Sunday, June 05, 2005

BoS Meeting 6/2/2005

June 2nd's Board of Supervisor's meeting agenda was augmented by much discussion from the floor. Joe Nixon (Morning Call 06/04/2005) described the meeting's main issues thoroughly. Please read it. We will add some of the other details here.

REPORTS: SUPERVISORS, MANAGER, ENGINEER & SOLICITOR


  • Supervisor Bonnie Nicholas reported that she, Chairman John Ackerman, and Township Manager Cathy Kichline have interviewed several candidates for the Director of Public Works position.
  • Supervisor Donald Miller reported that he and Kichline met with a representative from Met-Ed to discuss trimming the Townships' trees (on the Giant side) near their power line. The result of the meeting is that Met-Ed will trim one tree for inspection by the Board. If the work is agreeable to the Board, Met-Ed will trim the rest of the involved trees.
  • Ackerman announced that there is a public forum at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Allentown on 6/8/05. He said that it was mostly for public officials to talk about building and things in general in the Lehigh Valley. He has a number to call for reservations if anyone is interested. (Read about this forum to explore unifying Lehigh Valley government in the Express Times 5/29/05 and the Morning Call 6/5/2005.)
  • Kichline said that the schedule of road closings for Easton Suburban Water's (water main improvements) project will be on the Township website tomorrow (6/3/05). She also reported that she met with the flood victims (Route 611) and resolved some of their immediate concerns. She said that a representative from the Northampton County Congregation of Lutheran Churches (providing volunteer help) was there also. They will meet again in a few weeks when they expect to have answers to more of their questions, specifically about "releases." Kichline also noted that the house along Sullivan Trail that is to be razed will come down next week.
  • Police Chief Dorney related that the Childsafe Program was a success and that 80 gunlocks were given out to Forks residents who attended. The department has more available for any resident who wants one. Dorney also reported that he, Kichline, Engineer Fred Hay, and Zoning Officer Tim Weis met with a PennDot representative to look into the lag time issue with the traffic light at Old Mill Road & Sullivan Trail (cited by EAHS student, Melissa Heisel BoS Meeting 4/21/05). He said they used a computer model to demonstrate the flow of traffic with and without the lag time. PennDot was previously provided with a copy of the Township's 2003 Traffic Study. The conclusion after looking at the computer model is that it's a balancing act between a safety issue and added congestion. A new traffic study is needed since the 2003 data is vastly different than what's on the roadways today. Hay's office will conduct a new study of that intersection. The new data will be re-modeled and the intersection will be re-evaluated. Dorney also said that he and Weis looked at Hill Road as well as the regulations from PennDot. He suggests the Hay get involved before any decision is made.
  • Hay reported the Frost Hollow Swale contract is ready to be advertised. The bid opening will be 7/5/05 at 5:00 PM. Kichline noted that they (she and Hay) will meet with the affected property owners after the bid is awarded so that they are aware of what will be going on.
  • Solicitor Kline reported that he received a call from representatives of Palmer Township requesting a meeting with Township officials to discuss the recreation path and the railroad bed. Staff and 2 Supervisors (Nicholas and another) will meet with them on 6/9/05 at 2:30 PM.

The DEBITS/TRANSFERS part of the meeting began with a discussion of whether or not the DEBT figure (now printed on every meeting's agenda) should include the interest owed as well as the principal. Supervisor Hoff suggested using the State "standard" which only includes actual debt. He said that if anyone wants to see what the interest figure is for each loan, that it is part of the annual review by the Township's auditors. Ackerman asked if could be listed separately (on the Agenda). Hoff posited that if the Township came into additional money and paid off its debt, it would owe only the principal and not 15 years of interest. Supervisor Holmgaard remarked that some of the interest rates are floating and the figure would have to be continually recalculated. Nicholas asked if the figure shown included the "sewer" and was told "no" by Hoff. Kichline added that she provided the Board with the debt statements from the 2003 audit (they have not yet received the 2004 audit) and the EAJSA installment payments are considered "operating costs" and not "debt" according to the State standards so they are not in the total.

COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS):

  1. Sue Kocsis said that she was speaking for the majority of the people in the room and that they are opposed to changing the zoning map from Country Residential to Commercial for the Strausser Village Center and that this is not the location for commercial ventures. She suggested that it would be a great idea for Gary Strausser to donate his 25 acres to the Township for open space.
  2. Scott Gingold spoke on the topic of the DEBT. He stated that he was the one at the last meeting who asked about the interest and was told that interest was factored in. He stated that at the end of the day the taxpayers will be paying the $13-1/2 million figure (includes the interest for the life of the loans). He questioned the decision to hire a financial manager (from the previous meeting) when the Township has this much debt. He asked how we could have this much debt with this much growth and this many new homes. He said that it is fiscally irresponsible to spend any more money until we take care of the debt, outside of essential services (police, fire department, etc.) that is. He advised the Board to think about that because we are "drowning in debt."

The STATUS UPDATE BY ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX began with a review of the project financial report. Hoff asked, "Are we under budget and on target?" "Yes" was the answer. Nicholas questioned the figure for Schoor diPalma and was told that the old figure was for the base contract and that the new figure of $549K represents the addition of the "reimbursables" that was in a clause in the contract. Nicholas also questioned the 3 Corian window sills in the Police Department on the list at $1100. Gale said he questioned that item too but the price is the correct one for sills that measure approximately 24" X 38". In his list of work-in-progress Gale noted that the metal roof is destroying radio communication within the Police Department building. The Fire Department will have the same problem. The hoped for solution will be to add antennas and/or speakers in the hallways. Nicholas questioned whether the architects knew about this (when designing the buildings). Gale stated that it never came up in any of the architects meetings. Gale also reported that the roofing contractor does not fully man the job. He is on his third notice and may get replaced next week. Nicholas asked if the Municipal Building was still on schedule for the last week of September (move in date.)

Ackerman began the discussion of FEES: DEVELOPERS' FEES/TEMPORARY SALES by stating that they had not been raised in quite some time. He recommended that residential Recreation Fees go to $1800 and that the residential Offsite Capital Improvement Fees be raised to $2050. Nicholas asked Kline if this was in accordance with Article 5-A. Kline said "no." He explained that these are fees that represent to the developers "the cost of doing business" and that the developers have been paying for quite some time. Nicholas said that she was under the assumption that the Township could get more under Article 5-A. Kline said that the State changed the rules at the last minute and made it unworkable but that the Township enacted the Impact Fee Ordinance. He said that the Township collected a considerable amount of money under that Ordinance but ultimately repealed it and gave the money back. The Township enacted its own Capital Improvement Fee.

Jim Wideman (PC) asked how the Township established the small ($300) fee increases. He noted that the Township has a golden opportunity to bring the debt down and to improve the infrastructure with new projects. Resident Gingold said that our schools are overcrowded and that the last thing we need is one more house in our town. He remarked that for the "big boy developers" this is "tip money." Gingold noted that states all around us are doing everything they can to buy back open space and that we are running out of it. Ackerman said that the fees get paid by the homeowners. Gingold said to make the price of admission more in line with places like Chevy Chase, MD or Greenwich, CT where one decides if one can afford to live there. He said that the future homeowners do not live here yet. Wideman noted that the LV Planning website shows the population projections for the next 20 years and that our population is projected to increase to close to 20,000. He said that this is our opportunity to retire our debt and fix our infrastructure. Hoff said that they've done a lot with the money collected.

David Howell (ZHB) suggested that everyone look in the Morning Call archives (1997) and read why the Township repealed the Impact Fee (to encourage development.) Howell said that the articles gave $1600 as an example of fees charged in 1997, and that the proposed fee increases are hardly an increase at all. Howell also asked how the Township accounts for fees and for the capital improvements. Hoff stated that it's been used to purchase land (probably 150 acres) and took it (the land) out of development, thus indirectly providing capital improvements. He stated that five years ago, they set aside 30% of the fee to go for fire protection. He further stated that much of the money is being used to help put in the new Municipal Complex. Howell asked if citizens can see an accounting of the fees and their use on the Township website. Kichline said that the funds are listed on the financial statements and that citizens can come to the Municipal Building front desk and ask for the report since it's a public record.

Nicholas said that she would like to look into the fees a bit more. She asked if the fees had to be held for a certain amount of time or if they can be raised whenever the Township wants to raise them. Kline said that they can be raised whenever they want to do that. Nicholas remarked that NOW she is seriously thinking that the Township needs a Financial Manager. There was more discussion with audience members asking why not making the fees dramatically higher. Kline explained that the courts won't let Townships raise the fees to prohibit building. It was suggested that the fees be raised to $2500 each. Another resident suggested that surrounding Townships fees be compared to ours and was told that they had done that and that ours were possibly higher. The increases were approved with a 5:0 vote. They will be in effect in five days.

Fees for temporary sales (tents for example) were discussed next. Kline said that the Zoning Ordinance will need a provision for transient retail business and fees. The fees would then be established by Resolution. That takes time. He said that Chapter 133 in the Township Code deals with peddling and soliciting and fees that can be established by Resolution. Kline suggested in view of speed, to make an addendum to the Township Code that makes the definition really clear. Weis said that other Townships charge as much as a $100 a day and that the vendors pay it. Sal Panto suggested that the Township put in a section that limits non-profits to using their own locale. He pointed out that it will prevent vendors from getting a local non-profit to front for them. The Board voted to have Kline prepare the document and the Resolution to raise the fees to $100/day.

The CURRENT BUDGET REVIEW was postponed until the next meeting. Kichline explained that she will be meeting with Hoff next week and that she will have it for the next meeting. She also suggested that she present it to the Board for the first meeting of the month but not put it on the agenda until the second meeting. This will give the Board two weeks to look over it.

Sal Panto gave a short summary of the STRAUSSER VILLAGE CENTER CONCEPT by stating that there were many endorsements for the plan. Holmgaard stated that he has a serious problem with the road (Winchester Drive) going through the middle of the project. Panto wondered if they could move the Village Green to behind the storefronts. Miller said that the PC was divided 50:50 and the Township's planner was in favor of it and that school taxes are killing the residents of Forks. Ackerman noted that the concept has more density than if it's not implemented. Ackerman asked if Winchester Drive could be moved. Panto replied that it's already being paved and has a 12" water main under the road. Ackerman stated his concern for the stores not making it and becoming empty space. Panto asserted that all of Straussers' commercial spaces have 100% occupancy. Nicholas stated that she had a figure from a long time ago that said that for every $1 a house brings in, the Township puts out $1.37. She said that this project would be great in the Town Center. She also noted that there are no driveways (permitted) on Winchester Drive and with this project, people would be walking across it. Panto replied that there is a bikepath that crosses Winchester. Hoff said that he has no problem with the concept but is concerned with problems faced in the past with Strausser.

Audience comments: Gretchen Gerstel noted that the people who paid money for the new houses were not told of the commercial development plans. Panto said that it's been on their website since day one. A new resident said that she wasn't informed. Panto said that she must have bought her home from Segal & Morel. Michael Kuenne said that the plan was on the board when he bought his home on Hollow View Drive. He said that he could have had 100 people there but that the agenda wasn't published soon enough. He stated that he is disturbed by the "open hostility" of many of the older residents towards the people who have moved in. He said that the new residents want to work with the older residents. Jim Wideman noted that according to Section 303 of the Municipal Planning Code zoning ordinance changes must go to the Planning Commission. Holmgaard said that it is before the Board because the Planning Commission's vote was a tie. Panto explained that they were just asking whether the project should go to the next step which will be to make a formal request before the Planning Commission for a zoning change. Nicholas stated, "If we make a zoning change here, we are opening the floodgates for everybody else."

Kline then gave background stating that a proposed draft was submitted on March 4, 2005. He further explained that this project is within the discretion of the Board. It went to the PC first and their tie vote forced it on to the Board as no formal action was taken one way or the other by the PC. If the Board decides to review this further, the developer will need to submit revised sketch plans. He suggests that the Board then give it to their planner to come up with appropriate development on that site. He said that there will have to an amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow this. Next would be another public hearing and then the Ordinance would go to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission to be voted on. Lastly, the developer has to submit a plan that complies with the amended ordinance.

The Board was polled with Holmgaard, Hoff, & Miller voting YES. Ackerman and Nicholas voted NO. Panto offered to work with the Township's planner. Kline said that "once you've got the ordinance, then any developer in any area that this applies to, will try to max it out." He cautioned that the Board "make sure that the Ordinance doesn't have provisions that will allow them to max it out in a way that is contrary to the Township's wishes."

Terry McClain (sic) stated that she wants the Board to be aware if this project goes to planning that she has been to 3 meetings to discuss a drainage issue with Riverview behind her property. She is concerned that there will be future damage to her property from the way things are being developed. Ackerman said that he, Weis and Hay are going to come out there. In fact, Hay said he was there twice. McClain said that he didn't knock on the door to let her know he was there. She said that she talks to her new neighbors and that some of them offered to come to the meeting with her.

