The Newtown Township Citizens Survey reveals that many residents are concerned about the condition of roads, streetlights, etc.
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) engaged Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI) to develop a comprehensive multi-year financial management plan (read "Newtown Township Seeks Grant to Assess Finances"). As part of this process, Newtown asked residents to respond to the Newtown Township Citizen Survey. 545 responses were collected, including over 300 open-ended comments.
Almost two-thirds of citizen survey respondents are women and over 70% have lived in Newtown Township for over ten years. Nearly two-thirds (72%) are 45 years old or older. Half report that their annual household income is over $100,000 and 75% have a bachelors or higher education degree. Only 18% work in Newtown. [Also read: "How Much Do Newtown Residents Like Township Parks & Recreation?"]
Ratings Reveal Problems
Snow removal, street cleaning, street lighting, and street maintenance were among the services receiving the worst ratings. About 37% of respondents rated street maintenance "poor" (6.9%) to "fair" (30.0%) and about one-third rated street lighting "poor" (6.5%) to "fair (26.7%).
As one respondent said, "for the taxes we pay, our roads should be maintained better." See more comments from respondents below.
COVID-19 Impact on 2020 Road Repair Program
Back in June, 2020, ESI advised the Newtown Board of Supervisors that the township faced a more than $748,0001 shortfall in its collection of the earned income tax this year, as well as another $567,000 shortfall in other income, including a $400,000 loss in revenue from its summer camps programs that cannot take place, all due to the COVID-19 pandemic mitigation program.
To deal with this anticipated loss, Township Supervisors approved the following measures by email at the end of March, 2020:
- Rejection of all bids received on March 4, 2020, for 2020 road program and rebidding the project with a "revised and reduced scope of work" (i.e. much fewer roads repaved),
- Pull back of a one million dollar road loan to repave 5.5 miles of road, and
- Re-allocation of 1 mill of tax revenue dedicated to debt service (approximately $375,000, which was going to used to help pay for the loan) to the General Fund to support the day-to-day operation of the Township.
Note At the August 31, 2020, [Act32Bucks] Bucks County Tax Collection Committee meeting, Joseph W. Lazzaro, who represented Keystone, which collects EIT, reported that for Bucks County as a whole EIT collections are down by only $13,000 compared to 2019 which was a banner year. Mr. Lazzaro anticipates that by end of that day all this and more will be collected.
Obviously, results depend on local residents. Mr. Lazzaro pointed out that if a collector area (e.g., school district or township) has a lot of employees who work in the restaurant industry then EIT will be impacted more than if residents worked in healthcare and the pharma industry (which is more like Newtown). He even suggested that the latter type of employee may be making more money this year than last year and thus be paying more EIT offsetting any loses from other more vulnerable employees.
Why Not Hire More Public Works Personnel?
Given the survey results, I expected that the ESI consultants would recommend that the township hire more Public Works personnel. Among all the departments that service the community, the Public Works (PW) Department is the primary one that must be considered when thinking of "quality of life improvements." This is born out by the citizen survey in which 70% of respondents said "Streets and Highway Improvements" was a top choice they felt needed improvement.
Despite low ratings regarding infrastructure maintenance and a recognized need for improvement in maintaining streets, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents rated the Public Works Department as "good" (52.7%) to "excellent" (13.0%).
Repairs are critical, but so are aesthetics. As a Supervisor I have repeatedly brought resident concerns regarding street maintenance to the Township Manager such as fixing potholes on Commonwealth Drive, opening bathrooms in the parks and making the plantings on the median of Stoopville Road more attractive. For all of these issues I was told that the problem was lack of enough PW personnel to handle deal with these issues as well as all the other duties they perform, such as mowing the grass in public parks.
Well-Maintained Infrastructure is a Priority for Attracting New Business to Town
One of the goals of the 5-year financial plan is to attract new business to Newtown and help all businesses thrive. When asked to identify the two TOP priorities that the township should focus on for attracting new business, Public Infrastructure was the top choice with 45.6 % of respondents. A competitive tax structure was the choice of 45.1% of respondents (see chart below).
Dozens of open-ended comments about infrastructure were submitted by survey respondents. Selected comments include:
- An emphasis must be placed on adequate parking for new business as well as congestion potential. Roads must be maintained with so much traffic. More left trun arrow lights are needed for very busy intersections, e.g. Lower Dolington and Washington Ave.
- Focus on modernizing low cost high impact infrastructure Improvements- e.g. traffic light sensors to improve flow and reduce congestion
- FOR THE TAXES WE PAY, OUR ROADS SHOULD BE MAINTAINED BETTER
- I know a lot of roads are penndot but I think we need to improve our roads that the township maintains.
- the township seems to get a lot of pot holes. That would be great if that could be fixed in a more timely manner
- I understand the reasons, but road repair and roadside litter cleanup both need to be increased or speeded up.
- I would like to see better lines painted on the roads and especially the double left turn lanes with guides because people drive in your lane constantly. Adding EV chargers would be progressive for future fuel efficient cards. Adding LED Streetlights or Smart Streetlights that can capture video or make the town safer would be nice. Adding the reflective guides in the road would help along the dark routes at night also
- Improve roads, lighting and snow removal.
- Please fix the potholes and pave our neighborhood streets
- Roads are crumbling and glad we've had warm winters because snow removal is poor.
- Roads are starting to noticeably deteriorate.
- Street lighting is often faulty and needs to be upgraded to LED technology.
- Street maintenance has declined
- The roads in some of the developments are in terrible condition. After much complaining some work was started on sealing cracks in Rosefield but they never came back to finish the work. It looks awful and is a danger for cars and cyclists.
- The services for filling in potholes are not timely
- there needs to be more effort to make the township more walkable
- We need more connected trails to encourage walking, cycling etc, on which you can actually go places and do other healthy outdoor pursuits.
- We need more parking for the amount of stores coming in.
- Public street maintenance is fair. Our neighborhood roads are in repair, and the township has not responded except to put bandaid asphalt on the cracks
- Really would like to see more progress on connecting the various neighborhoods with sidewalks. The sidewalks to nowhere are pointless.
- Road lighting, it gets too dark at night at some roads
- Road repair is important...have seen the same pot holes forever
- The roads are in terrible shape