Sunday, April 24, 2005

BoS Meeting 4/21/05

There was a pre-meeting worksession to walk the grounds of the new Municipal Complex to decide the fate of what were once thought to be trees. A dozen or so history students from the EAHS attended this BoS meeting. (Aside: It would be interesting to hear their reactions to it.) Joe Nixon's article was in the Morning Call the next day. There was no representative from the Express Times. We will attempt to fill in the blanks.

REPORTS: SUPERVISORS, MANAGER, ENGINEER & SOLICITOR

  • Supervisor Hoff reported that the EMS had an April 12th meeting.
  • Supervisor Holmgaard reported that we have a (police) dog and that Chief Dorney will bring it to a meeting next month.
  • Township Manager Kichline noted that Strausser Enterprises has submitted a subdivision plan for the Riverview Estates 4 acre Recreation Center and requests a joint meeting of the Board and the Planning Commission. The date was set for the regular Planning Commission workshop on May 24th. It will take 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
  • Zoning Officer Tim Weis reported that the Fire Department is up to full steam on the new software. Weis also reported that FEMA/PEMA have learned that there were more homes destroyed (from the April flood) than originally thought.
  • Engineer Fred Hay reported that the Frost Hollow swale homeowner trying to save his silver maple tree has refused to grant an easement to the Township. Hay said that the tree is half dead and he recommends that the Township begin the condemnation process. He also reported on the progress of the pumping station and said that Pheasant Ridge should be done next month.

CORRESPONDENCE:

Supervisor Nicholas asked about a letter from the DEP stating that Zawarski will construct a culvert crossing over a not-yet-named swale. She said that the map mentioned in the letter was not included in her packet. Hay explained that this notification letter is "step 1" and that the culvert crossing is not yet designed.

Nicholas also reported that she, Holmgaard, and Chairman Ackerman attended the PSATS conference on Monday. Among the seminars attended were one for Supervisors to exchange ideas (Nicholas said it was very interesting), one on the E.I.T. and one on a new cable franchise.

Ackerman said that he got a letter from PennDot thanking the Township for its help cleaning up Route 611 after the flooding. He thanked Gheller and the DPW for doing an excellent job. He instructed Kichline to place a 3 day (re)advertisement for the position of Director, DPW.

Nicholas asked about purchasing a sign making machine and Kichline told her that she was waiting for the cost/benefit analysis of same before presenting it to the Board. Nicholas asked that it be done ASAP.

COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS):

  1. Melissa Heisel, a resident and student at EAHS addressed the Board to ask if something can be done to the timing of the light at Sullivan Trail and Old Mill Road. She said that there is an extended green light and that those traveling north can never turn left (onto Old Mill) if there's traffic. Chief Dorney agreed and said that the Township is looking into it.
  2. Terri Williams, a resident living on Toboggan Trail, said that she is getting water in her cellar. She said that Pete Gheller inspected the holding pond (Lockwood Congress) and said that it wasn't deep enough. Hay said that he inspected the pond and it is not breaching. She said she will call him the next time it is raining hard so that he can see it for himself.
  3. Sue Kocsis, a resident living near the Riverside Estates project asked Weis if Strausser and Segal & Morel had a working hours agreement with the Township. Weis said it was the same as for the earlier phases, 6:30 AM to 7:00 PM and that it is the same for all contractors working in the Township. Ms. Kocsis reported that the contractor and his heavy equipment (the warning horns when backing up) were working Wednesday night until 10 PM. She was advised to call the police and report it and that the police report will be used to fine the contractor. She said she called 23 times last year.
  4. Fritz Weide thanked Kichline for including the total Township (debt) figure on the agenda. He then asked Ackerman if he discussed "nepotism" in the Township with the Board. Ackerman said that PSATS was not concerned about it. Nicholas said that she attended an open session with a group of council people and they said that there is nothing to be done about it and it is not illegal. She further said that applicants must go through the proper procedures to get a job. Weide said that his company has such a policy and that the Board can enact anything it wants. Nicholas explained that the government is different than the private sector. Nicholas addressed Mr. Weide's next contention, that the Board can make an ordinance restricting who can and cannot run for public office and serve on the Board, by reminding him that this is the United States and that the voters decide who gets elected in a democracy.
  5. Virginia Jackson (farm in the TC district) made her second request to the Board to get the storm water runoff liability in writing. She wants it clearly spelled out who will be responsible for water damage to her property and is very concerned about the Townes at Sullivan Trail development going in next door. She was told that it is indicated on the plans that the developer is responsible. Ackerman told her to call Hay or Kichline if she has a problem (with stormwater) and they will take care of it.

The STATUS UPDATE BY ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX was once again thorough and detailed. He asked the Board if Sullivan Trail is going to be repaved this summer as it may be necessary to hold off on the paving to the road to accommodate the possible changes in heights. Ackerman said that Sullivan Trail will be paved from Easton to Stockertown. Gale reported that the Police Department will be paved next week and that there is one Verizon pole yet to be moved and that he expects a fiasco as Verizon has been uncooperative. He said too that the PD contractor is working on his final punch list and that the electronic door problem was solved today. The fire access and access control system is totally operational. There will be card access to the outer doors and interior keys. He hope that the final inspection for the C.O. will be done next week. The target move in date is May 7th. The trusses for the Municipal Building will arrive next Tuesday. Gale reported that he signed off on the Fire Department roof and that the move in date for the FD will be between June 30th and July 4th. He said that the BoS and he did the "tree walk" and that the parks storage building must be vacated ASAP as they must shut down the water and that it's tough to do that in the summer. Holmgaard stated that he wants to have an "open house" in the Police Station and he'll work out with Dorney if it will be before or after the move. Nicholas brought up the plaque and stated that a "seal and date" are okay with her. She doesn't think that if the taxpayers are paying that everyone and their brothers' names should be on it. Ackerman asked who is paying and Gale responded that the general contractor is.

Kichline reported that no bids were received for the fueling facility so AWARD BID/FUELING FACILITY did not happen. Gale said that 5 contractors picked up bid packages. The advertisement was in the Morning Call. Gale also said that the existing tanks must be eliminated in one month. Supervisor Miller asked where the Township could go to purchase fuel offsite and was told that Deiter Brothers is the closest place and that everybody uses it. Hoff asked Kline what the options are if no one bids. Kline said that he thinks the Township ought to advertise again as well as solicit bids.

The RESOLUTION OF THE TOWNSHIP OF FORKS TO ADOPT THE TWO RIVERS AREA GREENWAY PLAN was approved 5:0. Kichline noted that approval of the plan will give the Township extra points in grant applications.

The RESOLUTION TO ELIMINATE MANDATORY DISTRIBUTION OF 457 PLAN was approved 5:0. Kichline explained that the 457 (pension) plan was for voluntary employee contributions and that it originally had a mandatory distribution provision. She said that the legislation has changed and that the plan document was being amended to allow monies to stay or to roll over. Ackerman asked if there was a cost to leave the monies there. She said that there was not.

Hay said that Seitz has until May 15th to complete the punch list for PHEASANT RIDGE, PHASES 1, 2, & 3/IMPROVEMENTS COMPLETION. Kline said that if it is not done by the first May BoS meeting he would like the Board to authorize drafting the paperwork for a draw on the letter of credit.

Hay said that the developer for the SULLIVAN TRAIL BUSINESS PARK/IMPROVEMENTS COMPLETION is less cooperative and that the site improvement agreement was signed 3-1/2 years ago. He said that this site has "sat and sat and sat" and that they will not be ready by May 1st. Ackerman said that Kline should send a letter and seek authorization to draw on the letter of credit.

The motion to approve the HOLMBERG/EASEMENT AGREEMENT FOR FROST HOLLOW SWALE IMPROVEMENTS was carried 5:0 after Kline said that all was in order.

The FURNITURE - AWARD BID agenda item was added at the start of the meeting. The contract was awarded to Corporate Environments, a Bethlehem based company in a 4:0 (Hoff abstained as he was not present for the presentation) vote. In discussion before the vote Ackerman noted that he was impressed with the filing cabinets that can be added on to. Nicholas said that she likes Herman Miller (office) furniture and that it has a 12 year warranty as well as being the best State supplier. She feels that the Herman Miller line is more expandable and is pleased that the company is based in Bethlehem. Holmgaard said that he wanted to see the warranty written on "two lines of non-legalese bumper to bumper." He noted that there is a $6K upgrade option and that "we would be foolish not to do that." Nicholas noted that that was for all wood furniture and not Herman Miller, although it would be from the same supplier. Miller noted that he is voting for Herman Miller because it is nearby, has a 12 year guarantee, has the State contract, and the supplier is in Bethlehem. Holmgaard stated that he would vote yes if the option also has a 12 year warranty.

There was no CURRENT BUDGET REVIEW. There was an EXECUTIVE SESSION after which a motion was made to relieve Pete Gheller of his position as Director of the DPW. It was carried 5:0. Another motion was made to appoint Pete Gheller to the new position of Facilities Manager at his current rate of pay (to be frozen for 3 years). It too carried 5:0 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.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Palmer Township not afraid to say NO!

Kudos to Palmer Township's Planning Commission for saying NO to developer's plans. Read the entire story.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Reporters Afraid To Get Their Feet Wet !

It seems our esteemed colleagues from the two major presses of our area were asleep during the recent BoS meeting. Instead of reporting on blatant infringements to sunshine laws and the incredulous ramifications of the proposed developments, our writers decided the demise of an abused historic structure and the completion of a township building would be all the sustenance area readers would be able to digest. A new school system which could have cost of over 100MILLION DOLLARS to area residents (not Just those residing in Forks) will be necessary. Forks is already #1 in area growth with a growth rate nearly TWICE that of any other in Lehigh and Northampton counties. It seems that area developers find it a hardship to abide by our current zoning laws. They have quite graciously decided that they will rewrite our laws to fit their agendas. Further, they are willing to do this at no cost. OOOPPS, they forgot to mention that they stand to profit MANY MANY MANY MILLIONS OF DOLLARS and leave residents holding the cost of new schools, new roads and numerous other infrastructure needs. In the South, they used to call this type of scoundrel a CARPETBAGGER. To further clarify,Webster's defines a CARPETBAGGER as a nonresident who MEDDLES in politics. In the South, they used to run these CARPETBAGGERS OUT of town(ship). In Forks ???

Saturday, April 09, 2005

BoS Meeting 4/7/05

This very long meeting of the Forks Board of Supervisors ended after 10:30 PM. It really began at 6:30 PM with a presentation by Urban Research and Development Corporation (yes, the same organization helping the Township to revise its Zoning Ordinance) of the Two Rivers Area Greenways Plan. The Action Plan is a good read for all of us and will be especially interesting to the Forks residents currently fighting Palmer Township's land condemnation. Forks was fortunate to be the first of the involved municipalities to hear the presentation. It is well described in Chris Pollock's Express Times (4/8/05) article. Joe Nixon's Morning Call (4/8/05) article focused on the progress made with the new Municipal Complex.

REPORTS: SUPERVISORS, MANAGER, ENGINEER & SOLICITOR

  • Supervisor Nicholas reported that she and Chairman Ackerman are interviewing people for the Director of Public Works position.
  • Nicholas also reported that she "walked in on" a meeting with Township staff and Zawarski & Benner about the proposed zoning overlay (on 400 acres of FP zoned land).
  • Supervisor Holmgaard announced that the new Township website is up and that the ENTIRE Township code will be available there as will all forms that residents may need. He went on to say that it will be an "efficient tool for fast communications... instant communication, that is what it really is for."
  • Supervisor Miller reported that the winter sports season is over and that they have shifted to outside activities.
  • Dennis Knesz of the DPW has worked for the Township long enough to move to the next pay level and Ackerman asked the Board to put him at the new pay level retroactive to his employment anniversary date in March. The Board agreed.
  • Township Manager Kichline expressed thanks to the Emergency Services crew for their remarkable efforts during the flood emergency. She reported that the blood drive last Halloween earned a plaque for the 20 employees who gave blood and that it may become an annual Halloween event. Also, she said that the Bushkill Stream Conservancy wants Township support for the Two Rivers Area Greenways Plan and it will be an agenda item at an upcoming meeting.
  • Police Chief Dorney reported that the Seat Belt Enforcement Education Program awarded the Township $3K and that the fundraiser sponsored by the Criminal Justice Program (as well as private contributions) earned enough money to purchase a bullet proof vest for Milan, our new dog.
  • Tim Weis (Emergency Management Coordinator) reported on the storm work stating that 23 homes sustained major damage and 28 received minor damage. He told of the road closings and the evacuations.
  • Peter Gheller (DPW Director) reported that the Township helped PennDot with the cleanup on Route 611 and that the road was reopened to traffic in the afternoon (4/7/05.)
  • Fred Hay, Township Engineer, reported on the Sycamore and Frost Hollow swales and stated that he was working with a homeowner to save a tree.
  • Solicitor Kline stated that the Frost Hollow swale is designed and that they are ready to get bids. The holdup has been obtaining easements from two homeowners. One is now okay with the project but the one at 2302 Lone Cedar Drive refuses to sign. The only option is to condemn (700 sq. ft.) if Hay can't fix it. The property owner wants a guarantee that his tree will live.
  • Kline also reported that Township staff met with Sal Panto and Phil Seibert (sic) and that there was a good give and take regarding road layout and density (for the requested zoning change on 25 acres amid the Riverview Estates development). Strausser will revise the plan and will request a joint meeting with the Board and the Planning Commission before the plan is submitted. (A resident asked that Kline stop using the term "cookie cutter" when referring to anything but the desired Village. Kline said he was only reporting the meeting.)

CORRESPONDENCE:

  1. Nicholas said that she will be attending PSATS on Monday.
  2. Kichline noted that because of a relocation by his employer, Brent Alinger is resigning from the Planning Commission effective May 1, 2005. Ackerman asked Kline how long the BoS has to fill the position (term ending 12/31/06) and was told 30 days from the effective date. Advertisement of the position in the newspaper and on the Township website was authorized by the Board. The Planning Commission will narrow down the field of candidates and then the Board of Supervisors will make their choice.

COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS):

  1. Sue Wexler (sic) of Heather Lane asked the Board what the Township's plans are to fix the storm water runoff problem on Heather Lane. She said that it was running like a raging river again from the weekend's rains. Hay said that the grate over the access pipe was clogged again (Giant pond) and that the Township cleared it. The Township has been trying to locate the new owners of the property. They are somewhere in Wisconsin. The Township plans to put in bigger storm pipes and are hoping to have it done by the end of the summer. Ms. Wexler said that her quality of life is being diminished and that she holds the Board of Supervisors accountable.
  2. Fritz Weide stated that the debt figure was not on the agenda and wanted to know why. Kichline stated that it was on a month ago and only changes every 6 months. She will put it on for every meeting. Weide also said that he agreed with the resident who spoke up earlier, that "Sal Panto wants to ramrod another development."
  3. Virginia Jackson thanked the cleanup crew for getting the construction debris off of her field. She warned that the 25 acre development north of her farm looks to be a water problem draining on to her fields and home. Hay told her that water flow is being considered in the developer's new plan. Jackson said that she wants it in writing from the Township or the developer that they will absorb the costs of any damages that occur. She said that "they build, cause damage, and leave causing much heartache." Ackerman stated that the storm water issue is addressed in writing on the plan. Jackson also said that there is a sinkhole in that field. And, she stated that she cannot even go outside her house to work in her garden without a "developer pouncing on" her.

The STATUS UPDATE BY ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX was as expected, detailed and informative. The site contractor returned this week on the PD site and he foresees no problems to its completion by 4/30/05. He submitted a $2K change-order for a utility locator service because many of the lines are not recorded and are a maze. He said that Ed and his crew completed the wiring in the new park building. Ackerman interjected that all residents should visit it. Gale said that it should be "the standard for future" Township buildings. Ackerman asked for a workshop session at 6:30 PM before the next BoS meeting (4/21/05) for a tree walk and to discuss the relocation of offices.

A Design Waiver was granted in 5:0 vote for HORNSTEIN ENTERPRISES, INC./PENN'S RIDGE PHASES 9 & 11 for the location of street trees. The same number of street trees will be planted but because of driveway cuts the spacing will be different than the Township requires.

Kline reported that all was in order for RIVERVIEW ESTATES WEST, PHASE 1/DEVELOPER'S AGREEMENTS. It was approved 5:0.

The FORKS SELF STORAGE LAND DEVELOPMENT/IMPROVEMENT AGREEMENTS were approved 5:0. This property is on the NW corner of Sullivan Trail and Uhler Road (behind the bank.) Kline reported that all is in order. The developer paid $5K in lieu of a traffic study. There will be no hazardous material storage allowed at this facility.

KNOLLWOOD ESTATES PHASE 1/DEVELOPER'S AGREEMENTS were approved 5:0. This property is south of the swale along Zucksville Road. Kline stated that these indemnification agreements allow the developer to get along with site improvements.

OLDCASTLE BLOCK/DEVELOPER'S AGREEMENTS were approved 5:0. Kline stated that all was in order and that the developer has promised to take care of some of the storm water problems there.

The ZONING AND SALDO ENFORCEMENT ACTION/S&R BALAZS was more complicated. Kline explained that the property owners on Zucksville Road were informed when they bought their lot (part of a two lot subdivision) that it called for sidewalk and curbing and a bond to relocate the utility pole. The Balazs never posted the bond. They moved in without a CO but did install the required sidewalk and curbing. They did not have the utility pole moved. The estimated cost to move the pole is $15K. They built a well and got a waiver to not move the water line. A resident said that there are 3 other properties without sidewalks and that the road is unfinished. Kline said that this is a case of willful violation and requested the Board to authorize his staff to pursue an action against the Balazs. It was approved 5:0.

RESOLUTION - DEDICATION OF STREETS/GREENLEAF ESTATES SUBDIVISION - Kline stated that the paperwork is in order to qualify for the Liquid Fuels Credit. It passed 5:0.

RESOLUTION - AUTHORIZING BERKHEIMER ASSOCIATES TO COLLECT AND RETAIN FEES FOR COLLECTION OF DELINQUENT E.I.T. - There was no discussion and it passed 5:0.

The DISPOSITION OF LAMBERT HOUSE AND HOUSE NEAR WRESTLING BUILDING discussion focused mainly on the Lambert house as the other has been used by the fire department for training and is beyond salvaging and will be demolished. The mansard roofed Lambert House on the corner of Newlins and Richmond will be razed and the outbuildings used by the FD for training and then demolished. The Forks Township Historical Society cannot afford to restore it. The house cannot be burned (per DEP). This was approved 5:0.

The POLICE DEPARTMENT COMMUNICATIONS discussion involved concern over the infrastructure now that phone lines are used. Holmgaard suggested installing a "shadow server" as backup to the main server. He will report back with the cost at the next meeting. It was approved 5:0.

The RELOCATION OF OFFICES IN THE NEW ADMINISTRATION BUILDING was held over to the workshop at the next meeting.

APPROVE FURNITURE PURCHASE/NEW ADMINISTRATION BUILDING - This was a long discussion. Nicholas said that the original presentation (4/4/05) was done by the architect and that all three vendors wanted to do their own presentations so that they can answer questions. She also noted that the price disparity was great and that the itemized prices were removed from the packets that the Board received. She learned that delivery was 6-8 weeks and not what the Board had been told as 12-14 weeks. The presentation will be rescheduled for April 12th or 13th and will take up to 3 hours. Alex Gale (member of the design team) stated that Nicholas has "driven a wedge" between the design team and the vendors. Nicholas also stated that there is a privacy concern (residents' confidential records) in the design. Holmgaard said that "we need privacy." Ultimately, about the entire furniture discussion, Holmgaard said, "Tell me what you want to do." Nicholas replied, "Eliminate one vendor and get the other two to do presentations comparing apples to apples."

The Board went into executive session to consider a personnel issue. They took no action 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.