James Boyle, the Wire
Only a few days into the new year, and Lower Southampton township manager John McMenamin confidently predicted that property taxes would remain the same for the 2017 budget. If his projections pan out, it would be the 10th consecutive year without a township tax increase.
“We have not used reserves to balance the budget, either,” said McMenamin. “We’ve remained fiscally conservative with our spending, making purchases on an as-needed basis.”
McMenamin made the claim last week during his State of the Township address to the Feasterville Business Association at Brookside Manor. The annual appearance by the township manager is an opportunity for local business owners to get an overview of Lower Southampton’s prospects for the year.
“We like to get an update of where our tax dollars are being spent,” said Bill Wiegman Jr., newly elected president of the FBA for 2016. Wiegman retired in December as chief of the Lower Southampton Police Department, where he served as an officer for more than 42 years. He highlighted McMenamin’s mention of the township’s plan to purchase five police cars in the coming months.
“We need cars every year,” said Wiegman. “They are used as offices all day long. They are one of the biggest costs for the department.”
Grant money made available by the Redevelopment Authority of the County of Bucks through revenue collected from Parx Casino in Bensalem will pay for three of the new cars. More than $770,000 will be used by Lower Southampton for purchases and projects by several departments, including $400,000 for paving projects, $75,000 for a new dump truck and $41,000 for a dump truck with a snow plow for the public works department, $34,000 for a new generator for the fire department and $54,000 for a new vehicle for the Tri-Hampton Rescue Squad.
“We are looking to make the township a better place to live,” said McMenamin. “We are also doing things to save money. We bid out for a new front end loader, and the price came back for $238,000. We did some work and renegotiated it down to $143,000.”
McMenamin welcomed the end of the Maple Avenue Bridge and Bridgetown Pike roundabout projects in 2015, a long construction project that snarled traffic on 213, near Playwicki Farm. A new traffic light system on Street Road uses rhythm engineering to manage congestion in real-time, McMenamin said.
“We just had a car accident at rush hour around Christmas,” he said. “Traffic was backed up into Bensalem, and the lights were able to get everything back to normal in 20 minutes.”
Long-term projects in the township’s five-year plan include constructing a new public works building. The current headquarters is an old garage formerly used by the Neshaminy School District, where mechanics have to crawl underneath to repair vehicles that are too large to fit under the roof.
The Brownsville Road bridge project won’t start until 2018, and the township is also looking for civic-minded residents to help with the plan to revitalize the Brownsville Road business community.
“We want to revitalize that area and turn it into a Main Street-style neighborhood,” said McMenamin.