Board of Supervisors
Minutes of May 14, 2014
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 in the Township meeting room at 7:55 PM. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Michael Gallagher, Vice Chairman Ryan Gallagher, Secretary/Assistant Treasurer Kyle Davis and Phillip Calabro and Jennifer Dix, members. Also in attendance were: Kurt Ferguson, Township Manager, John Torrente, Township Solicitor and Michele Fountain, Township Engineer,.
Call to Order : Chairman Gallagher apologized for the delay in the start of the meeting due to technical difficulties with the video. He said that the meeting was being recorded and would be televised in its entirety as soon as possible. He then called the meeting to order with a moment of silence and an invocation by Paul Kester of Newtown Friends, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Changes to the Agenda: Mr. Ferguson said that he had added discussion of the Newtown Yardley Road speed limit to the Manager’s Report.
Recognition of Jamie Greubel, Olympic Bronze Medal Winner: Mr. M. Gallagher read a proclamation honoring Jamie Greubel, a Newtown resident and Olympic Bronze Medal Winner in the two woman bobsled completion. He announced that May 15, 2014 would be Jamie Greubel Day in Newtown Township to honor of Ms. Greubel.
Ms. Greubel thanked the Board for this recognition. She said she was very proud of the honor and grateful for the support of the Newtown Community. She has been invited to speak to classes at Council Rock schools and has been very appreciative of the warm welcome she has been given.
Fire Association Presentation
Will Fabian, President and Zach Kunkelberger, Vice President of the Newtown Fire Association gave a brief PowerPoint presentation on the Association’s work in the first year after signing an agreement for Fire Services with the Township and its EMS Department. During that year, the Association has worked to improve communication with the Township, the community, the paid staff and volunteers. The volunteers give about 3000 hours each year in service and an additional 3000 hours in training. The Association also gives and receives support from neighboring municipalities, which will probably increase as volunteer levels have declined throughout the County. During the past year, the Association received a state grant for air bags to lift heavy objects off of trapped victims. The Association has also participated in community outreach, including school fire prevention programs, tours of its museum and children’s themed birthday parties at the fire house.
Mr. Ferguson agreed that the relationship with the Fire Association has been very successful under the new agreement, noting that the volunteers and paid staff have been planning and training together and holding regular meetings to share information.
Mr. M. Gallagher thanked the Fire Association for including him in their recent banquet. He was very impressed by the age range of the volunteers, from teens to seniors. He was also very impressed by the members’ dedication to the organization. He and Mr. R. Gallagher asked how the Association was recruiting new members.
Mr. Fabian said that junior members can join at age 16 and become full members upon high school graduation. The Association has information on membership on its Website, newtownfire.com, has a presence on Facebook and has been working with the County on recruiting for all of the volunteer fire companies, through its efforts at bucksfire.org
Mr. Calabro asked whether there is any division of responsibilities among the volunteers, so that those not well suited to fighting fires can volunteer in an administrative capacity.
Mr. Fabian said that the organization has many opportunities for volunteers, including clerical and administrative work.
Pension Funds Report: Grant Kalson of Dehab Associates, was in attendance to review the performance of the Township’s pension funds in 2013 and the first quarter of 2014. Mr. Kalson said that the funds have done very well, averaging about 14.5% return. The portfolios have a high equity allocation, at about 75% equity and 25% bonds. The total value of the three funds, police, fire fighters and non-uniformed personnel, is about $17 million. All of the funds performed well in emerging markets and are showing improvements in REIT investments, which did not do very well in 2013. The Township’s pensions rake in the 18 th percentile for public sector pensions, and well exceed the actuarial expectation.
Mr. Kalson commented that Neuberger Berman, which manages the large cap growth investments, has been underperforming in the past year and has been downgraded by Morningstar. He has watched performance closely through a few quarters and has not seen improvement, so is recommending a change. He suggested two possible alternatives, Fidelity Select Growth and Wellscap Heritage. He favored Fidelity, whose manager uses a team of analysts in the field, doing excellent work. The three year return has been 15.6% and the five year return has been 24.4%. Fidelity’s fee is identical to Neuberger Berman.
