Board of Supervisors
Minutes of November 26, 2013
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Tuesday, November 26, 2013 in the Township meeting room at 7:30 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Matthew Benchener (late), Secretary Ryan W. Gallagher and Philip Calabro member. Also in attendance were: Kurt Ferguson, Township Manager, Jeffrey Garton, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer.
Call to Order : Chairman Gallagher announced that Dr. Ciervo would not be in attendance due to illness and Mr. Benchener is en route and expected shortly. He called the meeting to order with a moment of silence followed an invocation by Monsignor Michael Picard of St. Andrew’s Church and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Fire Services Agreement: Mr. Ferguson thanked the members of the Newtown Fire Association, particularly Warren Dallas and Chief Carl Forsyth for their efforts to work with the Township to come to an agreement which addresses regular meetings with the Township, training and safety procedures for the fire fighters and financing. The agreement should promote volunteerism and volunteer retention.
Mr. Calabro said that he was surprised to see the completed agreement ready for approval at this evening’s meeting. He had not had an opportunity to read the entire agreement in its final form.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded Mr. Calabro that the agreement had been discussed in executive session; the final agreement has incorporated the various points the Board had asked to be included when the members reviewed the draft.
Mr. Calabro asked to postpone approval until there would be an assured vote for passage.
Mr. Garton suggested that a motion to table should reference whether the action is tabled until Mr. Benchener arrives or until a later meeting.
Mr. Calabro moved to table consideration of the Fire Services Agreement until later in the agenda this evening. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 3-0.
Newtown Fire Association DARE Presentation: Fire Chief Carl Forsyth said that the recent brewfest had been very successful this year and the Fire Association is very pleased and proud to present a check for $5000 to the Township’s DARE program.
Police Chief Henry Pasqualini thanked the Fire Association for this generous and much needed donation. In past years, the State had given money to the Township for the DARE program, but that funding has ended. The DARE program now relies on charitable fundraising and gifts like this one to continue.
Mr. M. Gallagher thanked the Fire Association for its generous support of the DARE program, which has been very popular and successful in our elementary schools.
Minor Approvals (Mr. Benchener arrived at this point in the meeting.)
Eagle Scout Project: Eagle Scout Jacob Cerami of Troup 74 explained that he wishes to identify and label the trees in the Roberts Ridge Park arboretum. Some of these trees are unusual and not native to the area. He will update the original plan and then attach tags to each tree with species and common name and other pertinent information. He is working with Naturalist and master gardener Russell Strover of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, who originally planned the arboretum. He showed samples of the tags to be drilled into the mature tree trunks or attached by wire to the smaller trees.
Mr. M. Gallagher thanked Mr. Cerami for his efforts. This is an excellent project and will be greatly appreciated by Newtown’s residents as they walk through the park.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to approve Jacob Cerami’s Eagle Scout project to identify the trees in Roberts Ridge Park. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Historical Architectural Review Board
Old St. Andrew’s Church, 135 South Sycamore Street: HARB member Harriet Beckert presented this application for a certificate of appropriateness for a wheelchair lift on the side door of Old St. Andrew’s Church, which is used for weddings, funerals and many senior citizen events. The platform for the lift will use the same stone as the Church and the railing will match existing railing. Any ADA compliant hardware needed for the door will match existing hardware.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve a certificate of appropriateness for Old St. Andrew’s Church, 135 South Sycamore Street, as outlined in a memo dated November 13, 2013. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Re-open Discussion of Fire Services Agreement
Mr. M. Gallagher explained to Mr. Benchener that the Board had postponed action on the Fires Services Agreement until Mr. Benchener had arrived.
Mr. Benchener apologized for the delay; he had been stuck in a traffic jam on the Turnpike. He said that he is very pleased with this agreement and is eager to move forward in a positive relationship with the Fire Association.
Mr. Benchener moved to approve the Fire Services Agreement. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher thanked all of the Fire Association Members in attendance this evening for their volunteer efforts for the community.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Planning Commission: Mr. M. Gallagher noted that the Planning Commission synopsis had been included in the Board packets this week. The Commission recommended that the Board approve the Amended Subdivision Plan for Twining, 178 Durham Road, subject to conditions.
Board Member Reports: Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the Township would be offering Jingle Bell rides through Tyler Park on December 14, 2013. Registration is required at www.newtownfun.com
Amended Minor Subdivision Plan, Twining, 178 Durham Road: Attorney Ed Murphy represented the applicant.
