Sunday, December 19, 2004

Here We Go Loop de Loop...

Yes, Forks Township is not the only municipality with residents who care about their surroundings. Lower Nazareth has citizens who fret and worry too! Attorney Thomas D. Aristide, a Lower Nazareth resident, wrote a very telling piece (in the 12/17/04 edition of the Express Times) on the tragic effects of sinkholes created by new developments on existing property owners. YES, who pays? This is recommended reading for all of us.

The point is, developers come and developers go. We stay. We pay. Easton's Mayor Mitman tried to establish a "contingency fund." It was rebuffed. A Forks resident has suggested this same thing at a couple of Board of Supervisors' meetings. He was ignored. In my humble opinion, this isn't a TODAY problem. It's a TOMORROW problem, and a BIG one too. Forks will be given many new roads in many problem areas. Some of them will break. Some of them will break in front of our homes. What then?

Development is inevitable. That's not in question here. What is in question is responsible development with proper consideration for those who have already chosen Forks Township as their home. Existing residents should NOT be ignored nor should they be victims. We are a community of intelligent people. Our elected officials are not dumb. Why are they so adamantly ignoring the future? Maybe "Progress is the Future" is right... that Forks is an Oligarchy... a community governed by the privileged few. That would explain the "sinkhole blindness."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

BoS Meeting 12/16/04

Joe Nixon of the Morning Call wrote up all the important items from the 12/16/2004 Board of Supervisors Meeting. He was the only reporter there. It was one of the shortest meetings we have attended in a long time and was certainly in keeping with the Holiday spirit! There were no outbursts and no finger pointing during the whole meeting. There were also NO COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS).

The FINAL 2005 BUDGET was adopted with the revisions recommended on 12/2/04. It passed unanimously. Supervisor Nicholas recommended that individual names be removed from the salary figures before it is published and that the total number of employees in a given salary figure be summarized. Township Manager Kichline agreed to do that.

Authorization was granted to Solicitor Kline to advertise the new Township Ordinance #290 which deals with the EMERGENCY AND MUNICIPAL SERVICES TAX. This is in response to the recent signing of House Bill #197 which allows municipalities to eliminate the $10 OPT and replace it with this new $52/per person tax. It will be assessed on each person whose place of employment is in Forks Township. Those earning less than $12K per year will have to file for an exemption. If the tax is withheld from their paychecks, they will have to file for a refund at the end of the year. The new tax will become effective January 2005. (Aside: The ad appeared in the
Express Times on Friday, December 17, 2004). It will be adopted at the Re-organization Meeting on 1/3/2005. Note: If you work in any other municipality in PA, you will be subject to the EMS Tax that they are levying. Not every area will charge the $52 maximum rate.

HODGES TECHNOLOGIES was (conditionally) granted a three year contract for maintenance of the Township's computer system. Discussion ensued when Supervisor Nicholas pointed out that the first page had January 2005 - December 2005 as the contract period, yet inside the contract period was listed through December 2007. The annual fees will be $25K for year 1, $26K for year two, and $27K for year three. Nicholas asked why this contract was presented to the Board at the last minute. She also questioned the sparsity of the contract as it looked like a letter. She asked the solicitor for his opinion. Kline asked Kichline if they used this vendor before and what the track record was. Kichline said that the Township has used them for at least 4 years and that their experience has been good, especially for the Police Department. Kline then said that 4 years experience is certainly a good thing. Conditional Approval was given for the contract pending correcting the date range on the first page and receiving it on company letterhead for signing. (It was printed from an email to Kichline for presentation to the Board.)

STOCKERTOWN BOROUGH'S REQUEST to purchase some of Forks' sewer capacity was turned down. Kichline was directed to write a letter to them stating that Forks is unable to meet their request. The Borough had asked to purchase 106K gallons per day of Forks' capacity. Forks purchased additional capacity a few months back. During the discussion it was noted that Stockertown really has two issues, a need for more capacity and a need to get it to the treatment plant in Easton. They need pipes from either Palmer or Forks. They will have to go directly to the Easton Sewer Authority to purchase their needed additional capacity.

During the brief CURRENT BUDGET REVIEW it was noted that the Fire Department has trucks undergoing repair right now and that the bills will not come in until next year. The trucks were damaged during Hurricane Ivan. The repair funds are in the 2004 budget and carrying the monies over for 2005 was requested and approved.

OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE:
  • Alex Gale reported that the major site work on the new municipal Complex is just about closed out for the year. The new trusses for the Firehouse have begun arriving and are being installed. He has prepared a "book" on all the damage from the Thanksgiving Day winds. Supervisor Nicholas said that she has some photos that her son took and will put them on disk and get them to Mr. Gale. The insurance investigation is ongoing. Also, there are 20" X 30" dedication plaques for each of the three buildings. He requested text (for the plaques) from the Board.
  • Supervisor Hoff reported that the final EMS meeting of the year was held and that the different services felt that they are working together as well as ever.
  • Supervisor Nicholas reported that the Frost Hollow Pumping Station will be completed in the Spring. Rain has been a factor in the holdup.
  • Supervisor Miller reported that activities in the Community Center are in full swing and that the tree lighting was a success.
  • Township Manager Kichline stated that the accounting software conversion is going well and that she will schedule two (2) Conditional Use items for the Board's second meeting in January.
  • Chief Dorney presented each of the Board members with copies of the new Police Policy Manual for their review.
  • Pete Gheller reported that leaf removal is completed and that the plows are ready for winter.
  • Solicitor Kline reported that as expected, the Delaware Nation has filed an appeal and that it will be around for quite a while yet.
  • Supervisor Hoff had a Residential (?) Summary from the Pennsylvania Economy League regarding taxes and he suggested that the Supervisors look at it. (Aside: We looked up the PA Economy League online and found this item re. taxes. We don't know if it is what the Board was given but the site has many interesting items on it for those who like to dig in and learn more.)

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or Comment here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

BoS Meeting 12/2/04

On 12/3/04 both Joe Nixon of the Morning Call and Gregg W. Bortz of the Express Times wrote excellent articles describing the Forks Board of Supervisors' discussion of the new PA HBO197, the Emergency Services Tax that may or may not become law for 2005 and also of the Board's discussion/decision of fee rates for non-residential developments. We appreciate their good work. We again will try to fill in the blanks for those of you who were unable to attend the meeting.


Immediately after the Pledge of Allegiance, Supervisor Holmgaard addressed Chairman Ackerman with a question about a new public works garage. He said that he had asked him about it earlier in the year and that Ackerman had told him that there was something in the works. He accused Ackerman of meeting in secret with developers. Ackerman explained that he had not but Holmgaard proceeded with his relentless attack. Ackerman said that a developer had asked him "what the Township needed" and he told him that it needed a new public works garage. The developer told him that he would be back in the Fall with a proposal. Apparently that proposal appeared on Township Manager Kichline's desk during the last week. Ackerman saw it the day before the meeting. (We were not told when Holmgaard saw it.) The plan did contain a new public works garage on Glover Road across from the fire department training area. It also contained a 500 house development in the FP (Farmland Preservation) district! Ackerman said that he was surprised. Holmgaard told him that he (Chairman Ackerman) was NOT an (sounded like) Uber Supervisor (he could have said OVER but it sounded like UBER). We were not informed of who the developer is nor which farmland is involved in this trade (of 500 houses in FP for a public works garage).

REPORTS:
  • Supervisor Miller informed us that the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is scheduled for 7:00 PM Sunday, December 5, 2004 at the Community Center. He said that the tree this year was one that had been blown over in the recent winds. (For more on this see this 12/3/04 Express Times article by Jenna Portnoy.)
  • Township Manager Kichline reported that the Municipal Accounting Conversion was complete and that the Elected Auditor's meeting had been cancelled and rescheduled for January 4, 2005. She also reported receiving a letter from the Red Cross thanking Forks Township for its donations of bottled water and the $200 collected during the 250th to help flood victims.
  • Tim Weis reported that Matt Miller passed the final phase of his plumbers certification.
  • Township Manager Kichline was designated the Township's PEMA AGENT.
  • Pete Rossi was appointed (and accepted the appointment) to the Zoning Hearing Board to replace William Irish who resigned a month ago. His resignation was accepted by the Board (12/2/04).
  • Township Manager Kichline was given authorization to advertise current new vacancies.
  • Solicitor Kline reported that on 11/30/04 the Federal Court dismissed the lawsuit by the Delaware Nation. He gave us the "executive summary" version (the other option was to read MANY pages of court text). He said that the judge did not want to overturn the Walking Purchase and that the land was given to Chief Tatamy and not the Delaware Nation. There are some missing things in the land's provenance and perhaps Chief Tatamy's heirs might have an issue, but the Delaware Nation does not. (This Express Times article from 12/3/04 tells a bit more.)

The STATUS UPDATE BY ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX included the following:

  1. The Police Department move-in date of February 2005 is still on target.
  2. The footer for the municipal pad will be poured this week.
  3. The park maintenance building is on track and "Ed's got his heat back."

He presented the Board with updated project books and explained the Change Orders Summary. He said that "unsuitable soil" was removed from the Police Department and that the architect determined that it was a valid change order because of unusual circumstances. It will cost approximately $27.4K to dispose of the soil and it cannot be used any place else.

He described the destruction to the Firehouse roof trusses by the 55 mph winds on Thanksgiving day. He said that 80% of them were completely destroyed. The Township's insurance inspectors and the contractor's engineers are still assessing the damage. When the trusses came down they damaged other things (like some electrical and plumbing.) New trusses are ordered and the manufacturer has given him a two week lead time. The clean up of the mess was expected to be done by the end of the day Friday.

The FEE RATES/NON-RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS issue was REMOVED after discussion. Supervisor Hoff said that in lieu of fee reductions his limit would be a year of tax relief with no breaks on sewer fees. Holmgaard said that he was in favor or tax incentives and not of lowering taxes. Miller said that there should be no blanket policy and that some developments are good for Forks (like Fortune 500 and high tech companies.) Ackerman said that he was against lowering fees and that it should be left as it is. Hoff added that "we can discuss" some of the fees going to Emergency Services. Supervisor Nicholas was out-of-town on a business trip and not in attendance.

The 2005 BUDGET/PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT item was resolved when Pete Gheller reported that (Hoff's suggestion last meeting) he reviewed the original submission and discovered that he could remove $100K from the General Fund (budget line item) and instead use money from the Liquid Fuels Fund (generated by the census).

The RIVERVIEW WEST/FINAL PLAN - PHASE I discussion included Holmgaard pointing out the new State law re. street signs requiring that they go up in a development as soon as the first CO is issued. Also, the developer was made aware that there is a new size requirement for street signs. The developer has agreed to make up two (free) kits of street lamp parts for the township to use in the event that one gets damaged. The street lamp posts will be unique (in the Township) to the Riverview projects. Sidewalks are to be on both sides of Winchester Drive and on one side of all the project's remaining streets. The Final Plan was approved with the following condition, that all construction vehicles MUST use Winchester Drive.

The RESOLUTION DESIGNATING FIRE LANES discussion was informative. All fire lanes are being identified and redrawn. This is in order to get the schedule up-to-date. Tim Weis and Officer Nicholson are conducting the review. The new Giant owners were informed that their fire lanes were not up to code. They are making the corrections. Fire Lane Ordinance (of 1987) states that property owners must paint the areas and gives the police the right to ticket people who park there. A resolution is needed to add fire lanes. Because of all the new developments, it will be reviewed every 6 months along with the stop signs.

And, lastly the added agenda item, HOUSE BILL 197, was discussed. The governor has not yet signed this bill. In essence it allows municipalities to eliminate the OPT (Occupational Privilege Tax) and replace it with an Emergency & Municipal Services (EMS) Tax not to exceed $52/per working person (with exclusions for those earning less than $12K.) The tax would only be collected on those working IN the township. The monies collected are to go "for police, fire or emergency services; road construction or maintenance; or for the reduction of property taxes." Township Manager Kichline stated that if the Township approved the entire amount ($52/per person), that an additional $260K would be realized. Chairman Ackerman asked her how much the Township currently gets in OPT and she replied $250K. She was asked again. Same answer. That would equate to 25K people currently employed at jobs in Forks Township. We checked the budget draft and it appears to us that the correct current OPT figure is closer to 60K. Both the Morning Call and the Express Times reported a different figure of $61.4K. This is more like the budget. Holmgaard said that he wants all money above the $10/per person currently collected to go to Emergency Services, specifically the fire and police departments. Miller stated that it is okay to raise the taxes for emergencies and if done an increase of 1/4 mill would mean that the squads would no longer have to send out subscription cards. We learned that only 30% of the households that receive the subscription cards send in money! This is an astoundingly low figure. It means that only 30% of the Townships residents are helping to support our Fire Department and Emergency Medical Service! Solicitor Kline was authorized to prepare a resolution should the bill become law.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or Comment here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Municipal Complex Hit By Winds


What's wrong with this picture?
This Thanksgiving wind damage to the new fire department building made the newspaper this morning (Express Times 11/30/04).

Sunday, November 28, 2004

BoS Meeting 11/18/2004

The Morning Call's Fred Walter (November 19, 2004) did an excellent job of reporting the BoS meeting's most important decision of the night, the 2005 budget. Joe Nixon (also Morning Call - 11/21/04) reported on the K-9 unit. He wasn't at the meeting but covered that part well anyway! Nixon also (in a piece on 11/18/04) presented good pre-meeting background on the non-residential developer fees issue . Edward Sieger, another press non-attendee (Express Times - November 27, 2004), reported on both the K-9 unit proposal, the budget and the controversial finance director position's 1/2 year funding. When combined, the print media gave a comprehensive view of the major issues before of the Board on 11/18/04. We hope to fill in any blanks.

The 2005 TOWNSHIP BUDGET/ADOPT FIRST SUBMISSION
discussion included a raise for the proposed Financial Director's position. It was $45K at the last meeting (11/4/04) and $49K at this one. Supervisor Hoff said that the job is an "existing position" currently filled by a part time person and that previously the job was done by the tax collector. He maintained that the Township Manager should focus on the future growth of the Township. Supervisor Miller stated that he had talked with the auditors and because they think the Township needs someone, he suggested including 1/2 of the salary in the 2005 budget and revisiting the issue in July after the software has been in place for 1/2 of the year. Chairman Ackerman stated that the job should be done by the Township Manager since that is in the job description and that an Ordinance will be needed to change the Township Manager's duties to exclude the financial aspects. There were three votes. The first was 3:2 against accepting the budget with the position in it. Ackerman, Nicholas, Miller were against it. Hoff and Holmgaard were for it. Miller lickety split introduced a motion to include 1/2 the salary (rounded up to $25K now). That motion passed 3:2 with Supervisors Ackerman, Nicholas, and Miller for it and Hoff and Holmgaard against it. And, quick-as-a-wink, a THIRD motion (by Holmgaard) was introduced to begin the search immediately! Yes, it passed 3:2. This time it was supported by Hoff, Holmgaard, and Miller. Ackerman and Nicholas voted nay.

The FEE RATES/NON-RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS item was tabled. Supervisor Nicholas stated that she did not want to negotiate every project. Hoff said that lowering the rates would encourage non-residential development. Ackerman suggested raising the fees for housing projects.

The K-9 UNIT presentation/demonstration by Officer Chris Young from Plainfield Township was very interesting. His drug sniffing dog turned up zero drugs in the audience! Forks has used the Plainfield K-9 unit three times in 2004 and turned over $200K (in forfeitures etc.) to the District Attorney. The DA's office will donate $10K to the Township for the new K-9 program. The expected additional cost of $800 for insurance will be covered in the 2005 budget. This item passed unanimously.

The SULLIVAN TRAIL COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT/SKETCH PLAN was pulled from the agenda. This is the old LANECO property. The developers are skipping this Sketch Plan stage and going directly to the Planning Commission with their Preliminary Plan.

The JALEPANEAUX SUBDIVISION AND LAND DEVELOPMENT PRELIMINARY PLAN comprises 56 acres across Kuebler Road from Harvel Plastics. It was conditionally approved but the waiver for curb and sidewalks along Kuebler Road was deferred until needed. The waiver for sidewalks along the new Mort Drive (cul de sac) was also deferred until needed. The waiver for the cul de sac length was granted. This acreage will be divided into three parcels with the pipe service center/warehouse (TIOGA) at the end of Mort Drive and the two smaller parcels on both sides of Mort Drive. Initially this facility will bring 20 jobs to Forks Township. Tioga may ultimately employ 30 people there. The expected truck traffic will be 10-12 loads of pipe per day. At the PC meeting, this was described as the initial set-up trucking, 10-12 loads inbound per day and 3 loads outbound. There will be approximately 150,000 square feet of indoor storage and additional outside storage in racks up to 12' high serviced by a side-loader forklift. Cutting of pipe will be under a lean-to on the side of the main building. Two known sinkholes have been observed in the corners of two of the three parcels. A "condition" was imposed by the BoS to preserve the existing tree rows. Jalepaneaux also requested a waiver from the "offsite improvement fees." This was tabled pending the outcome of the Non-Residential Development fees issue.

Other Items of Note:

  • Supervisor Nicholas met with the residents of Lockwood Congress who want a sidewalk on Old Mill Road. Engineer Hays said that it would cost $22K. The cost to move the trees (Toboggan to Old Mill) alone is $10K.
  • Township Manager Kichline reported that she attended a Kiwanis Club meeting featuring Prof. Mary Roth from Lafayette College. The topic was sinkholes.
  • Chief Dorney reported that the 1st stage of State Accreditation is completed.
  • Kichline reported that the tree lighting will be on 12/5 at the Community Center.
  • Fred Hay (Engineer) reported that Met-Ed thinks it should get $90K for the right-of-way (Towne Center II). Mr. Hay advises the Township to make Met-Ed go through "land development."
  • The Historical Society wants $5K for restoration projects. There are grants available from PSATS but the deadline is 12/4/04. The Township will pursue funding through grants. The 250th remembrance book will be funded by the Township through the (passive) Recreation Fund.
  • The changes to the new Municipal Complex Police Department areas were requested by the PD and will not result in additional costs. Chief Dorney explained the logic behind the room assignment changes.
  • Supervisor Nicholas suggested adding mailboxes for Supervisors in the new building.
  • Brent Wood (the resident who has vowed to attend every meeting until his problem is solved) thanked the Police Department for the extra efforts extended on the Meco Road/Wagonwheel Trail stop sign problem. He said that it's a "band-aid. He asked what the definition for a complete stop is. He was told that it means all 4 wheels have stopped moving. Apparently on his wife's observation one afternoon, some (4) Township vehicles have missed doing that and rolled through the intersection. He is grateful that two new police are to be added in the 2005 budget.
  • The Easton Area School District wants to use the 3/4 of the old Laneco for Kindergarten. Someone (Supervisor Miller?) suggested that the other 1/4 could be used for a library.
  • Lisa M. Kern has been appointed as an Alternate Sewage Enforcement Officer to help with the workload.
  • Fred Hay (Township Engineer) recommended using U.S. Geological maps on every "existing features" plan presented by developers. He said that these aerial maps show known sinkholes... from 20 years ago.
  • The BoS voted to renew the Township's annual agreement with the SPCA to accept strays. They are getting approximately 2 per day from the Township.
  • Soon-to-be-resident, Scott Hagan (sorry if we got this name wrong), requested a name change for his new street (from STUMP ROAD to anything else!) He was informed that it is still a private road as it has not yet been dedicated to the Township and that he should take the matter up with the developer. He was also advised that he (and his neighbors) will likely be responsible for any costs incurred to change the street signs, etc.
  • Newlins Road resident Andrew Dalton asked for BoS support in his plea to the US Postal Service to get mail delivery on his side of the street. He and his wife were dismayed to learn that they have to cross the street to get their mail. They feel that their new Segal & Morel constructed development near the golf course is no longer in a "rural" area and should not be treated as if it is. The farmers in the township will be surprised to learn this. The BoS informed him that this was not in their purview and to take it up with the Post Office.
  • Alex Gale (Field Construction Manager for the new Municipal Complex) reported that the basic storm sewer system is 100% and that boulevard paving would begin on 11/19/04. He anticipates that the Police Department will be able to move in in February and the Fire Department in May/June. He requested that the water line be installed now since the area is open and ready and that the additional charge of $12.5K (to do it now) be deducted from the plumber's estimate. He said too, that the new owners of the Giant want Met-Ed to pay for lawyers.

At the end of the main meeting (before the Executive Session) Township Manager Kichline made two "informational" announcements:

  1. There will be a meeting of the Elected Auditors to determine the rates for working Supervisors at 6:30 PM before the 12/2/04 BoS meeting. It is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Try to attend!
  2. The approved 2005 budget will be available to the public in the municipal building for 20 days.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or Comment here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Election Day Voting Problems/Concerns...

Though we offer opinion on positions taken, and decisions made by our elected leaders which is not always positive, I feel that it is worth clarifying a misconception sweeping through our township. On election day, Forks, like many places across the United States saw long lines, some confusion and a little disorganization at the polling places. Despite what some may think, this is NOT the fault of the ForksTownship Board of Supervisors. Elections and polling places come under the strict domain of the Northampton County Board of Elections AND not Forks Township. So if you have a concern, please let them know via their website. http://www.northamptoncounty.org/vote/

Thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to vote... your vote is very important!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Like you our hard-working and dedicated volunteers are eagerly looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with their families whether they are home or away. As a result we will be unable to post the meeting notes from the Board of Supervisors of 11/18/04 or the joint Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission meeting of 11/23/04 until late in the week or weekend of 11/29/04. If you happen to attend these meetings, take detailed notes and would like to see the website updated sooner, please email the notes to admin@forksaction.com. In the meantime please accept our best wishes for a safe, joyous and relaxing Thanksgiving holiday!

The HOLE Story - Tatamy Leads the Way!

Kudos to the Borough of Tatamy and to J.T. Maloney/Signature Homes! Today's (November 17, 2004) Express Times contains an article by Alyssa Young about how Signature Homes is adhering to Tatamy's new sinkhole law even though it has yet to be enacted. How wonderful that a developer is willing to do this. And, how wonderful that Tatamy is considering this new law. The new law will prohibit building ON or NEAR existing sinkholes and will also prohibit the directing of stormwater runoff to these areas. The builder has also promised to disclose to home buyers the fact that their land was under water during the recent flooding.

We applaud the efforts of Tatamy to get in front of a known problem and we applaud the developer, Signature Homes, for cooperating and being willing to go the extra mile. We do not know what the results of the "detailed geotechnical study and infiltration tests are." We do know that, due to sinkholes, there is bridge out in Tatamy and that Route 33 almost lost a bridge too. This is an important step to protecting Tatamy's current and future residents. Way to go!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

BoS Meeting 11/4/04

The Express Times' Edward Sieger and the Morning Call's Joe Nixon attended and wrote exceptional articles about this meeting. In fact, they learned much more than we did about the budget proposal! Kudos for their in-depth and thorough reporting.

The MUNICIPAL SOFTWARE PACKAGE was conditionally awarded to a local company Applied Micro. This was a unanimous vote based on COST only. Apparently the other package (Sun Gard?) that the special committee checked into was too expensive for Forks' resources in the committee's estimation. The "conditions" include a REWRITTEN contract and that when the contract is altered to suit the Board, the price will remain the same. Supervisor Nicholas said that the contract presented to them had a clause in it holding the vendor harmless should a software loss due to equipment failure occur and in addition, the vendor declined to give a list of recommended hardware stating instead that the Township's existing equipment was adequate. We applaud Supervisor Nicholas' diligence. Supervisor Holmgaard stated that he would take care of the contract and price issues and he agreed with Nicholas that the contract was unacceptable and "needs to be rewritten."

The 2005 TOWNSHIP BUDGET/FIRST SUBMISSION apparently warranted little discussion EXCEPT that Chairman Ackerman stated quite definitively that he would not vote for it with the line item for a Director of Finance (for $45,000) in it. He said that the Township Manager was to perform those duties. Supervisor Nicholas agreed and said that she wanted the line item REMOVED from the budget. Holmgaard wanted it left in just in case it was needed. Nicholas said that if it was there, the money would be spent and she thought that waiting until after the new software was in place and the new building completed would be better. At that time, if the position was still needed, they could revisit the discussion. A vote was taken and it was a 2:2 tie. Both Holmgaard and Miller voted for it. Hoff was not present. It will come before the Board at the next meeting. After it is approved, there will be a 20 day period in which it (the budget) is available to the public for scrutiny.

The FEE RATES/NON-RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS agenda item was TABLED until next meeting by Supervisor Nicholas. She requested that comparable figures from nearby municipalities be compiled and presented to the Board so that they could better consider this issue. Apparently an unnamed developer wants to commit to an $8.4 million business/site in the Township but wants relief from $8,000 worth of fees first. Nicholas compared $8K to $8 million and said it was not a significant amount of money for a project that size. She also said that that land could not be used for residential construction and didn't understand why lowering the fees was being considered for this project. It was explained that they were considering lowering the fees for ALL non-residential development. Dean Turner (Planning Commission) advised her to "think globally" as the Planning Commission was trying to encourage non-residential development over residential. Bob Fretz (sic), a former Supervisor commented that during his time on the Board they had worked very hard to establish the fees. He said that if they reduce them they will undo all of that work. The implication was that these fees slow things down. He's right.

COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR, NOT AGENDA ITEMS:

  1. The first test of the new five minute rule occurred when Amy Farley (sic) presented her investigation into the reasons for part of her home being ruined last January when pipes froze. Apparently no Certificate of Occupancy was ever issued for her dwelling. In November 2003 she and her family purchased an older home that had been extensively remodeled by three former owners. She contacted the Secretary of the Board of Supervisors, Don Miller, but he did not respond to her. She has had extensive discussions with Zoning Officer Tim Weis. What she learned in all this time is that although permits had been issued for some of the improvements to the home, inspections were never done because the permits had expired. The reason we state that this is a test of the new five minute rule is because to stay within that time period Ms. Farley spoke VERY quickly and it was difficult to understand all of the issues. Weis did state that there was more to it and that a Supervisors' meeting was not the forum for it. Ms. Farley said that he had told her that they could be fined $500/day for living in a house without a C.O.
  2. Brent Wood (sic) who lives on the corner of Wagonwheel and Meco Road related to the Board that he was told by a Forks Township police Corporal to bring his problem to them. Apparently his neighbors consistently go through the stop sign on the corner and the police do not have the manpower to be effective. He was advised by the Corporal to keep coming to meetings. He was also told (by the police) to take photos of the scofflaws' vehicles showing their license plates. He suggests raising taxes to hire more police or to put in speed bumps. His wife runs a daycare out of their home with as many as 10 children in it and there had been close calls. He vowed to continue to speak/appear at meetings until this problem is solved.
  3. Dean Turner (Planning Commission) admonished the Board regarding their conduct at recent meetings stating that "they were not as professional as they used to be." He said that it seemed that there were adversarial relationships. He applauds the new Time Limits (the five minute rule).
  4. Stan Kocher (former Supervisor) learned that the lime kiln and stone wall on Frost Hollow Road were not on PennDot's hit list. They are on the National Historic Record and will be preserved.

REPORTS AND OTHER AGENDA ITEMS OF NOTE:

  1. Supervisor Miller was given the go-ahead to hire a part time Equipment Manager for the Community Center at $10/hr. The candidate has been selected. We missed his name, sorry. He is the current Equipment Manager at Easton High.
  2. Chairman Ackerman apologized to the Board and to the Township residents for allowing Field Construction Manager Alex Gale into the Executive Session at the last meeting. He said that the Township Manager, Kichline, asked him to let him attend. He thought it was a personnel issue. It was not. She was wrong to do that for sure. He should NOT have been in the Executive Session.
  3. Township Manager Kichline reported that 13 feet of Frost Hollow Road (from Route 611) will be under repair in the next few weeks and that the construction company will work through the winter until that section is repaired.
  4. Township Engineer Fred Hay, said that Met-Ed has withdrawn its Land Development Plan since all they will be doing is a driveway to their storage area. He stated that the Township wants to expand its right of way on Meco Road and Route 115 and wants sidewalks. Met-Ed wants a waiver from the SALDO.
  5. Engineer Hay also reported that the Township will "smoke test" the sewers in the Heather Lane area (remember their problem?) and that a pipe on Camellia Road had a broken flap which caused water to flow into the yards on Heather Lane. The pipe problem will be fixed.
  6. Field Construction Manager Alex Gale discussed fuel storage tanks for diesel and gasoline at the new Municipal Complex. He suggests buying fuel for automobiles from local gas stations to avoid the environmental issues that large storage tanks can cause. Tim Weis said that a tank will be necessary for fire trucks as there are no diesel stations nearby that can accommodate them. Gale also asked the Board to be more specific about how much input they want re. such things as landscaping, furniture, and space assignments for the Police Department. The Board suggested that Chief Dorney (not present) do a presentation.
  7. SULLIVAN TRAIL COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT/SKETCH PLAN was Tabled as no one from the developer's office was present. This is the old Laneco property.
  8. Roger Naut, a Heather Lane resident (the new part) asked for a waiver of a street tree. He was not informed by the developer or the real estate agent when he purchased his new home about the plans for a tree in his yard and went ahead and spent thousands of dollars on landscaping. Now the developer wants to complete his obligation to the Township and stick a tree in the middle of his yard (in the 10' right of way that he didn't know existed either). He brought photos. Fred Hay was instructed to look at the property and see if the tree cannot "go someplace else."
  9. TOWNE CENTER AT SULLIVAN TRAIL II - Preliminary Plan was presented. This includes the old pole storage yard behind Met-Ed and will have its entrance on Meco Road. There will be four commercial plots there. Both Holmgaard and Nicholas requested that the commercial go in BEFORE the 76 townhomes. The drive through will connect with Towne Center I. The developer is requesting 4 waivers one of which is the required slope of the detention basin. Another is a waiver of the geological study. Supervisor Nicholas wished to be on record as opposing the waiver of the geological study. Engineer Hay said that the Township is sinkhole prone and that most sinkholes are caused by BAD ("shoddy"?) construction practices. That got a laugh. He thinks that the money should NOT be spent on geological studies. A vote was take re. the waivers. It was 3:1 with Supervisor Nicholas voting NAY.
  10. ESTATES AT BUSHKILL CREEK received Final Plan approval. This is the old Upstream Farms site.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or Comment here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Does not compute! Does not compute! Does not compute!