Wellscap’s fees are 0.9% lower but its performance has not been as consistent as Fidelity’s.
If the Board favors an index fund, he recommended Vanguard, which has been matching the index and has a 20 basis point fee. He did not think an index fund would be the best choice, however.
Mr. M. Gallagher asked whether the Pension Committee has discussed the possible change.
Mr. Ferguson said that the Committee has not been meeting regularly. He did however, discuss the change with the actuary and noted that in 2011, the pensions were 68% funded but were 82% funded in 2013 and at 84% this year. The employees have a guaranteed pension, so the investment decisions are up to the Board. It is not necessary to review this with the bargaining units.
Mrs. Dix asked about Neuberger Berman’s performance.
Mr. Kalson said that the performance has been positive, with an 8.5% growth for three years and 15.5% for five years, however Fidelity’s three year performance was double Neuberger Berman’s. Neuberger Berman matched the index. He favors Fidelity over Wellscap because Fidelity has had the same manager for many years and has selected top analysts to work with him. The fund has 300 different stocks, but there is not big turnover among the stocks.
Mr. Calabro asked whether Wellscap and Fidelity are stand-alone firms.
Mr. Kalson said that Wellscap is affiliated with Wells Fargo Bank, but operates independently day to day. Its assets are held separately from the bank’s. Fidelity is independent.
Mrs. Dix asked what percent of the pensions is invested in Neuberger Berman.
Mr. Kalson said that the target amount is 10%, however, he noted that the funds have not been rebalanced yet. He recommends transferring the funds from Neuberger and then rebalancing.
Mr. R. Gallagher moved to move funds for the three pensions currently held by Neuberger Berman to Fidelity, as suggested by Dehab Associates. Mr. Calabro seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions
Board of Supervisors Report, Appointments to Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Board: Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board members have had an opportunity to review the letters of interest from residents for appointment to the Zoning Hearing Board and Planning Commission. He asked for motions for appointments.
Mr. Calabro asked that the Zoning Hearing Board be dealt with first, as the outcome could impact the Planning Commission.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to appoint Robert Whartenby to the Zoning Hearing Board to complete the unexpired term of Karen Doorley (2017). Mr. R. Gallagher seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher noted that Mr. Whartenby has served as vice chairman of the Planning Commission for a number of years. He is a landscape architect by profession and has a good understanding of zoning and planning.
Mrs. Dix noted that the Board had a number of applicants for this position, all with excellent qualifications. She thanked residents for stepping forward.
Resident Allen Fidler, chairman of the Planning Commission, asked whether this appointment would be effective immediately. He has some concern that the next Planning Commission meeting would lack a quorum, as it conflicts with the primary election day. Mr. Whartenby was counted among those who could make up the quorum.
Mr. Torrente said that Mr. Whartenby would have to resign the Planning Commission before taking his seat on the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mr. Calabro had some concerns about Mr. Whartenby participating at the Zoning Hearing Board after reviewing the applications when they are presented to the Planning Commission.
Mr. Torrente said this would be a matter for the Zoning Hearing Board’s solicitor to advise on.
Mr. M. Gallagher amended his motion to appoint Mr. Whartenby effective May 21, 2014. Mr. R. Gallagher amended his second. The amended motion passed 5-0.
Mrs. Dix asked whether the Board would appoint two new Planning Commission members this evening, in anticipation of Mr. Whartenby’s resignation.
Mr. M. Gallagher suggested appointing one member effective immediately and one effective on May 21, 2014.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to appoint Courtney Coffman to the Planning Commission to complete the unexpired term of Kyle Davis (2017). Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mrs. Dix voting nay.
Mrs. Dix moved to appoint Shannon Escalante to the Planning Commission, effective May 21, 2014, pending the resignation of Robert Whartenby, to complete his unexpired term (2016). Mr. Calabro seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher noted that Ms. Escalante is currently a member of the EAC. He asked whether she could continue to serve on the EAC while also serving on the Planning Commission. He noted that this would be a large commitment.
