John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
[NFA Station 45 on Liberty Street in Newtown Borough]
 
The future of the all-volunteer Newtown Fire Association (NFA) may be determined in the next few months. This is based on plans to address continued staffing and leadership challenges.
 
NFA president Warren Dallas read a letter outlining these challenges to members at the September 28, 2020, regular meeting of the Association.
 
“Due to a variety of reasons,” noted Dallas, “the Newtown Fire Association is at times unable to provide the proper minimum staffing” to respond to fire calls in Newtown Borough and Newtown Township.
 
As is the case in PA and the rest of the country, the NFA is struggling to recruit, train and retain volunteer firefighters. These problems have worsened this year due to COVID-19.
 
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Newtown Township applied for a SAFER (“Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response”) grant from FEMA to hire 5 new paid firefighters in order for the township to provide 7 day coverage where currently it provides coverage for 5 days and the all volunteer Newtown Fire Association covers weekends and evenings.
 
As of September 23, 2020, which is well past the “award date” of July 1, 2020, NT has not received confirmation that it has won an award.

I've been keeping track of how Newtown Township supervisors voted on motions before the Board. The following is the voting record for 2020 as of September 14, 2020, based on the approved minutes of meetings.
 
Access the record here.
 
I will update this page when I have more data.NOTE: This is NOT an official record of votes. Some very minor motions, such as to approve minutes, bills lists, etc., are not included. Please refer to the BOS meeting minutes for the official voting record of each meeting.
 
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Falls is considering a zoning change to help revive a stagnant shopping center with a new addition — a Wawa with gas pumps.
 
Supervisors voted Monday to advertise rezoning a portion of the Fairless Hills Shopping Center at 500 Lincoln Highway from shopping center to highway commercial.
 
The move could allow for the construction of a 5,500-square-foot Wawa with gas pumps on a 2-acre site currently occupied by an existing restaurant — Arosso, A Touch of Sicily. If approved, the restaurant that sits in the shopping center's parking lot would be demolished and move into a storefront in the center.
 
Falls attorney Lauren Gallagher said during a meeting Monday that gas pumps could be permitted under a conditional use. 
 
Even if the zoning is changed, supervisors would not be obligated to approve the Wawa, Gallagher said.
 
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On Sept 23, 2020, the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted in favor of a "curative" zoning amendment that would allow a Wawa to be built on the Newtown Bypass. The vote was 3-2 in favor. Kyle Davis and I voted no.
 
The amendment passed by Newtown, however, specifically does not allow a drive-thru Wawa. However, the amendment specifies approval of any application to build by "special exception," which means approval is up the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) - NOT the Supervisors as in the case of Falls.
 
The ZHB is notorious for granting "variances," which Wawa may ask for to
  1. add additional fuel pumps than the 12 allowed,
  2. add a Drive-thru window, and
  3. sell alcoholic beverages (e.g.,beer) on site, etc.
All of which are not allowed in the special amendment passed by the NT BOS.  
 
A little history - "A Wawa in the Park": Silver Lake Park at the intersection of the Bypass and Lindenhurst Rd achieved fame in May 2017 when a certain Supervisor suggested it as a potential site for Wawa (read "Idea To Bring Wawa To Newtown"). Two supervisors attempted to pursue this at the time after talking to an owner of an athletic club who was also approached by Wawa to build on property he had a stake in another property on the Bypass. All this happened before I was elected a supervisor in November 2017.

Other topics to be discussed depends upon your responses to this survey/registration form and the final agenda for the October 14, 2020, BOS meeting. That agenda will be available on October 9, 2020.
 
What's your opinion? Join the discussion by registering below for this Meet Mack Monday meeting. REGISTER TO ATTEND
Bucks County Local Officials and NAACP Discuss the Options
 
On September 23, 2020, the Progressive Local Officials of Bucks County, which is supported by the Bucks County Democratic Committee, hosted a Zoom webinar entitled "Policing in Our Community." The moderator was Doylestown Township Supervisor Jen Herring. Panelists included:
 
Panelists:
  • Brian Munroe - Bucks County Clerk of Courts
  • Mayor Ron Strouse - Doylestown Borough - Member of Central Bucks Regional Police Commission and Chair of the Central Bucks Regional Police Foundation (CRPF).
  • Kayma Sherman-Knuckles - Bucks County NAACP Criminal Justice and Education Committee - Reimagine Public Safety Co-Chair
The panel addressed the following questions among other issues: What policing policies and practices should we as elected officials review for proper oversight? What data should we be looking at to evaluate our departments? What are some best practices we can consider adopting to help our police be more sensitive to community needs?  

Some very interesting statistics and ideas for how local officials can improve the accountability of local police forces.
 
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Of 467 local police departments with at least 100 officers that reported data for both 2007 and 2016, more than two-thirds became whiter relative to their communities between those years, according to a New York Times analysis of the data.
 
Nationwide, the share of white officers exceeds the share of the white population, and the gap has grown larger over time. Black and Hispanic groups remain underrepresented in the police force.
 
Researchers say it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about Black officers from the federal data. On the one hand, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that the proportion of Black officers at local police departments across the country fell by half a percentage point, to 11.4 percent, between 2013 and 2016. But given the limitations of the data — all large departments were included but agencies with fewer than 100 officers were only sampled — researchers can’t say for sure how the numbers of Black officers have changed.
 
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Regarding hiring diversity, Newtown Township Police Chief John Hearn assured the audience at a Town Hall meeting that the Newtown Police Department is an “equal opportunity” employer. Thirty-eight (38) Police Departments throughout Bucks County use the consortium test to find qualified candidates to fill vacancies.
 
Newtown Supervisor David Oxley asked if there was a way to get a more diverse group of applicants. Understanding that the Chief worked with many black officers while he was a Philadelphia cop, Mr. Oxley suggested that perhaps there is an opportunity for those officers to work in Newtown.
 
“Philadelphia is a whole different animal,” said the Chief. He was referring to the fact that they have a recruiting agency, which seems to be the norm for big city police forces. Unfortunately, Newtown does not have the staff and money to do the kind of recruiting that big cities do. The Chief mentioned that Newtown police jobs are listed on various social media sites and if there is no interest, he does not see a need to go out and try to pull in people who are not interested.
 
Census bureau data show Newtown is 87% white, whereas the Newtown police force is 100% white.

[Photo shows sign taped to door of every portable restroom in Newtown parks.]
 
Persistent complaints from a resident prompted Newtown Township officials to recently install portable restrooms at township parks.
 
The parks had been without restroom facilities of any kind for several months because of fears their use might help spread the coronavirus, township officials said.
 
But resident Terry Halper said not providing any facilities could lead to unsanitary conditions. The portable restrooms were installed after Halper lodged frequent complaints with township Manager Micah Lewis and township supervisors, and contacted the Bucks County Health Department.
 
"Portable restrooms have been provided in parks where regular restrooms exist for the use of the public at their discretion," Lewis said. "The regular restrooms are not open due to the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions and mandates,"
 
Township supervisor John Mack added "I think providing portable restrooms in our parks was a positive step to service the need of residents who use the parks during these difficult times. Obviously, it's always a good thing when the township responds to residents' concerns in a timely fashion, which was the case here."
 
But Halper said he was far from thrilled by the township's response despite the eventual installation of the portable restrooms.
 
"I shouldn't have to fight this hard to get sanitary facilities in parks," he said. "I think they need help in understanding public health issues."
 
"[A] complaint has been filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Health due to the LACK OF TIMELY action by Newtown Township ... to PROTECT the health and Welfare of the 20,000 Newtown Township Residents...
 
"Newtown Township, Bucks County, PA has their 3 public Parks, (Veterans, Robert's Ridge, and Helen Randall), OPEN, Utilized by 50% of the 20,000 Township population: Have had the public Restrooms CLOSED all of 2020. NO HAND Sanitizer. No sanitary facility, No porta Potty...
 
"Every other Local, County, or State Park in the area that is OPEN has AT least 1 porta potty in their parks IF they have chosen to lock the built restrooms..."

This site is paid for and approved by John Mack: john@johnmacknewtown.info
The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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