Board of Supervisors
Minutes of March 13, 2013
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on March 13, 2013 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, 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 : Acting as Chairman, Mr. Benchener called the meeting to order with a moment of silence. This was followed by an invocation by Pastor Tim Smith of Crossing Community Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Ferguson said that he has added Comcast bills to be paid to the bills list.
Life Saving Awards for Firefighters John Gundy and Russell Davis: Fire Chief Glenn Forsyth said that in February EMS responded to Bucks County Community College where a victim was in cardiac arrest. The EMS department responded within two minutes and the lifesaving efforts of John Gundy and Russell Davis restored the victim’s heartbeat and breathing.
On Behalf of the Township, Mr. Benchener presented Firefighters Gundy and Davis with Commendations and thanked them for their service.
Public Comment: Resident Mick Petrucci, President of Newtown Business Association, announced that the NBA’s annual Easter Egg Hunt would be on Saturday, March 23 at 9:00 AM at Pickering Manor. The event is open to all, with categories ranging from toddler to grandparent. Over 3,000 eggs with candy and prizes will be hunted by participants. He noted that the event takes about five minutes, so please be on time.
Mr. Petrucci reminded residents of Welcome Day on Sycamore Street on May 5, 2013.
Weglos Land Development certificate of Completion #2: Mr. Calabro moved to authorize escrow release in the amount of$7,450 to Weglos Dental Offices. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Conditional Use, Qdoba Mexican Grill, 2950 S. Eagle Road: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize the written decision for Qdoba Mexican Grill’s conditional use. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Conditional Use, Smoothie King, 2112 South Eagle Road: Mr. Calabro moved to authorize the written decision of Smoothie King for conditional use. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Sign Materials and Posts Bid: Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the sign materials and posts bid as outlined in a memo dated March 4, 2014 from Public Works Director Ron Weaver. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Road Materials Bid: Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the road materials bid as outlined in a memo dated March 8, 2013 from Public Works Director Ron Weaver. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Treasurer’s Update: Mr. Ferguson reported that the current cash balance for the Township is $1,322,234. The January treasurer’s report is available for public view on the Township Web site. Mr. Ferguson noted that collection of earned income tax, transfer tax and local services tax are all exceeding the 2013 projected amounts for January and February, the two slowest months of the year. The new tax collector is now providing better cash flow than last year. He provided the Board with a chart comparing budgeted amounts with actual collected amounts and indicated that he would be providing similar reports on a monthly basis.
Mr. Benchener asked that in addition to the comparison with budgeted or projected amounts, the Board might benefit from seeing a comparison with the previous year.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the cash balance reported includes revenue from the sale of the cell tower easement.
Mr. Ferguson said that the payment has only just been received and had not been deposited when these calculations were made.
Other Business: Mr. Ferguson said that he met with Superior Turf to review work to be done on Veterans Park’s playing fields and to discuss the Township’s responsibilities toward maintenance. Superior is optimistic that the fields will be in condition for fall play. It is very doubtful that they will be suitable for spring baseball, but if the weather cooperates, possibly for summer use.
Mr. Ferguson said that the staff has been discussing some possible clarifications to the Township’s nuisance ordinance regarding junked and abandoned cars. This ordinance was written in 1942 and is in need of updating and clarification of the definitions of “junked” and “abandoned.” He noted that “junked” is primarily dealing with cars on private property and “abandoned” deals more with cars left on roadways, parking lots, etc. The zoning officer and police are looking for some guidance in dealing with complaints.
Mr. Garton said that if the Board is in agreement with the suggested language Mr. Ferguson has provided, it can authorize advertisement and he will draft the appropriate ordinance.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that while he is supportive of the idea of more carefully defining these terms, he finds some of the language could be too restrictive, for example cars with expired inspection stickers could be considered junked or abandoned, however there is no indication of a time frame for the expiration. Would this be the day the sticker is expired or a week or a year after? He also asked whether there are fines attached to violations.
