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December 13, 2013 Minutes

New Britain Borough
Minutes
December 13, 2013

The monthly meeting of the New Britain Council was called to order by President Robert Belchic at 7:30 PM.  All council members were present.  Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski motioned to approve the minutes of the November 12, 2013 meeting as written; seconded by Mr. Craig Sturza and approved.  Mr. Craig Sturza motioned to approve the minutes of the December 3, 2013 work session as written; seconded by Ms. Margaret Remmey and approved.

Mr. Jeffrey Gilmore motioned to hire Andrew Hochmuth as a police officer for New Britain Borough; seconded by Mr. Craig Sturza and approved.  Mayor Holewinski and Chief Donnelly swore in new police officer Andrew Hochmuth.  Officer Hochmuth was met with a round of applause and welcomed by Council to the Borough.

The first guests of the evening were Mr. W.C. Weiss, Attorney John VanLuvanee, and Mr. Jack Bienenfeld, to hear Councils feelings about their proposed apartment complex for the John Knoell Property.  President Belchic asked each member of Council to react to the revised plan Mr. Bienenfeld had presented to Council at the December 3, 2013 work session.

Craig Sturza – Mr. Sturza’s concerns were as follows: 1. Height of Buildings 2. Traffic in the area 3. Water run-off 4. How the buildings face Butler Avenue and 5. The number of buildings (high density).

Joseph Cangelosi – The plan is not characteristic of New Britain Borough.  This is a community where people put down roots.  The Knoell Property is located in the center of the vision for the Butler Avenue Corridor.  The vision is not about high density.

Peter LaMontagne – You loose charm when you knock down a 1920’s industrial building and it is hard to get that charm back.  Mixed use is a good idea, retail out front and housing in the back.

Jeffrey Gilmore – He thanked Mr. Bienenfeld and said he was grateful to him for rethinking his concept, but this is the first proposal that Council has seen.  He agreed with the idea of mixed use.

Margaret Remmey – Relayed that “the sharp contrast is overwhelming to the character of the Borough.”  She is a fan of adaptive reuse to maintain the character of the Borough.

Mary Pat Holewinski – Mixed use would address the creating of a town center.  Ms. Holewinski has been involved in adaptive reuse through Habitat for Humanity and is interested in seeing if that can be applied to the Knoell property.

Bob Belchic – added that the plan might fit in a different location or a different municipality.  Attorney John VanLuvanee asked if Council would entertain a motion on the zoning change his client had proposed.  President Belchic replied, “Not at this time.”

Mr. Bienenfeld left the meeting.  Mr. W.C. Weiss gave a lengthy talk on what he has done to try and get a developer interested in the Knoell Property.  He stated that the building is an ugly one story building, not suited for repurposing, the roof needs to be removed and the building is loaded with asbestos.  He said he has been working on getting someone interested for a year and Mr. Bienenfeld has spent a lot of time and money on this project.  Mr. Weiss said he was embarrassed by Council’s responses.  He said that the Knoell Property is on a highway, not the center of the community.  Mr. Jeffrey Gilmore told Mr. Weiss that the Borough is still trying to decide what they want to see along this section of Butler Avenue.  He suggested that Council, Mr. Weiss and residents in the area of the Knoell property get together.  Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski added that the Council is more than happy to work together.  Mr. Weiss added that he does not want to settle for industrial use, but will do what will work economically.  President Belchic said this is the kind of conversation you have to have to establish trust and that everyone is out for the common good.  A resident asked where children living in the apartments would play.  Mr. Weiss said there was a lot of green space.  Mr. Vanluvanee said the demographics will not include many children.  Mr. Robert Binkley, resident who said he has been involved in adaptive reuse, said adaptive reuse is a nice idea but the Knoell property is not a candidate, just a piece of crap.  President Belchic stated that everyone has a perception which clouds reality.  This perception becomes a reason to oppose.  He asked what choice and sacrifice Council is ready to make.  He told everyone to get educated about what is happening in the world, to continue that process and get together.  Mr. Craig Sturza said there needs to be a benefit to both Mr. Weiss and for the community at large.  Resident, Lorraine Moxey addressed Mr. Weiss.  Her point was that the amount of money he spent on the property is what is governing all of this inability to get someone interested in the property and that maybe Mr. Weiss agreed to pay too much and that that is not the Borough’s problem.  Ms. Moxey also felt that Mr. Weiss’ attorney, Mr. VanLuvanee should not have rewritten the Borough’s ordinance.  President Belchic said the Borough requested he do that, this was co-operation.  Mr. VanLuvanee added that it is not enough to come up with a concept, that you also need to find the right developer.  Resident, Michael Stanislaw, said it was not a flat out rejection.  That there is an understanding that there will need to be re-development.  He spoke of the two main concerns, height of the buildings and density.  President Belchic said that this is the kind of discussion that the Borough should be having and that a meeting should be set up with Mr. Weiss, Mr. Stephen Barth, Council and interested residents.  Maybe an advertised work session.

Correspondence: for the month was reviewed.

November Treasurer’s Report: for the month was reviewed.  Ms. Marie Coia reported that the 2013 Act 205 Report and the Actuarial Valuation Report for both the New Britain Borough Police Pension and the New Britain Borough Non-uniformed Pension Plan have been filed.

November Tax Collector’s Report: for the month was reviewed.

Building, Zoning, Road & Phone/Visitor Reports: for the month were reviewed.

President’s Report:  President Belchic threw out a challenge to Council.  He told them to be smart enough to recognize good ideas and to work together.  If this happens the community will be better served.
Manager’s Report:

Administration: The Borough has been awarded a grant in the amount of $150,000 from the DCED for the Town Center Connector Trail along Butler Avenue from Tamenend Ave. to connect to the Safe Routes to School sidewalk at the Pine Run Elementary School.  Mr. Jeffrey Gilmore motioned to accept the DCED grant; seconded by Ms. Margaret Remmey and approved.  Mr. Michael Goodwin suggested Council approve a compliance officer for the grant.  It was suggested that Ms. Trymbiski ask Keystone Municipal Services and Michael Baker Inc. if they have anyone on staff that could fill that position.

The Reorganization Meeting and Swearing in Ceremony of the elected officials will take place Jane 6, 2014 at 7:30 PM.

Economy Roofing has requested the remaining $2,500 in escrow money for their project on Spring Lake Drive be released.  Mr. Hintenlang has reviewed and approves the release.  Mr. Joseph Cangelosi motioned to approve the escrow release of $2,500 to Economy Roofing; seconded by Mr. Jeffrey Gilmore and approved.

Robert Harrington has requested an extension through December 31, 2014 for his project on Industrial Drive.  He received conditional preliminary/final plan approval for the construction of an industrial warehouse building consisting of approximately 8710 square feet.  Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski motioned to approve the extension of the above mentioned project; seconded by Mr. Craig Sturza and approved.

The Borough received a proposal from Boucher & James Inc. for $805 to evaluate the Bitzer Groundwater Contamination Report.  Mr. Jeffrey Gilmore motioned to approve the hiring of Boucher & James; seconded by Mr. Joseph Cangelosi and approved.

Finance:  There will be a tax increase of 3 mills for 2014.  Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski motioned to approve the tax ordinance #354; seconded by Mr. Craig Sturza and approved.

The General Fund Budget for 2014 is $2,041,124.  The Groner Budget for 2014 is $34,675.  The Liquid Fuels Budget for 2014 is $112,500.  The 2014 Public Safety Budget is $144,210.  Mr. Joseph Cangelosi motioned to approve the above referenced budgets for 2014; seconded by Mr. Jeffrey Gilmore and approved.

Police: Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski motioned to approve Ordinance #355, an ordinance of New Britain Borough repealing Ordinance #138, adopted November 6, 1973, which established a Borough Police Department; seconded by Mr. Jeffrey Gilmore and was approved.

Mr. Craig Sturza motioned to approve Ordinance #356, an ordinance of the Borough of New Britain amending the existing police pension ordinance #265 as amended, by reducing the normal retirement age to age fifty and by adding provisions establishing a deferred retirement option program; seconded by Mr Jeffrey Gilmore and approved.

Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski motioned to approve Resolution 2013-17, authorizing the Dissolution of the Civil Service Commission for the Borough of New Britain; seconded

By Ms. Margaret Remmey and approved.

Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski motioned to approve Resolution 2013-18, authorizing the appointment and acceptance of the Central Bucks Regional Police Department for the Borough of New Britain; seconded by Mr. Jeffrey Gilmore and approved.

Roads:  Governor Corbett signed a $2.3 billion dollar Transportation Bill which included the Bristol Road Extension.  Council asked that those involved in keeping the Bristol Road Extension alive be sent a thank you recognizing their hard work.

Parks and Recreation: Mr. Peter LaMontagne motioned to approve Ordinance #357, an ordinance of New Britain Borough establishing a Parks Committee, its membership, terms of office, structure and authority, to increase public awareness, access and enjoyment of Borough parklands and to secure the effective management and maintenance of Borough parks and recreation lands; seconded by Mr. Jeffrey Gilmore and approved.  Ms. Lori Kesilman will be appointed council’s liaison to the newly formed committee at the reorganization meeting, January 6, 2014.

Mr. Peter LaMontagne motioned that the Borough open space adjacent to the Covered Bridge Park and site of the New Britain Borough Community Garden will be known as Orchard Park; seconded by Mr. Joseph Cangelosi and approved.

Mr. Jeffrey Gilmore motioned that the Borough will apply for the latest PECO Grant; seconded by Ms. Margaret Remmey and approved.  Ms. Tess LaMontagne made a presentation of the PECO Grant (which is a $10,000.00 matching grant).  It will be used for Orchard Park.  The proposed expenditures are $8,000 for a bridge over the wetlands from the Covered Bridge Park to the Community Garden, $1,000 for a waterline from the park to the garden, 3-4 thousand in signs (directional, boundry and informational), $4,000 in plantings and 3+ thousand in park amenities (benches, picnic tables etc.).

Mayor’s Report:  Mayor Holewinski welcomed the newly elected members of Council and thanked Mr. Belchic and Mr. Sturza for their service to the Borough.  He hoped that everyone will work together for the betterment of the community.

Committee Reports:  Ms. Marie Esher Coia spoke about “Wreaths Across America”.  She announced the ceremony, scheduled for December 14th, but added that incase the ceremony was canceled due to inclement weather, the cancelation would be on the Borough website.

Expenditures

Old Business:  Mr. Mark Hintenlang presented the two options for the permanent barricades on Mathews Avenue.  The first is “city posts” which would cost about $8,000 and the second is a landscaped buffer which would cost about $13,000.  Ms. Tess LaMontagne asked about plowing and Ms. Jacob, a resident of 30 yrs. stated her concerns with the money being spent and asked if there had been any other options for traffic control considered.  She asked that if the road was no longer a thoroughfare for people to use than why isn’t it considered a closure.  Ms. Kelemen checked with Mr. Hintenlang that there is clearance for strollers and wheelchairs.  Mr. David Kirk asked if cars would be damaged if they drove over the city posts, and if so should people send the bill for repairs to the Borough.  Ms. Marsh asked why the Council was moving forward when there is litigation pending and the emergency personnel are not in favor of the closure.  Mr. Walter Bair was asked the opinion of the fire company to which he answered that the fire company objects to the closing of any road.  They stay away from making any decisions and let the Borough decide.  Then if anything happens the liability is on the Borough.  David Kirk asked if a cul-d-sac is required as a result of the closure.  The discussion with the residents, especially Ms. Marsh and President Belchic became heated and voices were raised.  President Belchic finally stood, told the audience he did not want to answer their questions, did not want to talk about it and that they did not have the “floor” when anyone tried to interject.  He said he was done, told Mr. Gilmore that he would have to “handle her” and left the building.  Vice President Margaret Remmey took over the meeting, asked for order, and allowed Ms. Marsh to finish her thoughts.  Ms. Marsh continued about her concerns for her family’s safety, that the fire company is telling us that there will be increased response time and that no one from Council has ever reached out to her about finding a solution to the problem of the Mathews Avenue closure.  Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski responded that Ms. Marsh had not reached out to council members.  She didn’t understand how President Belchic could talk about trust earlier in the meeting when it has to do with financial concerns, but not when it has to do with health and safety.  Mr. Al Marciante spoke in support of the traffic diversion.  Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski, who was visibly quite upset, hoped that everyone was aware of the years of service Robert Belchic had given to the Borough.  Because of the climate of the meeting (upset Council members and residents), Mr. Joseph Cangelosi motioned to adjourn; seconded by Mr. Craig Sturza and the meeting ended at 9:16 PM.