Sunday, September 10, 2006

BoS Meeting 9/7/2006

The September 7th meeting of the Board of Supervisors ended after an executive session to discuss personnel issues, non-uniformed employees contract negotiations, and the newest zoning appeal (litigation.) Sarah Mausolf (Express Times) and Joe Nixon (Morning Call) reported extensively on the Township Manager application discussion. We will try to fill in the blanks.

Supervisor Comments:

  • Supervisor John Ackerman opened his comments by saying that there "was witnesses" to the Supervisors’ private meeting (he mentioned this at the 8/17/06 BoS meeting) and that "it was certainly a violation of the Sunshine Law..." Chairman David Hoff suggested that if he felt there was evidence (of a Sunshine Law violation), he should make a complaint to the State Ethics Commission.

    There was some discussion about which day Ackerman alleged this occurred. Ackerman wasn’t sure but he knew it was a Wednesday. (Note: According to our records, he said it was Wednesday, April 5, 2006.) Hoff said that Ackerman probably had the date wrong and that he was really referring to a meeting in the Municipal Building held on the evening of July 5th (a Wednesday) and attended by himself (Hoff), Supervisor Howell, (former Township Manager) Cathy Kichline, Mel Hodges of Hodges Technologies, and David Becker, also of Hodges Technologies.
Hoff said that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss a June meeting held at the request of (Finance Manager) Jim Farley with Becker, Supervisor Ackerman and Supervisor Nicholas. Farley was requesting (of Becker) that Ackerman and Nicholas be given access to the Township email system. Hoff added that Becker asked for authorization to do that. Nicholas wrote a memo to that effect and Supervisor Donald Miller was approached to be the third signer. Hoff said that had Miller signed it, it would have been a violation of the Sunshine Law and that both Ackerman and Nicholas were willing to do that.
Hoff finished by stating that he did not violate the Sunshine Law on April 5th nor on July 5th and that if Ackerman has "anything" that he "submit it to the State Ethics Commission and let an investigation begin."
  • Nicholas announced that the next Kings Mill zoning hearing sessions are scheduled for October 16th and October 30th.

    Nicholas said that she had a meeting with "Forks Day" on August 22nd and she wanted to know if the ad for the Morning Call ($200) was acceptable. The Board authorized spending up to $700 for ads in the Morning Call Go Guide, the Express Times Enjoy section, and the Easton Times. Nicholas said that the Board agreed to pay for the Community Days advertisements because the open house for the Municipal Complex coincides with it and emphasizes the building dedications. Nicholas said that Community Days has already advertised in The Key and mentioned the building dedications.

    Nicholas said that she met on August 28th with staff for volunteers to help with the Municipal Building open house and that everyone is willing to help out.

    On August 30th Nicholas attended the Bushkill Conservancy meeting held in the Municipal Building. The topic was "Better Models For Development in Pennsylvania" and the presenter was Ed McMan (not the famous one). Nicholas said that she learned a lot that night including the fact that chain stores have three grades of buildings, A (cheaper and used most often), B (better than A), and C (the most expensive and nicest and also the most lucrative). She advised that the PC ask for the C models. Nicholas also learned that 16' wide roads are safer in developments than 40' wide roads because drivers do not use the narrow roads as raceways and that more green space around buildings attracts more people. Nicholas said that the new building needs a slide projector.

    The Fire Company hosted a coffee for Senator Wonderling on 9/2/06 and Nicholas attended. On 9/4/06 Nicholas met with Congressman Dent at the "Hazard Mitigation Plan of Northampton County" meeting. Nicholas said that Northampton County Council is due to vote on the plan. She said that she learned that Forks only has two projects in the plan, the Kesslersville Road project and the Sullivan Trail project. She suggested that Forks get more projects on the list. She said that she learned that one should never, ever build anything in the 100 year flood plain and that the lands around the flood plain should be protected.

    Representative Grucela told her that the 100 year flood plain calculations (in PA) are being redone because they are no good.

  • Hoff said that he received correspondence from Amanda Jensen (sic) Palmer Township’s Planning Director. Jensen asked for Forks’ support in their grant application for soccer field amenities (like snack bars). Apparently, municipal grant applicants must gather letters of support from surrounding municipalities. Miller said that he got a grant for $100K and got letters from Palmer and the EASD in support of his application. After discussion of whether or not Forks should apply for a grant for the dog park and whether Palmer would sign a letter of support for Forks, the Board voted 5:0 to submit a letter of support to Palmer Township. Miller noted that fencing in an entire acre of land for the dog park will be expensive and it is one of the items on the soon to be mailed recreation survey.

Treasurer’s Report - Secretary/Treasurer David Howell detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. Howell’s motion to accept the debits and transfers was approved 5:0.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas - reported that Judy Arnold from Forks EMS called her and told Nicholas that they are working with Suburban EMS to send out subscriptions and that they are also working with Dr. Binns to get their license reinstated.

    Nicholas said that a couple of the fireman told her that they want a flagpole for the fire station. Nicholas thought that is was almost "sacrilegious" for fire departments to not have flagpoles out front. They will get price quotes. Nicholas thought that there was some money from a grant that can be used. She will present it to the Board when she knows the cost.

    Deputy Fire Chief Bryan Weis reported on the status of the new fire truck. He said it passed inspection and made its 1000 mile journey to a local distributor. It is (tentatively) expected in Forks on Tuesday. Weis thought it would take a month or so before it will in service because there is much equipment that must be installed.

    Nicholas also reported that Police Chief Greg Dorney gave the committee a copy of the PD 5 year plan. They will review it at their 9/27 meeting at 5:00 PM.

    Of the cameras and DVR security system, Nicholas reported that ICU Security gave her a proposal of $32K to provide and install 3 back-up cameras (DVRs?) and surge protection for the cameras, DVRs, and inlet. The cameras (DVRs?) cost $6300 each. Nicholas recommended that the Board seriously look into the proposal as the Municipal Building was without camera coverage for a month after the camera was hit by lightening. Howell suggested moving the camera from the top of the light pole to a better location.

    Ackerman asked Solicitor Steve Goudsouzian if this has to go out for bid. Nicholas explained that this proposal is from the company currently providing the security system. Goudsouzian suggested soliciting other vendors for the service before the Board makes a decision. If no one else can provide what is needed, then it will be an easy decision for the Board. Howell said that typically the committee determines the Township’s needs and then solicits consultants/potential bidders to estimate costs based on those expectations. Nicholas said that repairs due to two lightening strikes in one month totaled $4000.

    Dorney said that the cell block (holding area) was hit by an electrical surge also and locked the prisoners in. Dorney asked that the Board approve the installation of a safety switch ($800). It was approved in a 5:0 vote. There is money in the PD budget for it.

    Nicholas also said Zoning Officer Tim Weis suggested that all the buildings should be lightening protected. To that end, Nicholas had a rough estimate of $20K for lightening protection from a supplier found by Mr. Keifer (of ICU.) This proposal offered 99% protection. Miller asked if there was money left in the construction account and Farley said that there was. Howell suggested that the Public Safety Committee find a few vendors to come and survey our needs before a bid spec is prepared since there are probably different systems and the Township has no idea of what it needs at this point. Nicholas said that the committee will look into it and get back to the Board.

    Nicholas noted too that Dorney would like to have one of the (new) trees moved since it obstructs the view of the impound yard. After discussion about whether it was cheaper to move the camera or the tree, it was decided that Sandt could move the tree (safely) at no cost.

    The fire department wants one of the building’s cameras moved and Nicholas said that the safety committee will over to inspect and then will make a recommendation whether or not to move the camera.

    Lastly Nicholas suggested that a "walk through" of all (township) buildings in Forks be performed because she discovered that the small swing doors under the locking gates to the administration and zoning areas can be wiggled and opened permitting access to a "good sized" person.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - reported that Public Works Director Gary Sandt is working on the DPW 5 year plan.

  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - (Note: Miller continues to report on events in the parks as his committee report. These comments rightly belong in the Supervisor’s Comments section. It would appear that the Parks & Recreation committee seldom, if ever, meets.) Of the park activities, Miller said that everything is outside now, soccer, football, & cheering. He said that a high school girls basketball league will be starting soon and that will take some activity back inside. He said that Pen Argyl was here for a football game and was very complimentary about Forks’ facility.

