REPORTS: SUPERVISORS, MANAGER, ENGINEER & SOLICITOR
- Supervisor Don Miller said that the fall season at the Community Center is "finishing up" and this weekend will be the "clash of the Titans" when Forks plays Palmer. Winter sign-up is underway at the Community Center. He said too that the Recreation Board has been putting money aside for the last eight years for a sign at the Zucksville Road entrance to the park and would like to put that out for bids. They are now working on putting money aside for lights along the park entrance road (from Zucksville) to the recreation path and then down to the second parking lot.
- Chairman John Ackerman said that he and Township Manager Kichline received a letter from Alice Bartholomew (sic) regarding the bike path near her home. They will discuss it and get back to her. He complemented DPW Director Gary Sandt on the Public Works Report and suggested that all departments use it as a model.
- Township Manager Cathy Kichline said that she made inquiries about dog parks to other communities and put her findings together for the Board to review. She said too, that, working with Keystone (Engineering) who provided her with a number of plans, she compiled a Sewer Management Program recommendation which she put in the Board's packets. She said that "we" will be meeting with PennDot on the 27th regarding a traffic control device at Arndt and Bushkill Roads. She reminded the Board that there are a few slots left for the Township employees Halloween Blood Drive on the 28th. And, she reported that there were about 60 participants in the first Family Bike Day and that it was a great success and raised money for breast cancer awareness. She said too, that the Township received a $126K dividend from its health care provider because of the Township's employees had few claims in 2004.
- Zoning Officer Tim Weis noted that Matt Miller spent the last few days at Kutztown University taking the final installment of planning (?) certification. (We apologize but we could not hear what Mr. Weis said about the curriculum.)
- DPW Director Gary Sandt said that the DPW has been busy the last 2 weeks because of the storms and that they expect to begin leaf pick-ups by 10/24. Ackerman noted that the leaves are falling later this year.
- Finance Manager Jim Farley said that he is continuing to work on the budget process.
- Engineer Fred Hay said that he recommends a 7' wide bike path on Old Mill Road, two 13' wide travel lanes and no parking on the north side from Sullivan Trail to Marigold (to address the request made by Lockwood Congress residents for a sidewalk.) Nicholas asked how much that will cost and Hay replied that it will be a lot cheaper than sidewalks. Kline said that this will require an ordinance as parking is currently allowed on the north side. He will draft it before the 11/3/05 meeting.
CORRESPONDENCE - Supervisor Henning Holmgaard said that he had a sinkhole letter (from a resident) that was to be included in the Minutes. Ackerman said that it will be discussed next meeting as they have not had time to read it yet.
COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS)
- Resident Bill Carter (sic) cited the EMS subscription letter that he received and asked how the Township could do business with an agency that is 3/4 of million dollars in debt. Ackerman said he appreciated his comments and that Board will talk about this when they are preparing the budget. Nicholas asked where he got the information and Carter said that it was from the subscription insert.
- Gretchen Gerstel stated that the Easton Suburban Water Authority is taking over the City of Easton Water Department. She requested that they be invited to address a Supervisors' meeting to explain to Forks residents the advantages and disadvantages of this arrangement. She said that she heard that the Easton Water Department is in financial difficulty and wondered why the Suburban Water Authority would want to take it over. She specifically asked, "What's it going to cost the residents of Forks?" Ackerman said that the Board will try to get them to come to the next meeting if possible.
STATUS UPDATE BY ALEX GALE/MUNICIPAL COMPLEX - Alex Gale's fact filled report included the following:
- The communications conduit (for both copper and fiber optics) run is completed and will improve the reliability of communications between the new buildings.
- UGI missed two dates to hook up the permanent gas at the Municipal Building and showed up this afternoon with a new guy. He called UGI and was assured that his data would be checked thoroughly. The site is totally prepared for them. (The woodwork is due in a week and the new Municipal Building must be heated.)
- There have been no viable offers for a free Christmas Tree and he suggests relocating an existing blue spruce which has a double leader but which can corrected by pruning to look more like a Christmas tree. To this, Supervisor Bonnie Nicholas said that she has a nice blue spruce on her property and that it will soon be too near the overhead wires and will have to be cut down. She offered it to the Township. Gale will check it out. If it isn't suitable, Holmgaard suggested that Gale go ahead with the move of the other tree.
- Gale was on the verge of looking for a new contractor for the network cabling between the buildings but the one under contract called today and said they would be here tomorrow.
- In discussion of the revised schedule for the Municipal Building Gale said that the roofer has pushed the schedule back as he has only worked one week in the last 4 weeks. This is because of a payment problem with the general contractor. Apparently through a paperwork error, the GC neglected to pay the roofer. ($180K+)
- There was water damage because of a missing skylight in the atrium area. It is being replaced.
- There are major problems caused by the roofer on the Police Department. Two hundred square feet of the roof must be removed to find the leak there. Nicholas asked how much damage occurred inside of the PD building? She was told that only about 5 ceiling tiles were damaged. There were substantial leaks in the firehouse and all but one is fixed. Nicholas suggested that the roofer be backcharged for Gale's extra time also since the roofer is delaying the entire project.
Gale brought up the subject of his compensation and said that Kichline told him that it was discussed in Executive Session and that he was to be restricted to 40 hours per week. He said that he can "live with that" but will stay longer if he needs to whether he is paid for the extra time or not. Ackerman said that Gale must confer with Kichline if he needs to stay longer and she will report back to the Board. Nicholas added that Hoff said (in the Executive Session), "He can work 50 hours but we are only paying for 40." Gale said that going back to October 2003 he put in over 1100 hours over his estimated hours (in his proposal) in the early stages of the project. He said that the extension of the time and the additional reviews early in the project were created by the Township. The PD was completely redesigned, including a total redesign of its roof structure. He spent Thanksgiving Day last year there because the roof collapsed at the firehouse. He had thought he could now bill the Township for the extra hours. Ackerman said that his time should have been handed over to the insurance company. Gale said that it wasn't and that none of that time was paid for. Gale said that he has given a helluva lot back to the Township and he gets paid $48/hr while the electricians on the job are getting $88. He said he's the guy with all the "crap on his back."
GOLLUB PARK - Ackerman reported that he Miller went to the park. Hay stated that he and Sandt believe that they can put in an 8' wide path. Ackerman recommended taking the big tulip poplar down because putting in the path will damage the roots of the tree. He also recommended using stone on the path instead of mulch (which will rot). Hay said that the path should go on the upper side of the right-of-way. Miller suggested starting the path beyond the poplar tree. Kline suggested that one of the property owners near the park, (Krause) be asked if they will grant an easement where the trolley line is before the path goes down to the right of way.
To this, Paul Harrison (another near-park resident) said that Ken & Bonnie Krause (who could not be at the meeting) will grant an easement so that the path can go around the 80 year old poplar tree. He said that this is what the 4 homeowners who live there would prefer, minimal impact. Nicholas said that the 2 other property owners may take the trees down anyway because they still have the use of the right-of-way. Pete Rossi, one of those two other property owners near the park, addressed the Board with an "update" saying that he got the results of surveys since 2004 and that the Township has spent over $40K on park surveys (since 2004). He added that the Township is the largest landowner up there and that the park is available to the public. He thought that the Township should put the path in on the full length of the right-of-way down its center. He said that he has the right to drive on it to have access to his property. He asked that the Township not force him "to do something he doesn't want to do." (Cut the trees?)
Harrison said that he understands that the path will resemble a driveway and can support a vehicle. Hay clarified that the path will be designed for very occasional traffic and said that he is in favor of the easement. This was tabled until 11/3/05 in a 4:0 vote after Hay goes out to look at it another time.
COMMUNITY ACTION COMMITTEE OF THE LEHIGH VALLEY - Katherine Watt (sic), a senior planner for the CACLV described her group as the parent organization of the Lehigh Valley Coalition For Affordable Housing that every year sponsors a municipal fund appeal. This appeal functions to even out the funding for their shelters, all of which are in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. They are supported in part by those cites. Her group believes that the other municipalities in the LV share some responsibility to help support those shelters. She said that 25% of the people using the shelters are working people and that 45.8% of the people in those shelters in 2004 were from outside of those cites - 1137 people were from the suburban municipalities. The shelters are places where people find self-sufficiency. Watt said that Safe Harbor (in Easton) was hit very hard by the flood. She was there to ask the Township for $5663, an amount based on a formula using per capita income from the 2000 census. Forks has not contributed to the program since 2001, when it promised that they would be a budget line item every year. Ackerman asked how many Forks residents have used the shelters and was told 10 in 2004. The Board will discuss this at its budget meetings.
CONDITIONAL USE/RIVERVIEW - PROPOSED RECREATION CENTER - Conditional Use was granted in a 4:0 vote with the Keystone Engineering review letter included. Hay added that the Township is also asking for a snow easement on the cul de sac. This private recreation center will be owned by the Riverview Homeowners Association.
RESOLUTION 051020-1/AMENDMENT TO SECTION 457 DEFERRED COMPENSATION PLAN - Kline explained that the Township's insurer (since 1973), Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company (VALIC) prepared a new plan to be in compliance with the changes in the Federal pension regulations. The resolution was adopted 4:0.
RIVERVIEW ESTATES, PHASE 1/COMPLETION OF IMPROVEMENTS - Kline said that he sent a letter to the Board regarding Phase I as much of the work is still not done. The people who live there are complaining. It has been nearly a year since the last house was sold there. The Board voted 4:0 to give Strausser until the end of November to finish the project or the Township will use Strausser's letter of credit and finish it for him. Hay suggested that the letter of credit financial institution be notified.
APPOINTMENT OF FORKS TOWNSHIP EAJSA REPRESENTATIVE - Forks needs to replace its representative on the Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority. Ackerman said that he thinks the representative should be a Supervisor. Holmgaard has volunteered and Kichline noted that a resident, Carl Decker (sic) has also sent in a letter of interest. The terms are 5 years and this unexpired term ends in 2009. There is no pay. It was decided that the appointee need not be a Board member but that he/she must be a Forks resident and must report back to the Board. Kline stressed a strong advocate for Forks is absolutely critical. The Board will interview Decker and make a decision.
SINKHOLE/ROW EASEMENTS - Ackerman put this item on the agenda because of problems with sinkholes in right-of-ways. Hay said that every lot (per ordinance) has a 10' perimeter easement, it's a general blanket utility easement. He said that the issue that has come up is that people have been putting things in the swales along common property lines. Kline explained that the Stormwater Management Ordinance prohibits structures or obstructions in stormwater easements. A covenant, required in all subdivision plans, states that if there are obstructions (like a fence) the Township can remove it at the owner's expense plus 20%. Kline said that "inlets" may be used in the future so that water flows underground.
Resident Brad Wells (sic), the author of the letter that Holmgaard brought up during the CORRESPONDENCE section of the meeting, said that a neighbor's fence post caused a sinkhole and that other neighbors have sheds and play sets in the swale. Wells asks who is responsible? The Township approved the fence. Holmgaard says that the property owner is responsible. Wells says that when people get construction permits, they must be closed out with an inspection.
Wells also asked that public use of the Township recreation center and fees be added to the next meeting's agenda. He said that he objects to paying $11 for a half hour of "shooting hoops" with his daughters. He said that the outside public court is poorly maintained. Miller said that Wells facts on the fees are all wrong. Miller defended the recreation fees as "user fees" recommended by the State. Wells said that he is a taxpayer and Forks resident and feels that he should not have to pay to use the facility. He said that he cannot afford the fees. Miller said, "I don't know how can you afford to live in Forks then." Wells said that when he came here he had a good job. He no longer does. Ackerman told him that he can sign up for COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR next time and he'll get five minutes to talk.
LIAISON RE-ASSIGNMENTS - Nicholas said that because there is no longer a sewer department, the liaison assignments should be changed and that it should be straightened out before the first of the year. Kichline discussed a proposal for five committees. She felt that there would be more communication between herself, the Board and the staff. Ackerman said that he does not want more jobs. He said that there are five areas: the Police Department, the Fire Department, Parks & Recreation, Finance, and the Public Works Department. Weis added that he talked to Chief Dorney about this and he thought it a good idea that Emergency Services and Public Safety be included together.
Holmgaard thought that committees are a good idea. Ackerman said he didn't think that Supervisors should limit themselves to be involved in only one area if they are interested in more than one area. Nicholas said that with departments meetings once a week and the two Supervisors meetings, there isn't time enough for a working Supervisor (and parent) to do it all.
Holmgaard remarked that the Township is now at a point where it's "too big and not big enough." Nicholas said that things should stay with the "chains of command" that have been established for another year and that right now Hoff has two areas, the Fire Department and Secretary/Treasurer (including the office.) She simply feels that he should have only one area of responsibility.
Miller felt that the Board needs to think about this and that a decision need not be made by next meeting. He said that there is an election coming up and the winner will bring to the Board other interests and a "life style of knowledge with him." Miller does not want to make any decision until after the election. Nicholas said that they have to have everybody ready to appoint at the first meeting in January. This will be discussed again.
APPOINTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR (End of probationary period) - Sandt's appointment was approved in a 4:0 vote. Nicholas asked if they must now advertise for a mechanic. Ackerman said that it would be taken up in the Executive Session since it is a personnel matter.
AUTHORIZATION TO BID GASOLINE & DIESEL - Kichline said that she has the advertisement ready and the authorization was approved 4:0.
REQUEST TO ADVERTISE BID FOR NEW FIRE ENGINE - Weis discussed this in the question and answer workshop before the meeting. This request is for a new pumper since the Township's existing one is 1983 vintage. The new one will have a 1500 gal/min capacity and will seat 6 fire fighters inside the cab. The department has 80% of the funding for this between the their vehicle replacement fund and a 2% loan. It will be almost fully paid for by the time it arrives and will involve zero tax dollars. Bids are due by the end of November. The request was approved in a 4:0 vote.
EXECUTIVE SESSION - No action was taken by the Board during the Executive Session (to discuss several personnel matters.) After the session the Board voted 4:0 to hire Ron Phillips as the Township's newest full time employee. He has been a part-time mechanic for the Township since Gary Sandt was promoted to the Director of Public Works.
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.