John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Newtown Township Releases the 2018 Fire and Emergency Services Study

In November, 2017, Newtown Township issued an RFP seeking a fire service consultant experienced in the management and operations of volunteer/combination fire departments to undertake “an organizational, effectiveness and overall efficiency study on staffing levels, facilities, apparatus needs, equipment, administration, financials pertaining to the fire service and the services of the department serving our community.”

In February, 2018, Harry R. Carter. Ph.D., L.L.C., a municipal fire protection firm headquartered in New Jersey, was approved by the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) to perform the analysis (see minutes of the February 14, 2018, BOS meeting). Dr. Harry Carter has more than 35 years’ experience as a municipal fire protection consultant. He has been a member of the fire and emergency services world since 1964.

The final Fire and Emergency Services Study was completed in December, 2018, and is currently available on the Township website here.

A Brief History of Newtown Fire Services

The Newtown Fire Association (NFA), which is a volunteer fire department, provides fire protection to both Newtown Township and Newtown Borough. In 1996 the fire association approached the township and requested assistance with the fire services coverage due to the lack of volunteers available during daytime hours. To meet that need, the township established the Newtown Emergency Services Department (NESD) to provide fire services coverage Monday through Friday from the hours of 8AM - 4:30PM.

In 2002 the Emergency Services Department expanded their hours from 6AM-6PM due to the limited availability of volunteers. That level of service continues today. NFA continues to provide coverage for the remaining hours, 6 P.M. - 6 A.M. during the week and 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday. NFA also provides for 24-hour coverage during twelve (12) holidays in which the township is closed.

Fire Study Recommendations

Dr. Carter’s study made several recommendations. The following is a list of some of the most important recommendations that pertain to the reorganization and effectiveness of Newtown’s fire services. Please refer to the full study here.

“Let me suggest that a major problem in Newtown Township involves the staffing level of your fire department,” noted Dr. Carter in the study. “I must recommend that you broaden your career staffing to cover a seven-day per week operation.”

According to Dr. Carter, many personnel in the volunteer staff  “do not recognize” the fact that that Glenn Forsythe is the chief in charge. “We did not see any organizational chart which accurately portrayed the manner in which the organization operates,” said Dr. Carter.

The report recommends that a “true combination fire department” should be created which combines Station 45 (the volunteer station on Liberty Street in the Borough) and Station 55 (the paid staff station located in the Municipal Complex at 100 Municipal Drive in the Township) under the control of the career fire chief (Glenn Forsyth).

“The existing and future [Newtown] population that can reasonably be expected to evolve may not be of a type and kind … willing to become active volunteer members of the fire department,” said Dr. Carter in his report. “This fact will at some point in the future lead your community in the direction of some form of combination of full-time career fire department in line with your paid-on-call workers in the future.”

Dr. Carter recommended getting out “in front of this issue” by forming a committee and to determine how new combination department should develop.

Meanwhile, according to the report, career staffing hours should be expanded to a seven days a week schedule. This recommendation is based upon a review of response data [in 2018, the average time for fire personnel to get the scene of a fire call ranged from 9 minutes, 50 seconds to 10 minutes, 20 seconds. The longest recorded response time was 19 minutes.]

The fire stations are poorly positioned, according to the report. “The station on Municipal Drive is poorly located with regard to the township and the borough,” said Dr. Carter. “The Borough station is also poorly located for its role in the protection of the township,” he added. The report recommends that consideration be given to developing plans for a new fire station in the area of Sycamore Street.

“It was my observation that many members of the organization do not believe their input is really desired and appreciated,” Dr. Carter noted. “It seemed to my associate and me that an insufficient number of ways exist within the fire company for the agency as a whole to communicate with its members and itself. The key to continued success … is to maintain an open and sincere line of communications between and among the officers and members of your fire department,” suggested Dr. Carter.

“During the interview process my associate and I found that many people spoke about the manner in which apparatus acquisitions were being conducted,” said Dr. Carter. The report recommended that a formal apparatus acquisitions committee be created which is responsible for working to develop the recommendations for new apparatus and equipment. This committee must have members of both the career and volunteer staffs and will serve in an advisory capacity to the career Fire Chief.

Finally, Dr. Carter recommended that all members be made aware of the nature of the financial arrangements that the fire association (and thus the new combination fire department) has with Newtown Township. He suggested that this be part of a facilitated meeting involving all members of the department. This meeting should be facilitated by someone outside of the department with a fire and EMS background who has experience in conducting such meetings. “All of the issues identified in this report could be addressed at that time,” said Dr. Carter.

Dr. Carter Answers Supervisors' Questions

Dr. Harry Carter, Ph.D., author of the study, answered questions posed by Newtown Supervisors at the January 23, 2019, meeting of the Newtown Board of Supervisors. 

Further Reading:

Posted on 29 Dec 2018, 11:27 - Category: First Responders

The Top Ten “Curated” Local News Stories in 2018

The following are the TOP TEN viewed local news stories in 2018 in rank order. These stories were “Scooped” (i.e., curated*) by John Mack as being of interest to Newtown residents. See all curated news here.

  1. 5 Doctors Are Charged With Taking Kickbacks for Fentanyl Prescriptions - Lock 'em Up!

  2. Doors Blocked With Tables To Stop Council Rock North Walkout, Students Say

  3. Bucks County Initiates Smart911 with RapidSOS to Quickly Serve Callers

  4. Arcadia Green Sues Newtown Township

  5. Craft Beer Brewery, Food Trucks and Fun Coming to Newtown Commons This Summer

  6. EWG Report: Perfluorinated Pollutant (PFAS) Contamination of Water Spreading

  7. In God We Trust. Lower Southampton Supervisors Not So Much!

  8. Opioids Not Better Than Acetaminophen at Reducing Pain to Improve Function for Chronic Back, Knee and Hip Pain

  9. How Much Does a Family of Four Need To Earn To Live Comfortably In Bucks County?

  10. Falls Wawa Developer Wins Case Brought by Local Service Station But “SLAPPs” a Lawsuit Against Residents Who Spoke Up at Public Meeting

* A Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on specific issues online. I curate stories published in local and national media that I believe are of special interest to Newtown residents. Many of these stories relate to issues discussed or acted upon by Newtown Township Supervisors.

I use the Scoop.It platform to capture and organize these stories (news articles) online. Each curated story is called a “Scoop,” which is a shortened version of the article. Within the Scoop is a link to the original, long version of the article plus links to related articles, blog posts, etc. Some Scoops include my personal insight.

Posted on 28 Dec 2018, 01:56 - Category: Misc

Newtown Passes "Year of the Bird" Proclamation

Newtown Township has been a designated bird town community for many years, regularly sponsoring events to promote conservation. In 2019 the Newtown Environmental Action Council (EAC Definition) and the Pennsylvania Audubon’s Society will be jointly developing and implementing a new program promoting the use of native plants to support bird population.

At the November 28, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting, a plaque was presented to George Skladany, member of the EAC, to commemorate 2018 as the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, protecting migratory birds for many decades.

The Township also passed the “Year of the Bird” Proclamation, which states:

Whereas, Birds symbolize nature’s interconnectedness and the importance of caring for our shared planet; and 

Whereas, Birds are important for pollination, pest control, rodent control, seed propagation, weed control, nutrient recycling, and beauty; and bird watching is beneficial to mental health; and 

Whereas, Each spring and fall hundreds of thousands of migratory songbirds fly through Newtown Township and are sited at Tyler State Park, Clark Nature Center, and Hidden Lake; and are counted by local bird watchers; and 

Whereas, Over 160 species of birds are recorded in Newtown Township and many of these migrate through or are residents of the township that they use for food and shelter; and 

Whereas, Six species of birds that are listed on the Conservation Network as “Birds of Concern,” in need of conservation actions, are recorded in Newtown Township including American Kestrel, Wood Thrush, Canada Warbler, Willow Flycatcher, Black‐throated Blue Warbler, and American Woodcock; and 

Whereas, Birding Activities bring people into Newtown Township and aid the economy, an example of where birds thrive – people prosper; and 

Whereas, Climate change is the number one threat to birds; and 

Whereas, 2018 is the centennial year of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which protects birds in our backyards, like the Wood Thrush and Eastern Towhee; and 

Whereas, 2018 also marks the beginning of the next 100 years where we will continue to protect birds and the places they need. 

SO PROCLAIMED, We, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors, by virtue of the authority vested therein, do hereby proclaim 2018 the Year of the Bird and urge all citizens to take due note of the observance and to support the spirit of this proclamation for years to come. 

Posted on 27 Dec 2018, 13:08 - Category: Environment

Top Ten Most Viewed Blog Posts in 2018

The following are the TOP TEN viewed blog pages in 2018 in rank order:

  1. Developer and Attorney Present Their Case for a WaWa Superstore on the Newtown Bypass (see #2, #8 and #10)

  2. Residents Present Their Case For and Against a Super WaWa on the Bypass

  3. Attacking the Root of the Opioid Crisis - Pharmaceutical Companies

  4. Newtown Board of Supervisors Shoots Down Drive-thru Starbucks (see #9)

  5. Newtown Township Employee Salaries & Wages

  6. Toll Brothers Twining Bridge Road Proposal

  7. They Took All the Trees & Put Up a Parking Lot!

  8. The Newtown Township Planning Commission Stymies Path Forward for Wawa - For Now

  9. Drive-thru Starbucks is Back on Track!

  10. Super Wawa Survey Comments

Meanwhile, the Newtown Area Municipal Glossary was very popular. It was accessed over 500 times in 2018 after its launch on October 8, 2018!

Posted on 27 Dec 2018, 12:04 - Category: Misc

Summary of November 28, 2018, BOS Public Meeting

The following is a brief summary of the November 28, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) meeting based upon the official minutes of that meeting, which you can find here.

Committee Reports

Environmental Advisory Council - Year of the Bird Proclamation: Newtown Township has been a designated bird town community for many years, regularly sponsoring events to promote conservation. In 2019 the EAC and Pennsylvania Audubon’s Society will be jointly developing and implementing a new program promoting the use of native plants to support bird population. This proclamation states that 2018 is the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, protecting migratory birds for many decades.

Finance Committee: Mr. Fisher reported on behalf of the Township Finance Committee. He spoke of the DCED presentation lead by Andrew Sheaf that was given at the Board of Supervisors Work Session Definition on November 19, 2018. He reports that Mr. Sheaf provided him a detailed document after his presentation, and that after reviewing he feels positively about the Township benefiting from this program.

Planning Commission: Zoning Hearing Board applications had several applicants asking for relief from Zoning Hearing Board Definition. Regarding relief to build two‐story home on a 1.1 acre lot (1780 Lower Silverlake Road), which is nonconforming in the OR District Definition. Planning Commission recommends hearing neighborhood concerns before making recommendation.

Technology Committee: Mr. Mack shared a discussion of the Nixle Emergency Notification System, which the Committee recommends the Township subscribe to [for more on that, read "Does Newtown Need a Mobile-Enabled Emergency Notification System?"]. Google Analytics Reports on the Township website was discussed. Josephine Vlastaris, Chair of the Technology Committee, recommended using this program to monitor website activity. The Committee also suggested reducing meetings to take place quarterly, beginning with last Tuesday in March.


Anti‐Discrimination Ordinance: Mr. Sander presented the advertised Anti‐Discrimination Ordinance Definition to be adopted by the Board of Supervisors. Ordinance is to enact a Newtown Township Human Relations Commission, and provide protection based on all categories presently protected by the State Human Relations Act, in addition to persons on basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Motion to approve Anti‐Discrimination Ordinance made by Mr. Mack. Motion was seconded by Ms. Bobrin.

Ms. Bobrin questioned an exclusion in the ordinance, which Mr. Sander plans to look into. Approval granted subject to potential removal or revision to the definition of “employer” stated in Ordinance. Motion and second motion were revised to account for this. Two minor revisions to this Ordinance were also noted. Clarification that a complainant could appear before Human Relations Commission with or without an attorney, and changing effective date from December 3, 2018, to become effective immediately upon the appointment of Human Relations Commission. Also, a training provision was noted for this Commission.

Prepared Statement by Supervisor Mack

"Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeastern U.S. that does not have a law explicitly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It is my hope that this action sends a signal to the PA state legislature that it is time to pass legislation to protect the rights of all citizens in the Commonwealth regardless of sexual orientation or perceived gender. Today, the federal government is attempting to take away the rights of “transgender” citizens. Which group will be next? There’s no telling where it will end if we stand by and do nothing."]

Public Safety

Nixle Emergency Notification System: Mr. Mack made a request for adding a line item expenditure to the 2019 budget in the amount of $6,000 for a yearly subscription to the Nixle Emergency Notification System and gave reasons the Township could benefit from this service. There was discussion about this suggestion. Due to desire for additional discussion and information, Mr. Calabro made a motion to table. Ms. Bobrin seconded this table. Motion was tabled 3‐1 [Mr. Mack voting "nay"].

Posted on 15 Dec 2018, 01:27 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes

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