Saturday, September 30, 2006

Must Read NY Times Editorial - H.R. 4772

On 9/29, the New York Times published a blockbuster editorial about an astounding bill before Congress. It's titled the Private Property Rights Implemention Act of 2006. According to the NYT, this Act gives developers the right to head straight to Federal court with zoning challenges, completely bypassing the State courts. Ultimately, local municipalities will be threatened (intimidated? overwhelmed?) with Federal lawsuits by developers when zoning is not to their liking.

Here in Forks, if this ill-named Act were now in place, there would be no Kings Mill (& partners) zoning challenge. In fact, we might not even know about it since it would go right over our local heads and directly to the Federal Court system. At least now, without the Private Property Rights Implementation Act of 2006, we can attend zoning hearings. There, we can see our government officials in action and testify with evidence to support our views. It's part of the democratic process. Heck, we even have our local officials' phone numbers and email addresses to use when we need them.

With this give-away of our rights Act, we would only be able to watch our town crumble into an over-crowded, unsightly, unfriendly mess.

Please contact our Congressman,
Charles Dent to express opposition to H.R. 4772, the bill that eliminates local municipalities' rights to zone for the good of the community! It's a quality of life issue for sure.

Dent - Washington DC Office
502 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
phone: 202-225-6411
fax: 202-226-0778

Dent - Lehigh Valley Office
701 West Broad Street, Suite 200
Bethlehem, PA 18018
phone: 610-861-9734
toll-free: 866-861-2624
fax: 610-861-9308

The bill was received in the Senate September 30, 2006:

H.R.4772 Title: To simplify and expedite access to the Federal courts for injured parties whose rights and privileges under the United States Constitution have been deprived by final actions of Federal agencies or other government officials or entities acting under color of State law, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep Chabot, Steve [OH-1] (introduced 2/16/2006) Cosponsors (36)

Related Bills: H.RES.1047, H.RES.1054

Latest Major Action: 9/30/2006 Received in the Senate.

House Reports: 109-658

It's important that Congressman Dent knows how you feel!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

BoS Meeting 9/21/06

The September 21st meeting of the Board of Supervisors began with a worksession to discuss the Township Manager duties and responsibilities and ended with an executive session to discuss personnel issues, non-uniformed employees contract negotiations, and the Township Manager applicants. Joe Nixon (Morning Call) reported extensively on the budget discussion. We will try to fill in the blanks.

Supervisor Comments:

  • Supervisor John Ackerman said that he attended the Twin Rivers COG meeting along with Supervisor David Howell on September 20th. Ackerman said that most of the discussion was about Emergency Management and that he and Howell will schedule a meeting with Tim Weis, Emergency Management Coordinator to go over many of the issues covered. Ackerman also said that recycling was discussed and one of the suggestions was that it be county-wide. He added that that won’t happen in the near future.
  • Supervisor Bonnie Nicholas presented Harry & Susan Bennett with a letter of appreciation from the Board for heading the steering committee for Forks Community Days and making it a success.

Nicholas also recognized Boy Scout Troop 29 with a letter of appreciation from the Board for all their Community Days work (the flag ceremony, helping vendors, and cleaning up garbage). The Bennetts presented the troop with a $200 donation saying that they performed above and beyond expectations.

Nicholas said that a lot of people asked her if
Community Days will be done again next year and she asked the Board if it would consider hosting it again next year. The Bennetts offered that Lockwood Congress residents will be willing to help (again) and that they really enjoyed it (this year.) Susan Bennett said that she and her husband will do it again and that she hopes that they have the same steering committee. She named Dean Turner, Bonnie Nicholas, Gary Sandt, Chief Dorney, and David Howell as being instrumental in this year’s success. The Board voted 5:0 to stage it again next year in the same time slot.

To view some snapshots of the festivities, click HERE.

  • Nicholas reported that she attended a Wildlands Conservancy program on the financial Benefits of Land Preservation presented by Stephen Small. She said that he discussed conservation easements and tax benefits. She offered copies of some of the literature for anyone who was interested.

  • Nicholas said that 2 people who paid for memorial plaques (new trees) do not like them. It was determined that the form was vague and the Board decided to fix the errors (5:0 vote) at Township expense ($185 each).

  • Nicholas said that she attended a Monday night Fire Department meeting and that it was interesting to see how they check all their equipment. She said that she got a "feel for one of their meetings."

  • Nicholas reported that there are roof leaks in the Municipal Building and that no one can reach Mr. Gale (former project manager). Howell noted that Mr. Gale is no longer in the Township’s employ and that some of the Board did not want him there any longer. Ackerman said that he showed the leaks and broken glass (out front) to the architects during the open house and that "they were really concerned" and were going to look into it. Ultimately it was decided that Pete Gheller (Facilities Manager) and Jim Farley (Finance Manager) will take the lead, find the warranty for the roofs, and see that the repairs are done.
  • 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 their meeting is on Wednesday at 5 PM and they will go to the fire department to check cameras. This meeting is open to the public.
    Howell asked if anyone knew what happened at the (EMS) meeting on Tuesday with Everitt Binns. Nicholas said that "we got a letter" 5 minutes before the meeting and she hasn’t had time to read it but the license appears not to be renewed yet since the finances are still unreported. Nicholas added that she will go over the letter with the safety meeting on Wednesday.
    • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - reported that the committee (Sandt, Nicholas, Ackerman, and Engineer Fred Hay) met a few weeks ago to go over projects that will begin soon. Hay noted that the contractor is "mobilizing" for the Frutchey Hill work. Ackerman said that Hay will report on the Meco Road signals in his Engineer’s report. Ackerman said too that the DPW is in "pretty good shape for the leaves to fall down." Nicholas noted that "Debi (Tindall - Administrative Assistant) put in for a grant for the leaf vac." The grant was not awarded and according to Sandt it was "something about not putting enough money towards it." Sandt said it will be resubmitted for the December 2nd "go round." He added that "she" has a letter from Grucela’s office about it. Hoff noted that recycling funds can be used.

      Howell asked if there as anything on the sign (for Sullivan Trail) and said he thought it would be on the agenda. Ackerman noted that it was a special item last meeting and it didn’t get on the agenda. Howell said that he thought the sign was to be installed in the REM (Recreational, Educational & Municipal) and if it’s TC (Town Center) then the zoning is wrong. Hay confirmed that if it’s owned by the Township, it should be REM. Weis said that he’s sure it is REM and that there must be a mistake on the map. Howell said that if it is REM that the sign meets all the specifications.

      Nicholas disagreed and read a section from the zoning ordinance describing internally lit signs as mandating white or clear lights only. Discussion ensued about internally lit signs as signs being encased in plastic and that this sign is an "informational" sign and not an internally lit sign. Weis (Zoning Officer) said that he ruled on this as a legal sign and that if the Board disagrees, it can be brought before the Zoning Hearing Board to challenge his ruling. Nicholas said that the outside of the sign must also be approved.

      There was discussion about paying for it and asking the vendor to store it until the site is prepared for installation. Nicholas said that it’s huge and there is stonework to be done. A vote to pay for the balance due on the sign passed 5:0. It will be installed temporarily until the exterior is done and then will be installed permanently. (The total cost for the sign is $62,000.)

    • 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 presented a written list of everything done in the parks. There was no discussion. As usual he detailed public programs. Miller said that there are three new programs: (1) country line dancing with 30 adults enrolled, (2) kick boxing has a small group signed up, and (3) the high school girls varsity fall basketball league. He commented that these programs "take up the slack until the winter sports start."

      Nicholas asked Miller if he was going to fill out the form for the Girls Scouts Go Green - Adopt A Park Day planned for March 31, 2007. She said that she guesses the Girl Scouts "are going to go around cleaning out parks and stuff." Nicholas asked Miller to "take care of that."

    • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - reported that the content is ready for the new quarterly publication, the layout is in progress, and are only 10 more ads to sell. He said that no ads have been purchased by Ace Hardware, Strausser Enterprises, Big Woody’s (can’t find any of the principals) or Goddard School (can’t find a contact). Weis said that he can provide the contact information for all of them including Quisnos. Howell said that he will approach them all for ads ("Get ‘em and I’ll get ‘em".)

      Ads have been purchased by Fat Daddy’s, PNC Bank (the Township’s bank), Easton Hospital (a full page), Hines & Kibblehouse, Crayola Factory, Earth-in-Hand, Edwin Stipe, Keystone Consulting, Karl Kline, Forks Marshall Arts, Klair Kennels, Mountain View Kennel, Pitchfork Nursery, Mr. Souders (sic) Law Office, Industrial Communications, Suburban Propane, and more. Of the developers working in Forks, only Tuskes Homes purchased an ad. Hay said that he will "work on" the others.

      Howell said that the Community Relations Committee will spend the rest of the year working on improving the Township’s website. He said that he got a lot of input from residents and the committee will begin to update the site and make it more accurate. Some of the additions will include links to bids, to equipment sales, and to employment opportunities. Howell also said that their last meeting was cancelled due to illness.

    • Finance & Administration - Supervisor Hoff - reported on the committee’s 9/13 meeting. He said that they discussed the computer system, content filtering, the budget, $5K from FEMA, and having Irene (Hess - Receptionist/Utility Billing) take the cash for permits.

      Farley said that the Township is obligated to renew its Sam’s Club membership because it did not give the required 60 days written notice. Four cards will be renewed, the Fire Chief’s, the Police Chief’s, the Facilities Manager’s, and the office Administrative Assistant’s. The Board approved this 5:0. Farley will maintain oversight of the cards and purchases.

      There was minimal discussion of USA Architect’s $20K bill. According to Farley it is for additional work on the Municipal Complex project and would normally have been brought before the Board as a change-order. It will be an agenda item at the next meeting.

    Engineer’s Report - Fred Hay - reported that he met with Mr. Murgia the Friday after the last meeting and will put in another gabion basket in which should take care of Murgia’s problem.

    The plans from the traffic engineer for the Meco Road light were received and processing has begun (Penn Dot time). Hay said that the only change he did was to add the sidewalk on the Met-Ed side which was missing from the plan. He added that people will be able to walk on the bikepath from Lafayette Park, cross Meco, down the sidewalk along Met-Ed, cross the street at Leiser’s and get back on the bikepath.

    Hay reported receiving a letter from Wendy Lagon (sic) about lowering the speed limit on Richmond (at Winchester). He said that PennDot will do a study but wants the Township to maintain the signs should the speed limit be lowered. Sandt offered that signs for every area that is lower than 45 mph must be installed and maintained by the Township. Hay said that he will report on the study as an agenda item at the next meeting. He doesn’t know the range of Richmond that they will study and offered that everything past Newlins is rural.

    Nicholas asked what was going on with the striping at Arndt and Bushkill and Hay said that he will contact PennDot and find out.

    Hoff asked about the Zucksville Road light. Hay said that "they are getting there" but they still have to provide Nehoda with a driveway and to get an easement for offsite stormwater. ("They" are Posh & Zawarski we believe.)

    Hay said too that 3 of the 4 quadrants at Sullivan and Uhlers are being developed and that PennDot was told that the Township would help the Forks Landing developer get a grade easement on the Palmeri side. Hay said that he would like to get all three developers together at once to get the intersection done right. Ackerman offered that the "guy" isn’t going to develop that corner now. The Board voted 5:0 to help Forks Landing get the grading easement (on the right of way).

    Nicholas confirmed that Certificates of Occupancy for businesses in Townes I will not be given out until the lights are installed.

    Howell asked what was going to happen to the light at the old Laneco. Hay said that it will be re-timed and that eventually the Township will be able to re-time all of the lights from a computer.

    Solicitor’s Report - Steven Goudsouzian - said that the grocery zoning challenge hearing is scheduled for October 23rd at 7:30 PM.

    Howell reported that at the Twin Rivers COG meeting Senate Bill 1257 and House Bill 2880 were discussed. He said that they are about cable franchising and are not in the best interest of the Township. The bills would remove a municipality’s freedom to negotiate franchises as well as its right to require that cable companies build out the township. The COG also endorses opposition to the bills.

    A 5:0 vote was taken to send letters to Senator Wonderling and Representative Grucela.


    TOWNSHIP MANAGER POSITION - The question before the Board was whether or not to extend the application deadline for the position. Forty eight applications were received (one was withdrawn leaving 47.) The Board agreed to not extend the deadline at this time and to discuss the applications in Executive Session. Howell thought that there is a good group of applicants (of 10 or so) to interview.

    Another workshop was set for 10/5/06 at 6:30 PM to finish work on the job description and responsibilities.

    RIVERVIEW - EXTENSION OF TIME/RESOLUTION - Goudsouzian said that there are a number of items outstanding in the Riverview project and that he spoke with the developer’s representative and emailed a copy of Hay’s list to him. To date there has been no response to the email.

