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.

2 comments:

It's a FAC2 said...

This is a great editorial from the Easton Express from October 10. http://forksaction.com/Files/ET_Editorial.pdf This compliments the TURKEY award perfectly.

A Forks Resident said...

What a great job on the meeting notes! You feel like you are at the meeting when reading these notes. A thank you to Forks Action Committee and the local newspapers for keeping Forks Township Residents informed. We certainly do need more residents attending meetings and speaking out. This ad hoc watchdog group is very much needed in the township.