful evening of games, music, dancing and fireworks for families.
Villas at Newtown Certificate of Completion #13: Mr. M. Gallagher explained that the developer of this project would still have over $765,000 held in escrow to complete public improvements on the development. He is seeking release of $17,464 for work recently completed.
Ms. Fountain confirmed that she and the Township Manager had prepared a report of all outstanding work with estimates of costs to complete. The remaining escrow is adequate to complete the outstanding improvements.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he still has some concerns about work which remains to be completed in this development; he would submit his questions to the Township’s special counsel on this project and he urged the other Board members to submit their concerns as well.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to release escrow in the amount of $17,464 to the developers of Villas at Newtown. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo said that the Board has a number of concerns and he would like Mr. McGrath to attend a Supervisors meeting to discuss these before any additional escrow is released. He would like some assurances as to a timetable for completion of a clubhouse, as was promised purchasers in this development. He understands that the Township was not required to hold escrow for the clubhouse and the remaining escrow is for public improvements.
Mr. M. Gallagher agreed that Mr. McGrath should appear before the Board before any additional escrow is released.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Garton said that the Township has been contacted by a resident of Delaware County, Earl Drecht, who is requesting information under the Open Records Law on technical aspects of speed monitoring devices used by Newtown’s police. The Township has provided all the information it has, but some of the technical information on calibration is held by the vendor, who has refused to provide that information to either Mr. Drecht or the Township, citing PennDOT’s advice to not comply. Mr. Drecht is asking the Township to sue the vendor to force it to provide the information. Mr. Garton asked the Supervisors to provide direction as to how he should proceed.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that while he supports the right to know and open records, he does not feel the Township should take up this fight for a non-resident.
Dr. Ciervo said that it was his understanding that the Township has already complied with the request by providing all the information available to it and he was disinclined to use taxpayer money to pursue this further.
Mr. Ferguson reported that the Township’s year end general fund balance was $337,887.75. This is not a final number, as some 2012 revenues are yet to be received and some 2012 expenses are still to be paid. He announced that the bills list is now being posted on the Township Web site along with the agenda before each meeting. He will also provide a monthly treasury report each month in time for that month’s second meeting.
2013 Fire Services Agreement with Newtown Fire Association: Mr. Ferguson asked the Board to approve this one-year fire services agreement between the Township and the Newtown Fire Association. The agreement provides for fire service coverage from the Association for a set payment and defines terms of control at the scene of fire emergencies. It addresses some concerns with training for both the Township EMS Department and the volunteers. The agreement will run for one calendar year, with a goal of working out a long term agreement during the course of this year. The agreed upon cost to the Township will be $150,000.
Dr. Ciervo questioned the wording of the agreement regarding structure of command. He did not want any difficulty as to command when the fire chief responds to events where Fire Association members have arrived first.
Mr. Ferguson said that when EMS responds between 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM, Monday through Friday, the Township’s EMS Department is in charge, even should the fire chief not be in attendance. The agreement attempts to provide continued command through the course of the event.
Mr. Garton said that during the course of the day, EMS has primary coverage and provides the lead response. The language can be clarified further to better address Dr. Ciervo’s concern.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would like training for members of the association to be consistent so that a specified training is required for certain ranks within the association’s command structure.
Mr. Ferguson said that this year’s budget includes a significant increase for firefighter training for both the EMS Department and the Fire Association. This training will include fire engine driver training .
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt the 2013 agreement for fire services with Newtown Fire Association, with modified language as discussed regarding chain of command during responses. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of December 19, 2012. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $197,013.16. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $887,216.01. Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Ferguson explained that this interfund transfer includes $700,000 to repay the TSA fund for a 2012 loan to the general fund. It is possible that such borrowing could become necessary again during the year.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded residents to be aware of properties posted prohibiting hunting, particularly the Howe tract in Wrightstown. Hunting is prohibited on all Council Rock owned properties.
Mr. Salvatore thanked the many sponsors of the First Night event. He said that sponsors had been given event buttons for free admission, but had donated them back to the committee. The buttons were then given to angel tree recipients. The school nurses alert the Newtown Business Association of children in need, whose holiday gift wishes are placed on a tree and Newtown residents then donate gifts for these children. The First Night buttons donated by the sponsors were shared with the Angel Tree children and their families.
Earl Drecht introduced himself as the person who had requested information under the right to know law regarding the calibration procedure for speed devices used by Township Police. He said that the Open Records Office found that this information should have been provided to him by the Township and if not in the Township’s possession, it ordered the Township to retrieve it.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Township had done what it was supposed to do; it followed up with the vendor.
Mr. Garton said that PennDOT had advised the vendor not to provide the requested information. It is the Board’s decision to not spend Township funds to pursue this further.
Mr. Drecht said that there is no provision in the open records law to permit one government agency to tell another not to comply with the open records findings.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board would remain for an executive session to discuss matters of litigation.
The meeting adjourned at 9:00 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary