Board of Supervisors
Minutes of December 4, 2013
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, December 4, 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 the Pledge of Allegiance.
NBA Featured Business: Newtown Business Association President Mick Petrucci introduced the NBA featured business of the month, Piccolo Trattoria.
Jim Bowe, general manager, thanked the Board for the opportunity to speak about Piccolo Trattoria and its involvement in the Newtown community. Piccolo has sponsored the 1 st Fourth Fireworks this year and hopes to continue. Through its association with NBA, Piccolo is partnering with charitable organizations’ fundraising efforts in the community, through a program called “raise the dough,” which allows organizations to sponsor a day or evening at the restaurant, sharing 10% for every dollar spent by the organization’s participants. This year, Piccolo will sponsor a breakfast with Santa and a traditional Christmas Eve Dinner of the Seven Fishes, as well as offering discounted gift certificates.
Mr. Petrucci announced the December calendar of NBA events, which will include midnight madness sales on State Street, December 6, Tree Lighting on December 7, Holiday Parade on December 8, The Santa House December 8 through 22 on Saturdays and Sundays, Breakfast with Santa at the Brick Hotel December 14 and First Night Newtown starting at 5 PM on December 31, ending with fireworks at CRHS North. Mr. Petrucci thanked the Board, Police and Public Works for their efforts to make the parade a success and especially thanked chairman Tina Leck and parade sponsor McCaffrey’s Supermarket. The parade is the largest in Bucks County, beginning at 2PM and marching from State Street to Washington Avenue in Newtown Borough then on to Sycamore Street ending at Goodnoe’s Corner. The parade will take place rain or shine.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Board Member Reports: Mr. M. Gallagher announced that Newtown Township’s Park and Rec Department is partnering with NBA on December 20 for parents night out. Children will enjoy an evening of pizza, games and crafts while their parents enjoy an evening of dining and shopping. A discount will be offered at NBA member businesses that night for parents showing their Park and Rec receipt. Registration is required at www.newtownfun.com
2013 Roadway Improvement Program: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to authorize payment #1 for the 2013 Roadway Improvement program to Kehoe Construction in the amount of $242,411.65. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Ms. Fountain said that the project is completed. Activity on the intersection of Durham and Eagle Roads involved intersection improvements for The Birches and has been approved by PennDOT. The Birches is expecting to seek a certificate of occupancy in late winter or early spring.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked about some roadwork he noticed near Tyler Walk.
Ms. Fountain said she was not sure but would look into this.
Auditors: Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that at Mr. Calabro’s suggestion they had asked him to issue an RFP for a new auditor. He has since spoken to Mr. Calabro explaining that the auditor must be in place in order to begin working very early in 2014 to have certain DCED reports prepared in March. After an RFP is issued, each responding auditor would need time to review the Township’s bills and payrolls before submitting a bid. The process could take a few months. He has suggested that the Board continue its relationship with Major and Mastro for 2014 and put out an RFP sometime in mid-year to address a longer term contract with a new auditor for 2015.
Mr. Calabro said that this would be fine with him as he understands the time constraints.
The Board was in agreement to continue through 2014 with Major and Mastro with a one-year contract for $19,500. A motion would be included on the next Board of Supervisors agenda.
Sewer Connection Management Plan (CMP): Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that in 2012 the Township issued a CMP to the DEP outlining potential development projects which would need additional EDUs. This list has not helped to open up additional EDUs but Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority is expecting some resolution shortly. Mr. Ferguson has updated the list after surveying architects, engineers, schools and other institutions to learn if they are anticipating any new projects that should be included in an updated plan. He expects to submit the updated plan on December 10 and meet with the Sewer Authority on December 13. This list is not prioritized in any way.
Newtown Corporation: Mr. M. Gallagher said that he wanted to ask Mr. Torrente’s opinion on whether the Board could ask residents to send in resumes to form an informal, ad-hoc committee for economic development with members to be appointed at the Organization meeting without having a formal committee structure in place and established in an ordinance.
Mr. Torrente said that the Newtown Corporation could continue to exist with the five supervisors as members of the board of directors and could form an advisory committee with a goal of creating a formal structure later. At this time the Board should agree on a membership structure for the committee. He noted Mr. R. Gallagher’s outline suggested representatives from a few other committees. That structure could be used until a later time when an ordinance could be drafted formalizing the group.
Mr. Ferguson noted that the Newtown Corporation’s tax filings have been prepared. As long as Newtown Corporation continues, these filings and some other paperwork will continue. The outstanding bill for the Newtown Corporation’s accountings is $1,295 and the checking account contains $1100. The Township would be responsible for the balance and for any costs associated with keeping the Newtown Corporation’s 501(C)(3) status active.
(At this point, Mr. Torrente and Ms. Fountain left the meeting.)
Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that it had instructed him to make adjustments to the budget to include $125,000 in capital spending. He has eliminated all capital spending from the budget except for three police cars, a wood chipper and two computers for the finance department. The police car purchases are outright with no financing. This new budget has removed the dump truck, police cameras, fire emergency vehicle, other computer purchases and software spending, and reduction in inlet repairs, street line painting, traffic engineer costs. The raise for the manager has remained, as has the 25% contribution of LST to the rescue squad. The resident EIT has been raised by $51,000. This budget, with the loss of Lockheed Martin, will have a 2014 year end fund balance of $1,542,533, with an operational deficit of $397,165 and an overall deficit of $522,165. Street paving, which is paid from liquid fuels, would be $500,000. This raises engineering costs, paid from the general fund, by $12,000.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that before reviewing the budget line items, he wanted to remind the Board that a category could be raised only 10% or a line item by 25%. The budget could be reduced without need for re-advertisement.
Dr. Ciervo said that this new budget does not include the police cameras, which had been included in a financing package for vehicle purchases. He asked whether it would be better to finance the vehicles and cameras rather than reduce the amount of purchases but pay in full.
Mr. Ferguson explained that at the last meeting the Board hesitated to commit to three years of payments but instead favored reducing all capital spending with no financing.
Dr. Ciervo said that he still would favor the financing in order to purchase all that is needed now.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board had favored the reduction in capital spending and the elimination of financing because the Township will face reductions in earned income tax of $700,000 with the loss of Lockheed Martin. The originally proposed capital spending plan anticipated carrying over payments for the next three years.
Mr. Benchener said that it would be more fiscally responsible to not carry additional debt into the future. The Township Manager was asked to prioritize capital purchases and include as many as possible, without financing, with a $125,000 cap. This proposed budget has been pared down, eliminating some unnecessary purchases like the police cameras.
Mr. Calabro disagreed with removal of the cameras from the budget. Our police department is doing an excellent job and should be supported by providing the officers with modern equipment. We are seeing a rise in crime and the cameras are becoming increasingly necessary.
Mr. Benchener said that the loss of Lockheed Martin will cause an increase in the deficit; crime is not increasing so it is necessary to eliminate items which are not essential, including the police cameras. This level of spending will not be sustainable going forward and he favors further reductions in the budget.
Dr. Ciervo continued to disagree, saying that it is not right to hold the taxpayers’ money when there are things the Township needs. Financing purchases would be investing in the Township’s infrastructure.
Mr. R. Gallagher said that he also has serious concerns about the loss of revenue with Lockheed Martin closing, but he thinks the police cameras are an important investment. He favored trying to add the cameras back into the budget and possibly removing some other spending.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that adding the $90,000 purchase of police cameras would require that the budget be re-advertised.
Mr. Ferguson explained that the budget that was advertised included $125,000 of capital spending and included no financing. It would not be feasible to purchase only a portion of the cameras, as a large portion of the $90,000 is for the server and software, not for the cameras themselves. Reducing the number of cameras would not reduce the cost of the server and software. He agreed with Dr. Ciervo that the cameras could be financed; he suggested that the purchase could be timed so that only a portion of the first year’s payment would be in the 2014 budget.
Mr. Benchener said that he would not support a budget with any increase over the advertised budget. He would favor further reductions of capital purchases, including only purchasing one police car and reducing the contribution to the rescue squad to 20%.
The Board discussed possibly financing the cameras. Mr. R. Gallagher asked whether the Police Chief would favor a reduction in the number of new cars to purchase the cameras instead.
Mr. Ferguson said that he believed the Chief would favor purchasing three cars and holding off on the cameras. The purchase would probably not happen quickly in the New Year; further research, placing orders, installation and training would delay the cameras for a few months. He believed the Chief would wait until later in the year so that only one payment would be made in 2014. He estimated that with timing of the purchase, financing the cameras would add about $8,000 to the 2014 budget.
Mr. Benchener said that he has researched this and learned that only 60% of police departments have cameras.
Dr. Ciervo said that ours is among the top 5% of departments in the Commonwealth and should have the equipment that the Chief feels is necessary.
Mr. Calabro said that he doubted that the 40% of departments without cameras are close to major metropolitan areas. He would support a budget with financing of the cameras and three police cars. The Supervisors’ primary job is to provide for road maintenance and residents’ safety. The cameras are an important component of an efficient and effective police department.
Mr. Ferguson said that with purchase later in the year, the 2014 payment would be about $7668, but 2015 and 2016 would have payments of $30,675; 2017 would have a 25% payment as well.
Dr. Ciervo asked about the paving program.
Mr. Ferguson said that the paving is paid from the liquid fuels fund, but the engineering for the road program is paid from the general fund.
Dr. Ciervo said that he understood that the recently passed transportation bill would increase the Township’s liquid fuel receipts, so postponing a large increase in the roads program is sensible. He asked what percentage increase the Township can expect.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that PSATS indicated that the municipalities should see an increase of about 60% beginning in 2015.
