Friday, February 25, 2005

Sunday, February 20, 2005

BoS Meeting 2/17/2005

The BoS meeting of 2/17/05 was covered very thoroughly by Joe Nixon of the Morning Call and by Chris Pollock of the Express Times. Both reporters mentioned the "big" events of the night. Kudos and thank you. Again, we will try to fill in the blanks.

REPORTS AND CORRESPONDENCE:

  • John Ackerman reported that 98% of Forks residents have paid their taxes.
  • Pete Gheller mentioned that the stormwater problem on Farragut Street will be helped by the curb restoration now in progress and that the street sweeper (weather permitting) is now out. Snow removal equipment is still in service.
  • Fred Hay said that he met with PennDot regarding Knollwood Estates. PennDot was reluctant to issue permits for parallel drainage and will now issue the permits without the Township's involvement.
  • Henning Holmgaard reported receiving a letter from the attorney for Nic Zawarski & Sons taking issue with the "sequencing" of the development of commercial and residential in Towne Center II. Holmgaard said that it was "written in lawyers."

Cathy Kichline reported that the Two Rivers Area Greenway group wants to make a presentation to a joint meeting of the Board, the Planning Commission, and the Recreation Department in March. Kichline further reported that she and Fred Hay met with Easton officials to discuss PennDot's efforts and Strausser's requirements regarding stormwater and Frost Hollow and traffic. She also said that the Township received a request to lower the speed limit on Bushkill Drive. Kichline announced the Kiwanis sponsored Easter Egg Hunt for March 26, 2005 at 1:00 PM. And, she said that Senator Wonderling mentioned that some of Township's municipal and transportation projects could benefit from State assistance.

COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS):

  1. Megan McBride of the College Hill Neighborhood Association, was the first to address the Board. She talked about the traffic and safety issues facing everyone who uses Cattell Street. She cited a Lafayette College student survey in which 16,000 cars were counted per day. She discussed the increase in accidents and the damage to the environment that the rapid development in Forks has brought them. She cited erosion and storm water runoff as major problems to the residents on W. Lafayette Street and also as major problems (sedimentation) to the water treatment plant. She said that the sedimentation lines the banks of the Delaware River from Frost Hollow Road on down to the intake for the water treatment plant. She blamed Forks for the overcrowding in the Easton Area School District. She asked Forks Township to accept responsibility and to assist the City of Easton to help with these problems. After the applause died down, Chairman Ackerman responded that the Township has met with officials from Easton and that the Township was adding east/west roads to carry traffic away from Cattell and to Bushkill Dr. and Route 611.
  2. Forks resident, James Wideman addressed the Board about his concerns regarding the proposed overlay zoning on 400 acres in the Township. He said that he was concerned that the Board members had met privately with the developers. He referred to the Pace University Law webpage on Overlay Zoning and how O.Z. was originally conceived to PRESERVE land not to develop it. He called the proposal for O.Z. in Forks a sham. He said that if this project goes in, it will overtax the sewer system and he cited the letter received by Supervisor Nicholas from the Forks Sewer Department recommending against having sewer lines NORTH of Newlins Road (BoS Meeting 1/21/05). Wideman went on to say the Township will need more police and more firemen as a result. He said that Forks does not need this "monstrosity of a development" and that it is a direct affront to the Comprehensive Plan. If it is approved it will open the "floodgates to a tsunami" of development. He finished to applause from the audience. There was no response from the Board.
  3. A late comer to the meeting missed the 7:30 PM sign-in time and was turned down to Comment by Chairman Ackerman.

The STATUS UPDATE BY ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX was again, a very detailed report. He discussed the following:

  • That the project's "roofer is grinding to a halt and may get pulled."
  • He suggested replacing the old, deformed roof tiles in the PD with new ones and will get bids.
  • The Municipal Building is on hold because of the weather.
  • The roofing for the Firehouse should begin in a few weeks.
  • He asked again about text for the plaques. Chairman Ackerman imposed of deadline of next meeting (March 3, 2005) on the Board.
  • The advertisements for bids for both the CCTV system and the fuel system were in the newspaper. So far there are 12 bids in for the CCTV and 4 bids for the fuel system.
  • The tree preservation area between the complex and the Giant is not what was originally thought but is instead a bunch of scrub covered by vines and weeds. When the vines were pulled off, the "trees" fell apart. He requested that the Supervisors walk the area with him. They will do this in a worksession before a meeting.

Gale asked the Board if they are considering a CCTV system for the rest of the site. Ackerman wondered "if we need it?" Holmgaard said that the Homeland Security "stuff" may require it.