Holmgaard said that the LANDSCAPING FOR THE FORKS MUNICIPAL COMPLEX includes the idea to sell memorial markers/plaques that include the common name and the Latin name of the trees. There are 100 major trees planned. Nicholas asked the price range. Gale said they are looking for a contribution of around $300. Gale noted too that if the tree list is acceptable, he must begin reserving them for Fall planting. This was approved in a 5:0 vote.

BEN JON ROAD PAVING is being 1/2 (one side) done by Omega Development. Hay suggests that the Township contract with the same company to do the Township's side of the road at the same time. This is permitted (no bids) if the developer contracts to pay the whole thing and the Township reimburses him for its half. Ben Jon Road will go through to the other side and Knollwood has paid fees to NOT build the road. Nicholas questioned the additions on the bottom of the page and Hay explained that they are typical contract details, "normal boilerplate." Scott Gingold suggested that the Township ASK the developer to donate the paving. Weis said that they did the repair work for the Township once just by asking. Kichline said that she will ask. The motion was carried 5:0 (just in case the developer won't donate it.)

FINALIZE CCTV SYSTEM IN THE FIRE AND MUNICIPAL BUILDINGS - Holmgaard said that it will take an extra $40K to finish the project and that it's possible that there are grants available from the Department of Homeland Security. Nicholas asked if the insurance will go down with all the extra security. Kichline said she would check. Gale said that the existing contractor should be used to finish the job. The vote was 5:0 to finish the project.

AUTHORIZATION TO HIRE FULL TIME POLICE OFFICER - Chief Dorney explained that there was a vacancy created when Officer Terre Feinberg resigned. He said he contacted former part-time officers and selected Officer Trevor Baruda (sic) for submission to the Board. He brings to the department full blown certification with truck inspections and truck weights and measures. The vote to hire was 5:0. He starts Monday.

AUTHORIZATION TO PURCHASE 2005 DODGE DAKOTA FOR PARKS - The low bid was $18964. The Board voted 5:0 to purchase the new truck. Ed's old truck will go to the Recreation Department. Recreation is paying for 1/2 of the cost.

AUTHORIZATION TO HIRE FULL TIME PARKS LABORER - Kichline stated that the Parks budget included this full time position. Nick Horton, currently part-time, has finished school and will be full time on Monday. The vote to hire was 5:0.

An EXECUTIVE SESSION was called by Kline who wished to discuss potential litigation. No action was taken and the meeting was adjourned.

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.

4 comments:

bapenguin said...

I think there is way to much expansion going on in Forkstownship without enough care of the roads that attatch to these developments. Do you people drive on Sullivan Trail at 7-8AM or 4-5PM? It's attrocious to get anywhere. The traffic problems by bringing in more and more people are just getting ridiculous.

Progress is the Future said...

We should be building more roads. Sullivan should be expanded/widened and so should Bushkill Drive. Since development can not be stopped, we simply need to respond to the other needs it creates.

progressisthefuture said...

Taxes. Taxes in Forks are way too low.

Taxes should be raised now, gradually, to make up room for the growth. Taxes haven't been raised in 9 years, because the developers are funding township operations.

However, (as you will be happy) eventually development will end. Forks will have to double or triple taxes then, to make up the gap.

Smart financial planning (e.g. Financial Manager) will recognize this, and recommend yearly, gradual increases in taxes.

There ya go.

BTW, you can not report interest as part of "debt." Any entry level accounting class will tell you that-- I suggest you take one.

Rufus Leakin said...

PROGRESS,Once again I say WHOAA!! You talk out of your rearend more than my Uncle Vinny's hogs flatulate. You want to widen access roads into the township. Are you suggesting we build some elevated roads over the Bushkill Creek and Delaware River? Rumor is you are in the pocket of several developers. Perhaps you could personally chip into the fund. Nah, probably your master plan is to move out of the township and live near some of your CARPETBAGGER BUDDIES. Just think, in your old age, while sucking down potent drinks in some remote locale you will not have memories of how you SERVED your commUNITY with due diligence but rather how you left your township with an increasingly bleaker FUTURE.Increasing taxes and fiduciary irresponsibility will be your legacy to Forks Township. IT is a constant prayer of mine that you reconsider your loyalties. That being said, if you do not, please vent your spleen elsewhere.