  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - reported that the new quarterly publication is 95% completed (as far as contents) but that ad sales are "not as hot" as hoped (because it’s a first time publication.) He doesn’t think that this will delay it. Howell said that the Community Relations Committee meeting next Wednesday AM is open to the public. The meeting is about updating aspects of the Township’s website. The public is invited to share comments with the committee either before or at the meeting.

  • Finance & Administration - Supervisor Hoff - said that the 8/23 Finance & Administration Committee meeting was cancelled and that the next one is scheduled for 9/12 at 3:00 PM.

Engineer’s Report - Fred Hay - agenda items only.

Solicitor’s Report - Steven Goudsouzian - said that there was a zoning challenge to Ordinance 298 filed and that is will have to be addressed in executive session.

Comments from the Public:

  • Gretchen Gerstel of Forks Avenue read a prepared statement critical of the Board members' memories, specifically that Miller could not remember signing a $3K check and that Hoff, Howell, & Miller could not remember being in a private meeting together (see above - Supervisor Ackerman’s comments - there was no meeting). Miller said that he has been signing checks for the township for 20 years and on the Tuesday before a Supervisors meeting each Supervisor gets a list of the checks. Next they are approved at the Supervisors meeting. Once the okay is given to pay the bills, the Supervisors are obligated to sign the checks as part of their duties. Checks are signed only for expenses that have been approved by the Board. Miller said that Farley thought she understood that when he (Farley) explained it to her. Apparently she did not. She did say that did not "want to discuss that stupid table... that’s over and done with."

  • Jim Wideman (resident and member of the Planning Commission) spoke to the zoning challenge suit brought by Nic Zawarski and Signature Homes (as KMRD). Wideman said that this suit will decide who will control our township. "Should they win, they will be basically in charge and we will be basically their puppets. If we win... we will be in charge." Wideman said that the suit challenges the Comprehensive Plan, the zoning, and the zoning map. He added that every taxpayer who owns property in the EASD will be heavily impacted should the challengers win.

    Wideman said that he didn’t come to state the obvious but to relate what Nicholas said at the Fire Department coffee for Senator Wonderling - and that was that "this suit would end inevitably in a compromise and that the Township should try and get everything that it can get." Wideman said that since he’s never seen a vote by the Board authorizing the challenge defense and since he’s never heard how each Supervisor feels, he asked to poll the Board as to where they stand.

    Nicholas said that she told him where she stood and that she is for open space. She added "that if the vote went down for the developer," she would do everything she could to get as much as should could for the Township. Wideman stated that "this is not a win - compromise - lose situation. This is a win or lose situation. We don’t win by compromising."

    Hoff interrupted to ask the Solicitor his opinion on how much the Board can say (since the issue is currently before the Zoning Hearing Board.) Goudsouzian cautioned the Board about making any "public statements" regarding their positions. He added that the Board has taken the position that it will support and defend the zoning ordinance and has authorized the Solicitor to do that. Goudsouzian added that they are fully prepared to fight and anticipate that the process will be long, arduous, and ultimately successful.

  • Charles Smith, Esquire seconded Wideman’s comments. He, too, spoke to the zoning challenge and the "humongous" size of the proposal. Smith said that this is the largest development that the Township has seen and may be the largest every proposed in Northampton County "and maybe in Pennsylvania." He said that it (the proposal) would "decimate" the school board and school taxes. He said that "for some members of this Board to talk about finding a compromise is way off base. Smith told the Board that it "should fight it vigorously no matter what the cost." He referred to the proposal as "an incredible intrusion on this community... by rich developers."

Merchants Bank $500 gift to the Fire Company for Community Days was accepted by Bryan Weis (on behalf of the Fire Company). Merchants Bank’s representative said that Merchants has a long tradition of community service and this donation was a way of "kicking off" their move to Forks. (Note: Their new bank is near the Uhler Road intersection on Sullivan Trail.)


ELECTRONIC MUNICIPAL SIGN - Nicholas said that she put this item on the agenda because she is concerned about some of the things in the zoning ordinance as they relate to the sign design presented by Alex Gale (project manager.) Hoff said that Gale was invited to the meeting but was unable to attend.

Nicholas said that the Town Center District (TC) and the Recreational/Educational/Municipal District (REM) have different sign regulations (in the zoning ordinance.) The Municipal Complex sign will be in TC and the Community Center is in REM. She said that lights must be white or clear. The size maximums are different also.

Apparently the sign was ordered by someone (?) and according to Ackerman money was put down on it. The sign is here but not installed and the company would like to be paid.

Goudsouzian suggested that the Board could ask for a variance (to the Zoning Hearing Board) if the sign is not in compliance. Howell suggested applying for a permit.

There was much technical discussion of the ordinance with the outcome being that Nicholas will go over the ordinance with Zoning Officer Weis.

TOWNSHIP MANAGER/APPLICATION DEADLINE - Hoff said that 35 applications have been received so far and the question before the Board was whether to extend the deadline or start working with these applications and then make a decision (about extending the deadline.) Apparently the advertisement deadline for the October issue of the PSATS magazine has passed and the soonest an ad could appear is November.

Howell said that of the 29 he has looked at so far, 7 or so are good and the others are unimpressive. He suggested another workshop to go over the spreadsheet of manager’s duties and come to terms with the vital issues of the position. The public workshop will be at 6:30 PM before the 9/21 BoS meeting. The deadline for ads in the PSATS November issue is September 27. The Board will review the applications in an executive session after the meeting.

Gerstel (audience) asked why the Board didn’t use a headhunter and Howell explained that it was a suggestion of his and so he did his homework only to learn that a headhunter’s fee would be ½ of the hired manager’s salary and that all a headhunter would provide is a lot of candidates for the Board to consider. Also, there’s no guarantee that the person hired will last in the job for 4 months and in January he/she must be rehired.

Nicholas said that Senator Wonderling told her of a gentleman, an itinerant township manager of sorts, who goes around and fills in the managers position until a township is able to find a suitable candidate. Ackerman said that he spoke with someone who does this but in the time it would take him to learn the job, it is likely that the Board will have found someone suitable.

Howell said that he discussed this with Wonderling. This program is for smaller townships that are not as complex as Forks.


AWARD BID/2006 ROAD PROGRAM - Bid were opened by Hay’s office and Sandt and Kline reviewed them. Hay recommended awarding the contract to resurface/recycle Frutchey Hill to E. J. Breneman at their bid price of $199K. They are ready to start in 2 weeks. The Board voted 5:0. The other bid received was from Asphalt Paving for $255K.

KEYSTONE NAZARETH NATIONAL BANK LAND DEVELOPMENT PLAN - Hay recommended that this be approved. He said that it was discussed at the last PC meeting. Nicholas suggested placing the building in a different spot on the site - towards the Sullivan Trail frontage and with parking in the rear. The bank representative said that it isn’t possible to put the building anyplace else on the site because the existing bank must remain open during construction. Planner Dean Turner represented the PC and summarized their extensive traffic (for ingress & egress) discussion for the Board. The plan was given conditional approval in a 5:0 vote.

ESTATES AT STEEPLECHASE NORTH, PHASE 4 - DEVELOPER’S AGREEMENTS - Goudsouzian said that all was in order. The agreements were accepted in a 5:0 vote.

FORT JAMES LOT 2A-UNITED PLASTICS GROUP - DEVELOPER’S AGREEMENTS - Goudsouzian said that all was in order. The agreements were accepted in a 5:0 vote.

GARY STRAUSSER - DEVELOPMENT EXTENSIONS TO EXTEND PHASES 5 & 6 MAINTENANCE BUILDING & BED AND BREAKFAST - Goudsouzian said that Hay provided him with a list of 5 or 6 items to be completed. Goudsouzian recommended to the Board that they authorize his office to prepare a resolution listing all the items that are outstanding and that the Board review it before considering a vote on the extensions. Strausser representative Sal Panto stated that he had not seen the list and he agreed with the Solicitor’s advice.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - There was an executive session to discuss labor negotiations, a personnel matter, and the new zoning litigation. No action was taken and the meeting was adjourned.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or COMMENT here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

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