NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP FINANCIAL PLANNING COMMITTEE

100 MUNICIPAL DRIVE, NEWTOWN, BUCKS COUNTY, PA 18940

Internet: http://www.twp.newtown.pa.us

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Minutes for the special meeting held on April 8, 2008

 

A special meeting of the Newtown Township Financial Planning Committee was held on Tuesday, April 8, 2008 in the Newtown Township Firehouse. In attendance and voting were: Chairman Glenn Beasley, Robert Dieterle, Supervisor Michael Gallagher, James McCrane and John Stranford. Also in attendance were Assistant Township Manager John Boyle, Supervisor Jerry Schenkman and residents James Ott, Sue Beasley and Ron Kaizar.

Municipal Complex Expansion

H. Joseph Phillips of George J. Donovan AIA & Associates, architects on the municipal expansion project, was in attendance to review the plans for expansion. He presented copies of a letter outlining answers to specific questions submitted by the Financial Planning Committee.

In reviewing the letter, Mr. Phillips outlined the procedure used to determine the rooms the size and number of rooms and configuration of the complex. He noted that in 1998 an ad-hoc building committee was formed. Extensive interviews with department heads and staff were held. Existing space was measured. Projections of future needs were estimated and comparisons with other municipal complexes were made. George J. Donavan specializes in municipal design; a partial list of projects in similar municipalities was attached to the letter. The current design shows 282 square feet of space per employee, which is somewhat below the average for a municipality of Newtown Township’s size, however a previous Board had requested that the design show under 300 square feet per employee.

In response to questions from the Committee, Mr. Phillips discussed the proposed renovation to the current Public Works garage for Park and Recreation program activities. He said that he interviewed Park and Recreation Director Bill Wert and his staff and learned that the department currently uses whatever meeting rooms are available throughout the Township when such space is available, as the department must vie for space with other community groups. He said that more detailed information is best addressed by speaking to Mr. Wert. Elimination of this portion of the project would result in a savings of about $708,000. He suggested that a decision on the elimination of this portion of the project could possibly be postponed, as it would be the last portion to be completed in the proposed sequence of construction. The renovations cannot begin until the Public Works facility is completed and the department has vacated the garage.

In response to questions from the committee, Mr. Phillips addressed the suggestion of reconfiguring the design of the police facility to eliminate expansion of the administration building, moving some police space to the basement. This would save about 5690 square feet and about $711,000. He said that much of the expansion would not be high cost finished space, but garage and sally ports. It is not desirable to locate the squad room on a non-grade floor level, for ease of use by patrol officers as well as adjacency to commanding officers and for proximity to secure areas at times when there are detainees in the building. He noted that officers must be in visual contact with juvenile detainees.

In response to Mrs. Beasley’s question, Mr. Phillips said that the use of the basement for record storage would require renovation of the mechanicals and gutting of walls. This would eliminate concerns about water leakage and mold.

Mr. Gallagher questioned the number of offices needed by the Police Department and the need for Park and Recreation offices and two/four meeting rooms in the administration building.

Mr. Phillips reviewed the police personnel and their office assignments. He pointed out that the Park and Recreation offices will need a location somewhere in the complex if eliminated from the administration building. The members briefly discussed leaving the Park and Recreation offices in the Martindell house.

Mr. Dieterle said that he did not think that evaluating the space requirements of the departments was within the Financial Planning Committee’s purview. He suggested that discussion focus on the financial aspects of the expansion only. He pointed out that continued delays in making a decision and revisions to the plan add to the cost.

Mr. McCrane said that the Board of Supervisors have not given the Committee any indication of the amount of reduction in costs they would expect.

Mr. Schenkman said that the Board is asking for further review by this Committee, and at the same time, the Board is allowing its new members an opportunity to be fully informed of the project and its history. Since the start of the project, this same process of review has taken place with each change in the Board of Supervisors membership.

In response to questions from the Committee, Mr. Phillips said that the plans are fully developed now. If the Board were to request any redesign, because of the process required for review of the redesign, the project would be delayed an additional nine months, bringing groundbreaking to next spring.

Mr. Ott pointed out that there are advantages and significant savings in beginning construction in late summer versus early spring.

In response to Mr. Ott’s questions about finishing materials, Mr. Phillips said that while the complex is designed to fit in with the surrounding community and existing buildings on the property, use of more expensive materials such as stone has been kept to a minimum. While the complex will be “nice” it will not be elaborate. He said that reducing the entire project significantly could result in savings, however there is a question as to whether a drastically reduced project will still function properly.

Mr. Phillips reviewed the sequence of construction, which would begin with construction of the new administration building and Public Works facility. Because the police and administration buildings would share a common cooling system, these projects would overlap somewhat. Once the Public Works facility is completed, work could begin on renovation of the old facility.

Mr. McCrane briefly spoke about the bond market. He said that should the Township move forward on a bond for the full amount and subsequently decide not to complete the Park and Recreation facility, the bond usually cannot be pre-paid, but there are investment strategies available to offset the cost of that portion of the bond.

Mr. Phillips said that the previous Board of Supervisors had agreed to seek LEEDS silver certification for the entire complex. This would require only one application. LEEDS certification could mean an increase to the costs of construction of 0 to 2%, however these costs are recouped with energy savings over time. The application fee is $2500 to the US Green Building Council for the complex, or for each application.

Mr. Phillips suggested that those interested in seeing community rooms similar to those proposed for the administration building visit the Council Rock Senior Center in Northampton.

Mr. Phillips, Mrs. Beasley and Mr. Boyle left the meeting at this point.

Mr. Beasley asked the members to enumerate points the Financial Planning Committee should make when discussing the expansion with the Board of Supervisors at the April 14, 2008 work session.

The following items were discussed and the members agreed should be reported to the Board:

  • Any changes to the plans must be carefully weighed against the cost of further delay.
    • Design changes could delay the project for nine months or more at a cost of $50,000 to $100,000 per month in escalating costs, plus additional design and engineering fees. A nine month delay would cost about $500,000; savings would have to be significant to offset delays. The delay from 2005 to 2007, a 30 month period, caused a 12% increase per year for a total 30% increase in 30 months for the administration building.
  • Changes made to reduce the scope of the plan do not anticipate future growth of the Township. Our Comprehensive Plan shows a build-out population of 26,000 people, an almost 50% increase over the current population.
  • The Township could benefit by acting in the current economic climate. This could be a very good time to negotiate a contract.
  • If the Supervisors agree to move forward at this time, the Committee would recommend that the Board put before the public an education package with responses to frequently asked questions about the scope of the project and the needs of the Township.
  • The Financial Planning Committee feels that, based on its review of plans as currently designed, there is clear justification for building this complex now. The plans have been thoroughly and extensively vetted by current and past Boards and Committees for ten years.
  • It would be better to borrow the full amount at this time in the current market, rather than postpone borrowing the portion needed for the Park and Recreation renovations at a later time.

The Committee discussed whether the Park and Recreation renovation should be included in the plans at all, and if so, whether now or later. Mr. Stranford said he would like to see the Park and Recreation renovation included because this is something that directly benefits the residents.

Mr. Dieterle said that removing the renovations from the plans, to be pursued at a later time would influence the bidding process; this would involve two separate bids instead of one bid for the complete job. This could result in the final cost being higher.

Mr. Gallagher said that he is not certain that he believes whether recreation is a core function of government. He might not want to include the renovations.

Mr. Schenkman said that this is not a financial but a philosophical or policy matter.

The meeting adjourned at 8:50 PM.

 

Respectfully submitted by:

 

Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary