Sunday, August 20, 2006

BoS Meeting 8/17/06

The August 17 meeting of the Board of Supervisors was an exceptionally long one and dealt mostly with Township business and not developers and their projects. In fact only one project was on the short agenda. Please read Sarah Mausolf (Express Times) and Joe Nixon’s (Morning Call) for more. We will try to fill in the blanks.


The regular meeting was preceded by a 45 minute workshop session to iron out the Township Manager job description. Supervisor Miller was not in attendance.

The Board made a start at it by deciding to go through the old job description paragraph by paragraph and categorizing each as one of 5 broad funtions/groups:
  1. Finance
  2. Staff
  3. Public (includes dealing with the public, the press, regional and civic groups, and with other government agencies)
  4. Land development (and "land use control" - a term from the old definition that all agreed needs clarification)
  5. Board of Supervisors (relationship)

Supervisor David Howell volunteered to sort the paragraphs by the new categories so that each Committee can review them and make recommendations back to the Board. Other employee responsibilities will also be reviewed in light of the manager’s position redefinition. There will be an additional workshop before the next meeting.

Regular Meeting

During the review of the minutes for the 7/20/06 and the 8/3/06 Board of Supervisors meetings Supervisor Howell said that the minutes of the 8/3/06 meeting were reported correctly (but not completely) on the request by Richetta Productions for traffic cones and horses for the Italian American festival at the Eagles on August 26 & 27. Howell said that the minutes do not reflect that he asked Supervisors Ackerman and Nicholas if they would agree to this and Ackerman "indicated verbally that he would." Howell said then that he would send the information by email to Ackerman, Nicholas and DPW Director Sandt. He did do that but when Richetta Producitons contacted Sandt, Sandt told them "no." Ackerman said that he planned to bring this up in the Public Works Committee discussion.

Supervisor Comments:

  • Ackerman opened with a question to Chairman Hoff. Ackerman asked Hoff if he had been in a meeting in the Township Manager’s office with two other Supervisors on April 5th. Hoff said that he didn’t recall. Ackerman then asked Howell the same question. Howell said that he’d have to look at his calendar. Ackerman then asked Supervisor Miller. Miller said he had "no idea." Hoff asked why this has come up and Ackerman said that he wants to know if he "did or didn’t first" and then he’d let him know. Howell said that he’d like to know who the "informant" is and Ackerman said that he was and then he admitted to not being there.
  • Supervisor Nicholas said that it occurred to her while at a Community Days meeting that no one sent invitations to public officials. She took it upon herself to have Debi Tindall write letters to Morganelli, Stoffa, Rendell, etc. (Nicholas read the form letter that was sent). Nicholas also sent an email to staff heads asking them to meet with her on the 28th in order to get volunteers for the open house and to get the "refreshments coordinated." Nicholas then said that she needs to know where the "time capsule" is to be buried so that a hole can be dug in advance.

Nicholas said that the Manager was to be doing all of these things and (in the absence of a Manager) she has volunteered to make sure that they get done. Nicholas asked Bartek (Secretary tot he Board) to confirm that there is $1000 available for refreshments. Hoff asked Nicholas to check with PNC Bank because they made an offer to handle some of the refreshments.

Howell asked Nicholas about Senator Wonderling and Nicholas said that he has been invited. Howell said that Wonderling wants to have a booth there. Nicholas said that she asked Solicitor Kline to check into what is allowed in political booths on municipal property. Howell said that what he wants to have is not partisan but all State publications.

Nicholas added the flowers on the front table (the $3K table) were donated by the flower shop down by Bushkill Park.

  • Hoff said that he received correspondence about the "Act 43 property review" and he said that it lists farms. He said that he just wanted to be sure that there are none on the list that are involved in the zoning challenge. Kline said that he will have to check the tax parcel numbers against the one’s that the developers have listed.

Ackerman said that if the land is in "Ag Land Preservation where they got funds from the municipality, county and state, they are the only ones who are eligible for a freeze on their taxes." Ackerman added that at this point there is no property in Forks that has that designation. The Brown property is going to be approved but they have not yet received any monies. Ackerman added that every municipality in the EASD must approve this (Act 43) for the freeze to be put in place.

Kline said that there are two lists, one for Act 43 and one for Act 4. He said that Ackerman’s point is about Act 4, a freeze of tax millage. Kline said that as of now, no property in Forks is eligible and that Forks, the county, and the school district would have to approve it. Nicholas clarified that it would just freeze the millage exempting the properties from tax increase.

Treasurer’s Report - Secretary/Treasurer David Howell detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting.

Nicholas noted that Forks entered an agreement this year with Northampton County SPCA to pay a per animal fee of $40. In the past the Township paid one flat fee. She said that so far this year, the Township has paid $2K. She said that with a flat fee, the budget item is known. In the per animal contract anyone from Forks (police, animal control, and "people") can drop off an animal and the Township is billed $40. She asked that this be looked into for next year’s budget.

Nicholas then said that the Sam’s Club renewal was brought to her attention. She said that apparently when it was discontinued in mid-year, no one notified Sam’s Club in writing. Ackerman said that the Board dropped the membership and he collected all the cards. Fire Chief Weis said that when he could buy at Sam’s Club, he saved thousands of dollars for the Fire Department (over what he now has to pay.) Ackerman said, "The system was abused and that’s why we done away with it." He added that the Township has a number of company credit cards (Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.) and that the Township needs to find a way to keep them from being abused. He doesn’t want a "good person to go bad."

Howell suggested that Sam’s Club membership be researched by Farley and that he report back to the Board.

Howell’s motion to accept the debits and transfers was approved 5:0.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas read a letter from Forks EMS life members. They wrote that they elected a new Board of Directors and were to hold a business meeting on 8/17/06. Nicholas said that Suburban EMS’ Mr. Albertson will be at the Public Safely meeting on 8/23 and she invited someone from Forks EMS to attend. Subscriptions for Forks residents are the big issue since they run out at the end of August.

Nicholas said that she got a letter from Suburban’s lawyer and gave it to Kline. Kline said that he got a very informative 8 page letter from their Mechanicsburg attorney. Kline said that it provides information about the law and subscriptions. He added that the government gets involved because it pays the bills under Medicare and Medicaid. The government has a requirement that patients pay a certain portion and with a subscription program, the patient portion is waived.

Forks EMS cannot sell subscriptions because they are not in operation at this time. Kline summarized the Township’s options as noted in the letter:

  1. Continue with Suburban.
  2. Suburban keeps subscriptions in an escrow account that would draw from on a
    monthly basis.
  3. Township uses taxpayer money to pay it all.
  4. Do nothing.

Nicholas said that she discussed these options in a meeting with Albertson and they decided it was not a good idea for the Township to take over. Kline noted that it’s a "slippery slope" if the Township starts paying the bills especially since when someone else is paying the bills, bills tend to increase. She added that this is the major thing on the Forks EMS agenda tonight.

Nicholas said that she is going to tell both EMS squads that they must come to an agreement on subscriptions by the Public Safety meeting on 8/23 as well as have the necessary contracts signed (by then). Nicholas said that Forks EMS already has the subscription forms printed. She said that Suburban has said it was fine if Forks EMS sends them out and has the money put in escrow. Suburban would then draw 1/12 per month (as long as they are the service provider.) Nicholas said that if the Board comes to the "advertised" meeting on the 23rd, they can make a decision then. Nicholas emphasized that they are running out of time and that a decision must be made.

Hoff asked what kind of legal agreement is needed to insure that the money paid for subscriptions goes into an escrow account. Nicholas said that the escrow account will have both Suburban and Forks EMS names on it and that lawyers will draw up the agreement. Kline said that Forks EMS has an obligation to prove to the Board of Supervisors that it is financially viable. Until the BoS changes its position Suburban EMS is the primary provider for the Township.

Nicholas said that a Forks police officer was attending the EMS meeting (this night) to discuss the investigation with them. Nicholas was told that Forks EMS hopes to collect on the outstanding bills (owed to them) and that if they get 1/4 of it, they will be able to pay their debt.

The question of the consequences of a slow mailing came was raised by an audience member. Nicholas said that part of the agreement will be that existing subscriptions will be extended for so many weeks.

The Public Safely meeting on 8/23 at 5:00 PM (advertised and open to the full Board as well as to the public) will be in the Municipal Building.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - began with a discussion of the horses requested by Richetta Productions for Italian American Celebration (at the Eagles) parking. He said that the Township has two different requests for horses for the same dates, the "Italian something group" and Giant (5 year anniversary).

Ackerman said that it was the decision of the Public Works Committee that the talian American celebration is not a Township function. He said, "They are an outside group coming in and we didn’t feel that we should be providing for them." Ackerman confirmed with Chief Dorney that Richetta Productions has contracted (and will pay for) 2 police officers from 2-8 PM each day. Dorney said that this request was put in 6-9 months ago.

Howell said "that it would be an embarrassment for the Township not to help" and that Richetta Productions will be at the Community Days Celebration and has volunteered their radio show. They are waving their $1200 fee. Howell added that Richetta, at no charge, had a radio show for 2 days at the 250th Anniversary Celebration.

Howell said that 5,000 or more people will probably come to the Italian American Celebration. Howell added that those attending will be passing through Forks and will see its "growth and potential." Richetta already has enlisted Lafayette College’s help for overflow parking. Palmeri bus company will be providing transportation between the Laneco lot and the Eagles. Howell said that a lot of people in our town are helping with this celebration and that "we have to be a good neighbor." He said, "All they want from us is some horses and cones to direct traffic off of Sullivan Trail and guide it to certain designated areas."

Ackerman said, "Where do we end this?" Howell replied that this is a singular event and that they are not making future policy.

Sandt said that Giant requested 15 horses and that they would wipe them out. Kline added that Giant is a "for profit entity" and that there are "opportunities for them to rent" them. Sandt said that a precedent was set when the Township provided barricades for their Easter Egg hunt.

Miller remarked that he doesn’t know how many times the Giant has given free water and food to the Township during the floods. There was discussion about how the Township only has 15 horses left since the floods. Howell suggested that the Township order more horses now.

Engineer Hay suggested using cones with tape in the parking lot. Ackerman agreed to split the horses available between the Giant and the Italian celebration. Howell said that the Township should not have said "no" without telling them the problem.

Ackerman reported too, that they are working on the milling machine sale and are waiting for Kline and "Dave" (Hoff?) to hear from Lower Nazareth. Kline said that Finance Manager Farley was to have initiated contact with the Lower Nazareth Township Manager. Farley said that Lower Nazareth manager said that there is no firm agreement on the conditions (of purchase) and that they will check their records and get back to him.

  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - (Note: Miller continues to report on events in the parks and not on meetings of his committee.) Miller reported that summer basketball finished last week and that there were a record 150 teams. The free Easton News did a nice front page article. Miller said too that the program is at its maximum. He also had a list of everything that was done in the parks and made it available for anyone to look at after the meeting. He said that this evening, "It’s all football in the park and that there were probably 500 people out there."
Ackerman asked Miller why the chain was up preventing entrance to the Laneco parking area. Miller said that they are putting the chain up in the morning to stop people from using it as a short-cut while the Township vehicles are moving around. At 3:30 PM when the workers leave they are to put the chain down. Ackerman asked that Miller remind Ed (Kleppinger.)
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - reported he did his first "written report" and that he thinks he will do that from now on. He had 20 copies available.

Howell said the committee has not had a meeting since the last Board meeting but that he has been actively talking to staff about articles for the first edition of the Forks quarterly. He reported that ad sales are going very slowly and that no ads have yet been purchased by Big Woody’s, Ace Hardware or any of the banks. Small retailers have shown interest. Howell said that he "will probably make a lot of personal calls along Sullivan Trail and bend some arms." Howell said too that the survey that was to be a "pull out" in the center of the first edition is being mailed separately as the Parks & Recreation Committee doesn’t want to wait until October for the data. They will mail it themselves. They need the data in order to prepare the 2007 budget.

As to the map that was contracted by the Township last year, that vendor has disappeared (along with the advertising monies he collected. Dorney said that the Attorney General is involved.) Hometown Press will do a map and sell ads for it. It will not be ready in the next 60 days but Howell said that it will be a complete map. Zoning Officer Weis is providing the street guide data for it (from the county) in digital form.

Howell announced that Zoning Hearing Board minutes will be online at the Township website soon. They will go back to the beginning of the year. The ZHB does not have agendas so only their minutes will be online.

Howell said that he’s been in discussion with Senator Wonderling’s office regarding a PA Department of Community and Economic Development grant. He said that there is "money available to townships and municipalities for communications to residents." Howell thanked Deputy Fire Chief Bryan Weis and the president of the Volunteer Fire Company because he will piggy back on one of their grant applications. Howell hopes that grant money will be available to upgrade and enhance the Township website.

Nicholas asked Dorney if this was related to the money he is trying to get for the Police Department for rapid communications and Dorney said that it is not connected.

Nicholas asked Miller what is on the survey and he replied that it is basically the same as last time (many years ago). She asked if he had a "money for open space" question and he said that he did.

