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DELAWARE OPPOSES STATE CELL TOWER BILL

DELAWARE OPPOSES STATE CELL TOWER BILL
Pike County Dispatch – Thursday, January 18, 2018
By Wayne Witkowski

DINGMANS FERRY – The Board of Supervisors at last week’s meeting unanimously adopted a resolution opposing House Bill 1620, which the supervisors feel could deplete total local autonomy over wireless cell tower companies and crimp potential revenue.

The topic has been discussed recently at meetings at Milford Borough and other Pike municipalities as well.

House Bill 1620 would amend the act of Oct. 24, 2012 (P.L. 1501, No 191).  Known as the Wireless Broadband Collocation Act, the bill would affect regulation of wireless support structures, for processing of applications, for enforcement and for preservation of local governing authority and providing for use of public right-of-way to get access to municipal poles.

Delaware Township supervisors disagree.

“It is a bill for potentially dozens of mini-cell towers to come into municipalities and takes away control of their right of way,” said Supervisor Jane Neufeld during brief discussion on the subject and before passing the resolution.  She told residents that townships would lose “large amounts of money” from changes in permitting fees.

The proposed bill would streamline the latest wireless build-out so that companies won’t have to file zoning permits for each new small cell, which takes time and can incur numerous permitting fees.  The bill would enable a utility to install dozens of towers under only one permitting fee.

A memo from the state General Assembly posted online by the amendment sponsors, including primary sponsor Nick Miccarelli, R-Delaware County, said seven of 10 emergency calls come from a wireless device.  Wireless data transmission experienced 175 percent growth between 2012 and 2014.   By 2019, mobile data traffic will be nearly six times the 2014 amount, the memo reads.

To address the growing demands for enhanced wireless communications services, including high-speed broadband in rural Pennsylvania, wireless providers are erecting mini towers, many on utility poles, in targeted areas of the Commonwealth.  Lawmakers feel the bill will encompass the 2,562 local governments that have varying municipal zoning ordinances for wireless infrastructure siting and inconsistent fees.

The memo reads, “Compliance is burdensome, time-consuming, costly and not only impedes but sometimes outright prohibits the deployment of small cell wireless infrastructure needed to meet consumer demands.”

Neufeld expressed concern that this could lead to a proliferation of towers set up in the township.  It also could replace cable services.  The supervisors at the meeting had approved Cohen Law Group to perform cable franchise renewal services for $8,900.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported in November that Lancaster officials have opposed a plan to put more than 70 small-cell antennas for wireless services on big new poles in the city’s historic areas.  “The City would look Godawful with these towners all over,” Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city’s director of public works, said in the report.

Bill sponsors, on the other hand contend local government will maintain its authority over zoning and land use.  Delaware Township supervisors disagree, saying the legislation will strip their jurisdiction over their municipality’s land in representing taxpaying residents.

Township Supervisor Robert Lovenheim from Smithfield in neighboring Monroe County has been quoted calling the legislation “rights-of-way robbery” because it takes so much authority away from local municipalities.  “We have to have some zoning control but maybe not all zoning control,” he said.  “It’s got to be fair on both sides.”

But Brooks Mountcastle, environmental planner for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office, commented that the legislation “would have a chilling effect on democracy since it would prohibit the public from commenting during the approval process.  Municipalities would be prohibited from being fully indemnified, and having bonding and insurance coverage for facilities in public rights of way.”

The General Assembly memo disagrees, feeling it will fast track through cumbersome red tape in paperwork and reduce fees.

“Siting permit applications (will become) consistent with common sense limitations,” the memo reads.  “Specifically, the legislation will limit the imposition of fees, permitting requirements and general policies above and beyond fees, requirements and policies imposed on other companies occupying the public rights-of-way.  It also prohibits a municipality from requiring a wireless provider to justify the deployment of its infrastructure as a stipulation in the permit application process.  This will result in a more efficient and economical process for siting small cell wireless infrastructure… for reliable wireless and high-speed broadband deployment.”

House Bill 1620 has been sitting in the House’s Consumer Affairs Committee chaired by Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery, with Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks as the Democratic chairman before it is advanced to the House floor for vote.

COST OF LIVING INCREASES

Also at the meeting, the supervisors approved cost of living increases for nine full-time employees and one part-time employee.  Increases were at 2 percent except for the road master, whose increase is between 2 and 3 percent, said township Administrator Krista Predmore.  Michael Kolenet at the Jan. Reorganization Meeting was appointed road master after Charlie Kroener retired at the end of last year.

The board also released to the public copies of a report from McGoey, Hauser & Edsall engineers on its inspection last fall of the Log and Twig Road Bridge over Hornbeck’s Creek.  Although it said elements of the bridge are in “satisfactory condition” with the road surface showing “minor wear and cracks,” there also are signs of heave efflorescence and active seepage along one beam.

George Beodeker, who plans to step down as Emergency Management Coordinator this year when a successor is appointed, recommended the township prioritize what work needs to be done before submitting it to the county and engineers Boucher & James for scrutiny.

The board said it will advertise for an emergency management coordinator but followed Beodeker’s input that the job should include a stipend higher than the $1,000 that has been in place for 20 years.  They said they would not specify the amount of the stipend in the ad but determine the amount based on the scope of work to be done.  The board also adopted the township’s Emergency Operations Plan.  It is not a new plan but just establishing it under a new board of supervisors, said Beodeker.

The board also is advertising for a Sewage Enforcement Officer and a township auditor.

HENDERSON HEADS NEW DELAWARE TOWNSHIP BOARD

HENDERSON HEADS NEW DELAWARE TOWNSHIP BOARD
By Wayne Witkowski

DELAWARE TOWNSHIP – Jane Neufeld and Rick Koehler were installed to full terms as members of Delaware Township Board of Supervisors and John Henderson was elected board chairman at the township’s reorganization meeting on January 2nd.

Neufeld and Koehler were elected to full terms in the Nov. General Election.

Neufeld was an interim supervisor for the second half of last year, replacing Jeff Scheetz, who retired as board member and chairman.  Henderson had served as interim chairman at that time.

Henderson will serve as township secretary and Neufeld as board vice chairperson and as township treasurer.

With no changes among salaried township employees, Krista Predmore remains as township administrator, assistant treasurer and right to know officer.

Thomas Farley remains as township solicitor and planning commission solicitor at a rate of $150 per hour and Robert Bernathy is alternate solicitor in both roles.

Township employees’ salaries will be determined during an executive session 6pm Wednesday prior to the 7pm regularly scheduled meeting.

Wayne Bank, Dime Bank and PLIGIT remain as the township depositories.  William Owens was the CPA firm last year.

Michael Kolenet is a new appointee who was named road master, replacing Charlie Kroener, who retired at the end of last year.  Kolenet was appointed head of the reconstructed township Public Works Department, a merging of Public Works with the Road Department and Maintenance.  In the past, they ran under separate directors.

George Beodeker remains the township Emergency Management Coordinator on an interim basis.  He wants to retire and the township has 90 days to find a replacement. 

Boucher & James remains the township engineer.

The Pike Dispatch, The News Eagle and Pocono Record again were appointed official township newspaper.

Bring Back Recreation Board

Henderson said he and the board have one prevailing goal:  to reconstruct the township’s recreation board.  “We had a good one at one time and it dissolved.” Henderson said.

Getting more public volunteerism is a goal Henderson and fellow board members share.

The township’s three boards made up of volunteers are filled, with seven seated on the Planning Commission and five each on the Zoning Hearing Board and Building Hearing Board.  Steve McBride will serve on the Vacancy Board, his first involvement with the township.

Henderson feels the Board of Supervisors has a good makeup “to put things in order” as its most immediate goal for this year.

“Occasionally you have disagreements but that’s a good thing,” Henderson said.  “We may disagree but we’re on the same page for moving the township forward.”

What he has seen in his two years as board member and the last six months as interim chairman is fulfillment of his campaign promises for more critical scrutiny of township spending and greater transparency of where and how taxpayers’ money is spent.  Township taxes remain the same again for this year.

Neufeld likewise has shared that goal of transparency by proposing a series of ordinances designating more specific capital reserve funds categories.  Those ordinances will be tweaked in the upcoming three months for a vote in April, and perhaps beyond that if needed.

“We put off a lot of stuff, “ Henderson said after the meeting.  “If you do things quickly, they come back to bite you.  We want to do things slowly and steadily.”  He enthusiastically praised office staff for supporting that steady progress.

TOWNSHIP MAKES MODEST DONATIONS TO HELP AGENCIES

TOWNSHIP MAKES MODEST DONATIONS TO HELP AGENCIES
By Wayne Witkowski
Pike County Dispatch – December 28, 2017

DINGMANS FERRY – A resident told Delaware Township supervisors that they would be “shocked” to discover the number of township residents, mostly women, who are victims of sexual and domestic abuse. 

The woman, who had gotten help from Safe Haven of Pike County, had talked about the agency’s service to victims in her community during a board of supervisors’ workshop before last week’s regular meeting when they discussed whether to donate to the nonprofit in Milford, which had requested $10,000 starting in a meeting held about a year ago.

Pike County Habitat for Humanity also requested a donation of nearly $3,000.

During the supervisors’ meeting, donations of $1200 to Safe Haven and $200 to Habitat for Humanity were approved.

But there was lengthy discussion during the workshop on both requests.

“Safe Haven helped me and my children out, “ said the speaker.  “I don’t know where I’d be today without it.”

Township supervisors were invoking for the first time a recently passed ordinance regulating donations to nonprofits with guidelines, particularly how much the agency requesting the donation is involved with the Delaware Township community.

Interim supervisor Ron Hough remained opposed to Safe Haven’s sizable request that was re-examined at previous meetings, with the agency deflecting his request to say how many of the clients it has served reside in Delaware Township.  Safe Haven says client information is confidential and provided only general data from Pike County.

“This is the third time (for discussing it) and all I’m asking for is numbers (of people served), not names, just numbers.  They said that’s against their policy,” said Hough.

The resident said she knows from her own firsthand experience with Safe Haven of many people reporting to the agency from the township.

“There are many people from Delaware Township who are victims of abuse.  I don’t have it but you’d be shocked at the numbers,” she said.

Hough then reconsidered his stance, saying he was “ashamed” as a township official to learn of what seems a large number of residents who turned to Safe Have for help.

He said many families struggling with alcohol and drug addictions triggers much of the problem.

Hough’s change of heart carried approval of the donation during that meeting in a 201 vote, with Board of Supervisors Chairman John Henderson opposed.

Interim supervisor Jane Neufeld said that residents have been put off with giving generous donations in the past, including to Safe Haven, and are hesitant to see that again.  But she said she had been looing into the work of the agency and commended the range of services made up largely of volunteers under Executive Director Tamara Chant.

Chant has turned the agency around from its financial difficulties and commandeered better budget control, which she indicated in a report shared with the supervisors back in the early spring.

“I’m impressed with their effort to continue to educate in the school system about abuse, bullying and respect,” Neufeld said.  “It’s been a bumpy road with how we look at Safe Haven.  Large donations in the past put people on edge, which led to our development of the donation policy.”

“I have to represent the taxpayers, They’re asking for $10,000 which is more than what we have in our donation account,” said Henderson.

Another female resident also spoke up for donating to Safe Haven saying, “I think considering who they are and what they do, it’s the only right they to do.  I wouldn’t like to see us shut the door on them based on what they did in the past.”

Neufeld said there are about a thousand township children and youth from ages 5 to 19 in local schools and having Safe Haven as a resource is “incredibly valuable.  I’m impressed with the programs they’ve done at schools, the only organization that does that in the county.  We’re trying to look at interests of all residents, not to limit numbers.  We are a community and are working the best interests to give support for services that will be there,”  Neufeld said, suggesting a $1200 figure.

Habitat for Humanity Request

Habitat for Humanity, meanwhile, requested $2,940 for needed scaffolding to replace the old scaffolding that no longer meets Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.  The money would go for its new construction projects in 2018, which includes a structure in the township.  It originally needed $3,438.72 but had received $500 from other charitable funding sources.

Supervisors pointed out that the township again would waive permitting fees for the project, which it has done for other Habitat for Humanity projects in the township in the past.  That credit brings the total to around the $2,940 requested.

Also at the meeting, the supervisors approved a resolution to move $150,000 from the $155,00 surplus of the 2018 budget into the General Fund Capital Reserve.  They agreed to table resolutions to move available money from the 2018 budget into the General Fund Capital Reserve Fund and the Recreation Capital Reserve Fund after further study by April 1.  Neufeld has said these additional categories give better transparency and clarity for residents to see where money is appropriated.

The supervisors unanimously agreed not pay for the $630 Constables Professional Liability renewal application for township constable Ed Hammond that he had paid himself in the past.

“He does not work for us but for the county courts, and I do not find it appropriate to pay for that,” Neufeld said.  Constables, who are elected to their position, are paid from court fees.

Supervisors also approved $1,029.74 from Safety Smart Gear for uniforms and required safety equipment for compliance with federal standards.

 Henderson at the end of the meeting commended the work of Hough, who was appointed supervisor when Tom Ryan resigned in January.  “I’m impressed working him how he is his own man and I appreciate his efforts for the township,” Henderson said.

“We’ve worked together, not always with the same idea, but everything is negotiable,” Hough said.  He also praised the quality of work of the municipal building office staff as well as the emergency response personnel and Emergency Management Coordinator George Beodeker.

The township reorganizational meeting is 7pm on Jan. 2 and its next regular meeting is Jan. 10.

Twp. Passes Budget, Gets Emergency Services Update

Twp. Passes Budget, Gets Emergency Services Update
By Wayne Witkowski
Pike County Dispatch – Thursday, December 21, 2017

DINGMANS FERRY – Delaware Township’s 2018 budget coasted through approval without opposition, with no tax increase, during last week’s meeting where emergency services drew the most dialogue.

Interim Supervisor Jane Neufeld, who developed the budget with township administrator, Krista Predmore, and Ron Hough approved the budget, which was discussed in two workshops and made available at municipal offices and online for public viewing.  John Henderson, the other supervisor was absent because of illness.

There has not been a township tax increase since 2008; however, taxes will not be decreased as they were in three of the previous six fiscal years: 2012, 2013 and 2016. 

The total budget, balancing at $4,484,000, includes $1,796,025 for general purposes. 

The total millage rate remains at 11.68, which is comprised of an 8.68 township millage, a 1.5 millage rate of the township volunteer fire company, and 1.5 mills for the township Parks and Recreation Fund, the latter two each setting aside $143,000.

The Parks and Recreation Fund is projected at a $148,500 income and $144,510 in expenses for 2018.

Fire Department and related expenses come out to $88,936.

Liquid Fuels Tax revenue for the township for roads and bridges is $211,890.

An operating reserve fund carries $310,535 for emergency proposes.

A series of resolutions that will more specifically earmark surplus money for capital reserve allocations for general fund, recreation, roads & bridges and emergency services will be further examined and developed next year, Neufeld said.

The budget this year carries a one-time subsidy of $55,750 for the township Ambulance Corps. It is about $50,000 more than previous years but the corps had requested more support for its expenses, including repairs of both ambulances.  The subsidy avoids adding another tax millage rate for the ambulance corps, although Neufeld said that topic would be revisited in the future.

“I thank the Ambulance Corps for their commitment and time, and the township will continue the tradition of working with the company,” said Neufeld.  She said the ambulance service was receiving more calls for Advanced Life Support (ALS) services since Pike County has lost its services.  Neufeld said 10 to 15 percent of the calls require paramedics for Delaware Township’s ALS, which operates 40 hours a weeks based on call volume.  Neufeld said half of the calls come from outside the township.

“It’s a pretty hefty load of callers,” Neufeld said.  She said there have been attempts to mobilize a study on the issue but the state Department of Community and Economic Development declined to fund it.

“We have more information forthcoming.  Right now we’re holding the fort,” Neufeld said.

FIRE DEPARTMENT REPORT

Also at the meeting, Delaware Township Emergency Management Coordinator George Beodeker gave his final update on the township fire company for the year, covering Dec. 1, 2016 to Nov. 30 this year.

He is concluding his second year as fire company president, with Ed Hammond succeeding him in 2018 in what Beodeker called a “transition phase” of new officers.  Also elected unanimously were Mike Moffa Sr. as vice president, Megan Sykes as treasurer, Kim Beodeker as relief association treasurer and Stacy Hughes as secretary.

Chris Kimble, who had been serving as interim chief of the department, will begin his regular term as chief starting next month.  Sean Hughes will be assistant chief, Michael Cairns will be captain, Anthony Mastrelli will be lieutenant and Matt Doro will be engineer.

Beodeker said the company received 144 calls, 30 percent of them involving motor vehicles, during the 12 month period.  Structure and brush fires accounted for 5 percent of the calls.  He said there have been 235 total events involving 3,400 man hours from his department of 40 volunteers over the 12 month period.

Beodeker said it is part of a “consistent” trend over the past five years in which the department was engaged in 1200 activities over 26,600 staff hours, an average of 250 activities and 5300 hours yearly.

Plotting that data has reinforced formal training classes this year conducted by Bucks County Fire training and certified vendors in the township.  Classes included CPR, ice rescue operations, hazmat awareness, pump operations and roof ventilations.

“An aggressive training schedule is being planned for 2018 that will expand or review each of these concepts and support the missions that the data indicate we should be concentrating on, “ Beodeker said.

Web-based response software was upgraded along with additional equipment upgrades or replacements, including reflective traffic vests for roadway incidents in compliance with state and federal standards.  Roadway mishaps are the second leading cause of firemen deaths, he said.

A donated township roadway truck is nearly prepped for usage, with the help of fundraising efforts.

“We are reaching a critical juncture as the main firehouse is now 25 years old and the substation nearly 45 years old.  Each year we try to pick and fund one capital project relating to the buildings,” said Beodeker, pointing to repaving of the driveway and parking lot at the main station this year.

Also at the meeting, supervisors set 7 p.m. Jan. 2 for the reorganization meeting where Neufeld and Rick Koehler will be sworn into full terms as supervisors.  A public hearing for the False Alarm Nuisance Ordinance will be held during the Jan. 24 meeting at 7:15 p.m.

Under correspondences, Predmore read a thank you letter from Holy Trinity Food Pantry for the township’s $2,500 donation that helped provide Thanksgiving meals for 514 people, more than half of them township residents.

A Tri-State Traffic Data study was announced by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation on municipally owned roads, including Doolan Road near Route 739, for statewide screening.  It will not include speed traps, said Predmore.

2018 Will Be 10th Straight Year Without Tax Increase

2018 Will Be 10th Straight Year Without Tax Increase
Pike County Dispatch – Thursday, November 23, 2017
By Wayne Witkowski

DINGMANS FERRY – The last municipal tax increase in Delaware Township was in 2008.  There won’t be another one for 2018, either.

Township taxes that will stay the same were finalized when township officials completed the 2018 budget during a Board of Supervisors public workshop before last week’s meeting.  The budget is available for residents to examine online or they can pick up a hard copy at the municipal building.

However, taxes will not be decreased as they were in three of the previous six years:  the 2012, 2013 and 2016 fiscal years.

The budget must be on display for 20 days and will get a vote for approval at the next meeting on Dec. 13.  If it needs further revision, the budget will be presented again at the following meeting on December 20.  That meeting was moved a week earlier from Dec. 27 because of the Christmas holidays.

Total income and spending for the township balances at $4,484,007.

The General Fund is projected as $1,196,025 versus anticipated expenditures of $1,169,194.  The surplus goes into the Capital Reserve Fund for the following year.

The total millage rate remains at 11.68, which is comprised of an 8.68 township millage, a 1.5 millage rate for the township volunteer fire department and 1.5 mills for the township parks and recreation fund.

The Parks and Recreation Fund is projected at a $148,500 income and $144,510 in expenses for 2018.

Fire department and related expenses come out to $88,936.

The Liquid Fuels Tax revenue for the township for roads and bridges is $211,890.

“We’ll have to look at other sources as well for our roads.  That only pays for one major road in the township,” said Supervisor and board Treasurer Jane Neufeld, who work with township Administrator Krista Predmore on the budget.

Neufeld said she was pleased with the transparency of this year’s budget in showing how township money is spent by listing more categories an specific breakdowns.

“This puts us in place to find better and more efficient ways to have better government and to keep it in good financial shape,” said Neufeld.

Two changes were made to the budget during the workshop after lengthy discussions.

The township donation to its Volunteer Ambulance Corps was set at $55,570.  It was increased by $50,000 for 2018 to avoid enacting a millage tax on residents that had been discussed at prior meetings.  It will be in effect for only one year, pending further review.  The corps, which provides Advanced Life Support services for 40 hours a week during peak call times and Basic Life Support services, has needed costly engine repairs for both ambulances.

The budget also reduced the amount of money in the Health and Human Services category from $12,000 to $8,000 after lengthy discussion.

It includes animal control services and human services, including donations to agencies, individuals and nonprofits whose work affects a segment of township residents.

Resident Steve McBride opened discussion on the category, saying that $12,000 seemed too high.  “If it is a smaller amount, there is an automatic limitation,” he said.  Rick Koehler, elected township supervisor for the term beginning Jan.1, said that “the more money is available, the more people will make requests.”

Neufeld said that the donation policy, adopted earlier in the fall with stricter, more detailed guidelines on how taxpayer money is awarded to requests for funding, would help monitor spending.  She moved later to reduce the budget limit as all three supervisors agreed on it.

Under the General Fund, real estate tax revenue expects to total $950,250 and transfer taxes to total $85,000.

General Services and Administration costs, which includes wages and energy costs projects at $266,449.  Employer paid benefits ($504,144), insurance ($61,965) and medical insurance ($97,520) also drove up expenditures.

Also at the meeting, Koehler has resolved his situation on his being elected both supervisor and township auditor at the Nov. 7 General Election.

The board accepted Koehler’s resignation to serve a full term as township auditor so he could be seated as supervisor in the reorganization meeting, which the board approved for 7 p.m. on Jan. 2. The auditor position will be filled by appointment by the board and is being advertised for the board to accept letters to be submitted from candidates.

Koehler is finishing an interim appointment as auditor to the end of the year and had run for the full-term position again starting in January.

When a supervisor position opened with the retirement of Jeff Scheetz from the board in June, Koehler ran for that position as well, but it was too late for him to withdraw as an unopposed candidate for auditor.

The board also agreed to advertise for a Sewerage Enforcement Officer for appointment in 2018.  Koehler offered, based on his experience with Westfall Township, but was advised by the board that a supervisor should not serve that secondary role.

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