John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Summary of May 23, 2018 BOS Public Meeting

You may not have the time to download and read the entire minutes from meetings of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS), or the approved minutes may not yet be available on the Township website (here), so I created this summary from the May 23, 2018,  public meeting. I also included some links to related information including video clips from meetings. I'll do the same for future meetings. This is not a complete list of items discussed.

Development

First National Bank & Trust Co: Planning Commission Chairman Allen Fidler reported that applicant requesting to extend the time for filing land development plans. First National had internal issues and didn't file the plan in time. The question is when the six month period starts. The Board has the power to extend the time, according to Mr. Fidler.

Pickering Manor: Joe Blackburn, Esq., represented Pickering Manor with respect to its pending land development located on 226 North Lincoln Avenue. Based upon their non-profit status, Mr. Blackburn made a request that the Board consider a reduction in the Parks & Recreation fee-in-lieu amount. It was agreed that the fee-in-lieu amount would be half the amount of $46,570.87. An actual amount would be determined at a later time. Applicant will also pay a traffic impact fee in the amount of $7,020.00. Mr. Calabro put the motion to a vote and the motion carried 3-1 (Mrs. Dix voted "nay").

Villas of Newtown: Certificate of Completion #1- CKS Engineers recommends that the Certificate be approved by the Board in the amount of $51,950.00. The amount of the remaining escrow is $78,119.00. the motion carried 3-1 (Mrs. Dix voted "nay").

Wawa on Bypass: Public comment: Michael Horbal, Newtown, wanted the Board to consider voting against a change on that parcel that would accommodate whatever retail use is proposed. Based on the 2009 Comprehensive Plan, he suggested the Township should look at all potential parcels that could be developed for retail on parcels similar to the proposed Wawa location. He's concerned that a subsequent land owner may request a change to the zoning of their parcel so that it could be developed for a fast food franchise.

[Read "The BrouHaha Over Proposed Wawa".]

More excerpts from minutes regarding development issues...

Environment

Underground Storage Tanks: There was a bid opening for the underground storage tank project on May 1, 2018. There were no discrepancies in the lowest bid submitted by Brightsfield Inc. The base bid was $47,422.75. Mr. Calabro put the motion to a vote and the motion carried 4-0.

More excerpts from minutes regarding environmental issues...

Public Safety

Gun Safety Resolution: Ms. Bobrin received a gun resolution that has been enacted by Solebury Township and is being considered by Yardley Borough. Using the resolution as a guide, she drafted one for Newtown Township to consider. Approving the resolution would support legislators in Harrisburg and Washington D.C. who are working for gun reform.

Police Chief Search: Mrs. Dix made a motion to hire Safe City Solutions to conduct a police chief search at a cost not to exceed $14,150.00. Ms. Bobrin seconded. The motion carried 4-0.

Posted on 16 Jun 2018, 01:34 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes



Summary of May 9, 2018 BOS Public Meeting

You may not have the time to download and read the entire minutes from meetings of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS), or the approved minutes may not yet be available on the Township website (here), so I created this summary from the May 9, 2018,  public meeting. I also included some links to related information including video clips from meetings. I'll do the same for future meetings. This is not a complete list of items discussed.

Development

Drive-thru Starbucks: This conditional use application is for the conditional use for an E5 and E6 eating place adjacent to the relocated Bank of America. The motion to approve the application failed 5-0. [Read "Newtown Board of Supervisors Shoots Down Drive-thru Starbucks"]

More excerpts from minutes regarding development issues...

Parks and Recreation

Veterans Park Bleachers: Mrs. Dix motioned to authorize the purchase and installation of eight sets of bleachers for Veterans Park from General Recreation, Inc., through the PA COSTARS program, in the amount of $36,084.00. Ms. Bobrin seconded, and the motion passed 5-0.

Public Safety

Crime Statistics: Police Chief Pasqualini reviewed the calls for service for April 2018: 1,493 total calls, 101 traffic citations, 7 DUIs, 1 underage drinking, 1 aggravated assault, 3 overdoses, 1 Narcan use, 17 fraud/wire frauds/ credit card/ATM fraud, 10 harassments, 12 thefts, 51 accidents, 122 medical emergencies, 32 suspicious circumstances, and 27 disputes/disturbances/civil disputes. There were 260 total calls for service to Wrightstown.

Posted on 16 Jun 2018, 01:11 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes



Dix to Resign, Board Must Fill Vacancy by July 30

At the June 13, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Supervisor Jen Dix announced that she is resigning from the Board effective June 30, 2018. Read the news story below.

On her Facebook page, Ms. Dix said:

"It’s with a heavy heart that I announce my resignation from the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors effective June 30. My family will be moving to New Hampshire.

"I want to stress that this decision is not at all related to the resignations made last month by Chief Pasqualini [read "Nine Newtown Township Police Officers Receive Commendations; Police Chief Rick Pasqualini to Retire"] and our Township manager Kurt Ferguson [read "Newtown Township Manager Kurt Ferguson Will Take Lower Makefield Township Manager Position in July"]. In fact our family’s move is something we have been contemplating long before I was aware the Chief and Mr. Ferguson would be stepping down.

"It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of Newtown Township. I have done my best to serve the community and have no regrets. I thank my fellow Board members both past and current and the Township administration for their collaboration to make Newtown an even better place to live."

The Supervisors have until July 30, 2018, to appoint a replacement.

Newtown Now Accepting Applicants to Fill the Vacancy

Newtown Township is now accepting resumes for persons interested in being appointed as a member of the Board of Supervisors to fill a vacancy on the Board.

The person appointed will serve as a member of the Board of Supervisors until the reorganization meeting in January 2020.

A letter of interest and resume must be received by 4:30 PM on Monday, July 2, 2018. Interviews will be scheduled at a public meeting during the month of July.

To qualify for appointment, a resident must be an elector (i.e., registered voter) of Newtown Township who has resided in the Township continuously for at least one year prior to their appointment.

The Responsibilities of Newtown Township Supervisors

Letters of interest and resumes can be mailed to 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, Pennsylvania, 18940, emailed to oliviak@newtownpa.gov, or faxed to 215-968-5368 - Attention: Olivia Kivenko.

Posted on 15 Jun 2018, 13:53 - Category: Governance



Newtown Township Employee Salaries & Wages

The Bucks County Courier Times reports that it filed “60 right-to-know requests, seeking the total wages paid to all full- and part-time government workers in 2017” (read “To Be Revealed: What Local Government Employees Earned in 2017”).

Coincidently (?), American Transparency, a non-profit group that publishes OpenThe Books.com, sent right-to-know requests to many, if not all, PA municipalities – including Newtown Township – asking for a copy of the following records: “An electronic copy of any and all employees for year of 2017, (fiscal or calendar year). Each employee record should contain the employer name, employer zip code, year of compensation, first name, middle initial, last name, hire date (mm-dd-yyyy), base salary amount, bonus amount, overtime amount, gross annual wages and position title.”

Newtown complied with the request since it maintains these records and by law “it is not exempted in any way by the Right-to-Know Law… subject to redaction as permitted by the Law,” according to the Township Solicitor.

Other townships, however, have denied the request, contending they do not maintain the exact records requested. “I have denied more than my fair share of requests lately solely based on the fact that I have no report that includes every piece of information they are requesting,” says Heidelberg Township Office Manager. “I may have a report that comes close, but I'm not providing it because it is not what they are asking for. Is that a hardline to take? Maybe. If they wish to amend their request, that is fine. I would then provide the report that satisfies their request. But please don't be fearful of denying if you don't have it to give. Maybe if we all did that, they would stop asking.”

Well, that’s not a very transparent attitude, I must say!

So what wages and salaries do Newtown Township employees earn? You can easily find that information for 2018 in the approved budget published on the township’s website (here). I’ve summarized that data in the following pie charts.

As recently reported, Mr. Kurt Ferguson, Newtown Township Manager, will be leaving to become Lower Makefield Township Manager (LMT) on July 16, 2018 (read “Newtown Township Manager Kurt Ferguson Will Take Lower Makefield Township Manager Position in July”).

According to the 2018 Budget, Mr. Ferguson’s salary for 2018 is $138,940. He also receives an additional $10,000 as Finance Director (see Resolution 2018-R-7).

Numbers Are Not the Whole Story

Numbers alone, however, do not tell the whole story. For example, because Mr. Ferguson fulfills the role of Finance Manager at very low compensation level of $10,000 per year, the Township does not have to hire someone else at more than $80,000 per year to fill that role. This has saved an estimated $500,000 over the 6 years of Mr Ferguson's tenure. Keep in mind that Mr. Fergison works many additional hours every week without additional pay.

The following table from a Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) report shows the full-time hourly rates in 2016 for management and police employees in townships with populations over 8,000 (Newtown has a population of over 19,000).

These numbers are based on data reported by 72 townships. To compare apples to apples, you have to convert hourly rates to yearly salaries using the equation 37.5 hours per week X 52 weeks X hourly rate.

BTW, Newtown Township Supervisors receive an annual income of $4,125 per! For me that works out to be about $41.00 per hour to attend Board of Supervisors meetings. It does NOT include the many hours I spend attending other meetings such as meetings of Parks & Recreation, Technology Committee, JMZO, Planning Commission, etc. It also does not include the many hours I spend preparing for these meetings! This wage is set by law and it has been the same since at least 2015. I say it's time for an increase!

UPDATE: The Bucks County Courier Times, on June 8, 2018, published the salary data it has collected; read "Some Local Governments Reluctant to Release Employee Wages, Some Don't Keep Complete Records!".

Posted on 07 Jun 2018, 01:33 - Category: Governance



Super Wawa Survey Comments

Previously, I summarized comments from residents made at a public meeting regarding a proposed plan to build a Super Wawa on the Newtown Bypass (read "Residents Present Their Case For and Against a Super WaWa on the Bypass"). Here I summarize pro and con comments made by respondents to my personal Super Wawa Survey. Over 275 comments were collected. The following are just a few representative samples. Keep in mind that comments made online and in surveys do not offer any means to debate their validity or to offer counter arguments. 

DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Newtown Township approved survey. 

Comments AGAINST

Ambience/Open Space
  1. Newtown is over-developed now.  Enough is enough!  Leave some beauty, leave some nature
  2. Let’s not tarnish this ‘gateway’ area into Newtown!
  3. The small town feel is disappearing
  4. We have such little open space that we need to preserve what we have left.  Everywhere I look within Newtown and Middletown Township there are banks, coffee shops, and gas stations. We do not need a Wawa
  5. Keep the green and open look. Keep the area more historical looking.
  6. The whole area will be affected in a negative spiral.  It would open up the start of many more commercial businesses which we do not need here.  Just makes me want to seek out a different place to live as the quaintness of Newtown is disappearing....
Traffic/Safety
  1. Proposed location of WaWa represents a traffic choke point at this critical intersection which serves as the gateway for both the Newtown Township and Borough. When asked at the township meeting of what benefit the WaWa would provide to the Township there was no answer. That is because the benefit of a WaWa at the gateway to Newtown vastly benefits the outside travelers coming off of I-95 at the expense of the negative impact to Newtown roads. Please challenge WaWa representation that the "prototypical design" discourages truck traffic. What are the details of there design that does that?
  2. Poor location with driveways on a curve with poor sight distance at a location that already experiences recurring queuing from the traffic signal at the bypass at this location. Heavy left turning traffic backs up to where this driveway will be located. Safety concerns.
  3. I want to clarify that I am not against a Wawa in Newtown. It would be a nice convenience. What I am against is it’s placement at a spot on the bypass that is already a traffic nightmare during morning and evening rush hour.
Zoning
  1. The zoning was specifically chosen to keep commercial development from dominating the bypass. Do NOT change the zoning to allow this. Huge can of worms and terrible decision making.
  2. It gives the township nothing in exchange for a very favorable and profitable zoning change.
  3. I want to clarify that I am not against a Wawa in Newtown. It would be a nice convenience. What I am against is it’s placement at a spot on the bypass that is already a traffic nightmare during morning and evening rush hour.

Comments in FAVOR

Lower Gas Prices
  1. Newtown gas prices are among the highest in the area, due to a lack of stations in the general vicinity. All the local stations near the bypass are within the borough, limiting supply options and keeping demand high for township residents.
  2. Newtown may finally have gas prices that are not excessive.
Bring Business/Benefit to Newtown
  1. I believe it would help with bringing people to State and Sycamore Streets for the shopping destination. The Wawa would be a place that people stop on the way in and out of town. Similar to how the one in Doylestown works.
  2. Would be a great asset to the local community. It would bring in jobs.
  3. This will generate revenue from surrounding business (Optimal Sport health club, performance spine and sports medicine, Newtown rental center, star gas, centrak). If employees of these companies have access to a wawa, revenue would skyrocket. There is currently nothing around those businesses for a quick bite to eat on a lunch break.
  4. The industrial park employees thousands and this new Wawa would assist tremendously in supporting the needs of commuters to the park.
An Alternative to 7-11
  1. The 7-11 in town is a s#$thole
  2. What’s available at the 7-11 on Sycamore shouldn’t even be labeled “food”.
  3. It's too bad we can't get rid of the 7-ll on Sycamore St..WAWA is far superior in every category.
  4. Hopefully, it will detract business from the eyesore and public disgrace that is 7-11.
Love
  1. I love wawa. We need this. Easy access to wawa gas and store. Great quick food. Newtown needs to get on board.
  2. It would be absolutely amazing to have such a great convenience store in town!! Please, please, please do it!!!!
  3. It's iconic to this part of the country
  4. I personally have been wanting a WaWa located in Newtown for as long as I can remember.
  5. Newtown needs to accept that it is the 21st century
  6. Wawa is life!
  7. I mean, it's Wawa!

Posted on 02 Jun 2018, 07:15 - Category: Development



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