New Britain Borough
February 11. 2014
The monthly meeting of the New Britain Borough Council was called to order by President Jeffrey Gilmore at 7:30 PM. All council members were present except Mr. Joseph Cangelosi. Also present were Mr. Mark Hintenlang, Ms. Robin Trymbiski, Mr. J. Thomas Yatsky, Ms. Marie Coia, Solicitor Michael Goodwin and Mayor David Holewinski. Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski motioned to approve the minutes of the January 14, 2014 council meeting as written; seconded by Ms. Margaret Remmey and approved.
President Gilmore reminded the audience that they are welcome to address council as agenda items are discussed and use “Residents Remarks” after New Business to bring up issues not on the agenda.
Correspondence: for the month was reviewed.
January Treasurer’s Report: for the month was reviewed. Ms. Coia informed everyone that she attended the county Tax Collection Committee. At this meeting, Keystone Collections was approved as the collector of the EIT until 2019. Mr. LaMontagne asked where we were in the budgeted snow removal account. The Borough budgeted $30,000 and the Borough has spent $22,727.75 which did not include February 9, 2014 storm and January salt cost.
December Tax Collector’s Report: for the month was reviewed.
Building, Zoning, Road & Phone/Visitor Reports: for the month were reviewed.
President’s Report: President Gilmore reported that the Borough Council has changed, the make-up has changed and the challenges have changed. He went on to explain what he sees to be Councils goals: 1. Crafting or refining the comprehensive plan. Planning is starting this process and the Community and Business Committee will review Planning’s changes. 2. Facilitating the goals of the Community and Business Committee by furthering the community’s relationships with businesses and the college. 3. Managing the development of properties (ie. Knoell property, Cayuga Pipe property, Kirk Brothers property). Also working with neighboring municipalities whose property borders New Britain Borough and continuing to support the Bristol Road extension. 4. Improve walkability through Bike & Hike. 5. Financial decisions today that will affect the future. 6. Governmental services to our constituents. President Gilmore acknowledged that this seems like an aggressive agenda but he feels that “we have people who can achieve this”. He added that “we aren’t going to do anything without harmony and trust”. He said that there needs to be harmony between council and council, between council and management, and between council and constituents. President Gilmore feels there can be better communication with the community now that there are more people attending the meetings but, the meetings need to be conducted with civility by both council and the audience. There should be trust and respect. Someone on council actually received a sympathy card which could be construed as a threat. He reminded everyone that the council is volunteers who are trying to look at the bigger picture and do what is best for the Borough. He went on to explain harmony between council members, stating that they are all part of the same team. Teammates should treat each other with respect, be open and honest, have common goals and support each other. He likened this to his high school football team where he had respect and worked together for a common goal with his teammates even though he did not care for some of the people on the team. Lastly he talked about the importance of harmony between council and staff and said this was paramount. He said that as of late the staff was led to believe some members of council were going to relieve them of their duties and that he may be one of those members. He believes that what he said might have been misconstrued. He added that no goals can be met without the support of the staff, that they have grown, especially Robin and that he hadn’t told her that. He also commended Tom Yatsky the zoning officer on becoming a certified zoning officer. President Gilmore said he has not always followed the chain of command and has bypassed Robin and made requests of her staff and that showed a lack of respect of Robin’s position. Trust President Gilmore said takes a long time to earn and is very fragile and can be broken in an instant.
President Gilmore continued his report by saying he has been in touch with neighboring municipalities and hopes to meet with the presidents of those municipal councils or board of supervisors on a regular basis to discuss what is going on In New Britain Borough and the neighboring municipalities.
Administration: A meeting was set up with FocusMX to begin the website updating, but had to be canceled due to the weather. The meeting has been rescheduled for February 20, 2014.
Ethics Forms have been distributed and need to be submitted as soon as possible.
Finance: Styers and Associates will begin their Audit of the Borough Finances for 2013 soon.
The Annual Investment Report for the 2013 Borough Police and Non-Uniform Pension Plans are available for review in the Borough Office.
Roads: As of February 7, 2014, $22,727.75 has been spent on snow removal.
Planning Commission: Members of Council were given minutes of the January 28, 2014 Planning Commission meeting. They have begun the process of updating the comprehensive plan. The updating is scheduled to be completed by November 2014.
Mayor’s Report: Mayor Holewinski announced that he is now the chairman of the Central Bucks Regional Police Commission. He added that he has been made President Elect of the Bucks County Borough’s Association and will be president in 2015.
Do to the inclement weather Mayor Holewinski has not been able to finish the research concerning a junior council member. He has found that they are usually a resident in their senior year of high school, with a one year term from September to June.
Mayor Holewinski reported that the CBRPD is cooperating with the neighboring police forces as Doylestown and New Britain Borough used to. He also commented that there have been no complaints about the new department and that we have the best Chief in the area.
Chief Donnelly updated Council about the new police headquarters. They are considering the expansion of the existing building in Doylestown Borough and also considering another option which is to build a municipal complex. He stated that New Britain Borough has agreed to a certain price and that should not change. There are a number of places in the regional department’s jurisdiction that could house such a complex. This subject will be discussed at the March 3rd meeting of the police commission.
Community and Business Committee no meeting in January due to the weather.
Parks and Recreation Committee: will be meeting February 12, 2014.
Nature Preserve Committee: Mr. LaMontagne reported that the committee is looking at maintenance of the Groner House grounds. On June 21st, the summer solstice, there will be an open house at the Nature Preserve from noon till 4:00.
Expenditures: Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski motioned to pay the monthly expenditures; seconded by Ms. Robyne Kelemen and approved
Doylestown Bile and Hike: Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski reported that hopefully by this fall the trail on Upper State Road, connecting to the Parkway, will be completed. The trail, “Destination Peace Valley” which will go through Covered Bridge Park is waiting for permitting for the bridge.
Mathews Avenue: Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski motioned to permit audio link participation in the meeting; seconded by Ms. Margaret Remmey and approved. Member Joseph Cangelosi will participate by audio link. The ordinance before Council is an ordinance repealing the provisions of Ordinances 348 and 352, which ordinances established temporary and then permanent barricades in the vicinity of the Wilma Quinlan Nature Preserve across Mathews Avenue. Solicitor Michael Goodwin explained that by voting to approve this ordinance the barricade will come down and by voting not to approve this ordinance the barricade will stay in place. Mr. Peter LaMontagne motioned to approve the ordinance of New Britain Borough repealing the provisions of ordinances numbered 348 and 352, which ordinances established temporary and then permanent barricades in the vicinity of the Wilma Quinlan Nature Preserve across Mathews Avenue; seconded by Ms. Lori Kesilman. President Gilmore asked each council member to comment on their feelings about the ordinance.
Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski was first to speak. Ms. Holewinski said that ordinances 348 and 352 were thought about long and hard by Council. The problems on Mathews Avenue have been ongoing and that parts of the Borough’s Comprehensive Plan address separation of R1 and LI zoning districts. She continued that Council has come up with a viable solution. “I would like to see the barricade stay in place and if the ordinance should pass I would like to amend the ordinance to keep the barricade in place until a solution is found.”
Ms. Margaret Remmey asked to take a moment and thank everyone who let her know their concerns and that she took the time to read each one. She said that a lot of people did not understand why she felt it her responsibility to revisit the decision and look at the financial part. After hearing from several Mathews Avenue residents, who are the people that she serves, she has a different perspective and believes the barricade is for the neighbor’s safety and quality of life.
Ms. Lori Kesilman respects the thought that went into the closure, but feels there are too many negatives. She would like to see the safety of the neighborhood provided in a different way.
Mr. Peter LaMontagne commented that every concern has some degree of validity. The issue of traffic has been tossed around with several studies and numbers including 1,200 cars during a snow squall. He feels the barricade is not changing the amount of traffic, it is just dumping it somewhere else. He added that Council said there was no problem with the emergency services and the barricade, yet the president of the Chalfont Fire Company (Walter Bair) said the fire company did not agree to the closure. He said a lot of people live on a loop street or cul-de-sac (like himself) but they chose to pay more for that location. The people on Mathews Avenue knew it was a through street when they moved there. Mr. LaMontagne also questioned the fact that if the people affected by the contaminated water in the Borough would have to foot the bill if public water was brought to their house why are all taxpayers’ money paying for the changes made to Mathews Avenue. They are both issues affecting the public safety and welfare of the residents. He stated that Mathews Avenue is an 18 ft. road with a 30 ft. right of way which leaves plenty of room for sidewalks. He suggested that in 2015 when Mathews Avenue is scheduled for tar and chip it might be the time to widen the road and put in a bike and hike route.
President Jeffrey Gilmore said that Mathews Avenue is an issue that goes back 30 years and that it should have been addressed a long time ago. The problem has changed from speed to volume and he believes council had made the best solution to the problem last year. He stated that his opinion has not changed.
Mr. Joseph Cangelosi was connected by audio link (phone). He said that Mathews Avenue is a very old street and that it is impossible to make a perfect decision, but feels it was the best decision.
Ms. Robyne Kelemen spoke and like Ms. Remmey thanked those who sent her letters and appreciated hearing their points of view. She understands the essence of the neighborhood and that the barricade does more than redirect the traffic. She said it appears that the majority like the change but for some because of location it is not a positive change. The barricade is not without concerns Ms. Kelemen said, There are concerns for EMS, not designed for turn around, hill on Sand Road, and the railroad crossing. She added that in raising the proposed ordinance people will have time to research and look at a range of solutions for the residential and light industrial parts of the neighborhood.
Mayor David Holewinski said that the amount of research that has been done is almost embarrassing and that the majority of residents are absolutely in favor of the barricade. He commented that the Planning Commission reviewed this in 2012 and it is now 2014. “If it takes Council that long to make a decision God help us.”
Ms. Lori Kesilman asked Solicitor Michael Goodwin, if a car goes through the barricade (city posts) because of an emergency at the speed limit or less is the Borough responsible for paying for any damages to the car? Solicitor Goodwin answered yes, if it is in fact an emergency and the vehicle is traveling at the speed limit or less.
Resident Robert Binkley distributed to Council a new survey taken in the Aarons, Landis Mill and Mathews Avenue neighborhood. The survey asked “Are you in favor of keeping the barricade on Mathews Avenue permanent, only traversable by emergency vehicles?” The results were 38 yes and 5 no of the 43 signatures. Mr. Binkley then introduced Mr. David Gould, an attorney representing 17 households (16 from Mathews Avenue and 1 from Landis Mill). Mr. Gould spoke about justice and creating unity. He suggested that approving the motion before Council would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater and that Council needs to do what is best for the community. He stated that Mathews Avenue is a residential road and should be used as just a residential road and that maybe there are things to improve the loop road without taking the barricade down. Mr. Gould said that people don’t like to have shortcuts taken away and that they are not respectful of the residential character of the neighborhood. He said the other roads where the traffic is now going are designed for traffic. He addressed a concern for the children and the public safety and welfare and that people moved with an expectation of a residential neighborhood. He said if something happens, for example a child is hit by a car, it will be in the newspaper and people will ask why the Borough took away this remedy and the neighborhood will again be hostage to the level of traffic.
Ms. Marsh spoke commenting that she had never met Mr. Gould and when he talks about safety and justice did anyone tell him that they (the Marsh family) exist and are on the wrong side of the barrier. Ms. Marsh sited the two incidents they had a month before when they had to go through the barrier. She feels this is not the only solution and asked that Council consider working with them to find the best solution for everyone. Robert Binkley said the residents are committed to supporting the two residents on the opposite side of the barricade for special circumstances.
Dave Johnston of Aarons Avenue said that you will be able to cross the barricade and they are not trying to totally cut off those on the other side. He added that his pets and children are feeling comfortable in crossing and playing in the street.
Resident Al Marciante questioned Ms. Kelemen on how long she has lived on the street, what where her work hours and when she started working at home. He concluded that she had no idea of what goes on since she has only been there during the day since the barricade has been in place.
Ms. Marie Esher Coia stated that she sympathizes with what it was like on Mathews Avenue because now the traffic has been directed in front of her house. She had hoped that with the opening of the parkway traffic would have been reduced. But now as a result of Mathews Avenue closure it is even harder to get out of her driveway on to Butler Avenue. This means the barricade is adversely affecting other people. In 1977 when she moved to New Britain Borough there was an empty field behind her house. She and her husband were aware of the fact that the area was zoned light industrial and now they have a large industrial setting behind them. Anyone who moved onto Mathews Avenue in the ‘60’s should have known that the area at the end of Mathews and Sand Road were zoned light industrial. Ms. Coia stated that the comprehensive plan is not law. The comprehensive plan is being used as a defense for the Mathews Avenue barricades. Ms. Coia added that the plan is the Borough’s intent not law and has already been compromised when the Gilmore Building was built in area 2, an area the comprehensive plan states should be kept residential. She feels the residents of Mathews Avenue feel entitled with their new enhanced life style.
Ms. Judy Edwards, a Mathews Avenue resident, said that the road has been closed for over a year and if Council was to reopen it the repercussions will not be good.
Toby Szelagowski responded to Ms. Coia that her road is much more able to handle traffic.
Mr. Tony Coia spoke to his friends on Mathews Avenue and that they are not without sympathy but, the cars have not disappeared. He continued that he has lived here for about 36 years and has fought for a bypass to get traffic off of Butler Avenue and that any reduction in traffic with the opening of the parkway has been negated because of the closure on Mathews Avenue. He feels there should be an attempt to get everyone together to find a solution.
Dawn Marciante said that the people on the street do not have a problem with working something out if the barricade is not taken down while a solution is being found. We would be in big trouble if it is taken down she said.
Peter Ulman who lives on Butler Avenue agrees with Ms. Coia and did not appreciate Attorney David Gould calling him an interloper.
Ms. Jean Buchanan spoke stating she is a long time resident of Aarons Avenue. She feels her property value will go down if the Borough allows the industrial traffic to go through. She stated that when the Central Bucks School District was looking at putting in a bus depot on the old Cayuga Pipe property there was talk about a road from Industrial Drive and asked if that could be used for an egress from the industrial area giving them two forms of egress.
Niel Vangalen, attorney for David Kirk, said that Mr. Kirk has suffered financial loss because of the barrier. He thought the litigation would be over with the approval of the ordinance before Council. He feels litigation can go on and on and is the worst way to resolve things. The money that has been spent, he commented, will be nothing to the cost of litigation.
A short discussion followed on the amount of traffic and then Council put the ordinance to a vote. The voting went as follows:
Joseph Cangelosi – Nay
Jeffrey Gilmore – Nay
Mary Pat Holewinski – Nay
Robyne Kelemen – Yeah
Lori Kesilman – Yeah
Peter LaMontagne – Yeah
Margaret Remmey – Nay
The ordinance was not approved and the barricade will stay in place. President Gilmore suggested that Council vote on the type of permanent barricade they would like to install. Two different approximate costs to install the barricade were quoted. One from President Gilmore of $2,000 (relying on free labor from the neighborhood) and one of $9,000 from the Borough Engineer. Mayor Holewinski began talking about “impact recovery systems” that have been used successfully in Ontario. President Gilmore suggested Council have a work session to discuss all the options and be ready for a vote next month. The work session was set up for February 24, 2014 and will be advertised by the Borough staff.
New Business: Ms. Lori Kesilman motioned to approve the Declarations of Disaster Emergency for January 22, 2014 and February 3, 2014; seconded by Ms. Margaret Remmey and approved.
Mayor Holewinski would like the Borough to consider setting up a Public Safety Committee. This committee would address road closures, emergencies and situations about the safety and well-being of the community. Even though we have a single police department with Doylestown Borough we would each have our own committee. A brief discussion was held by Chief Donnelly. The committee is under consideration.
The request to post draft minutes was brought up again. Solicitor Michael Goodwin contributed that if minutes are published before approved the Borough runs the risk of inaccuracy. Ms. Lori Kesilman motioned to post the draft minutes on the website along with the draft agenda about one week before the regularly scheduled council meeting after every council member has been able to review both documents and make any necessary comments or corrections; seconded by Mr. Peter LaMontagne and approved.
Mr. Richard Moxey asked for clarification on the differences in the estimated cost of installing the permanent barricade on Mathews Avenue. The costs were broken down for him and it was explained that President Gilmore’s estimate included free labor by the neighborhood. Mr. Moxey also asked if it wouldn’t be a liability for residents to clear storm drains from snow (suggested in a previous discussion) and Roadmaster Mark Hintenlang assured him that that will be done by the plowing company. Mr. Moxey also asked if the barricade can be implemented on a permanent basis if the Borough is in litigation. Solicitor Michael Goodwin informed him that the final solution can be decided upon, but cannot be implemented until the litigation is done.
Mr. Craig Sturza asked for a traffic study to be done on Lamppost Road. The Chief will put that in motion.
Ms. Margaret Remmey motioned to adjourn; seconded by Ms. Mary Pat Holewinski and the meeting ended at 10:07 PM.