    Goudsouzian recommended that the Board hold off voting on the resolution before them for the until after the developer gives written agreement to finish the outstanding issues. Hay said that the items on the list are part of the PRD for Riverview and if they are not completed and no time extension is granted (by the Township) the zoning reverts back to what it was before (CR?) and Strausser will not be allowed the density he planned. Hay added that "this is the only way to get Gary to do anything."

    Strausser Enterprises’ accounts are in arrears (to the Township) and its escrow account must be replenished ($55K). The term discussed to complete the outstanding issues was 180 days and 30 days for all monies in arrears as well as replenishment of the escrow account. The extension will not be granted until the list is completed.

    Hoff said that the list includes State and possibly Federal issues like ADA compliance for the clubhouse and for the pavilion. Weis said that the State will not prevent the clubhouse from being opened if they are out of compliance but will not fine them or shut them down for 2 years.

    Howell asked if double yellow striping on Winchester Drive could be added to the list since cars are still going up the middle of the road and if Strausser won’t do it, could the Township do it and add it to Strausser’s tab? Hay thought that can be done.

    The vote was 5:0 to authorize the solicitor to request the developer to sign. If he does sign, then the Board can pass the resolution with the time table for work to be completed and monies paid. After the work is done and the monies paid, the developer will be allowed to come before the Board to ask for a time extension.


    BUDGET CALENDAR - The budget calendar dates were discussed and agreed to in a 5:0 vote. The calendar will be put on the Township website.

    APPROVAL OF MINIMUM MUNICIPAL OBLIGATION WORKSHEETS/POLICE & NON-UNIFORM PENSION PLANS - Farley explained that the Township provided the State with wage figures based on earnings for the 1st three quarters plus an estimate of the last quarter. The State then provided the figures needed. The uniformed budget was over estimated by $5K and the non-uniform budget was underestimated by $26K.

    The Board voted 5:0 to fund the pension plan obligations and 5:0 to amend the 2006 non-uniform pension budget.

    EXECUTIVE SESSION - There was an executive session to discuss the Township Manager applications, a personnel matter, and the non-uniform negotiations. 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.

    Sunday, September 17, 2006

    The PC Sees It First! The Grocery Is Weis

    At the 9/14 meeting of the Planning Commission, among the regular agenda items, was the first presentation of the grocery wannabee. Weis Market was it. The representatives from SamCar and from Weis described a new shopping experience with their proposed new store at Sullivan Trail and Uhler Road.

    The Planning Commissioners asked questions, discussed traffic, and made promises to demand an appropriate architectural look.

    The plan as presented was not the same as the plan submitted to the Township and because of that, the planners voted to "not accept" the submitted plans. The clock will start ticking (on the process) when the plans are accepted by the PC.

    Please read Nixon (Morning Call) and Lomax (Express Times) for more on the Weis proposal for Forks.

    The other projects on the 9/14 PC agenda have been updated on the FAC news page. They include Forks Landing Business Park, Courts At Newlins Road, and Jacobs Farm II.

    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.

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Grocery Zoning Appeal

    This appeal to the grocery zoning ordinance has been filed with the township. More to come when more is known!

    Forks Township Manager Opening Advertised

    This advertisement appeared in the local papers recently. If you've got your resumes dusted off and polished, why not go for it? Good luck!

    Sunday, September 03, 2006

    BoS Special EMS Meeting - 8/28/06

    On Monday, August 28th the Board of Supervisors held a special meeting to decide which company, Forks EMS or Suburban EMS would be the designated provider for the term beginning 9/1/2006. Sarah Mausolf (Express Times) and Joe Nixon (Morning Call) were there and their articles are must reads as is this editorial in the 9/3/06 Express Times. There was no printed agenda.

    Payment for the new fire truck was the first order of business. Solicitor Karl Kline explained that the application for the PEMA loan was submitted last week and the State will notify him as well as the fire department if the loan is approved.

    The Township must then enact an ordinance for the debt. The new ordinance will have to be approved by the State because it is for additional debt. And, after that the Township can close on the PEMA loan.

    Because of the imminent deadline (the truck is ready for inspection and delivery) the Township must make a loan to the fire department of the balance needed. There is $185,160 in the truck accrual fund. The amount due to the truck manufacturer is $210,789.92. The shortfall will be made up with money from an expense accrual account.

    The PEMA loan amount will be for $100,000 and when the money arrives, it will replace the money used from the Township accounts.

    The vote was 5:0 to authorize writing a check for $210,789.92. Supervisors Howell and Miller will sign the check on Tuesday so that (2) fire company representatives can take it with them on their trip to inspect (and pay for) the truck.

    Forks Township EMS Squad - Supervisor Nicholas said that Forks EMS attended the last Public Safety Committee meeting and presented a letter with "monthly and annual amounts" to the committee. Nicholas added that a Mr. Bartholomew from Keystone Nazareth Bank & Trust called her on Friday but she did not get his phone call.

    Bill Keifer, newly elected president of the Forks EMS board of directors addressed the Supervisors. Keifer said that they put out a call to "life members" who came to an August 10 meeting and elected the new board: Judy Arnold - vice president, Carol Warner - treasurer, Dotty Yautz - secretary, Jeff Hunt - member-at-large, Robert Kimmel - captain, and Thomas Lamontage (sic) - assistant captain.

    Keifer talked about the hand-off to Suburban EMS when the squad closed its doors in July because of mismanagement. Keifer said that there were things he could not talk about because of the ongoing police investigation. He did say that when the doors were closed, they had a 60 day time limit in their minds for when they could put a plan together and start providing service to Forks again.

    In their plan, the squad would begin 24 hour ALS service on September 11. And, once the doors are reopened they will work with the "transports" that they had before - in one 12 hour shift. The plan rules out long distance transports since in their analysis, long distance travel costs them money and runs down the vehicles. Keifer said that they have very few records from the last administration. Life member John Kuhns (sic), public accountant, has volunteered to restructure the squad’s finances.

    To work this plan, the squad will need 18 paid employees in addition to their 10 volunteers. The will save some money by handling their own phone calls for transports and not using a service. Their vehicles are being brought into working condition by Frick (inspections) and Brown Daub Ford (repairs).

    Keifer said that KNBT met with them regarding their loan. He also said that they owe $27,423.31 on their 2% PEMA loan and that no payments have been made since September 2005. The payments are $460/mth and they are going to make a payment and a half ($690) as a good faith payment right now. Keifer said too, that there is a paydown grant of $5,496 that has been approved but not issued. Paperwork must be changed because Cory Dailey’s name is on it. After the paperwork is corrected it will take about 3 weeks to get the money and that money will go directly to the loan and make it current.

    Keifer said that approximately $30K has come in since July and it has been used to make up back wages and pay current payrolls. He said too, that Cetronia (under contract to do the squad’s dispatching and billing at the rate of $14K/mth) has not been paid for 3 months and because Cory Dailey’s name is on their contract as the authorized contract, has shut them off. Sweet Billing, another contract billing company that they used has been sending them payments. Keifer said that the did not know why Cetronia charged so much. To his knowledge, there is $230K in uncollected receivables at Cetronia and $490K at Sweet Billing. The squad hopes to collect $125K of it.

    The squad’s total outstanding debt is $278,000. Most of that is for long term loans.

    Dr. Everitt Binns, executive director of the Eastern PA EMS Council addressed the Board and said that he is responsible for recommending to the Council whether or not Forks EMS’ license should be suspended. He said that the squad had a State license to provide 24/7 ALS and BLS service and violated and broke the law by not giving a 90 day notice (before closing their doors) and that he will recommend that the license be suspended.

    Binns said that his department provides (free) help to squads to develop sound business/financial plans. He said that it could take 60-90 days and that once he approves of the plan, he will recommend that the license be reinstated. He does not know yet whether that recommendation will be for BLS, ALS, or both.

    Binns was asked if the Council ever ruled against his recommendation. He said that they did once and that was in the granting of a license to the Forks squad. Binns said that he predicted that they would be out of business in 4/5 years. He was wrong by one month.

    Nicholas asked what could be done about subscriptions for Forks residents. Kline said that according the letter he received from Suburban’s lawyer, one of the options is that Forks EMS and Suburban EMS could conduct a joint subscription drive where the money collected would go to an accrual account and be drawn out (1/12) monthly by whichever squad is the provider. Currently that would be Suburban.

    Keifer noted that Suburban is using the Forks facility free of charge (at the moment) and because of that there are increased expenses. Kline suggested that some of the subscription money could be allocated as rent and that it wouldn’t mean that Forks EMS is operating without a license.

    A motion was made that if the EMS Council backs the squad’s plan and the squad is re-licensed that Forks Supervisors will back the Forks squad. It passed 4:0 (Hoff abstained because of a potential conflict.)

    There was no Executive Session 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.