Sunday, May 20, 2007

BoS Meeting 5/17/2007

The May 17, 2007 Board of Supervisors meeting once again ended with an Executive Session to discuss "litigation" as well as the non-uniformed employees' wage negotiations. Both Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call) and Courtney Lomax (Express Times) covered the most controversial meeting discussion - the proposed T-Mobile cell tower in the park. (Joe Nixon (Morning Call) also covered the proposal in articles on both January 23, 2007 and January 25, 2007!)

Supervisors Comments

Supervisor Nicholas announced that the Forks Days committee is still looking for a secretary to take minutes at their remaining 6 meetings. Harry Bennett, Chairman said that the pay is the same as last year but could be "increased by one more zero." The next meeting is Monday night at 7:00 PM in the Community Center.

Nicholas also asked about the status of the cell tower. Chairman Hoff said that it will be in the Finance and Administration report later in the meeting. Nicholas asked about the status of a projector for the meeting room (ans. - Chairman Hoff said that it's in committee), about voting in the schools (ans. Hoff said that the County wants to keep voting in schools and Supervisor Howell said that the County declined the Township's offer to use the Municipal Building), and about why so much of June Vail's tax report was handwritten (ans. - Finance Manager Jim Farley said that she "chooses" to do it that way.)

Supervisor Miller said that he has been meeting with DPW director, Mark Roberts for tours of the parks and recreation facilities in order to prepare a list of future projects. He further announced that there are 140 teams in the summer basketball program.

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

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas reported that the next meeting will be Tuesday at 5:00 PM and that the committee will be working on the EOP and Forks EMS. William Keifer, President of Forks EMS presented the Board with the first of the squad's monthly reports and briefed the Board on its contents:
    • The squad has been providing 24/7 BLS coverage since April 1st. They had 53 BLS call, assisted on 27 ALS calls, and did 2 medical transports.
    • Financing has been secured with First Star Bank - debts to KNBT, PA workman's comp, and PA unemployment were paid and there is a $50,000 line of credit in place.
    • The squad's new billing company, First States Financial (sic), is already providing revenues - payroll is being met with the money in the bank.
    • There were unexpected vehicle repairs necessary as a result of the (diesel) fleet being idle for so long.
    • The theft loss was paid by the insurance company.
    • Stockertown Council has okayed using Forks EMS for BLS service.
    • The monthly EMS reports will be in the Supervisors' packets going forward. Hoff noted that questions about the "IRS situation" and shared money with Suburban EMS will be discussed at the Tuesday meeting.
  • Nicholas asked Schnaedter about the camera for the parking lot and was advised that the vendor hopes to have it installed the first week of June. She also expressed thanks to all the firemen for their work in the last month and extended thanks to their employers who let them leave their jobs to fight fires. She suggested that the Township send a letter of thanks to these companies.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman said that he would provide DPW Director Mark Roberts' report to anyone who wanted to see it. He said that Roberts prepared a good report.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - Miller gave no committee report. His announcements have been moved to Supervisors' Comments above.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell said that the committee's next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 23 at 4:45 PM. Howell said that he met with Schnaedter to discuss the webcam and that Schnaedter will report on the progress to date in his report.
  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff said that the committee met on May 9 to discuss the purchasing policy as well as bidding procedures - for budgeted items - and that both are on the agenda. He also said that he received a "disaster recovery proposal" from Hodges Technologies - for the computer system - and that it will be reviewed further. Barb Bartek has taken the lead on the Township drop box and there will be new on soon. It will be twice the size of the existing one, be more secure, and, unless it's raining sideways, will keep the contents dry. Hoff next said that the committee wanted an expression of interest/disinterest from the Board on the cell tower. He said that they had the requested updated agreement from T-Mobile and had lots of research from other communities that have towers. The committee will stop discussions with T-Mobile if the Board is not interested in having the tower in the park or continue if the Board wants it.
    • Nicholas said that she had no information in order to base an opinion.
    • Ackerman said that T-Mobile should come and make a presentation to the Board at a public meeting and that the Board should hold a workshop to visit the site.
    • Howell said that he is on record as being opposed to the cell tower in Forks' public park. He said that T-Mobile only approached the Township and no one else. The "hot spot" is near the Community Center - between the new parks garage and the old Laneco. Howell said that it would be a detriment to developing the old Laneco property and that a special exception from the Zoning Hearing Board is required. He said that the footprint would straddle the parkland and the Laneco and would be visible from Sullivan Trail, everywhere in the park, and from the Municipal Building. He shared photos that he took of cell towers along Route 78 with the Board. Howell said too, that it should be on private land and not the "people's park." He felt that a workshop is unnecessary and that there should be a public meeting to discuss it. He said he "wouldn't mind an up and down vote right now."
    • Miller thought that the Board should visit the site. He remarked that the Supervisors used to tour the Township with the public works director and township manager to look at all the roads and parks see what problems were there. Miller said that T-Mobile could approach a private landowner 10 feet from the edge of the park and then the Township would not see any money from it. He said losing two trees was no big deal because the $10,000 or $20,000 would buy a lot of trees.
    • Howell said that the site would be more than just a tower since it would need a road as well as a truck turn-around.
    • Jim Wideman (resident, former PC member, and current Supervisor candidate) said that the Township is trying to resurrect the Laneco site and the cell tower would be a "150 foot visual detractor" and that the Township "may as well get used to the property being empty." He said too, that a 150 foot tower will be a problem for (airport) air space and that it should go in the industrial park or near an existing tower.
    • Schnaedter will have the site staked out and the Supervisors will tour it before the June 7th meeting.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter said that the Township received a letter from the LVPC stating that it is holding a public meeting on May 24 to discuss the final draft of the Lehigh Valley Greenway Plan. (Nicholas asked for a copy of the 120 page document.) Schnaedter also said that he attended a Met-Ed rate meeting where they proposed a 5-1/2% rate increase on municipal street lighting. It's not finalized yet and the Township currently has $40,000 in the budget for lighting. There will be a meeting with a representative later this month for more details. Schnaedter also said that the Community Relations committee met with representatives from Virtual Systems, the company that designed the webcam/operating system for Emmaus. The cost is more than originally thought. And, because they want to modify the website as well, the current website designer has been invited to also give a proposal. ... As to the "milling machine," Schnaedter is waiting to hear from Lower Nazareth.

Engineer's Report - None

Solicitor's Report - Solicitor Kline said that the low interest PEMA (fire truck) loan closing is set for May 24, 2007.

Comments from the floor - Resident Ken Nagy told the Board that the Laneco property has been empty far too long and that the Board should call the LVEDC and ask them "why?" Nicholas said that Schnaedter should make the call. Nagy was told that the property has an owner and an approved plan. Nagy said that it would make a great backup data center for NYC.

Nagy further said that there is plenty of money in the County for recreation and that Forks pays .5 mil to the County and gets nothing in return. The cities of Easton and Bethlehem are getting $1.7 million for recreation - both are really "economic development" according to Nagy. Five years ago, Forks got $200,000 and has been ineligible since then for more until other municipalities get money. Nagy told the Board that no more money should go to the County and that the .5 mill should be kept and used in Forks. He added that the open space program is creating estates and buffer zones around homes - the land is not open to the public. No County parks have been created. Nagy said that Phillipsburg, NJ successfully pulled out of the Warren County open space program.

Miller asked Kline to look into it. Nicholas asked Farley how much money is sent to the County and was told $300,000 to $400,000. Nagy said that both Bethlehem Township and Forks are cash cows (to the County.)

Ackerman said that he should have mention the hazardous condition of the house on Newlins and Richmond - the one that the fire company has been using for training - during the Public Works section. He said that there was a recent arrest there. He believes the house should come down. Police Chief Dorney confirmed that there have been sporadic issues there as well as an arrest. Fire Chief Bryan Weis said that the DPW has secured the site and that the fire company has classes scheduled there for June and that they are needed for their accreditation efforts. He asked if it could remain there until the end of June and was told that it can.


RIVERVIEW ESTATES/CONDITIONS OF TIME EXTENSION/RESOLUTION - Kline explained that Strausser Enterprises was to have submitted final plans for all phases of the Riverview Estates development by 4/20/06 and because Strausser failed to do that, he loses his right to the PRD that was initially approved. (Note: In the new Zoning Ordinance, there is no PRD). The developer has filed plans for phase 6 but not for 5 and 4A (the country inn). Keystone Engineering has a punch list of deficiencies for phases 2, 2A, 2C (clubhouse) as well as phases 3 & 4. This resolution gives Strausser an extension to November 30, 2007 to clean up all the deficiencies, to execute the agreement for phase 7 (100 townhouses along Frost Hollow), to provide the necessary security for phase 7, and to deed the one acre parcel on Frost Hollow for the pump station (for sewer on Route 611) to the Township. Additional conditions are that all the deficiencies in the construction review and escrow account be paid and that all letters of credit for outstanding "stages" be renewed. And, then he can submit final plans.

