Sunday, December 30, 2007

HB 904 Still Alive In Harrisburg!

According to an article by Richard Fellinger in the (December 30, 2007) Lebanon Daily News, Representative Robert Freeman's bill for temporary development moratoriums has passed committee and will come before the full house in 2008.  This bill will allow municipalities undergoing zoning and/or comprehensive plan reviews to impose up to eighteen month development/building moratoriums.

For more background on HB 904, see (FAC blog post) Building Moratoriums & Developer Impact Fees

In discussion, at their August 16, 2007 meeting, Forks Supervisors endorsed HB 904 in principle but tabled passing RESOLUTION #070816-2/SUPPORT OF TEMPORARY BUILDING MORATORIUM LEGISLATION.  Miller and Ackerman both preferred that a letter of support be sent (instead of the Howell sponsored Resolution). 

At its September 6th meeting, after discussion and input from Planning Commission members Erik Chuss and Dean Turner, the Board voted 5:0 to PASS RESOLUTION #070906-3/Support of Temporary Building Moratorium Legislation.

PennFuture has HB 904 on its list of bills to watch.  Check it out.

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.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Round 18 - Kings Mill/KMRD - Zoning Challenge Hearing - December 17

The Kings Mill - KMRD - zoning challenge hearing resumes on Monday, December 17th at 7:30 PM. This will be the 18th session of the on-going legal case between the developers and the municipality. Forks Township’s legal council has indicated that they have only three more witnesses to call, which could mean only three more sessions before the Zoning Hearing Boards votes!

If you want to refresh your memory about the issues faced in the hearings, the FAC website has a dedicated Kings Mill page.

The sessions are held in the Municipal Building meeting room and begin at 7:30 PM. Residents are welcomed and encouraged to attend.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

BoS Meeting 12/6/2007

Forks Township's Supervisors discussed a range of topics, not the least of which was the EMS request for the budgeted 2007 funds. Read JD Malone (Express Times) for more. For the rest of the meeting, read on. (Six items are to be added to the December 20th BoS meeting agenda. The date, December 20th, is in blue so that the items will be easier to follow.)


Supervisor Ackerman remarked that the new issue of the Forks Quarterly contains an error. He said he didn't know who wrote the piece that said that the 2007 Comprehensive Plan had been adopted but it has not been adopted. It is a work in progress.

Supervisor Nicholas requested that the entire text of the Zoning Hearing Board reports be included in the Supervisors' packets. Currently they get only the first page. Zoning Officer Weis will be asked to do that. Nicholas also requested that the Northampton County information included in the packet be posted (or linked) on the Township website. Township Manager Schnaedter will see that it happens.

Nicholas noted, too, that the Supervisors received a letter from Stockertown (to the Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority). Supervisor Hoff said that the Township requested the letter, at the advice of Forks' EAJSW representative, Henning Holmgaard, so that (engineer) Fred Hay could review it. Hay explained that he will develop parameters for the Board's consideration.

Nicholas asked, too, that Act 4 (Northampton County Farmland Preservation) be included on the December 20th meeting agenda and that, for informational purposes, ordinances and resolutions be posted on the Township website for 30 days.

Supervisor Miller reported that winter sports are in full swing. The first wrestling meet is this Sunday. There are 30 basketball teams and two or three more coaches are needed. He asked for volunteers.

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 - see the Township calendar for dates and times)

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Nicholas - reported that the committee discussed the Fire Ordinance; it is an agenda item. The committee also discussed CPR training for staff. (Township Manager Schnaedter will look into the cost of CPR training and when it could be done.) Nicholas also said that Forks EMS financial reports were reviewed and that Forks EMS asked her to bring the subject of the EMS money in the 2007 Forks budget to the Board for discussion. Supervisor Hoff explained that $20,000 is in the 2007 budget and that this will be an agenda item at the December 20th meeting. Supervisor Howell asked if the request from Forks EMS was in writing and Nicholas said that it was not. Howell asked that it be in writing and that the letter discuss how the squad intends to disburse the money. Hoff instructed Schnaedter to write a letter to the squad requesting that the information be provided by the 17th - so that it can be included in the Supervisors' packets for the meeting on the 20th. Supervisor Ackerman said that he thought the Board of Supervisors should decide where it (the money) goes or should pay bills directly.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Ackerman - said that the committee held its last meeting of the year two weeks ago. He added that since the last meeting, the new salt bin was installed. Also, he said that there was a sewer main leak last weekend and that the "guys" did a good job taking care of it. DPW Director Roberts said that in addition to the sewer main break, the crew has been busy with leaf collection. The leaves are finally off the trees and the department has logged 565.5 hours on leaf pick-up - in November. Roberts also said that the DEP and EPA have approved demolition of the house on the corner of Newlins and Richmond. The asbestos (a small amount in the basement) will be removed on December 19th, the air quality tested, and then the house can come down on December 20th.
  • 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 said that the committee met on November 28th and the items discussed - IT support, audio/visual systems, and the employee manual - are on the agenda.

TOWNSHIP MANAGER'S REPORT - Schnaedter - had nothing to add to his written report. Nicholas asked about the two job descriptions (in his report) and said that she was not aware that the Board had discussed them. Schnaedter said it is his understanding the job descriptions have been an ongoing topic for two years. To that Hoff stated that there was no change. Nicholas said that there is a realignment of duties and she would like it added to the December 20th agenda - for discussion. Again, Hoff said that there was no change and that currently the jobs are "taking place" as described. He said that when the Board voted to change Barb's position (to HR Manager) that "Debbie took over some of those responsibilities right then." Nicholas said, "Okay, if no one else cares, fine." Howell said that he does care and commented that the Board's meeting minutes will no longer being prepared in-house by staff, but by the same person who is contracted to do the Planning Commission minutes. Howell further noted that the PC minutes in the Board's current packet were from the November 8th PC meeting. He asked that the minutes be prepared by in-staff people so that the expense of using outside persons can be avoided. Howell also noted that he would like to have the minutes sooner so that items on the agenda that are referred from the PC are known to the Board before those items appear in front of them for discussion. He asked that the issue of minutes be discussed at the next meeting and that Schnaedter explore other alternatives to producing minutes - preferably in-house.

ENGINEER'S REPORT - Hay - agenda items only.

SOLICITOR'S REPORT - Kline - agenda items only.

COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC (NOT AGENDA ITEMS) - Forks resident Sandy Hanks asked Police Chief Dorney if PA State law gives pedestrians the right of way where there is a hash-mark across the road? Dorney said that it is a newly passed law. Hanks said that she witnessed vehicles not stopping for a runner at the crossing on Zucksville Road (from the Community Center). Hanks said that the crossing needs signage. Howell offered that the Comprehensive Plan subcommittee report indicated that all the recreation path/trail crossings will be reviewed and signage will be recommended. Dorney said that he will look into the new law and that he thought that hash-marked crossings with yellow signs indicate that motorists must stop for people on the path. Dorney added that in the specific area that Hanks mentioned, signs are a good idea. Nicholas observed that there are four speed limits on Zucksville - from 45 to 35 to 25 to 35. Dorney noted that this is a question for PennDot.


Forks IT Support - Award Bid - Finance Manager Farley said that the Finance & Administration Committee reviewed the five bids and recommended EZ Micro Solutions for the next three year contract. This was approved with a 5:0 vote.

Audio-Visual Systems Proposal - Board Room / Award Bid - Farley reported that Vistacom was the only bidder ($12,363.30 to install the projector and hardware). Nicholas asked about the length of the project, the sizes of the screens, and the number of screens. She said that the proposal states that the owner is responsible for conduit, paths between the devices, and drilling holes in the dais. She noted, too, that "minimal feedback" is mentioned but the amount of "feedback" is unknown. Also, she asked about warrantees. Because of all the unknowns, it was decided in a 5:0 vote to table this item until the December 20th meeting when Zoning Officer, Tim Weis, will be in attendance. Also, a spokesperson from Vistacom will be invited to do a presentation.

Ordinance 306 - Local Services Tax / Adoption - Kline said that this was properly advertised and ready for adoption. Effectively it is a name change from the EMS Tax to the Local Services Tax. The amount remains the same at $52 per year for employees working in the Township. It was approved in a 5:0 vote and will be effective on January 1, 2008.


Resolution for (6) Street Lights / The Estates at Bushkill Creek - Hay reported that the lights have been inspected and everything is in order. He recommended Board approval. The Board agreed. The vote was 5:0.

Resolution for (15) Street Lights / College Park Development - Hay reported that the lights have been inspected and everything is in order. He recommended Board approval. Howell asked if the lights are all the same style as the rest of the Township lights and Hay said that they are. Hay added that Riverview is the exception (in fixture styles). The vote was 5:0 in favor of the resolution.

Employee Manual Discussion - Hoff asked the Board to review the changes (all are highlighted) in the manual and suggested that any questions be addressed to Schnaedter and Bartek (since they worked on it). Some of the changes are mandated by changes in State and Federal laws and others because of contract agreements. Discussion and action will be added to the December 20th meeting agenda. Howell asked how the manual will be disseminated and was told that it will be distributed to employees and that they will sign that they have received it.

Advertise Fire Department Ordinance - Nicholas reported that the Public Safety Committee has reviewed the ordinance and that it is in front of the Board for comment and reviewl. Nicholas noted that there is some confusion as to the setting of rates vs. the timing of the annual budget. Hoff explained that the IRS provides the reimbursable mileage figure (this year it is $.505/per mile) and that FEMA provides the maximum (reimbursable) idle time figure as a guideline - although the FEMA maximum does not have to be used - it can be less. Kline asked if the rates will always be available in January (before the re-organizational meeting) and Hoff said that the IRS rate will be. Hoff also said that this is the first time the ordinance has been updated in eleven years and that the Township has changed a lot in that time. Some of the changes include changing the line officer service requirement from three years to five years - but with prior experience, eligibility can be shortened to four years. Ackerman said that he wanted a copy of the old ordinance to compare with the new one. The Board voted 4:1 (Ackerman) to advertise the ordinance. It will be discussed and voted on at the December 20th meeting.

Executive Session - called by Supervisor Nicholas to discuss a personnel issue. No action was taken.

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.