Mrs. Dix said that she has researched this and found that it is permissible to serve on two advisory committees. She has spoken to Ms. Escalante, who expressed interest in remaining on the EAC.
The motion passed 4-1, with Mr. R. Gallagher voting nay.
Board Member Reports: Mr. Davis reviewed the upcoming events to commemorate Memorial Day, including a mass for fallen officers at St. Andrew’s Church on Monday, May 19, a Memorial Day service at Newtown United Methodist Church on Memorial Day and the annual parade through Newtown on Memorial Day at 9:00 AM. He also noted that the Newtown Theater would re-open after installing digital equipment during the last week of May. Classic movies will be shown every evening the week of May 26, and admission will be the same as it was the year of the films’ original release.
Mr. M. Gallagher thanked NBA for Welcome Day, which, although rainy, was an overwhelming success.
Mrs. Dix reported that she had attended the Joint Zoning Council meeting where votes were taken to authorize advertisement of three JMZO amendments: revision of tables, wireless communications equipment and winery evening outdoor activities in Upper Makefield.
Mr. R. Gallagher announced that the economic development committee met on May 13 and will meet on the second Tuesday of each month going forward. The next meeting will be June 10, 2014.
Police Chief Henry Pasqualini reported that the Department responded to 1619 calls in the past month, including 182 traffic stops, 3 rug arrests, 1 burglary and 11 thefts.
Police Computer Purchase: Chief Pasqualini explained that Windows XP is no longer being supported and as a result, the computers in the squad cars can no longer connect to the State and Federal databases to run checks during stops. He has investigated upgrading the computers to Windows 7, but learned that because the computers are over ten years old, upgrading the software would not be a good investment. He reminded the Board that in recent years the Township has not kept up with its regular car and equipment replacement cycle. He has investigated costs for replacing the computers and, using the Costars State Wide program to avoid the bid process, he can purchase seven new computers with the updated software for $17,843.
Mr. Ferguson explained that no one company is offering the computers, software, removal of old docking stations and purchase and installation of new docking stations. Multiple vendors, billing separately, will be involved. These purchases were not in the 2014 budget, but are necessary. The general fund has a comfortable balance and he advised that the purchase is warranted and can be added to the budget. The total cost of purchase of computers, docking stations and installation would be about $24000.
Mrs. Dix asked how the computers are used.
Chief Pasqualini explained that the computers are kept in the squad cars so that officers can look up information when making stops. They are able to check for outstanding warrants and other information on individuals and vehicles. Every department in the County has these computers and the State will no longer allow access for those equipped with Windows XP. He would like to order seven computers and move them from car to car as needed.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to authorize purchase of seven Panasonic Toughbook 53 computer terminals for the Police Department for a cost not to exceed $17,843. Mr. Davis seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. M. Gallagher said that he and Mr. Davis would contact vendors to see if a better price is available tomorrow.
The motion passed 5-0.
Plan Expiration Report: Mr. Calabro asked that Newtown Mobile Home Park be removed from future reports now that the Townhome PRD has been approved.
2014 Hazard Mitigation Plan Update:Mr. Davis moved to adopt 2014-R-7, the 2014 Hazard Mitigation Plan Update. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Goodnoe Elementary School Building Permits: Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that Council Rock had asked the Township to adjust the cost of building permits for the renovation and additions to Goodnoe Elementary School last year. The project is nearing completion and he would like to issue permit bills.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that since the School District and Township are supported by the same tax paying population, he did not want to burden the District. He suggested, as had been discussed last year, that the District cover the costs of work done by the Township to inspect the project.
Mr. M. Gallagher moved to authorize the Township Manager to amend the School District’s permit fees to cover the Township’s costs to $85,000. Mr. Davis seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mr. Ferguson said that most of the Township’s work has been completed and he believed $85,000 would cover the entire cost.
The motion passed 5-0.
Gasoline Bid: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to approve the gasoline bid for premium gasoline from Petroleum Traders Corporation, through the Bucks County Consortium, for delivery charges at -0.0196 per gallon. Mrs. Dix seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Newtown Yardley Road Speed Limit: Mr. Ferguson reminded the Board that at the last meeting it had discussed inconsistent speed limit postings on Newtown Yardley Road. The Township had taken back roads from the state but had never acted on setting a speed limit of 35 MPH on Newtown Yardley Road. Signage is inconsistent. To set the speed limit at either 45 MPH or 35 MPH the Township must pass an ordinance. This could be advertised along with the changes being made to Linden Avenue.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that with the TIP project and the Newtown Townhome project there should be traffic studies or traffic counts available. He suggested that these be reviewed to see if the road warrants a 35 MPH speed limit. He understood that PennDOT uses a standard of 85% of traffic traveling safely at a given speed to set the limit.
Mrs. Dix said that she lives near the portion of Newtown Yardley Road where it meets the Bypass. There are many homes and a walking trail along this portion of the road. She would like to have a consistent speed limit of 35 MPH in both directions for the safety of residents.
Mr. Calabro said that he agrees with Mrs. Dix that a consistent speed limit of 35 MPH would be safer and he is eager to move on this measure. He did not want to involve traffic engineers, incurring expense and postponing action.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he is not advocating a traffic study, but only a review of studies already conducted. He would like the numbers to justify the decision to reduce the speed limit.
Mr. R. Gallagher agreed with Mr. M. Gallagher, noting that the speed limit coming off the Bypass has been 45 MPH for more than ten years. He did not think postponing action for two weeks while the studies are reviewed would make a difference. He also suggested that if ordinances are being advertised to address traffic concerns, he would like to review the portion of Newtown Bypass in front of Staples and Applebee’s where the speed limit continues to be 55 MPH.
Mr. Ferguson said that there are a number of other places where speed concerns have been brought to his attention. He would get the information from Pennoni Associates for the Board to review.
Minutes, Bills Lists and Reports
Minutes: Mr. R. Gallagher moved to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of April 23, 2014. Mr. Davis seconded.
Discussion of motion: Mrs. Dix noted that page 7, paragraph 4 should read, “…in that development of 100 townhomes.”
Mr. R. Gallagher amended his motion to accept the minutes of the regular meeting of April 23, 2014, as corrected. Mr. Davis amended his second and the motion passed 5-0.
Bills: Mr. Davis moved to approve bills totaling $363,376.41. Mr. R. Gallagher seconded and the motion passed 4-1, with Mr. Calabro voting nay.
Mr. Davis moved to authorize interfund transfers totaling $230,162.13. Mrs. Dix seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Mr. Ferguson said that the staff member who provides the fund balance numbers was not available today, but he estimated that the general fund is at about $2.5 million.
Mrs. Dix asked for an update on the Promenade development.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the applicants are in the process of obtaining construction and stormwater easements from adjacent property owners.
Mr. Ferguson said that this portion of the project is not under Township control, but he does expect permit review to begin shortly.
Mrs. Dix said that she would like the Board to consider its letter of support for the Newtown Creek Coalition’s grant application. She would like to include this on the next agenda.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that he had understood that Messrs. Schenkman and Ward were to have discussed their concerns with one another and would report to the Township on any agreement reached. He asked Mr. Ferguson to follow up on this matter.
Mr. Calabro said that residents had commented to him that the grassy areas near the fields at Helen Randle Park are in need of mowing and weeding.
Mr. Ferguson said he had gotten similar messages; the parks are scheduled to be mown tomorrow.
Mrs. Dix said she had noticed similar conditions at Veterans Park, although the playing fields themselves are well maintained.
Mr. Ferguson said that Veterans Park was mown earlier today.
Resident John D’Aprile urged all residents to treat their lawns for weed control. He agreed with the Board that Welcome Day was a wonderful event. He also noted that he spoke to a number of Sycamore Street residents who told him they are very opposed to any creek access on the Township side of the creek, where it abuts a number of private homes.
Mr. M. Gallagher said that the Board would not be remaining for executive session.
The meeting adjourned at 9:50 PM.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary