Sunday, November 04, 2007

BoS Meeting 11/1/07

Forks Township's Supervisors discussed both the (unapproved) bikepath on Winchester Drive and a 1/2 mil tax increase on this night. Chairman David Hoff did the briefing on the tentative 2008 budget and is the one who broke the news of the probability of the first Forks Township tax increase since 1997. Read JD Malone (Express Times - 11/3/07) and Tom De Martini (Morning Call - 11/2/07) for more. For more on the bikepath, read JD Malone (Express Times - 11/2/07).


Supervisor Nicholas reported that she received an invitation for the Supervisors to the Eagle Scout award (program.) The event is for November 24th. The invitation is on the table in the Supervisors' room. Nicholas said that she cannot attend and if no other Supervisors are planning to attend, she will send the letter that she normally sends (to the troop.)

Supervisor Miller said that the Bushkill Stream Conservancy has completed tree plantings in the restoration area. The group put in 100 plus trees as well as bushes. This weekend they will finish the mulching and in the spring, they will expand the meadow area.

Miller reported that fall sports are winding down and that the soccer tournament is in Moore Township this year. It will be back in Forks next year. He said that two of Forks four football teams have made it to the playoffs in Palmer Township - the first round is this Sunday. The championship is next weekend. Preparations are underway for winter sports.

TREASURER'S REPORT - Secretary/Treasurer Howell detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. The debits and transfers were approved with a 5:0 vote.

Standing Committee Reports (meetings are open to the public)

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas - said that there is a meeting planned for Tuesday, November 6 at 5 PM. Forks EMS is on the agenda and they will, time permitting, also continue their review of the Fire Department Ordinance. Police Chief Greg Dorney said that the police department gave out 2000 lollipops in 30 minutes (on Halloween). He added, "That's a lot of children."
  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - said that there will be a meeting on Tuesday at 7:30 AM. He asked the Board to go over the 5-year plan prepared by DPW Director, Mark Roberts, so that action can be taken on it in the near future. - Roberts reported that leaf collection will continue into what looks like a late fall. The "salt building" has been removed (by staff) in preparation for the new one - due to be completed the 3rd week of November. The crews have been busy with a couple of sinkholes in the park. It took nine yards of FlowFill to fill one of them.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - no committee report - see Supervisor Comments above for the park sports/activities news.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - no report
  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff - reported that the committee has reviewed some "streamlining" changes to the GL (general ledger), reviewed the auditors recommendations, and continues to review the employee manual. The next meeting is November 14. The December 26 meeting has been canceled. Nicholas asked Finance Manager Jim Farley to go over the changes. She thought that policy changes needed Board approval. Hoff said that there are no policy changes - only administrative changes. Farley explained that the streamlining is for required reporting to the State. The utilities fund has been divided into a capital fund account and an operating fund account and some balance sheet accounts are being consolidated.

TOWNSHIP MANAGER'S REPORT - Schnaedter - reported that the staff is bringing the WWII veterans' memorial plaque from the Historical Society and will be putting it in the lobby in a secure spot. The Board will be consulted on the location before it is permanently mounted. Schnaedter also said that the Kiwanis Club wants to do their annual tree lighting on December 2nd at 7 PM. Supervisor Nicholas advised Roberts (new DPW director) that the road crew puts up the lights and that the bandshell will need electricity. Supervisor Howell asked if the Kiwanis were going to do a winter clothing drive again this year. Schnaedter replied that they are asking for donations of stuffed animals. The police department will be accepting stuffed toys. The Board approved the date/time of the tree lighting in a 5:0 vote.

ENGINEER'S REPORT - Hay - gave the Board a plan that he prepared of the proposed recreation trails for the Riverview area. Discussion of the bikepath was moved to the UNFINISHED BUSINESS section of the meeting.

SOLICITOR'S REPORT - Kline - reported the good news that Forks Township and Forks police department have been dismissed from a "prisoner's civil rights action" filed by Stanley Styers (sic). Styers was convicted of DUI and filed a federal action naming Forks Township, Northampton County, Forks police department, Plainfield Township, the officers from involved from both Forks and Plainfield police departments, two judges, prosecutors, defenders... "He was a very unhappy man," Kline noted.

COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC (NOT AGENDA ITEMS) - Kevin Schulte (sic), six year resident of Forks, addressed the Board and expressed thanks to the roads department fixing Mitman Road. He thanked the fire and police departments for keeping "us" safe. Schulte said that Forks is the finest township he's ever lived in as far as safety and security are concerned. And, he asked the Board to terminate the employment of officer Fimiano. Schulte said that Fimiano's behavior - driving that fast - can kill families. He also urged the Board to vote "no" on the Marshfield project. Lastly, he suggested an answering machine for Supervisors. Nicholas volunteered that her Township cell phone does that and she said that her cell number is listed in the Township directory on the website.


Winchester Drive Unapproved Bikepath - Kocsis Property - Hay began by describing the map he prepared for the Board. He explained that his field decision to extend the bike bath from the old railroad line trail to Broadway was done for safety because people are walking in the street on Winchester Drive. Hay said that he was thinking in particular of the people who live on the north side of Winchester.

Nicholas said that he made a decision that should have been made by the Board. Hay said that "constructability issues" can't wait two weeks (until a Board meeting.) Hay said that the Township Manager (Cathy Kichline) told him to do it - in 2003. Nicholas said that he did not have the right to take that decision away from the Board.

Hoff said that certain things should come back to the Board, and "this may have been one of them," but not every issue on a construction site should come back to the Board. Ackerman offered that this should have come before the Recreation Board. Hoff noted that Winchester is a major east/west corridor and that there is a safety aspect. Kline asked if there are sidewalks in Phase 3 (answer - "no"). Nicholas made a statement that as an elected official she is upset that her vote was taken away. Hay said that he was not trying to usurp her authority. He was trying to do what he "thought was the safe and right thing to do."

Sue Kocsis (the property owner whose yard was dug up) said that it can't be a safety issue since the people from Iron Lane have to walk all the way down to Broadway in the street. If this is a safety issue, the path should have at least been continued all the way to Iron Lane, approximately 1/4 mile. She said that the path should be on the south side of Winchester so that it connects to other the other Riverview paths.

Ms. Kocsis said that she also took great offense that she was not notified. She said it goes nowhere and devalues her property. Ms. Kocsis said that she just wants her dirt and grass put back.

Hoff said that sidewalks should have been approved at the beginning.

Sandy Hanks (resident and appointed Elected Auditor) said that she wholeheartedly agreed with Sue (Kocsis) and wondered if there was a mistake being covered up.

Jim Wideman (candidate for Supervisor and former Planning Commission member) said that he saw two issues. The first that the rec path is a major issue currently being discussed for the new Comprehensive Plan. He said that it is wrong for individual staff to take a "carte blanche attitude" and do what they think should be done just because the machines are there. Wideman said that this is major negative change to an established resident's property. The second issue is that the path should be on the south side of Winchester (going west) because the land on the south side of the street is relatively flat and it would connect to other paths. The properties on the north side have sloped yards.

Nicole Alexander (member of several Planning Commission subcommittees) thought that this was a violation of the Sunshine Act and that such a significant decision should have been brought to the Board for approval.

Ackerman made a motion to return the property to grass. In discussion Howell stated that he didn't want to plan the bike path 75 feet at a time and that the Board should decide on all of Riverview now or it should go back to the Planning Commission. Howell noted that the PC has the multi-use trail recommendation from the Recreation and Trails subcommittee. He made an all inclusive motion to Table (that is table and send it back to the PC for a recommendation on all of Winchester Drive).

Erik Chuss (Chairman of the PC and candidate for Supervisor) wondered how it work since the Comprehensive Plan will not be finalized until March.

Vito Tamborrino (Planning Commission and member of the Recreation and Trails subcommittee) said the subcommittee spent some time riding the trails and in their report it's clear that the recreation/riding trails are one of the biggest problems. The paths are a "slew of paths" that do not lead anywhere and should be tied together. He recommended that the issue go back to the PC and and that the PC tie it to the new Comprehensive Plan.

The vote was 3:2 to table - Hoff and Ackerman were the nay votes. Sue Kocsis will get her grass back immediately. Kline noted that the Board should keep in mind that the developer (Strausser) built all the required paths. New/additional ones will be at the Township's expense.


Ordinance No. 306/Local Services Tax - Kline explained that the State Legislature authorized the Emergency & Municipal Services Tax (EMS) tax of $52 per year per employee in Forks (and in all municipalities that adopted it). This ordinance is to change the name of the EMS tax to the Local Services Tax. The name change has been authorized by the Legislature because people assumed that the money went to ambulance companies. It does not. The State has changed the withholding from annual to weekly at the rate of $1/week. Employees earning less than $12,000/per year are exempt. The authorization to advertise passed in a 5:0 vote. It will be advertised three times.

Ordinance No. 307/Realty Transfer Tax - Kline explained that this ordinance is to authorize the PA Department of Revenue to collect Forks' share of the Realty Transfer Tax (RTT) in instances when the State finds that the value of property has been misrepresented. The 2% RTT is shared as follows: 1/2 goes to the State, and the other half is split evenly between the school district and the local municipality. The authorization to advertise passed in a 5:0 vote. It will be advertised one time (because it not a new tax).

Weis Market/Conditional Use - Decision of BOS - Kline presented a new "brief" of the Weis Market Conditional Use hearing for the Board's review. Judge McFadden remanded the first brief back to the Township for more detail (in the appeal of the conditional use by Mr. Gingold and the Residents Who Care). The motion to authorize the Chairman and Secretary to sign the decision passed in a 5:0 vote.

Award Bid - Demolition/Building at Richmond & Newlins Roads - The seven bids received ranged from a low of $12,900 to $35,612.62. The bids were opened at a public meeting on October 22nd. Camelot Excavating & General Contracting LLC of Belvidere, NJ was the low bidder. The vote was 5:0 to award the contract to Camelot.

2008 Budget - First Draft Submission - Hoff said that there had been three budget sessions. He said that all department heads were consulted and their requests were reviewed. As currently submitted the 2008 budget totals $7,242,842. Hoff said that most of the Township's expenses are "somewhat fixed." The budget includes some capital spending:

  • from the Fire Department 5-Year Plan - radio upgrades, apparatus, turn-out gear, and the fire training tower
  • from the Police Department 5-Year Plan - three replacement patrol cars, furniture and fixtures, and a captain position
  • for the Community Center - new fitness equipment, computer replacements, and additional light poles
  • for the Municipal Complex Sullivan Trail entrance and in front of the Municipal Building - lighting
  • from the DPW 5-Year Plan - a replacement for the 1953 grader

Other needed items include a Microsoft Site License and complete server replacement, an air conditioner upgrade at the Community Center, and fire, alarm, and video surveillance equipment (also at the Community Center). And, recommended for review in the future is a new public works building.

Hoff said that there is an option in the budget to borrow $1 million (over 10 years) to replace all the old equipment. The bond payment would be $127,000 per year. It would be offset by the $110,000 expected from the Local Services Tax (formerly known as the EMS Tax). This would make the bond cheaper on an annual basis. The Township would use years 11-20 of the Local Services Tax, to accrue funds for future needs.

Because of the downturn in the housing market, the "expected fees" budget item was reduced by 18% (in 2007.) In fact, the decrease was 50%. The deficit was covered by funds accrued for it. For the 2008 budget, the fee expectations have been lowered an additional $450,000.

Hoff explained too, that the Township must budget for 15 months of expenses because money doesn't come in until March or April. Therefore, a 1/2 mil (or 10.7%) tax increase is proposed. It will bring in $275,000. The last increase was in 1997 and before that, 1993. The Board will tentatively adopt the budget at its November 8th meeting, it will be advertised on November 20th, and will be accepted at the December 20th meeting.

Website Maintenance Package Proposal - New Arrival Studios - Schnaedter asked the Board to accept the proposal from New Arrival Studios (the current provider of design and maintenance services). Schnaedter said that the Community Relations Committee endorses the proposal and that at $300/mth it provides greater flexibility. Nicholas added that pricing for website additions on a stand alone basis were quoted at $2,000 and that "Bob has been training people for free for years." New Arrival Studios was awarded the contract in a 5:0 vote.

Executive Session - was held at Miller's request to discuss a personnel issue. 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.

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