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5-11-2020 Meeting Minutes

Board of Commissioners
5-11-2020 Meeting Minutes


 BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS                                         LOWER ALLEN TOWNSHIP

 REGULAR MEETING                                                          MAY 11, 2020


The following were in ATTENDANCE:


BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS                                     TOWNSHIP PERSONNEL

Dean W. Villone, President                                                  Thomas G. Vernau, Jr., Township Manager

Edward Black, Vice President                                           Erin G. Trone, Assistant Township Manager

Richard F. Schin                                                                    Richard Grove, Finance Director

Thomas H. Kutz                                                                    David Holl, Public Safety Director

                                                                                              Dan Flint, Public Works Coordinator

                                                                                               John Eby, Building and Zoning Coordinator

                                                                                               Leon Crone, Police Captain

                                                                                               Tony Deaven, EMS Captain

                                                                                               Steven Miner, Solicitor

                                                                                               Tina Thomas, Recording Secretary



President Villone called the May 11, 2020 virtual Zoom meeting of the Board of Commissioners to order at 7:00 pm followed by an explanation of rules for the virtual meeting being held due to COVID-19 shutdown. He announced that Proof of Publication was available for review and that the meeting was being recorded on the Township’s YouTube channel. President Villone said that the meeting was being hosted by Mrs. Trone and introduced the Commissioners and staff participating. He noted that Commissioner Holtzman was absent with excuse. This was followed by a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. President Villone asked that everyone keep Doug Morrow and his family in their thoughts. He is the mayor of New Cumberland who has been hospitalized due to illness.



Commissioner SCHIN moved to approve the minutes of the April 27, 2020 Regular Meeting. Commissioner KUTZ seconded the motion and the motion carried 4-0.


AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION:  Any item on the agenda.

President Villone asked if anyone from the public was joining online in tonight’s meeting. Mrs. Trone did not see anyone at that time.


BID OPENING:  Detention Basin Retrofit Project

Township Manager Vernau noted that only one bid was received for this project. He opened it and announced it was from Malco Landscape Inc.  They included a bid bond and a bid of $170,000.00.  He said this covers two separate basins. This will be passed on to the solicitor for review.


Check Register

Vice President BLACK moved to approve the check register of May 8, 2020 in the amount of $293,044.11. Commissioner SCHIN seconded the motion and the motion carried 4-0.


Resolution 2020-R-17

Vice President BLACK moved to adopt Resolution 2020-R-17, proclaiming May as Building Safety Month. Commissioner SCHIN seconded the motion and the motion carried 4-0.


Resolution 2020-R-18

Commissioner KUTZ moved to adopt Resolution 2020-R-18, adopting Property Tax relief measures under Pennsylvania Act 15 of 2020. Commissioner SCHIN seconded the motion and the motion carried 4-0.



President Villone noted that discussions would be limited to 15 minutes. No one from the public was in the meeting.  President Villone asked that Mrs. Trone notify him if anyone from the public joins the meeting and wishes to speak at that time.



Wilson Lane Resurfacing Project

Mr. Flint referred to a contract for micro-surfacing work on Hartzdale Drive which was awarded to Stewart and Tate. At that time, the Board authorized him to seek a bid for a similar project on Wilson Lane. Since the amount came in under the bidding threshold, only price quotes were required. Mr. Flint said that the Township received a price quote from several contractors, with the lowest quote being from Stewart and Tate, who were already awarded the project on Hartzdale Drive.  Their price quote was $15,975.00; this is $3,000 lower than the lowest quote. Vice President BLACK moved to award the Wilson Lane micro-surfacing contract to Stewart and Tate for $15,975.00. Commissioner SCHIN seconded the motion and the motion carried 4-0.



Activation of the Civil Service Commission

Director Holl spoke about the Board approving activation of the Civil Service Commission in order to develop a new eligibility list just before the COVID lockdown. Testing was subsequently postponed to a later date. He said that this new activation would be to develop lists of eligible candidates for Lieutenant and Corporal. He spoke about salary being budgeted for two Lieutenants, as a promotion for a new Lieutenant is anticipated this year. This would allow for on the job training of the new Lieutenant before the current Lieutenant leaves in spring of 2021. Testing and promotion for the position of Corporal would also be done at this time as it is likely a current Corporal would be filling the Lieutenant position. The list would then be active for a year. Commissioner Schin asked if Lieutenant Thomas is currently in the DROP program, and Mr. Holl replied that he is. Mr. Schin also asked if the applicants will be coming from current police staff and he was told that they would be. Commissioner Schin asked about the testing process and Mr. Holl said that the test is partly a standardized promotional test but has an additional policy and procedure section. He told Commissioner Schin that the position of Sergeant will not be refilled. President Villone asked why a change from a Sergeant and Lieutenant to two Lieutenants. Mr. Holl said that this would be a minor operational change as there were two Lieutenants previously until Captain Crone was promoted.

