Board of Supervisors
Minutes of October 9, 2013
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on October 9, 2013 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener, Secretary Ryan W. Gallagher and Philip Calabro and Robert Ciervo, members. Also in attendance were: Kurt Ferguson, Township Manager, John Torrente, 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 Sister Francesca Onley of Holy Family University and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mr. M. Gallagher thanked Sister Francesca for coming to the meetings and leading the invocation. Newtown is blessed to have Holy Family University in our community.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Ferguson said that a presentation by Newtown Business Association and payment of the Minimum Municipal Obligation have been added to the agenda.
Newtown Business Association Presentation
NBA President Mick Petrucci thanked the Board for this addition to each month’s agenda, a presentation of a featured NBA business. He introduced Beverly Dimler of Penns Trail Storage.
Ms. Dimler thanked NBA and the Board for inviting her this evening. Penns Trail Storage, a 500 unit self-storage facility, has been open at Penns Trail for three years and is almost completely full. Among its services are climate controlled storage units, some large enough to store a motor vehicle, sale of moving and storage supplies and a rental moving truck. Ms. Dimler said that Penns Trail Storage has been welcomed by the community and she has been given many opportunities to participate in NBA sponsored events, including serving on committees for the annual car show, Welcome Day and the Holiday Parade. NBA has supported Ms. Dimler’s fundraising participation in the Susan G. Komen Three Day 60 Mile Walk. With NBA help she has raised over $20,000 and will walk this weekend in Washington DC, her third walk this year.
Resident Judith Norkin, a supervisor candidate, asked about the plantings in Stoopville Road medians. She noted that very small plants at a cost of $1.20 per plant were chosen instead of larger plants at $8.00 per plant. She questioned the cost of maintenance for such small plants.
Mr. Ferguson explained that after our Park and Recreation Director contacted the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and local horticulturalist and master gardener Russell Strover, the Township sought estimates for plants from a number of different nurseries. Only a few nurseries were able to supply the large number of plants needed and the experts’ recommendation was to choose the smaller plants, as they grown 18-20 inches within their first year. The bunny grass also recommended was no longer available when the plants were ordered.
Ms. Norkin said that the result has been very disappointing and asked whether the medians could be filled instead with stone or even paved.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he was not sure whether the plants were required; the project was Federally funded on a State road. He urged Ms. Norkin to be careful when going to the site and for safety reasons he urged her not to go onto the medians. Even when Public Works employees work at the medians, it requires four people to control traffic.
Mr. Ferguson confirmed that the medians are scheduled to be weeded shortly, weather permitting.
Winn Taitham said that he attended yesterday’s meeting of the Newtown Joint Municipal Authority and is very concerned that the Sewer Authority is planning to continue its consideration of a sewage treatment plant. During that meeting, the Sewer Authority’s attorney indicated that the Authority Board is “accountable to no one.” He asked for information about outstanding bonds of the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority (BCWSA).
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he and Mr. Calabro attended the Newtown Sewer Authority meeting. The outstanding bonds were for maintenance of the Neshaminy Interceptor.
Mr. Ferguson said that Newtown Sewer Authority is liable for those bonds. There is an agreement in place between Newtown Sewer Authority and BCWSA, which expires either on January 1, 2012 or after all debts have been paid. At this point there is a $115 million balance on the bonds, which would be satisfied in 2035. He has spoken to Ben Jones, CEO of BCWSA, who indicated that there is no “opt out” of this agreement, that is, there is no pay out option. He has written to BCWSA, Newtown Sewer Authority and DEP confirming that Newtown Township is not including a sewage treatment plant in its updated Act 537 Plan. He has received a letter from DEP stating that it is aware that the Township has considered and dismissed a sewage treatment plant as an alternative in the Act 537 Plan.
Mr. Taitham thanked the Board for continuing to actively represent the Township’s residents at the Sewer Authority and at BCWSA. As a future resident of the Township he intends to attend BCWSA meetings to discuss his concerns about the Newtown Sewer Authority, which has failed to include the obligation to BCWSA in its estimate of costs to build the plant.
