Board of Supervisors
Minutes of October 23, 2013
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on October 23, 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, 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 the Pledge of Allegiance.
Resident Kyle Davis, a candidate for supervisor, said that he had attended last week’s budget meeting and was pleased to see that taxes will not be raised and some capital spending has been added for upgrading the Township Web site and for other technology improvements. He is also supportive of expanding the roadway program.
Resident Jen Dix, a candidate for supervisor, said that at the September 25, 2013 meeting, the Board had discussed having a Facebook presence and she had called the Board’s attention to an existing Facebook page called Newtown Township. She urged the Board and Township Manager to find out who has established this unofficial Facebook page, noting that a number of sitting Township Supervisors and committee members, as well as their family members have been listed as “friends” or as “liking” the page. This page has existed since 2009 and includes a birthdate of 1972, the same birth year as Mr. M. Gallagher. She was concerned that the page gives the impression of being an official page and can involve invasions of privacy for those who “friend” it. She noted that it had contained what could be considered some political rhetoric.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has attempted to trace the origin of the page but at this point has been unsuccessful.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded Ms. Dix that the Township tries to avoid the use of the podium for political comment.
Resident Anna Marie Kaminski said that she lives in Tyler Walk, where the two main streets, Skyview and Parkview Drives, are in need of repair. She asked when the streets would be repaved or at least when the potholes would be filled.
Ms. Fountain explained that the roadway program had been delayed this year, but is now underway. First concrete work, repairing and replacing inlets, is completed before roads are repaved. The contractor is now 20 days into a 60 day contract period and she expects all work to be completed in 30 days. The delay was in the bid process and PennDOT requires all paving to be completed by October 31. PennDOT had once required completion by November 15, so the Township is now seeking an extension.
Mr. Ferguson noted that this is the contractor’s last project. He hopes to have the bid process started earlier next year. The delay was due to staff conducting a more thorough evaluation of road conditions and developing a plan to stage paving of roads located closer together to save time and money. This year’s project includes some full width paving and some repair. The budget is $400,000, which is the Township’s liquid fuel fund from the State. It has been the Township’s practice to use only liquid fuel funds and not general funds or local tax money.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that this year expanding the roadway program using general fund money will be part of the budget discussion.
Resident Mark Joseph said that in reviewing the budget meeting draft minutes he noted revenue of $11 million with expenditures of $11.4 million. He asked how the discrepancy is reconciled.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that this is the Manager’s proposed budget, which has not yet been reviewed and authorized for advertisement. The Manager will review the timeline for budget discussion and review of the line items.
Mr. Ferguson said that in this proposed budget there is a $2 million fund balance in 2013. That number had been inflated because of a few factors including the mistake of a payroll company in crediting Newtown Borough with money that should have been paid to Newtown Township in 2012. That money was collected by Newtown Township to correct the error in 2013.
Mr. Joseph said that the reserve would have been projected at $1.7 million if the mistake had not been made.
Resident Judith Norkin, a candidate for supervisor, read from the Township’s Web site a description of the budget process, noting that included in the description are references to a finance director and manager working together to prepare the proposed budget, working with a finance committee. She noted that Mr. Ferguson now acts as both manager and finance director and the finance committee is defunct.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the finance committee is not defunct; appointments were made at last year’s organization meeting and the Township is always advertising for new committee members to fill any vacancies.
Mrs. Norkin said that she had been part of a traffic committee in the Township and felt that the Board did not take full advantage of the expertise offered by the Township’s many willing and qualified volunteers. She urged the Board to become more involved in the Township’s committees, boards and commissions.
