Sunday, February 24, 2008

BoS Meeting 2/21/2008

Regular Meeting (agenda)

The Board of Supervisors was asked by Police Chief Dorney to appoint three new police officers. Two will fill vacancies created by recent resignations and the third will fill a new position called for in the department five-year plan. Two other officers were promoted, one to Captain and one to Detective. Read more below and in articles by JD Malone (Express Times) and Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call). The police department appointments were moved from the NEW BUSINESS section of the agenda to the beginning of the OLD BUSINESS section at the request of Chief Dorney.

Supervisors' Comments

Chairman Howell said that he attended the hearing held by Representative Freeman on H.B. 2018, the bill to allow municipalities with greater than 17% tax exempt properties to share in monies collected for a liquor tax (that currently goes into the PA general fund). This (now) 18% liquor tax was originally enacted to help with the 1936 Johnstown flood. It was never repealed. Large amounts of tax exempt properties put an inordinate burden on the infrastructure to serve all the citizens. Howell provided the Board with some examples and cited Gettysburg, where 79% of the property is tax exempt because of the Gettysburg College. He said that Gettysburg would be entitled to a $702,000 payment. Howell said that Finance Manager Farley is putting something together for the Finance & Administration Committee to determine whether the proposed legislation may benefit Forks. Forks has schools, churches, parks, the Municipal Complex, the airport, etc. that are all tax exempt. At the least, the committee will determine whether or not to recommend that Forks endorse the legislation through resolution. The endorsement would be passed on to Reps. Grucela and Freeman to show support for their efforts.

Supervisor Miller updated the Board on the Bushkill Streams Conservancy's work to thwart further destruction by the two beavers that have been spotted near Lion's Park. Eighty seven (new) trees now have wire fencing around them.

Miller also said that an Antique Knife & Sword Show is coming to the Community Center September 27-28. There will be exhibits of military swords, antique daggers, and more. The show's sponsor is printing 10,000 flyers.

Supervisor Nicholas reported that she attended Boy Scout Troop 29's meeting and gave a talk on "their constitutional rights." She said that she was approached by at least five potential Eagle Scouts who are looking for projects. One of them, Sterling Pennington (sic) has volunteered to "do the parking lot at Gollub Park." Nicholas said that his good ideas include putting in a guard rail, a retaining wall, and a trail map. Nicholas said, too, that she asked DPW Director Roberts for ideas and he said the parking lot by the catch & release looks "ratty." Nicholas will try to get one of the scouts to improve it.

Nicholas said that she and Howell walked Gollub Park last weekend just to check it out. She noted that there are remnants of a pavilion there and that it, too, may be a good Eagle Scout project.

Treasurer's Report - Egolf detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. The debits and transfers were approved with a 5:0 vote. Current outstanding debt is $7,927.858.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - reported that Chief Dorney is still gathering information on modular furniture for the Police Department. Chuss said that the committee has items on the agenda.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that he was not at the Public Works Committee meeting. Township Manager Schnaedter reported that various options for a new public works building were discussed - size/bays/land. Schnaedter said that the discussion is very preliminary.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - said that the committee will meet next Thursday at 4 PM.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - reported that because advertisement purchases have been slow as business are still getting their (advertising) budgets together, the new edition of the Forks Quarterly will come out in mid-March. She said that the rest of this year's editions will be on time.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - said that the last meeting was canceled because of ice and that the next meeting will be next Wednesday at 5 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - reported that to date no action has been taken on the Gollub Park emergency access road but work should begin on Monday. Roberts (not present) has obtained a cost estimate. Nicholas asked if something could be done about the PRIVATE DRIVE / NO TRESPASSING sign on a tree there. She asked Kline if the Township can take it down. Kline said that it is misleading and that someone should first talk to the residents and tell them they need to take it down. Schnaedter has been assigned the task.

Schnaedter reported that he has received the DCNR grant application. He hopes to have a recommendation to the Board at the first meeting in April. He and Miller are working on it.

Also, Schnaedter commended the work done by the employee run "resurrected" Safety Committee. All departments are represented on the committee. The charge is to identify potential workplace hazards. He cited Pete Gheller (last year's chairman), Sean Quick (this year's chairman), Irene Hess, Loretta Fuehrer, Don Miller, Steve Nicholson, Jim Seiple, and Tim Weis. Acknowledgements (of appreciation) were presented to all. Weis and Miller received theirs at the meeting.

Schnaedter said that on February 13th he received a fax from Northampton Emergency Management Services asking that he select one of two proposed projects for funding consideration. Forks will have to provide a 25% match. He said that he only had until 4 PM that day to respond and consulted with (assistant Emergency Management Coordinator) Tim Weis. They opted for a new drainage pipe in the 100 year flood plain area of Kesslersville Road. The estimated total cost of the project is $250,000. The other project offered was to replace and install new culvert in the 2900 block of Sullivan Trail. Weis explained that these projects were identified by the Lehigh/Northampton Joint Hazard Mitigation program that he was involved in last year. Projects were identified in the event that Federal money became available. Some funds are now available - but receipt is not guaranteed.

Engineer's Report - Hay - asked the Board for permission to put the fire training facility specs out for bid. The facility will be located on Glover and Kuebler Roads. Egolf asked what the building will look like. Chuss gave him a sketch.

Resident Sandy Hanks asked why Forks needs its own facility when there is one ten miles north in Washington Township? Fire Chief Bryan Weis explained that the entrance is narrow and they can't get all the vehicles in there, in particular the ladder truck. Chief Weis added that the ten miles creates a significant response time delay should they be needed in Forks. He said too, that there has been a 337% increase in calls in the past eight years and that the new facility will also bring in outside agencies for training.

When questioned about the estimated cost ($350,000 to $400,000), Weis said that the fire company has been planning for it for several years (it is in the five-year plan) and has committed to pay for half of it. The company has received many grants and has more grant active applications in the works.

It will be a state of the art facility. The next nearest comparable one is in Bucks County. Chuss added that the facility is budgeted and because it will not be for exclusive Township use agreements will be worked out to recoup the money.

Ms. Hanks said that the PA State Planning Board report recommends shared municipal services. Howell said that it is virtually impossible to get the COG (Council of Governments) to do anything regional. He said that within the Two Rivers COG different municipalities have different kinds of fire companies or none at all. Some of the companies are union, some are paid, some are volunteers - "a hodgepodge of incorporated departments." Howell said that at the PSATS meetings, "regionalization" is a very easy thing to say but it is extremely difficult to accomplish.

Weis added to that the Washington Township facility is operated by and used by Northampton Community College.

Nicholas asked Hay to put a price hold time limit in the bid package. The Board approved the solicitation of bids in a 5:0 vote.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - agenda items only.

Comments from the floor - None.


Hiring of (3) New Full Time Police Officers - Chief Dorney nominated three individuals to fill the two vacancies created by resignations and the one vacancy already in the budget. The Board accepted all nominees in a 5:0 vote. The new officers are James Rovinski, Joe Kizer, and Brandon Schippers. For more details, please read the February 22, 2008 articles by JD Malone (Express Times) and Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call). The new officers begin their jobs on March 2. Chuss expressed thanks to Chief Dorney for his extensive work to find and field the candidates.

Promotion of Police Captain - The Board approved the promotion of corporal Richard Griffo to captain. The position, last held by Lou Coxe, has been vacant since 2003 when Coxe resigned. The promotion is effective March 2nd. The vote was unanimous.

Promotion of Police Detective - In another unanimous vote by the Board, officer Joe Effting was promoted to detective. This promotion is also effective March 2nd.

Recreation Path - (This is for a recreation path plan for Riverview Estates.) Howell said that the Planning Commission (PC) has considered three options and settled on one to recommend to the Board. In the PC recommended plan the path runs along the north side of Winchester from the nature trail to Broadway where it continues west on the south side of Winchester. Howell added that the PC is considering a broader trail system and that will be presented at a later date.

Chuss said that his thought is that since the revised Comprehensive Plan is so close to being adopted that the Board should wait until it is adopted. Winchester Drive is to be a minor arterial road and he thought that the Board should designate a recreation path on both sides from Frost Hollow to Richmond, putting it on the map (in the Comprehensive Plan) so that residents know that the path may be built.

Howell noted that discussion should be limited to Riverview and asked, "What is Strausser's responsibility? Hay explained that the sidewalks (per plan) will be on the south side of Winchester from Iron Run to Ramblewood and then (west) on both sides. There is still a gap from Broadway to Iron Run.

Chuss offered that per the new zoning ordinance there will be sidewalks on both sides of newly approved developments. John Ackerman (former Supervisor) commented that sidewalks are added when land is developed and not on undeveloped land.

Dean Turner (Planning Commission Chairman) clarified that the Comprehensive Plan will undergo final PC review at the workshop next week (February 26th at 7 PM). The PC public hearing is scheduled for the PC workshop in March. The Comp Plan then goes to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC). Chuss said that the Board of Supervisors will review it at their first meeting in April.

Nicholas offered a motion that the Board look at the entire recreation path system and prioritize sections for action. She noted that there are gaps.

Howell clarified that it is a motion to table until after the approval of the Comp Plan after which the entire trail system will be prioritized. In discussion, Egolf asked, "Who will prioritize?" Howell answered that the Parks and Recreation Committee standing committee will do that. Egolf remarked that he would like PC participation as well. Miller said that the Recreation Board cannot be left out either and they should have a part in this. Howell said that the motion is simply to table this agenda item and reconsider it after the Comprehensive Plan has been approved.

Egolf thought the motion too complicated. Kline suggested that it be two motions.

So, the Board voted 5:0 to table any consideration of the recreation path system until the Comprehensive Plan is approved by the Board. Next the Board voted 5:0 to determine the input it will receive from the PC and Recreation Board in order to prioritize the building of the recreation path system - after the Comprehensive Plan adoption.

