Sunday, December 04, 2005

BoS Meeting 12/1/2005

The short agenda for the December 1, 2005 did not produce a short meeting at all. Read Sarah Mausolf’s (Express Times) and Joe Nixon’s (Morning Call) newspaper reports for a good idea of what happened at the meeting. We will try to fill in the blanks.

  • Supervisor Bonnie Nicholas asked if Hornstein’s Penn’s Ridge lighting is not standard. Zoning Officer Tim Weis replied that he is not aware of that and as far as he knows, it is standard. He said that the Township does not accept them if they are not and that Gary (Sandt) goes to check them to be sure they are right.
  • Weis reported that he attended a meeting yesterday between the Lehigh County and Northampton County emergency management agencies on their Hazard Mitigation Identification effort. He said that they appear to be the only two counties working together and they are taking the lead. They are asking municipalities to participate in the program and if they don’t, the municipalities could lose out on federal funds. The program is to deal with storms, hurricanes, floods and whatever else there is. Forks is going to participate.
  • DPW Director Gary Sandt reported that they are behind in leaf collection but that people shouldn’t worry, they will get there.
  • Finance Manager Jim Farley noted that the paid auditors are due in this week to look at the preliminary numbers in preparation for the year end close.

COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS) - Supervisor Elect C. David Howell announced that the Northampton County Voter Registration Office certified the election today. He thanked all the members of the Board and Staff who he had spoken with during the campaign. He said that each of them had treated him with respect and courtesy and that it has helped him to understand Forks Township government better. He added that he looks forward to working with them.


STATUS UPDATE BY ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX - There were no questions of Gale on the written financial status report that he submitted to the Board. He noted that this will be his last "presented" report to the Board unless he is requested to do so in writing. Some of the items he reported on include:

  • The Municipal Building is about 1 month away from completion and two of the big holdups have been the custom ceilings which set everything else back.
  • The wood ceiling, coming from Sweden, is still on the boat. The installation time for the wood ceiling is 4-5 days and it goes over the dias in the meeting room and two other places.
  • The arced Rulon ceiling is due in 1-2 weeks. It ran late.
  • The demolition, environmental cleanup, and underground tank removal will not be problems and will probably be done in February.

Nicholas asked about the storage for the chairs and Gale said that he doesn’t want to bring them on the site yet. He said he’d pay for any storage charges if there are any.

Holmgaard noted that a blue spruce has been donated. It will go in front of the Municipal Building on the east side of the main entrance. Gale replied that a 28' one has indeed been donated and that he has only a 10 day window in which to retrieve it. He said too that the donor’s lawn will have to be repaired after the heavy equipment is on it and that in exchange the donor wants an 8' blue spruce planted in a slightly different location in his yard.


AWARD BID/FIRE TRUCK - Supervisor Hoff noted that 6 bid packages were sent out and only one bid was received. It was reviewed by the truck committee and it meets all the specs. The monies will come from:

  1. The Replacement Fund (from capital improvement fees) as per the agreement between the fire company and the Township = $267,678
  2. A $100,000 low interest PEMA loan
  3. And, $45,000 in the fire company agreement

This totals $412K and is more than the $392,201 bid by Pierce Mfg. Inc. Chairman Ackerman asked why there was only one bid? Hoff said he didn’t know but for each of the 4 fire company truck purchases he’s been involved in over the years, only one bid has come back. Nicholas asked how the 30% of zoning fees going to the fund was arrived at and Hoff explained that it was done in 2001 as part of the Fire Department’s Five Year Plan. Holmgaard asked if they will keep or sell the old truck, and was told that they will likely sell it. The last time, they got $5K for one and put that money back into the fund. The bid was accepted in a 5:0 vote.

AWARD BID/LED OUTDOOR MARQUEE - Also accepted in a 5:0 vote was the low bid from JHM Communications of Phillipsburg, NJ for the new electronic sign at the Zucksville Road entrance to the Community Center. Supervisor Miller said that it took the Recreation Board 8 years to put the money aside for this big ticket item. He said that 3 bids were received and all were within $500 of each other. Nicholas asked how big the sign is and was told 2'9" X 12'. She was also told that its size complies with the Zoning Ordinance. It will cost $30,939. Miller said that future plans include putting in park lights like the ones for the Municipal Complex only not as high.

AWARD BID/INFRARED HEATERS - PARKS GARAGE - Ackerman said that he was surprised that only one bid was received for this. It was from KC Mechanical Services in the amount of $17,910. Township Manager Cathy Kichline said that the bid is lower than the two original proposals received by Sandt and Kleppinger. The contract was awarded in a 5:0 vote.

