Saturday, September 03, 2005

BoS Meeting 9/1/2005

The September 1, 2005 Board of Supervisors Meeting was one of the longer ones of late. Sarah Mausolf (Express Times 9/2/05) and Joe Nixon (Morning Call 9/2/05) were there as were a handful of residents and developers.

The meeting began with the normal motion to approve the MINUTES FROM THE PREVIOUS MEETING. During discussion though, Supervisor Henning Holmgaard said that he was not at the last meeting but is on the Sewer Authority and wondered why there were questions about the Sewer Authority’s recommendation for septic system education. Chairman John Ackerman stated that the old Sewer Authority was disbanded. Solicitor Karl Kline said that it was no longer an operating authority and that it is under the control of the Board of Supervisors. Holmgaard explained that the recommendation was simply to offer a suggestion to the Board. The minutes were approved 4:0 - Holmgaard abstained because of his absence.

REPORTS: SUPERVISORS, MANAGER, ENGINEER & SOLICITOR

  • Supervisor David Hoff said that he had the Fire Report for August and requested that the Board schedule a work session for October 6th at 6:30 PM so that he can present the 5 year plan.
  • Supervisor Bonnie Nicholas said that the Sewer Department just had regular maintenance.
  • Supervisor Donald Miller had the Parks Department Report.
  • Chairman John Ackerman had the Public Works Department Report.
  • Township Manager Cathy Kichline announced that she was contacted by Lower Mount Bethel Township about a meeting to be held there on September 7th at 7:00 PM with PPL and the DEP regarding the fly ash spill into the Delaware River. She also said that last year’s blood drive was very successful and she would like to schedule another on 10/28/05.
  • Police Chief Greg Dorney stated that he received 42 applications for the police department and that 40 of them will take the test on 10/1/05. The other two have gone to Louisiana.
  • Zoning Officer Tim Weis said that he visited Mr. Mondello (sic) about the parking on Hill Road and he found that the business there is NOT violating zoning. Mondello said that if there are additional cars, they will park on Bushkill Drive and not on Hill Road.
  • Engineer Fred Hay reported that Verizon has moved the pole (Uhler & Sullivan Trail). He said too, that he spoke with someone at Ronca (contractor for Easton Suburban Water) who suggests topping off the state roads, Elizabeth, Frost Hollow, and Richmond. They feel that it would be cheaper and better than trying to just repair them. Hay also reported that 1/3 of the Frost Hollow swale project is complete and that so far, the neighbors are pleased.
  • Solicitor Karl Kline reported that the Township received two notices this week that it is being sued. Two citizens in Lafayette Park (off of Meco Road) have sued Howard Construction because of stormwater runoff and Howard in turn has "joined in" the Township. Kline will contact the Township’s insurer to get the Township "out" of the suits.

During the DEBITS/TRANSFERS part of the meeting, Nicholas noted that Forks needs a sign machine as they have just spent over $3000 on signs. This was researched before she was told and the cost was in the neighborhood of $20K. Kichline will prepare a report for the next meeting.

CORRESPONDENCE:

  1. Hoff reported that he got a letter from Lockwood Congress about a billboard. Kline said that by agreement, the developer has until May 31, 2006 to remove the billboard. Hoff will write to the developer and copy Lockwood Congress. Nicholas said that she will be going to Lockwood Congress on September 12th.
  2. Nicholas stated that she received a promotional packet from a sewer management company (sorry, we did not hear the name) and that the company has free septic education programs. Holmgaard said that septic management is not a Township function. Kichline added that she and Chris Knoll are working on a (septic) program to give to the Board for their approval.
  3. Nicholas received a letter from the Easton Area School District Superintendent, Dennis Riker and he states that there are 2.37 children per household.

COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS):

David Howell (Zoning Hearing Board) noted that when public agencies educate about septic systems they also educate about wells. Howell went on to say that Lower Mount Bethel Township Supervisor, Robert Schilling has contacted all the local municipalities about the special Supervisors’ meeting on September 7th at 7:00 PM in the Centerfield Community building on Route 611. Schilling said that this is a very important meeting and that PPL and the DEP will be there to discuss what happened, the remedial action, and the long range effect(s) of the incident. Howell said that he hoped Township officials will attend and report back.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

The STATUS UPDATE BY ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX began with Nicholas asking about the card readers noted in Gale’s financial report. Gale said that they are for the rear entry doors and are a security measure. In his general project review, Gale noted that he hoped that the fire department engines will be moved the weekend of September 10th. This is contingent on the L&I (Labor & Industry) inspector coming on the 9th and granting the needed Certificate of Occupancy. Gale said that the offices will move a week or two later. Hoff asked if the cards (for the card readers) will be ready and Gale said that he has enough for the first responders now. He has 60 or so. Gale further reported that there are air conditioning issues in the Police Department, rodents in the generator, the fuel (in the generator is likely) contaminated by bacteria, and the handicapped parking for all the buildings were located (by the engineers) near steep grades and will have to be moved. He said too that he’s having problems following the underground cables for the communications system since they do not go in a straight line and warned of communications disruptions unless he lays a temporary above ground cable. He was told to do that. He suggested that in order for the Township to have room for expansion in the new Municipal Building, that one of the two large offices be eliminated and instead two smaller offices be constructed. He said that the cost for this would be $5-6K and that it would be easier and cheaper to do now rather than later. The Board seemed to agree. Nicholas asked who will be in charge of giving out the entry cards and keeping track of them? Kichline answered that she has currently assigned this to Chief Dorney.

As to the gentlemen’s agreement that he and a Schoor DiPalma managing partner entered into, it disappeared about 30 hours later. Schoor DiPalma wants to get its own bids for the work. But in the interest of time, the $18K will be paid by the Township to get the work done and it will be withheld from the final payment to Schoor DiPalma.

Ackerman then stated that the Board was just made aware (before the start of the meeting) that GALE’S CONTRACT (as construction manager) at the agreed to fixed price had run out on August 1st and that Gale was now working at the rate of $48/hour. He asked Gale if he would continue the project at the previous fixed monthly rate and Gale said that he would not. The original contract has an automatic "extender" (with the hourly rate specified at $48) if the project goes beyond its term (through no fault of the construction manager). He billed the Township nearly $12K for his services in August. Before August 1st he was being paid approximately $6900/mth. Gale said the contract term was estimated at 2900 hours and he has put in nearly 4000. Kline said that the Township’s only options are to continue the contract as is or terminate it and then perhaps renegotiate with Gale. Hoff will meet with Gale and Kichline to see if something can be worked out.

Kichline reported on the REQUEST FOR ADDITIONAL STREET LIGHTS for both the Newlins/Upstream and Newlins/Sullivan intersections. She said that she, Weis, Dorney, Sandt (DPW) checked on the intersections. She said that at Newlins/Upstream there is a problem with the rise but not with lighting and since there is no night time pedestrian traffic there, they recommend no street light. At Newlins/Sullivan there are very few night time accidents and no pedestrian traffic. Again they recommend no street light. Ackerman asked that a letter be written back to the resident who requested the lights and advise him to contact his homeowners association as it should be their responsibility to put in a light if it’s needed. The recommendation(s) were accepted 5:0.


NEW BUSINESS

RICHARD’S DRIVE-IN/CONDITIONAL USE/LAND DEVELOPMENT - There was a Conditional Use Hearing at 7:00 PM before the regular meeting. The drive-in restaurant will be located next to the old Firehouse complex (tattoo & billiard parlors) on Sullivan Trail and will be open from 11 AM to 11 PM. Based on the review letter from Keystone Engineering, both the conditional use and land developments were approved 5:0.

TOWNE CENTER AT SULLIVAN TRAIL II/LOTS 2 & 4 - Preliminary and final approvals were granted in 5:0 votes for both the subdivision and land development. There will be three retail/commercial buildings on two combined lots (behind Met-Ed). There are no tenants yet and the buildings will be constructed with flex-space. Nicholas asked about space for truck deliveries and we learned that the intended tenants will be "low impact," like a Pearl Vision and perhaps a food place. The largest trucks to serve the buildings will be the sanitation trucks. There will be no berm between the commercial area and the townhouses because none is required in the ordinance for the subdivision.

CIT DEVELOPER’S AGREEMENTS - Kline said that all the paperwork is in order (for the expansion of the school facilities.) It was approved 5:0.

STEEPLECHASE NORTH, PHASE 3 DEVELOPER’S AGREEMENTS - Kline reported that the developer has requested an Indemnification Agreement to get started with the infrastructure work and that all is in order. It was approved 5:0.

OPEN BIDS/COMMUNITY CENTER STORAGE/CONCRETE SLAB - Kichline opened the only two bid packages that the Township received, one from Pinto Concrete ($17,150 plus an adder of $4,400 for excavation and pipe) and one from Nimaris Construction ($22,826 plus adders totaling $13,489). It was decided to award the bid to the apparent low bidder subject to review by staff. Discussion (to get to that point) included the question of who prepared the bid specs - Alex Gale. And, when asked about the reviewing the bid, Mr. Gale refused to have anything to do with that "damned" pad saying that he only helped to prepare the specs. Gale also asked if there was something that the Board doesn’t trust about its professionals. Ackerman said that he thought that bids had to be opened at a public meeting. Kline explained that bids only have to be opened IN public and not at a Board meeting. Vo-Tech will be doing the building.

COMPENSATION FOR BOARD OF SUPERVISORS - Kline explained that Supervisors have been compensated at the same $2,000 for the last 18 years. The current maximum rate allowed by the State for Second Class Townships is $3,250. Kline suggested a two step increase to get to the maximum, $2,600 for the person elected in November 2005, and $3,250 for the Supervisors elected in November 2007. The raise only applies to those elected but not to Supervisors currently serving their terms since they are not allowed to vote themselves a raise. Ackerman made a motion to do the increase in one step to $3,250 effective this November. It died for lack of a second. Hoff then made a motion to advertise the ordinance to do the raise in two steps. It passed 5:0. Holmgaard said that he didn’t care one way or the other; his vote was counted as a "yes."

FINANCE MANAGER - Hoff said that 16 applications were received for this new Township position. Five people were interviewed and two were called in for second interviews. He made a motion to hire James Farley at a salary of $50K with a 6 month probation period to begin Tuesday, September 6th. Ackerman said that he wasn’t ready to accept the conditions the applicant requested, 5 vacation days this year and 12 next year. He wondered if it should be discussed in executive session. Kline said that since its part of the terms of compensation, it could be discussed in the regular meeting. The normal Township policy is that 5 days vacation are earned after 1 year of service. Hoff said that he doesn’t have a problem doing that (negotiating vacation) with a department head or professional person. Ackerman thought that he was hired with 6 months probation and should have to prove himself first. Hoff said that they could offer him 5 personal days this year (between September 6th and December 31st) and 8 vacation days next year in addition to 5 personal days. The vote was 3:1. Ackerman voted "no" and Nicholas abstained because she was not present at the interviews.

