Residents Discuss Pedestrian Safety, Toll Bros, Firefighter Shortage, and More
This is an edited version of the transcript of the discussion at the October 17, 2022, Meet Mack Monday Zoom meeting. Not all topics discussed are included here. The identities of the participants are kept confidential – only initials are used.
DISCLAIMER: Meet Mack Monday meetings are not official Newtown Township meetings. The opinions expressed at Meet Mack Monday events are solely those of John Mack and the attendees of the meeting and do not represent the opinions of any other entity.
John Mack (Host JM): I know there's some people here who are concerned about pedestrian safety. If anybody has any comments on that, please unmute yourself and speak up.
Attendee CN: Regarding the [“No Turn on Red” signage on] Sycamore Street. I know people are concerned that that no turn on red is going to block traffic a little bit it. Actually it has been slightly easier to turn off of Silo Drive onto Sycamore Street in recent weeks since they put that sign up [upstream at Durham Rd and N Sycamore St].
It’s a little more difficult to turn out of the shops on Sycamore from Penn Community Bank simply because you have to wait for everybody to make their right hand turn [from Durham Rd and from Washington Crossing Rd first.
Then there is a question of accessibility for that strip mall. I was told about someone who wanted to utilize the Weight Watchers facility and could not because she is wheelchair-bound.
We are still having issues with people driving through there [crosswalk at Newtown-Yardley Rd and Tara Blvd] even though they put up those little pedestrian safety zone [poles]. I've almost been hit twice since we last spoke about this.
UPDATE: At the October 26 , 2022, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Valerie Mihalek, Greg Zukowsky, and other residents of Newtown Walk - including children - asked that the BOS add to a future agenda their request for additional pedestrian safety measures on Newtown-Yardley Rd and Tara Blvd.
Host JM: I noticed when I was driving there during sunset at this time of year the sun is really strong and you know when you're facing that low sun it's hard to see what's coming up.
Attendee CN: There’s no much you can do about the sun, but I did notice when I was driving through Middletown Township the other day that on Newtown Langhorne Road at Maple Point Middle School they have a pedestrian activated strobe pedestrian crosswalk light. It's has a little controller you that you hit and it sets off the strobe lights and that alerts drivers I think much better than a regular blinking pedestrian light. I think it's something we should look into as well.
Host JM: I know that some residents in your neighborhood wanted to reduce the speed limit to 25 miles per hour. That is something that the township engineer has mentioned might be in the works for an area of North Sycamore Street.
See: the October 7, 2022, Engineer’s Report: “RVE provided the speed data to PennDOT for discussion purposes. Michael Smith at PennDOT indicated the data was under review by their team and will reach out to RVE to discuss further. RVE will continue to coordinate with PennDOT regarding the speed limit reduction.”
As for the blinking lights there are several different kinds. I know that some of the residents in your neighborhood compared what's going on at the other entrance on Lower Dolington Road.
Attendee CN: I mentioned at the previous meeting about having some kind of a media campaign to say “Hey you know you need to recognize this before someone else gets killed because we have had loss of life.”
Host JM: I think people who come to the Board meetings sometimes make a bigger impression than if something's written in the Patch or anything like that. You can get at least on the record in the minutes and so on and you know you might get some more feedback that way and even media coverage.
Attendee VM: John, CN brought up some great issues. I actually like her idea of the manually-operated flashing light that one would have to press when they get to the intersection. I think that would be more effective than the yellow blinking light that we have on Lower Dolington Road.
At the last Zoom meeting in September, I brought up the ARPA monies for this use. Where are we at with using some of that money for the blinking light that Cindy had mentioned?
The “Pedestrian Refuge” [see “Delineation Posts” in image above] that the township installed really isn't doing anything. I know a lot of neighbors that I've spoken to don't feel safe in there because it's on the same level as the road. A lot of pedestrian refuges are raised on cement islands in the middle of a main road. You almost feel like this sitting duck, praying to God that someone's not going to hit you.
Greg Zukowsky actually brought up that when you're leaving the borough and people see the speed limit change from 25 to 35 they actually as they're going up that that small hill there they put the pedal to the metal and by the time they hit the crosswalk they're really going fast which is another very valid point about the need to decrease the speeding limit.
After the meeting I had this email conversation with Mr. Zukowsky:
Topic: Pedestrian Crosswalk Funding : Newtown Walk Community SUPERVISORS MEETING 10-26-2022 AGENDA ITEM
From Mr. Zukowsky: I hope this finds you well, following up to my message below Supervisor John Mack invited us to attend “Meet Mack Monday” on October 17, 2022. There was a brief discussion regarding the ongoing concern of having a traffic signal installed at the crosswalk, Newtown – Yardley Road and Tara Blvd.
The discussion was brief with no additional information. Concluding the discussion Supervisor Mack suggested we write to you to include this as an agenda item for the October 27, 2022, Supervisors Meeting. [The meeting is actually on October 26.]
Respectfully we are asking you to include this on the agenda. Many of our residents are planning to attend and express their concerns.
My Response: Usually, the procedure is for a request to add an agenda item is made at a public meeting. Thus, at the Oct 26 meeting, I can make such a request to add this item to the next BOS meeting on Nov 9. You and your neighbors attending the meeting can make comments regarding this EARLY during the first comment section. That would open it up for me to make the request, hopefully with the support of other BOS members. Also, at the Oct 26 meeting when the request is made, we can also ask Micah and our traffic engineer to come back on Nov 9 with the specific costs involved.
There is also the possibility of being more pro-active by adding this to the OCT 26 BOS meeting agenda via personal request to the Chair. However, Mr. Fisher - who is in charge of the agenda - is out of town and I may not get to speak to him until tomorrow. It's always iffy to add items to the agenda at that late stage. Besides, it is my opinion that the Oct 26 meeting will be very long and contentious because Wawa is on the agenda. Also, giving the supervisors more time to consider this before the Nov 9 meeting may be a help in getting this accomplished.
See: “Pedestrian Safety Petition”
Toll Brothers Project Impact on North Drive Traffic
Attendee GC: This is preliminary a little premature but when Toll Brothers gets their 45 homes and homeowners exit where there’s a traffic light at Route 413 and North Drive, I would like to say no! No through traffic for those people in the 45 homes, don't make it a Raceway through North Drive to get all the way back over to Washington Crossing or Dolington Road or anywhere else over that way. Let them drive around or go down to Wrights Road but they should not be able to drive straight through Newtown Grant on North Drive. Just my opinion.
Host JM: It sounds like it'd be hard to implement and enforce and I've heard from other residents in that area that the traffic is not that heavy. It depends on the time of day obviously. We just have to wait and see how many people really are going to cross over into North Drive versus making a left or right onto 413.
Attendee GC: There is speeding through there when it's Rush Hour. Thank God they stop and slow down for buses. Otherwise, sometimes they do 35 to 40 miles an hour down North Drive, which 25 MPH.
Why couldn't you have coming out of that community just two lanes either a left turn on Durham Road (413) or a right turn on Durham Road and not straight into North Drive. If someone wants to go into Newtown Grant because they're maybe visiting somebody, they could go left and then make a right on Stoopville and then make a right into the community.
Host JM: There's probably been some kind of a traffic plan that has been submitted. I'll have to look that up and see if I could share it with people and see what the plan says.
See: Toll Brothers Data Bank Folder
Wawa And The Environment
Attendee JF: The Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) wrote up some environmental concerns regarding the Wawa Land Development Plan. I was going to speak on this to the Board of Supervisors on the 26th.
See the EAC Wawa Concerns DataBank Folder, which includes:
- The narrative I expect to give Oct. 26th at the BOS meeting
- Two illustrations: One shows the proximity of the Core Creek Flood Plain, Another shows how extensive native grass roots systems can be, which enable storm water infiltration and, possible petroleum remediation.
- The list of regional native plants that are effective for mitigation/remediation. They are readily available from the same supplier in PA.
Hiring Firefighters and Police Officers
Attendee FM: What is the plan for adding firefighters? I mean we were supposed to hire weekend firefighters in 2021 and it's still not in the budget in 2023. I know we're giving more money to the volunteers but has a fire chief signed off on this? Has he said that the volunteers are doing fine and we don't need weekend firefighters?
The police budget for next year is six hundred thousand dollars higher than the recommended police budget by ESI Solutions.
I mean I'm not saying you don't need policemen but who's making a decision here that that's more important than firefighters? But consultants recommended hiring three police officers over the course of five years. Through this third year we'll have hired six.
As I said before, you could take monies out of the recovery American Recovery plan funds and use that to pay for to hire firefighters.
Note: At the June 10, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) Zoom meeting, Dan Connelly of ESI Solutions, Inc. presented an "interim report" regarding the financial impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 budget and beyond:
Also, as I understand it, the reason why we're not getting the SAFER Grant was that FEMA believes we don't have high enough taxes to continue to pay for them after three years - the grant covers those expenses for three years.
Read: “Newtown Fire Chief Glenn Forsyth Makes Case for SAFER Grant to Hire More Firefighters”
I don't say we don't need police officers. I'm just saying if you don't have any weekend coverage of firefighters and volunteers don't like to give up their weekends to cover, do we have to wait to somebody's house burns down to take action here?
Attendee GC: I totally agree with FM. We're talking about safety and we're going to skimp on one end and beef up the other. Cops are necessary. I don't believe in defunding any safety factor whatsoever. But we in Newtown are going to end up with a total full paid fire department because you're not getting volunteers. These kids in high school don't want to do that. They either go to their Sports, they go on to Eagle Scouts or other things, but areas where they're still recruiting and recruiting well is where blue collar kids or where middle management kids come into the fire department as a family thing. We don't have that in Newtown. That's just my opinion.
Attendee DM: Public safety across the board is taking a hit and it's not about the money. It's about the desire to serve and be involved in public service. So you can throw money at the problem all you want but it's a very difficult nut to crack. Every police and fire department - even the military – is struggling. The Coast Guard is down eighteen thousand members - they can't recruit. It's just where we are in society right now. So I don't know if money is going to help the problem but I will say that I agree with so many other comments that the budget seems out of balance and the 2 million in rescue funds that the township has been sitting on could have rescued the Rescue Squad at this point in time with their budget and to potentially stall a tax increase.
It just perplexes me that the township has not using the rescue fund money for where it needed to be targeted: the police, the firefighters, and the EMS. And minimize contributions to the park and rec department, which clearly does not need the enhancements that the public safety side of the township have need of.
Attendee FM: No one wants to raise taxes, but if you say you need more police, rather than take it away from the firefighters, which was in The Five-Year Plan, why don't you just say okay we're gonna have to raise taxes and have more police? I mean if people want more police, then they should be willing to pay for it.
See: Five-Year Plan
Host JM: I think the applications for SAFER Grants has, in my mind, shut down the conversation about the need to actually hire firefighters and raise taxes for firefighters. But after failing for three years to get a SAFER Grant because FEMA believes that the township was unwilling to raise taxes to cover the salaries after three years, what we really is raise taxes. I would not support the fire department chief sending in another application to FEMA.
Attendee FM: The e-consul Five-Year Plan suggested a FEMA Grant so we would hire the firefighters in 2021. The FEMA Grant was going to pay through 2023 and after that it was by our taxes. You could be in the same exact place if you just took some of the ARPA money for 2023 and 2024. In 2024 taxes are going up - that was always in the Five-Year Plan.
Posted on 21 Oct 2022, 12:24 - Category: Misc
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