Commissioner Schin also asked about the rule change requested for extending probationary status when an officer’s 12 month probationary period is disrupted by military or certain leaves of absence. Mr. Holl said that currently a probationary officer on leave comes back at regular status if probation expires during the absence. This has not come up in the past. These items will be brought before the Board after a test is developed for action. Commissioner Kutz asked if two Lieutenants were needed because of changing to a two division structure. Mr. Holl said that currently there is a two division structure with a Lieutenant in charge of one and a Sergeant in charge of the other; this change would equalize the rank structure. Commissioner Kutz inquired about the salary cost difference and was told by Captain Crone that it is a 5% differential.


Vice President BLACK moved to allow for activation of the Civil Service Commission and Commissioner SCHIN seconded the motion. Motion carried 4-0.


Purchase of Stryker Stretchers

Mr. Holl referenced a memo provided by Captain Deaven regarding the potential purchase of Stryker stretchers. He spoke about the current Ferno INX stretchers causing damage to the ambulance floors as well as injuries to employees from the weight of the stretchers. Captain Deaven researched the issues, which supported replacement of the Ferno stretchers by Stryker stretchers.  They are lighter and safer due to being more stable. The new ambulance that was ordered will have the new Stryker stretcher, but two ambulances still need to upgrade to Stryker stretchers. Captain Deaven found a stretcher company that will buy all three Ferno stretchers for $15,000. The Township can lease or buy the Stryker stretchers, but the Finance Director felt that purchase would be the better option cost wise. Mr. Holl asked the Board to consider this purchase of the stretchers. Vice President Black asked the cost of the stretchers and Mr. Holl said that two of the Stryker stretchers are $83,766.56. Less the $15,000 trade in, the cost would be $68,766.56.  Mr. Vernau said that the new stretchers have not been included in the 2020 budget, but the company selling the Stryker stretchers offered a good deal. He said that they could be put into the 2021 budget, but the deal offered may not be available.  Captain Deaven said that there has been extensive training on the Ferno stretchers, but it does not alleviate the issues with pushing and pulling the weight of the stretchers. The design of the wheels also leads to them seizing up. He also said that due to the COVID crisis, the cost of the Stryker stretchers is currently $10,000 less.  Mr. Grove agreed that now is a good time for the purchase if the Board is inclined to do so. Mr. Vernau said that the cost is a small part of the fund balance and they would have to be purchased next year anyway.  President Villone asked when the new ambulance containing the Stryker stretcher is due to arrive and Mr. Holl said he anticipates it being here by the end of June.  Captain Deaven said that staffing is down currently which leads to additional problems. Commissioner Kutz asked why the issue was not brought up during the budget process last year and Mr. Holl said that they did not realize the degree of the problem at that time and they were still researching the cause of the injuries that were occurring. He also said that capital items are on a five-year plan. Mr. Vernau added that the injuries took place in 2019 and had not been ongoing.


Commissioner SCHIN moved to authorize the purchase of two Stryker stretchers at a cost not to exceed $68,766.56, net of the $15,000 trade-in of three Ferno stretchers. Vice President BLACK seconded the motion. Commissioner Kutz asked if this is being considered now instead of during the Fall budget process due to a price discount and if this is a top priority. Mr. Holl said that it is a top priority of the EMS department and is essential for patient liability as well as preventing staff injury. Mr. Vernau said that they will look for reductions in other areas to offset the stretcher purchase to avoid drawing off of the fund balance. President Villone wanted it noted that this is a significant purchase and that the Commissioners will remain vigilant on its effect on the Township’s finances. Commissioner Kutz noted that he supports the purchase of the new stretchers but wants staff to remember that this purchase was made going to be in next year’s budget regarding future requests. Mr. Holl said that overall Public Safety expenditures budgeted for this year are anticipated to be less than budgeted and costs will be cut wherever possible. Motion carried 4-0. President Villone thanked everyone for the information provided.


Retirement of Officer Curt Heckler

Mr. Holl spoke about a resignation letter he received from Officer Curt Heckler indicating that he is retiring effective May 8th.  Mr. Holl spoke about being sorry to see Officer Heckler leave and also being down another officer for 2020. Commissioner SCHIN moved to accept the letter of retirement for Officer Curt Heckler, with regret, effective May 8, 2020. Vice President BLACK seconded the motion, with regret, and the motion carried 4-0.


Resolution 2020-R-19:  Emergency and Disaster Relief

Mr. Holl led a discussion related to the ongoing state of emergency declared by the Governor and a declaration of emergency by the President which led to Emergency Protective Measures. This covers the costs of things needed to help prepare for the disaster. He said that equipment that was purchased and limited overtime costs can be reimbursed through PEMA. A representative of the agency must be authorized to sign the forms which would be the Township Manager. Vice President BLACK moved to authorize the Township Manager to act as the agent for Lower Allen Township for Emergency and Disaster Relief pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Commissioner SCHIN seconded the motion. Motion carried 4-0.



Ordinance 2020-01:  Sign Regulations

Mr. Eby spoke about a proposed amendment to the Code of Lower Allen Township, Chapter 220, Zoning, Articles XXV, Signs. He said this change would cover opinion and election campaign signs. Tables included in the Zoning Chapter 220, Attachment 2, would also be revised. Mr. Eby said that a draft ordinance was presented at the March 9th meeting and was to be discussed at the next meeting, which was canceled due to the COVID- 19 shutdown. Mr. Eby noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has provided additional protection to campaign signs. As the Ordinance states, the Township agrees with the ruling of the Supreme Court. Secondly, Mr. Eby said that regulations need to be adjusted to be less restrictive on that type of sign. He said it was discussed that election signs are allowed to be in the public right-of-way and cannot be higher than 3.5 feet. Also added was that property owners be limited to one sign per candidate or opinion on their property. Mr. Eby said that a footnote was added to the sign table specifying that election and campaign signs be permitted in all districts. He also stated that public review and public hearings would be required before this ordinance can be accepted by the Board.


Mr. Miner said that the updates to the ordinance follow constitutional limits and that Mr. Eby’s changes made the tables clearer. The goal of this is a broader acceptance of political signs. Commissioner Kutz asked if there is currently a cap for election signs and Mr. Eby said that there is but it was difficult to determine from the current table. It is currently 6 square feet in residential areas. Commissioner Kutz asked if there is a one sign per candidate or opinion limit currently. Mr. Eby said that his interpretation of one per use is based on the table. They have altered the wording to exclude signs for businesses or property use as being the only sign permitted.


Commissioner Kutz said that he feels that limiting the campaign signs to one per candidate is a violation of free speech and is overly restrictive. He does not feel that leaving a specific number of signs out of the ordinance is going to lead to people having too many signs in their yards. Mr. Miner said that previously people had too many signs and left them up too long. He noted that the previous ordinance was more restrictive. Commissioner Schin asked what the purpose of limiting the sign numbers is. Mr. Miner said in the past there were concerns expressed that the signs decrease property value and can lead to clutter in the streets. He said that the courts always favor less restriction. Mr. Vernau added that the current limitation may be the reason that there is not an abundance of signs everywhere. Commissioner Kutz said that people do not take the time to look up the sign ordinance and signs on private property should be at the discrimination of the property owner. He said he does not have a problem with the way the ordinance is written regarding signs in the right-of-way, but he does not agree with the table limiting residential use.


Vice President Villone said that changes won’t be made in time for the primary election and he expects this to come up again. He said that people not taking care of the signs is more displeasing than the number of signs. Mr. Vernau asked if the ordinance is okay as drafted minus the number of the signs permitted on residential properties. Commissioner Kutz said that the size of signs permitted on residential properties also needs to be discussed. Mr. Eby said that six square feet is what is specified in the table. Commissioner Schin said that blocking sight line by a sign on residential property can be a safety hazard. Commissioner Kutz did not feel one regulation would fit all properties and suggested that it should be up to the Zoning Officer to determine if signs are allowed. President Villone noted that even after a public hearing, an ordinance can still be changed based on public input. Mr. Vernau suggested that everyone make notes on their own copy of the ordinance and table. When these are sent back to staff, they will compile the notes and return them to the Board so each member can see everyone else’s notes. Hopefully, that will help with coming to a decision. President Villone suggested discussing this again at the next meeting with comments being returned by May 18th. Commissioner Kutz asked that the comments come out with the packets for the next meeting.



Penn Waste Contract Extension

Mr. Vernau spoke about the Township’s current refuse and recycling contract with Penn Waste expiring at the end of 2020. He said that the original contract had two possible 3 year extensions. The first 3 year extension expires at the end of 2020 and can be renewed for another 3 years. Mr. Vernau said that the rates proposed by Penn Waste were very reasonable compared to what some of the nearby municipalities are paying. One option is a 22% increase the first year and 35% over 3 years. Secondly, a flat fee for each year over the next 3 would include a 33% increase at one time but staying at the same rate after that. Mr. Grove said the current rate is $61.89. Commissioner Kutz asked which option would work out better for taxpayers. Mr. Vernau said that the 33% over 3 years stays the same while the stepped increases end up being a 35% increase. Mr. Grove said that over the 3 years the stepped increases will be the lesser cost to residents. Mr. Vernau said that going out to bid is an option, which could include changes to service levels. Penn Waste intends to keep service levels the same. He said that transition to a different company may also cause additional expense as new waste containers have to be purchased and distributed. Vice President Black said that a decrease in the number of bags taken will result in complaints from residents. He is in favor of staying with Penn Waste. President Villone said that he is in favor of staying with Penn Waste and has not heard many complaints. The other commissioners agreed. Commissioner Schin asked if the upcoming rate increases could be published ahead of time. Mr. Vernau said a newsletter article could be added. Mr. Grove said that a mailing cannot be included with the bill, but a note can be put on the bill. Rates will not increase until January 1, 2021.


Commissioner SCHIN moved to accept the graduated increase proposal from Penn Waste with notification to residents, and Vice President BLACK seconded the motion. Motion carried 4-0.


Local Government Unit Debt Act

Mr. Vernau spoke about CapCOG seeking a sponsor for legislation creating a new borrowing category in the Local Government Unit Debt Act to allow municipalities to borrow for operating expenses due to COVID-19 effects on revenues. This would also include similar types of emergencies in the future. Mr. Grove explained the difference between borrowing for fixed capital and borrowing for working capital (operating costs.)  He said that currently the only way to do this is to pay the minimum balance. For a conservative municipality this would be a good safety net and only used if absolutely necessary. This would allow municipalities tax-exempt borrowing for ten years but could lead to trouble in municipalities who do not manage their money conservatively. Vice President Black asked if the Township would need these funds as a result of COVID-19 and Mr. Grove said that we would not need them. Mr. Miner does not think that municipalities will be able to sell bonds not approved by DCED. Bonds under this new category do not have state approval. The Commissioners agree that they do not want to respond to CapCOG’s request with a yes or no. Mr. Vernau will pass along Mr. Grove’s and Mr. Miner’s thoughts on the subject to CapCOG.



Mr. Eby thanked the Board for passing the Resolution declaring May to be Building Safety Month. He said that due to COVID-19, most public events were canceled. President Villone asked if there was anything happening currently with the Yellow Breeches Watershed Association. Mr. Eby said they have trees to be planted but they are not advertising for volunteers. Public gatherings are not happening. 


Mr. Holl spoke about the paramedics in-house now being able to do blood draws for DUI’s arrested by the police department. Previously these individuals were taken to the hospital. The District Attorney approved the change and the procedures are being written. The medics will be compensated for their time. He also congratulated EMS for a cardiac arrest save on May 9th. Mr. Holl said that next week is National Police Week. In place of the usual march, they will be holding an online candlelight vigil on May 13th.


Captain Crone thanked officers of Lower Allen Township for the job they do every day.


Commissioner Schin thanked the Board for a great meeting and discussions held tonight. He felt it was very successful and everyone has adjusted to the new meeting format.


Commissioner Kutz spoke about this being a productive meeting. He felt that the memo from Captain Deaven was very well written and provided a lot of information to help with the decision making process. He thanked Director Holl and Captain Deaven.


Vice President Black spoke about attending the public safety meeting as the Commissioner’s liaison. He said that the nursing homes in Lower Allen Township and the prison have no COVID patients at this time. He said that Captain Deaven reported an adequate supply of PPE. There is also a plan for members of the Fire Company with EMS training to help out in a surge capacity if needed. Vice President Black also spoke about the July police academy at HACC having lots of applicants. Captain Crone said that if successful, the candidates could be done by Thanksgiving. Vice President Black said that two new live-ins are planning to join the Fire Company.


President Villone said he also felt it was a good meeting with constructive conversation. He also thanked Captain Deaven for what he does for the Township, as well as the rest of the Public Safety staff. He noted that the community gardens are plowed and marked. President Villone will be signing the emergency extension that would take the Township into the Yellow Phase until June 4th.  Mr. Vernau spoke about a secondary declaration that will take the Township to the end of the year in case recoverable costs extend that long. He will be asking President Villone to sign that in the future.


Commissioner Kutz spoke about state parks opening and asked if there could be further opening of the parks if play equipment stays closed. Mr. Vernau said he is fine with opening parks with the exception of play equipment, but most other Township facilities remain closed. Most of the Township staff is coming in at least part of the week now. Mr. Vernau said he would put something out tomorrow on social media with the Commissioners consent.



The Regular Meeting of the Board of Commissioners adjourned at 9:42 pm.