The E.I.T. & E.M.S.T. COLLECTION agenda item was tabled with a 4:1 vote because not all of the Supervisors received the copies of Solicitor Kline's report (mailed to them at home) in time for the meeting. Kline reported that he had negotiated contract length options with Berkheimer & Associates. He said that the original proposal was for a 3 year contract with an automatic renewal for 3 years. He got them to agree to a 1 year contract with automatic 2 year renewals. Berkheimer also agreed to cut their compensation to 2% of the amount collected. They would provide their own bonding and an audit at their expense. Kline prepared 5 Resolutions for the Board to consider. They will do that at the next meeting.

The PENN'S RIDGE DEVELOPMENT/PHASES 9 & 11 SKETCH PLAN was presented by Alex Hornstein of Omega Homes, the developer. The original plan, presented years ago, showed apartments for these phases. Now Hornstein proposes condominiums, 52 in Phase 9 and 102 in Phase 11 for a total of 154. Tim Weis (Zoning Officer) asked why it was changed. Weis said that he gets calls all the time for rentals in the Township. Mr. Hornstein said that it's because his company is really a builder of homes and not apartments. Supervisor Nicholas asked if the roads will be private. Mr. Hornstein told her that there will be private roads in the interior of the condominium developments. Supervisor Miller said that he wants the bikepath extended. Hornstein said the bikepath will be paved in the spring from Ben Jon Road to the condominiums. Chairman Ackerman asked about Kesslerville Road and was told that it is finished and is open from Ben Jon to Bushkill Drive. The section of the sketch plan showing a future COMMERCIAL area was questioned. Hornstein said that it was in the original PRD and is possible, however, he does not yet have any idea what it will be.

The SOMERSET MEADOWS/ESCROW AGREEMENT was explained by Solicitor Kline as from a 1997 developer who abandoned his project, the current site of Segal & Morel's development along Newlins Road East. The developer gave the Township $73K for road improvements and wanted it back. A settlement was reached in which the developer will get $10K returned and the balance of the money will go to do the storms drains, etc. along Newlins.

The FORT JAMES II SUBDIVISION/FINAL PLAN was approved 5:0. This is the 3 lot subdivision on Kuebler Road and includes the new home of Tioga Pipe's service center. The developer is prepared to comply with the Township Engineer's recommendations as well as those of the Planning Commission. This includes a deferral on the installation of sidewalks until the front two lots are developed. The developer will install industrial type lighting fixtures and will be responsible for maintaining them. They will be privately energized.

There were 3 applicants for the PLANNING COMMISSION RECORDING SECRETARY position. Margolis (we apologize but this is all we could hear of the candidate's name) was selected.

There was discussion of a PART TIME RECEPTIONIST POSITION. Nicholas suggested hiring a full-time receptionist using the $25K that is in the budget for a Financial Director. Ackerman thought they should create the position and work out the details later. Nicholas then offered that they get temporary help now using an outside service. Hoff said that he was "okay with that." Holmgaard said that they "will get someone with computer skills so that we don't have to train."

The Board then went in to Executive Session to discuss personnel issues.

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, February 09, 2005

Tatamy GETS It!

The Borough of Tatamy passed a sinkhole ordinance the other night. See the article by Arlene Martinez of the Morning Call on 2/8/05. This is an important and bold first step by Tatamy's leadership. It is interesting that single family residential construction is not included. Past newspaper articles implied that residential developers would be required to adhere to the new requirements. Still, this is a responsible action by Tatamy. I applaud this initial effort.

There have been threads in this blog discussing the need for sinkhole ordinances and enforcement. Check out:
Sinkholes.. What Are We Waiting For? and The HOLE Story - Tatamy Leads The Way! These threads contain some links to older local press coverage.

And, in case you think that sinkholes only open in Forks Township, Tatamy, Stockertown and Easton, there was a piece in the
Express Times (2/8/05) about a small sinkhole in the middle of downtown Hellertown. They can happen any place at any time. At least Tatamy will get the jump on some of them.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

BoS Meeting 2/3/2005

This meeting was one of the more crowded ones of late. We hope that voter interest levels stay this high. The meeting's deliverables were described by Joe Nixon of the Morning Call and Edward Sieger of the Express Times. More details and some of the flavor of the meeting were in additional articles, Morning Call - Joe Nixon 2/4/05 and Express Times - Edward Sieger 2/6/05. Sieger accurately described a "free-for-all as residents randomly offered suggestions and accusations" during the discussion of hiring Berkheimer Associates to collect Forks EIT. We will try to fill in the blanks.

    REPORTS, ANNOUNCEMENTS, AND CORRESPONDENCE:

    • Assistant District Attorney, Paula Roscioli, presented a $10K check to the Township for the new K9 division. It was accepted by Supervisor Holmgaard and Chief Dorney. She remarked that Forks Township was "blessed by one of the finest police departments she has worked with." Holmgaard asked Dorney if it (the new police dog) was to be a boy or a girl. Dorney replied "a boy."
    • Supervisor Miller reported that the Community Center is "going good" and has 30 new members.
    • Chairman Ackerman requested that raising Supervisor compensation should be considered at a future meeting. 2nd Class Townships may pay up to $3600 (per Supervisor) per year and even though it will only be effective for newly elected Supervisors, he thought the current rate should be raised.
    • Engineer Fred Hay reported that the Frost Hollow Pumping Station's completion will be delayed by 2 months because of the weather.
    • A resident wrote to ask that an unneeded stop sign be removed. Chairman Ackerman referred this to Chief Dorney and Engineer Hay for review.

    COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS):

    1. Gretchen Gerstel asked why the office staff was decreasing in number while every other department has more employees. There was no answer.
    2. Carol Ann Coxe asked the Board what action had been taken on her complaints. She sent the Board a certified letter on January 8, 2005 containing copies of documents that she had delivered to the Elected Auditors on January 4, 2005 detailing possible 2nd Class Township Code violations. Her question was referred to Solicitor Kline who said it would be addressed in an Agenda Item later in the meeting. Ms. Coxe asked when she could expect to receive the copy she requested of the meeting minutes in which Supervisor Miller was hired by the Board of Supervisors to work part-time at the Community Center. She was told 2 weeks.
    3. Rachel Hoagland thanked the road crews for their efforts during the recent snow storm and then asked about the newspaper reports regarding possible zoning changes. She stated that there should a "win/win" in zoning changes. She cited heavy traffic and water runoff as major problems. She noted that 80 acres off of Zucksville Rd. have been sold. She asked the exact current number of acres under development and considered for development. She was told by Holmgaard that 1113 acres have been approved for development and of that 60% are completed.
    4. Virginia Jackson asked how the Board accounts for the monies borrowed by the Forks Historical Society to produce the Remembrance book. Township Manager Kickline told her that the monies are coming from the Capital Resources & Development Fund.
    5. Wendy Nicolosi (sic), representing developer Zawarski, asked about the status of Knollwood Estates and the PennDot approvals. Engineer Hay said that he was due to meet with PennDot the next day.

    In the STATUS UPDATE BY ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX, Mr. Gale reported that 37.9% of the project is finished and that 21% of the construction contingency funds have been used. He further stated that the wind damage to the fire department building is now repaired at a cost of $81K. The Township's insurer will pay the claim and will "perhaps" subrogate the construction company's insurer. The police department building's completion date is now moved to 3/7/05 and Gale thinks that the PD should not move in until later in the Spring when the blacktop is completed. The PD TV monitoring system will cost between $15K and $16K. The Board will consider installing a CCTV system on the rest of the site. He reminded the Board about the needed text for the plaque. Holmgaard remarked that "as soon as you get the stone cut, we'll talk."

    The BoS (TAX COLLECTOR COMPENSATION) unanimously approved raising the Elected Tax Collector's salary to a fixed $15K for the 2006 term. When asked, Ms. Vail stated that she is in fact pursuing (through the court) having her rate increased for the current term.

    In discussion of the FUEL TANK INSTALLATION, it was agreed that underground is the way to go. The Township will advertise for bids.

    STEEPLECHASE, PHASE I
    was tabled.

    RESOLUTION 050203-1 (linked here so you can read it for yourself) was described by Solicitor Kline as follows:
    • At the Board of Elected Auditors Reorganization Meeting a question was raised regarding rate setting of working Supervisors' rates in previous years.
    • The Board (of Elected Auditors) does not have the authority to do anything except set existing rates.
    • This resident's complaint challenges the credibility of the Board of Supervisors and the Township.
    • The BoS was aware that Donald Miller was acting as Secretary/Treasurer and employed part-time at the Community Center.
    • The BoS was aware the David Hoff was acting as Secretary/Treasurer.
    • The BoS was aware the John Ackerman was to be paid for snow plowing (if needed).