LIAISON STRUCTURE - Nicholas said that the reason she wants to redo the liaison structure is because there is no Sewer Department. Her list included: (1) The Secretary/Treasurer (who would be in charge of the office and zoning staff), (2) Public works liaison, (3) Police liaison, (4) Recreation liaison, and (5) Fire liaison. Ackerman said that it’s a good idea, giving everyone a department. Hoff asked Nicholas what she meant be giving the employees more direction. Nicholas said that new job descriptions are needed because the jobs in the office are changing and in order to do reviews, the descriptions should fit the jobs.

Holmgaard asked if she was dismissing Howell’s proposal (click here to read Howell’s proposal to the Board) out of hand. Nicholas said that she was simply introducing her plan. Holmgaard said that Howell’s plan makes sense since it includes two Supervisors on each committee with them rotating through every two years. He added that it is not the job of the Supervisors to get involved in the day to day operation of the Township but it was their job to set the policy and to make sure that it is carried out. Ackerman said that there is no difference between what Mr. Howell gave them than what they’ve been doing. Hoff said that he’s been "fire commissioner" for 10 years and couldn’t put out a fire any better now than when he started and that what has happened in the past is that you get in that position and just stay there. He said that rotating through has been talked about in the past and what’s a bit different about Mr. Howell’s plan is that someone will always be serving a second year when a new Supervisor comes on so that there is continuity.

Hoff then asked Ackerman if Mr. Howell could be allowed to speak to his plan. Ackerman asked Howell if he worked with Kichline to prepare this. Howell explained that Kichline did her own independent and different plan and that she could present hers as well.

Howell explained that the Township is faced with a decision to maintain a decades old liaison structure or move to permanent standing committees of the Board. He feels that his proposed organization structure is more able to address the more complex issues now facing the Township. He stated that this would better enable the Board to carry out its legislative, executive, policy making, and oversight functions. The committees will report directly to the Board and will be able to address tasks that are submitted directly to the them by the Board. What will result will be a flow of information and suggestions back and forth which will be a very effective tool for problem solving and policy making.

Howell described the composition and function of each of the six committees. (Please read his attached proposal for the fine points.) The committees he proposed are (1) Finance & Administration, (2) Public Safety, (3) Public Works & Facilities, (4) Parks & Recreation, (5) Economic Development, and (6) Community Relations. The new Economic Development Committee’s purpose would be to set policy and institute initiatives to increase the tax base. The other new one, the Community Relations Committee, would have only one Supervisor (appointed by the Board) on it and its mission would be to oversee the Township website, conduct surveys of residents, represent the Township at regional meetings and scope out other public meetings of interest to the Township. Howell said that we should look to our neighbors for solutions too - that we cannot solve all of our problems ourselves.

Howell said that the committee structure promotes transparency and thus, open government. He explained that the committees will deal with "macro" and not "micro" issues. He also explained that the committees are not designed by departments but by functions.

When questioned by Nicholas about the number of meetings required since in the Howell plan each Supervisor would serve on two committees, Howell replied that the committees would meet "as needed." Nicholas also remarked that there would be overtime involved if the employees must meet after hours to accommodate the Supervisors’ available hours. Again, Howell stressed that the meetings will be held as needed and that the committee work will be part of the employees' jobs. He added that with two Board members on a committee, both need not be at a meeting.

Hoff said that the success of the Fire Department plan was due to the committee structure. The other committee that he is on, the Emergency Management Committee, started out with meetings every two weeks and now they only need to met every two months because problems were solved and a five-year plan was developed. From his standpoint, he said, committees are very successful and he supports the committee idea.

Holmgaard noted that with committees there are no decisions made. Everything is brought back to the full Board for decisions.

Ackerman thought this all too complicated. Nicholas said that every department should have a 5-year plan. Hoff agreed with her and said that it was a committee that developed the Fire Department 5-year plan and that a committee is needed for long-term planning. Miller said that the Board needs to discuss the "wealth of information" before them and Nicholas then suggested that the Board meet in a 6:30 PM workshop session before their next meeting on the 15th. Hoff said that his job will have him out of town that night but that he will write his thoughts down for their consideration. He said that the if the Board does not vote on it that night, there can be a special meeting before the year end.

BUDGET REVIEW (OCTOBER) - The Board had no questions regarding the October budget figures and asked Farley if he had anything to add. He replied that "We are in good shape for the shape we’re in."

EXECUTIVE SESSION - After some discussion, the Board decided that since the election results were officially certified on December 1st and because the real estate acquisition under discussion would not take place until 2006, to include Supervisor Elect C. David Howell in this night’s Executive Session.

The purpose of the Executive Session was to discuss a real estate matter. 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.

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