Sunday, October 22, 2006

BoS Meeting 10/19/06

On October 19th the Board of Supervisors considered many agenda items including Kings Farm, the by-right (allowed under the old zoning ordinance) plan proposed by Nic Zawarski & Sons, JT Maloney/Signature Homes, and Dennis Benner. Both Joe Nixon (Morning Call) and Courtney Lomax (Express Times) reported on the long discourse and the vote for a time extension. Please read their articles. We will try to fill in the blanks on the rest of the meeting.

Supervisor Comments:

  • Supervisor John Ackerman said that Forks was the host township for last night’s Twin Rivers COG meeting. It was held in the Municipal Building. Diane Elliott from Lafayette College heads the COG. The focus was emergency management coordination among member municipalities and it was attended by fire chiefs, police chiefs, and emergency management coordinators. Ackerman said that they concluded that no one is talking to one another from township to township. They discussed how they could all be in contact and that "the radio seems to be the biggest problem in the whole county." He added that Forks impressed other members with how Forks operates.

  • Ackerman also said that he attended the Merchants Bank open house and that it’s really nice.

  • Supervisor David Hoff reported that they held the first 2 budget work-sessions on Monday and Tuesday and that the next will be on 10/23 at 4:30 PM. Hoff also said that he was invited to speak to the Police Association on Thursday (10/12.)

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 4:0.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - asked DPW director Gary Sandt to report on the "leaf project and maybe some others." Sandt said that they just started collecting leaves yesterday - with one machine. The second will be out there in the next week. He added that the Frutchey Hill "recycling" is in process and that they will be finishing up the work on the storm sewer pipes there.

    Howell said that there was a copy of a letter in the Supervisors packets that Sandt wrote to a homeowner who cut down/back a tree on township property. Sandt said that the homeowner cut it back to within a foot of the tree trunk. Sandt said it was an oak and that the homeowner didn’t like it because it "gets worms." The homeowner guaranteed Sandt that it will "be nice" next summer. He added that the homeowner offered to replace it with a red maple if it didn’t. Ackerman asked if he started to "cut the tree down or just trim it?" Sandt said that if you only have a foot of branch from the trunk of the tree, "it’s pretty close." Howell suggested that the township was being "hoodwinked" by the homeowner and that the time for planting trees is now, in the fall. Ackerman agreed that it would be better to plant a tree now (than in the summer.) The tree-pruning homeowner will be advised to plant a 15' (4" in diameter) sunset maple now, not next summer. The oak will be removed.

  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - (Note: Miller continues to report on events in the parks as his committee report. The following comments rightly belong in the Supervisors’ Comments section. It would appear that the Parks & Recreation committee seldom, if ever, meets since if it did, he would give a committee report.) Miller said that he had a written report available of everything done in the parks for anyone who wanted to read it. And, as usual, Miller detailed public programs in the Community Center and the parks. He said that the tool show in the Community Center is there from today to Sunday and that on Sunday the park will be crowded because Forks is playing Palmer Township.

    Hoff inquired about the surveys and Miller asked Finance Manager Jim Farley to detail how the surveys were going. Farley said that they have 800-1000 returned surveys so far and that they will continue to accept them because every one is important. Miller said that it was great that "the people" are responding (to the survey.)
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - said that he got a call today from the publisher of the newsletter and that he should have the layout (with ad placement) in the next few days for approval. Once the Board approves it, it will go into full publication and then be sent to a distributor who will address and mail them.

    Howell also said that a new map is being considered for the spring and that it will be done as a "community guide" - a map, street guide, and community guide . The last Township map was done in 2002. Hometown Press will work with Zoning Officer Tim Weis on the map. It will be a large format16 fold map.

    The Community Relations Committee (Howell and Ackerman) is going to next look at the Township website. Howell said that it is deficient in many ways and that they will be looking at other webhosts in order to get more capacity. They will try to get the best possible service and capacity that they can.

    Ackerman asked if there will be any costs to the Township for the newsletter in view of the advertising. Howell said that the original $600 estimate was for an 8 page publication mailed to 4500 households. The reality is that it is an 18 page edition and will be mailed to 5500 households. The expected postage is $1400. The community guide will also cost about $1400 to mail and the actual publishing costs will be paid for by advertisers. Howell added that it will be a "one time only edition" and won’t be done again for 3 or 4 years.
  • Finance & Administration - Supervisor Hoff - said that the committee met last Wednesday and reviewed ½ of the administration and zoning budget. The other half will be next Monday. Farley provided the Board with a monthly revenue vs. expense summary.

Engineer’s Report - Fred Hay - provided the Board with a printout from the USGS website detailing what a 100 year flood really is. Hay also said that his office met today with the PennDot/Northampton County liaison to get Liquid Fuels straightened out. The liaison said that he would get back to him in a couple of days with whatever resolutions and maps he will need so that the Township will get the proper amount of money.

Ackerman asked Hay about Alex Gale coming in to go over punch items from the Municipal complex construction. Hay said that Gale spoke with Facilities Manager Pete Gheller last week and discussed them (especially the leaks) and that “it’s in the process of being taken care of.”

Solicitor’s Report - Karl Kline - said that there are continuing discussions concerning the non-uniformed employees contract and that he will bring this matter to the Board in executive session. Kline also said that there is a tax assessment appeal scheduled in November for Knox Avenue Senior Housing and that he would like to discuss it with the Board in executive session.

Comments from the Public

Pete Murgia thanked everyone involved in the swale reconstruction and for fixing the problems. He inquired about the rumored new curb cut into the property and was told by Hay that it will go in opposite the swale (from his house). It will allow access for the parks department lawnmowers. Murgia said that he’s been mowing it for 20 years (because there was no access) and that the Township is welcome do the next 20.


USA ARCHITECTS/AUTHORIZATION FOR PAYMENT - Hay said that he met with Gale for details on the invoice and that Gale said that the original invoice (submitted last April) was for $33K and that he and former Township Manager Kichline and USA Architects agreed to the $20K amount at a meeting on May 17. Gale told him that there was not a lot of paperwork on it and that it was basically for "2 hours here, 3 hours here over the project." Hay said this is very common and he recommended that the invoice be paid. Kline confirmed with Hay that the other $13K was for work that needed to be redone because it wasn’t done right the first time. Ackerman said that the Board would just have to take Hay’s word for it. Hoff noted that the detail shows 196 hours over 95 different instances. Kline suggested that a letter be sent along with the check stating that it represents payment in full to USA Architects. Ackerman recommended that Kline write the letter. Payment was approved in a 4:0 vote.

ELECTRONIC SIGN - MUNICIPAL COMPLEX - Ackerman said that Nicholas put this on the agenda and that it should wait until she was there for discussion. He added that he didn’t know where the sign was to go and that Gale should be contacted for a copy of the papers. Sandt said setbacks were on the design but he doesn’t know where the paperwork is. This was tabled (until the 11/2 meeting) in a 4:0 vote.


FORKS LANDING - Hay recommended approval of this industrial development (just north of the Norfolk Southern rail crossing on the west side of Sullivan Trail). It is a three lot subdivision served by a cul de sac and with access onto Sullivan Trail. The lots are 5 acres, 4-1/2 acres and 15-1/2 acres. A portion of the large lot (noted as 3B on the plan) is in the flood plane and although it will belong to the owner of lot 3, it will remain "in agriculture." Sullivan Trail will be widened on both sides into the existing right- of-way. There will be a dedicated right turn lane for southbound traffic and a dedicated left turn lane for northbound traffic. The developer (per PennDot permit) is to share the cost of improving the Uhler/Sullivan intersection with the developer of the southeast corner. Ackerman indicated that a developer owns the northeast corner but is not ready to develop it yet. The plan was approved in a 4:0 vote (based on the September 7th review letter).

KNOLLWOOD ESTATES - DRIVEWAY ACCESS EASEMENT AGREEMENT FOR LOT 2 - Kline explained that this access easement was necessary for the owners of lot 2 on Zucksville and the southern part of Ben Jon Road because it has no access onto Zucksville (poor sight distance) and the Township owns that portion of Ben Jon Road. (Ben Jon does not connect to Zucksville and that section is not going to be opened as a public street.) It was passed in a 4:0 vote with one abstention (Nicholas who arrived late because of traffic and who missed the discussion).

RIVERVIEW ESTATES WEST - PHASE III - FINAL PLAN - Hay described this Segal & Morel plan as totally clean and recommended that the Board approve it. Howell asked about the opening of Winchester Drive (through to Vista Estates) and Hay said that it should stay closed until the construction is done and the construction vehicles are no longer using it (Winchester.) Howell said that the developer should put up signs cautioning snowmobilers about the boulders, etc. because they won’t see them when there is a foot of snow on the ground. The plan was approved in a 5:0 vote.

JACOBS FARM - PHASE II - FINAL PLAN - There has been one change in this over-55 (age restricted) manufactured home plan since it was last presented; it will have its own clubhouse. Sidewalks have been added to both sides of Biltmore and to Braden. Ackerman asked about the grass down the middle of Braden Boulevard and who will mow it. He was told that it had been turned into a "boulevard," that the strip is 10' wide, and that the Township will mow it. Howell asked if the developer will consider adding a tot-lot for use by the residents’ visiting families. The develop said that there is possibly room for it behind the clubhouse. The plan was approved in a 5:0 vote.

KINGS FARM MAJOR SUBDIVISION - PRELIMINARY PLAN - Attorney John VanLuvanee represented the developers (Nic Zawarski & Sons, JT Maloney/Signature Homes, and Dennis Benner) who filed a by-right plan shortly before the new zoning ordinance was adopted in February 2006 to build 182 single family homes on 2 acre lots (on 485 acres) in the Farmland Protection zoning district. VanLuvanee brought along a stenographer and a tape recorder. He said that he sent a letter to Kline and to the Board on 10/18/06 offering an extension until 1/31/07 for this plan.

VanLuvanee stated that the project engineer, Hanover Engineering, submitted revised plans to the Township (this morning) answering point by point Hay’s review "memo" from April. He noted that they did not get a formal review letter. Hay, and everyone on the Board, had a copy of the formal review letter that he sent to the developer dated July. Kline noted that Benner referred to it in his appearance at the Board meeting on July 20th and that at that same meeting Benner indicated that the Kings Farm developers would proceed with all of the work necessary to obtain subdivision approval including the perc tests and the soil tests.

Kline said that he had a letter from attorney Piperato suggesting a revision to the Township’s Act 537 plan (the plan that prohibits public sewers in the FP.) Mention was made of letter received by (former Township Manager) Kichline (from Piperato) early on that neither Kline nor the Board was aware of (regarding sewers). Kline said that if a plan is submitted for an area in the Act 537 Plan, "the applicant doesn’t have a right to wait for things to change" and to keep the plan active for the entire time. In a letter to Piperato in July, Kline said "that the obligation to proceed in good faith runs both ways."

Kline said that there doesn’t seem to be any activity on the soil in the acreage involved. Ackerman noted that farmers would be upset if they were doing soil testing before the crops were harvested. It was noted that the plan was filed in December 2005, well before the crops were planted.

Hay said that normally perc tests are done before plans are submitted. Kline stated that the plans contain no information concerning sewage for the project. Hay added that there is no capacity available in the Easton sewage plant for this and that there no plans for sewage have been submitted.

It was decided to accept the developers’ offer of an extension until February 16, 2007 in a 3:2 vote with Howell and Nicholas casting the nay votes. The developers must present a complete planning module to the Township by January 31, 2007. A complete planning module includes all perc and soil tests. The plan must then be reviewed by the Township engineer.

The Planning Commission will have this on its agenda on February 8, 2007 and the Supervisors on February 15, 2007. Kline said that it should be very clear that any further extensions will be unlikely.

NON-UNIFORMED EMPLOYEE PENSION PLAN/WAIVER OF EMPLOYEE CONTRIBUTIONS FOR 2005 AND 2006 - Kline said that the pension plan is "actuarially solvent" and that employees will not have to make contributions for 2005 and 2006. He said that the plan earned 7% and that this resolution is required by the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement Board. It was approved in a 5:0 vote.

APPROVAL OF THE TOWNSHIP MANAGER JOB DESCRIPTION AS AN ADDENDUM TO ORDINANCE 244, DATED OCT. 16, 1997 AT PAGES 691-694, REPLACING PAGES 691-693 - Howell presented the near-final draft of the rewritten Township Manager job description to the Board. Ackerman and Nicholas took issue with the words "The Township Manager is the chief administrative officer of the Township and serves by Board appointment." After discussion it was agreed to shorten it to "The Township Manager serves by Board appointment." It was approved in a 5:0 vote and Kline will prepare the ordinance that modifies the job description and gets it (the ordinance) ready for advertisement. Also, a copy of it will be sent to each of the short list candidates who are still interested and available for the position. Also discussed was a policy change that will make it mandatory that all managers maintain their daily online appointment calendars. This policy change is effective immediately.

the ordinance was taken from a draft that the EAJSA prepared. He said that the cost will be $71K and that the DEP will reimburse the township for 50% of that but it could take years. "Don’t hold your breath," Kline added. Hay explained that if the leaks are fixed and storm and ground water are no longer seeping in, capacity of the sewage treatment plant will increase and the plant will not face a costly expansion as soon is it might be needed otherwise. Hay said that the plant currently receives about 1,000,000 gallons a day of unaccounted for water. Kline said that it will be much more cost effective to get that extra water out than it will be build a much larger plant. The study to find storm/ground water leaks into the Forks sewage lines was approved in a 5:0 vote.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - There was an executive session to discuss a personnel matter, a re-assessment tax appeal litigation, and the non-uniformed employees contract negotiations. No action was taken by the Board during the executive session.

A vote was taken after the session to accept the stipulation that Northampton County joined into to reduce the assessment on Knox Avenue Senior Associates from $900,000 to $485,700. It passed 5:0 and the meeting was adjourned.

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