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.