Sunday, January 20, 2008

BoS Meeting 1/17/2008

Forks Township's Board of Supervisors in a 5:30 PM workshop, interviewed one candidate for the Zoning Hearing Board vacancy and five candidates for the lone slot on the Planning Commission.  (Planning Commission members were included in the PC interviews and will make a recommendation to the Board at a 7 PM workshop before the February 7th BoS meeting.) The sole candidate for the Recreation Board was unable to attend the interview session. 

A good portion of the regular meeting was spent discussing the Riverview recreation trail(s), specifically along Winchester Drive.  Read JD Malone (Express Times) and Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call) for more on the recreation trail(s).  We did learn from Township Manager Schnaedter that there is a varmint (a.k.a. beaver) in the Bushkill creek feasting on the new plantings at Lions Park.  And, we learned that Forks is getting a post office substation inside the Ace Hardware.  Read below for more details.

Supervisors' Comments

Supervisor Nicholas announced that the Forks Community Days committee will be meeting on Monday, January 21st at 7:00 PM in the Community Center.  Anyone who wishes to volunteer and help out should come to the meeting.  For more information, Nicholas suggested contacting Sue/Harry Bennett and said that contact information is on the website.

Treasurer's Report - Vice Chair Erik Chuss filled in for Secretary/Treasurer Bob Egolf (who was on vacation) and 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 Chuss - reported that the committee met on January 8th.  He noted that the meeting was positive and productive.  Discussed were the police department five year plan, current year plans to implement the five year plans of both the police and the fire departments, the initial phase of the fire department training facility in the northern part of the township, and emergency preparedness planning.  Chuss offered that the goals are attainable.  The next meeting will be February 5th at 5 PM.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that the committee will meet next week.  DPW Director Roberts announced that leaf collection is done!
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - noted that the committee's first meeting will be on January 24th at 4 PM.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - said that at the meeting on Tuesday, the committee discussed the upcoming Forks Quarterly and website updating.  She said, too, that they are working at getting an "updatable" page for the police department.  Also, by the end of the month (or early February) the website calendar will get a new look.  It will look like a regular calendar and will be interactive. 
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - absent - Howell noted that the committee is scheduled to meet on Wednesday (January 23rd) at 5 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - said that he received an invitation for the Board of Supervisors to the open house and ribbon cutting for the new Forks post office (substation) inside the Ace Hardware store.  The ribbon cutting is scheduled for 10 AM on Saturday, February 2nd. 

Schnaedter also reported that he was contacted by the Bushkill Stream Conservancy because of what they thought was vandalism to the new trees on both (Forks and Palmer) sides of the creek.  Zoning Officer Tim Weis, Schnaedter, and representatives from Fish & Game and the Conservancy investigated.  It was determined that the vandal was a young rogue male beaver!  The area will be sprayed with a non-harmful substance to ward off the beaver.  No one could say for certain if it was Forks beaver, a Palmer beaver, or one that had wandered down from Tatamy. 

There has been no resolution of the contract with the Center for Animal Health & Welfare yet.  Schnaedter promised an update soon.  The sticking point is "cats." 

Engineer's Report - Hay - reported that the Bushkill/Arndt blinking light is energized and all the road markings are done.  He believes the switch will be thrown on Monday or Tuesday.  Hay also reported that the Meco/Sullivan Trail light is probably going to go in in the summer when school is out (because of traffic disruptions.)  He spoke with the traffic engineer recently and they are still meeting on the PennDot "comments."

Solicitor's Report - Kline - agenda items only.

Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority - Liaison Report - Henning Holmgaard - reported that the letter written by Easton to the DRBC (Delaware River Basin Commission) and dated November 30, 2007 was presumptuous - Easton did not "copy" Forks.  The Board had just received a copy.  The letter was not read but Holmgaard did say that there is a sewer (EAJSA) meeting this coming Monday and that it will be discussed.  He added that there is no reason for Forks not to support the letter since it will be very costly not to (support it). 

Schnaedter said that the letter was just handed to him last night and that it is about the special protection water designation for the Delaware River.  Schnaedter said that Allentown, Bethlehem, and Catasauqua have signed it.  Kline will report further on this at the next meeting.

Holmgaard said that the I&I (infiltration/inflow) study will not be (one half) paid by the DEP as promised last year and that Easton will be in trouble because the older the system the more chance that it has significant rainwater infiltration.  Holmgaard said too, that Easton cannot pay up front and will have to find the money somehow - from part of a EAJSA capital project.  Holmgaard said, "I just don't think it's right but they have six votes on the board."   

Holmgaard asked the BoS to direct the solicitor (Kline) to study the 1988 agreement with the EAJSA.  He said that there are three agreements between the member municipalities and the EAJSA and that the 1988 one is the latest.  In the 1988 one, Holmgaard believes, there is a provision for representatives based on capacity ownership.  Holmgaard suggests enforcing this provision to increase Forks board members.  Forks has purchased substantial capacity over the last few years.  Easton has sold a lot of their capacity.  Currently Easton controls the twelve person board with its six members.  Forks has only one.  Holmgaard would like to see a thirteen member board so that things can get done. 

Holmgaard added that the sewer plant is "cash cow" for Easton since it is paid for treatment (Easton owns the plant - the EAJSA has the permit that allows dumping in the Delaware River) and Easton employees run it.  As to the water treatment plant, Holmgaard said that ESWA pays Easton for water treatment and the plant capacity may not be there for it.

Kline will analyze the 1988 contract for the next meeting.  Holmgaard offered that the minutes of the EAJSA meetings are not very descriptive.

Comments from the floor - East Elizabeth Avenue resident, Craig Ward, asked who owns the road in front of his house.  He has issues with speeders.  He was told to contact PennDot since it is a PennDot road.  Chief Dorney said that Pennsylvania is the only state that does not allow local police to use radar. 


Bike Path - Nicholas said that she had hoped to have the minutes of the January 10th Planing Commission (PC) meeting for this agenda item discussion.  They are not yet available. The segment she wanted resolved was the Broadway/Winchester Drive section.  It was cut by Strausser (at Hay's suggestion) from the old railroad bed walking trail to Broadway Road.  It was returned to grass per order of the BoS on 11/1/07

PC Chair, Dean Turner, reported that the PC consensus was that the path continue (on the north side of Winchester) west through to Broadway Road.  The PC felt that a four-way stop intersection was a safer place to cross Winchester Drive.  The path would then cross over to the south side of Winchester and continue west. Chuss said that the PC vote was 4:2.  He however, recommends that the path be on both sides of Winchester Drive.  He said that then it should be prioritized to determine what to actually build now.

Howell said that the Parks & Recreation committee is aware that there are gaps in the current trail system and that some of the gaps can actually be filled now.  Regarding Riverview, the plans show what Strausser will and will not do.  There is no path on the north side of Winchester (from Danser to Frost Hollow) on the Riverview plans.  Howell said that he would like to have a complete plan of the Riverview trails before the Board to decide which gaps will be filled and for how much. 

Nicholas said that she would like to know how much money has been budgeted for recreation paths and how many empty spots are in the trail system.  She said she would like to see a priority list. 

Miller said that there is no money budgeted and that the distance of the path and the cost (to the Township) must be examined.  Nicholas added that the cost of maintenance has to be considered, too.

Hay said that Riverview plans were approved without sidewalks and that Strausser has installed a sidewalk on the south side of Winchester from Ramblewood to Iron Lane.  Kline said that the plan shows no sidewalk on Winchester from Broadway to Iron Lane. 

Howell said that there is money in the capital improvement fund from impact fees charged developers.  Farley offered the amount - $1.8 million.  Howell then said that the Township owes it to the residents to complete projects it has started.  He stated that the all unfinished capital projects should be reviewed along with whatever new ones should be undertaken.  Howell added that this will be the principal role of the Parks & Recreation committee in the early part of this year.

Nicholas suggested tabling the bike path agenda item pending a project priority review and the spending involved.  She cited some of the recent recreation survey results - a bandshell and a pool - as things that require further review.  Howell offered that there isn't enough money from impact fees to prepare a site for a pool.  He added that a bandshell and refurbishing tot-lots (and other lots) will take priority. 

Chuss said that there is no official document/plan for recreation in the area and that it needs to prioritized so that residents know (what to expect).  Howell stated that the Township cannot do anything until the entire thing is planned.

Turner offered his personal (not the PC) opinion that the recreation survey is going to be part of the new Comprehensive Plan and that the Board take a look at the overall (rec) plan and spend wisely. 

Nicholas made a motion that action be delayed until the Board sees the entire Township recreation trail plan.  The vote was 1:3. 

Chuss clarified his earlier suggestion that the path be on both sides of Winchester.  He said it can be planned but not built at this time.  Miller thought that would be okay since it doesn't say that it will be built.  He added that a feasibility study should be done for a swimming pool. (It was number one on both the most recent recreation survey and on the one ten years ago.) 

Miller motioned that the bike path agenda item be tabled until the approved PC minutes are available.  This passed 4:0.  It will be appear again - on the BoS February 21st agenda.

Zoning Hearing Board Appointment - Nicholas motioned that Robert Kimmel be appointed to the Zoning Hearing Board.  Miller seconded the motion and the vote was 4:0 to appoint.


Vehicle Bids / Public Works Department - Roberts explained that the vehicles are to be purchased through the PA State purchasing program.  They do not have to go out for bid.  The funds are in the 2007 budget.  In a 4:0 vote the Board agreed to the purchase of a John Deere backhoe ($91,600), a John Deere Gator utility vehicle ($9,668), and a Morbark brush chipper ($32,800).  The old backhoe and old chipper will go the parks department for its use. 

Penn's Ridge / Commercial Land Development - The developer presented concept drawings of the final phase of the Penn's Ridge project, the commercial land development.  The whole plan was approved in 1997 and the commercial use was allowed.  It is grandfathered.  The developer is making an effort to comply with the spirit of the new Heritage Corridor zoning and showed a sketch with a building constructed of natural looking materials, a porch, an interesting roof line, and a stepped retaining wall with indigenous plantings.  The tenants are as yet unknown but there will be 4 or 5 retail stores. 

Kline reviewed the project's history.  He said that in 1990 there was the first of a number of legal challenges and in 1995, after five years of litigations and 13 months of hearings, a settlement was reached.  The settlement was contingent upon the developer submitting plans and getting approval.  In 1997 the BoS gave tentative approval to the PRD and stipulated that the included commercial building was not to exceed 10,000 square feet. 

Nicholas expressed a design concern - that she did not want to see large windows like there are in typical strip malls.  Kline said that at the PC meeting last week, the developer committed to the style shown, including the pitched roof, and the indigenous plantings. 

Miller asked about the planned bike path.  He did not see it on the plan.  Hay confirmed that it is on the full plan set.  Miller said that it starts in LMBT and comes all the way to the bridge in Palmer.  It crosses Bushkill Drive at a spot determined by PennDot.

Chuss noted that the developer has been very cooperative and in the future he recommends that the BoS get minutes from PC meetings for review - before voting.  This was an agenda item on the weather-canceled December 13th PC meeting.  Had the meeting been held, the BoS would have approved copies of the minutes for consideration.  As it happened, the PC reviewed the concept drawings at its meeting on January 10th.  The minutes will not be approved until the PC meeting on February 14th.  

The developer offered a time extension so that the minutes can be reviewed. 

A motion was made to accept the grant of an extension from the developer until February 22nd.  It was accepted 4:0.  Another motion was made to table until the BoS meeting on February 21st.  The vote was 4:0.

Resolution #080117-1 Non-Uniform Employees Pension Plan - Waiver of Employee Contributions for 2007 and 2008 - Kline explained that as long as the pension plan is appropriately funded, required employee contributions are waived.  It is also a provision of the contract.  Also, Kline said that in the future this must be done on an annual basis - per the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement Board.  The vote was 4:0.

Resolution #080117-1 Police Pension Plan - Waiver of Employee Contributions for 2008 through 2012 - Kline explained that this resolution is for the entire contract period and need not be done on an annual basis.  The purpose is also so that auditors can see proof that the contributions were waived. It passed with a 4:0 vote.

Sandy Hanks (resident) asked why employees would not want to add money to their pension plans?  Kline said that the employees have a separate plan similar to a 401K for their contributions.  The plans with contributions waived this night would not give contributing employees more pension money.  They are only required to contribute when the plan is deemed actuarially unsound. 

There was an Executive Session to discuss a personnel matter.  No action was taken after the session.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or COMMENT here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

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