John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Summary of March 27, 2019, BOS Public Meeting

The following is a brief summary of the March 27, 2019, 2019, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) meeting based upon the official minutes of that meeting, which you can find here. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Phillip Calabro, Vice Chairman Linda Bobrin, Secretary John Mack and members Kyle Davis and Dennis Fisher. Also in attendance were: Township Manager Micah Lewis, Township Engineer Leanna Colubriale and Township Solicitor David Sander.

Development

Chipotle Mexican Grill, 2930 South Eagle Road: Mr. Sander noted one scenario has changed since conditional use was granted at last meeting (read "Summary of March 13, 2019, BOS Public Meeting"). The original unit number was Unit 40 at the end of Building 8; this was an error on their part which they have corrected to reflect Unit 37, located in the middle of building 8. It is similarly situated and there is no substantive adverse impact on granting conditional use and approval is recommended. The motion passed 5-0.

Fiscal Issues

Finance Committee/DCED EIP Grant: The application for match grant was submitted on March 15, to the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED Definition). [Read "Newtown Township Seeks Grant to Assess Finances".]

Mr. Jack Brod, chair of the Newtown Finance Committee, reported the committee met with senior representatives from two agencies, Bucks County Redevelopment Authority and the Bucks County Industrial Development Authority. Both agencies are interested in helping Newtown Township attract employers/jobs and pursue economic development.

Mr. Brod inquired if the RFI would be the next step to get to the stage to issue RFP's. Mr. Calabro raised concerns about issuing the RFI without knowing the scope of work and issuing RFP's without advertising them.

Mr. Mack stressed that he would like to be more involved with the process including formulating questions for consultants and the grants in general. He wants to be sure that he and the supervisors have an opportunity to look over and edit all documents that carry their signatures. Mr. Brod said this is why the committee is not issuing anything directly.

Public Works

Bid Recommendation for the 2019 Liquid Fuels Road Program: The Board discussed a motion to award to Harris Blacktopping, Inc., The Base Bid, Alternate Bid No. 2 and Alternate No. 3 in the amount of $706,596.20 for 2.73 miles of roadway. Mr. Mack asked about alternate roads included and Ms. Colubriale said the two alternates awarded were Terry Drive and Blacksmith Road.

Mr. Mack also read we were awarded $611K in Liquid Fuels Program Definition funding when we expected $640K [read "Newtown Township Will Receive $611K In State Liquid Fuels Payments"]. Mr. Lewis clarified that $640K was budgeted under the liquid fuels fund and the township received $611K from the state and anticipated $595K. The motion passed 5-0.]

Prepared Statements by Supervisor Mack

Newtown Fire Association General Meeting: Dennis Fisher and I attended the Newtown Fire Association (NFA) General Meeting last night. Matt Gerhard, Chief of the NFA, communicated to me that he would like to attend the April 10th Board of Supervisors meeting, if possible, to answer any questions about the NFA’s formal response to Dr. Carter’s recommendations and the progress we have made so far. He plans on providing a copy of said responses to the BOS the week prior for review. If it is appropriate, he is available to meet beforehand with the NFA BOS liaison, Mr. Lewis and Chief Forsyth to briefly go through their response.

After the meeting, Dennis and I met Lieutenant Liz Ellis who gave us a personal tour of the NFA museum. She explained to us how firefighters find the location of alarms and especially how hydrants are located and the technology available to ensure that there is adequate water pressure at fire locations.

Technology Committee: Four members of the Technology Committee met last night. On the agenda was re-organization and a Webex demonstration of SAVVY CITIZEN, which is a calendar and mass notification system that enables local governments to relay important information to their citizens. The Committee did not elect a Chair at this meeting, but preferred to wait until additional members could be present. At this time there is one vacancy to be filled on the Committee – if interested, please contact the Township – and one member who seems to be inactive and unreachable.

The Savvy Citizen app, which anyone can download to his or her phone for free, is competitive with NIXLE, which was discussed at a previous BOS meeting, but the subscription fee is considerably less – about $2500 per year vs. $6000 for NIXLE. The Committee expressed interest in this app and may wish to make a presentation at a further BOS meeting.

Posted on 11 Apr 2019, 14:06 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes



March 2019 Police Report: Crack Down on Aggressive Driving!

Police Chief John Hearn presented the Calls Report for March 2019 at the April 10, 2019, Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting. In March, the Newtown Police Department responded to 1,846 total calls, 338 (18%) of which were in Wrightstown Township (Newtown Police provides services to both Newtown Township and Wrightstown). See a summary of the report below. Note: Not all calls are listed.

Crack Down on Aggressive Driving

The Newtown Police Department along with 63 other municipal police departments in surrounding counties are participating in a campaign to crack down on aggressive driving. The campaign officially started on March 18, 2019 and will continue through April 28, 2019.

As a result of that campaign, there were a total of 305 traffic citations issued by the Newtown Police Department in March, 63 (20%) were in Wrightstown. Over 50% of those citations were for speeding (31 on Swamp Road). See the chart:

Traffic Citations in Newtown and Wrightstown Issued by the Newtown
Police Department for the period January through March, 2019.
Struck Deer

There were 20 police incidents involving struck deer in March 2019 compared to 8 in February. Chief Hearn offered no explanation for the surge, but a resident noted that she recently has seen deer crossing the Newtown Bypass. It is not known if there is any connection between the two, although it is thought that the deer were “crossing at the green, not in between.”

Thank You Lieutenant Jason Harris!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

At the April 10, 2019 Newtown Township Board of Supervisors meeting, Lieutenant Jason Harris was presented with a plaque acknowledging the Board’s appreciation for the job he did as Interim Chief of Police from July 2018-March 2019. Nice job Lieutenant Harris!

A post shared by John Mack Newtown Supervisor (@johnmacknewtown) on

Posted on 11 Apr 2019, 01:17 - Category: Crime



Democrats Endorse Mack & Fisher for Seats on the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors

John Mack and Dennis Fisher, both incumbents on the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors, have been endorsed by the Newtown Democrats in their election bids for six-year terms. They are running unopposed in the May 21 Democratic Party primary for the only two upcoming openings on the township’s governing body. The general election will be held on November 5.

Mack won a two-year seat in the 2017 election drawing the most votes among all candidates running for three open positions on the board [read "Mack Clobbers Couch!"]. Fisher was appointed to the board in July 2018 to fill the remaining term of Democrat Jen Dix who moved with her family to New Hampshire [read "Dennis Fisher Appointed to Replace Jen Dix on Board of Supervisors"].

“We’re very fortunate to have two highly capable and dedicated candidates who have already proven themselves on the Board of Supervisors as advocates for responsible government,” said George Skladany, chairperson of the Newtown Democrats. “The municipal election this fall will be about who has the best long-range interests of the township and its residents in mind.”

Mack and his wife, Debbie, have been township residents since 1995. In a statement to the Newtown Democrats, Mack cited his background -- degrees in chemistry and biochemistry and publisher of a pharmaceutical industry newsletter that advocates for ethical industry practices -- for his focus on protecting the environment and combatting the opioid crisis.

“Through my efforts, the township now offers a 24/7 drop-off program for unused prescription and other drugs,” he said. [Read “John Mack Proposes 24/7 Drug Drop-Off Box for Newtown” and “My Case for a 24/7 Drug Drop-Off Box”] He also noted his strong support for the anti-fracking resolution enacted by the Board of Supervisors last year, and his introduction of the 2018 anti-discrimination ordinance that established the township’s Human Relations Commission [Read “Newtown Township Appoints Members of the Newly Created Human Relations Commission”]

A township resident for 27 years, Fisher has been active in local affairs since being appointed to the township Planning Commission in 2006 and serving as its liaison to the township Environmental Advisory Council. In 2017, he was elected to the post of Township Auditor, from which he stepped down to assume his place on the Board of Supervisors. Recently retired after a 42-year career as a mental health professional, Fisher is active in church affairs, is chairperson of the non-profit Liberia Education Project, and is the former vice chair and chairperson of the Newtown Democrats.

In his appeal for the support of the Newtown Democrats, Fisher cited his years of experience in township governmental and political affairs, and his open-minded listening skills honed in his professional career. “I see the role of Supervisor as one of public service, and I have a heart for it,” he told the group. “My only ambition is to keep this township a great place to live, work and raise our families.“

Posted on 09 Apr 2019, 11:23 - Category: Voting



My Supervisor Activities for March 2019

The following is a summary of my Supervisor-related activities for March, 2019. I spent nearly 46 hours in March on official Supervisor business compared to an average of 50 hours per month in 2018.

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-related activities does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

Meetings

In the month of March 2019, I spent about 9 hours attending meetings. The average for the 4th quarter of 2018 was 16.1 hours per month. BOS meetings are “required” in the sense that I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor. These include regular bi-weekly public meetings, non-public executive sessions, public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. For March, 2019, I attended the first public meeting of the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission (read "Meet the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission"), the monthly meeting of the Newtown Fire Association, and a meeting of the Newtown Township Technology Committee.

Interaction with Residents

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and via my personal john@johnmacknewtown.info account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

In March, 2019, I spent 6.4 hours (14% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents compared to an average of 6.7 hours per month in the fourth quarter of 2018. What did I discuss with residents? Here’s a partial list (some items are not included for confidentiality reasons):

Disclaimer

When speaking with residents on issues that may come before the BOS in the future for a vote, I never express an opinion as to how I will vote because I may not have all the information. Needless to say, I also do NOT discuss any confidential information that is not in the public domain. These discussions with residents are meant solely to inform me of their opinions, not for me to give them my opinion. Or it is just to listen to complaints/concerns and to forward them on to the BOS if necessary.
NFA = Newtown Fire Association

I decided to keep track of my activities as a Supervisor on a monthly basis partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all. Thanks to everyone who help keep Newtown in business and safe.

Posted on 01 Apr 2019, 12:23 - Category: Open Records/Transparency



Summary of March 13, 2019, BOS Public Meeting

The following is a brief summary of the March 13, 2019, 2019, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) meeting based upon the official minutes of that meeting, which you can find here. In attendance and voting were Supervisors: Chairman Phillip Calabro, Vice Chairman Linda Bobrin, Secretary John Mack and members Kyle Davis and Dennis Fisher. Also in attendance were: Township Manager Micah Lewis, Township Engineer Leanna Colubriale and Township Solicitor David Sander.

Development

Chipotle Mexican Grill, 2930 South Eagle Road: Mr. Blackburn presented the application for uses E-5, eating place and E-6, drive through eating place, at the northwest corner of building 8 at Village at Newtown Shopping Center. The space is 2500 square feet and the E-6 is for the carry out component of the business; there will not be a drive through window. The applicant has agreed to all of the comments in the CKS review letter. This application brings the percentage of restaurants to 15%. In the shopping center’s approval there is shared parking of 4.7 spaces per 1000 square feet and a limit of 45% restaurant uses. With this application 128 (58%) of the allotted 220 EDUs Definition are taken. The motion passed 5-0.

Fiscal Issues

2018 Pension Performance Report: Grant Kalson of Dahab Associates was in attendance at the March 13, 2019, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors meeting to review the performance of the Township’s 3 pension plans (Police, non-uniformed employees, Firefighters). He noted that the fourth quarter of 2018 was not good (pension assets were down about 9%) but by March 11, 2019, the numbers were back up. He reviewed the investment policy, which currently has 75% equities and 25% bonds. Experts feel that the current rapid growth will not be sustained long term and Newtown’s pensions have the highest percentage of equities among the 58 public pension funds that Mr. Kalson reviewed. Kalson said he was "scared to death right now." For these reasons he is recommending that the Board consider adjusting the equity balance to 68% as a hedge against market corrections. In response to Mr. Mack’s questions, Mr. Kalson explained that the pensions are currently underfunded in the range of the mid to low 80% range. Ms. Bobrin moved to authorize the Township Pension Advisor to reduce the pension portfolio to 68% equities and to rebalance as needed. Mr. Fisher seconded and the motion passed 5-0.


Public Health

Newtown Artesian Water Company: Mr. Mack reported that in response to recent letters to residents from Newtown Artesian Water Company advising of the presence of some PFAs Definition in the water, he and Ms. Bobrin met with General Manager Daniel Angove, who reviewed testing procedures, which are now run quarterly. Upon Mr. Mack’s request, the Board instructed the Township Manager to invite Mr. Angove to make a presentation to the Board after the next tests, which are scheduled for March, 2019. [For more details, read PFAS Detected in Newtown Township's Water Supply.]

Public Safety

Police Report: Chief Hearn reported that the Department responded to 1386 calls including 66 auto accidents and 7 DUIs in February, 2019. On April 27 the Department will have a drug take back event for disposal of prescription medications at the Township building from 10AM until 2 PM. There is a drop box in the police building lobby during the day. In response to Mr. Mack’s question, he confirmed that an officer will respond to any calls from the red phone at the building entrance for off hour disposal of drugs. [For more details, read February 2019 Police Report.]

Trails

DCNR Grant Resolution 2019-R-8 for Lower Dolington Road Multi-use Trail: The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR Definition) provides grants for trails with priority consideration of those projects "that close priority trail gaps as well as projects that rehabilitate or upgrade existing trails."

[Some background: The proposed Lower Dolington Road Multi-use Trail would provide a link to many residential properties to Roberts Ridge Park and would potentially connect to Lower Makefield trails to the Garden of Reflection. The Township's 2018 DCNR grant request for this project was denied by the DCNR. Although DCNR considered the project a "High Value Project," it either did not have the funds "immediately available to support this effort and/or there are issues that need to be resolved prior to potentially awarding a grant."]

Mr. Mack moved to adopt Resolution 2019-R-8. Ms. Bobrin seconded. Discussion of motion: Mr. Mack noted that the sketch plan only includes two crossings and he believed a pedestrian crossing is needed from Lower Dolington Road to Roberts Ridge Park. Mr. Lewis said that there are two new crossings. This is an existing crossing, which will be enhanced when the plan is fully engineered. The crossing will be included in any RFP’s for the project. The motion passed 5-0.

Prepared Statements by Supervisor Mack

National Sunshine Week: March 10 through 16 marks “National Sunshine Week.” It was created in 2005 by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Its goal is to educate the public about the importance of open government and promote a dialogue about the importance of freedom of information and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy.

As part of Sunshine Week 2019, the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (OOR) is hosting a series of webinars. On Monday, I attended the “Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) Requester Training” webinar presented by Erik Arneson, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Office of Open Records. This webinar focused on how to write a good Right-to-Know Law request, accessing information in databases, significant deadlines in the RTKL, how to appeal a RTKL denial, and more.

Thanks to our Open Records Officer Micah Lewis, aka, Township Manager, I was able to analyze the open records requests processed by Newtown Township in 2018. In 2018, Newtown processed 92 Open Records Requests in compliance with the State’s Sunshine Law. A total of 42 (46%) were from businesses, many of which sought building permit records. Almost half were from individuals. Only 4 requests were from the media, which asked about employee salaries and website statistics.

About 20% of the requests were denied mostly because there were no records that complied with the request. That underscores the need for requester training. To that end, I urge all citizens to learn more about the PA Right-to-Know law and how to request public records by accessing the Open Records Office at www.openrecordspennsylvania.com. [For more details, read Open Records Requests Processed by Newtown Township in 2018.]

EPA Elcon Q&A Public Meeting: On May 11, 2016, Newtown Township adopted Resolution 2016-R-10, opposing the Elcon Toxic Waste incinerator. This is a commercial hazardous waste treatment facility that will treat liquid waste from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

According to a recent article in The Intelligencer, “for the fourth time in as many years, Elcon Recycling Services is resubmitting application materials in an attempt to build a controversial waste treatment facility in Falls” about 13 miles from Newtown.

Groups such as Bucks POWA [Protect Our Water & Air] and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network say they’re specifically concerned about toxic materials being released to the air and potential drinking water contamination if this incinerator is approved.

Last week (Tuesday, March 5, 20190, I attended a public meeting hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to answer questions from the public (see video below). The meeting was jammed packed. DEP officials reviewed the status of waste management, air quality, and stormwater management permit applications for this facility. There was a lot of chemistry discussed and even though I have advanced degrees in chemistry and biochemistry, it was difficult to follow all the technical details. However, I was surprised to learn the amount of toxic pollutants the proposed permit would allow to be released into the air: 

Proposed “emission limits” in the application: nitrogen oxides – 23.4 tons per year; carbon monoxide – 36.6 tons per year; sulfur oxides – 24.2 tons per year; volatile organic compounds – 10.1 tons per year; particulate matter – 10.5 tons per year; for hydrochloric acid – 6.3 tons per year! NOTE that the 2016 Newtown Resolution opposing this project estimated that “the incinerator treatment process will produce over 39 tons of air emissions” whereas the recent data I just cited adds up to more than 111 tons – or nearly three times as much! DEP has yet to do an analysis of where these pollutants would be carried by air currents. Hopefully, not toward Newtown!

Posted on 31 Mar 2019, 10:31 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes



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