NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> The Newtown Borough Council reorganized on Jan. 6 welcoming two new members to the council table and electing new leadership for the coming year.
The evening began with The Honorable Cynthia Rufe swearing in councilors-elect Robert Szwajkos and Susan Turner along with returning councilor Tara Grunde-McLaughlin.
Prior to swearing in the borough’s newly-elected leaders, Judge Rufe shared some thoughts on the peaceful transition of power.
“As town residents ourselves - my husband, retired court of common pleas judge John Rufe, and myself, a Federal District Court Judge, we are both pleased to observe this peaceful transition of power as envisioned by our founding fathers based on public election," said Judge Rufe. "Remembering that you will serve all the electorate, not only those who voted for you, is your first priority,” she said. “Please also remember that the service you have opted to provide will at times be difficult, but never impossible and always important.”
Following the brief swearing in ceremony, the three Democrats joined incumbent Democrats Julia Woldorf, Marvin Cohen and Nicole Rodowicz at the council table and quickly got down to work.
Mayor Charles "Corky" Swartz, now the only Republican seated on the dais, temporarily presided as the councilors elected new leadership for the coming year.
Councilor Marvin Cohen nominated Grunde-McLaughlin for the presidency.
“Tara has been on council since 2013 and has been Vice President of Council and has been a member of the budget and finance committee for the past two years,” said Cohen. “Based on her exemplary service to Newtown, I am happy to nominate her as president.”
Grunde-McLaughlin was unanimously elected council president.
As her first formal action, Grunde-McLaughlin nominated Councilor Julia Woldorf as vice president of council.
“I would like to nominate Julia Woldorf who has worked tirelessly for the betterment of Newtown, including obtaining grants and improving the banks of our creek and the Newtown Common Park, working on the Bird In Hand project and overseeing zoning issues. She is tireless, she is diligent and she is thorough.”
Woldorf also received the unanimous endorsement of council for the vice presidency.
In other business, council voted to keep its work session on the Wednesday prior to the second Tuesday of the month and its monthly meeting on the second Tuesday at 7 p.m., but it changed the time of its work session from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Council also voted 6-0 to change solicitors, hiring Trevose-based Rudolph Clark LLC. In Bucks County, the firm currently represents Falls Township, Penndel and Morrisville boroughs as well as the Pennsbury School District.
The firm replaces High Swartz, which had represented the borough over the past two years.
In another significant vote, council voted 5 to 1 to reopen the borough’s 2019 budget. The request was made by newly-seated councilor Susan Turner who said there were several items she would like to address, but did not elaborate.
The council will have 30 days to review and make changes to the spending plan before closing the books on the document.
The approved budget includes a half tax increase in support of the Newtown Fire Association. That increase is expected to bring in about $23,000 a year in additional funding for the all-volunteer NFA and cost the average borough taxpayer between $10 and $40 more a year.
Councilor Rodowicz voted against the motion, arguing that the documents had already been debated, put on public review for 30 days and approved by council in December with little to no public comment.
Council also made the following professional staff reappointments: Judy Musto as borough secretary; Patricia Ours as borough treasurer; CKS as borough engineer; and Barry Isett & Associates as building inspector, code enforcement officer, HARB administrator and zoning officer.
Council also made the following committee reappointments: Richard Spadaccinio to the planning commission, Bill Heinemann to the environmental advisory council, Tom Murray, Aryeh Weinstein and Ron Ricci to the human relations commission and Joan Grozalis and Susan Markey to the shade tree commission.
Council postponed until its Jan. 14 meeting the reappointment of Mike Hutchinson to the Historic Architectural Review Board and the appointment of vacancy chair.
In other appointments, council named Mary Gonzalez to the Human Relations Commission and by resolution, Glen Beasley and Mike Sellers to three year terms on the zoning hearing board.
In other action, council voted unanimously to commit $67,880 as part of a Green Light Go grant application for $271,520 to fund traffic signal modifications at Washington and Lincoln avenues.
The borough will find out later this year whether it is successful in winning the grant, which would upgrade the traffic signal with emergency sensors, pedestrian signals, audible pedestrian signals and new poles.
Council also announced the following vacancies on its boards and commissions: Environmental Advisory Council, HARB, Joint Historic Commission, Recreation Board and members of the Ad Hoc Traffic and Planning Committee.
Interested Borough residents should send letters of interest and resumes to Newtown Borough, attn. Judy Musto, 23 North State Street, Newtown 18940.
The next borough council meeting will be held Tuesday, January 14 beginning at 7 p.m. at the Chancellor Center.