Sunday, September 30, 2007

Candidates In The News!

The Express Times' JD Malone interviewed the four Forks Supervisor candidates. Read his article here.

The November 6 election is only weeks away. Be informed. Check out the candidates' blogs, too. (R) David Billings, (D) Robert Egolf, and (D) James Wideman have blogs. FAC hosts one as well.

Your comments and questions to the candidates are wanted. The blogs are open to all.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Blogs! - Billings, Egolf, and Wideman Are Online

Now three of the four Forks Supervisor candidates have personal BLOGS. Visit the blogs of (R) David Billings, (D) Robert Egolf, and (D) James Wideman. You won't be disappointed. You will learn more about your candidates and their visions for Forks Township.

Their blog links are also on the FAC Candidates' Page, the FAC blog, and the Forks Supervisor Candidates' blog. All allow your comments and questions.

The candidates look forward to hearing from you. What an opportunity!

November 6th is only a few weeks away. You will be informed voters for sure!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

King's Mill Developers Want A Time Out?

The September 25 Morning Call featured a piece by Joe Nixon on the Kings Mill zoning challenge's latest turn of events. Please read it.

Two of the Supervisor candidates have new blog posts about it, too. See Billings2007 and Wideman2007 for their views.

Round 15 is scheduled for October 1st at 7:30 PM in the Forks Municipal Building. You won't want to miss this one! Anything can happen.

The Board needs to know NOW how you, the residents of Forks, stand. Be there. It's vital.

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.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

BoS Meeting 9/6/2007 - Cell Tower Discussion

Because this report is lengthy, we have elected to post it separately from the main meeting notes. The cell tower discussion was reported on by JD Malone (Express Times) and Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call) in the September 7th editions of their newspapers.

Hoff summarized the T-Mobile cell tower agenda item. He said that it’s been before the Finance Committee. T-Mobile has offered a $15,000 annual contribution (in the form of monthly rent), space on the tower for an EMS repeater, lights to light the back of the old Laneco building, and 20% of co-location (additional cell providers using the same tower) fees will be paid to the Township. Hoff asked the Supervisors if they wanted to go forward with T-Mobile. A motion to go forward was made by Ackerman and seconded by Miller. Discussion followed.

Howell questioned the legality of the Board approval to enter into a $15,000 contract to lease property (2500 sq ft) when T-Mobile has “no right at this point to install or construct a cell tower.” Howell questioned the details about noise abatement and environmental issues. He stated that noise abatement is not in our current ordinance. Howell said, too, that the lease has holes that need to be addressed and said that he provided the Supervisors with a copy of Kline’s email from April where Kline said that site selection is the most important aspect and that the contract is not site specific and does not meet the ordinance. Howell felt that entering into the contract would compromise the Zoning Hearing Board’s authority since they are the only ones who can grant the special exception needed. Howell felt that the Board was “putting the cart before the horse” in considering the motion.

Kline explained that the “site lease with an option” has a $500 one year option while T-Mobile gets FCC approval, a zoning special exception, and land development approval. T-Mobile also has an option for another $500 one year renewal to get everything done. If, after they get everything and determine that it’s economically feasible, then the contract gives T-Mobile a five year lease for $1250/mth with four 5-year renewals at no increase in rent to the Township. The tower would be 150 feet high and is a permitted special exception use in the REM district. T-Mobile would have to meet all the requirements of the zoning ordinance.

A Board vote to go ahead with the contract provided by T-Mobile would mean that once T-Mobile got all of its approvals, the Township would be unable to say “no.” Howell asked Kline if the tower site complies with zoning now and Kline said that the minimum set-back must be one times the height of the tower and since its five feet from the property line, it does not comply.

Howell asked that the three pages of zoning ordinance be included in any document prepared. He noted too, that the lease presented makes many demands on the Township including maintenance of the roads leading to the tower.

Howell said that that Glover Road tower is a mess. He wondered what ordinance it was permitted under and how Hale Built was allowed to erect a building so close to it. There is supposed to be a fall down zone at least the height of the tower in every direction.

Ackerman said that the reason for his motion was so that Forks could tell T-Mobile what “we want” and if they don’t agree, then it’s over.

Miller said that the parking lot of the old Laneco/Giant is to come to the Township in the plan approved for One-Up LLC. Howell said that the land is for sale and it will be unlikely that the current owner will agree now to give the land to the Township.

Susan Bennett (resident) said that Forks has a beautiful park and for a “few bucks” this shouldn’t be allowed. She asked, “Why would you visualize having a tower like that in a beautiful recreation park?” (applause)

Dean Turner (Planning Commission) likened Miller’s “we’re going to get that land” to Strausser’s justification for cutting the trees – that he was “going to get the land.” (applause)

David Billings (candidate for Supervisor) asked if the location was set by T-Mobile or if the Zoning Hearing Board or the Planning Commission determine the site? Kline said that the location is on the site plan. Billings added that the ordinance stipulates that T-Mobile must justify why it cannot locate on an existing tower and he suggested that the Township recommend another location.

Reta Howell (resident and wife of Supervisor David Howell) said that she was giving her personal opinion - that the Community Park and Arboretum is a jewel and it’s incomprehensible to her that a monstrosity should go there. She asked the Board if they wanted to remembered for voting for a “blight on the landscape” or for having the courage to vote “no.” (applause)

Jim Wideman (candidate for Supervisor) questioned the square footage since the ordinance specifies 750 square feet. Howell responded that he is baffled by this also but that it’s a question of the “compound.” This plan is for a 20’ x 10’ compound. He felt that a co-user would not find that to be sufficient space. Wideman said that if this $500 option is signed, that the Township would be locked into the $15,000 rental figure. He said that he is not happy with the location or the rental offered and that signing it makes no business sense.

Hoff asked the Board if they should move forward or not?

Nicholas said that she has not been in the negotiations and was “up in the air” on this. She thought that the Board could give directions on what they want to T-Mobile and that would be the only thing she is voting on. She said it would giver her extra time to come to a decision and to get “influence” from people on what they want her to do.

Howell said that a yes vote would mean that a cell tower here would be approved under certain conditions and a no vote would mean, that it could not be built here under any conditions. (applause) Nicholas said that he should “not to put words” in her mouth. Kline said that a positive vote would mean that the Board would agree, under certain circumstances, to a cell tower in the park. (applause)

Bill Wallace (candidate for Northampton County Council said that his son plays soccer and last year at a tournament in the Forks park, he found a dead bird in the parking lot – a hermit thrush – that probably hit one of the park light poles. He said that our park is an oasis “for millions of birds who migrate at night.” And, when it’s foggy at night, the migrating birds cannot see obstructions.

Howell, citing Roberts Rules of Order, called for a roll call vote. Ackerman YES, Nicholas NO, Miller YES, Howell NO, Hoff NO. The cell tower was defeated in a 2:3 vote. (resounding applause)

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, September 09, 2007

BoS Meeting 9/6/2007

This night's Board of Supervisors meeting was very lively and very interesting. Residents were there. They spoke up against the T-Mobile cell tower proposed for the Community Park. There was applause when the roll-call vote was finished and the cell tower was voted down in a 2:3 vote. Read more in newspaper articles by JD Malone (Express Times) and Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call). We will try to fill in the rest of the meeting.


Supervisor Howell said that the Board received an invitation from the Northampton County Association of Township Officials for a function and if any of them wish to attend, the Township Manager should be notified.

Supervisor Ackerman asked if the Comprehensive Plan Subcommittees had been given permission to contact outside contractors. He noted that in the past because of costs, only the Supervisors were allowed to do that. Chairman Hoff explained that the Board endorsed the Comp Plan work. Supervisor Nicholas said that she was worried about the back and forth emails as possible Sunshine Act violations. Solicitor Kline clarified that no public officials, either elected or appointed, may engage in making decisions nor in "deliberations that would lead to a decision, except at a public meeting." This insures transparency. Hoff asked that that message be passed on to the Planning Commission to remind them that email use is proper to set meetings, to create agendas, and to announce who is coming to a meeting, etc. Planner Dean Turner said that there are only two weeks left of the three months that the subcommittees were given and that the only emails going around now are the sharing of minutes and final details before the final reports are due.

Ackerman then said that a PennDot representative addressed the Comp Plan Traffic Subcommittee and said that PennDot had no record of the Township's application for a light at the Meco Rd./Sullivan Trail intersection. Engineer Hay said that the application was sent to Allentown and copies of the PennDot review letter (from their Traffic Division) were given to the Board at a previous meeting.

Supervisor Nicholas thanked Sue and Harry Bennett for all the Forks Days work that they have done. She said that the antique wagon will be delivered on Saturday the 15th at 11:00am (note: per the Historical Society, the actual time is 10:00am) and that all the Supervisors are invited to attend (and should notify the Historical Society if they plan to be there.) Senator Wonderling will be there. Nicholas added that other features/events/activities include food, games, rides, tethered balloon rides, plane rides at the airport, a battle of the bands, fireworks (Saturday at 9;00pm), a classic car show (Sunday),and more.

Nicholas also said that one of the Comp Plan subcommittees that she attends visited CAT (Coalition for Appropriate Transportation) where the committee learned of Emmaus' plan to slow traffic down on its main street to see that there are businesses there. The question posed was "Do you want people to drive through Forks or drive to Forks?" Nicholas added that bicycle patrol officer Steve Nicholson received bicycle training at CAT.

TREASURER'S REPORT - Secretary/Treasurer Howell detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. Nicholas asked if the HiTech bill for $755 was from the lightening strike damage and if was going to be an insurance claim. Township Manager Schnaedter said that the insurance company has been contacted but that he is not optimistic. Nicholas also asked about the traffic study bill for $8000+. Finance Manager Farley said that this is only a portion of the $12,000 total bill and that it was necessary to stay current with the Liquid Fuels requirements. Schnaedter said that the study was part of the Weis Market and the Kings Mill suits. Acceptance of the debits and transfers was approved 5:0.

Standing Committee Reports

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas - reported that the committee reviewed agenda items including public safety ordinances and lightening.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - reported that there was a committee meeting on Tuesday morning in which projects being worked on, completed, and coming up were discussed.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Miller - said that he attended several Recreation Committee meetings over the last couple of weeks and that he also attended a couple of meetings of the Bushkill Conservancy.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Howell reported that the committee met and discussed the upcoming Fall/Winter Quarterly and the upcoming community guide. The guide will contain a "sizable" map of the township and is expected to be distributed to all residents in January or February. It will be supported by advertising. The committee has sought to find the "best possible publisher" for it.
  • Finance & Administration - Chairman Hoff - reported that there have been no meetings since the last and that the committee will be meeting next Wednesday at 3:00pm.

TOWNSHIP MANAGER'S REPORT - Schnaedter said that the Board has his written report and he added that the 2008 budget preparation is upcoming. He asked the Board for input on capital projects. Hoff noted that the Finance Committee will be looking at the budget schedule at its meeting on Wednesday (September 12). Howell reminded all that the committee meetings are advertised and open to the public. Farley added that he has asked all department heads to submit a list of projects that they feel should be added to the budget.

As to the Forks map for the community guide, Schnaedter said that Municipal Publications has been used by a number of communities throughout PA and that it is a reputable company. Option #3 was selected in a 5:0 vote. The option includes 6500 publications, included postage, and ad selling. Company representatives will work for 2-3 weeks (from the Municipal Building) to sell ads. Nicholas asked that since it will not be out until 2008, which Supervisors' names would be on it? Schnaedter said that the names will be chosen after the election when the new Supervisors are known.

ENGINEER'S REPORT - Hay reported that the recycling of Mitman Road is complete and that paving will begin shortly. He added that the Arndt/Bushkill blinking lights pole is in and will be installed soon.

SOLICITOR'S REPORT - Kline reported that KMRD (Kings Mill) has "filed a procedural challenge to every zoning ordinance that the Township has adopted since 1983." KMRD alleges that the ordinances were possibly enacted incorrectly and should be voided. (Read the challenge HERE - caution very large file.) In addition, Kline said that KMRD has submitted a new plan for a "considerable amount of multiple occupancy residential dwellings" that conforms to the 1983 zoning ordinance. KMRD wants the Township to ignore all zoning ordinances back to, but not including, the 1983 ordinance. This will be discussed in Executive Session.


James Wideman (candidate for Supervisor and chairman of the PC subcommittee on Farmland and Historic Preservation) said that he recently learned of deficiencies in the SALDO (Subdivision and Land Ordinance) regarding undedicated Township roads and construction sites. He read the text of an amendment he prepared to remedy the deficiencies. Wideman said that it sets a clear protocol for developers to follow. The text of his amendment proposal deals with map layouts, road names, lot numbers, and ingress/egress. Wideman asked that the Board forward it to the Planning Commission for consideration and discussion. - Nicholas said that the Public Safety Committee is considering changes that will not involve the SALDO. Hoff said that it is easier not do it in an ordinance because ordinances are difficult to change. The committee is looking at changes to the developers' agreements as a solution. Wideman again asked that it be given to the PC so that they might consider the changes. Hoff stated that he felt the PC should be part of the decision - as should the solicitor. He added that the discussion should take place at all levels.

Harry and Susan Bennett addressed the Board to thank each of them for the "vast help" that they have been given in putting together Forks Community Days. Hoff and Nicholas returned the thanks for the time and effort the Bennetts have put into it. Mrs. Bennett urged the the Board attend the festival (Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th - of September) because "it's really nice to see the Supervisors be out there."


Police 5-year plan for review/Financial Analysis - Chief Dorney said that the Five Year Plan has been extensively reviewed. In it, staffing will increase by three additional officers. Farley said that he did an analysis of the plan and projected different (Township) growth rates. A 6% rate was used and he felt that there would be little, if any, increase in taxes. The major costs drivers are healthcare and salary. Hoff added that the current ratio of officers to population is 1:875 and that ratio is maintained in the plan. Hoff said, too, that police services include residential vacation checks, overnight business checks, a bicycle safety program, the summer youth police academy, child safety seat inspections and loan program, and many more. New programs are planned for the future including neighborhood watch and crimes against the retired and elderly (CARE). Recently the police department raised just under $1000 for bicycle helmets. The plan was approved in a 5:0 vote.

Chief Dorney announced that he (and other officers) assisted Forks EMS to deliver a baby boy at 6:40am (today) on Miracle Drive. He said that he and the officers really appreciated them (EMS) being there.

Cell Tower - Click here for the notes on the lengthy cell tower discussion.

RESOLUTION #070906-3/Support of Temporary Building Moratorium Legislation - Howell said that this came before the Board three meetings ago. He explained that the resolution simply endorses in principal only, Act 904 (introduced by Representatives Freeman and Grucela). Act 904 provides breathing room to municipalities undergoing re-writes of their zoning, SALDO, and comprehensive plans by allowing these municipalities to impose brief moratoriums on building. Howell said that it is endorsed by nearly every government lobbying agency, but not by developers. The moratorium would apply to new developments only and not to existing ones. Howell said, too, that this resolution would provide encouragement to the Representatives promoting Act 904.

Ackerman expressed concern that the Act would undergo hundreds of changes before it passes (if it passes) in Harrisburg. He said too, that it would be great to stop houses but not industry since Forks needs industry.

Erik Chuss (Planning Commission Chairman and candidate for Supervisor) said that he had an opportunity at a recent Comp Plan Economic Development Subcommittee meeting, to speak with Rep. Grucela about Act 904 and that he was told the municipalities can design the moratoriums any way they want. Chuss said that this Resolution will send a message to Harrisburg. He also said that "developers have run over the Township with bulldozers and steam rollers" and that Act 904 will help "level the playing field."

Planner Dean Turner agreed with Chuss and added that the PC does not have many tools and this is the first time that Harrisburg may provide a "little bit of a tool to take our community back." He added that "it would be ludicrous to not support that movement."

The resolution passed in a 5:0 vote.

Old River Road - Tree Removal/Strausser - Howell said that the Strausser "horrific tree cutting on Old River Road" has been reviewed by a certified arborist and that the report is not yet finished. A lawsuit is under consideration as are compensatory damages. Because the act was "willful and wanton," the Board may also consider punitive damages.

Turner suggested that the "perimeter" property owners also deserve compensation for the decrease in property values caused by the tree cutting. Kline said that it is the property owners' decision to pursue compensation and that the Township "needs to be careful" or it may have a hundred others who want the Township "to handle a case on the Township's dime." The agenda item was tabled 5:0 - pending receipt of the arborist's report. See JD Malone (Express Times) for more.


Presentation - Watershed Specialist Bushkill Stream and Forks Lions Park - Kate Brandes, the Watershed Specialist for the Northampton County Conservation District presented the Bushkill Conservancy's proposal for a reparation project for Lion's Park. Brandes explained that the purpose is to stabilize the stream bed and beautify the area. Funding has been secured for Phase I of a two phase project.

The Conservancy will begin by removing the invasive, noxious weeds via mechanical pulling and application of an ecologically approved herbicide treatment. The replacement plantings will include native vegetation, trees, and shrubs. The grass area will be planted with native meadow grasses and wildflowers. Meadows are expected to be tall and require mowing once a year.

The rocks will not be rearranged and the fishing paths will remain.

Phase II includes proposed fishing platforms that are handicap accessible. Phase II is years away and not yet funded.

The Bushkill Conservancy is ready to begin in 2-4 weeks. The Board granted approval in a 5:0 vote.

RESOLUTION #070906-1/Acceptance of Streets in Lambert Estates - Kline said that Hay inspected all of the Lambert Estates roads and that they are in good condition. This passed 5:0.

RESOLUTION #070906-2/Acceptance of Detention Basins in Lambert Estates - Kline explained that normally the Township does not take over detention basins but that the Lambert Estates developer agreed to cooperate and correct a problem created by another developer (Vista Estates) by extending the pond. Kline said that Strausser (the Vista Estates developer) "happens to be the same developer who built Riverview Estates and chopped down trees." The basins were inspected by Keystone Engineering and found to be in order. The Board voted 5:0 to accept the Lambert Estates basins (one entire basin and part of the other) and NOT the part in Vista Estates. Kline said, "Mr. Strausser is on his own."

Fire Chief - Reimbursable Expense Change - Hoff explained that the rate for (total annual) reimbursable expenses for the fire chief was set in 1996 (in the Fire Department Ordinance) at $800. It has remained unchanged. Fire Chief Bryan Weis has already spent $800 this year. Hoff asked the Board to raise the limit to $1600 for this year and to consider the amount in the budget discussions.

Ackerman asked why the amount suddenly doubled. Hoff said that in the last few years, the fire chief absorbed the difference between what was allowed and what he actually spent. Hoff said, too, that the call volume has increased from previous years and that Bryan Weis is tracking the numbers (mileage and fuel) for his vehicle use. Hoff said that this wasn't done in the past so the Board had no idea that expenses were increasing. Because all capital purchases ended when the Board decided to build the Municipal complex, the command vehicle that was included in the five year plan was dropped. Weis uses his own vehicle as a command vehicle. It is outfitted for a laptop computer.

Turner suggested that the Stockertown contract may contribute to additional expenses. Ackerman said that "Stockertown should be liable for the idle time, too." Nicholas said that she looked at three months (of Weis' records) and 1/3 of the "idle" time (truck idling while the computer is being used) is for Stockertown calls and she doesn't think Forks should have to pay for Stockertown's calls. Nicholas also said that because Weis accepted the position with an $800 limit, a new limit shouldn't go into effect until next year.

The reimbursable amount was increased to $1600 in a 4:1 vote with Nicholas voting "nay."

Vehicle Bids - Public Works Director - DPW Director Roberts reported that the PA Department of General Services COSTARS program will allow the Township to purchase two new pieces of equipment at pre-approved bid prices, a Diamond International dump truck and a John Deere mower. The mower price is $11,879 and the dump truck is $102,266. Both items are in the 2007 budget. The purchases were approved 5:0.

2008 Pension Projection/Minimum Municipal Obligation - Farley explained that the pension projections are done one year in advance. The pension was audited by the State and the obligation is $18,000 higher than was budgeted. The increase is due to the 4% non-uniformed employees' contract increase (the budget was done last year at 3%) and to the hiring of additional employees. The Board voted 5:0 to move ahead in the process.

EXECUTIVE SESSION - was called to discuss (per Hoff) "possible, current, and pending litigation" as well as the police department contract negotiations. The session ran into the wee hours and ended with 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.

Announcing - Candidates' Blogs!

Two of the four Supervisor candidates now have individual BLOGS. Please visit the blogs of (R) David Billings and of (D) James Wideman. There you will learn more about both gentleman and their visions for Forks Township.

The links are accessible from the FAC Candidates' Page as well as from the preceding underlined text. The general Forks Supervisor Candidates' blog remains online and open as well. You will be informed voters for sure!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Strausser Tree Cutting - On the Agenda For 9/6/07

For those of you waiting to learn more about how the Board will deal with Strausser for cutting trees on Township property, you may find out tomorrow night - it's on the agenda for the September 6th meeting!

Also up for discussion, and maybe action, is the cell tower proposal for the Community Park.

The meeting starts at 7:30pm in the Municipal Building meeting room.

Bring the family. Bring your neighbors. Don't count on others to speak for you. Some things need your personal input!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Strausser - In the News Again!

The Express Times' Jimmy Miller (9/2/07) reported further on the allegations made by Strausser representative Sal Panto to the Forks Supervisors - that on at least four occasions, EMS (from outside Forks) did not arrive at the Riverview Country Club when a 911 call was made because the (still private) Riverview roads are not on the Northampton County 911 mapping system.

Panto said that dispatched vehicles are not able to find the golf course country club on Winchester Drive. And, because of this, Strausser has asked the Township to take over maintenance of Riverview's roads.

According to the Express Times, Barry Alberston, Jr. of Suburban EMS, said that this was untrue. Apparently there are two witnesses to one of the incidents - that of a woman fainting at the country club. Albertson said that Forks EMS called off that ALS call.