Mr. Murphy explained that the Twining property had been subdivided in 2005. He represents the owners of lot #2. In the original plan, lot #2 was to take access to Durham Road through the lot #1 (Twining property) driveway. The new owner has arranged to access the private driveway belonging to the property to the north instead of using the Twining driveway for full access and a new driveway for right in/right out.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve an amended minor subdivision plan for 178 Durham Road, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 19840, being Bucks County Tax Parcel Number 29-4-37-2 prepared by Protract Engineering dated September 24, 2013, last revised September 24, 2013, subject to the following conditions, all of which the applicant has agreed to:
Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Azalea Circle Discussion: Mr. Garton explained that Scott Gardner, owner of 4 Azalea Circle, would like to extend his back yard fence to enclose a portion of deed restricted open space on his property. This property belongs to Mr. Gardner, however it is part of the Eagle Point, Newtown Grant, Final Plan’s deed restricted open space. In order to enclose the space, Mr. Gardner would need permission of all of the residents of Eagle Point and the permission of the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Gardner wanted to learn whether the Board would be inclined to consider his request before he tries to obtain the signatures of all of his neighbors.
Mr. Gardner explained that he must maintain the portion of his property which is deed restricted and is outside of his fenced yard. He has spoken to his next door neighbors and to the Homeowners Association, and there is no objection.
Mr. Benchener asked whether the fence would impede the basic functions of open space.
Mr. Garton said that the land belongs to Mr. Gardner, so it is not open to the public. It cannot be built on and must remain porous. Like properties with conservation easements, deed restricted open space cannot be modified.
Mr. Benchener said that he would only object to enclosing the land if other neighbors in the development objected.
Mr. M. Gallagher agreed that if the land is not built on, he would not object unless the neighbors objected.
Mr. Ferguson said that this piece of land is part of a development’s open space. Other property owners in the development have similar portions of their property deed restricted. If the Board is considering granting this permission, it should consider conditions under which such permission would be granted, as other property owners may come forward seeking similar relief.
Mr. Calabro said that he would like to know the boundary lines for other properties in this area, as it appears that the deed restricted open space is forming a buffer and creating a greenway along Stoopville Road.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that before he would consider allowing the fence, he would like to review the legal documents for the subdivision and the open space owned by other property owners who might make similar claims.
Mr. Garton advised Mr. Gardner that he would be able to answer the Board’s concerns before the next meeting. He asked Mr. Ferguson to place this on the next Supervisors’ agenda.
Newtown Yardley Road TIP Project: Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that the Newtown Yardley Road project is on the TIP for next year and PennDOT would like the Board’s decision on whether to move forward by next week. The project plan would need to be updated, which expense would fall 100% to the Township. The original project was estimated to cost about $1.1 million, of which the Township would be responsible for 20%. The cost could be higher than the original estimate. The Township’s match would come from TSA funds; there is currently $920,000 in the TSA fund. A portion of that money was to have been used for ADA ramps and the audible traffic signals. The Township had also been hoping to construct the Terry Drive extension at some point using TSA funds. He estimated that the engineering cost would be about $70,000.
Mr. Benchener asked where TSA funds come from.
Ms. Fountain explained that the funds are collected from developers, which are charged a traffic impact fee for every PM trip generated by construction projects. In response to Mr. R. Gallagher’s questions, Ms. Fountain reviewed the project’s scope, which is to include a left turn lane at Terry Drive, widening of Newtown Yardley Road and improvements to the Lower Dolington/Terry Drive intersection with Newtown Yardley Road. A traffic light would be installed at Friends Lane and a closed loop system would time the lights on Newtown Yardley Road and on the Bypass to improve traffic flow.
Mr. Garton said that if the Board decides to pass on this project, the State would move on to its next project; the money could not be used on another Newtown project.
The members discussed the benefits to improved traffic in this area of the Township. The business community would benefit greatly. The money to be used has been specifically collected to improve traffic in the Business Commons area of the Township.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to direct the Township Manager to ask Pennoni Associates to update the plans and inform PennDOT that the Township will accept the Newtown Yardley Road improvement project. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Ms. Fountain left the meeting at this point.
