Sunday, July 22, 2007

BoS Meeting 7/19/2007

Not one reporter attended this night's meeting! The agenda was short, the business meeting was brief but not unimportant. There was more on the Fort James III/Norfolk Southern rail crossing stalemate. The conditions of approval for the project were amended by Resolution so that the project can proceed.

Supervisors Comments

Supervisor Ackerman reported on the Two Rivers Council of Governments (TRCOG) that was held in the Forks Municipal Building on July 18. He said that there was discussion of the revised bylaws and their possible enactment. Ackerman said that adding the EASD as a member was discussed and he recommended against it. He said that the TRCOG should only have municipalities as members. Multi-municipality planning was discussed and Ackerman asked that the Board say yes/no to this before the September 27 meeting in Forks. In regard to the draft of the Emergency Public Aid Agreement, Ackerman said that "some of them were not happy with Karl's (Solicitor Karl Kline) comments." His impression was that the Emergency Public Aid Agreement probably would not happen. Ackerman said too, that someone there asked him what the Forks police were "asking for" in their contract negotiations. He said that he did not answer. The next (now Quarterly) TRCOG meeting will be held at the Wilson Borough Municipal Building at 7:00 PM on October 17th.

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 4:0 (Supervisor Miller was not present).

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas thanked the Police Department, the fire Department, and the road crew for "doing a wonderful job" during the July 10th storm. She said that the Public Safety Committee reviewed the Police Department Five-Year Plan and it will come before the Board in August. She said too, that the committee received the EOP template from the County, that they reviewed the Fire Ordinance (it will be before the Board shortly), and that they received the EMS budget. William Keifer, Jr., President of the Forks EMS, reported on the financial condition of the squad since its reactivation in April. Keifer said that:
    • Call volume is increasing.
    • The EMS had $160,000 "billable" calls so far and $58.000 of that has been collected.
    • The IRS has assigned an agent and that negotiations are beginning. All other back taxes have been paid.
    • The purchase of a new vehicle is in their budget. It will come from J&J Emergency Vehicle and cost $89,500 less the trade of $10,000. The payments will be around $1400/mth. Keifer requested that the Board allow the EMS to use the Township's Ford "discount number" - it will mean an additional $5,000 dealer discount. No one on the Board was familiar with that program and Finance Manager Jim Farley and Township Manager Rick Schnaedter will look into it.
    • The bucket collection fundraiser at the Giant raised $3,300.
    • An August 4 & 5 "carnival type open house" event is planned. There will be no cost to the EMS. It will be done by an outside vendor and the EMS will get a percentage. Parking will be at the EMS property, the nearby church, and nearby bank. Keifer plans to ask Don Miller (Supervisor and Community Center Coordinator) if parking would be available at the Community Center. If so, they will run a shuttle.
    • A Forks-specific Monopoly type game, Forksopoly, is another planned fundraiser. They will sell ads to local businesses for placement on the game board. In fact, there are 40 spots and 30 are sold already. Keifer asked if the Township would buy a spot. The games will sell for $25. If purchased during the pre-sale period, the purchasers' names will be printed on the game board (as a sponsor). Some of the business advertisers have also offered to hold special fund raising events for the squad.
    • The bylaws have been officially changed and there can now be 9 members on the Board. The squad is looking for "outside" people.
  • Chairman Hoff said that he spent a couple of hours in the EOC after the storm and was very impressed with the cooperation and effort of all the agencies. He noted that in less than three hours, they had all the major road issues taken care of.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman thanked all the agencies involved in the storm work. He noted that the only person who didn't know what was going on was DPW Director Mark Roberts. He was at home and his cell phone doesn't work there. The Township is getting him a pager. Roberts said that the department has been "chipping constantly" since the storm. Ackerman added that August 1st will be the last day for storm branch chipping. He said that it seems that some people are trimming trees because they "know that we're around chipping." Ackerman added that at the Public Works Committee meeting, the contract for worker clothing was discussed. The current contract is expiring. Roberts is getting new pricing from three vendors.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - absent.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell - no report.
  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff said that the new, larger mailbox is in place in front of the Municipal Building. On July 11th, the committee discussed:
    • The computer system.
    • Preparing information for the budget process.
    • A meeting room projector. A portable one has been purchased. It will work with laptop presentations.
    • The Employee Manual and changes that may be needed to reflect the new contract.
    • A new purchase order spreadsheet for $5,000-$10,000 purchases.
    • A noise ordinance - they have some from other municipalities to review.
    • The cell tower. Schnaedter and Zoning Officer Tim Weis were to meet with T-Mobile on Friday, July 20th.
    • The next meeting will be on August 8 at 3:00 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - no report.

Engineer's Report - Ryan Christman - said that two projects are out for bids, Mitman Road recyling and (the hump near Upstream Farms) Newlins Road reconstruction. Christman also said that the contract for the Arndt/Bushkill light is out for signature.

Solicitor's Report - Solicitor Karl Kline - said that he and Schnaedter participated in a collective bargaining talk session with the police bargaining unit it will be reported to the Board in Executive Session.

Comments from the floor

  • Forks representative to the EAJSA, Henning Holmgaard (former Supervisor), reported to the Board that the Authority is in talks to take "leaches" from two landfills in NJ. This will bring in $300,000 to $350,000 in additional revenue. The Authority's governing bodies would like to side-step the agreement between the six member municipalities and put this additional money into a separate fund for capital improvements. The member municipalities would continue to get the normal refunds of overpayments. Holmgaard said that he thought this was a good idea (the separate fund for capital improvements) because it will help down the road. Hoff noted that the Board has until August 20th to decide. Nicholas asked if there was capacity for the NJ waste and Holmgaard said that there is. He added that the "quality" is being tested. Holmgaard noted that the rainwater isn't helping plant capacity. There is a sewer moratorium in West Easton because of excessive storm water intrusion. The system lines there are old and the repairs aren't solving the problem. Holmgaard also suggested the Forks purchase capacity whenever it can as it is an investment. Ackerman asked if the EAJSA can opt out if the capacity is needed by member municipalities and Holmgaard said, "Yes." He also said, "When it's full, it's full." There is no more room to expand except "up" because DOT took (requisitioned) Authority property to make the I78 interchange.
  • Henning Holmgaard presented the Board with a flag flown in Operation Iraqi Freedom. His daughter is a commander and is stationed there. The flag comes from the Commander of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion #28. There was applause.


RESOLUTION #070719-1/Confirmation of Tax Certification Fee Increase - This passed in a 4:0 vote. The fee will be increased from $10 to $15 effective August 1st.

RESOLUTION #070719-2/Fort James III Amended Conditions of Approval - Kline explained the background of the resolution. He said that in 2006 the Supervisors approved a lot consolidation plan and the subdivision for Fort James III. One of the conditions was that the developer (JG Petrucci) work in good faith with Norfolk Southern to get a Braden Boulevard rail crossing and if unsuccessful, the developer was to initiate PUC hearings. To that end, JG Petrucci hired an attorney to represent them in the discussions.

Township Engineer, Fred Hay and Kline were also participated in some of the discussions. Norfolk Southern said "NO" to a rail crossing on Braden and apparently is under pressure from the Federal Government to eliminate rail crossings - for safety reasons. Norfolk Southern threatened to close the spur and therefore stop service to existing customers east of Kesslersville Road. Thus, Petrucci asked for a waiver of the rail crossing condition because this would be a "win the battle/lose the war" situation. Currently Petrucci has two companies interested in moving to the industrial park and between them they will bring 200 jobs. Forks also hired a railroad law expert to look at everything and he came to the same conclusion, that the situation was fruitless.

The Resolution amends the conditions. The fees are unchanged. Petrucci is not required to ask for a PUC hearing and must provide sufficient right-of-way (at no cost to the Township) so that if the conditions change (ie, the rail line is abandoned), the Township can build the road. The developer must put forth a good faith effort with Norfolk Southern to get emergency vehicle access on the existing farmland rail crossing. It would have a locked gate. When the plans for the 4th lot are submitted, the developer must put in the stub road to Glover Road. The developer must provide sufficient security for the improvements for emergency access road and the Glover connecting road.

Howell asked if the Township is to facilitate Petrucci in to condemn land needed for the Glover stub road and Kline replied that the developer must exhaust all reasonable efforts to obtain the land needed. Condemnation is a "last resort" and the road is in the public interest. This is not part of the Resolution.

Ackerman motioned to accept the resolution. Nicholas seconded and it passed in a 4:0 vote.

FUND CONSOLIDATION - Farley explained that the auditors suggested consolidating two funds. They suggested moving money from the bond fund (established for the construction of the new complex) into the general fund (the two account amounts totaling just under $100,00 and would be used for some of the construction projects that are yet to be done) and moving $500,000 from the bond fund (that was borrowed for traffic study) into the traffic study account. This would close the bond fund account. The auditors also recommended moving capital moneys from the utility fund (trash and sewer) and moving it to a separate account for capital sewer projects - leaving only operating monies in the utility fund. This passed 4:0.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - An Executive session was held to discuss the police contract negotiations and litigation.

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, July 15, 2007

Special for Netzero List Members

An open post to our netzero list members...

Mail from FAC to you is being bounced as undeliverable. Both individually addressed and broadcast (with bcc) emails are being returned. Sorry to make this a blog post but we have no other way of letting you know.

Please advise us as to how we should proceed with email to you. Thanks! We truly value your interest in "things Forks"!

Weekly Survey Is Back!

After way too many days of trying to revive our broken YAHOO survey software, we have given up and are trying out a new service, SurveyGizmo. It looks promising.

Don't be dismayed by the 50% bar at the bottom. There's supposed to be a "thank you" page following your submission. That's not quite working right. So... Thank you in advance for voting!

Survey #95 is up and ready for your votes!

PC - Good News/Bad News - 7/12/07

The Planning Commission, at its July 12 meeting, learned that Braden Boulevard will not be continued through the Fort James III Industrial Park - because Norfolk Southern, citing safety reasons, has adamantly refused to allow a crossing on the Brennan farm road (at Kesslersville).

Representatives of the railroad indicated to JG Petrucci, the developer, that if the fight is taken to the PUC and won, that it would be a win the battle - lose the war scenario. In other words, the township and developer would get the rail crossing but the businesses who expect rail service will not get it. The railroad would discontinue it.

The impact (of Braden Boulevard running only from Sullivan Trail to Kesslersville Road) on the Uhler/Sullivan intersection is yet to be discussed. The long planned road was to connect Sullivan Trail with Fort James III - going through the commercial area (EC district), through Jacob's Farm I and II and across Kesslersville Road.

In order to get a second access road (Uhler/Braden will be primary) into and out of Fort James III, land may have to be condemned (eminent domain). The new stub road would go from the Braden cul de sac to Glover along a residence's northern property line.

The expected 4000 trips per day along Uhler to Fort James III will be served by intersection improvements to Uhler/Braden. There will be left turn lanes in both directions on Uhler and as well as a right-in.

In addition, the PC learned that the DEP is holding the developer to stricter stormwater volume controls than the Township requires. The flooding trouble spots on Kesslersville should be eliminated by the dual swale along the west side of the railroad line to the Rinaldi property.

The PC also learned that there are two tenants (Weyerhauser Lumber and Henningsen Cold Storage) on the horizon who are coming because of the rail sidings. Together they will bring approximately 200 jobs.

For more, please read Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call). She was the only reporter there!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

BoS Meeting 7/5/2007

The 7/5/07 Board of Supervisors 7:30 PM public meeting session was, at one hour, a relatively brief one. In fact, the (private) executive session was longer than the meeting itself. It ended at 11:30 PM. Of the agenda items discussed during the public session was the purchase of Wilson Borough sewage capacity. Please read JD Malone (Express Times) for more on that.

Supervisors Comments

Supervisor Nicholas asked, on behalf of the Forks Days Committee, to have the greyhounds again. She also asked to post signs during the two day event prohibiting skateboarding and bicycling in the Forks Days areas of the park. And, she said that the Historical Society would like a sign in front of the log cabin (several days before Forks Days) stating that the cabin will be open for Forks Days. Nicholas said that she was away on business and apologized for missing the last two meetings.

Supervisor Miller reported that mowing (in the park) has slowed down because of the heat and that the crews are continuing with tree mulching, beautification, and fighting Japanese beetles. Miller said that there was a good crowd for the baseball tournament (with teams "from as far away as Brooklyn") and that there were lots of positive comments about Forks' park.

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.

Nicholas asked that the $120 service call invoice from Industrial Communications be checked as it was for service a few days after they installed the radio. Finance Manager Farley said that he would look into it.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas said that there had been a "couple of meetings since last time." The committee "went over" the Fire Ordinance and it will be given to Solicitor Kline for review. Nicholas said also that they received the monthly EMS report and that Mr. Keifer will be asked to attend the next Supervisors' meeting. Also, Nicholas said that they Police Department 5-Year Plan will be reviewed and that she will report on it to the Board. Supervisor Hoff added that the Fire Ordinance has a section on "reimbursable funds" and that the department has reached its limit ($800) for this year. The limit was established eleven years ago. Options will be discussed at another committee meeting.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman said that the next meeting has been scheduled for July 17 at 7:30 AM.
  • 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 next meeting will be on Wednesday at 9:30 AM. He said too that the there have been changes made to the Township website agendas and minutes pages. Prior year documents are now archived and the current year documents are more readily accessible.
  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff noted that the next committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 3:00 PM. The discussion on the cell tower will continue at that time as will discussion of the fire department's reimbursable fund.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter reported that in addition to the written report in the Supervisors' packets, he was contacted by someone from Senator Wonderling's office who wanted a list of road projects (one in each of three categories - bridges/congestion/secondary roads) that were "near and dear to Forks' heart." Wonderling was meeting with the Secretary of Transportation. Schnaedter had only an hour or so to come up with the list. For a bridge, he gave Frost Hollow Road. For congestion, he gave all of Sullivan Trail. And, for a secondary road, he gave Kesslersville Road and its elevation/flooding problems.

Schnaedter also reminded the Board that Forks is hosting the Two Rivers Council of Governments July 18 meeting. On the agenda are mutual aid and planning regionalization.

Howell asked about an item in Schnaedter's written report, the noise complaint voiced by a resident at the last meeting. Schnaedter confirmed that he wrote that the afternoon graduation party would not have been a violation under the Bethlehem ordinance or the other two he reviewed. He further explained that time of day is a factor in the ordinances. Howell said that he doesn't want to drop this just because the situation didn't fit any of the ordinances looked at because "Forks is building out and neighbors are close together." He added that at a minimum, Forks should have a statute that is at least "an inconvenience" to homeowners who throw parties with live bands. The issue will go to the Administrative & Finance Committee (it has the zoning officer as a member.) Ackerman thought that anyone who wants to have a noisy event should notify their neighbors within a block to let them know. Nicholas saw nothing wrong with having a "one time" event like a graduation party. Hoff added that the easiest solution is to "invite all the neighbors."

Engineer's Report - Fred Hay - Agenda items only.

Solicitor's Report - Solicitor Karl Kline - agenda items only.

Comments from the floor

  • Jacob's Farm resident Murphy O'Lennix (sic) told the Board of the severe drainage problems at her home even after a normal rain. The water drains into her crawlspace and not away from it. She is concerned with mold. She had photographs for the Board as well. A "knowledgeable" friend of Murphy's said that there are severe downhill slopes and that a French drain is needed. She asked how this situation could have passed Township inspection? She said too, that the developer should not be allowed to continue with other work until the problem is fixed. Murphy said that she called Keystone Engineering and Fred Hay responded quickly with a visit. Hay said that he spoke with Matt Jenks who has promised to resolve the grading problem within a week.


REAL ESTATE TAX CERTIFICATION FEE/JUNE VAIL - Ms. Vail gave an overview of what tax certificates are and how important they are for municipalities since they result in tax, refuse, and sewer payments being up-to-date before a property transfer can take place. The requestors are attorneys, abstract companies, and mortgage companies. Vail said that all tax collectors perform this service for a fee and she "looks back" 3 years in her records. Other collectors do not go as far back. She produced copies of letters of thanks and told the Board that this year she mailed out 6500 school tax bills. Four years ago, she mailed approximately 4000. The Board sets the rate the collector charges. The charge goes to the collector. The revenues collected as a result of the look-back, go to the municipality. The vote to increase her fee from $10 to $15 per certificate passed 3:2. It is effective August 1.


JACK & JEAN REESE/MINOR SUBDIVISION - Hay began by explaining that this was a two lot subdivision - splitting one lot in half where one lot will have the existing house and the other will have a new house. He said that one of the conditions in his office's letter was that the Met-Ed easement crossing be verified. Zawarski will pay to hook up the existing house to sewer and water and the new house will have to pay for its hookups. What started as a simple approved 5:0 plan, changed when the landowner said that there are drainage issues and that he does not own the land that the Met-Ed easement crosses, that Zawarski owns the right-of-way. The approval was immediately rescinded and the landowner was advised to go back to the engineer who drew the plan (Zawarski's engineer, Don Frederickson) to have the plan corrected, showing the proper ownership of the right-of-way. It will have to come back before the Board when the plan revision is complete.

TWO RIVERS COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS/MUTUAL AID AGREEMENT - Kline said that he reviewed the agreement in circulation to the member municipalities and found a few areas that need to be "tightened up a little bit." Kline said that he could not recommend approval of the current document. Howell asked the Board to authorize Schnaedter to communicate the solicitor's concerns to the COG. Schnaedter will forward Kline's email to the President of the COG and the agenda item was tabled until there is more information.

ORDINANCE #303/AMENDMENT TO BUSINESS PRIVLEDGE TAX - Kline said that the advertisement was done and that the ordinance is ready for approval. Kline explained that businesses in the Township are subject to the annual Business Privilege Tax as well as to an annual Business Privilege License Fee. Until tonight that fee was $15/year. The current ordinance did not allow the Township to change the fee by a resolution. The new ordinance does. It, and the accompanying resolution to raise the fee to $30, were approved in 5:0 votes.

AWARD BID/(4) USED TOWNSHIP VEHICLES - Farley explained that there were four Township vehicles for sale, three from the Police Department and one from the code enforcement office. One of the two 2003 Crown Victoria's high bid was $1005.98, the other was $600.98. The 1994 Caprice went for $1200 and the 1995 GMC Jimmy was sold for $100. The lucky high bidders were not identified.

RESOLUTION #070705-1/PURCHASE OF ADDITIONAL SEWAGE CAPACITY - Hoff said that the resolution is for the purchase of 9250/gallons per day at $8/gallon - from Wilson Borough. Hay said that he did a total build-out calculation of the additional capacity needed to cover the industrial area and Route 611. That number is (an additional) 146,750 gallons per day. Nicholas remarked, "So, if we don't have this, then we can't build, right? - Sounds good to me." Howell asked Hay if the Township has enough capacity now to build-out the industrial park. Hay said, "No." He added that's it's difficult to estimate the industrial park's needs in advance of knowing which industries will be there. Hay said that residential needs can be more closely estimated. The purchase was approved 5:0. See JD Malone (Express Times) for more on this purchase.

ACCEPT RESIGNATIONS/COMMUNITY CENTER PERSONNEL - Miller announced the resignations of part-time employees Rick Hartranft and Stephanie Gray. Miller said that Hartranft wants to spend more time with his children and Gray has just graduated from high school and is going to college in the fall. The resignations were accepted 5:0.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - A lengthy session was held to discuss the police contract negotiations, litigation, and a personnel matter.

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.

Friday, July 06, 2007

FAC's Survey Is Down/Broken! "There's nothing wrong with your set..."

Somehow, something has gone terribly wrong with the survey software/host. It has been reported to YAHOO and we have received a case number. No, it's not a solution but it is a start. We are giving them one more day of poking around inside of it before we start all over. We are hoping to save all the data but probably cannot.

Can you believe it? It broke on the 4th of July! It has been trouble free for 94 weeks. And, because we are likely to lose all the data/responses to the current (95th week) survey, we will run the same question for another week... once it's fixed that is.

Thanks to all who've let us know.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Survey This!

The F.A.C. 95th weekly survey is ready for your votes.

Let us know how you feel about things by voting! It's easy. Click Take Survey Now! The results of a week's worth of voting will appear on the Results page next week.

Click RESULTS if you want to see how your opinions compared to your friends and neighbors in past surveys.

If you have a Forks topic that you'd like to see in a survey, please let us know via email. We are open to your suggestions!

Comprehensive Plan Committees - Space Available

Help Wanted - It's Not Too Late To Volunteer!
Forks Comprehensive Planners Seek Residents' Input

A few Forks residents responded and came to the Planning Commission Workshop (read Madeleine Mathias - Morning Call - 6/27/07) on June 26th. They volunteered for the four residents' committees that will help create the newest revision of the Forks Township Comprehensive Plan.

For those of you who were unable to attend and/or cannot commit to regular meetings, there's still a place for you on the committees. Your input is welcome on whatever occasional schedule you can manage. FAC has a web calendar with tentative meeting dates and contact information. Contact Township Manager Rick Schnaedter for more committee details. It's not too late to be involved!

Tentatively: The committees expect to meet at least twice a month. Their notes/results will presented to the Planning Commission in September and incorporated into the Comp Plan draft for review in October. A November public meeting is anticipated.

Don't miss your opportunity to help shape and plan the future of Forks... This is a once-in-ten-year opportunity! Volunteer now!