Edward Sieger's piece in the Express Times yesterday (10/25/2004) about the BoS (meeting) discussion of the proposed software package told you a lot more than we did in our meeting notes. One thing not in the article nor in our notes was that Supervisor Miller, when refusing to be on the software committee, also said that he did not want to cast the TIE BREAKING VOTE! Sieger also related that "Supervisor Donald Miller said he was willing to give Nicholas until the board's Nov. 4 meeting but will approve Applied Micro's proposal if a better option isn't offered." Yes, all of this is true! I, for one, am having trouble comprehending how Supervisor Miller, who refused to learn through research, and who does not want to break a tie, will be more informed and more qualified after two weeks of life as usual, to cast a vote in favor of the original package over another option. Yes, it might even be the tie breaking vote. Does it make sense that he WILL cast the tie breaking vote in favor of something he knows NOTHING about? I think, based on what Supervisor Miller avows, that he should abstain from this vote entirely. That way, he will not be voting in ignorance nor will he be casting the dreaded tie breaking vote.

Sieger also discussed auditor Alan France's letter in great detail. He must have picked up a copy. Kudos! According to Sieger's report, that letter was a month old. It was obviously in someone's possession for a month before most of the BoS got their copies. Supervisor Hoff said he only held it a "few days" before distributing it. Holy cow. What's going on in our township offices? How could a letter so important as to cause Supervisor Holmgaard to be "shaking" have been misplaced for so long? It should have been presented to the Board immediately! Among other things, the auditor(s) recommended:

  1. Hiring a Director of Finance. (Maybe the new software will take care of that need? Maybe not.) Won't the software help to alleviate the need for yet another manager?
  2. New record keeping and new accounting systems
  3. AND, proper training for the existing staff

Let's hope that the efforts by the new committee truly do come up with a good package that will handle the township's needs through its growth cycle and beyond. If the software is good enough, the township won't need two managers... one with versatility will do! Kudos to Edward Sieger and the Express Times for probing further into the auditor's letter. Perhaps auditor France should BE on that committee too! He seems to KNOW what we need. If he's not ON the committee, I hope the committee consults with him for recommendations and guidance.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Joint Meeting Cancelled! No Explanation!

Tonight's joint meeting of the Planning Commission & Board of Supervisors was cancelled. We just found out that there was a sign on the door. Yes, drive all the way over there, climb the stairs, and read the sign. In this day and age, there should be a better way of notifying the public. We are sorry to have urged you all to attend a meeting that didn't happen. We hope you were not too inconvenienced. The township solicitor, Karl Kline, announced the meeting at the Board meeting last week. What happened? Does anyone know?

Saturday, October 23, 2004

BoS Meeting 10/21/04

Once again the Express Times' Edward Sieger and the Morning Call's Joe Nixon did great jobs of reporting the meeting. Kudos to both of them. They both described the Public Comments discussions very well. However, our take on the outcome is not as upbeat. We lose. To avoid enduring one or two LONG speakers per year, all township residents have been muzzled. BONG. Time's up! At least we have not been relegated to the tail end of meetings as Holmgaard so cavalierly suggested. Our five minutes each comments will still be heard at the beginning of meetings. Oh yes, those of us who PLAN to speak must sign in (Supervisor Hoff's contribution) before the meeting starts. That's not to say that if someone does not plan to speak but feels compelled to comment on an issue under discussion that he/she cannot speak. They can. And, the chairman has the authority to allow speakers extra time. Let's hope John Ackerman stays as Chairman for a very LONG time!

Residents with major issues, like the residents of Heather Lane whose basements were flooded with raw sewage during Hurricane Ivan, should call the Township Manager and have their issues put on the agenda. Agenda items get more time allotted to them and, as we were told, will give the Board an opportunity to think about the issue before the meeting, thus making for more reasoned discussion.

Speaking of Heather Lane's residents, there was NO discussion of their problem/solution during this meeting. We wonder if the township helped them or not? We don't know. If you are one of those residents (or anyone else who knows the answer), perhaps you can enlighten us? Was there a special meeting for you? We hope everything worked out to your satisfaction.

There was NO discussion of the meeting notification GAFF last week. That was a surprise. It would seem that if we, the residents, are not going to mention it out loud then they, the officials/solicitor, are not going to mention it either. Looks like they won't be paying the $100/each fines for holding meetings without proper public notice(s). The meetings we are referring to were budget "worksessions" (sic) held on Oct. 18 & 19. The notice for these meetings appeared in the Express Times on October 19, 2004, a day late for the first meeting. We did expect an apology or an explanation. We did not expect payment of a fine. A simple, "We messed up. It was a mistake. It won't happen again," would have been fine. Our guess is that they WILL pay more attention in the future. There will be a budget "worksession" (sic) again this coming Monday (Oct. 25th) at 4:30. It was announced at this meeting and also appeared in yesterday's Express Times Classifieds.

Another item that we expected to be more of an issue was the fact that two meetings in a row had Agenda additions after the Tuesday 2:30 PM cut-off time. A resident, Gretchen Gerstel, made it clear during the Comments session that that was a no-no and that it was noticed and not appreciated. (ERROR: In fact, we were told by someone in the know that the item added to this meeting's Agenda (after Tuesday at 2:30), Steeplechase North, was tabled because Supervisor Nicholas felt that adding it was in violation of the rules.) CORRECTION (10/30/2004): Supervisor Nicholas voted to TABLE Steeplechase because Solicitor Kline was discussing a letter that none of the Board had seen.

Also during the Comments session, resident Scott Gingold asked if the township had a Sinkhole Trust Fund. He was told "NO." He expressed concern about all the sinkholes recently found and what the township's future liability may be. He also suggested that since all residents who comment must give their names and home addresses, that all speakers/developers do the same (that is state their names and home addresses). After that, each one did! Kudos!

Other items of note:

  1. Stan Kocher asked to have a statement added to the minutes describing the planning and hours that went into the 250th celebration so that people reading the minutes 50 years from now will see that the township did indeed try to celebrate properly and that it took a hurricane to keep them from it.
  2. A Forks police officer (name missed, sorry) was named Top Cop for giving out more DUI's than any other. One officer (in addition to Chief Dorney) was in the audience for the reading of the award letter.
  3. FEMA met with PennDot re. the Frost Hollow swale. Repairs to the area at Route 611 are underway. Chairman Ackerman expressed concern that the garage that is in danger be protected and asked that the Township Manager check into that.
  4. Solicitor Kline reported that several potential new businesses (in the township) are concerned about initial fees.
  5. The township newsletter will no longer be mailed to every household. It will be available online. If requested, a newsletter will be mailed. Contact the township office if you need it the "old fashioned way," in print.
  6. A joint Planning Commission/Supervisors meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 26, 2004 at 7:00 PM to review the text additions to the SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance). Important! Try to attend!
  7. Kline reported that before a CO (Certificate of Occupancy) is issued for a development, street signs should be in place. This is a safety issue. We are not sure, but we think this is to be added to the stop sign ordinance (#288) adopted last meeting.
  8. Alex Gale reported that the paving around the new municipal building was slowed last week due to rain and that the insulation for the PD is late because of high demand both in southern states hit by the hurricanes and in China. Also... yes... more "extra" money spent! $27,000 was the cost to stabilize part of the site. Apparently there was an old dry well and a wet spot that were not noticed on the original site inspection.
  9. Supervisor Nicholas raised the issue of all the changes to the original municipal building plan. She provided each of the Board with copies of the building drawing that THEY approved. She alleged that it has been changed considerably. Gale said that the "footprint" had not changed. Barb Bartek (Secretary to the Board/Office Manager) was directed to find the minutes from the meeting in which the plans were approved. It will be discussed at the next meeting (Nov. 4).
  10. SOMERSET MEADOWS (north of Newlins Road) was under discussion. The developer was not present. Solicitor Kline explained that this project was proposed in 1997 and the developer paid $73K to cover improvements to Newlins Road (within a 10 year period). The project is dead. The developer wants his money back a few years early. Engineer Hay suggests giving back $10K and using the balance to improve Newlins as soon as Riverview West is completed. Hay said that Riverview West should be completed within 1-1/2 years.
  11. The Park Maintenance Building low bidder was Kistler at $148,000. It is $16,500 more than budgeted and includes only the shell building. The interior work will take another $73,000. The interior costs, suggested Hoff, could be added to next year's budget and the overage can be funded from this year's capital improvement fund.
  12. A Tom Cat Scrubber to clean the floor in the Community Center will be purchased for $12,490. Supervisor/Community Center Manager Miller said that there is too much floor there now to continue cleaning it by hand. This is a riding scrubber.
  13. The Municipal Software Package purchase was tabled until next meeting. There was a contentious discussion between the Township Manager and Supervisors Nicholas, Hoff, and Holmgaard. Nicholas suggested that a package that other townships and municipalities of our size use also be considered. Holmgaard said that they were all the same so they should award the bid now to the company that the TM wanted (for $70K plus a $450/mthly fee). There was pre-meeting demo at 6 PM of the pre-selected package. It was the first time that Nicholas had seen it and she did not know what other options were out there. She expressed her concerns. The upshot is that a committee consisting of Nicholas, Ackerman, Office Manager Barb Bartek, and Township Manager Kichline will view a demo of the alternate package (one found by Nicholas after making a few calls to Bethlehem Township, Palmer Township and the City of Easton) and present their findings at the next meeting.

Notable also were:

  • Supervisor Holmgaard made reference to a letter sent to the Board that was only presented to them that evening. Supervisor Hoff said that the Township Manager gave it to him after she received it and he held it for a "few" days before giving it to them. Holmgaard was angry. He said he was "shaking." Kline said that it could be discussed as it was not marked CONFIDENTIAL and was now public record. It was only discussed like that. It was not read. We learned that it was written by the township auditors and that it discussed the need for better record keeping. It made suggestions too.
  • Supervisor Miller refused to be appointed to the committee to review the software stating that he knew nothing about computers and software.

There was an Executive Session at the end of the meeting to discuss a personnel issue. (ERROR: Afterwards, (we heard) a vote was taken to affirm that the Municipal Building plans that were voted on originally are the plans that are being built. Period.) CORRECTION (10/30/04): WE HAVE SINCE LEARNED that the plans for the Municipal Complex were changed by Mr. Gale and because contractors have bid on these changes, the Supervisors were forced to vote on the NEW plan in order to make the changes/bids legal. Supervisor Nicholas is/was not in agreement with Mr. Gale's belief that he could make changes to the plans without the Supervisors' vote on it. Mr. Gale is a Field Construction Manager and not a Supervisor. This vote was taken after the Executive Session.

We urge all interested residents to attend the upcoming meetings. Much is going on! Again, they are:

  1. Monday, October 25, 2004 at 4:30 PM - Budget "worksession" (sic)
  2. Tuesday, October 26, 2004 at 7:00 PM - Joint Planning Commission & Supervisors to discuss text additions to the SALDO

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or Comment here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Better Than THE PRODUCERS! How to Guarantee NO AUDIENCE!

Today's (10/19/2004) Express Times had the following notice in the Classifieds:

Legal-Public Notices
LEGAL NOTICE FORKS TOWNSHIP The Forks Township Board of Supervisors have scheduled two worksessions with Department Heads on Monday, October 18, 2004 and Tuesday, October 19, 2004 at 4:30 PM. Worksessions will be held to discuss the 2005 Operating Budgets. Meetings will be held at the Forks Township Municipal Building, 1606 Sullivan Trail, Easton, PA. Forks Township Board of Supervisors Published in The Express-Times on 10/19


I, for one, cannot tell if these meetings are open to the public or not. I am guessing they are since there is an announcement in the paper. Notifying township residents of a meeting the day AFTER it happened seems odd. Of course, we are being told (in time) of the second meeting, scheduled for this afternoon. It's hard to plan time away from work for a 4:30 meeting on such short notice. Since this is a worksession with Department Heads, I imagine they are trying to avoid paying overtime. That's admirable. But such short notice to the public, that's NOT admirable at all. Just my opinion of course!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

YOUR TIME IS UP!

There is nothing more that a teenager likes to do than speak their mind. Whether they discuss their views on dates, school, sports, or politics depends on the interest of the teen, but there is one thing that they all have in common: they all demand the right to speak freely. And why wouldn’t they? This is one of the many rights that are guaranteed to the American teenager in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Forks Township has recently found a loophole around this amendment though. They would never take away a citizen’s right to free speech, because that would be wrong, but they would restrict it. Their newest innovative idea for township meetings is to give each citizen a certain amount of time to speak their mind. No matter what the degree of their problem or concern is, each resident will have the same amount of time to discuss and resolve their issue with the board of supervisors. So, basically, if someone comes to a meeting to discuss trick-or-treat, they get the same amount of time as someone who is trying to get money to cover the damage done to their house by a backed-up sewage system during hurricane Ivan.
Being a teenager in Forks Township disgusts me. If I feel the need to speak my mind, I want to be heard. We should have unlimited time to articulate our views because those are what help improve our community. I am a part of the next generation of Forks Township and my opinion can make a difference for the future. Is this not what the board of supervisors is here for? We elected them to this position to listen to us, whether we are young or old, and in return they should let us help them to help our community. Somehow, I do not see this happening when our opinions are put under time restrictions.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

BoS Meeting 10/7/04

Both the Express Times' Edward Sieger and the Morning Call's Joe Nixon did excellent reports (Oct. 8, 2004) of this most INTENSE meeting. Thank you both. We'll relate the meeting goings-on in a little more detail and will try not to repeat what you can read in the newspapers. Warning! This is a LONG post. The meeting was very important to Forks residents.

MANAGER'S REPORT: The Township Manager reported that Supervisors Holmgaard and Hoff were interviewed by PBS Channel 39. The interview will be aired on 10/12/04 and 10/15/04 at 7:30 PM. She also reported that Baseline Construction's repair to Bushkill Drive will take another 2 months and that Bi-State Construction's work on the Frost Hollow swale must be completed by July 9, 2005.

DEPARTMENT REPORTS: Tim Weis, Emergency Management Coordinator, reported that Hurricane Ivan was the first declared township emergency in which the disaster plans were used. The plans worked. Peter Gheller, Public Works, reported that leaf collections will begin slowly (one truck) next week. Karl Kline, Solicitor, reported that he met with Tioga Pipe and that they will be moving into the industrial park.

ENGINEER'S REPORT: The township engineers' office reported that it will cost approximately $115,000 to replace the 48" storm sewer with a 60" one. This is the storm sewer pipe that overflowed into the sanitary sewer line and backed up into the homes on Heather Lane.

The engineer went on to say that this pipe will not handle a problem like the one the residents of Heather Lane faced. Amy Hummer, a Heather Lane resident whose basement had 3-1/2 feet of raw sewage in it, described how it felt to watch people walking by her house on their way to the park for the 250th while she was trying desperately to get the stuff out of her basement. She was near tears. It is a situation that none of us can really imagine. She, and other residents whose basements were flooded with sewage by the overflow of the Giant's detention (retention?) pond into the storm sewer (which then flooded into the sanitary sewer pipe), related that FEMA offered them loans (Hummer's estimate alone is $30,000!) to get the work done. They don't want LOANS. The residents did nothing wrong. They do not live in a flood plain. They expected NO flooding. And, now they have learned that the township's insurer will NOT cover the damage to their properties.

Holmgaard said that he was on the (now defunct) Sewer Authority and was certain that letters were sent to the residents of that area with guidelines for them (install check valves and no sump pumps draining into the sanitary sewers) to help prevent future flooding. So far no one at the township can find a copy of that letter. A long time resident says that he did not get one. The area has flooded three times, in 1984, in 1996, and now. Holmgaard said that the other floods had something to do with residents draining sump pumps into the sanitary sewer line and he asked a long time resident (and now victim) if his sump pump was going into the sewer. The resident said he did not have a sump pump. Tim Weis (Zoning Officer) said that there is a $1000 fine imposable by the township should a resident have such a hookup. The Township Manager said that there was a to-do list developed after the 1996 flooding and that the township had done most of the items on it. They did not do them all. One of the BoS asked which items were NOT done. It will be looked into further. Meanwhile, the reason that the township insurer will NOT cover the cleanup and repair to the residents' homes is because the township did SOME and NOT ALL of the items on the list. This is worse than AWFUL! This issue has been tabled for discussion at the next meeting (10/21/04) or, possibly at an emergency meeting before that. All those impacted were asked by Chairman Ackerman to provide the Supervisors with a list of damages, photos, and cost estimates so that they can better consider the problem and solution.

CORRESPONDENCE: Supervisor Holmgaard read a letter from a township resident commending two police officers for bravery and heroism during the flooding on Bushkill Drive. The officers were present at the meeting, as were one or two others who we are sure were there to help congratulate the two heroes. We were unable to hear their names, nor the name of the grateful resident. The resident sent along a check for $1000 for the police department. Kudos all around!

COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS): (This was not the discussion about the format but the old format in action.)

  1. Ms. Coxe had copies of her list of questions from the 9/2/04 meeting for each of the Supervisors, the Solicitor, the Township Manager, and the Chief of Police. She stated that Chairman Ackerman had answered some of the questions and that his answers were on the list so that they could all see them. She said that she indicated which questions she thought each should answer and she requested the answers in writing. Hoff said that he already answered and wouldn't answer again. Holmgaard said that he wouldn't permit HIS police chief to answer. Kline stated that he would not answer without permission from the BoS since the time spent would be billable to the township. It was decided that the Township Manager should answer Kline's questions since she has access to the records of the Solicitor's billable hours. Supervisor Hoff was asked if he had any signs posted during his last election bid. He said that he had five of them. He was informed there is no record of him having paid his (refundable) sign permit fee. Also, the Board was asked if they approved a special edition of the township newsletter (in which Hoff was praised heavily) that went out to all residents on the Friday before the election. Ms. Coxe was calm and polite. Those same characteristics can not be attributed to one of the Supervisors in particular.
  2. Stan Kocher (former Supervisor) expressed his hope that the LIME KILN on Frost Hollow Rd. will be preserved during the reconstruction of that roadway.
  3. Morris Metz (former Supervisor, former Planning commission member, and former editor of the newsletter) praised the 250th committee for the professional job they did. He then said that he was the editor of the newsletter at the time Ms. Coxe referred to (October 2001) and that George Gemmel (former Township Manager) made him do it. He (Gemmel) provided all the copy. He also said that in all his years of service in the township, there was never an incident lacking integrity. He urged the Supervisors to address Ms. Coxe's questions (implying this situation did lack integrity.)

STATUS UPDATE - ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX: Gale reported that paving will begin next week and it's likely to make flooding problems in the area worse. (HELLO... IMHO, this is enough reason to hold off on the paving until the stormwater/sewage issue is under control! Liability?) Also, Gale presented the Supervisors with individual binders of the project containing cost estimates of each phase. These estimates will be replaced by real costs as the segments are completed and billings are received. He presented the estimates to demolish the old (current) municipal building, including the asbestos (small amount in the basement boiler area) removal. The Supervisors were surprised that these numbers were NOT included in the $10 million plus. Gale said that THEY had the numbers removed from the original contracts. Looks like there is no hope of re-using the current building.

NEW BUSINESS:

  • Authorization to Advertise an ordinance entering the township into the PA Municipal Health Insurance Cooperative was approved. This is a central PA group and will cover the dental and vision portions of the health plan.
  • The township is considering purchasing a Municipal Software package from Applied Microsystems. Supervisors Holmgaard and Hoff saw it at a PSATS conference. At Supervisor Nicholas' request, she and Miller will get a hands-on demonstration soon. The Township Manager said that the office staff each had 2-3 hours to check it out. The package will cost more than $60,000 and will also do the Earned Income Taxes (EIT). It was unclear whether the EIT module would entail an additional fee. Six months of training for township employees is included In the purchase price. The purchase discussion (and decision) has been tabled until the next meeting on the 21st.
  • The Public Comments Procedure was discussed briefly before being tabled until the next meeting. Holmgaard wants the public to submit their comment requests to the township before the 2:30 PM Tuesday deadlines (the week of a meeting), or to wait until the end of the meeting to speak. Holmgaard didn't say when the end of the meeting would be... there seem to be two ends, one when the New Business is over and one AFTER the Executive Session. Ackerman and Nicholas said that other municipalities are invoking time limits. Ackerman also said that this was the first time he saw this item (and the software one too). It was not on the Agenda he had. Oh oh... someone's breaking the rules! Meanwhile, Gretchen Gerstel, resident and former Planning Commission member, said that she objected to the residents issues being relegated to the end of the meeting and that if the comments were important enough then the developers could wait. This topic earned Forks Township a TURKEY in the (10/9/04) edition!
  • The Current Budget Review was not discussed.

At the end of the New Business section Holmgaard announced that there has been 36% growth in Northampton County. He didn't say over what period. An Executive Session followed (to discuss a personnel matter and litigation.)

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or Comment here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

Friday, October 01, 2004

"Flooding analysis may usher in changes"

This is such good news! An article in today's (10/1/04) Express Times said that the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission is going to study why the flooding from Hurricane Ivan was so bad in the LV. They are right to say that it needs study. The answers, of course, will be complex... likely a weather fluke with some relation to the rapid expansion of pavement and roofs in the valley. There are a couple of TRUTHS involved:
  1. The development isn't going to go away.
  2. It isn't going to stop (until there is no place left to build that is.)

Given these two facts, it behooves the Master Planners to come up with solid infrastructure recommendations. There are lots of us depending on this for our safety and the safety of our major financial investments (homes). Perhaps they will recommend a PAUSE in it all until roads and drainage systems can be redesigned to handle stormwater runoff? Or, at least until plans are developed for the redesigns? My fingers are crossed!

Friday, September 17, 2004

BoS Meeting 9/16/2004

The Express Times' Jeff Schogol did an excellent job of reporting this meeting's goings on, including the big engineering blunder and COMMENTS from the floor. Kudos! The MCall article by Joe Nixon http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-b3-3forkssep17,0,3342310.story (link expired, sorry), covered the new business park project. Read them both. What follows is the rest of the story (apologies to Paul Harvey.)