RESOLUTION/PAY OFF TATAMY LOAN - Hoff said that after the last Board meeting’s discussion of the Sewer Authority, he spoke to the chairman of the Tatamy Borough Sewer Authority. The Township tried to pay off the loan in 1998 but because of Forks’ method at the time, the payment was refused. Now Tatamy is willing to accept payment in full. Hoff said the Board agreed to this in 1998 and he asked Kline to prepare a resolution. The loan balance is approximately $250,000. Nicholas said that she is the sewer liaison and no one brought this to her attention. She told Hoff that he "stepped on her toes." Hoff said that she is a liaison to the Sewer Department, not the Sewer Authority which is under the supervision of the Board of Supervisors. Nicholas said that both she and Holmgaard are ON the Sewer Authority. She took exception to Hoff asking the solicitor (on his own) to write a resolution and we learned that any of the Supervisors can ask the solicitor to write a resolution. Holmgaard questioned the wisdom of paying off the loan this year since it has a 1% interest rate and that the Township has a big project going on now. He felt that they should wait until the first of the year and put it in the budget. Nicholas said that the Township is earning more than 1% on the money sitting in the bank. Hoff argued that the Township spent two years in court (to abolish the Sewer Authority). Ackerman said that when he was six months into his term, a representative from Tatamy asked him why Forks didn’t pay off the loan. He brought it to the Board and Hoff told him that it was 1% money and why should they pay it off. Ackerman asked him what is different now then it was then? Hoff didn’t recall that conversation. Holmgaard said that this resolution will also dissolve the Sewer Authority. He questioned the money to pay off the bearer bonds and Kline told him that the money was already set aside and the Township is discharged of its responsibility. Wachovia is the trustee of that money. He said that the money will come back to the Township if they cannot locate the people who are owed that money. (?) Hay said that $900K was put into that account. Kline said that once the money was handed over to the trustee, interest stopped being earned on it (for the bond holders.) Kline will check with Wachovia to see how much money is still in the account.

Question from the floor: What will Forks get out of it if Forks pays the loan? Kline said that (1) the Township would have less debt and (2) the Sewer Authority cannot be dissolved if it has any outstanding debt. The Sewer Authority would have been out of existence in 2001 if it weren’t for that debt. He said that the Sewer Authority is NOT needed since the collection of sewer money is handled by the Township. Ackerman said that he was in favor of getting rid of the debt but he is concerned that any money due the Township gets to the Township.

Miller made a motion to table this until more questions (about the interest earned vs. interest expensed) are answered. Hoff said that he voted in 1998 to eliminate the Sewer Authority and when the Sewer Authority met a few weeks ago and made a recommendation not to allow sewers in the Farmland Protection district, he felt that the Sewer Authority was making an attempt at becoming an operating authority. He doesn’t want that to happen even if it’s just over septic systems. He said that the Township spent two years and a lot of money to dissolve it. He feels that the 1% isn’t necessarily the biggest issue here and that he doesn’t want the Township to end up in court again.

Kline gave background on the Township’s decision in 1998 to dissolve the Sewer Authority. He said that the new zoning ordinance was being considered and in it, sewers were prohibited in the FP district. The Sewer Authority wanted to run "cap sewers" through the entire FP district so that in the future, when sewers were needed north of Newlins Road, they could simply be uncapped and used. The Sewer Authority threatened to sue the Board. The Board decided that since they created the Authority, they could dissolve it. The Authority took them to court and after two years, the courts ruled that since the Township created it, it could indeed dissolve it... as long as it had no debt. The assets of the Sewer Authority were turned over to the Township and because of the Tatamy loan, it has existed as a non-operating authority. This resolution will pay off the loan and dissolve the Sewer Authority. Kline said that the irony is that at that time the Sewer Authority wanted public sewers in that area and at the present time the people on the Authority do NOT want public sewers there.

Holmgaard said that he didn’t "know what you two guys smoked." He said that he was on the Sewer Authority at that time and they only wanted to run the sewer line to the industrial park and cap it. He also said that the Board "appoints" people to the Sewer Authority. The Board could have gained control of the Authority by adding Supervisors to the Authority but it didn’t. Hoff said he remembered a meeting in which the Sewer Authority said they wanted to put in the cap sewers and the Board Chairman said that they never have gone against the recommendation of the Sewer Authority. To Hoff this meant that the Sewer Authority, not the Board of Supervisors, was running things in the Township. Mr. Holmgaard ran for his position on the Board on that issue because he didn’t like the way things were being run.

Holmgaard went on to say that neither he nor Nicholas called that Sewer Authority meeting a couple of weeks ago. The chairman, appointed by the Board, called it in order to be little proactive over the Kings Mill proposal for 800+ homes in the FP. If the "by right" plan gets approved, they wanted to have something to give people so that they would be able to take care of their septic systems. Hoff said that he has no problems with that but it should come from the Board of Supervisors.

Miller asked if there was any way that the Sewer Authority as it exists now could become an operating authority again? Hoff said "yes" and that all they would have to do is when they meet in January, put in another solicitor (currently they have Kline). Miller asked if they could take over the entire system and take all the money? Set their own rates? Collect their own money? Kline said that it couldn’t go that far since the resolutions adopted by the Supervisors back in 1998 clearly indicate that it was not to be an operating authority. He said that case law is clear. However, it wouldn’t prevent them from taking positions on political, zoning or other matters that the Supervisors might think is properly the responsibility of the Supervisors. Nicholas asked if this was "all about money?" Kline said no that it was about who is controlling the Township, the Supervisors or somebody else.

The motion to table until October 20th failed 2:3 (Nay votes were Holmgaard, Hoff, & Ackerman. Holmgaard said he voted wrong and wanted the table to pass.) Hoff’s motion to pass the resolution to pay off the Tatamy loan and dissolve the Sewer Authority passed 3:2 (Nay votes were Nicholas and Holmgaard).

2006 BUDGET CALENDAR - Kichline said it was in the packets. There were no questions.

BUDGET REVIEW/JULY, 2005 - Nicholas said that on June 16th the budget was adjusted by approximately $82,000. Since then she found other areas that are well over budget and wondered why these items were not adjusted in June when the major adjustment was done, in particular she noted that Unemployment Compensation was over budget by 515%. Kichline explained that the unemployment cost was unknown at the time and that unemployment costs are something you want to track and not make budget adjustments for throughout the year. She added that a former employee was just awarded unemployment. Nicholas said that she found that wrong departments were being charged for some things. She asked if the budget reports are reviewed before the Board gets them and Kichline said no, that they get them all at the same time (herself included). Nicholas said that finance is part of her job description and she thought that Kichline should look at the reports before the Board gets them so that she can catch the mistakes. Hoff remarked that they will have a Finance Manager soon. Kichline said that he will catch the data entry errors before the reports get to her. Kichline said that she would really like the opportunity to go over the errors with Nicholas.

HIRE PART TIME MECHANIC - The criminal/background check has been completed. Ronald Phillips was hired at a rate of $14.00/hr. He will start on Tuesday. This hiring was approved 5:0.

There was no EXECUTIVE SESSION and the meeting was adjourned.

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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.

1 comment:

Rebel With A Cause said...

Meeting: "Nicholas received a letter from the Easton Area School District Superintendent, Dennis Riker and he states that there are 2.37 children per household."

Comment: Hmm, so even if they only build 800 homes in the FP district, that would mean 1896 new students for the EASD to bear. Oh boy......

Meeting: "He billed the Township nearly $12K for his services in August. Before August 1st he was being paid approximately $6900/mth. Gale said the contract term was estimated at 2900 hours and he has put in nearly 4000. Kline said that the Township’s only options are to continue the contract as is or terminate it and then perhaps renegotiate with Gale."

Comment: This is in regards to the new township municial taj mahal...oops, complex. Make the switch. Mr. Gale is contentious, argumentative and is now taking advanatge of the taxpayers. Let's cut our losses with Mr. Gale and get a qualified township resident to take over the project.

Meeting: "There will be no berm between the commercial area and the townhouses because none is required in the ordinance for the subdivision."

Comment: This relates to the Towne Center at Sullivan Trail II. Who cut this deal? So if its not required it, don't do it? How long before these eventual new residents are at a BoS meeting complaining about the noise and view? Once again short-sided planning!

Meeting: "The Board decided that since they created the Authority, they could dissolve it."

Comment: Well if this is what they did to the sewer authority, it would not be hard to imagine that the Planning Commission and Zoning Hearing Board will be cut next. Lest there be no barriers between the developers and our elected leaders!

Meeting: As for the Budget review thus far for 2005, my comment is simple. The newly hired finance manager will turn out to be a great asset or a great fall guy. He's taken on one helluva mess that no one seems to fully understand or is held accountable for prior to his hiring. Good luck Mr. Farley, you will need it!