Board of Supervisors
Minutes of November 13, 2013
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on November 13, 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 an invocation by Reverend Paul Chreiman of Newtown United Methodist Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Police Promotions: Police Chief Henry Pasqualini announced the promotion of Corporal Robert Lupinetti to the rank of Sergeant and Patrol Officer Shawn Pirog to the rank of Corporal. Sergeant Lupinetti has served on the special response team, is a field training officer and has taken on the social media presence for the Department. Corporal Pirog is part of the incident response team and is the DARE officer and school liaison.
Judge Donald Nasshorn administered the oath of office to Sergeant Lupinetti and Corporal Pirog.
The Board congratulated Sergeant Lupinetti and Corporal Pirog and thanked them for their service.
Newtown Business Association Featured Business
First National Bank and Trust of Newtown: Bill Scheffer of First National Bank thanked the Board for the opportunity to speak about the bank, a community bank serving Bucks County and participating in the community since the time of the Civil War. The bank will celebrate its 150 th anniversary next year and is proud of its place in the community and its many partnerships with local charities.
NBA President Mick Petrucci thanked the Board for the opportunity to highlight our many local businesses. NBA has served the Newtown business community for over sixty years and is again sponsoring the Newtown Holiday Parade on Sunday, December 8, 2013 on State and Sycamore Streets. This year there will be over 2000 participants.
Weglos Maintenance Bond: Mr. Garton reminded the Board that Dr. Weglos has completed his construction project and has asked the Board to accept a cash escrow rather than a maintenance bond.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve a maintenance agreement with Dr. Mark Weglos, 759 Newtown Yardley Road. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
JMZO 2013-05 Fence and Wall Ordinance: Mr. Garton explained that the Board had recommended that the ordinance be amended to reflect the standard heights of commercially available fencing. The Jointure partners have added to the ordinance to also address heights of walls. The Ordinance has been duly advertised.
Mr. M. Gallagher opened the public hearing to adopt an ordinance raising the permitted fence heights.
Mr. Benchener moved to adopt JMZO 2013-05. Dr. Ciervo seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked if anyone had questions for the Engineer or Solicitor. If not they did not need to remain for the budget discussions.
Ms. Fountain and Mr. Garton departed the meeting at this point.
Agreement with Major and Mastro, LLC: Mr. Ferguson presented the Board with a three year agreement with Major and Mastro, Township Auditors, to run for the next three years at $19,500 per year, an increase of $500 over previous years. Mr. Ferguson said that Major and Mastro have been very thorough and have been available to him during the budget process. He recommended accepting the agreement.
Mr. Calabro asked whether this would require bidding.
Mr. Ferguson said that this is a professional service and does not require a bidding process.
Mr. Benchener said that while he thinks the current auditors have done a good job, he would favor seeking other proposals as well as this one before making a decision.
Mr. Ferguson said that a decision would have to be made very quickly, as the audit process begins immediately after the New Year. If the Board is inclined to seek additional proposals he would need to advertise immediately.
Mr. Benchener moved to seek proposals for Township Auditor. Mr. M. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Chief Pasqualini reported that in the last month the Department had responded to 1381 calls, including 15 thefts, 73 medical emergencies and 30 struck deer. He reminded residents to keep their cars locked and not leave valuables in the car overnight. He also reminded them to keep alert to deer in the roads at this time of year.
Dr. Ciervo noted that last year arrests had been made for the ongoing thefts from vehicles. Could those same perpetrators be back after having been arrested.
Chief Pasqualini said that these are not the same group of thieves. The investigation is ongoing and he expects arrests are imminent.
Resident Mr. Mooney of Twining Bridge Road asked Chief Pasqualini whether the Police are trained in traumatic brain injury.
Chief Pasqualini said the officers are trained in responding to medical emergencies but not specifically in traumatic brain injury.
Mr. Mooney began to discuss an incident involving his son and Township Police.
Mr. M. Gallagher and Dr. Ciervo explained that this is not the appropriate forum for discussing personal matters with the Chief. He could make an appointment with the Police Chief. If he has a matter to be discussed with the Supervisors, that could be addressed during the second period of public comment later in the agenda.
Mr. Ferguson said that he had provided the Board with copies of some of the budget schedules, which have been updated to include changes to medical insurance costs at an additional $136,184 and pension contribution reduction of $118,160. The changes in insurance costs are primarily due to changes in enrollment during the open enrollment period, when employees have opted to enroll in the benefit or have added dependents. There are also three additions to capital spending:
Mr. Benchener noted that in recent years, the Township has been successful in increasing the fund balance each year, however this year’s budget reverses that trend and increases spending by $600,000.
Mr. Ferguson reviewed some of the factors making the deficit appear larger, including receipt of $208,000 earned income tax in 2013 which should have been collected in 2012 and a transfer from a pension obligation fund of $100,000. The money allocated for Silver Lake dam repair and the Act 537 plan update have not been paid. In addition, healthcare premiums have increased, salaries have increased 3% and this year, some capital spending has been reintroduced. This budget includes financing at 1.45% for some capital purchases.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked about increase in costs for advertising and printing and a drop in bank fees.
Mr. Ferguson said that the increase for advertising is for required DCED advertisement and to cover anticipated increase in costs. The decrease in bank fees is due to consolidation of Township accounts into an umbrella interest bearing account for a positive impact of $20,000. The credit card fees are transactional charges for use of credit cards to pay fees to the Township. The line item referencing equipment maintenance is in anticipation of possible need.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked about other line items where he noted a change from last year to this year.
In response to Mr. Gallagher’s questions Mr. Ferguson said that he expects a cost of $60,000 for the Act 537 plan. Animal control has changed to a contracted service. A number of employees who had elected to “opt out” of our health benefits in the past have had changes in their families and have instead elected to take our health benefits this year. EMS has a planned replacement program for turnout gear and uniforms. The recycling cost is higher because of participation in the County hazardous waste program and the addition of Veterans Park. Communication for traffic signals is for the closed loop system. Public Works has embarked on a line painting program to repaint lines on a two year cycle. The $200,000 remaining in the streetlight fund is what remains from the tax which is no longer collected. Storm sewer inlets are being replaced at 50 per year to cover the entire Township over five years. Mr. Ferguson will research costs to either use public water or drill a well for Veterans Park. He is not sure which method would be most cost effective. HARB’s budget has increased because it has met more frequently to work on the guideline book and application update. The Sycamore Street expense is for flag replacement.
In response to Mr. Benchener’s questions, Mr. Ferguson explained that reimbursable police overtime is for outside services. The $50,000 for storm sewer inlets is a benchmark set for repairs and the schedule is based on an administrative policy.
Mr. Benchener suggested that certain revenues have been very conservatively estimated. For example with the economy improving, salaries should be increasing and earned income taxes will also increase. We are also seeing increases in transfer taxes, which have been very conservatively estimated.
The Board members briefly discussed real estate sales. Mr. Calabro noted that sales have increased in the past year. The Board agreed to estimate transfer taxes at $720,000. They briefly discussed the estimated earned income tax and agreed that, based on this year’s collections, they would be comfortable budgeting a 2% growth next year.
Mr. Ferguson noted that Chief Pasqualini, Public Works Director Ronald Weaver, Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko and Fire Chief Glen Forsyth were in attendance to answer any questions the Board might have on capital spending recommendations.
Mr. R. Gallagher asked about the proposed water line a Helen Randle Park and the replacement bleachers.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that the water line had been part of an agreement between the Township and Rock Softball for a field swap. Veterans Park was to have had a new softball field, but an additional baseball field was built instead and an existing baseball field at Helen Randle will be used for softball instead. The Township promised to install water lines at Helen Randle at the time of the swap. This was to have been done in two phases; the current budget deals with phase II. The bleachers are recommended by DVIT for safety, with a replacement plan of four sets per year, with Chandler Fields to be replaced next year.
Mr. Ferguson explained that the old bleachers have no backs or sides and there are concerns about falls. The estimate for park repairs is a place holder in case something comes up during the year that might not be covered by insurance; at this time no particular repair is envisioned.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he would favor postponing replacing bleachers this year.
Mr. R. Gallagher asked about the replacement dump truck.
Mr. Weaver said that the Department has two 1994 trucks and one 1997 truck. The Department has recently spent $5000 on truck repairs as these vehicles are rapidly aging. The proposed new truck would be outfitted for salt spreading and snow plowing and can haul up to 10 tons.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked about using brine for icy roads.
Mr. Weaver said that he has been in discussion with Northampton, Upper Makefield and Middletown about brining the roads and in general cooperating with one another so that each municipality does not have to own all equipment for every eventuality. They have discussed sharing FEMA funds cooperatively as well.
Mr. Ferguson confirmed that the new dump truck would be part of the proposed financing package. In response to further questions from the Board, he and Mr. Weaver discussed the need for an audible pedestrian traffic signal. A resident with visual impairment has pointed out the need for these signals at the intersections of Swamp and Eagle Roads and at Sycamore and Washington.
Mr. Weaver said that there are also a number of intersections in need of upgraded ADA compliant handicapped ramps. He is recommending postponing those on Sycamore Street near the Promenade and near Beneficial Bank until those construction projects are completed. These improvements can be paid from TSA funds. The estimate includes soft costs like engineering.
Chief Pasqualini reminded the Board that he has been asking for cameras in squad cars for a number of years. He would like them included in 12 front line cars and four motorcycles. As the technology becomes more commonplace, they are being used by more and more of the surrounding communities and people are expecting to see them in use. He agreed to provide Mr. M. Gallagher with the specs for the cameras and the server.
Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that the vehicles for Public Works, the new squad cars and cameras and the EMS Ford Expedition will be part of the proposed finance package. The EMS vehicle in use now has over 90, 000 miles. The new vehicle has a cost of $41,900. The police cars, fully equipped, are about $36,000.
Mr. Benchener asked if the police budget anticipates the next union contract.
Mr. Ferguson said that he included a 3% increase, which is in keeping with other bargaining units. The police health insurance is highest because that department has the most employees with multiple dependents.
Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that it would need to discuss whether to move forward on the Newtown Yardley Road expansion project, which is on the TIP for next year. This project would require an update to the engineering plans, which is estimated at about $60,000. He would like to add this to the next agenda, so that PennDOT can be notified.
Dr. Ciervo said that he is inclined to postpone this project until after the swim club plans are completed. Those plans will include a traffic study and it might mean that the developer could be responsible for some of the road improvements.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the plan is on the TIP for 2014 and if the Township elects not to accept the project it is removed from the TIP.
Dr. Ciervo said that he would like to discuss expanding the roadway improvement program throughout the Township next year. The Township is only allocating liquid fuel funds, spending about $400,000 per year. He would like to use the entire liquid fuel fund and use an additional $600,000 from the general fund to aggressively move forward with the road program, perhaps improving 3 to 4 miles per year or more.
Mr. Ferguson explained that the liquid fuel money can be used for other things so a balance is kept in case of urgent need.
Mr. Benchener said that he disagreed with the idea of using a large portion of the general fund right now. The Township is only beginning to rebuild its reserve after a few difficult years and he does not want to run a deficit. He would like to see a balanced budget before a vote is taken. He does not support the three year financing plan for capital purchases because he does not feel it is sustainable.
Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that he has established a new fund for the 27 th payday. The fund has a large expenditure next year to cover the 27 th pay, but going forward, the amount allocated will be less, as the extra pay occurs only about every ten years. He also noted that the financing he has recommended would help the Township to rebuild its fleet and reduce maintenance costs. The financing decision is a matter of philosophy and the budget can be changed to eliminate it.
Dr. Ciervo asked Mr. Ferguson to prepare a few different budget plans for the next meeting:
Mr. R. Gallagher said that he had concerns about adding a large amount from the general fund for roadway improvements. Dr. Ciervo’s recommendation would have the roads repaved on a twenty year cycle, when in fact, many roads with less activity do not require such frequent repaving. He would favor some increase but not the large change Dr. Ciervo is advocating.
Mr. Benchener said that this is a very large increase in the budget and it is being recommended without any research or plan in place.
Mr. Calabro asked what the lifespan of a road would typically be.
Mr. Ferguson said that many factors influence the lifespan of a road, including volume of traffic and even weather. Twenty years would probably be about average for Newtown, with some roads lasting longer.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he feels there is a plan in place. The Public Works Director and Township Engineer travel the roads and prepare a list of priorities every year. The Township then prepares the bids with add alternates to do as much as the budget will permit. Public works has the ranking and could compress the list to do more roads each year.
Mr. Benchener and Mr. R. Gallagher favored a long term plan with some moderate increase in the road program.
Mr. Weaver confirmed that the road program for 2014 includes some patching and some full repaving. He could prepare information on additional work if the budget were to be increased.
Mr. Benchener said that in addition to the three budget comparisons Dr. Ciervo requested he would like to see a balanced budget with no deficit spending. He is concerned that ongoing increases to the road program will eventually deplete the reserve fund to nothing.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Dr. Ciervo moved to accept the minutes of October 23, 2013. Mr. M. Gallagher 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 $204,183.53. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Calabro asked whether the card services charge on page #9 is for TD Bank.
Mr. Ferguson said that this is a fee charged when someone uses a credit card to pay Township fees.
The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $369,369.13. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Resident John D’Aprile thanked all who participated in the recent election, but noted that only 25% of Newtown’s registered voters came out to vote. He also favored increasing the road program. He did not think the Township should hold a large reserve when the roads are in need of repair.
Mr. Mooney said that he had wanted to ask questions of the Police Chief.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that this forum is for residents to address comments and questions to the Board of Supervisors. He can make an appointment to speak to the Chief in his office.
Mr. Mooney said that he attempted to bring suit against the police for their actions against his son and the police were not “exonerated” but his case was dismissed. He does have the option to appeal. He explained that his daughter-in-law called 911 and police responded using excessive force on his son. He was able to overhear the police, as his son was on the telephone with him when the police arrived. His son had been in a car accident two days prior to his daughter-in-law’s call to police and he feels his son was suffering from traumatic brain injury and the police handled the call improperly. He questioned the accuracy of the police reports of the incident.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Supervisors have no knowledge of this case and cannot make comment. If he wishes to provide information to the Manager and Police Chief, the Board would then review the incident.
Mr. Mooney said that the police are not adequately trained to respond to calls for traumatic brain injury.
Dr. Ciervo said that our police department has been trained to respond to mental health calls and have been successful in preventing suicide on a number of occasions. It does not matter what the underlying cause of the mental health issue is, the police are well trained to deal with the immediate emergencies.
Mr. M. Gallagher assured Mr. Mooney that the Board would certainly look into Mr. Mooney’s concerns, would review any information Mr. Mooney wishes to provide and would speak to the Police Chief about the matter. The Board takes seriously any residents’ concerns about police response.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the Board would remain for executive session to discuss personnel matters.
The meeting adjourned at 10:50 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary