In a contentious Lower Makefield Township special June 9 Supervisors meeting that featured one argument after another among board members, they voted to earmark $1.1 million for parks and recreation projects.
The meeting was held for the purpose of discussing and taking public comment on ways to use the net proceeds from the township’s $53 million sale of its sewer system to Aqua Pennsylvania. After paying off some major debts and other obligations with the proceeds, the township will net a little less than $21 million, Manager Kurt Ferguson has said. He was scheduled to participate in the June 9 meeting remotely but then had to help a neighbor with a medical emergency, Supervisor Chairman James McCartney said.
Approved at the meeting was the earmarking of $400,000 for renovations at the Schuyler Drive Tennis Courts, and a total of $705,000 for improvements at other township parks.
“This is a snapshot of projects that need to be done, most important, right now,” township Parks and Recreation Director Monica Tierney said.
Ferguson said before the meeting that money for the projects was scheduled to come out of sewer sale proceeds, but some supervisors said at the meeting at least some of the funding could come from other sources.
Also approved at the meeting was the hiring of the law firm Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell Hippel LLP to create an irrevocable trust where sewer sale proceeds would be placed. The idea is to use only the interest generated from the trust and possibly touch the principal only under certain very limited conditions. Board members have not yet decided how much to put in the trust.
Supervisors Daniel Grenier and John Lewis voted against every agenda item except the earmarking of $60,000 for Americans With Disabilities Act related upgrades at Veterans Square Park, and they argued rather heatedly with the other three Supervisors McCartney, Suzanne Blundi and Fredric Weiss on many of the items.
Obermayer’s rate is $395 an hour with a total expected final cost of $25,000 to $30,000. Grenier and Lewis said it was foolish to approve the firm without at first seeing if others could do the job as well and for much cheaper. The other three board members countered that Obermayer’s expertise in this area was needed for such an important project.
Grenier and Lewis also said it would be much wiser to get a comprehensive idea of township needs in all areas and discuss that thoroughly before starting to earmark sewer sale proceeds for most specific projects. The other three said it was important to get the ball rolling on some projects they feel have been long needed.
Lewis and Grenier also used the meeting to level some sharp criticism at Ferguson in the manager’s absence. He is resigning effective July 4 to take the same job in Upper Dublin Township, but has agreed to continue helping Lower Makefield on a part-time consulting basis until the end of the year to help finish some important projects that are well under way.
“I have been frustrated with him for four years,” Grenier said of Ferguson. “We just don’t get information. He sets things up to be voted a certain way and recanvasses the board when he doesn’t get the vote he wants.”
Lewis added that at certain times “the manager did not provide adequate reporting and analysis.”
Ferguson responded after the meeting “We provide information to board members before each meeting, and if they need additional information they have three or four days to request it and I’m happy to provide it. I’m here to serve the entire board. I have no preconceived beliefs on how they should vote on things.” comment after the meeting.