Resident Jenn Dix, a candidate for supervisor, said that in recent meetings she has heard discussion of a Township Facebook presence. She said that a page called “Newtown Township” already exists. She asked who is running this page. If it is not the Township, then it is very disturbing that it appears as an official page.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that the Township Police Department has a Facebook page, but the Township does not have an official presence on Facebook.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has been researching policies for social media presence for the Township. Once a policy is in place, the Township will consider establishing a presence on Facebook and other social media, using the Township seal or using the word “official.” He is aware that sometimes names are co-opted by non-sanctioned entities and this is also being researched.
Betty Taitham said that she is intending to move to Newtown and is against a proposed sewage plant in Newtown. In response to Dr. Ciervo’s questions, Ms. Taitham said that she is not now a resident of Newtown but intends to move to Pennswood Village within the next few years. She was not aware that Pennswood is not in Newtown, but it does back to Neshaminy Creek, where the proposed plant would discharge. She is grateful for the Supervisors’ participation and support at the Sewer Authority meetings.
Resident Mick Petrucci, speaking on behalf of Newtown Business Association, asked the Board to waive the fee for police overtime for the Holiday Parade on December 8, 2013. This is the largest Holiday Parade in the county, with 50 groups, including three Mummers’ bands, 1800 participants and over 5,000 spectators. He has spoken to Chief Pasqualini, who confirmed that the event would require four police officers for four hours. Newtown Borough has already agreed to waive its fees for the parade, which starts at the Stockingworks on State Street in the Borough, to Washington Avenue and then onto Sycamore Street, ending at Silo Drive.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to waive fees for police overtime for the 2013 Holiday Parade. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Dr. Ciervo voting nay.
Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Petrucci whether he had any knowledge of the closing of the Temperance House, through his involvement with the Newtown Business Association.
Mr. Petrucci said that the NBA will try to help fill the vacancy. He has spoken to the owner, who does not have clear plans at this time. It could become retail space, office space or a new restaurant. He is very sorry to see the Temperance House close.
Board Members’ Reports
Dr. Ciervo reported that at its most recent meeting, the Joint Zoning Council discussed a proposed amendment to limit locations for new cell tower technologies, and discussed not permitting them within 500 feet of a residence or a residential zoning district. Bucks County Planning Commission Executive Director Lynn Bush created a map to illustrate where those locations would be. Showing the map, he noted that very few locations would permit new cell tower technology if this were the criteria; permitted areas would be in parts of the Business Commons, the quarries, Newtown Middle School and Tyler Park. The Jointure is now discussing possibly allowing the towers on existing PECO or telephone utility poles.
Using that same criteria, Dr. Ciervo guessed that the Jointure would face similar issues if an ordinance limiting sewage treatment plants were proposed. Upper Makefield already has a few package plants in residential areas, and has already voiced unwillingness to support such an ordinance. He will investigate possibly discussing a capacity limit on sewage treatment plants near residential properties, as this would possibly limit plants to those owned by developments. He urged his fellow Board members to attend the next Jointure meeting, where both the cell tower and sewer plant discussions will continue.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he and Mr. Calabro had attended the recent Newtown Joint Municipal Authority Board meeting, where they made it clear that Newtown Township is not including a sewage treatment plant in the updated Act 537 Plan.
Lockheed Martin Phase I, Certificate of Completion #1 – Final: Mr. Benchener moved to approve escrow release to Lockheed Martin in the amount of $1,130,142.89. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: In response to Mr. M. Gallagher’s question, Ms. Fountain explained that the project was completed in one phase, with work proceeding slowly. For this reason, there has been only one certificate of completion.
The motion passed 5-0.
Silver Lake Dam, Payment Request: Ms. Fountain asked the Board to authorize payment to Hale Built for the Silver Lake Dam repair. This was done at prevailing wage because it had been put out to bid with an estimated cost of about $50,000, which does require prevailing wage.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize payment to Hale Built in the amount of $44,468.37 for the Silver Lake Dam repair. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Ferguson said that DEP is very pleased with the work. DVIT, the Township’s insurance carrier, has indicated that rates may go down because of this repair.
The motion passed 5-0.
Minimum Municipal Obligation Payment: Mr. Ferguson reported that the Township’s Minimum Municipal Obligation to the pension funds is as follows:
The Township’s total payment is $1,220,569. The Township has already received the State contribution of $369,014. He asked the Board to authorize the payment.
Dr. Ciervo moved to authorize payment of the Minimum Municipal Obligation in the amount of $1,220,569. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Treasury Report: Mr. Ferguson reported that he has been preparing the budget for a presentation to the Board, to be held on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 7:45 PM. The Planning Commission meeting will begin at 7:00 PM. He did not have an exact cash balance but estimated that the general fund balance is about $2,000,000. This number is after payment of the MMO.
Other Business: Mr. Ferguson thanked Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko and Megan Prusienski for making the grand opening of Veterans Park a tremendous success. After an opening ribbon cutting ceremony, the fields were open for play.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of September 11, 2013. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher noted that these minutes had been tabled because a resident noted a discrepancy. That discrepancy has been corrected.
Mr. Benchener said that page 2, paragraph 3, should read, “…noted that the financial picture has stabilized and the Township is now on a strong financial footing.”
Mr. Calabro noted that the minutes are not a transcript of the meeting, but only a “snapshot.”
Dr. Ciervo noted that the meeting adjournment was at 1:45 AM.
Mr. R. Gallagher amended his motion to accept the minutes of September 11, 2013, as corrected. Dr. Ciervo amended his second and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Benchener moved to accept the minutes of September 25, 2013. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $1,427,562.29. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Ferguson noted that this bills list includes payment to the Fire Association as well as the MMO.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the expenditure for a water reel, listed on page 10, is as expected.
Mr. Ferguson said this is the amount discussed. The reel has been purchased and is being used at Veterans Park.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the Township is using a credit card from TD Bank.
Mr. Ferguson said that TD bank is a credit card account.
The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $$182,452.69. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Board had discussed establishing a policy regarding waiving of Township fees for things like police overtime for special events. He would like to create a policy and include waived fees as a budget item. If a policy is in place, the Board can refer to that policy when organizations approach the Board during public meetings. He would prefer not having to decide on these requests or pick and choose among the groups that approach the Board. He fully supported waiving the Memorial Day Parade fees but in recent years the Board has made numerous cuts from its donations and waivers of fees for things like parades, fireworks and from the libraries.
Mr. M. Gallagher agreed with Dr. Ciervo and asked Mr. Ferguson to research past costs and fee waivers so that going forward a policy can be established and a number can be included in the budget.
Mr. Benchener said that he recalls past discussions about this issue. He would prefer deciding this on a case by case basis, as some requests are from politically affiliated groups, for example. He also feels it is difficult to place a dollar amount in the budget, as it is not known what the cost will be, as it varies by the size of the event and number of officers and length of time of the coverage.
Mr. M. Gallagher and Dr. Ciervo agreed that an estimated budget amount, based on recent past experiences, would be helpful. It would be better to go a little over or under-budget rather than waive fees that have not been budgeted at all.
Mr. Benchener said that he has some concerns about money kept in Money Market Funds as the Federal Government might not raise its debt ceiling. He asked whether any Township reserve or escrow funds are kept in Money Market accounts.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has recently been trying to reorganize Township banking to eliminate bank fees, so funds like escrows and TSA funds have been moved to bank savings accounts and transferred back and forth as needed to make payments. No Township moneys are kept in money marketsw or short term treasury bills.
Mrs. Dix asked the Board for an update on the Swim Club property.
Mr. M. Gallagher explained that at a recent meeting the developer who is purchasing the property was granted tentative approval for a PRD. He now must submit fully engineered plans for the proposed townhouse development, which will be reviewed by our professional consultants and then our Planning Commission before it can be considered for final land development approval.
Mrs. Dix asked whether a meeting has been scheduled with Bucks County Water and Sewer and Newtown Sewer Authority to discuss the moratorium and the sewer treatment plant. This had been discussed by the Board at previous meetings. She would like to see a deadline set for this meeting.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has reached out to all involved and has asked Ben Jones, the CEO of the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority as well as one of the Township’s former supervisors, who currently sits on the Bucks County Authority Board to help facilitate a meeting.
Mr. M. Gallagher noted that the Board does not have authority to compel the Newtown Sewer Authority to meet a deadline, however at the Tuesday meeting of the Authority, members of that Board indicated a willingness to attend a meeting.
Mrs. Dix said that Mr. Gallagher had mentioned that DEP would be releasing 200,000 gallons shortly. Is that for Newtown, only.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that that amount is for the municipalities using the Neshaminy Interceptor.
Mr. Gallagher said that the Board would meet in executive session to discuss matters of personnel.
The meeting adjourned at 9:00PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary