PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING OF JANUARY 7, 2009
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on January 7, 2009 in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Andrew Levine, Joel Grosso, Brian Bark, Michael Clancy, Kathy Kelly, Buck O’Neill and Susan Sutton, members. Also in attendance were Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko and Supervisor Liaison Robert Ciervo.
Call to Order: The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM.
Reorganization of Board: Mr. Clancy moved to elect Mr. Levine as chairman. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mr. Clancy moved to elect Mr. Grosso as vice-chairman. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Approval of Minutes: Mrs. Sutton moved to accept the minutes of November 19, 2008. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed 7-0.
Mr. Levine reported that the Miracle League has partnered with Northampton Township to build a special needs little league field. He urged to Board to look at the http://www.miracleleague.com for more information. Northampton was inspired in part by Newtown’s work at Roberts Ridge to get involved in this project.
Reports of Subcommittees
Skate Park: Mr. Levine presented diagrams of skate park configurations prepared by American Ramp for the Board’s consideration. American Ramp’s designs are within the Township budget and the company is under state contract.
Dr. Ciervo reported that the property for the skate park has not yet been transferred to the Township. The owner cannot transfer until he has the approval of the lot line change from the tenants of the Newtown Shopping Center. He expects this to occur shortly.
Mr. Levine reviewed the costs associated with the various budgets presented. The Pro series appears to be the best match for the Township. It is all riveted with no nails or screws. It has a twenty year maintenance warranty. The price includes supervised installation, which means that volunteers assemble the equipment under the supervision of a representative of American Ramp. It is apparently a much simpler process than playground assembly. The equipment is bolted to the pad, and could be relocated in the future. The price of $76,789.37 does not include pad preparation. The members discussed whether to purchase the equipment with framework enclosure and agreed that eliminating the enclosure would be a considerable savings. American Ramp does offer a grant program, which Mr. Levine said he will apply to, which could offer an additional discount on the final cost. The proposed equipment can be used for skateboards, in-line skates or BMX bicycles.
Residents Michael Iapalucci and Dennis Darcy were in attendance to discuss the plans. Mr. Iapalucci noted the similarity between the proposed plans and the park in Hopewell, New Jersey. He said that the Hopewell site does not have enclosures. Other nearby parks have similar equipment and are very popular with the users. Bensalem’s park has wooden ramps, which are beginning to show wear.
The Board discussed whether a fence would be necessary. It was agreed that a fence would provide some safety, keeping skateboards contained in the enclosed area and preventing soccer balls from entering from the nearby field. Mrs. Pawlenko said that it will be easier to monitor activity with a fence that can be locked when the park is closed. She suggested that the Board consider setting appropriate hours of operation, stressing the importance of having the ability to close the park should the need arise.
Mr. Levine said that he would review insurance concerns with the Township’s carrier, but noted that he had checked last year and the carrier was not requiring any fencing or staffing or waivers from users.
Mr. Clancy noted that the plans presented have a budget shortfall of about $25,000 when costs for the pad and fencing are considered. He stressed that the Park and Recreation Board had voted that its priorities would be a restroom at Roberts Ridge, improvements at Clark Nature Center and completion of the Woll tract. He would not want to see money budgeted for these other projects spent to make up the skate park budget shortfall.
Dr. Ciervo discussed the possibility of working with a paving contractor on an inexpensive pad. He also suggested carefully reviewing the equipment to possibly modify the design. He indicated that some members of the Board of Supervisors, while supportive of the skate park, expect to see some private funding to supplement the Township contribution.
Mr. Grosso said that he agreed with Mr. Clancy about the Park and Recreation priorities and about the possible additional costs associated with the skate park.
Dr. Ciervo said that the Park and Recreation Capital Fund does not have a line item for the Roberts Ridge restroom and expenditures for the Clark property are unclear. Most of the capital fund is to be used on the Woll tract. The Board is supportive of the Roberts Ridge restrooms, but not at the projected cost of $175,000.
Those in attendance discussed the unresolved issues with the skate park, including hours of operation, enforcement without either a fence or site supervisor and whether the equipment will be sufficient for the numbers of children expected to use it. It was noted by Mr. Iapalucci and Dr. Ciervo that crowds self-regulate; if there are too many people at one time, it is not fun and some will go home. They both felt that users of the park are well behaved and site supervision would not be necessary.
Mrs. Sutton mentioned concerns that children might not use the park if it were not challenging or interesting.
Dr. Ciervo, Mr. Iapalucci and Mr. Darcy agreed that, while the structure being discussed might not interest older, very advanced, users, it would appeal to the majority of younger users, would be challenging but also provide some experiences for beginners.
Mrs. Pawlenko strongly stressed the need to provide the Police Department with the ability to close and lock the facility if necessary, as it enables them to control situations. She also expressed some concern about safety if the skateboards are not contained on the site, as it is close to another playing field.
After some further discussion, it was agreed that plans should include a fence. Mr. Iapalucci and Mr. Darcy would attempt to organize a meeting of prospective users to get additional input on design. Once a design had been agreed to, some fundraising efforts could begin. Mrs. Pawlenko and Mr. Levine will confirm that the insurance carrier will not require an on site attendant or waivers from users.
Woll Tract: Mr. Levine reported that the Township had rejected all bids received for the Woll tract. The project is being re-bid for six playing fields, with a menu of add alternates. A pre-bid meeting will be held at the Township on January 21, 2009 at 10 AM. Many bidders seemed to still be interested in the project.
Roberts Ridge Park: Mr. Levine reported that Supervisor Mike Gallagher had provided a contact for composting toilets. That vendor will be in attendance at the February meeting.
Mrs. Pawlenko suggested that Public Works Director Gary Crossland be invited to attend this meeting to give input on site preparation and on maintenance.
Helen Randle Park: Mrs. Pawlenko reported that the new playground equipment has arrived. She will be investigating installation costs.
Technology Committee: Mr. Levine reported that he and Mrs. Pawlenko have spoken to Ed Lipski, Technology Committee Chairman, about improving the Park and Rec Web site and possibly adding on-line program registration. The Technology Committee will take this on as a project.
Open Space Committee: The recording secretary reported that all of the components of the updated open space comprehensive plan have been forwarded to the Bucks County Planning Commission for input and comment. A response is expected shortly.
Park and Recreation Department Report
Mrs. Pawlenko reported that park and Recreation revenue is up 3.7% and participation is up 8.2% over 2007. The spring program brochure will be mailed in a few days. The Department is investigating alternatives to the brochure and has met with the person who produces the Township Newsletter about either producing the brochure or at least including a page of program highlights.
Mrs. Pawlenko reported that summer camp registration will begin on January 21. Counselors and camp site supervisors have been contacted and planning has begun.
Mr. Levine said that with the current economy the camps might see an increase in participation because the camps are less expensive than private camps and the children attending are having a lot of fun.
Dr. Ciervo asked whether the camps could be expanded or extended to Wrightstown and Upper Makefield.
Mrs. Pawlenko explained that there are currently a number of campers from Upper Makefield and Wrightstown coming to Newtown. It has been difficult to find locations to host the camps and space is limited. Newtown Elementary School has been the best location because it is air conditioned. The camps have worked on programs with the special education programs that are housed in Newtown year round, but as the special education programs expand they limit some of the space available to the campers.
In response to Dr. Ciervo’s comment that similar camps could be set up in Upper Makefield or Wrightstown in their schools, Mrs. Pawlenko explained that the work involved in setting up the camps has already begun. She is short staffed right now and would not be able to plan for additional camp locations and staffing. The summer camps have a very good reputation and the children are having a wonderful summer. She did not feel she could overburden her staff to rush additional camps as quality would suffer. The idea is a good one, and something that the staff could investigate for possibly introducing in 2010.
Dr. Ciervo asked about waiting lists for camps.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that for the most part, waiting lists consist of children who have been enrolled very late, after staffing and other arrangements have been made. It is difficult to add children at the last minute because the staff has been trained to work with a certain ratio, space in the school is limited, and because buses have been contracted for field trips based on certain numbers.
Mrs. Pawlenko reported that she has been working with an Eagle Scout on a project to place bluebird houses in Roberts Ridge Park. There has been some difficulty in finding locations for the birdhouses because they must be placed 30 feet from the tree line. These locations must be carefully chosen with the Public Works Director so as not to interfere with park maintenance and grass mowing.
Mr. Levine said that in the past, Eagle Scouts had presented their proposed projects to the Park and Recreation Board for input. He suggested that this procedure be reinstituted.
Mrs. Pawlenko reported that she has been trying to produce an exact figure for the department’s self sufficiency using a program set up by the former director. It appears that the department is at about 92% self sufficiency. She has been working with the finance director to create a formula to better evaluate the numbers. The Department strives to improve its self sufficiency numbers, constantly evaluating the success and profitability of programs. There are certain programs that are very popular with the residents but are not extremely profitable.
Mr. Levine noted that the self sufficiency has been steadily increasing and pointed out that this number includes the permanent staff.
Mr. Bark suggested that information on the Park and Recreation Board and on Township parks be included in the brochure.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that she is constrained by space requirements, but has included listings for the sports organizations in the current brochure. The Web site has the park and Board information.
Mr. Clancy moved to adjourn at 9:30 PM. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary