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.

  • 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).

  • 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.)


  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.