Yes, there were more police officers at this meeting, six of them! One was in uniform, 3 were in street clothes and 2 were wearing their detective uniforms (the handcuffs from the belts were a giveaway.) As citizens of this great country, even if they do not live in Forks, they have every right to attend a public meeting. Right? Stan Kocher (retired, former Supervisor) said that he was going to look into this. Will keep you posted.

Now for the good stuff (residents names are used because they were also in the Express article):

  1. Upstream Farms seniors wrote a letter to protest the increased trash collection fee. Ms. Nicholas suggested that we could change it to a 'limited' collection but that would mean no grass clippings and that would cause other costs to the township. Payment plans are offered to anyone who wants one. That availability will be advertised in the next newsletter and as a special mailing to residents in senior developments.
  2. Tim Weis (Zoning Officer and Deputy Fire Chief) announced that there will be a special seminar on the townships 'terrorism' plans.
  3. Henning Holmgard read a letter of rejection by the US Postal service. Forks will get no Post Office.
  4. Martin Zawarski, a non-resident, (but large landowner) suggested to the Supervisors that they impose time limits on the residents' "Comments" to avoid filibusters. He said other municipalities do that.
  5. Dean Turner thanked all the township employees who have helped with the 250th. He has ideas for special recognition for them.
  6. Fritz Weide (resident) suggested that the township stop all building until the current traffic mess is fixed.
  7. A couple (not named in the Express article) brought to the attention of the Supervisors the fact that their neighbor is cutting trees on land above them on Paxinosa. This tree cutting person wants a better view. The trouble is that in the process, he has cut trees on their land. They have no trespassing signs newly posted and can now call the police if there are any more trees killed on their land. The problem here is that things are in a delicate balance on mountainsides and anyone cutting the trees that hold the land in place, risks everything below. This couple live below. Their property is now in danger and has already been damaged. Tim Weis and Fred Hays have been involved. The tree cutting property owner will not return calls and does not live in the house he owns there.
  8. Dottie Yautz spoke about how much she learned at the last meeting's presentation (of a resident's findings) re. the township's GSA investigation. She was glad to learn the true story of the "notorious" forklift and would like Lee Fisher rehired. (It's interesting to note here that after Ms. Yautz finished speaking, four of the police officers left. The two detectives stayed behind. )

Item 1 above is in red because IT IS A BIG DEAL! If the Supervisors limit our time, the only forum we, as taxpaying residents, have will be restricted. IMHO, the residents should certainly scream and holler if this is seriously considered. We have NO OTHER FORUM. We pay the bills here. The 'agenda' items are important too. Maybe the Supervisors will consider another night exclusively for "Comments from the Floor?" Of course, then there will be no one at the regular meetings to observe the projects (from the ones not paying the bills) on the horizon. There is no easy answer.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Did You Know?

Forks Township has a budget of $75,000 for our Solicitor,Karl H. Kline, but has paid the following over the past few years:

2004 - $71,339.64 (1st Qtr: $38,366.42; 2nd Qtr: $32,973.22)
2003 - $102,649.07
2002 - $96,635.51


Kline's Hourly Rate: 2004 is $110.00 (2003 was $105.00; 2002 was $100.00)

This information and much more can be obtained at the Forks Township Municipal Building.
See website listed below for the Open Meetings/Open Records publication explaining

Monday, September 13, 2004

Board of Supervisors Meeting 9/2/2004 PART 2

The S.R.O. meeting on 9/2/04 was exciting. After the workshop discussion (see Part 1), the regular meeting began. During the managers' reports section, a resident asked why the township trash bills included an insert about grass. Yes, we all got one... an image of a spiked and bejeweled young person with a lawn mower... double meaning it would seem. Why instead of learning the reasons for the new rate (for trash collection), residents were instead informed about grass clippings (in the late summer) and not about leaves? Kichline said that she downloaded the image from the PA website and that although the office staff started to stuff envelopes with a letter of explanation, she had the letters removed and the grass thing inserted in its place. Odd.

The first resident to speak during the Comments session got everyone's attention. She had spent several weeks researching the investigation of the township employees' GSA violations and had many questions to ask the BoS. She wondered particularly why not all of the violators were named. She also wondered what the price tag of the investigation (to the township) was. She requested that the BoS respond next meeting or at a mutually agreed time. There was applause when she was done.

During her presentation the presence of six (?) uniformed police was noticed. Former Supervisor, Stan Kocher, asked what they were doing there... he'd never seen that before. Chief Dorney said that he didn't know which officers were there and maybe they were there for support... a new detective was being named and a new officer hired. He didn't know if they were ON or OFF duty. Interesting for sure.

The next voice from the audience, asked about the association of the Forks Youth Athletic Association with the beer tent at the 250th. Dean Turner (PC and 250th planner) explained as best he could that this was legal and that the FYAA had its permit and that all precautions would be taken to keep people from drinking too much and to keep kids away. He said that no "youth" would be working the beer tent. MADD has objected (via email directly to the Supervisors) to the word Youth in the group's name... if it's going to be selling beer.

This resident also asked why the township was not requiring sink hole studies for all new developments. The BoS (Ackerman?) explained that the sinkholes are known to be here and that spending money to study them would be a waste.

Projects were on the table too... Towne Center at Sullivan Trail was advised to put in a landscape buffer on the Jackson Farm side. Countryside Estates Section 2 was there for Preliminary Major... whatever that is... and the new officer, Terrie Feinberg was introduced... and the promotion of Philomena Sandt to detective was approved. T. Feinberg was in attendance, P. Sandt was not... maybe the six uniforms were there to stand in for her?

This week's meeting (9/16/04) should be interesting.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Welcome to Forks News!

We are here to give you the up to date news from the Board of Supervisors meetings and Planning commission meetings. We will keep you updated with what is happening in Forks.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Board of Supervisors Meeting 9/2/2004 PART 1

Last night's BoS meeting started with a credible objection by Bonnie Nicholas (BoS) during the workshop. She objected to the fact that the Township Mgr.'s office size in the new building will be HUGE. It was the space originally planned as a conference room. Now, according to Alex Gale, the project overseer, this change was urged by him. He is responsible. And, according to David Hoff (BoS), this was all decided some time ago and he didn't want to spend any time micromanaging the project. A resident suggested that if Mgr. Kichline on occassion needs a larger space, well, why couldn't she just move her guests to the conference room? She's right IMHO. It seems wrong to give a 22' x bigger space to one person when according to BN, there are women in the main office without private spaces... women who are working on our (the residents') private information. It seems that a 16' x 16' (the originally planned space) should be adequate as a 'working' office. After all, the conference room is available when needed. Just my opinion. ;-)

The workshop ended rather abruptly with a promise to show the furniture selections to the BoS. Apparently, if John Ackerman (BoS) had not asked about it, it wouldn't happen. The building furnishing would be done entirely without BoS input. Hmmm. And then there was THE meeting... someone else?

Welcome to the F.A.C. blog

My first F.A.C. post is a post of WELCOME. Here's where we can discuss Forks' issues and events that impact us, the residents of Forks Township... like last night's Board of Supervisors (special) Workshop and (regular) Meeting. It was a LONG one for sure.

First though, be advised that we have rules which include respect for people's right to privacy and anonymity. In other words, unless they are an elected official, an appointed official or they are being quoted from a public meeting or media story, we do NOT "out people." Contributors are welcome to criticize our group and/or its positions as this is a democracy, but, if you make this personal by naming names of people whom you think are involved we will pull the post. Again, we welcome dissenting opinions and views from the other side, but we will not allow personal attacks or mentions of non-elected representatives or non-appointed citizens.

Additionally blogger.com has its own rules and regulations which are found in the blogger.com Terms of Service. Notable is the following:

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Let the discussions begin! :-)