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.

9 comments:

Progress is the Future said...

I think that you are all misinformed. You can't go around making accusations without knowing all the facts.

Geological surveys are a waste of money. Period. Why do you want to waste money, just because it isn't yours? That is childish and petty. Go play in your sandbox.

Guess what: The supervisor meetings are NOT meant to micromanage the township. You present the municipal software package issue as if they are spending money without proper research--that is false. The staff has reviewed several packages over a years worth of time and recommended the choice to the supervisors. Supervisor Nicolas lacks the expertise to properly evaluate the packages, anyway, and it isn't a Supervisory role to second guess every recommendation. Why have staff at all, then, if the Supervisors are going to decide everything. Before you know it, you'll be posting on this forum that the Township Manager bought pencils without a formal BoS vote!! Oh my gosh!

Forks township is growing. Get over it. It is disgusting that a handful of residents have taken it upon themselves to carry the banner of the whole township. Guess what-12,000 of these new residents are HAPPY with the progress, places to live, and commercial options. The real issue is you are all scared of change. Your self insecurities are apparent to all.

Progress is the Future said...

For starters, I do not have issue with a group of people taking a stand for what they believe in.

However, as much that is stated here as "fact" is mudded with opinion.

You are right, Miller stated that he wasn't in a position to decide. He only said he'd be on the committee because, by that point, the whole process was a mockery and Nicolas was stone walling the issue.

The supervisors aren't experts on EVERYTHING. That is why they have staff that specialize in their job functions. Supervisors need to respect the recommendations of the staff, not be self proclaimed experts on minute details. The job of a supervisor is to MANAGE the process, e.g. the restaurant owner, not the cook in the kitchen!

Geological surveys don't prevent sinkholes. Forks Township is a sinkhole waiting to happen. It will. And nobody will know where... and no amount of Geological surveys will help. To say "who cares" if it's the Developers' money is ludicruous. Let me burn your money then, ok? Businesses in the township donate to many causes, and this gets stifled with ridiculous fees.

Also, hits on a website do not equate to popular opinion. I was referred to this site via an email titled "You'll get a laugh out of this one..." That tells me more of popular opinion than anything else.

Dean said...

I, for one, am interested in the facts to back up your claim that the "township is buried in so much debt". The last I heard, we are not going to face a tax increase for the 9th straight year. And that includes a major municipal building project.

As for the Forks Action Committee being a larger force in township politics, I would suggest that you take a look at making suggestions for how you want things to be different. So far all I see is complaints, and nasty attacks. It takes more strength to make positive suggestions, and participate in the process. It's easy to sit back and criticize.

Progress is the Future said...

I'm glad someone else pointed it out:

'Rebel with a Cause' stated that the township in buried in debt. Guess what-- that is a false statement.

See, stating false points like what you did is why this site is problematic... you are muddling fact with fiction. That is also the reason that the Forks Action Committee has no credibility-- it is seen in the public eye as a complaint forum.

If you really want to promote positive change, you will fail to accomplish this by simply pointing out flaws. Instead, make some suggestions or proposals to solve issues. Leave the sarcasm to Jerry Seinfeld.

Then, get on the AGENDA and present a coherent presentation that is based on fact, and leave the emotion at home.

Dean said...

As far as the comment "We need board members who go to the people where they live. We need neighborhood meetings where our elected leaders urge and encourage everyday residents to get involved and in fact welcome their input.", Might I suggest that the Forks Action Committee set this up? I believe in your concept, that's why I visit development sites and talk to neighbors. I know others who do the same. Why not be a leader organization and propose or sponsor the meetings in the neighborhoods that you suggest...

As to the raising of taxes when development stalls, you are blaming todays problems on future debt. So far the debt is manageable. We don't know what tomorrow will bring. Agreed, we need to be better at planning for tomorrow. Hopefully we will not follow Northampton County Council's lead and dramatically raise taxes and not look at fiscal responsibility.

In Pennsylvania, the laws prevent us from outright stopping development. Anyone interested in learning more about this should attend the Planning Commission Workshops in the next couple of months, where we will be examining zoning, and what changes are needed. The next workshop is Tuesday, November 23, 2004, 7pm at the Municipal Building.

Progress is the Future said...

Some people here need thicker eye glasses.

Floating a bond for development is a smart, fiscally responsible move. It is not "debt" outright. You're comparing apples to oranges. Bond debt doesn't equate to overspending as you see it. Instead, it gives fluid capital with amortized repayment, affording easily budgeted disbursements.

Therefore the total debt is Zero. Null. None. Goose-egg. 0. Is that clear enough? The township is in the black.

Of course taxes will eventually go up. It's called inflation, a basic economic principle. Right now the tax base covers the cost of municipal operations. The more people and businesses that move in, the greater the tax base grows to, without increasing taxes.

Eventually development will stop. Then taxes will start to rise to compensate for inflation. The way you put it, it will skyrocket in one fell swoop, and that is ignoring the facts.

It really isn't that complicated.

* * * * *

I'm sorry, but for people to feel proud of their surroundings, they want to see nice buildings, ample parking, and a sense of professional order. The building project was a much-needed endeavor.

Not everybody thinks that the township should use other people’s leftovers, or occupy dilapidated trailers.

* * * * *
It is not the responsibility of the elected officials to compel people to give their opinions.

Let me tell you, if people really truly want to be heard, they will. They don’t need an invitation to do so. It is not the job of the government to coddle those that feel that they are the center of the world.

Progress is the Future said...

I guess everyone here bought their homes with cash. Because in most of the country, people finance their homes, but that is the "price of life." Even if the municipal complex had instead been a rennovation of old Laneco, the Township doesn't keep bags of cash laying around in the basement. That too would have required some sort of financing, and that wouldn't have solved many of the other issues that the current complex will.

Progress is the Future said...

I don't want to confuse the semantics.

I challenged your "debt" comments because you make it sound like the township is in deficit, which it is not. All of the township bills are paid and their is surplus.

Scheduled repayment of loans is a responsible way to raise capital for major projects.

They say that death and taxes are the only "sure things" in life. I contend that having a roof over your head, and transportation to and fro, are also certain expenditures for both individuals and organizations.

Does the township have to make loan payments? Yes. But you present this as this terrible, horrible thing, rather than see that the municipal project will benefit the whole township.

Aside: from what I recall, I believe the bond was $8 million.

Progress is the Future said...

Although it is obvious that education is paramount, the schools are of their own system and need to fend for themselves, with respect to the township. That may sound harsh but taxes paid for one purpose can not be used for another. Reallocation is a legislative issue, not a discretionary one.

As for the complex and the bond. For starters, the bond isn't just for the municipal complex. The "township as a whole" will benefit from a more professional office when they come to conduct township business, attend meetings, etc. It will be a more inviting atmosphere to compel residents to stop in and ask questions and become involved.

In addition, the police and fire departments have out grown their facilities and simply need much more room. With more people, buildings, and homes to protect, you can't put a price tag on adequate facilities for safety of the township.

Also in the bond are other township projects such as expansion of the community center for "whole township" activities, sports, and meetings. A parks storage facility and hopefully a township garage of sorts.

* * * *
Once again, it seems that you have fallen into the trap of Media. You can not take a newspaper article as gospel, or a report as the whole truth.

With respect to Tatmay and the sinkholes... you say this, and report this as some big news article.

Developers DON'T WANT to build on existing sinkholes. (Existing sink holes are visible to the naked eye, mind-you, not something that requires a geological survey). Of course a developer doesn't want to build over top of something that may collapse the structure. So this magic "law" is just reinforcing common sense.

In addition, Forks adopeted SALDO. Water runoff is regulated by engineering standards which include obstacles such as "existing" sinkholes.

Once again, geological surveys aren't needed to disclose what any human can see with untrained eyes, and they simply aren't effective for the purposes of pre-detecting locations of future sinkholes.