Sunday, September 23, 2007

BoS Meeting 9/20/2007

Forks Township's Board of Supervisors voted 4:0 (Ackerman was absent) to file suit against Strausser Enterprises and Gary Strausser personally for cutting down the Township's eight stately maple trees on Old River Road. Read more from the meeting in:

And, for further developments, see:

Notes and details of the entire meeting follow.


Supervisor Miller reported that the Historical Society rescued a 1944 WWII plaque from the basement of "Forks Elementary Grade School" and has restored it. The mahogany plaque contains the names of 84 Forks residents who served in WWII and was made by Eisenhardt Mills. Some of the people whose names are on the plaque are still residents of Forks. The Board voted 4:0 to display it in the Municipal Building foyer.

Supervisor Nicholas announced that the Forks Community Days weekend was a big success. She said that there were three bands in the "battle of the bands" and that one of them was made up of two 10-year old girls. Nicholas said, too, that the fireworks were great. (Note: The Express Times awarded Forks Township's Community Days a TROPHY in its September 22 edition.) Nicholas again thanked Susan and Harry Bennett as well as DPW Director, Mark Roberts for spending his entire weekend on site, the DPW department, the residents of Lockwood Congress who manned the information booth, the Fire Department for the coverage of the fireworks, the Police Department, Pitch Fork Nursery for the free hayrides, the Historical Society, and all other contributors.

Nicholas asked the Board to approve of Forks Days for 2008 and to give advertising money towards it. The Board approved (4:0) the event and the tentative dates (the same weekend in September) and deferred the advertising figure to budget discussions.

Nicholas said that (today) she saw four school buses going up Mitman Road while cars were coming down it. She said that it is a very dangerous situation. Dean Turner (Planning Commission) noted that part of the plan approval for the new school was that the school buses would use Arndt Road and not Mitman. Nicholas asked that a letter be sent to the school reminding them to abide by the approved plan. There are 41 buses per day going to the school.

Supervisor Howell said that he and Ackerman received email from the Two Rivers Council of Governments (TRCOG) announcing its (Quarterly) October 17 meeting to be held at Wilson Borough Hall at 7:00 PM.. The Mutual Aid Agreement for Emergency Services is on the agenda. Solicitor Kline said that it is okay in principal. He had earlier emailed the TRCOG with questions and noted deficiencies and felt that the issues had been addressed. The Public Safety committee will review the draft and present their suggestions/opinions at the next BoS meeting. The TRCOG meeting is open to the public.

Howell also reported that there are upcoming public meetings of the joint commission on establishing a Lehigh Valley Regional Health Department. He provided the Board with information (in their packets). The next is in Bethlehem on October 2 at 7:00 PM and the another will be in the Forks Municipal Building meeting room on October 17th at 7:00 PM. (See Morning Call - Opinion - L Anderson Daub - 9/23/07 for more information.)

Howell said, too, that he attended a presentation by the Easton Charter Commission and found the organization chart proposed for Easton's new government (if the referendum passes in November) especially interesting. The commission wants a City Manager (Forks has a Township Manager), it wants standing commissions and directors of departments (Forks has them), and it wants standing committees (Forks has them, too.) Howell said that Forks probably represents one of the better Class 2 governmental organizations in the State.

Supervisor Miller reported that football, soccer, and cheerleading seasons are about half over. Games are on Sundays. And, current sign-ups are for basketball and wrestling.

TREASURER'S REPORT - Secretary/Treasurer Howell detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. He noted that the utility fund transfer was $8,640.66. Another $300,000 is an agenda item - the purchase of excess sewer capacity from Wilson Borough.

Nicholas said that the Township is continuing to spend money to buy signs and that it was time to look into the purchase of a sign machine (to make our own.) She said it was in the budget. Howell said that Ackerman brought it up a few meetings back and discovered that there are issues about a building to house it and the capital improvements needed to make it suitable. Township Manager Schnaedter noted that the machine needs a controlled environment and that the building originally discussed would have to be substantially modified.

The debits and transfers were approved in a 4:0 vote.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the next meeting is scheduled for October 2nd at 5:00 PM. The committee will get input from Forks EMS. She noted, too, that the Fire Department has made 41 calls to Stockertown since the beginning of the agreement and that is more than double what was expected.
    • Fire Chief Bryan Weis said that the Fire Department Open House is set for October 6th from 11 AM - 4 PM. It is the first open house they have hosted in four years. There will be truck rides, demos, etc. The new flagpoles are installed courtesy of Kiwanis donated funds. The ground lights will be done next.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - absent. Roberts reported that the paving program for the year is almost complete. Mitman Road is nearly done and that there's a little left to do on Zucksville Road. The grader has been out recently on both Glover and Klein Roads.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - no committee report. See Supervisors Comments above.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - No report.
  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff - said that the committee has three items on the agenda: the 2008 sewer budget, bid specifications for the meeting room audio/visual equipment, and technology support services. The committee has begun a review of the non-uniformed employees manual to verify that it conforms to the new contract. The next meeting on September 26 (3:00 PM).

TOWNSHIP MANAGER'S REPORT - Schnaedter - no report.

ENGINEER'S REPORT - Hay - no report.

SOLICITOR'S REPORT - Kline reported that he received two communications today. One was from the Planning Commission. It was a request to advertise the workshops for review of the committee reports as Joint Meetings so that Supervisors who wish to attend and contribute might do so. The workshops are scheduled for September 25 and October 23 at 7:00 PM. They will be advertised as Joint Meetings.

The other communication was from Alan McFall, Solicitor for Easton Area School District, regarding a possible move of the Forks Elementary School polling place to the Municipal Building or the Community Center. Kline said that the suit (Northampton County VS EASD) will be in court tomorrow. Miller said that there is room for all Forks polls in the Community Center but that parking may be a problem during a Presidential election year. Nicholas suggested setting up temporary additional handicapped parking in front of the Community Center just for Election Day. The Board voted 4:0 to make the Community Center available for Forks Elementary School voters.


Old River Road - Strausser/Tree Removal - Hoff stated that certified arborist, Gary Rohrbach, had submitted his report. In three pages, Rohrbach detailed that the trees were Norway maples and seven of the eight were in good to very good health. The eighth had some decay on a portion of its trunk. Rohrbach put the value of the destroyed trees at $58,355.

Kline explained that the Township had some options. One of which is to file a lawsuit for the "outrageous conduct" by Strausser and the tree cutters. With the Board's permission he was prepared to file the suit tomorrow (Friday). The lawsuit states that Gary Strausser, the individual, and Strausser Enterprises, the corporation, intentionally trespassed on Township property to cut the eight trees that he knew belonged to the Township. A jury trial is being requested.

The Complaint includes:

  1. Trespass on Township property
  2. Replevin (the giving back of the trees and timber)
  3. Statutory damages - the State allows treble damages
  4. Punitive damages - a jury will determine the appropriate punishment for the "outrageous conduct"

In discussion, Nicholas suggested that Strausser replace the largest trees. Kline remarked that he didn't think she wanted him anywhere near that property.

Howell asked that residents who have photos of the trees (before they were cut down) submit them for the arborist's use to judge compensatory damages. Emily Heitzman said that her husband gave photos to the arborist.

Jim Wideman (candidate and former PC member) asked if Strausser would be arrested. Wideman said that if he went onto someone's property and did this, he would undoubtedly be arrested. Kline said that this was a civil action at this point. During "discovery" Kline will have the opportunity to take Strausser's deposition under oath. He said he didn't know if he was actually "on" the Township's property. Georgeann Wambold (Planning Commission member) volunteered that she saw Strausser outside of his vehicle, standing on the property. She said she could identify his Hawaiian shirt.

The vote was 4:0 to file the suit.

SALDO - Ordinance #305 - Advertise for Adoption - The SALDO public hearing was held at 6:30 (before the regular meeting). The BoS approved, in a 4:0 vote, advertising it for adoption at its October 4 meeting.


2008 Budget Calendar - The 2008 budget timeline was approved 4:0. The meetings are open to the public and most are at 5:00 PM. A capital projects workshop will be held at 6:30 PM before the October 4 regular BoS meeting. Tentative adoption of the 2008 budget will be at the November 15 meeting and final adoption will be at the December 20 meeting.

EAJSA - Sewage Treatment Capacity - Borough of Wilson Agreement - Kline explained that each member municipality has allocated treatment capacity. Growing municipalities need to buy capacity when it's available. Wilson Borough, in its built-out state has excess capacity and was approached by Bethlehem Township, a non-member, to purchase some of it. The rules are that excess capacity must be offered to members first. Forks recently bought 9,250 gallons from Wilson Borough at $8/gallon.

Hay did an estimated calculation of future needs based on projected commercial and approved residential plans in the "sewered" areas of the Township. His estimate of future needs is 150,000 gallons. Wideman asked if the Farmland Preservation District was included in the computation and was assured that it was not.

