John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Governance Category

Summary of April 20, 2020, Meet Mack Monday via Facebook Live

Usually, I host a "Meet Mack Monday" live in-person event each month, usually the 2nd Monday of the month before the first Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting. Because of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have not been able to host a live event since March 9, 2020, and there hasn't been a public BOS meeting since March 11, 2020.

But a lot has been going on and already decided upon by the supervisors since then. Also, the first-ever special "remote" public meeting of the BOS will be held on April 22, 2020, at 1 PM. This meeting will be via Zoom with public participation via e-mail only as allowed by Senate Bill 841 recently signed into law by Governor Wolf (read "Gov. Wolf Signs Senate Bill 841 to Provide Flexibility to Local Governments and Businesses").

April 22, 2020, BOS Meeting

The Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, April 22, 2020 at 1:00 PM. The Supervisors will meet via the Zoom remote meeting platform.

The public will have real-time access to view the meeting on television on the Newtown Township Local Government Channel (channel 22 for Xfinity/Comcast and channel 40 for Verizon FIOS).

Public comment will be taken via e-mail both before the meeting and during the meeting via email at comments@newtownpa.gov All public comments must contain the commenter’s name and address and will be read aloud.

To help residents prepare for this meeting, I decided to host a "remote" Meet Mack Monday event via Facebook Live on April 20, 2020. The following is a synopsis of that meeting.

Click on the image to access the video of my FB Live Meet Mack Monday
event posted on April 20,2020. Or click here.
Topics Discussed
  1. Diversion of tax funds from road repair to cover the general expenses of the township (salaries, consultant fees, supplies, etc.),
  2. The next step in getting approval to alter the Newtown area zoning code to allow for a Wawa or Wawa-like convenience store to be located in Newtown, Wrightstown, and/or Upper Makefield, and
  3. What can Newtown Township do to help local businesses?
Diversion of Tax Funds

Most of the agenda of the April 22, 2020, meeting of the BOS is dedicated to publicly ratifying decisions that have already been made via email by supervisors. Relevant agenda items are:

  • Rejection of the 2020 Road Program Bids
  • Authorization of the Engineer to draft a “new” Road Program
  • Resolution allocating 1 mill of Real Estate Tax from the Debt Service Fund to the General Fund
  • Disaster Declaration related to the COVID 19 virus

In March, the Township Manager, Micah Lewis, sent an email to the supervisors asking them to individually approve a “drastic measure”; i.e., a significant reduction in the 2020 road program and to allocate the special 1 mill tax revenue for debt reduction to the general fund.

Normally and specified in a resolution passed by the BOS back in January 2020, that 1 mill was dedicated to repay debt - specifically a 3-year loan of $1 million that would have allowed the Twp to repave about 5 miles of roads in 2020. The 1 mill tax collected each year would allow the township to pay back the loan over a period of three years. That won't happen now. Instead, the plan is to use solely PA liquid fuels (definition) money to pave perhaps 1-2 miles of roads.

According to our solicitor, this action was perfectly legal because the Township declared a disaster emergency, which authorizes it to exercise certain powers “without regard to time-consuming procedures and formalities prescribed by law.” These powers pertain to “the performance of public work, entering into contracts, the incurring of obligations, the employment of temporary workers, the rental of equipment, the purchase of supplies and materials, the levying of taxes and the appropriation and expenditure of public funds.”

It’s difficult for me to argue with a lawyer regarding the legality of diverting a DEDICATED tax for use other than what it was dedicated to – in this case to repay a loan to pave roads.

In any case, I think this is a case of the citizens bailing out the township rather than vice versa because the township budget "anticipates a limited balance for contingencies" - a perennial problem, which we need to fix.

Deficit Spending

Jack Brod, former member of the Newtown Township Finance Committee, offers his observations regarding the preliminary 2020 budget at the November 23, 2019, Newtown Township Board of Supervisors meeting. Brod pointed out that the proposed 2020 budget projects $12 million in revenue versus $13.1 million in expenditures, for a deficit of $1.1 million. He noted that the reserve funds are dwindling and suggested that at some point it will no longer be possible to draw from the reserve in order to make up for budget deficits.

It would be good to know in more detail exactly what impact the COVID-19 lockdown has had on the collection of EIT to date and what the projected impact would be going forward.

ESI Consultants hired by the Township have come up with some numbers and presented 3 scenarios to supervisors. In the worst case scenario, if the Township does not make any adjustments to expenses, a 15% reduction in EIT and 10% reduction in other revenues will result in a negative General Fund cash balance position; i.e., NOT GOOD.

Each scenario assumes NO EXPENDITURE REDUCTION. It should be noted that the township has already identified expense reductions such as … Eliminating Part-Time Public Works Employees and other cost-saving measures.

Dwindling Reserves

The budget continues a "multi-year pattern" of deficit spending, said Brod. The General Account is "essentially a reserve fund that the township has been tapping into to offset the difference between revenue and expenses." He cited the year-end reserves in the General Fund for the years 2016 to 2020 (projected). The numbers are plotted in the following chart>

April 21, 2020, Planning Commission Meeting

The Planning Commission of Newtown Township will hold a meeting on Tuesday, April 21, 2020 at 7:30 PM. The Planning Commission will meet via the Zoom remote meeting platform. As with the BOS meeting, public comment will be taken before the meeting via email at comments@newtownpa.gov. All public comments must contain the commenter’s name and address and will be read aloud.  A digital copy of the meeting will be available on the Township website.

E-30 Ordinance - Convenience Store/Fueling Station

This proposed “curative” amendment (read "Newtown Passes Joint Municipal Curative Amendment") to the Newtown Area Joint Zoning Ordinance is the only item on the Planning Commission (PC) agenda. There are a number of details that the PC will review and make recommendations to the BOS about.

The PC has discussed various iterations of this amendment in other meetings, but this is the final iteration being considered by the Planning Commission of all three municipalities – Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield.

Previously, the Newtown Planning Commission made several specific recommendations for modifying the amendment such as:

  • Eliminate eat-in dining
  • Limit fuel pumps to 8 and permit up to 4 charging stations
  • Specify hours of operation and limit to 18
  • Make sidewalks a requirement

For more on that, read "Discussions of E-30 Zoning Amendment."

My Two Cents
  1. The use is now a special exception instead of a conditional use in all three townships – this means that the Board of Supervisors does not approve the use, but that is left up to the Zoning Hearing Board, which in my opinion, is not accountable to residents.

  2. The ordinance was revised to limit the number of pumps to 6 and the fueling stations to 12, whereas the Newtown Planning Commission recommended 4 pumps and 8 fueling stations, which is most common for other gas stations in the township.
What Can Newtown Township Do to Help Local Businesses?

Many local businesses are having difficulty coping with and surviving current COVID-19 restrictions. It is important for the Newtown community – including township officials – to do all it can to support our local business. In order to understand the needs of local businesses during these trying times, I am hosting a COVID-19 Business Impact Survey. You can see a summary of results at the end of this post.

Some ideas include:

Create an online/social media database of information about businesses with information about how they are carrying on business during the transition period. This was an idea put forward by my fellow Supervisor Dave Oxley and also suggested to me by a resident via Nextdoor who suggested using volunteers who are technically savvy.

The Patch maintains a useful listing of local businesses that are currently open, open under special conditions, or closed. Included are phone numbers, notes about hours of operation, pickup or delivery options, and suggestions for how to help the business. Find that list here.

Meanwhile, I am maintaining a list of Newtown Township/Borough restaurants/eateries that are open for business even if it's for limited service such as curbside pickup on certain days for limited hours. Find that list here.

Invite businesses to attend BOS meetings to give supervisors and residents a report on how they are doing and suggest ideas for how the township can help.

Devote one or more screens on the township cable TV channel to promoting local businesses and publishing an article in the township newsletter advising residents how they can help local businesses.

The last question of my  COVID-19 Business Impact Survey asks “What is your most pressing need right now? How can local government help?” Here are just two suggestions:

  1. Sign forgiveness - The Township can relaxe signage rules at least temporarily to help businesses promote to residents; and

  2. Rent forgiveness - Supervisors could invite Brixmor to address the BOS regarding what it may be doing to help Village at Newtown Shopping Center tenants get back to business as usual.

Any other ideas out there??

Newtown Business COVID19 Survey: Summary of Selected Results

Posted on 21 Apr 2020, 01:56 - Category: Governance

Newtown Township Board of Supervisors 2019 Accomplishments

The following are some notable accomplishments of the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) in 2019. I am proud to have been involved in these decisions along with my fellow BOS members. I look forward to a prosperous and safe New Year!

Enhanced the Health & Safety of Residents & Employees

Approved the Employment Agreement for a new Police Chief: Chief John Hearn came on board in March 2019. [Read "Meet Newtown Township's New Police Chief"]

Awarded 2019 Liquid Fuels Road Program to Harris Blacktopping, Inc. in the amount of $706,596.20 for resurfacing of 2.73 miles of roadways. [Read "Newtown Accepts $706K Bid to Pave 2.7 Miles of Township-owned Roads This Year"]

Advocated a Lower Speed Limit on Swamp Road. In a May 2, 2019, letter, Ashwin Patel, Senior Manager of PennDOT's Traffic Engineering and Safety Division, notified Newtown Township that PennDOT will be lowering the speed limit on Swamp Road between the Twining Bridge intersection and the intersection of Pennswood Dr. [Read "PennDOT to Lower Speed Limit on Section of Swamp Road"]

Renewed Agreement with Newtown Fire Association (NFA). The 2020 Budget includes $175,100 to support the all-volunteer NFA.

Authorized Newtown Township Complex Emergency Action Plan (EAP). The purpose of the EAP is to ensure staff is trained and prepared for any critical incidents that may occur.

Approved the purchase of emergency vehicle equipment: Ford F-250 from HAVIS, Inc. through COSTARs in the amount of $21,382.57.

Authorized purchase of an F-550 dump truck and an F 350 pick-up truck equipped with lights, snow plows and salt spreaders through the Co-Stars program at a cost of $130,320.

Protected & Improved Our Environment

Approved Pollution Reduction Plan: After extensive public comment, the Township submitted a revised Pollution Reduction Plan to the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP required a reduction in 10% in sediment runoff over 5 years in order to qualify for a renewal of its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4 Definition) permit. [Read "Newtown Township Revises Pollution Reduction Plan After Hearing Resident Comments"]

Passed a Native Plant Resolution: Affirming that native plants are better adapted to local soils and climate, the board of supervisors unanimously passed a resolution at the August 14, 2019, meeting saying that "every reasonable effort" will be made to plant native species on township-owned property. The measure also states that the township's Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) will do everything "to educate and empower" the public to help transition private properties to include native plants. [Read the resolution here.]

Approved Planting of Native Trees in Roberts Ridge Park: Township Manager Micah Lewis – who was trained as a landscape architect – endorsed the plan, which the supervisors voted unanimously in favor of. [For details, read "Newtown Township Approves Residents' Plan to Plant Native Trees in Roberts Ridge Park"]

Red outline outline the proposed meadow area.
Supported Sensible Development

Supported the Revitalization of the Newtown Village Shopping Center: Approved several new restaurants including Chipotle Mexican Grill, Bomba Tacos & Rum, Iron Hill Brewery, MOD Super Fast Pizza, and Solstice Restaurant. [See details here and read "Parking & Traffic in the Village at Newtown Shopping Center".]

Authorized Update to Comprehensive Plan: Approved Bucks County Planning Commission to undertake the Joint Comprehensive Plan Update. The township also passed a resolution that authorizes the submission of an application to the Municipal Assistance Program (MAP Definition) for a matching grant available via the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to be used for the purpose of updating the Plan.[For background, read "It’s Time for Newtown Township to Update Its Comprehensive Plan!" and See details here]

Opposed Durham Road Development: For the first time in a long time - maybe the first time ever! - the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted to send the Township Solicitor to a Zoning Hearing Board meeting to oppose the awarding of variances to a developer. [Read "Supervisors Oppose Variances for 27 Townhouses on Durham Road".]

Practiced Fiscal Responsibility

Passed a 2020 Budget Without Raising Taxes

Applied for and won a matching DCED $40,000 Matching Grant to assess the township’s financial condition and develop a Five-Year Financial Plan. [More here.]

Supported BCATO Definition resolution to lobby state lawmakers to restore municipalities' ability to adopt and collect a mercantile or business privilege tax in Townships that specifically elect to adopt such tax.

Advanced the Well-Being of Citizens

Supported BCATO Definition resolution to lobby state lawmakers to require licensed real estate agents to disclose municipal zoning and what is allowed within 1000 feet to a prospective purchaser.

Applied for a Grant for a Lower Dolington Road Multi-use Trail. [Read more about that here.] Subsequently, Newtown Township was awarded $125,000 from DCED ($0 match requirement), and $250,000 from DCNR Definition(50% match required) for a total of $375,000. The award amounts do not equal the requested amounts, however the Twp may be able to supplement the amount with additional grants - or alter the scope of work to stay consistent with the awards. [More here].

Took a Step Toward Building a Newtown Creek Bridge: Supervisors passed a resolution in support of exploring the feasibility of building a footbridge over Newtown Creek at the location of the historic trolley bridge between Frost Lane and Durham Road.

Posted on 04 Jan 2020, 01:29 - Category: Governance

The Reorganization of Newtown Township's Leadership 2019

Organization of the Board of Supervisors

  • Phil Calabro elected as Chairman
  • Linda Bobrin elected as Vice-Chairman
  • John Mack elected as Secretary/Assistant Treasurer

REPORTING DIRECTLY TO THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS TO SERVE THE TOWNSHIP WITH COMPENSATION FOR 2019

  • Micah Lewis appointed as Township Manager
  • Micah Lewis appointed as Township Treasurer [Mr. Lewis explained that as treasurer he is responsible for accounts payable and receivable and the budget process. Having the manager as treasurer is a common practice in Pennsylvania.]
  • The Law Offices of Sean Kilkenny appointed as Township Solicitor
  • Briana Stobbe appointed as Board of Supervisors Recording Secretary
  • Extend contract of Kurt M. Ferguson as Management Consultant ($18,000 for "Professional Services" is included in the 2019 budget to cover this expense)

REPORTING TO THE TOWNSHIP MANAGER TO SERVE WITH COMPENSATION FOR 2019

  • Remington & Vernick Engineers as Township Civil Engineers and Building Inspectors
  • T&M Associates as Township Traffic Engineers and for GIS  services
  • The law firm of Curtin & Heefner as Township Labor Attorneys
  • Remington & Vernick Engineers as Township Civil Engineer, General and Environmental Engineer and Lighting Consultant
  • Mockenhaupt Associates as Township Actuaries
  • Dahab Associates as Township Pension Investment Advisor
  • H.A. Thompson, The Hartford, Standard Insurance, Delaware Valley Workers Compensation Trust, Delaware Valley Insurance Trust, Delaware Valley Health Insurance Trust and ADP Services as brokers or carriers of Township Insurance and employee benefits
  • CKS Engineering as Township Planners
  • First National Bank of Newtown, T.D. Bank, Invest of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Local Government Investment Trust (PLGIT), First Priority Bank, and Univest Bank Corporation as Township Depositories
  • Maillie LLP as the independent auditor to audit the accounts of Newtown Township for fiscal year 2018
  • Video Gold for Video Production
  • Glenn Forsyth as Emergency Management Coordinator and fire code official

BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS INDIVIDUALS SERVING WITHOUT COMPENSATION (partial list)

  • Appoint Amber Ray (2019), Angelic Ranck (2019), Joe O'Neill (2019), Aamir Nayeem (2019), Mercy Ingraham (2019) to Human Relations Board
  • Appoint Jack Brod (2019), Dick Weaver (2019), George Skladany (2019), Peg Dissinger (2019), Mark Boada (2019), Stu Caplan (2019), David Oxley (2019) to Finance Committee
  • Appoint Jack Brod (2019), Dick Weaver (2019), George Skladany (2019), Peg Dissinger to Planning Commission (4-year term)(2019), Mark Boada (2019), Stu Caplan (2019), David Oxley (2019) to Finance Committee
  • Affirm the appointment of Brandon Wind (2019), Timothy Potero (2020), Michael Iapalucci (2021), Bill Wall (2022) and to appoint Josephine Vlastaris (2023) to Zoning Hearing Board (5-year term)
  • Peg Dissinger appointed to Vacancy Board (1-year term)
  • Affirm appointment of Denis D'Arcy(2019), Joel Grosso (2019), Catherine Anne Porter (2019), Sue Sutton (2020), and Rachel Chafetz (2020), and to appoint Mark Stout (2020), Kathy Kelly (2021), Robert Wolf (2021), Andy Levine (2021) to Parks & Recreation Board (3-year term)
  • Affirm the appointment of Jeannette Rogers (2019), Lisa Ray (2020), David Wolcott (2021), and to appoint Craig Deutsch (2022) to Newtown Area Joint Historic Commission (4-year term)
  • Affirm the appointment of Joseph McKernan (2019), William Mahler (2020), Peggy Driscoll as Planning Commission Liaison (a voting member), Mary Donaldson (2021) and Remington & Vernick Engineers as (Building Inspector), and to appoint Mike Crane (2022) and Harriet Beckert (2022) to Historical Architectural Review Board (4 Year Term)
  • Affirm the appointment of Michael Gallagher (2019), Gerry Couch (2020), and Jerry Schenkman (2022) to Newtown Joint Municipal Sewer Authority Board (5-year term)
  • Amy Easterly, George Skladany,  Neil Schnitzer, and Brenna Luczyszyn  appointed to Environmental Advisory Council (3-year term)
  • Appoint John Mack as Tax Collection Committee Delegate and Micah Lewis as alternate to Tax Collection Management Committee
  • Affirm the appointment Dan Paramesh (2019), Jonathan Schnell (2019), Jack Melvin (2020), Tim Clausz (2020), Angela Poston (2020), and to appoint Premsun Rajesh (2021) and vacant (2021) to Technology Committee (3 Year Term)

LIAISON & COORDINATION ASSIGNMENTS

  • Bucks County Association of Township Officials: John Mack
  • Bucks County Community College: Phillip Calabro
  • Community Service Organizations: Kyle Davis
  • Council Rock School Board: Linda Bobrin
  • Council Rock Senior Center: Dennis Fisher
  • Homeowners Associations: John Mack/Linda Bobrin
  • Historical Architecture Review Board: Kyle Davis
  • Joint Zoning Council Board: Supervisors (all)
  • Newtown American Legion Ambulance Squad: Kyle Davis
  • Newtown Borough Council: Phillip Calabro
  • Newtown Fire Association: John Mack/Dennis Fisher
  • Newtown Joint Historical Commission: Kyle Davis
  • Joint Municipal Sewer Authority: Linda Bobrin
  • Parks and Recreation Board: Kyle Davis/Linda Bobrin
  • Planning Commission: Phillip Calabro/Linda Bobrin
  • County Tax Board: Dennis Fisher
  • Environmental Advisory Council: Dennis Fisher
  • Technology Committee: John Mack/Kyle Davis
  • Finance Committee: Dennis Fisher
  • Veterans Committee: Linda Bobrin

Posted on 27 Jan 2019, 10:21 - Category: Governance

Agenda Highlights for January 23, 2019 BOS Meeting

The following are highlights from the official agenda of the January 23, 2019, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting. BOS meetings begin at 7 PM and are held in the Newtown Township Public Meeting Room, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA. Access the full agenda here.

Presentation 

2018 Fire and Emergency Service Study - Dr. Harry Carter, Ph.D. For a summary of the recommendations proposed, read “Newtown Township Releases the 2018 Fire and Emergency Services Study

Land Development

Bucks County Community College - Waiver of Stormwater Management Requirements

Manager's Report

Resolution establishing procurement procedures for the hiring of professionals for Pension Plans, in accordance with Act 44 Definition.

Consideration to approve a Resolution making a supplemental appropriation of funds in the 2019 Budget to allow $40,000 to be allocated for the DCED Early Intervention Program Grant. Listen to Andrew Sheaf, Local Government Policy Manager at the PA Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED Definition) as he answers Newtown Township Board of Supervisors' questions about the Early Intervention Program (EIP) at the November 19, 2018 Work Session meeting.

Motion to purchase 3 police vehicles through Fred Beans Inc. through COSTARS in the amount of $92,269.00.

Motion to purchase lighting and equipment for 3 police vehicles through HAVIS, Inc. through COSTARS in the amount of $36,730.08

Note: The Township received a Keystone Community Grant of $94,000 from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to be used for the purchase of two (2) police Harley Davidson motorcycles and a Ford F-250 Pickup Truck (see here).

Motion to advertise for the purchase of two police motorcycles, lighting, and equipment through PennBID

PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR DefinitionGrant Discussion: Mr. Lewis has been identifying grant opportunities to implement the trail plan. The priority is to complete the Lower Dolington Trail funding as it is the number one trail on the list. The DCNR recreation and conservation grants program will be accepting applications from January 22 to April 10, 2019.

Posted on 21 Jan 2019, 12:23 - Category: Governance

Newtown Township BOS 2018 Accomplishments

The following are some notable accomplishments of the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) in 2018. I am proud to have been involved in these decisions along with my fellow BOS members. I look forward to a prosperous and safe New Year!

Took Action to Enhance the Safety of Residents
  1. Hired a New Police Chief

  2. Named a New Township Manager: Micah Lewis (previously Assistant Manager)

  3. Hosted a public meeting on September 12, 2018, at which several PennDOT officials answered questions from residents and Supervisors concerning Swamp Road Traffic. Several suggestions for improving safety, including initiating a speed study to see if the speed limit can be lowered, were considered; see video:

  4. Passed a Gun Safety Resolution (Resolution 2018-R-17, passed by 4-1 on June 13, 2018) that calls for the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the United States Congress to enact laws to reduce gun violence. Council Rock High School students commented in favor of a gun safety Resolution Definition before the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors:

  5. Passed Resolution 2018-R-20 requesting a Keystone Community Grant of $94,000 from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to be used for the purchase of two (2) police Harley Davidson motorcycles and a Ford F-250 Pickup Truck to support community policing efforts and truck enforcement. We got the grant! More...

  6. Commissioned a Fire and Emergency Services Study. In February, 2018, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors approved the hiring of a consultant 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.” The final Fire and Emergency Services Study was completed in December, 2018. Find a list of major recommendations here.
Took Action to Fight Opioid Crisis

Filed a Civil Action Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers

With regard to the opioid crisis, I have said (here) that we can’t educate doctors and patients on the effects of opioids and combat the overdose epidemic without addressing the source of the problem: pharmaceutical companies.

At the December 12, 2018, meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 in favor (Kyle Davis voted nay) of authorizing Marc J. Bern Partners, LLP, & Cordisco & Saile, LLC to file suit against the manufacturers, promoters, and distributors of synthetic prescription Opioid medications on behalf of Newtown Township.

The following video clip documents the discussion before the vote was taken:

Improved Tracking of Police Calls for Drug Overdoses and Narcan Use

In order to help combat the opioid overdose epidemic, we must keep track of the numbers, especially numbers that document the use of Narcan by our police force and the commend those officers who go beyond the call of duty to rescue people with Narcan.

As of November 30, in 2018, Newtown police saved 3 people from dying of opioid overdose by using Narcan. Interim Police Chief Harris informed the BOS that on October 23, 2018, Officer Frank Goodwin administered Narcan to a young woman in cardiac arrest due to a drug overdose. The Chief noted that Officer Goodwin’s actions surely saved this person’s life.

Last year, police alone in PA have saved more than 9,000 people from dying of opioid overdose by using Narcan. EMS agencies were responsible for 12,000 rescues. 

Took Action to Protect Our Environment

Passed Anti-Fracking Resolution

A the March 28, 2018, Newtown BOS meeting, the Supervisors by a 4-1 vote (Kyle Davis voting nay) passed Newtown Resolution 2018-R-10,  which calls upon the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to “enact a complete and permanent ban on natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing and all related activities (including drilling, fracking, wastewater processing and discharges from and water withdrawals for drilling and fracking operations) throughout the basin.” [Read “Newtown Township Supports a Complete & Permanent Ban on Fracking and Related Activities”]

Unfortunately, the Resolution was submitted to DRBC after the deadline. At the June 13, 2018, public meeting of the DRBC, I summarized the major points of the Resolution and asked that the Resolution be added to the public comment docket regarding DRBC’s Proposed Draft Regulations Addressing Hydraulic Fracturing.

Practiced Fiscal Responsibility

Passed the 2019 Budget Without Raising Taxes

The proposed package, which was approved in a 5-0 vote at the Dec. 12 meeting, is a little more than three percent higher than the 2018 budget but includes no property or other tax hike.

According to the budget, Newtown will end the 2018 fiscal year on Dec. 31 with an estimated budget surplus of $2,538,208, which is about what was earlier projected. However, Supervisors Davis and Mack questioned whether this so called ‘net fund balance’ is adequate to ensure the township’s future financial stability, of if a higher amount is needed on the books to ensure a healthy fiscal picture for township auditors.

“It’s a concern, it’s getting lower and lower every year,” stated Mack.

Last year at this time, the township ended fiscal year 2017 with a $3.14 million net fund balance. Chairman Calabro also expressed his concerns of the dwindling surplus, noting, “We need to find ways of raising revenues in the future.”

Established the Newtown Township Finance Committee

Resolution 2018-R-12,  signed on March 28, 2018, states "It is the mission of the Finance Committee (NTFC), in cooperation with the Board of Supervisors and the Township Manager, to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors related to matters associated with finance, budgeting, debt service, investments and long-range planning."

At the September 26, 2018, BOS meeting, Jack Brod, Chair of the NTFC, presented the Committee's first-ever report to the Newtown Board of Supervisors. Play the following video clip to hear the details:

Established a Human Relations Commission

On November 28, 2018, Newtown Township became the FIRST Township in Bucks County to pass an Ordinance Definition prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Specifically, the ordinance, a copy of which you can download here, safeguards the right of citizens to obtain and hold employment and public accommodation and to secure housing accommodation and commercial property "without regard to actual or perceived race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids, and to have equal access to postsecondary educational institutions."

The Ordinance becomes effective immediately upon the appointment of a Human Relations Commission by the Newtown Board of Supervisors. The Commission will handle complaints through a fact-finding conference with the parties of the dispute in order to resolve the dispute without the need to hire lawyers or go to court.

The BOS appointed 5 members to the commission at the January, 7, 2019, reorganization meeting. Find out who they are here
Approved Repaving of 2.3 Miles of Roads

In 2017 and 2018, 8.3 miles of roads were repaved for an average of 4.15 miles per year (read more on this here). This is an important threshold number. With 71.3 road miles and an average of a 20-year life, the Township would need to average 3.56 miles of road paving per year to keep up. For 2019, the BOS approved 2.34 miles of roads bringing the 3-year average to 3.54 miles per year. In 2020, when the Township expects to take out a new road improvement loan, the number may be closer to 5 miles of newly repaved roads. This program is accomplished without raising taxes! The following is the list of roads expected to be repaved in 2019:

Established the Newtown Township Veterans Committee

Via Resolution 2018-R-13,  signed on March 28, 2018, states "The mission of the Newtown Township Veterans Committee shall be to honor our many Veterans, aid in the planning, facilitation, and coordination of Veterans affairs in the Township and to work with existing Veterans organizations and Township residents to achieve this mission."

Rejected the Arcadia Green III PRD Application

On November 14, 2018, the Newtown Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to deny approval of a tentative Arcadia Green Planned Residential Development (PRD Definition) project! More…

“After listening to all the testimony, reading the reports of experts, and listening to residents of surrounding communities, I will vote to deny the current Arcadia PRD because I think it would be unsafe for residents of that development – should it go forward – to exit and enter the development. Also, let’s not forget the additional traffic it would bring to the intersection of Buck Road and the Bypass. Lastly, the plan for a U-turn to allow access to the Bypass is totally impractical, unsafe, and will cause major delays in my opinion, which seems to also be the opinion of PennDOT and other experts.” – John Mack’s comments made before the vote by BOS.
Introduced an Ordinance to Eliminate PRD from JMZO Zoning Ordinance

At the September 12, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, Solicitor David Sander introduced JMZO 2017-04, which is an ordinance amending the Newtown Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO Definition) to delete Planned Residential Development. The Board passed the ordinance by a 5-0 vote. See video below:

Approved Several Notable Eating/Drinking Establishments

The list includes:

  1. Nina’s Waffles (read “Nina's Waffles Coming to Newtown”),  
  2. Drive-thru Starbucks (although initially rejected; read “Drive-thru Starbucks is Back on Track!”),
  3. Newtown Brewery (read “Craft Beer Brewery, Food Trucks and Fun Coming to Newtown Commons This Summer”)
  4. Melt Shop, a grilled cheese store (read “Melt, a Grilled Cheese Store, To Open Newtown”)
  5. Cross Culture Indian Cuisine (read “New Cross Culture Indian Restaurant and Turning Point Breakfast/Lunch Restaurant Coming to Newtown Township”)
  6. Turning Point (breakfast & Lunch)

 

Posted on 31 Dec 2018, 14:46 - Category: Governance

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