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Upper Makefield Supervisors debate again over engineer appointment


Members of the Upper Makefield Board of Supervisors once more butted heads over the appointment of a new township engineering firm.

The debate at the Jan. 16 public meeting continued what had been sharper clashes at supervisors’ Jan. 2 meeting, where the board’s two-person Republican minority accused the three-person Democrat majority of excluding them from a decision process that ultimately saw former township engineering firm Tri-State Engineers replaced by new firm Gilmore & Associates.

The change occurred Jan. 2 following a 3-2 supervisors’ vote that played out on partisan lines.

The township engineer provides consulting services to the municipality/supervisors – an important role in Upper Makefield, where development pressures and flooding control are high-priority issues.

At the Jan. 16 meeting, the engineering topic reared again when the board was asked to vote to approve or deny a limited consulting agreement with Tri-State Engineers, a move that would allow that entity to continue working on select projects already in play, including particular township legal battles related to land development.

As part of the agreement, Tri-State’s rate was proposed to increase to match what Gilmore & Associates charges. That prompted Republican Supervisor Tom Cino to state that the engineering change to Gilmore will result in “our residents paying more money. This is making it more expensive.”

Supervisor Chair Yvette Taylor, a Democrat, said that even though Gilmore charges more, the township will not be spending additional dollars for engineering services.

Supervisors, she said, have control over that and will ensure that the amount budgeted for engineering services in 2024 will not be exceeded. “They’ll be working within the budget to meet the needs of the community,” Taylor said.

Still, fee rates that residents pay when an engineering review may be needed for a project/application they’re involved in will be more expensive under Gilmore.

Republican Supervisor Tim Thomas wasn’t a fan of the higher charges. “Clearly there’s a price difference,” Thomas said.

Cino encouraged supervisors to consider striking down the hitherto-approved agreement with Gilmore and reappointing Tri-State as municipal engineer at that firm’s former rate. The board didn’t go that way: In a 3-2 vote on partisan lines, supervisors approved the consultancy agreement with Tri-State and Gilmore remained township engineer.

Democrat supervisors previously stressed that appointing Gilmore had nothing to do with politics. The Democrats believe that with its expertise and suite of services, Gilmore is best positioned to serve Upper Makefield’s engineering needs, particularly as the municipality aims to make progress on controlling flooding.

Cino has expressed concern over what he’s described as the lack of continuity that could occur with letting Tri-State go. He has additionally worried that Gilmore would have conflicts because, he said, it also represents developers keen to build in the township.

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