  • Finance & Administration - Supervisor Hoff - reported that the committee met on August 9th and that they discussed the updating of the computer system and getting spyware and spam filters in place. They reviewed their "task list" with the financial software provider and discussed content filtering. Farley sent an email to Hodges about content filtering (to cut down on Internet use) and intends to implement this slowly because of the possibility of impacting things that are unintended. The committee will not meet on 8/23 and the next meeting will be on 9/13.

Engineer’s Report - Fred Hay - reported on the Fire Department training building, currently a 22' x 68' pad on the corner of Glover and Kuebler Roads. Hay said that it will be 2 years before a building is erected there. He asked that the Board wave SALDO for this project as it would be a waste of Fire Department money to go through land development. Hoff added that this is part of the FD 5 year plan approved last year. The Board voted 5:0 to wave SALDO.

Hay said that the Mitman Road will be "recycled" next year and that in preparation the sewer line was "televised." A 270 ft. clay line must be replaced and about 15 epoxy spot repairs are needed on the rest of the line. Hay estimated the cost at $40-45K and said that it should be done now before Mitman Road is redone. Miller asked if any developers will be paying and Hay said "no" but that the Preserve has paving to do but since the road will be "recycled" they will give the Township the cost of their paving. The vote was 5:0 to do the repairs.

Hay reported that Frutchey Hill will also be "recycled" and the specs are ready for advertisement. Hay said he thought he would have the bid opening on 9/6 so that the Board can review the bids at their meeting on 9/7/06.

Of the Frost Hollow Swale, Hay said that it is close to completion and that the rains caused delays. Hay also said that the original plan was just to include work in the Frost Hollow development. He has been called out to look at storm damage on Dayton Drive in the Ramblewood swale, a "maintenance nightmare." Hay recommended repairing approximately 600 feet of it (from the original project limits to the culvert) with "cable concrete" at a cost of $100K. Hay would like to begin the work now using the contract prices that are in existence. Farley was asked if there was enough money in the capital improvement account and he said that there was. The repair was authorized in a 5:0 vote.

A resident asked when Strausser was going to get his portion of the swale done and Kline replied that Strausser has been stopped from working on Phases 5, 6, & 7 until he gets the unfinished things done.

The same resident asked that locations be put on the development list that is on the Township website. Weis said he will look at it and put directions or locations on it.

Ackerman asked Hay about the status of Valley View Road (to Gollub Park). Hay said that he is waiting for contours from the surveyor.

Ackerman said that Uhler Road caved in and forced PennDot into installing new 36" pipes instead of the 24" ones that were there. He hopes that this helps with the flooding. Howell asked Hay if 611 has the same drains (as Uhler - the 24" pipes) where the shoulders have given way. Hay said that he didn’t know and that he would have to talk to PennDot.

Solicitor’s Report - Karl Kline - reminded everyone that the 2nd hearing on the zoning validity challenge will be held on August 21 at 7:30 PM in the Community Center.

Kline reported that the Township finally has a bill of sale for the purchase of the 21K/gal. Crivellaro sewage capacity. Forks bought it from Williams Township.

Comments from the Public:

  1. Scott Lusher (sic) of Bushkill Park Drive reported that for 11 hours (during the recent concert event) the windows on his house shook. Lusher asked if the Township has a noise ordinance. Ackerman told him that there is one in the new zoning. Howell pointed out that Forks has no light meter or decibel detector and only the zoning officer for enforcement. Weis said that the didn’t think the noise ordinance applied in the Heritage Corridor, only in the EC, but he will check.

  2. Peter Murgia (sic) of Tree Line Drive said that he is concerned about the new swale and that the he has lost 40-50% of the use of that side of his property. There was discussion of the height of the gabion baskets. It was agreed that Hay would call Mr. Murgia and set a time to look at the swale with him.

  3. Ken Nagy of Dayton Drive informed the Board that because their meetings are scheduled on Thursday nights and conflict with county meetings, the Township is losing out on grant money that other municipalities are getting, namely Conservation money. He said that Mr. Dent gave $40K to Wilson for police radios and that Forks must start banging on politicians for grants. He said too, that the Board should hire a grant writer. Nagy said that it was "time that the townships stop being the cash cows for the county" and should change the meeting day.


Fire Company/PEMA Loan - Kline said that he has looked at all the files submitted to him by the Fire Department and the legal advertisement has been placed. The paperwork should be ready to file in a week or two. He added that the ($100K at 2%) loan money could take 4 months to get. (Bryan) Weis said that the vehicle replacement fund should have enough in it to cover the new truck. (Tim) Weis said that this dilemma is partly because the fire company dropped the ball and partly because the manufacturer is ahead of schedule.

The Township owns the fire equipment but cannot apply for PEMA loans, only the fire company can do that. Farley will prepare a financial analysis of the situation (whether the Township will be facing a deficit situation by advancing the amount due on delivery or if there are enough funds available.) Kline said that the Board has paid $183K of the $399K already. Kline also said that he needs to know the exact amount as part of the application.

Nicholas said that she wants to know how to prevent this from happening again. It was explained that the (former) Township Manager handled some of the particulars. This will be on the agenda for the next meeting.

Municipal Complex Security - Nicholas explained that she wants card key access to all the Municipal Complex buildings (and to the administrative area in the Municipal Building.) She said that Supervisors have no keys, are in charge of the Township, and cannot get into the buildings. She opined that if somebody doesn’t want a key, they don’t have to have one. Miller’s Community Center key also allows access to the front door of the Municipal Building. Ackerman wants a key to the front door as well as a key to the administration areas of the Municipal Building. Nicholas said that if an employee walks out the door and forgets her purse, the only way (now) to get back in is to call Weis who lives far away. With keys, that employee could call one of the five Supervisors instead.

It was noted that keys to all the offices and other things were not in a lock box as they were supposed to be but instead were found in the credenza of the (former) Township Manager. Nicholas said that anyone with access to that office could have made copies of those keys and that the "security in these buildings are really, really lax."

Ackerman said that it was "sad" to go to other Townships and see that they "have keys to any building they want."

Ackerman noted that Alex Gale and the former manager set up the current security key access program and that two weeks ago, Dorney physically took the keys and cards from Alex Gale. Dorney said that there is only one master key for all the buildings and that is in the possession of the Facilities Manager, Pete Gheller. Weis’ master key is only for the Municipal Building.

Hoff said that he has no problem with keys to the front door so that the building can be opened for meetings and such but he does have a problem with granting access to the administration area where all the records are kept. Nicholas said that all the records are locked up. Ackerman said that sometimes he’s come in the morning for a meeting and couldn’t get in the building until the clock "turned a certain time" to allow access.

Howell suggested that each Supervisor make a list of their concerns and that the Public Safety Committee consider them. He noted that now that all committee meetings have been advertised, Supervisors can be in meetings and not worry about the Sunshine Law. Ackerman thought that it’s a good thought to have the committee do that particular issue.

Supervisors had a printout of building accesses provided by Chief Dorney as a result of an investigation into an unauthorized entry into the Municipal Building. Terminology and door locations were discussed at length. Cardholder means that a specific cardholder opened a door. Forced entry means that a key was used.

Nicholas said that on the report it showed that on July 5th Alex Gale reported that the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) was not working properly and on July 6th the ICU trouble shooter came and confirmed that. On July 7th, ICU removed the camera and sent it back to the manufacturer. The Supervisors were not notified. On August 9th the camera was back in service. Dorney said that ICU thought there was some sort of power surge that affected the unit. Dorney said that the security company has been invited to the Wednesday Public Safety meeting. Nicholas said that there needs to be a back-up system for the DVR units.

Howell said that the report was generated because he filed a police report over what he considered an "unauthorized entry" into the Municipal offices. Ackerman said that there are a lot things in the police report that were said in Executive Session and that nothing said in Executive Session is to get out of that room. Howell said that everything he said in the police report was from open discussions in the administrative offices and if it was later discussed in Executive Session, it had already been "dedicated to public information." Ackerman asked Kline if he was right and Kline said that "if there are allegations made about criminal activity affecting access to records, then it is appropriate to file a complaint and have a formal investigation."


Fort James Lot 2A - United Plastics Land Development Plan - This was approved in a 5:0 vote based on Hay’s letter of August 4th. United Plastics will be making styrofoam clamshell containers for Chinese restaurants in the Forks Industrial Park with access from Glover Road. The company is moving here from New Jersey.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - There was an Executive Session to discuss litigation and a personnel matter. No action was taken by the Board during the session. After the session, a vote was taken to authorize Kline to hire Thomas Kosa, a commercial photographer, to assist with photographs for the zoning litigation at an initial price not to exceed $3,000. The Board approved this in a 5:0 vote.

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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