At last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Jamie MacCombie, the township’s latest engineer hired by Newtown Township officials to do sewage facilities planning, was on the agenda to give a presentation of the township’s proposed Act 537 plan.
The Act 537 plan is required by law to be the township’s plan for sewage facilities throughout the entire township. It is required to provide residents of the township with a clear picture of public sewage facilities planning for all residents. If supervisors approve the 537 plan, they are required and must approve a resolution that they are committed to implement the plan as stated.
Last night, Mr. MacCombie, in what I found to be a confusing and contradictory presentation, did not clearly present his proposed plan for public sewers in all of Newtown Township. In fact, he spoke about the plan only providing for part of the township.
Much of Mr. MacCombie's presentation was spent attempting to convince residents that if there was a new or expanded sewage pump station next to their home that he had a plan to mask the smell from the pump stations. He also spent time attempting to convince residents for whom he has planned easements to bury sewer pipes that they should allow the township to use their property. He suggested that homeowners provide this property without being compensated. What he didn't say is that, in most if not all instances, there is another way to the plan that would not negatively effect homeowners' property.
In an attempt to minimize the invasiveness of his proposed plan, Mr. MacCombie suggested that rather than approximately 100 residents being asked to provide easements, it was 80 plus homeowners. Who are these homeowners? He and the township have not notified anyone that they would be asked to provide an easement. And, since no one was allowed to ask questions last night, if a homeowner was concerned about this issue, they did not get an answer.
The township has spent years and, at this point, approximately a million dollars of taxpayer funds to produce a plan for public sewers in the township. After the last plan was rescinded by the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board in November 2010, the township had the opportunity to engage the community in the process of planning for public sewers.
Rather than communicate with residents, they spent time with developers and institutions to plan. In August 2012, they had their first meeting with the public to discuss the impact on residents. That meeting focused on two neighborhoods.
In October, with no additional meetings, the township put forth a plan for public comment. They received 69 letters. They have not yet, as required, produced a response to those letters. Last night, they told residents that the Planning Commission would review the plan on Thursday, December 13th. They also told residents that the supervisors would take action (my money is on their approval) on the plan on December 27th.
Residents commented that they believed that the township should provide responses to public comment in advance of the Planning Commission meeting. They commented that they wanted the supervisors to hold meetings with residents prior to the supervisors taking action on the plan.
Residents wanted the opportunity to meet to ask questions about the plan. The supervisors refused to make a decision to postpone their action on the plan. They refused to state their committment to the plan they produced. When asked, most of the supervisors admitted that they had not even reviewed the entire plan. Seems pretty clear to me the direction the supervisors wish to take.
Newtown's supervisors have not engaged the community in the process of planning a $25 million dollar public works project. They were unwilling to answer residents questions. Whose interests do the Newtown supervisors serve—seems pretty clear to me that it is not the residents.
What do you think?