Mr. Ferguson said that he has prepared two draft budgets at the Board’s direction. Both budgets show an increase in the earned income tax for this year of $50,000 and next year of $51,000. Both show a $5000 change in healthcare costs. Real Estate Transfer Tax revenue has been increased in both. He reminded the Board that Lockheed Martin has recently announced that it will phase out the Newtown plant over the next 18 months. He has adjusted the non-resident income tax from Lockheed Martin by 50% for 2014 and expects the full impact in 2015. Local Services Tax will also be impacted. This year the total impact is estimated at $361,000. One sample budget shows an increase in the roadway program of $250,000, which would be paid from liquid fuels funds, but the engineering portion, estimated at 12%, would be paid from the general fund. This budget leaves a deficit of $377,000. The second budget was to have been a balanced budget, but with the impact of the Lockheed Martin closing, now shows a deficit of $170,000.
Mr. Garton explained that the Board must authorize advertisement of a budget twenty days prior to adoption of the budget. The advertised budget can be adjusted upward 25% on a line item or 10% in a category. Expenditures and revenues can be reduced without the need to re-advertise.
Mr. Garton left the meeting at this point.
Mr. Benchener thanked Mr. Ferguson for preparing the comparison budgets and adjusting them to reflect the impact of the Lockheed Martin closing. He would like the Board to continue to strive for a balanced budget and favors the budget with the lower deficit. He is concerned that continued deficit spending will not be sustainable.
Mr. M. Gallagher noted the budget does not include the required Police radios.
Mr. Ferguson said that these radios are being financed by the County. Payments would begin in 2015 and be $41,000 a year for seven years.
Mr. M. Gallagher noted that the budget with the cuts does not include the additional $250,000 for the road program.
Mr. Ferguson said that the program would still have $400,000 in roadway repairs and repaving. To include the additional paving would require payment of engineering from the general fund, an estimated 12%. He further explained that the budget “with cuts” has a reduction in the traffic engineer costs. While most of the traffic engineer’s costs are covered by developers’ fees, the traffic engineer also works on general Township traffic concerns. He will monitor the use of the Traffic Engineer very carefully to reduce the cost to the Township.
Mr. M. Gallagher noted that the budget with cuts proposes to reduce the rescue squad contribution from 25% of the LST to 15%. This was not announced in advance and could have an impact on the rescue squad’s budget planning. The expected contribution, usually 25% of collected LST, will already be reduced by the loss of Lockheed Martin’s payments.
Mr. Benchener said that the continued deficit spending is depleting the reserves and reduction of the rescue squad contribution should be considered.
Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that the full impact of the loss of Lockheed Martin will be felt in 2015, but this year’s capital spending includes three year financing on some vehicle purchases, which have been left in the lower budget. Also still included in that budget are the wood chipper purchase, Web site update and computer software and hardware upgrades.
Mr. Benchener said that he favors removing the Web site upgrade from the budget.
Mr. M. Gallagher suggested advertising the budget without cuts, as it can be reduced further over the next few meetings. The Board can continue to review every line item and discuss cuts, but if the budget with cuts is advertised, it becomes more difficult to put cut items back.
Mr. Benchener disagreed, saying that the permitted 25% per line item and 10% per category would still allow flexibility if the Board wanted to add something back.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that he would prefer advertising the higher budget and continue to review it for cuts.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the budget without cuts also includes the additional $250,000 in the roadway program. He would like to know what roads would be included in that additional spending before deciding on whether to leave it in the budget.
Mr. R. Gallagher pointed out that the newly approved State Transportation Bill will increase liquid fuels collections; the Township could postpone the additional spending for one year only, and increase it in 2015 when collections will be higher. He noted that the increased engineering for the increased roadway spending must be paid from the general fund.
Mr. Benchener said that he strongly favors reductions in capital spending; he suggested allowing a funding stream of $75,000 for capital spending and allowing the administration to spend on priorities.
Mr. M. Gallagher and Mr. R. Gallagher disagreed with this approach. Such a reduction would take decision making on priorities out of the Supervisors’ hands and would also be too tight a number to cover necessary capital spending.
Mr. Ferguson said that if a flat amount were selected, all decisions would have to be his, as the department heads have already prioritized their needs and feel their proposed budgets are all urgent needs. There is also the matter of financing to be considered as it impacts three years.
The Board continued to discuss capital spending and Messrs. Calabro, R. Gallagher and M. Gallagher agreed that they would approve $125,000 in capital spending but did not want to support a larger reduction.
The members reviewed the budget “with cuts” again and agreed to reductions in inlet repairs, curb maintenance, line painting, sign replacement program, traffic engineer, stormwater engineer and seal coating of police parking lot, with an overall capital spending cap of $125,000. They would like more information before removing any of the training from the budget or reducing the rescue squad contribution. They agreed to leave the manager’s raise in the budget.
The Board took a short recess to allow Mr. Ferguson to calculate the budget with the specific cuts agreed to.
The Board returned after a short recess and Mr. Ferguson reported that with the changes discussed, leaving training and rescue squad contribution, revenues would be $12,944,267 and expenditures would be $11,401,734, leaving a fund balance of $1,542,533 and an operational deficit of $397,165.
Mr. Calabro moved to authorize advertisement of a 2014 budget with expenditures of $11,401,734 and revenues of $12,944,267. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Benchener said that while he would vote to advertise this budget, he felt that additional reductions must be made and there is still a lot of work to do.
The motion passed 4-0.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. Benchener moved to accept the minutes of November 13, 2013. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $136,553.97. Mr. Benchener seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher asked about expenditures for jackets for public works.
Mr. Ferguson said he believed these are brightly colored safety jackets for outdoor work on roads..
The motion passed 4-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $175,000. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that he has provided the Board with a proposal for an economic development plan to be implemented to replace the work done in the past by the Newtown Corporation. The draft plan for a group to be called the Newtown Economic Development Corporation includes a mission statement and suggested bylaws and goals along with a recommended board of directors’ membership. The nine members would be appointed by the Board of Supervisors and would include representation from the Supervisors, Newtown Business Association, Newtown Business Commons Association, Newtown Township Planning Commission, business owners and residents. The group would work under the non-profit structure originally created for The Newtown Corporation. Its administrative expenses would be the Township’s responsibility.
Mr. Calabro said that while he liked the premise, he had concerns about continued association with the name “Newtown Corporation,” which has had some negative connotations in recent years. He suggested instead that the group function more like a Township committee without the formal non-profit status of the Newtown Corporation. He thought that a committee chairman could function in place of an executive director. He asked whether the executive director position would involve a salary. He also suggested including a Newtown Borough representative, perhaps only as a liaison, as Newtown Borough’s economic interests frequently overlap with the Township’s, and the Borough will also be impacted by the loss of Lockheed Martin, which he expects would be the first focus of any economic development group.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that with an all-volunteer group, sometimes daily activities fall through. He was hoping that an executive director could monitor day to day tasks. He agreed to explore the concept of a Township committee further, but noted that a non-profit corporation might be eligible for grant opportunities.
Mr. Ferguson noted that in the current economy, many grant opportunities have disappeared. Regardless of the framework chosen for the group, it would come back to the Supervisors to put economic incentives on the table for development and redevelopment projects. A corporation might be eligible for some seed money. An executive director can provide focus and keep track of work. He has served that function in previous jobs and could serve here as well to get the group up and running.
Mr. Benchener said that he favors the non-profit corporation structure and feels an executive director would be necessary to help focus the group.
Mr. M. Gallagher agreed with Mr. Calabro’s assessment of the reputation of the former Newtown Corporation, but hopes the new group would be pro-active in seeking economic opportunity, especially with redevelopment of the Lockheed Martin property. He urged the Board to review the document provided by Mr. R. Gallagher for further discussion.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that with the loss of Lockheed Martin, he is eager to step up the timeline for forming this group. He hopes it will be pro-active in helping to redevelop the Lockheed Martin property, as the Township faces the loss of a business with a $70 million payroll. Perhaps this concept should be the focus of a Board work session.
Mr. Calabro suggested forming the group with one year appointments. He asked that the group be added to the Township’s outreach for volunteers for committees, boards and commissions. He noted that the Planning Commission has expressed interest in helping with redevelopment of the Lockheed Martin site.
Mr. M. Gallagher noted that there has not been a big response to requests for Township committee members and the Board must first fill the openings in the existing committees. He suggested that Newtown Business Association, Newtown Business Commons Association and the Planning Commission select from their members to serve on the new economic development committee or corporation.
Mr. Ferguson noted that as the Newtown Corporation currently exists, all five supervisors would be reappointed to its board for one year at the organization meeting.
The Board agreed to review the draft document further in order to get the group up and running quickly.
Mr. Calabro reported that at a recent Planning Commission meeting he learned that not all of the Commission members have current zoning ordinance books and are working from different editions of both the JMZO and SALDO. He would like to see each member given a new, up to date copy, perhaps in binder form so that replacement pages can be added as changes to the ordinances are made.
Mr. Ferguson said that he will try to put something together, but noted that every time an amendment is passed, it is sent to Keystone and the Web site is updated. It will require active participation of the members to keep books current. Replacement books can cost many hundreds of dollars.
Mr. M. Gallagher announced that the Board would remain for executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 10:45 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary