PRESENTATION/POLICE DEPARTMENT ACCREDITATION
Immediately after the MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING were approved, Dick Hammond (President of the Accreditation Department), representing the PA Chiefs of Police presented Forks Police Department with its hard earned Accreditation Certificate. Hammond said that Forks was the 34th in the State to attain accreditation since the program began in 2001. He detailed how difficult a task it is to meet the 134 standards and directives and that this was indeed something to be very proud of.
Most (if not all) of Forks’ officers were there, even Sunny, the K-9 corps. It was a special event for sure. Chief Greg Dorney accepted the award on behalf of the department and then gave it to Officer Jim Rowden to present to the rest of the department saying that Rowden earned it. Rowden told the officers that they put up with him and made the changes and that the certificate was more theirs than his. Yes, there was a spontaneous standing ovation for a job well done.
SUPERVISORS, MANAGERS, & DEPARTMENT REPORTS
- Supervisor David Hoff reported that the Administration and Finance Committee met last week and started work on job descriptions as well as set some goals and objectives. The committee will meet again next week.
- Supervisor Bonnie Nicholas reported that the Public Safety Committee met and that is was good timing since two key members of the rescue squad quit (the squad). She added that the emergency squad has assured her that the Township has 24 hour coverage. The committee will be meeting every fourth Wednesday. She said that Chief Dorney has given her a two page list of goals.
- Supervisor David Howell noted that the Community Relations Committee has not yet met formally but that he has been very active attending meetings in neighboring communities. He said that he has received numerous calls from Forks residents about the closing of the Eddyside pool and that he would like to assist Easton by working with Miller and Kichline to publicize the pools availability to Forks residents and getting an idea of an approximate number of Forks residents who might purchase season passes. This would show Easton that the pool can be self-sustaining. It is the largest and (last year, was) the most profitable Easton pool. Howell said that he intends to approach the Forks Athletic Association (800-1000 members) about it too.
- Supervisor Don Miller said that the Public Safety Committee Meeting was very productive and he is pleased with the way things are turning out in such a short time. He stated too that the Community Center is still very busy and that they are still in the middle of their winter sports activities.
- Supervisor John Ackerman said that Public Works held its second meeting and that it will be meeting every two weeks for a while because of the heavy spring load coming up. The committee has gone over the some of the major projects that they intend to take on during the summer.
- Township Manager Cathy Kichline said that the official kickoff meeting of the Community Day Committee will be on 2/27/06 in the Municipal Building. She added that Mr. Couch is doing a wonderful job organizing and getting people together. She also announced that there will be a public sale of leftover furniture, filing cabinets, etc. in the old Municipal Building on Friday, February 24th from 8 AM to 2 PM. Whatever is purchased that day must be taken away that day.
- Chief Dorney stated that he thought the Public Safety meeting was much needed and went well.
- Zoning Officer/Emergency Management Co-ordinator Tim Weis said that the Township hosted testing for the NIMS program and that 24 employees participated and passed.
- Engineer Fred Hay gave an update on the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) Draft 167 (the stormwater ordinance) saying that it follows the newly enacted State law for water quality. The LVPC is asking for comments which they will incorporate and then redistribute.
- Hay asked the Board how they want to handle the Certificate of Occupancy (CO) for Ace Hardware in Towns I since it is getting ready to open in April. He added that there is no PennDot permit for the Zucksville Sullivan Trail intersection yet. Ackerman asked if its not the developer holding it up but PennDot? Hay said he thought it was both. Hay said that the developer’s engineer made a submission to PennDot in October 2005 and is sending revised plans on Tuesday. Ackerman said that he thought they should not get the CO since there is no access and traffic will likely bottleneck without a light. Hoff offered that without knowing if the CO would allow access to employees to prepare the building, that he can’t vote no.
Nicholas asked Solicitor Karl Kline what the Township’s liability will be if they give the CO without PennDot’s approval. Kline explained that they need a highway occupancy permit in order to use the intersection. And, he added that the developer hasn’t done what needs to be done in order to get the CO from PennDot and although they can build a building, they do not have the right to bring any traffic to or from Sullivan Trail.
