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Who do the Newtown Township Supervisors Serve?

Residents were told that they could comment on the proposed sewage facilities plan, but they could not ask questions at a supervisors meeting on Monday.

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 After the last plan was rescinded by the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board in November 2010, the township had the opportunity to engage the community in the process of planning for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?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Patti Wilson December 11, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Hi Mike, I have not received any payment from the township's sewer consultant ever or any taxpayer funds. Patti
John McDevitt December 11, 2012 at 07:21 PM
I left the meeting early just before public comment started but heard about it this morning. Where did the money come from? Also, a neighbor in Springton Point thinks he has to pay hook up and we are completely wired for sewers. That can't be true right? I
Robert Denver December 11, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Did you receive or will you be receiving payment from any of the developers?
Steve Gord December 11, 2012 at 09:52 PM
First of all, full disclosure - I am a homeowner with an old septic system that is not up to snuff. My family has been in limbo for the last few years waiting for a decision to get made on sewer or no sewer. Further, I am basically indifferent on sewers vs. no sewers. But I do want a decision. If the township decides no on sewers, I will move forward and construct a new septic. If sewers are approved, I will hook in. With no decision, however, I would be a fool to do anything - what if I invested in a new septic system and sewers came though a year later? Because of this, I sit in limbo and pump my system twice a month. I doubt I am the only homeowner in this position. I want a decision to be made by our elected officials, as that is their job. Patti, I was at the meeting last night, and I share some of your concern that a proper Q&A has not been really offered up by the governing bodies. I, too, wonder what easements are needed and what kind of financing options will be posited. Also, I appreciate that we have citizens like you in our midst who clearly care about making sure that our elected officials are making the best possible decision.
Steve Gord December 11, 2012 at 09:53 PM
But at the risk of stating the obvious, I want to point out that this is not a public referendum - i.e. this isn't an issue upon which we as citizens get to make an up or down vote. Rather, we have elected officials whose job it is to make this decision for us. It is clear to all of us, Patti, that you don't like the way they have gone about many aspects of the process, but for better or worse, it is their process to design. It's great to keep their feet to the fire with questions and challenging statements, but at some point, we have to let go and let the experts and elected officials do their best for us. For what it's worth (and I am no civil engineer) I read the plan and it seems quite viable and well thought out. Are there things about this you or I would have designed differently were we on the Board of Supervisors or the Planning Commission? I'm sure - but we are not. I think this plan offers the greatest good to the greatest number and we should support it. The details that you rightly point out in your post that need to get thought through further need to be, and this is a working plan that can be modified and tweaked as things roll out. We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Steve Gord December 11, 2012 at 09:53 PM
The western end of the township contains numerous properties with failing systems. As we quarrel and debate, our water table is receiving daily punishment from improperly working septics. We need a decision from our elected officials, up or down, so that folks with aged systems can either repair their septics or hook into a new sewer system.
John McDevitt December 11, 2012 at 10:04 PM
When I built my house in Springton Point Estates, I knew where the pump station and sewage plant where. I also knew where the "vent field" was for lack of a better word, which was right across the street from my house. We are too damned spoiled. Run the thing right across my street from house. They can't do more damage than FIOS did. Let's act like a community here and help each other out. Two people here are causing all this stir and we have neighbors suffering in limbo like the comment mentioned above. All the problems in the world and suffering all across this country and we are fighting about this sh*t!
Libby December 12, 2012 at 03:44 AM
There's more than two people who are not happy with with this plan. Just like the people who have failing systems and concern about it, we have legitimate concerns that need to be addressed. If this is rushed through in this manner we will all regret it. If it needs to be delayed so that questions can be answered then so be it.
Boot Road Resident December 12, 2012 at 02:05 PM
I understand the need for the system. My issue is the cost. Currently I pay $125 a year to have my existing septic tank emptied but with the new sewer system I will be asked to pay $6,000 just to hook up to it and then $700 a year on-going. I don't know about anyone else but that is a lot of money.
John McDevitt December 12, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I hope you realize that you are not alone. As I understand it, this is optional for all homeowners and you do not have to hook up. If you choose to, I heard the discussion of low interest loans a while back but I do not know where that stands now. This just reinforces the point that the current road map up Campus Blvd and down Stoneybrook is the most efficient way. Pumpimg up West Chester Pike and down Route 252 adds over 20% which is an additional $5.5 million to the $25 million project. Is there anyone out there who believes this additional cost will not be added to the hook up and usage fees?
Boot Road Resident December 12, 2012 at 03:54 PM
I just looked up the sewage rental rates for Haverford Township and for 2011, the rental rate is $4.50 per 1,000 gallons of water consumed. So, the average family of 4 ends up with a sewer bill of about $660 which is in line with the proposed rates. So, if someone could lend me $6,000 I will be good (I am kidding) At least with the rate our township gets things done, I will have plenty of time to save the money. Does anyone know the exact location of the Goshen Road pumping station?
John McDevitt December 12, 2012 at 04:07 PM
It will cost more than $6,000 since you have to pay in addition to the hook up fee, the cost to run the sewage line from your house to the main. Depending on how far your house is from the main, this could get quite expensive and may be on average in excess of $10,000.
Robert Denver December 12, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Boot Rd, According to the plan (for now). The exact location is not far from where Lewis Run crosses under Goshen Rd. Bob
Robert Denver December 12, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Patti, Please answer the question. Did you receive or will you be receiving payment from any of the developers?
John McDevitt December 12, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Patti: As you taken the leadership role and voice in this community concerning 537, the public needs to know if you have taken a payment from a developer to drop a lawsuit so construction can proceed. If you remain quiet on this that is your right, but you should remain quiet period regarding 537 .
Echo Valley Resident December 12, 2012 at 06:30 PM
If someone receives compensation to change their opinion on a matter doesn't that mean that they have been bought? If someone is bought are they credible?
Echo Valley Resident December 12, 2012 at 06:35 PM
I completely agree with Mr. Gord's statements. These are elected officials. We voted them in. Voice your opinions at the meetings. Hopefully they listen. Let them govern. If you don't like what they do while in office, vote them out.
Echo Valley Resident December 12, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Patti - regarding your statement from above "I have not received any payment from the township's sewer consultant ever or any taxpayer funds. Patti" although this is true have you received payment from developers? Have you cost taxpayers any money in the form defending appeals?
Echo Valley Resident December 12, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Patti I understood from Chairman Catania that in the last week alone to respond to your comment letter it cost 1 week of effort from MacCombie's office. Probably $5,000 cost to the taxpayers.
Echo Valley Neighbor December 12, 2012 at 07:29 PM
This is truly the most despicable display of local political corruption I have ever seen. There are people among us, our neighbors, who are hurting - physically, medically & financially due to the actions of Patti & those like her who only want to allow sewers to be done if it is "their way." Who do you think you are? You are not a septic/sewer expert. Let the Township help these many, many families would need real assistance. If they make a mistake, let it be their mistake & they will be responsible to fix it. You were so righteous in your appeals of the 537, now we find out, absolutely none of that mattered, you have no principle and you've been paid off by developers! It's incredulous and deplorable! Let the Township do its job!
John McDevitt December 12, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I don't think "their way" is certainly any better, but it starting to appear to be much more profitable due to silence. It is still hard to believe someone would take money from someone "to get out of of their way" for something they worked so hard and still so committed to stop. Doesn't make sense and I am sure she will explain.
Echo Valley Resident December 12, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Is it true that in November of 2010 - Ms. Wilson & Paul Guest petitioned for $97,159.12 in "costs and legal fees" in a joint affidavit filed with COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA that be paid by DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, and NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP?
David Dugery December 12, 2012 at 09:36 PM
I agree with Steve Gord and feel very uncomfortable about the thought that Patti Wilson was paid off by the developers. If I remember correctly, Paul Guest submitted a bill for his own legal services to appeal the 537 plan to our local authorities to the tune of $100,000+. I am thankful to vigilant neighbors who question authority and demand documentation, etc but at some point action needs to take place. Bob Jackson worked hard in this regard as well but in the end was railroaded by our elected officials. In my opinion he was adding value and from where I am sitting, Patti and Paul are simply adding cost and delay. While I agree that some extra time to evaluate this process may be beneficial- what is to say that January 2013 will not turn into another lengthy delay? After all, this has been going on for years and is becoming absurd.
Larry December 12, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Addressing only the money end of this, here are a few comments/questions that I would like to be clarified or confirmed. 1. Every home pays the tapping fee ($4,5000-$6,000) now, regardless of when they connect. 2. In addition, when homes connect they also individually pay to connect their homes. 3. Those homes in Echo Valley that have the low pressure system (136) also have to pay for and install and maintain a grinder pump. 4. When homes are connected they begin paying the user fee ($500-$750 per year) 5. Do all homes pay the same tapping fee? 6. What tapping fee does Ashford (449 homes), Episcopal, and Melmark pay? 7. Do Echo Valley homes with grinder pumps (136) pay the same tapping fee as homes without grinder pumps? 8. Do Springton Point Estates homes (133) pay a tapping fee? This development already has a public sewer system and is getting a new one. 9. Does Hunters Run (76) pay a tapping fee?
Paul Evans December 13, 2012 at 01:29 AM
This is ashame. I personally feel duped. I have been a defender of Patti Wilson and Paul Guest in the past. Can I send my fee's for time spent at BOS meetings and Municipal Authority meetings or time spent researching to the township / DEP also? That's crazy. Patti - there is no doubt you are reading this... Sorry
TrickyDicky December 13, 2012 at 02:48 PM
If all this is true about Patti Wilson, I for one will not trust her blogs anymore. She has nerve to deny being paid, and now it looks like the opposite is true. So what else is she hiding?
Robert Denver December 13, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Patti, It took you 11 mins to respond to Mike Wozniak's question in regards to you receiving a payment from the "township's sewer consultant or any taxpayer funds". Please answer my question. It has almost been 2 days. This is your blog !! Stand behind it.

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