Wilson Borough has the excess capacity and agreed to sell it to Forks for $8/gallon - that totals $1.2 million. The payments will be made annually over four years on September 30. There will be 5% interest charged on the balances outstanding (years 2, 3, and 4).

Kline said that there is money in the sewer fund for this purchase and that the sewer fund has other obligations as well, such as the improvements to Route 611. The purchase passed in a 4:0 vote. The first payment of $300,000 will be made on September 30th. (Read more in JD Malone's Express Times article.)

Bid Specification/Meeting Room Audio-Visual System - Hoff detailed the bid specifications as developed by the Finance & Administration standing committee for audio/video equipment for the meeting room. Hoff said that "Tim Weis took the lead on this" to gather the information. The equipment would allow the public to see the presentations by developers. - The hardware includes discs, a laptop, a screen, and six displays for the twelve raised seats (the displays will be shared). Nicholas asked if the displays will be wireless or wired. Both options will be included in the spec. Kline added that a bid bond and performance bond should also be included. The specifications were approved in a 4:0 vote. The bids will be due on October 16 for the October 18 meeting.

Technology Support Services/Request for Proposal - The current contract expires at the end of the year and Farley and Schnaedter were credited with taking the lead on the IT support system issue. The current server is 4-1/2 years old and a new one will cost half as much as the old one. The support contractor must handle the Police Department and Municipal services for disaster recovery, maintenance, server management, etc. Schnaedter said that he met with several vendors to get information. He recommends a three year agreement. The proposal specifications were approved in a 4:0 vote.

Before the vote, Nicholas asked if the servers could be leased. Farley said that he looked at that option and that purchasing is cheaper. Nicholas asked about wireless for the complex. Farley said that wireless is particularly dangerous for the Police Department and for public records stored on the server. The Frost Hollow garage must use dial-up to get on the server and Fire Chief Weis does all the IT work for the Fire Department.

Shawnee Ridge II/Storm Water Easement Agreement for Lot #103 - Kline explained that this was a drainage easement adjustment for a lot on Wagonwheel and Mohican Drive and that all was in order. It was approved 4:0.

Village at Fox Crossing Land Development - Phase I "Developer's Agreements" - Kline explained that this development was originally Jacobs Farm II. He said that all was in order including the Letter of Credit for $2,803,833.86. The Developer's Agreements were approved in a 4:0 vote.

Request for Banner Display - Fire Chief Bryan Weis asked the BoS if the Fire Department could hang a banner across Sullivan Trail to advertise the dates of the upcoming Fire Department open house as well as Fire Prevention Week. He said that the banner would also contain a "Sparky message." It would hang through October 13th. Everyone agreed that it is a PennDot road and that PennDot must grant permission. Schnaedter said that first it must go to the BoS and then to PennDot. It was approved in a 4:0 vote.

Ordinance #304 - Recycling & Dumping - Farley said that the Township receives grants from $50,000 to $60,000 per year from the State for its recycling program. The money is used for containers, enforcement, and education. The State has increased the requirements this year and now the Township needs a Dumping Ordinance. The DEP provided a sample "acceptable" ordinance. Advertising the ordinance was approved 4:0. It will be on the October 4 agenda - for adoption. It will be added to the solid waste section of Forks' existing code. The Quarterly and the website will be used to educate residents.

There was some discussion before the vote. Nicholas thought that it should have a provision specifically banning dumping on vacant lots and in swales. Kline said that it was in there but in different words.

Nicholas thought, too, that there should be specific times for when garbage cans can be put out, where they can go, and that there should be no garbage in the streets. She mentioned her neighbor's garbage as an example and said that rats have been seen. Farley said that he believes that is in the Township Code and he will find out for her. Howell asked who enforces the ordinance and Farley said that the Zoning Officer does.

COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC (NOT AGENDA ITEMS) - Sandy Hanks (Appointed Elected Auditor and Chair of the Economic Development Comprehensive Plan Subcommittee) asked the status of a webcam for the meeting room. Schnaedter told her that he met with the webpage designer and that the webcam would be very expensive at this time. The designer is due for another meeting within the month and the issue will be revisited. Finance Manager Farley added that space is needed on the server and the current one is inadequate. The new server will provide the needed space. He hope to have it in place early in 2008.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - was called to discuss the Kings Mill litigation as well as the police department contract negotiations. No action taken by the Board.

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

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