Howell said that without a PennDot CO, he wouldn’t recommend giving them a CO for the building. Howell added that the difficulty is that he doesn’t think "the developer has a plan for how he is going to control traffic of customers and traffic of other construction vehicles that are going to do the townhomes, the Goddard School, the retail building, the bank, and Walgreens." Howell said that mixing pedestrian retail traffic, construction traffic, and an unregulated piece of highway is dangerous.
Miller wondered if the State would grant a permit without the traffic light? Kline replied that they have to issue a permit in order to approve the building of the intersection. Kline said that initially the developer’s plan did not contain a left turn lane for Zucksville traffic heading east. At the time of the approval, the Township took the position that they had to submit a "supplemental" to have the left turn lane. They cannot put the light in until the traffic plan is approved. Ackerman said, "No CO, no go."
Nicholas asked Kichline when the "card key system" would be turned over to Dorney. Dorney said that he has the record keeping already and that he now just needs training.
COMMENTS FROM THE FLOOR (NOT AGENDA ITEMS)
- Resident Bill Carver said that he is concerned about the EMS situation in the Township. He said he has more knowledge about this than most because he is in the "business." He reminded the Board that he appeared before them last November to express his concerns about the company operating in the red. He asked then about their financial situation. Nicholas said that they (EMS) will be handing in an audit for the next meeting and that they have contacted their attorney, Gary Asteak, to verify that everything is in accordance with their bylaws. She added that they have guaranteed the Township that there is 24 hour coverage. She said that there has been a change in the leadership and that Cetronia has been hired to collect their billing.
- Resident Fritz Weide asked if the Board was going to discuss the Zoning Ordinance. Ackerman said that hearings have already been held and that the vote is on the agenda. Weide said that he read the summary (from Charlie Schmehl of URDC) and that he has a "sneaky suspicion that they are trying to ramrod something through the backdoor." He was assured by Ackerman that there were not a lot of changes between the old and new zoning but that what was done was to take the contradictions with SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance) out of the zoning. Ackerman added that the major change was from 2 to 3 acre minimum lots in the FP. Weide said that he thinks that somehow we are trying to slow down the development in the Township and if he’s reading the summary correctly, it is just the opposite - cram in as many houses as you can. Weide asked if the LVPC was an authority to the Board. Ackerman said that they recommend but that they are not an authority. Weide said that they (LVPC) are recommending nothing that seems beneficial to Forks Township.
BRADEN AIRPARK TWELVE YEAR PLAN UPDATE - George Doughty, Executive Director of the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority spoke on their annual 12 year plan submittal. He said that some projects are completed including improvements to the runway. He detailed a list of items from their report including a plan to rehabilitate the terminal building, add additional T-hangars, and add an automated weather observation system. He explained that the weather at Braden can be different than the weather at Lehigh Valley and Queen City (airports) and that they need the weather observation system there.
Nicholas asked if there were any drawings for any of the improvements and she reminded Doughty that no expansion is to be made. She said that she has no problem with safety equipment but does not want to see any expansion of the airport. Howell commented that he will support any work that promotes safety at the airport. Howell asked if the lights at the athletic fields at Lafayette College cause any problems for the pilots. Doughty said that from time to time people are concerned about the lights and that if they were being designed today, they would be shielded differently.
Kline asked if is it correct that there is nothing in the proposal that calls for any expansion of any runway? Doughty said, "That’s correct." Kline then asked if there was anything in the plan that would increase the size of planes using the airport? Doughty responded that the size of the aircraft is restricted by the agreement. Howell asked if the airport authority has any restrictions on advertising on its property. Doughty said that they have restrictions on posters and displays. Howell suggested that the advertisement for the laundry (on the south hangar) is inappropriate on an authority building. Doughty said that he will look into it.
COLLEGE PARK SUBDIVISION/DEVELOPER’S AGREEMENTS - Kline said that the Township has received all of the developer’s agreements, a $2.3 million Letter of Credit, and the funds for the escrow account. He also noted that the Township has the deed for the 5 acres of land adjacent to the Township park that will be dedicated to the Township for recreation purposes. Kline said that all was in order and the Board approved the agreements with a 5:0 vote.
REVIEW RESPONSE LETTER TO LVPC RE: FORKS TOWNSHIP ZONING ORDINANCE - Kline gave background and noted that the process to create a new zoning ordinance is quite detailed and there are specific requirements under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (MPC). The Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors worked with consultant Charlie Schmehl of Urban Research & Development Corporation (URDC) to come up with the draft of the new ordinance. Kline said that it is in large part an evolution from what the Township had before and that the zoning map remains unchanged. He said that things were "tightened up" and that minimum lot sizes for all districts were increased.
Next the Planning Commission held a public hearing where Mr. Schmehl was present and gave a summary of the ordinance as well as answered questions. The PC then voted to recommend adoption to the BoS. The BoS then held a public hearing again with Mr. Schmehl present to outline the ordinance and to answer questions.
Kline further stated that a copy of the draft ordinance was then sent to the LVPC for their review. Their professional planners make recommendations and give advice. The Township though, is not required to follow it. The LVPC took the position that under the LV Plan, medium density development is called for in Forks Township including the FP district. Mr. Schmehl prepared a response for the Township. Kline said that the letter is well written and provides sound reasons why the Township decided to move in the direction it did over the LV Plan. Kline said that it is a good idea to send a letter prepared by the Board to the LVPC.
Hoff said that he is fine with Schmehl’s letter but he thinks the Zoning Ordinance should be approved before the response is. Nicholas said that she felt that Schmehl did a very good job but she wanted to know if Kline wanted to add anything "legal" to it. Kline said that he thought Schmehl’s draft provides an excellent "basis for the letter." He thought that there were several comments by members of the PC that had merit that could be added as well as some legal aspects. Kline suggested that if the Board approves the ordinance, that he be authorized to prepare a letter (for signature by the Chairman on behalf of the Board.)
Howell said that the LVPC wants it to be a little denser here but that our Comprehensive Plan restricts density. He said that he feels comfortable that this is the appropriate response to them. Miller felt that sending Schmehl’s letter along with Kline’s is the right response.
ZONING ORDINANCE ADOPTION - Nicholas said that the Board had correspondence from a resident who wants a berm between the housing developments and Town Center. Nicholas felt that the ordinance should be adopted and then a couple of amendments should be added to it. Ackerman said that there were other suggestions between the PC and the Board for amendments and that their Minutes should be checked and amendments written. Howell said that signage and buffer zones for bars and restaurants (not in the zoning) need to be provided for too.
Hoff said that a lot of time was spent on it and a lot of input was given. Hoff said that he hopes that this will get "cluster" housing but is not sure that the ordinance will accomplish that. He is hoping that it’s a step in the right direction. Nicholas agreed that there was a lot of work done on it but it needs to be "tweaked" a little bit. Miller said that this was the majority recommendation from everyone in the meetings over the last year. Ackerman said that he agreed with 99% of it and that he attended every meeting. He said too that he was the only one against the 3 acre minimum lot size provision; he felt that it was a waste of land. It passed in a 4:1 vote with Ackerman dissenting.
Kline was directed to draft a letter using Charlie Schmehl’s draft and to present it to the Board at the next meeting.
TRAFFIC/TRANSPORTATION - Howell explained that this item was placed on the agenda because of emails and phone calls he has received from residents living at and around the intersection of Kesslersville and Newlins Roads. He said that truck traffic is increasing in our Township to an alarming level. He said that there is not much that the Board can do about it other than to manage it. He added that there is a lack of a defined plan and a lack of signage.
Howell said that trucks looking for the industrial park turn from 115 onto Meco to go north and that is purely the result of a lack of signage. He said that Kesslersville Road has become a short cut for Waste Management truckers who are using it as a through route/shortcut to their Wind Gap facility. Howell described the 4 truck convoys they form around 13th street in Easton. He said that in the space of one half hour, residents at the Kesslersvile/Newlins intersection counted as many as 23 Waste Management trucks. Howell said that he knows that Kesslersville Road is a State road but that historically it was treated as a residential road up to the industrial park. He knows too that State roads require study, PennDot approvals, and ordinances. He hopes that the Township can start the process now.
Howell said that there is a long passing zone near Jacob’s Farm, where senior citizens live (near the industrial park.) Howell said that he’s watched as "cowboy truck drivers" roll right through the Kesslersville/Newlins intersection on their way north. They have a clear line of sight for Newlins and don’t want to waste the time going through 8 gears. Howell stated that he feels that a study should begin now using the Public Safety and the Public Works Committees to design and designate truck routes.
He also said that someone should contact Waste Management and tell them that Kesslersville is not the shortcut to Wind Gap. Ackerman directed Kichline to give Howell a copy of the Township’s Traffic Study. He added that there is a lot of truck traffic from construction equipment as well as to the businesses in Forks. Ackerman said that "local deliveries have increased and are tearing up our local roads." He said too that Kesslersville is a "truck route." Howell noted that he hopes that can be overcome. He said that Kline did a great job maintaining the Township’s right to close entrances from industrial land onto Newlins, a residential road.
Kline said that even on Township roads studies must be done first to justify signs. As for State roads, they must ask PennDot if they will allow Forks to install the signs. He suggested that Forks offer to pay for them. He said that Forks can’t just prohibit trucks or impose weight limits without both the traffic and engineering studies to warrant it. Again Howell said that this should be started now since it’s only going to get worse especially with the new industrial development to come.
Ackerman said that signage is very important since the truckers from out of the area do not know where to go and often have to turn around after asking for directions at his business. Nicholas said that she is on both committees and will address signs in both. Hay said that directional signs can be added. Howell asked if there will be a light at the Kesslersville/Braden intersection and Hay said that there isn't one in the plan as of now.
BUDGET REVIEW OF 2005 GENERAL FUND/Analysis of Material variances - Kichline explained that this is a preliminary review and not an audited one. Finance Manager Jim Farley said that they did an analysis for the year (2005) and that the significant variances include increased interest earnings of $23K, increased revenues to the Community Center (up $95K over the anticipated amount), and a higher E.I.T. collection fee ($10K from EASD).
The Metzgar and Zucksville properties were not rented for the full year resulting in a shortfall of $10K. Interim tax revenues were about $30K less than expected but will be regained in 2006 (there were delays in interim tax bills). The Township spent more on advertising than planned. Engineering expenses exceeded budget due to extra traffic studies and the Gollub Park project. The construction manager compensation was over budget due to delays in the project. The Community Center expenses were $12K over budget due to increased programs (which brought in increased revenues). Farley said that the biggest over-expenditure for 2005 was fuel.
Farley noted that some of the Township’s costs were reduced in 2005 including the Solicitor cost. Healthcare costs were reduced by a $140K refund. The net bottom line is that in 2005 the Township took in more money than it spent.
Hoff remarked that what is going on at the Community Center is very good. Nicholas also commended Miller for doing a good job. She then asked if there were plans for the wrestling building. Miller said that the Township has a contract with Mr. Ferraro (sic) and that he has not been using it and that the Board should ask Kline to write a letter withdrawing the contract. Ackerman noted that he is not paying his rent either.
Howell seconded the remarks of Hoff and Nicholas regarding Miller’s performance with the Community Center. He asked the Board to change Miller’s title from Community Center Manager to Director of Parks and Recreation. Kline offered that "you can call him anything you want." Howell said that the job description will not change nor will his salary. Ackerman asked how it is defined since Parks comes under Public Works. Howell said that it shouldn’t be a "turf" issue since "there is a park out there" and that athletic programs are held there.
Nicholas wanted to know what the job description is. It was explained that it’s a title change and not a job change. Miller’s title change passed in a 5:0 vote (actually a 4 to 0 vote with Nicholas not voting - Howell explained that when a Supervisor does not vote it is considered an affirmative vote). Nicholas expressed concern about the wage for a "director" in the future. She thought that the auditors are going to see the new title and compare it to other directors and that it could influence their decision when setting wages. Kline said that the Board establishes the job description and that the Board can make a recommendation to the auditors. Kline said that he believes that since they meet only once a year, they would welcome some guidance.
RECLASS OF 2006 BUDGET - Farley said that this is a request for an amendment to the 2006 budget. The Township received its first Twin Rivers billing of 2006 (for the bond.) In the contract, Twin Rivers has the opportunity to change the principal and interest split every three years. The net payout for 2006 has been reduced by $11K. Howell asked if this was because of an interest rate change. Farley replied that it changed from 1.55% to 2.89% (or 2.99%). The Board voted 5:0 to allow the reclassification.
EXECUTIVE SESSION - After a long session to discuss several personnel issues as well as a possible litigation, the meeting was adjourned. No action was taken during the Executive Session.
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.