    Kline said that the Auditors never pointed out an error in the past. Ms. Coxe asked if Donald Miller was ever hired by the BoS. She asked, for the record, if she was to understand "if legally he (Kline) has the authority to back date the auditors' actions and to indemnify the actions taken by Mr. Miller and Mr. Hoff?" She was told that that is like asking the question, "When did you stop beating your wife?" A motion was advanced and seconded to accept the RESOLUTION. Supervisor Nicholas and Chairman Ackerman stated that they could not vote for something they were not involved in. The Resolution was passed 3:2 with Hoff, Miller, and Holmgaard voting for it. A member of the audience asked what the Resolution was. Kline explained that it was to "ACCEPT GOOD INTENTIONS."

    The BoS voted NAY to the EASTON AREA HIGH SCHOOL GOLF TEAM TOURNAMENT AT RIVERVIEW COUNTRY CLUB/REQUEST SPONSORSHIP. Supervisor Nicholas will ask her company to help. Supervisor Miller suggested that the HS go to the Forks Athletic Association for sponsorship. Supervisor Hoff said that Miller should "talk to the Athletic Association."

    Some fees were waived for the EASTON AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT/MIDDLE SCHOOL EXPANSION LAND DEVELOPMENT. The EASD solicitor stated that the school district is giving the Township the bikepath it wants as well as use of the athletic fields (when the school is not in session nor using them) and asked that the Recreation Fees be waived. The BoS complied. Ackerman expressed his concern over a bike path on school property. The Sewer Tapping Fee was reduced to actual usage. The Building Permit Fees were replaced by a to-be-determined hourly rate based on time spent by the Zoning Officer for inspections. The EASD will submit all of their onsite engineer's inspection reports. The project received Preliminary Approval.

    The FORKS VILLAGE, PHASE I/FINAL SUBDIVISION plan was approved with the contingency that the developer must maintain the emergency road until all roads are completed. The developer agreed to provide a letter of credit to guarantee the completion of the project's roads. This project is between Sullivan Trail and Kesslerville Road across from Kuebler and extends south on a total of 36 acres. Phase I will have a total of 38 units (26 townhomes and 12 twins). This project was originally approved by court order many years ago and has been completely redesigned and is in compliance with current zoning.

    The TOWNE CENTER II @ SULLIVAN TRAIL/FINAL PLAN was approved unanimously. Supervisor Nicholas put forward a motion that the developer build commercial along with housing in accordance with proportions stipulated in the zoning regulations. Nicholas said that if all the houses are built and the commercial isn't and just sits there for a number of years there will be nothing to stop the developer from coming back before a new BoS and requesting a zoning change to build more houses. The motion passed. This project is behind Met-Ed and will connect to the Townes at Sullivan Trail and is in the Town Center District.

    Discussion of the E.I.T. COLLECTION issue was lively. The BoS was considering whether to hire Berkheimer Associates of Bangor, PA to collect the Earned Income Tax this year. Long time E.I.T. collector, Mary Ann Kessler quit on 1/25/05. Township Manager Kichline said that she (Kichline) has been working every night for two weeks on her laptop from home to get things caught up. The E.I.T. module (of the new software package) will not be installed until the Spring. Audience members questioned why Ms. Kessler quit and called for the BoS to look into the matter and to ask her to come back. Nicholas said that the Berkheimer proposal before her was not a contract but was just that, a proposal and she was not going to vote on that. A resident exclaimed that he couldn't believe they were going to vote on something that the solicitor had not yet reviewed. Miller suggested that the decision be put off until the next meeting to give Kline time to review a contract. The vote was 2:3 with Supervisors Holmgaard and Hoff voting to accept the proposal.

    QUIXOTE VENTURES was granted conditional approval for an age restricted development of manufactured homes. There was a Conditional Use Hearing at 7:00 PM. The project's location abuts Jacob's Farms on Kesslerville Rd. Ms. Nicholas suggested that the plan state that ALL residents must be 55 or older. Holmgaard wanted to be sure that an emergency road will be added to the cul-de-sac. The developer agreed. It passed 4:1 with Nicholas voting NAY.

    The CREATION OF FACILITIES MANAGER & GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS POSITION was approved unanimously. This position will be responsible for the maintenance of all Township buildings and will also be responsible for the Geographic Information Systems (where the sewer lines are, stop signs, etc.) The position reports to the Director of Public Works. After the Executive Session, the Supervisors announced the appointment of Pete Gheller, current Director of Public Works, to this new position. He will continue at his current salary (frozen) until 2007. The Township will advertise for a new Director of Public Works and Ackerman questioned the need for 5 years of supervisory experience (in the ad text). The words "or equivalent" were added. Nicholas suggested that the Director of Public Works should report to the Township Manager AND/OR to the Board of Supervisors. This was accepted with the change that he/she will report to the BoS if NO Township Manager is available. Pete Gheller will stay on as Director of Public Works until a replacement is found. 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.