Resident John D’Aprile said that he would prefer residents to comment on agenda items as they appear on the agenda and not during the public comment period. Regarding the Facebook discussion, any official Facebook page should note that it is an official Township page. He cited as an example, the many Facebook pages with Newtown Grant referenced, none of them official. He disagreed with Ms. Dix’s characterization of comments on the Facebook page called Newtown Township as being political as they only urged residents to vote in the primary. Regarding appointments to committees, boards and commissions, he said that he has seen openings advertised, listed on the Township Web site and announced during Supervisors meetings. Many residents are not interested in getting involved in government and some who submit their names to the Board lack the qualifications to sit on a committee.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Historic Architectural Review Board
Team Logic IT, 2 Swamp Road: Stewart Paul and Marjorie Morales were in attendance to review signage for their new business, computer and network services and solutions.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to grant a certificate of appropriateness for Team Logic IT, 2 Swamp Road, as described in a memo dated October 15, 2013. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Blow Out the Event, 3 Cambridge Lane: HARB Member Bill Mahler presented this application for signage for a hair salon on Cambridge Lane.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to grant a certificate of appropriateness for Blow Out the Event, 3 Cambridge Lane, as described in a memo dated October 15, 2013. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Board Members’ Reports
Mr. M. Gallagher reported that on Wednesday, October 30, 2013, the Park and Rec Department would sponsor a free trick-or-treat event for preschool children at the Township complex. Registration is required at www.newtownfun.com
Weglos Land Development, Newtown Yardley Road, Certificate of Completion #6: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize escrow release in the amount of $26,849.60. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Silver Lake Dam Repair, Pay Estimate #2 (Final): Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize payment of $2,340.44 to Hale Built. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
The Birches Certificate of Completion #2: Mr. Benchener moved to authorize escrow release in the amount of $354,709.60 for The Birches. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Sidewalk Ordinance, Public Hearing: Mr. Benchener moved to open a public hearing to adopt a new sidewalk ordinance. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mrs. Fountain explained that the current sidewalk ordinance, adopted in 2004, required maintenance, repair and replacement of sidewalks, but did not give specific definitions of when disrepair would require action and what action would be required. It required the Township Engineer to inspect the sidewalks. The revised ordinance clarifies that 25% deterioration or 1 inch out of alignment would require repair or replacement. The Township’s Public Works Director can inspect the sidewalks to determine whether repairs are needed.
Mr. Benchener said that the new ordinance provides much needed clarification and will help with enforcement.
Mr. D’Aprile asked what the measurements had been prior to the change.
Mrs. Fountain said that the ordinance gave no specific measurements at all and judgment was subjective.
Mr. D’Aprile said that the change would be very helpful to the homeowners associations which try to enforce sidewalk maintenance within the developments.
Mr. Benchener noted that in the newly added section, three conditions are listed requiring repair but the ordinance does not make clear whether all three conditions must be met or any one condition.
Mr. Garton said that he would change the ordinance to read, “…where any one of the following conditions exist.”
Mr. Benchener moved to amend the sidewalk ordinance to include Mr. Garton’s suggested wording. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Benchener moved to adopt the Sidewalk Ordinance 2013-O-7 as amended. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Newtown Swim Club/Townhouse PRD: Mr. Garton presented a written decision for Newtown Swim Club/Townhouse PRD Tentative PRD Approval.
Mr. Benchener moved to approve the written decision for Tentative PRD approval for Newtown Swim Club. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 3-2, with Mr. Calabro and Dr. Ciervo voting nay.
Budget Timetable: Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that he had presented a proposed budget for 2014 on October 15, 2013. He suggested that the formal review and discussion be added to the November 13, 2013 agenda, with preliminary approval on Tuesday, November 26, 2013 and final adoption on December 18, 2013. He suggested that the Board send any questions or comments in advance via e-mail and he would provide an excel spreadsheet of the budget tomorrow and would update it with suggested changes in advance of the November 13 meeting. He reminded residents that the Supervisors’ meeting schedule has been altered to accommodate the holidays.
Treasury Update: Mr. Ferguson reported that the current balance in the general fund is $2,015,832. All taxes collected are currently above projected amounts. He expects to have a report from the actuary before the next meeting with accurate Minimum Municipal Obligation for next year’s budget. It appears that the MMO will be less next year.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether this is due to gains on investments.
Mr. Ferguson said that it is due in part to investment gains and in part because of the change in the number of retirees and the ages of staff.
Dr. Ciervo asked what the total expenditures in all funds would be.
Mr. Ferguson said that total expenditures from the general fund would be $11,428,000. All funds total about $23 million.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that residents with questions about this year’s budget should forward them to the Manager or Board members in advance of the November 13 meeting.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the minutes of October 9, 2013. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the minutes of the budget meeting of October 15, 2013. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Benchener abstaining.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $161,861.74. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $189,400 Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
The meeting adjourned at 8:35 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary