Sunday, December 23, 2007

BoS Meeting 12/20/2007

Forks Township's Board of Supervisors last meeting of 2007 was well attended. Almost everyone seeking appointment to the 2008 vacancies was there. Both Supervisors-elect were there. Outgoing Supervisor John Ackerman was not. He was on vacation. Discussion of Forks EMS' request for payment of the $20,000 earmarked (for the squad) in the Forks 2007 budget was covered by both JD Malone (Express Times) and Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call). Read on for more on the rest of the meeting.


Supervisor Nicholas asked about General Codes (item in packets). She said that she thought that the codes were recently updated. Solicitor Kline offered that the Board should set a schedule for updating the codes. After discussion, it was decided that the codes should be reviewed every year for substantial changes and if there are any, then General Codes will be used, if not, the process will be contracted the following year, thus insuring that the codes are updated every two years at a minimum.

Supervisor Howell expressed his thanks to (outgoing Supervisors) John Ackerman and David Hoff for running for office and in particular for their years of service to the community. Howell said that in the two years he witnessed, the Township made significant progress in bringing a lot of professionalism to the office/procedures, a director of finance was hired, and the director of personnel position was improved - all things in which they were involved.

Chairman Hoff announced that this was his last meeting and that he was very happy. He said that he was on the Board for 12 years and spent a total of 25 years serving the township in various capacities. During that time, he said, he "met a lot of incredible people." He said that these people are truly committed to Forks. Hoff said that his time was a learning experience and that he enjoyed. He hopes that Erik (Chuss) and Bob (Egolf) find it enjoyable as well. Hoff added that he feels good "about where things are at" now and he thanked his family - especially his wife - for putting up with his township time. (appplause)

Supervisor Miller reported that winter sports are "half started" and that the majority of the 25 teams will start playing in January (through March). He added that the Community Center is busy seven days a week.

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 4:0 vote.

Standing Committee Reports (meetings are open to the public - see the Township calendar for dates and times)

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the committee had not met but that she had a report from the Fire Department. Nicholas reported that up through November, the FD went on 527 calls. Of that number, 430 were in Forks, 52 were to calls in Stockertown, and the rest were miscellaneous. She thanked the FD for their work.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - absent, no report.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - no committee report - see Supervisor Comments above for the park sports/activities news.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - no report
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Hoff - reported that the committee met and discussed what they had been working on for the past two years. He thanked the committee - Tim Weis, Barb Bartek, Jim Farley, & Rick Schnaedter - for the tremendous amount of work they did and for the lively discussions. Hoff said that he enjoyed his time on the committee.

TOWNSHIP MANAGER'S REPORT - Schnaedter - said that in addition to the items the Board had in front of them, he and Finance Manager Farley will be meeting with EZ Micro and the existing IT service provider to start the transition. Schnaedter said that the it is a long, cumbersome process and that Farley has done a good job "mapping out" what needs to be done. Schnaedter added that both parties have assured their cooperation.

Schnaedter also said that he received an invitation to participate in the Municipal Leaders Workshop at DeSales University on January 25th from 7:45 AM to 2:30 PM. He said that he will be attending and that he will give a registration form to any of the Supervisors who want one. Nicholas asked that he send her an email.

Nicholas asked Schnaedter about the bandshell information that was in the packet. She said that one had no prices and another had questionable acoustics. Schnaedter said that this was preliminary information - a first step - and that he intends to have the companies make a presentations to the Parks & Recreation Committee. So far, the low end bandshell costs $53,000 - plus construction. Nicholas asked to be notified when the presentations are scheduled.

ENGINEER'S REPORT - no report.

SOLICITOR'S REPORT - Kline - informed the Board that he received a letter from officer Jeremy McClymont dated 12/17/07 offering his resignation effective immediately. It was accepted in a 4:0 vote.

Kline also reported that officer Ernest Fimiano - who was charged with speeding on Route 80, refusing a breathalyzer test and who was suspended without pay - has filed for unemployment compensation. The hearing is coming up in January and the Township will contest the case.


Adoption of Ordinance #308 - Chapter 12 Fire Department Job Qualifications - Kline said that this was properly advertised. The Board voted 4:0 to adopt the ordinance.

Penn's Ridge PRD - Developer's Indemnification Agreement for Phases 13 & 14 - Kline explained that this agreement allows the developer to begin work on the infrastructure for phases 13 & 14. He said that everything is signed and that the escrow is posted. The vote was 4:0.

Award Bid - VISTACOM Audio/Visual Communications Systems - Zoning Officer Weis said that everything needed for the installation is already in place and that there will be no additional charges to the township for the installation and equipment. He added that the monitors will be 17". Nicholas said that she expected a presentation to the Board. The vote was 3:1 with Nicholas voting nay because she felt that she did not have enough information.

Job Descriptions - Changes in Positions - This was a discussion item only. Schnaedter said that in 2006 the Administrative Assistant's job description indicated that she was to act as Secretary to the Board of Supervisors. Howell expressed his concern about the "production of minutes." He suggested that the Finance & Administration Committee explore ways to keep the minutes in-house. Nicholas agreed. Hoff said that Bartek had been doing the minutes for over 20 years and in that time her job responsibilities expanded to the point where she can no longer do them. Nicholas asked that dates be added to the job descriptions so that scheduling reviews will be easier. Schnaedter said that a procedure is in place for annual job description reviews.

Resident Sandy Hanks asked if a draft version of the minutes could be put on the township website before they are approved by the Board. Howell explained that the review of the minutes is an official function of the Board. Kline agreed and added that the minutes become public records once they have been approved by the BoS. He said that if information was put out and subsequently corrected by the Board, it could cause people to become upset. Hoff added that it only takes a word to change the entire meaning of something.

The new Board will make a decision on the production of the minutes and until then, (beginning Jan 08) Barb Margolese will write the minutes.

Employee Manual Discussion - Proposed changes from 2003 manual (Updated) - Hoff said that the Schnaedter and Bartek worked hard on the new employee manual revisions. Howell asked how the manuals will be disseminated and was told that meetings will be held with employees to explain the changes. The employees will then sign-off. Schnaedter said that the revision to the arbitration policy was reviewed by Kline. The new manual was approved in a 4:0 vote.

FTEMS Financials/Breakdown of intentions to spend $20,000 earmarked in 2007 budget - Hoff reported that the Board received the November financial report from Forks EMS along with a letter requesting payment of the budgeted $20,000. Nicholas detailed the debt to Suburban at $17,550 and said that $12,450 of that is over 60 days. She also said that $1,820 is owed to Medic-9. Hoff said that the letter indicated how the money would be spent and that $6,420 would go to workers benefits, $3,080 to auto/building insurance, and $10,500 to Suburban.

Howell said that the letter stated that November was one of the better months and he asked Mr. Keifer (President of the Forks EMS Board of Directors) about the changes in the escrow item from October to November. Howell said that it decreased from $18,000 to $4,000. He asked if the numbers represented subscription funds, in particular, the $10,000 in subscription funds collected in November. Keifer said that they did and that those funds as well as funds from the line of credit were used to pay payroll, tax withholding, and employee benefits. Funds from medical services were used to pay bills.

Keifer added that as of November the squad is all caught up with back taxes to the State and local authorities and now only owe Federal taxes. The squad had hoped to receive a $15,000 State grant for payroll and employee benefits but it is delayed because of the tax arrearage. (The grant was awarded by Representative Grucela's office.) Keifer also said that "there is nothing written in stone that everything must be divvied up 1/12 per month. The squad will be having a "bucket drive" this weekend, they are still selling the Forksopoly games, and they are in the midst of a second mailing to residents who have not yet paid.

Keifer said that they are asking for the $20,000 to pay bills. Howell asked if every EMS squad in the region depends on donations to pay salaries? Keifer said, "Yes." He added that "everything is guesstimates" since the number of calls cannot be predicted.

Keifer said the financial report he gave the Supervisors has yet to be approved by the EMS directors.

Hoff said that in his opinion, there is not enough call volume in Forks to support a business (an EMS squad is a business.) He said that the release of the $20,000 has not been approved because the Board is looking for financial stability. Hoff said that he does "not want to send the money into a black hole that it just can't be recovered from." He said he would not recommend to the current BoS anything other than paying Suburban for the services they have provided to the Township thus far. And, he added that the money (in the budget) is intended to be used to make the squad a better squad and not just to keep it alive one more month.

Township resident Nicole Alexander offered that because of the squad's financial irresponsibility, many residents will not donate. She said that the BoS should shut down Forks EMS and bring in Suburban.

Nicholas thanked the Forks EMS members for all their hard work trying to put the company back together.

Howell said that he has spoken with Suburban and they are not making a plea/request for the funds from the Township. They simply ask that their debt be honored first. Howell recommended carrying over the $20,000 to 2008.

The vote to carry over the money to 2008 and, if it is disbursed, that Suburban be paid first, passed 4:0.


Northampton County Farmland Preservation - Act 4/HB 87 - Kline provided East Allen Township's ordinance for the Board's review (as a sample ordinance) and suggested that Maria Bentzoni (of the Northampton County Agricultural Land Preservation Board) be invited before the Board to explain Act 4. Kline said that it involves approvals by three different taxing bodies - the county, the school district, and the township. He also said that "it seems to be permanent" and, Kline added, "Forever is a long time." Kline said too, that at this point in time he is not aware of any farm in Forks that has been preserved through the county. The vote was 4:0 that Ms. Bentzoni be invited to address the Board. Schnaedter will contact her.

Final Adoption - 2008 Budget - The budget was adopted with a 4:0 vote. Forks residents will face a 1/2 mil property tax increase. This represents a 10.8% increase. (read Madeleine Mathias, Morning Call, 12/24/07 for more on the budget.)

2008 Committees - Our new Supervisors-elect, Erik Chuss and Bob Egolf, came very close to flipping a coin to see which committees they would be on in 2008. They came to an agreement before the toss we were told. The 2008 standing committees will be chaired by the *first name listed (one year assignment) and the second Supervisor will be on the committee for two years - in their second year, they will chair the committee.

  • Public Safety: *Chuss & Howell
  • Public Works: *Miller & Chuss
  • Parks & Recreation: *Howell & Egolf
  • Community Relations: *Nicholas & Miller
  • Finance & Administration: *Egolf & Nicholas

Hoff asked that the chairperson of each committee talk to the members and settle on meeting days/times so that only one advertisement need be published (to save money).

Nicholas said that there is no real structure for the committee meetings but she thought that notes of the meetings should be e-mailed to all Supervisors and that agendas should be available three days before the meetings. She also said that both Supervisors should decide the dates and times of meetings and that the schedules and agendas should be on the website. Nicholas thought that the meeting times should be at hours when the public can attend. She was told that the meetings are on the website. As to agendas, they are often changed up to the last minute. Howell suggested that Schnaedter could perhaps create some uniform standards.

Plaques presented to outgoing Supervisors - Miller presented Hoff with a plaque for his 25 years of service. He said that Hoff began as a baseball coach, that he coached basketball, he was President of the Athletic Association, and that he was President of the Recreation Board - all before his twelve years as a Supervisor. Miller also had a plaque for John Ackerman (absent). Miller said that Ackerman was born in Forks and spent most of his life in Forks as an active farmer and successful businessman - who has "also given 6 years of his life to the Township." Miller thanked both men on behalf of the Board of Supervisors, the staff, and residents of Forks for their dedication and years of service to Forks.(appplause) Hoff said that it's "been a fast 25 years" and that he was glad to be able to participate in all the changes. He wished Erik (Chuss) and Bob (Egolf) the best of luck and his hopes that things go well for them.

There was no Executive Session and the last meeting of 2007 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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