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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Solicitor Kline reported that several potential new businesses (in the township) are concerned about initial fees.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Monday, October 25, 2004 at 4:30 PM - Budget "worksession" (sic)
- 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.