Board of Supervisors
Minutes of May 22, 2013
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on May 22, 2013 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 followed by an invocation by Father Ernest Curtin of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Ferguson said that he has added payment of $25,000 for fire services to the Bills List and a review of ADP payroll proposals to the Manager’s Report.
Volunteer Recognition Awards for CRHS Students: On behalf of the Board of Supervisors, Mr. M. Gallagher said that he was very pleased to recognize Ms. Cemantha Guilian’s class at Council Rock High School for their volunteer efforts in Township parks. The students have formed an ongoing relationship with the Park and Recreation Department, helping with planting of trees, clearing and mulching of trails at Clark Nature Center, planting of 600 daffodils and annuals and maintaining the gazebo garden at Carl Sedia Park, preparing over 300 prize bags for the annual Candy Cane Hunt, making bird feeder kits for the Bird Town program, collecting batteries for recycling and beginning a skate park clean-up program.
Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko said that she and her department are very grateful for the efforts of these students in helping the Township with parks and with community programs. Ms. Guilian has offered the students’ help with the community herb garden which should be completed this summer. This has proven to be a truly wonderful partnership.
Ms. Guilian showed three posters of photographs of the students at work. She said that while the volunteerism has been a benefit to the community, it has also been a great experience for the students, teaching them community involvement and skills that could translate to future employment.
Mr. Gallagher read the names of the student volunteers and presented awards to Kyle Havicon, Jack Milligan, Stephan Velocci, Dylan Grant, Michael Keupper and Nicholas Martinez. He thanked Ms. Guilian and her teacher assistants, David Marchinkowski, Leslie Tobisch, Brian Maccinella and Andrew Merrill for their efforts to keep the community beautiful.
Residents John McBride and Kirty Mody, representing Foxhall Estates Homeowners Association, said that as their development nears the end of its maintenance bond, there are still a number of outstanding matters to be addressed, including location of some streetlights, three large holes in the fields and 27 trees not yet planted. They understood that some escrow money had been withheld and are asking the Township to help resolve these issues.
Ms. Fountain said that she is aware of the maintenance bond expiration and has recently conducted a punch list review, which should be sent to the HOA next week. Township staff has met with the developer who has agreed to repair the broken streetlights. She is aware that one of the streetlights was relocated because of a PECO easement. A lighting consultant has reviewed the plan and feels the lighting is adequate.
Mr. Garton confirmed that the plan required a certain number of streetlights and that number has been installed. He said that the HOA must provide the Township Engineer the exact location of the three holes as he attempts to negotiate with the developer’s attorney. He has been in communication with the HOA’s legal representation.
Mr. McBride said that he has already made a record of the holes and the missing trees. He also feels that the streetlights are clustered around the model home and are not adequately lighting the entire development. He asked for some documentation showing that these lights are located as they were on the plan. He noted that he was attempting to communicate directly with the Township rather than have all communication, especially on smaller matters, go through attorneys.
Ms. Fountain noted that there had been some field engineering decisions regarding streetlight locations, all approved by the Township’s prior engineer. CKS did certify the project. She noted that the $25,000 remaining in escrow was to be used for the plantings and repair of streetlights. She did not know whether it could be used for additional streetlights to be installed.
Mr. Garton confirmed that the Township had drawn down Orleans’ letter of credit when it was in bankruptcy for completion of the development. It is not for additional streetlights. He will be attempting to negotiate with Orleans to include two additional streetlights. To use the escrow for this would involve litigation. Once the punch list is complete, he will meet with Orleans and with Mr. Duffy to discuss all outstanding items.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that no escrow would be released until these issues have been resolved. He asked Ms. Fountain to review the holes referenced by Mr. McBride.
Board of Supervisors Report
Mr. M. Gallagher reported that only 13% of Newtown’s registered voters participated in the primary election.
Abandoned Vehicle Ordinance: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that it had authorized advertisement of an amendment to the Township Ordinance defining abandoned and junked vehicles. An amendment has been added with language describing abandoned vehicles as those vehicles which are unable to move under their own power, do not have current registration and inspection stickers and have one or more of a list of defects, including flat tires, broken or missing windshields, missing doors, etc. It is hoped that this ordinance will aid code enforcement officers in identifying abandoned vehicles. These provisions do not apply to vehicles kept indoors. The ordinance has been duly advertised and a public hearing is necessary.
Dr. Ciervo moved to adopt Ordinance 2013-O-5, defining abandoned vehicles. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
JMZO Amendment – Solar Energy: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that it had previously adopted a solar energy ordinance, which was not adopted by Upper Makefield. The ordinance has since been revised and duly advertised. The Ordinance defines solar energy panels as an accessory use and provides setback and height requirements. Solar panels must still comply with the local SALDO requirements.
Mr. Benchener moved to adopt JMZO 2013-2, solar energy accessory use. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Treasury Report: Mr. Ferguson reported that he has begun planning the 2014 budget and hopes to have a capital spending plan for Board review by October. The current balance in the Treasury is $3,057,563. This includes $106,101 in property taxes collected for debt service and fire funds. The general fund balance is $2,945,462. The April treasury report has been posted on the Township Web site. Although EIT and LST revenues differ by the time of year, the 2013 budget estimated $6.4 million, which would equal $123,000 per week. The Township is currently ahead in collections by $875,000. Mr. Ferguson anticipates no more significant shortfalls.
Facebook Policy: Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that at the time of Hurricane Sandy, the members had discussed possibly developing a method of quick communication with residents to alert them of situations such as power outages, road closings, etc. Twitter and Facebook were considered. Both the Police and the Park and Rec Departments have Facebook pages. He has begun researching other municipalities’ policies on social media and has circulated some guidelines among the Board. He suggested that if the Township would want to have a Facebook page, the guidelines and policies should be in place first.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he would like to review other municipalities’ policies before establishing specific guidelines, but in general he likes the idea of having a Facebook presence. The Board would want to consider who can post, what kinds of things would be posted and how the site would be monitored.