Mr. Benchener said that he would not support this budget. The next year will have a net deficit of $540,000 and the following year the deficit will be $650,000. In three years the Township will be out of money. He recommended re-instituting the budgeting done in 2009. He would like to only purchase one police car and contribute only 15% of the local services tax to the rescue squad, which would reduce the deficit to $200,000.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that this evaluation assumes that there will be no new revenue sources. We could see new tenants at Lockheed or elsewhere in the business district.
Dr. Ciervo said that the bulk of the Township’s expenses are for staff salaries and benefits. The only way to make a difference is through the staff contracts. The Township needs to look into its union contracts to make any meaningful reductions in costs. Staff must begin to make significant contributions to benefits to have an impact. The only other alternative is to raise taxes. Cutting capital spending does not have significant impact.
Mr. Calabro asked Mr. Ferguson to research what percentage of Lockheed Martin employees live in the Township.
Mr. Ferguson said that he believed he could ask Keystone to provide that information.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of November 26, 2013. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Dr. Ciervo abstaining.
Bills: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve payment of bills totaling $394,615.55. Mr. Benchener seconded. The motion passed 5-0.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve interfund transfers totaling $10,431.20. Mr. Benchener seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. M. Gallagher reminded the Board that a few weeks ago a resident asked the Board to comment on a personal matter involving the police. Ms. Tanner of the Police Department provided the Board with the information that Mr. Mooney’s complaint had been adjudicated in the Federal Court. Mr. Gallagher asked Mr. Ferguson to craft a letter to Mr. Mooney explaining that the Board of Supervisors does not have jurisdiction to act on this matter.
Dr. Ciervo asked Mr. Ferguson for a list of roads that could be added to the road paving program.
Mr. Ferguson said this had been in the packets for the last meeting but Dr. Ciervo had been unwell and had not attended the meeting. He would forward the information again.
Mr. Calabro asked whether the Board would be provided with a spreadsheet of open committees, boards and commissions and a list of residents who have asked to be appointed.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he hoped this would be provided and that the Board would meet before the reorganization meeting to discuss appointments.
Newtown Economic Committee/Newtown Corporation: Mr. R. Gallagher said that he would like to start this group quickly, as an informal ad hoc committee, to begin working toward finding a tenant for the Lockheed Martin property. He suggested making this an advisory committee to the Newtown Corporation, which will retain its 501(c)(3) status. The Supervisors would remain as the Board of Directors for Newtown Corporation. This would allow the committee to begin working while the Township worked out the details to draft an establishing ordinance.
Mr. Calabro said that he agreed with Mr. R. Gallagher about starting as an advisory committee. He asked whether this would open up two additional positions on the committee which had been assigned to two supervisors.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he is also eager to begin and would urge the Board to seek volunteers and also ask Board members to reach out to their acquaintances on the NBA, NBCA and Planning Commission to volunteer to serve on this committee as well.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether it might be better to open the applications to any residents or business owners interested in joining.
After a brief discussion, the Board agreed that it would be preferable to have 4 members at large from among residents and business owners and one from each of the NBA, NBCA and Planning Commission.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve the formation of an economic development committee with seven members, 4 at large and one each from the Newtown Business Association, Newtown Business Commons Association and the Planning Commission. Dr. Ciervo seconded.
Mr. R. Gallagher amended his motion to include that this committee would be advertised as outlined and members would be appointed at the 2014 Organization meeting. Dr. Ciervo amended his second. The motion passed 5-0.
Dr. Ciervo said that he has learned that Middletown Township is expected to enact a 1% earned income tax. He asked Mr. Ferguson to provide information on the number of Middletown residents working here and paying earned income tax to Newtown Township.
Mr. R. Gallagher announced that Northampton Indians Peewee Football team has won its regional championship and will be competing in Orlando for the National championship. He congratulated the Indians and wished them luck.
Dr. Ciervo noted that many Newtown children are part of the Northampton Indians and its cheerleaders programs.
Mr. Ferguson asked the Board if it plans to hold a work session on Monday, December 9.
The members agreed that there were no urgent agenda items for Monday and the meeting would be canceled.
Mr. Petrucci asked whether the cameras being purchased for the police would have microphones. He asked whether the purchase would impact the Police Department’s liability insurance.
Mr. M. Gallagher said these would be affixed to the patrol cars, not on the officers’ uniforms. He believed the cameras could pick up audio. He understood that the server being purchased could accommodate lapel cameras if they are added at a later date.
Mr. Ferguson said that he did not think the purchase would have an immediate impact on the insurance premiums, but a flag would be removed from the Department’s risk factors and this could have a long term impact.
Mr. Petrucci said that he would gladly volunteer to represent the Newtown Business Association on the economic development committee and would send in his resume.
The meeting adjourned at 9:50 PM
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary