Newtown Township

NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> In a surprise move, the majority of the board of supervisors have decided not to hire Econsult Solutions, Inc. to prepare a detailed report to help the township plan its financial future goals.

After hearing from the Philadelphia-based firm for nearly 25-minutes at the Jan. 22. meeting, Supervisor Dennis Fisher, a supporter of the fiscal study, put forth a motion to hire Econsult Solutions. , which was expected.

But the motion failed to get seconded, which is required for a vote, so it died.

After the meeting, Fisher, who is the liaison to the township’s finance committee which also pushed for the study, told that he was stunned by his fellow supervisors’ action.

“I don’t know what happened,” he explained, “It was totally unexpected.”

Fisher, who was visibly stunned by the inaction, said that he was going to find out the reason for the failed motion with hopes of getting the other board members to reconsider it at a future meeting.

When asked why the motion failed, Chairman Phil Calabro and Supervisor John Mack both refused to comment.

The proposed study was aimed at helping the township develop a comprehensive multi-year plan, as well as establish short-and-long term budgetary objectives and strategies over the next five-to-10 years, which are expected to have significant revenue shortfalls that could result in tax increases.

If Econsult Solutions were hired, the project would have cost $69,450 and would have taken four to five months to complete, according to the firm’s director Dan Connelly, who attended the meeting with two colleagues to answer supervisors’ questions.

Connelly told the board that his company had worked with other municipalities, both large and small, on similar projects.

He noted that if Newtown Township does not address its future fiscal issues then it will be put in a “position that’s not great.”

If hired, Econsult Solutions would have created a multi-year economic plan for the township with ways to implement any recommendations.

What is surprising about the board’s decision not to undertake a financial study at this time is that the supervisors had spent the last several months discussing the need for such a project, and even set aside the money to do so.

Adding to that delay was that Econsult Solutions was the only consulting firm that showed any interest in taking the township’s business.

The 2020 budget contains $40,000 in local funds to have a detailed fiscal study prepared. The township even applied for a state grant to help pay for it.

Early last year the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) had awarded the Newtown a $40,000 matching grant.

If the grant money is not used within a set time frame, it must be returned to the DCED.

Act 537 Plan revised

In other action, the supervisors approved revisions to the 2016 Act 537 plan which covers a municipality’s present and future wastewater needs.

Act 537, also known as the Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act, is aimed at helping local governments prevent future problems through proper planning, permitting and design of all types of sewer treatment facilities.

The supervisors had approved the original plan in December 2015, but the subsequent concerns the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had to be addressed and the plan amended.

One such concern involved ensuring that excess sewerage is not sent to the Philadelphia Water Department’s treatment plant in the city.

Township engineer Michele Fountain of CSK Engineers, Inc. told the supervisors that wastewater restrictions in Bucks County had changed since the plan was originally approved four years ago.

At that time residential and commercial development had been overloading existing systems operated by the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority (BCWSA) which sends sewerage to that facility in Northeast Philadelphia.

Several years ago Newtown Township had even considered building its own $60-million sewer treatment plant to combat the wastewater management issue.

The DEP now has 90-days to certify the township’s updated Act 537 plan.

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