Mr. Ferguson said that the language is suggested only and can be modified. The nuisance ordinance does not specify fines. The ordinance would allow the zoning officer to get the process of issuing violations started.
Mr. Garton said that fines are a separate matter, The ordinance would only define junked and abandoned cars as being in violation.
Mr. Benchener agreed with Mr. Gallagher regarding expired inspections.
Mr. Garton said that he could provide sample language used by PennDOT for the Supervisors to consider.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would prefer postponing action until a draft ordinance has been presented.
Mr. Calabro also questioned the suggested language dealing with junked cars on private property. Some cars are held on private property by owners who have not registered the cars but are working on them to restore them, for example. He said that he would like to see some language which allows for old cars to be stored by the owners on their own property.
All agreed that Mr. Garton should research suggested language and prepare a draft to be considered at a later meeting.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the meeting of February 27, 2013. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $227,139.10. Dr. Ciervo seconded and motion passed 4-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $202,816.24. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. Calabro’s question, Mr. Ferguson said that the cash on hand reported earlier was calculated after these fund transfers and payment of these bills.
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of Comcast bills totaling $1483.92. He noted that the bills arrived after compilation of the bills list and must be paid before the next meeting to avoid late fees. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the Solicitor has discussed plans for Newtown Swim Club with the applicant’s attorneys.
Mr. Garton said that attorney John VanLuvanee has indicated that some additional engineering work is being done on townhouse plans before approaching the Supervisors.
Mr. Garton announced that Newtown Artesian Water Company has withdrawn its application to the PUC to install a well on the Tanner property on Washington Crossing Road. The Board’s commitment to oppose the plan was instrumental in this decision.
Mr. Benchener said that many residents had expressed concerns about the water company plan and he was very pleased that the residents and Supervisors were able to work together to this result. He also thanked Mr. Garton for his efforts to find an attorney expert in PUC matters to help at the hearings. Through that attorney’s efforts it was learned that the proposed plan would not have resulted in savings to Newtown Artesian ratepayers.
Dr. Ciervo said that Council Rock School District is considering eliminating its occupational tax and per capita tax and possibly increasing earned income tax instead. He wanted the public to be aware that this is being considered. He asked Mr. Garton whether the School District could raise the EIT without input from the Township. He thought that the current 1% was the maximum permitted.
Mr. Garton said that he would research this further as there is some limitation. Both entities do not have to agree on an increase but the Township can decide whether to take its share of increased earned income tax enacted by the School District.
Dr. Ciervo asked the Board to consider some kind of permit system for residential rental properties as a way to protect both renters from unscrupulous landlords and to protect residents from poorly maintained properties which can prove hazardous to neighboring properties. He has heard of municipalities that have a permitting system which involves inspection of rental properties for safety monitoring.
Mr. Ferguson said that some municipalities have an occupancy permit which involves inspection for safety features like railings and smoke detectors when properties change tenants. He could look into this.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the same occupancy permit would apply to the resale of homes.
Mr. Ferguson said he had only begun to research rental properties. The permit can be useful in helping to collect earned income tax from renters as well.
Mr. Calabro said that he had some concern about monitoring and enforcing the inspections as properties change tenants and questioned whether it would place the Township in a difficult legal position.
Mr. Garton said that he has seen occupancy permitting and inspecting work effectively in apartment complexes with multiple units and one landlord. It might be difficult to administer with individual homes.
Mr. Gallagher agreed that this could be very difficult to monitor or enforce and could be seen as a punishment on those who are compliant with the requirements.
Dr. Ciervo said he had hoped to provide tenants with recourse if they have uncooperative landlords who do not adequately maintain properties.
Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Benchener both agreed with Mr. Calabro that it would be very difficult to monitor and that it is not something the Township should be involved with. Matters of maintenance are issues between landlords and tenants and not the Township. Tenants with issues do have recourse in the court system and it is in the landlord’s best interest to maintain his property to make it marketable.
Mr. Garton said that there would be no executive session.The meeting adjourned at 9:00 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary