John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

23 November 2021 BOS Meeting Summary

Reports from Planning Commission; Engineer's update: DCED Watershed Restoration Fund grant, Lower Dolington Road Multi-Use Trail, Village at Newtown Traffic Study; Solicitor's Report: Legal NAC Expansion Project, Bucks County EMS Chief’s Association Request for ARPA Funds for EMS; Budget Discussion; Hybrid Meetings; Planning Commission to review Arcadia HOP Application; More...

This is my personal summary of the November 23, 2021, meeting of Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS). This is not a complete nor an official summary.

Access the 2021 BOS Voting Record (UNOFFICIAL).

Agenda items included:

Public Comment

Terry Christensen on Hybrid Meetings

Planning Commission member, and Newtown Friends member, Terry Christensen spoke about the need for hybrid government meetings to allow residents to attend and participate remotely. "I don't believe having a driver's license should be a prerequisite for participating in municipal government." Listen to his comments:

Mack's Newtown Voice · Terry Christensen Comments on Hybrid Public Meetings

For more about Hybrid Meetings, read "Residents Say YES To Hybrid In-Person/Online Public Meetings".

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Reports of Committees, Boards and Commissions

Planning Commission

Arcadia Planning Module: As per the advice of our engineer, the Commission voted to authorize the chairman to sign the planning module component 4A for this land development project. This is the "Sewage Facilities Planning Module." View the Arcadia Sewage Facilities Planning Module Application. The BOS had no objection.

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Reports of Officials

Engineer’s Report

DCED Watershed Restoration Fund Grant

This grant would be used for the Clark Nature Center Streambank Rehabilitation project. Q: What's the status of this grant application? A:“DCED Watershed Restoration Fund: We will follow up with DCED regarding our application and it’s status.”

Lower Dolington Road Multi-Use Trail

The signed contracts were received from the township. According to the Nov 4, 2021, Engineer’s Report: “The Notice to Proceed was issued to the contractor. RVE is currently reviewing the contractor’s material submittals.” However, supply chain issues have upset the schedule and the contractor will re-estimate the timeline. Q: Has the contractor submitted a new timeline? A:“We have requested an updated schedule from the contractor, which they are working to prepare. Once we receive we will share with the Township.”

Village at Newtown Traffic Study

The November 4, 2021, RVE report states that "The developer is currently preparing the post-development traffic study, which they anticipate completing in Fall 2021." Q: Has this study been completed? A: “The design engineer indicated they became delayed when preparing the study, however, their new anticipated date to submit a study to us for our review is today (11/22). We will follow up again the study is not received.”

DVRPC Regional Streetlight Procurement Program Letter of Intent

“The Letter of Intent was submitted to DVRPC and the kickoff meeting is being held this morning (11/22/21). DVRPC will outline timeline for next steps at that meeting.” “Kick-off” meeting was held. See the APPENDIX (page 5) of my "23 November 2021 BOS Meeting Notes" for details. The BOS chair refused to allow the Township Engineer to make a comment on this.

Solicitor’s Report

NAC Expansion Project – Authorization of Final Escrow Release

See my "23 November 2021 BOS Meeting Notes" for details. The BOS approved the motion to authorize unanimously 5-0.

Bucks County EMS Chief’s Association Request for ARPA Funds for EMS

From the November 11, 2021, Manager’s report: “We have received a request from the Bucks County Commissioners to determine if the Township would approve contributing ARPA funds to support the EMS. We have included a letter from the Bucks County EMS Chief’s President, Evan Resnikoff, and a spreadsheet that breaks down the contribution amount(s) by municipality. Mr. Resnikoff made some brief comments at the BOS meeting.The Commissioners have requested responses by December 31.

The Newtown Twp Solicitor recommended that the township refrain from spending, or committing to spend, ARPA funds until the final rule is issued by the US Treasury.” Consequently, the BOS made no decision regarding this request.

NOTE: The 2022 Preliminary Budget includes $169,273 earmarked for the Newtown Ambulance Squad (see page 17 of the Budget).

See "PA State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) ARPA Update" on page 2 of my "23 November 2021 BOS Meeting Notes".

In a comment to a supervisors, Mr. Resnikoff said "I am open to attending a public meeting at any time to discuss these issues so that we can all work together to better support the EMS system here in the Newtown’s, and across the County." In answer to my request, Mr. Resnikoff agreed to come back early in 2022 with an annual Newtown Ambulance Squad report as was done in the past (read, for example, "Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding" (2017).

Consideration to direct Planning Commission to review Arcadia HOP Application

Arcadia’s Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) Application #148702: 1st HOP Submission; 2nd HOP Submission; Sep 28, 2021 Arcadia HOP Plan.

PennDOT’s October 29, 2021, Response Letter PennDOT says: “The Department requires written evidence, prior to the issuance of a permit, that Newtown Township is aware of the project and has had the opportunity to comment. Provide written evidence (e.g. municipal engineering review, council or planning commission meeting minutes, executed TE-160, etc.), which is less than one year old, to satisfy this requirement.”

The BOS unanimously agreed to have the Planning Commission (PC) review the application and report back to the supervisors. According PC secretary Mary Donaldson: The PC will meet January 4, 2022, 7:30 PM and possibly discuss the Arcadia PennDOT HOP review. This meeting will be open to the public and there might be some interested residents in attendance. This will, of course, depend on Arcadia's team's readiness. 

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Bills List

November 23, 2021, Bills List - Bills total $140,196.43. Some highlights/questions:

  • Page 4: PECO for STREET LIGHTS OCT21: $ 12,372.57
  • QUESTION, Page 5: VIDEO GOLD PRODUCTIONS for BOS MEETING AUDIO REPAIR: $ 1,326.05. Q: What was the problem? A: Repair of the system when it went down 2 meetings ago and to reprogram the frequency on the mics so we wouldn’t get feedback noise. The wires somehow got unplugged/disconnected from someone moving mics around (we think), and the box in the booth had to be reprogrammed.
  • QUESTION, Page 8: COUNTY BUSINESS SYSTEMS for STORAGE FILE CABINETS: $ 6,105.00. Seems like a lot of money for storage cabinets. What are they for? A: This is capital expenditures for upgrades to the roll call room in police. The cabinets will serve as officer lockers rather than storage cabinets.
  • QUESTION, Page 9: REMINGTON & VERNICK ENGINEERS for ENGINEERING-LOWER DOLINGTON TRAIL: $ 3,112.50. What’s this for? A: To coordinate the project and review the submittals the contractor is providing prior to construction, in accordance with the contract.

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Old Business

2022 Budget Discussion

There wasn't much discussion of details nor was the budget approved (the 20-day public access period was not yet reached). However, I suggested that there was a disturbing downward trend in the reserve fund. Mr. Fisher pointed out that this may only apply to the "budgeted" reserve and that the actual reserves have been higher and he expects the same in 2022.

Budgeted expenses increased dramatically in 2021 and will increase even more dramatically in 2022 unless expenses are cut. In the revised version of the previously "recommended" 2022 budget, the 1.5 mill tax increase has been eliminated and money reallocated from the General Fund reserve will go into the Fire Protection Fund. As a result, the reserve fund will drop to an historic low of 8.6% of expenditures. Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI) is the consulting firm hired by Newtown Township to develop a 5-year financial plan (read "Newtown Supervisors Review Interim 5-Year Financial Plan"). These trends are unsustainable!

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New Business

LED Lighting

I attempted to discuss the update regarding the response to the DVRPC Regional Streetlight Procurement Program Letter of Intent that was signed by the township. The Chair, however, refused to discuss this as it was not on the official agenda. See page 5 of my "23 November 2021 BOS Meeting Notes" for details about the DVRPC Regional LED Streetlight Program “Kickoff” Meeting.

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My Detailed Notes

Embedded below are my notes from the meeting. You can also download the PDF file

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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