More with less: Falls Township plans improvements for 2016

fallsThis is the third installment of our five-part series exploring the plans for Lower Bucks County this year //

In December, Falls supervisors approved the township’s 2016 budget, continuing a 20-year streak with no tax increases.

However, officials plan to do “more with less,” outlining plans that will improve the township without burdening taxpayers.

“We try to spend the money in ways that benefit residents,” Supervisors Chairman Bob Harvie said. “You hope you can present a good case to the majority of people. There are things that we really need.”

The budget outlined $1 million for the road program, but the township will have to prioritize which roads need immediate repair and which can wait until more funds are available. The budget also allotted $470,580 to improve the Falls Township Police Department with new vehicles, computer equipment, firearms, training and supplies.

The historic Three Arches property will also get a $100,000 facelift, including improvements to windows, shutters and doors. The township will continue geese management at Falls Township Community Park, replaster Pinewood Pool, replace the pedestrian bridge in Vermillion Hills and redo sidewalk and curbing on New Falls Road.

This may seem like basic maintenance, but the silver lining is that Falls has been put in a position to be able to make these improvements without calling on taxpayers to foot the bill. That is largely due to host community fees paid to the township by Waste Management because parts of the company and a portion of the Tullytown landfill are within the township’s borders.

About $24 million of the nearly $33 million budget is covered by these fees.

That, coupled with careful attention and financial planning, set Falls up to make a huge improvement to its overall government starting in 2016.

“Probably our biggest priority would be moving on with the township building,” Harvie said. “The building we’re in now has had a lot of different lives. It was never designed to be a township building, or even an office building.”

The township operates out of 188 Lincoln Highway, a property that previously was a mattress company and car dealership. Falls is looking to construct a brand new building on the opposite side of the parking lot in the field across from the current building.

There, in a space 30 percent larger than the current building, the township will be able to adequately house government operations, the police department, code enforcement, public works, parks and recreation and add more meeting space.

Township officials are hoping to get the land development started sometime in the first half of 2016, and again, it shouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime. It will be supported by unused funds from 2015’s operating budget, Harvie said. Since the building will be on a different site than the current government offices, operations will not be interrupted when the project begins.

Also coming to Falls Township are two new restaurants and a pharmacy in place of the vacant Acme at 550 W. Trenton Road and Pine Grove Road.

“Having new businesses in there will hopefully attract other things,” Harvie said. “It’s one of the gateways to the township.”

Along with that, Falls officials have seen an uptick in smaller scale development and investment in 2015, a trend they hope continues into the new year and beyond.

“A lot of storefronts that were empty are making a comeback,” Harvie said. “It’s been happening more and more.”

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