July 11, 2022, Meet Mack Monday Meeting Summary
Items on the agenda included: Lower Dolington Road Trail Delay, Where's Wawa?, NT Yardley Rd/Bypass Intersection Safety, Newtown Ambulance Squad, Fire Services Agreement, More...
The following is a summary of the discussion:
Lower Dolington Rd Trail Update
I summarized the timeline for this project, which starts in March, 2018, and ends in June 2022.
Q: What’s holding up this project?
A: Back in May 2022, after 2 months of delay, the township engineer notified the supervisors: “As you are aware, we have encountered some ‘unexpected utility conflicts’ during construction which impact the underground infiltration trenches designed as part of this project. This is predominately in the area between Stanford Place and Everett Drive. Lumens was scheduled to relocate their conduit last year, which became January, then April, and now possibly the end of May. [As of July 4, 2022, this has not yet happened!]
“Additionally, Newtown Artesian Water has water mains in different locations than what was confirmed with them during the design. The Contractor also delayed performing test pits, which is another issue.”
Q: How has the township responded to residents complaints about long abandoned construction barriers causing hazardous conditions, interfering with landscaping, etc.?
A: To date the Township has removed at least some of the garbage/litter, relocated barrels and netting to allow more pedestrian access to the intersection, and removed the netting laying on the ADA ramp in order to comply with Federal law regarding maintaining the safety of ADA infrastructure.
One attendee noted that some of the construction material seems to be on private property (see photos below). If so, they wondered if residents could take matters into the own hands and remove the obstructions.
Q: When will these barriers be removed? Should the township pay the contractors to come back and up the mess they left months ago?
A: It is unknown if and when these construction materials will be removed. The Township informed Supervisors that to do a cleanup would require a full crew to come back at additional expense. The Township Engineer estimated this would cost $800 - $1,000. I noted that the contract requires the construction company to maintain a clean site. Therefore, I am in favor of either requiring the company to come back and clean up at its expenses, or have the township pay to have this done ASAP considering the expected ongoing delays (see below).
Q: When will this project be completed?
A: On July 11, 2022, I met with the Township Engineer and representatives from Lumen – the company responsible for relocating underground cables. Lumen was informed that this project is in a “not so happy place.” Lumen was pressed on providing a timeline for the relocation of the fiber cables. It indicated it would put out a bid immediately for the project, which involves a total of 15,000 feet of cable. Lumen estimated it would take 2-3 weeks to award the contract and 1-2 weeks to complete the job once it begins. Lumen has yet to provide a more detailed timeline, which was requested by the Township Engineer. Work on the trail can continue ONLY when the cable project is completed at least between Frost Lane and Everett Drive. Once it does continue, it may take months to complete, hopefully before winter sets in!
As the HOA Liaison to the BOS, I requested that residents be kept well-informed throughout the process. This does NOT mean that all residents in the area be informed via postal mail. I proposed that HOA representatives be notified directly – NOT through HOA management companies, which in my experience, cannot be relied upon to pass the information along to their clients. Also, some HOAs (e.g., Woods of Saxony) do not use management companies. Previously, the township expected that residents would attend township meetings to learn what’s going on. Obviously, this communication channel did not work according to what I’ve been hearing from local residents.
UPDATE: According to the August 5, 2022, Engineer’s Report, “Lumens indicated on 8/2/2022 that their relocation project has been awarded to a contractor and will provide the Township a schedule for material procurement and construction.”
At the July 11, 2022, conference call with Lumens, they said that “as soon as we have our contractor on board we can set up a timeline and give you guys what you’re looking for.” Listen to the conversation:
As of August 25, 2022, Lumens has not yet provided a timeline and the delay continues.
- Lower Dolington Road Trail Trash Tour (3-minute video)
- Lower Dolington Road Trail Construction Barricades Present a Safety Hazard! (Blog Post)
Recall that Wawa at the last minute declined to show up at the May 11, 2022, without providing any reason (read "Newtown Wawa Developers Just Stood Up Supervisors at a Big Meeting. What Does This Mean for the Project?"). The Twp allowed an extension to 8/15 to hear and vote on the project and TENTATIVELY scheduled a hearing at the 8/10 BOS meeting.
There was much discussion about the pros and cons of approving this application. One resident noted that if the supervisors do not approve Wawa’s plan, it will be appealed and then, as usual, the township will lose the appeal. How much taxpayer money is the township willing to spend to fight this application?
I mentioned that by law supervisors can limit the hours of operation. This is what I call the “poison pill” because Wawa will not accept anything less than a 24/7 operation. See page 41 of the 2022 BOS Chronicle. At least one resident is looking to being able to buy gas at any time of the day and would not like to see the hours of operation limited to 6 AM to Midnight, for example.
There was much discussion regarding pedestrian and cyclist safety, especially when crossing the Bypass and coming west down Lower Silverlake Rd. I noted that Middletown Township is expecting cyclists would be crossing Woodbourne Rd heading to the proposed Wawa on Lower Silverlake Rd. To mitigate the danger, new traffic signals are coming to Woodbourne Road's intersection with both Swift and Lower Silver Lake roads by the fall or winter (read “New Traffic Lights Set for Woodbourne Road Near Newtown Bypass”).
As an aside, I mentioned that at least one cyclist expressed concern regarding cyclist safety on North Sycamore Street.
Whatever the pros and cons (read “Super Wawa Survey Comments”), having the hearing on August 15 is UNACCEPTABLE! At least one supervisor and many residents will be away on vacation that day. This hearing should be held AFTER Labor Day to assure that residents have an opportunity to attend and make comments.
Left Turn Signage at Newtown-Yardley Rd/Bypass Intersection
Q: Is new, additional signage needed to prevent left turn accidents?
A: According to “Newtown-Yardley Road Left Turn Sign Survey Results” at least 80% of respondents say “Yes, Definitely!”
Q: What did PennDOT think of this idea?
A: Mr. Michael Smith, Acting Traffic Signals Supervisor at PennDOT, said “It does appear that additional signage would be helpful to motorists.” However, the township must apply for a permit and would be responsible for installing the sign (see concept below):
Q: What did the Newtown traffic engineer have to say about it?
A: “I’ve taken a look at the current PennDOT permit plan for the signalized intersection at the Newtown Bypass & Newtown-Yardley Rd. The plan shows existing overhead lane use signs on the southbound approach just before the intersection along with a series of lane use arrows and extended lane markings (dashed lines) that delineate the left turn movements through the intersection.
“These features are compliant with the current standards and any additional signage would supplement those specified PennDOT requirements.
“I understand that the intersection’s pavement markings are scheduled to be restored as part of this year’s road program. I’d expect the fresh extended lane markings to remedy any current issues with double left-turn conflicts.
“If an issue exists after the markings are restored, the need for additional signage can be revisited. However, I would also recommend carefully considering the decision to mount additional signage to an existing traffic signal mast arm. The items for consideration are as follows:
- Traffic signal poles and mast arms are structural units designed for specific conditions. Installing additional overhead signage increases wind load on the arm. The specifications of the existing pole should be reviewed to ensure the added signage does not exceed the current design parameters.
- On two-lane approaches, the MUTCD and PennDOT regulations specify post-mounted lane use control signage. Overhead signage is allowed but not required. To limit cost and ease maintenance, post-mounted signs could also be installed to supplement the existing conditions.
- If added overhead signing is installed, will it spark an undesirable precedent for other locations within the Township?
“I need some time to digest this, but I am concerned that our traffic engineer may think If added overhead signing is installed, that it may "spark an undesirable precedent for other locations within the Township." Safety improvements - such as this, which even PennDOT says may be helpful, should never be considered an "undesirable precedent," IMHO. I am surprised he did not say that when we made pedestrian safety improvements on N Sycamore St. I believe that set a "desirable precedent."
Newtown Ambulance Squad
A resident asked about the Newtown Ambulance Squad (NAS), which is expected to give a financial report at July 13, BOS meeting.
I informed attendees that the NAS is asking for an additional 0.5 millage Newtown Township tax dedicated to NAS. Based on a home with a market value of $400,000 and an assessed value of $43,600 (the approximate average home market/assessed value in Newtown Township in 2018), the current EMS tax for the average Newtown Twp homeowner is 0.5 X 43.6 = $21.80 per year. So an additional 0.5 millage would also be $21.80 for a new total of $43.60. Estimating that there are 7,881 household in Newtown Twp (according to latest US Census data), that would total 7,881 x $21.80 = $171,809 in addition to the $171,000 currently being donated to NAS by the township.
This would require a ballot referendum and the BOS will consider authorizing that at its July 13, 2022, meeting. I was not sure if this referendum would appear on the November 2022 ballot or if it would be better to have this on the 2023 ballot when 2 supervisors are up for re-election.
I noted that Newtown Township (NTT) currently provides $171,000 (about $8.75 per resident) in annual funding to the NAS, whereas Newtown Borough only contributes $15,000 (about $6.67 per resident) annually. My comment was that the Borough should pay more, especially if the new figure per NTT resident = 2 X $8.75 = $17.50! I’ve heard that the Borough may be balking at paying more, which means that NTT residents would be paying at least 260% more than Borough residents on a per resident basis!
Newtown Township-Newtown Borough Fire Services Agreement
I briefly summarized the FINAL Agreement between the Township and Borough regarding paid fire services provided by the Newtown Township Emergency Services (EMS) Department. The agreement states: “In exchange for the Township providing the Services to the Borough, the Borough shall pay the Township compensation. The Compensation for calendar year 2022 shall be One Hundred Fifty-Four Thousand, Three Hundred Sixty-Five Dollars ($154,365.00), $147,155 of which is base Compensation and $7,210 of which is related to capital expense of purchasing a command vehicle. This will be paid monthly retroactive to January 2022. The agreement is for 3 years and “shall increase by a factor of five percent (5%)” each year after the first.
An attendee – who was a volunteer fireman – noted that soon there will be no volunteer fire departments. I responded that anticipating that, at the January 12, 2022, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) public meeting, Fire Chief Glenn Forsyth spoke about the reason why he is seeking approval to submit a third application to FEMA for a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. If awarded, the grant would cover the expenses of 3 additional EMS paid firefighters for 3 years. This would allow the EMS to cover weekends as well as weekdays. The volunteers would still be needed to cover the nights shifts (6 PM to 6 AM, I believe) every day of the week.
The first two applications were rejected because FEMA felt that the township did not have an adequate source of revenue to pay for the new firefighters after 3 years. Of course, to address that problem taxes would need to be increased.
Items on the Agenda That Were NOT Discussed Due to Lack of Time
Preview of the July 13, 2022, Board of Supervisors Meeting: Will Newtown pass a resolution supporting a woman’s right to abortion? (e.g., as in: “Abortion Rights Ordinance in Radnor Township Stops Police From Investigating Abortion Cases”).
Joint Zoning Council (JZC) Topics: See July 7, 2022, JZC Meeting Highlights for details:
- Distributed Antenna System (DAS; i.e., small 5G antennas) Ordinance Revisions – Newtown BOS tabled the decision to approve this ordinance after learning about An Expert's Critique of the JMZO 5G Wireless Ordinance. What’s the next step?
- Electric Vehicle Charging Stations. Draft ordinance proposed. For background, listen to this podcast: “PC Discusses Electric Vehicle Charging Stations.”
- Bill Board Use – JZC proposal. Draft Ordinance not yet ready.
- Comprehensive Plan Update