The following are a few notable accomplishments of the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) in 2020.
It’s been such a terrible year that a new definition of accomplishment is needed. For example, merely surviving seems like an accomplishment.
Nevertheless, I am proud to have served the community to the best of my ability during difficult times that required difficult decisions to be made to secure the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the township. I am sure my fellow BOS members feel the same. With your support and input, I look forward to a prosperous and safe 2021 New Year.
NOTE: How much do you agree or disagree with the following Board decisions/actions? Please take a 5-minute survey to tell me. DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Newtown Township Survey. It’s purpose was solely to inform John Mack, a Newtown Supervisor, of residents' opinions.
Appointed First Person of Color as Supervisor
Board members voted 3-1 at a special meeting on January 8, 2020, to appoint Democrat David Oxley to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Linda Bobrin.
Oxley, 36, will serve through 2021 by virtue of the appointment but would have to run and win in that year's election to retain the seat.
Mr. Oxley brings to the Board extensive expertise in financial management combined with business development experience and volunteerism, which are perfect qualifications for taking the lead in the Board's effort to work with consultants, residents and the business community to solve the township's deficit spending problem.
Oxley said he will "work hard to keep the township safe, especially for our youth. I want to help keep Newtown Township family-oriented and promote growth, though we don't want to grow too fast."
Appointed Kevin Antoine to Newtown Human Relations Commission
At the August 26, 2020, BOS meeting, supervisors appointed Kevin Antoine, Bucks County Community College’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, to the Newtown Human Relations Commission.
Mr. Antoine has more than 16 years of experience in diversity and inclusion, non-discrimination and civil rights compliance with state and federal laws and regulations. "I believe my breath of experience and knowledge will compliment the duties of the commission," said Mr. Antoine in his application letter.
Held the First Ever Police Town Hall Meeting
A the June 10, 2020, BOS meeting, the Board directed Newtown Township Police Chief John Hearn to host a public “Town Hall” meeting where police officers and the community - especially residents who feel they have issues with the police - can get to know one another and have a meaningful dialog. Read more about the meeting in the August 2020 issue of Newtown News Update.
Established a Single Newtown Fire Chief
At the October 29, 2020, BOS meeting, supervisors approved the appointment of Newtown Chief Glenn Forsyth as chief of the all volunteer Newtown Fire Association and the Newtown Township Emergency Services Department (career firefighters) effective Jan. 1, 2021. It is the first step in bringing the two departments together as one. More…
Related Content: “The Volunteer Newtown Fire Association is at a Turning Point”
Repaved 3.5 Miles of Roads
Approximately 3.5 miles of roads were repaved in 2020 despite the fact that 1.0 Mill of revenue (approximately $350,000) dedicated to roadwork was diverted to the General Fund in anticipation of a EIT shortfall due to COVID-19 restrictions. The following roads were among those repaved in 2020:
- Swamp Rd (from the Bypass to Sycamore St)
- Fountain Farm Ln
- Newtown Gate Dr
- Penns St
- Upper Silver Lake Rd (From Newtown Yardley Rd to Vera Ave)
- Silver Lake Rd (between N. Penns Trail & L. Dolington Rd)
- Newtown Yardley Rd (Patch Paving between Tara Blvd & N. Penns Trail)
Rejected Arcadia Development Settlement
At the December 22, 2020, BOS meeting via Zoom, supervisors refused to vote on a settlement offer from Arcadia to build 60 homes on Buck Road and Newtown Bypass. Dozens of residents were able to attend this meeting and make their voices heard.
The appeal against the “Mandamus” decision will move forward and it is hoped that the township will be successful in overturning that decision.
Denied Toll Brothers Twining Bridge Road Application
A conditional use application by Toll Bros for a cluster development on 158.07 acres located in the CM Conservation Management district was denied by the BOS at its August 26, 2020, meeting.
Applied for a Grant to Extend Lower Dolington Road Trail
Although the Township received funding last year for the Lower Dolington Trail (LDT; read “Newtown Township Gets Grants to Build Lower Dolington Road Multi-Use Trail”), it did not receive all of what was requested to finish the trail as planned. Therefore, the Township applied for a DCED Multimodal Transportation Fund Grant, which has a zero percent match. With this money it will be possible to complete the LDT or another trail segment in the Comprehensive Plan.
Approved EAC Comprehensive Plan Recommendations
The Newtown Township Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) prepared a set of recommendations to the Planning Commission for consideration in the development of the next Newtown Area Comprehensive Plan. The Board approved submitting these recommendations to the Joint Zoning Council to consider as part of the new 10=year Newtown Area Comprehensive Plan. See the recommendations here.
Approved E30 “Curative Amendment” to Zoning
At the September 23, 2020, BOS meeting, supervisors approved the E-30 amendment to the Newtown Area Zoning Ordinance that would allow a combination gas station/convenience store use in various locations in Newtown, Wrightstown, and Upper Makefield (the "Jointure"). The amendment imposes several conditions such as a limit on the number of fuel pumps, prohibition of a drive through window, etc.
While this amendment will apply to all new applications for such a use in the Jointure, it does NOT apply to the application submitted by Provco to build a Wawa on the Newtown Bypass. That application precedes the curative process.
Passed “Love is Love” Resolution
At the March 11, 2020, BOS meeting, Newtown supervisors passed a “Love is Love” resolution in support of LGBTQ + minority youth by a unanimous bipartisan 5-0 vote.
Many interested parties were present and made impassioned pleas in support of the resolution, which establishes February 15 as Love is Love Day in Newtown Township. More...
Mastered BOS Zoom Meetings to Allow Resident Participation
On December 9, 2020, the Newtown BOS held its first Zoom meeting that successfully enabled residents to attend and make comments. The December 22, 2020, meeting had over 90 participants. This is an important milestone because the township will be using Zoom for several months to come. In fact, it may be the way to go because more people will be able to attend these meetings than live ones.
Prior to that, the township had been reluctant to allow residents to participate for fear of being "zoom bombed." Read Newtown Supervisor Zoom Meetings Not Open to Residents.
Hosted The Newtown Township Citizens Survey
As part of the comprehensive multi-year financial management plan (see next item), the BOS approved a citizens survey that asked residents how satisfied they were with the township services and to identify the two TOP priorities that the township should focus on for attracting new business. 545 responses were collected, including over 300 open-ended comments.
Almost two-thirds of citizen survey respondents were 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. See the survey results here.
Developed a 5-Year Financial Plan
At an August 17, 2020, Work Session, Steve Wray of ESI provided the BOS with a 144-page detailed report and presented a slide summary of that report that explained the purpose of the Strategic Management Planning Program.
Wray reviewed the services Econsult performed along with key findings and recommendations, projections, financial history, a revised financial forecast and a recommended approach for developing the 2021 budget.
Related Content: VIDEO: “A Critique of ESI Financial Report”
Established The Economic Development Committee
On June 10, 2020, the BOS approved the appointment of 7 applicants to establish the Economic Development Committee (EDC).
Soon afterward the EDC began looking to identify specific industries (life sciences, biotech) to attract to Newtown Township. Supervisor David Oxley has taken the lead in talking to Bucks County officials about attracting biotech firms to Newtown.
Related Content: PODCASTS: “Ideas for Bringing New Businesses to Newtown”
Approved a “Contentious” 2021 Budget
These budgets, however, continued a trend of deficit spending according to the Newtown Finance Committee (see VIDEO: "Thoughts on Newtown Township's Deficit Spending"). If that trend continued, warned ESI consultants, the township’s reserve fund would be depleted by 2022.
Faced with that possibility, on December 22, 2020, the BOS approved the 2021 budget, which includes a 3.99 mill increase in municipal property taxes (about $160 per year for the average homeowner). This decision ensured a healthy reserve fund, which is a definite accomplishment in terms of the financial health of the township. It also keeps Newtown's municipal property tax among the lowest in the region (see chart).
Some expense items were cut from the preliminary budget, including hiring a new code enforcement officer, one police vehicle, and a new police building study. The final approved budget, however, includes hiring 3 new police officers and continues full funding for Parks & Recreation programs, including summer camp, among other things.
May the new year bless you with health, safety, and happiness.
Posted on 29 Dec 2020, 01:35 - Category: Governance