In discussion it was noted that some of the punch-list items had been completed but not the majority as Sal Panto said at a previous meeting. Attorney Asteak (for the developer) was not present. Kline said that that indicates Straussers' agreement to the conditions of the resolution. Kline also said that Strausser disagrees with the amount owed for escrow and that an arbiter per the MPC may become involved. Howell asked what the number was and Kline responded that Strausser had disputed every bill since 2000. The Strausser fire several years ago, makes comparing records difficult (they were destroyed). Hoff noted that Strausser has been "the most challenging developer." Kline also said that Strausser must withdraw the plan for Phase 6 or it will be deemed "untimely filed." The resolution passed in a 5:0 vote.


PENN'S RIDGE PRD/AGREEMENT AMENDING SEWER EASEMENTS - Kline said that moving the easement for phases 9 & 11 to line up better with a subsequent phase is okay with the Township engineer and that everything is in order. It passed 5:0.

PENN'S RIDGE/PHASES 13 & 14/SKETCH PLAN - The developer, Omega Homes, presented the final phases for the Penn's Ridge development. The development's plans were approved in 1997 and phases 13 & 14 (as well as 9 & 11) were intended to be apartments. Market conditions changed. In 2005, phases 9 & 11 were changed to townhouses/condominiums. Phases 13 & 14 were also changed. There will be 102 condominiums with 62 in 4/5/6 unit buildings with two car garages. In addition, the Board saw a concept sketch for four 3-story flats. They are condos with 1 story living, 10 units per building. They will have one car garages, 2 units on the first level, 4 on the second, and 4 on the third with access through a central core. The private roads are 25 feet wide with Belgian block curbing. Per the Planning Commission recommendations, parking will be restricted to one side. The condominiums are higher end than the rest of Penn's Ridge and will be located to take advantage of the "view corridor" provided by Bushkill Creek. There will be two areas of open space and one of commercial. Howell asked that the commercial convenience store be made to look natural in the setting. The PC also recommended that the street near the school bus stop be widened for parents to park (when waiting for the school buses.) Weis asked if the buildings will be sprinkler-ed - they will. The homeowners association is already in place.

JACOB'S FARM II/LAND DEVELOPMENT/PHASING PLAN - The developer's representative detailed the new phasing plan - phases 1 and 2. There will be 60 lots in phase 1 and 75 lots in phase 2. Two lots will be reserved for temporary overflow parking - until the start of phase 2. Braden Boulevard and the detention pond are included in phase 1. There was discussion about grass in the Braden medial strip. Nicholas and Ackerman don't want it. It will be a Township roadway and neither of them wants to send the manpower there to mow it. The original plan was approved with it. Nicholas asked the that the developer revisit the grass. The new phasing plan was approved 5:0.

POSSIBLE LEASE OF LAFAYETTE COLLEGE SPRING HOUSE ALONG BUSHKILL CREEK - Kline explained that Lafayette College owns the small stone building along the Bushkill and that member of the Forks Historical Society, the Township, and Lafayette have been in discussion about the Historical Society preserving it. It is over 200 years old. Lafayette is more comfortable entering into a lease with the Township. The Township would then sub-lease it to the Historical Society. The building has no running water, no electric, and is in the flood plain so no land development can be done there. Howell said that Senator Wonderling is facilitating a $5,000 grant to help. Members of the Forks Historical Society, Carl Miller, Morris Metz, and Carl Babp (sic), described their plans for the clean-up of the stone building. They said that the windows were slits perhaps for defense and in very good shape. The lease term is 10 years with automatic 5 year renewals. Nicholas wondered if exterior work on the site would be a good Eagle Scout project but was told that in the 100 year flood plane very little can be done. Nothing can be built there, not even flower walls. Bob Egolf (Zoning Hearing Board and Supervisor candidate) suggested that the Eagle Scouts could do some educational/historical interior work. Howell suggested that the Historical Society work on a plan for the building. Kline was instructed to draft a lease in a 5:0 vote.

PLANNING COMMISSION RESIGNATION - Les Ottenwalder's resignation was accepted in a 5:0 vote.

PURCHASING POLICY & BIDDING PROCESS - Farley began the discussion with a description of the packet prepared for the Board - a mission statement (old but good he said), the purchasing section, and the bidding process. There was a long discussion of who should sign what and when. The suggestions made by the Board are going back to the Finance and Administration Committee for further consideration.

BUDGET AMENDMENT - Farley explained that budget revisions were needed to cover the arrangement with Stockertown, salary/wage changes, and the Easton Joint Sewer Authority contribution. Miscellaneous unanticipated revenues, like the $5220 from the flood, Liquid Fuels money, etc. are also included. Nicholas asked about the destroyed patrol car and whether or not the camera, also destroyed and worth $5,000, was insured. It will be looked into. The amendment passed 5:0.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - The session was held to discuss both litigation and the non-uniformed employees' contract negotiations. No action was taken by the Board during the executive session and the meeting was adjourned.

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