Mr. Benchener said that he likes the idea, especially in light of Hurricane Sandy, when the Township had downed electric and phone lines and it was difficult to communicate about emergencies and even small changes like whether Trick-or-Treat would take place. He suggested that in addition to developing a policy, the Board should consider whether to use Facebook or Twitter, which is more a one-way communication method. The Board should consider the goal, whether to build relationships and foster an exchange of ideas or as a quick communication and emergency alert tool.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that it is possible to do both and have an announcement transmitted as both a Facebook and a Twitter message at the same time. When developing policies, it would be important to consider both the administrative policy and the public policy, regarding posting and monitoring of comments.
Mr. Ferguson said that the Township would not be in a position to monitor “comments” every day, flagging inappropriate discussion. He suggested that the Board review the information he has already provided and continue to develop some goals and ideas for a policy. He would continue to research the policies other municipalities have developed and the Board could continue to discuss and shape a plan.
401(A) RFP Responses: Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that some time ago it had agreed to establish 401(A) retirement defined contribution plans for new employees, which would require a 5% match of up to a 5% contribution by employees with vesting in five years. He put out an RFP and received only one response, from ICMA, which already administers other Township retirement savings plans. As this is a relatively small plan, no other firm submitted proposals. ICMA’s proposal would include drafting documents to allow for state participation and would track Township and employee contributions for vesting purposes. The Township’s actuary will be involved in reviewing the draft documents.
Dr. Ciervo moved to accept ICMA’s proposal for management of the Township’s 401(A) plan. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Dr. Ciervo asked why there had been such a delay in establishing the plan. It has been more than a year since the Board voted to establish this employee benefit.
Mr. Ferguson said that the Board established the policy, but the Township needed to find a sponsor, which was not that simple because of the size of the plan. Most providers rejected the plan.
Dr. Ciervo said that he recalled that ICMA had always agreed to sponsor the plan. He also thought the Township’s actuary had already reviewed the plan.
Mr. Benchener said that he had suggested that it was the Board’s fiduciary duty to use the RFP process to be sure that they selected the best sponsor. Although there has only been one response, the Board has now fulfilled its responsibility to seek other providers.
Mr. Ferguson said that Mr. Assay, the Township’s actuary had reviewed the Township’s proposed parameters but the actual documents had not yet been prepared. ICMA would prepare the documents and Mr. Assay would review them to determine if they qualify the Township to control the plan and for the plan to qualify for state funding.
Mr. Benchener said that because his employer is a sponsor of pensions he will refrain from participating in the vote, however he noted that he finds this a fair plan. He suggested that in two years, when the plan has been established, it would be appropriate to review it to see if ICMA is still the best and only available sponsor.
Dr. Ciervo moved to amend his motion to include that a future Board review the ICMA plan in two years. Mr. M. Gallagher amended his second and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Benchener abstaining.
ADP Payroll Proposal: Mr. Ferguson said that he has reviewed the current time management and payroll procedures and would like to upgrade to an ADP electronic process. Currently employees use paper time sheets which are difficult to monitor for hours worked as well as vacation and sick time. Information has to be entered by hand by the Township’s payroll department. This method can be inaccurate, especially when dealing with Police and Fire Fighters, whose schedules include special overtime and comp time for events, etc. ADP offers methods such as signing in from computers, or finger scans upon arrival at work. It will also show when part-time employees work and track their hours. Currently Denise Jerolymack is spending more than five hours each week on payroll entry. This process will allow her to save time and generate reports on hours, comp time, vacations, etc. It will summarize taxes and track hours for benefits. The cost to begin the process on September 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013 is $3789. It will then be $11,045 per year for the next three years; that is $424 per payroll. Employees and Department heads are already wasting twice that amount in filling time sheets and tracking them.
Mr. Benchener moved to authorize the ADP payroll services for tracking employee hours. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve the minutes of the meeting of May 8, 2013. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Benchener abstaining.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $151,966.66. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro noted a payment of $16,000 to Superior Turf. He asked Mr. Ferguson to give an update on progress with the Veterans Park fields.
Mr. Ferguson said that Superior Turf has added organic materials, as the topsoil is insufficient for growing playing field quality grass. The soil is being enriched and seeding has begun. It will be leveled and monitored bi-weekly. He will copy the Board on all updates from now on. Both the soil quality and the compaction made it deficient.
Mr. Ferguson also noted that he has been told that FEMA will reimburse the Township $7322 for police, EMS and public works overtime during Hurricane Sandy. He expects the check shortly.
The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $175,000. Mr. Benchener seconded. The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to pay $25,000 for fire services. This is the second $25,000 payment. There will be two additional payments of $50,000 each later in the year. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo asked for an update on plantings for the Stoopville Road medians. Many residents have complained about their weedy appearance.
Mr. Ferguson said that 290 spreading junipers, at a reduced cost of $1.20 per plant are ordered and expected to arrive on Tuesday. PennDOT requires that work zones be established between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM. The Public Works Department summer employees have now been trained and it seemed a better plan to weed and prepare the soil for planting once the plants have arrived rather than set up work zones twice. The plants will require some maintenance the first summer to become established but after that should be very low maintenance.
Mr. R. Gallagher reminded residents that Monday, May 27, 2013 is Memorial Day. Newtown’s Veterans Association will hold its annual parade along Washington Avenue. The exact route and times are available at ww.newtownpost440.org.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the Board would remain for an executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 8:55 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary