John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Governance Category

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

Volunteers Needed for the NEW Newtown Township 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."

Volunteer to Serve on the Human Relations Commission

The Ordinance becomes effective immediately upon the appointment of a Human Relations Commission by the Newtown Board of Supervisors ( BOS Definition). 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 Commission will consist of no fewer than three and no more than five members, who will serve overlapping terms of three years each. Members must be residents of the Township or individuals who work full-time within Newtown Township. No voting member of the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission can hold any office in any political party.

Members of the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission serve without salary but may be paid expenses incurred in the performance of their duties, as approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Members of the Commission must attend training and education seminars or sessions to acquaint themselves with the functioning of the Commission under the ordinance, as well as the terms, conditions and provisions of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, and the operation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Send in Your Letter of Interest!

If you are interested in serving on the Commission, please submit a letter of interest and your resume (or short bio) by December 24, 2018. Send to Olivia Kivenko, Newtown Township, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA 18940. Or by email to oliviak@newtownpa.gov, or by fax to (215) 968-5368.

Posted on 06 Dec 2018, 01:25 - Category: Governance

My BOS Meeting Survival Kit

This is how my work area looked at last night's Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting. I call it my BOS Meeting Survival Kit. I especially needed it for last night's meeting, which was pretty boring.

Apart from resident John D., who attends every BOS meeting (kudos to him!), there was not a single resident in the audience aside from a few township officials*. 

At times you could hear a cricket chirp! Some day I will let one loose in the room to really test that. But you COULD hear the air conditioning!

Speaking of air conditioning, it's a little known fact that the Township employs AC and a couple of other things designed to keep Supervisors awake during such sessions.

The temperature in the meeting room is keep pretty low, even in winter months. So low that despite my desire to have a "shirt sleeves rolled up" and ready to work persona, I am forced to wear a jacket to keep warm. I'm told that when the room is full of people it can get pretty heated literally as well as figuratively. I can attest to the latter at previous BOS meetings, but there was no actual audience body heat at last night's meeting!

I've often thought of a better way to keep warm at these meetings: a flask of scotch! That, however, would be too obvious. Some day - and that day may never come - I might just have vodka instead of water in that bottle and no one would be the wiser!

The other means the Township has of keeping Supervisors awake is a bowl of candy in front of every member. Now, I like candy just as much as anyone, but like many people my age I need to keep my weight in check and I must worry about Type 2 diabetes (among other health issues). 

I have tried to wean Supervisors off of the candy by bringing in fruit to share with them. So far my efforts have not paid off and I have not shamed other members into bringing their own alternatives to share with colleagues. But at least 2 or 3 other members enjoyed one of the tangerines I brought in. I do not know, however, if that stopped them from downing a mini Hershey bar or Kit Kat.

Last night's BOS meeting was preceded by a 1-hour Executive Session Definition that began a 6 PM. This was not so boring - we had to discuss some very complicated employee contract and legal issues. TMI! Luckily, we have professionals who know how to handle the nitty-gritty details.

But the Township did not provide any food during that meeting, so I decided I needed to bring in some kind of half-way nutritious Asian-style snack mix. At least it had some fat and dietary fiber to go along with the sugar!

Budget Presentation

In closing, let me say that every Newtown BOS meeting is important - even the boring ones. Possibly the most important BOS meeting of the year is coming up this Monday, October 15, 2018. This is a Special Meeting at which the draft for the 2019 budget will be presented to the Board by the township manager and department heads.

OK, I know, budgets and financial discussions may not excite everyone, but this is an opportunity to learn where your tax money goes. To prepare for that meeting, I urge you to listen to the 2017 Audit Report and the Newtown Finance Committee Report here

The Budget Presentation is scheduled to begin at 7 PM, so you have time to have a quick dinner beforehand! Or you can be like me and skip the heavy dinner and bring your own BOS Meeting Survival Kit.


* I am exaggerating a bit. A young member of Eagles Troop 29 along with the Troop leader and a couple of friends/family members were there at the beginning of the meeting to present a plan for landscaping to beautify the existing Veterans Park sign at the Durham Road entrance. It was when they left that the meeting became a bit boring, at least until Chair Phil Calabro ripped the Zoning Hearing Board Definition a "new one" for postponing a hearing on the Sit-Stay kennel variance hearing.

Posted on 11 Oct 2018, 01:51 - Category: Governance

A Month in the Life of a Newtown Supervisor: Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings!

My desktop at a recent BOS meeting

In the month of September 2018, I estimate that I spent about 34 hours attending meetings. This includes Board of Supervisors (BOS) meetings that I am required to attend such as Regular bi-weekly public meetings, non-public Executive Sessions, optional public Work Session meetings, and Special meetings (see the table below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. For September, these included:

  1. Joint Zoning Council monthly meeting
  2. Newtown Fire Association monthly meeting
  3. Technology Committee monthly meeting
  4. Planning Commission bi-monthly meeting
  5. Bucks County Association of Township Officials Annual Fall Dinner
  6. House Democratic Policy Committee on EMS Recruitment and Retention Problems (read “Perry Warren & PA House Democratic Policy Committee Look at Ways to Recruit and Retain EMS Volunteers”).

One special “optional” meeting was actually a series of several meetings where I sat in on interviews with candidates for Newtown Police Chief. These interviews were done by outside consultants and Supervisors were invited to attend for observational purposes only. That was a whole day’s worth of meetings totally over 7 hours! Not every Supervisor can attend these kinds of meetings because they have outside jobs. I am able to attend these very important “optional” meetings because I am retired.

In addition to attending meetings, I also must prepare for meetings and spend time traveling to and from meetings. The following chart shows the breakdown of these activities for September:

In total, I spent nearly 60 hours in September attending meetings, preparing for meetings, and travel to and from meetings! It was a busy month. Not that I’m complaining – after all, I DO get paid about $345 a month before taxes!

Under “Activities” that are not meetings, I included time spent writing and answering official email from my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and interactions with residents and reporters in person or via phone and/or Facebook discussing official township issues.

What This Does Not Include

The above estimates do not include the many hours I spend keeping the public informed. I post information to this blog and website, for example. This includes writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by Supervisors, etc. I also have a Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account that I post to on a regular basis. I also curate content from local media that is of interest to Newtown area residents (see here). I estimate I spend about 2 hours every day on these activities!

Was September an unusual month? That remains to be seen. Coming in October is budget season, which I am told requires a lot of time and effort. Stay tuned – I intend to continue to keep a record of my activities and report back to you every month.

In conclusion, I must say that it's really an honor to serve the community! I've learned a lot 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 running and safe!

Posted on 29 Sep 2018, 01:02 - Category: Governance

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