Turner said that in the past, PC workshops were used to prioritize projects. He suggested that all three groups, the PC (at workshops), the Parks and Recreation Committee, and the Recreation Board use their meetings to put together a priority list. Howell said that the Board will do its best to coordinate the PC, the Recreation Board, the Parks and Recreation Committee, and any other interested citizens.

Resident Gretchen Gerstel commented that the Forks Township "should have told the developers where Forks wanted the paths and not let the developers say where they wanted to put them."

Penn's Ridge/Commercial Land Development - Kline explained that the developer was before the Board at its last meeting and that everyone is familiar with the proposal. He said that the developer is agreeable to the all the conditions. (For more details on the Penn's Ridge commercial project - a 10,000 sq.ft. strip mall on Bushkill Drive near the Kesslersville Road entrance to Penn's Ridge, see the FAC Projects page, Penn's Ridge.) The land development was conditionally approved (to include the engineer's letter and the PC recommendations) in a 5:0 vote.


Ordinance 309 - Farmland Preservation Tax Millage Freeze - Howell introduced this item by recalling that at the last meeting, Maria Bentzoni, Farmland Preservation Program Administrator was before them and outlined Act 4's provisions and that the Board asked Kline to prepare this ordinance.

In review, Kline said that "the ordinance will establish a real estate millage rate freeze on certain eligible property" in Forks and that there are four conditions that must be met:

  1. Act 4 must be approved by all three taxing bodies, Northampton County, Forks Township, and the Easton Area School District (EASD). To date only Northampton County has approved it. Kline noted that the EASD has the most to gain by preventing further development.
  2. What is exempt is real property for land (or easements on land) acquired by the county.
  3. The ordinance applies to eligible property whether it meets the criteria before or after adoption of the ordinance.
  4. The Board must notify Northampton County with the exact rate/amount of the millage, the date frozen, and the parcel(s) included.

Kline noted that there is nothing in Act 4 that says that the freeze "runs with the land forever."

At this time only one farm in Forks has been acquired by the County, the Elsie Louis Brown farm. Egolf asked Kline how the properties are identified. Kline explained that the County is trying to acquire properties but has a limited amount of money. In an effort to get the "most bang for the buck," they may be trying to preserve more farms to the north of Forks where the land is less expensive. Kline added that there are two farms in Forks that have submitted applications. Chuss commented that he thinks this is a great thing to do to help preserve farmland in Forks.

Ackerman said that there is one farm in Forks that has an application in but although he knows who it is, he is not going to say. He said that applicants are not identified because it may cause other farms to submit applications and mess it up for the ones already on the list. "...they don't have enough money to go around."

The Township will send a letter to the EASD telling them of the new ordinance. In a 5:0 vote the Board authorized the advertising of the ordinance. It will be considered for adoption at the March 6 meeting.

Fire Department Presentation - Fire Chief Bryan Weis presented the Fire Department 2007 Year End Report. It is available for download on the fire department website. Weis said that he has been a member of the fire department for fifteen years, the last seven as an officer. Weis said that he works from home for a company that does database design and is in the Township most of the time - and can respond to calls.

Weis said that of last year's 564 calls, the majority (26%) were for vehicle accidents. On average 500 hours a month are spent on incidents and another 500 are spent on other activities (training, maintenance, fire prevention, etc.)

Calls in Forks were 82% of all calls. Stockertown calls totaled 55 (or 10%). There are mutual aid agreements in place and last year, outside agencies came in 16 times. Two thirds of the calls are daytime calls (between 6 AM and 6 PM). The fire company has 60 volunteers and is second in size (for volunteer companies in Northampton County) to Bangor.

Last year the company totaled more than 6600 hours in staff training, or 110 hours per firefighter. The average response time is 5.5 minutes. Forks' Incident Command System (ICS) is now the County standard.

In addition, Weis said that the company has an EMT (who can begin care before an ambulance arrives) and conducts fire prevention sessions at schools and daycares. In 2007 they addressed 1500 kids. The company is striving toward State accreditation by the end of 2008.

Weis said that another of the goals is to achieve and maintain an ISO (Insurance Services Organization) Class 1 rating. Right now Forks' rating is 5/9. The 5 is in areas with hydrants and the 9 is in areas without hydrants. Among other things, a Class I rating will result in reduced insurance premiums for all residents (and businesses).

In a community outreach program to businesses, the company is compiling a database (of maps, floor plans, hazardous materials inventories, etc.) so that it can do its job more effectively.

In the third quarter of 2007, the department applied for $291,000 in grants from the Department of Homeland Security. A grant for $22,000 was awarded by the State. The Forks Township Volunteer Fire Department Relief Association, which gets money from outside the State, has provided the department with equipment, training funds, life insurance premiums, insurance physicals (the cost of), etc. Fully 75% (or $135,000) of the department's operating costs have been paid for with funds from outside of the Township.

Executive Session - An executive session was to discuss a personnel issue and matters involving potential litigation. After the (one hour and twenty minutes) executive session, the Board voted 5:0 to grant an employee's request for extended bereavement leave - from the normal four days to six days. The meeting was adjourned.

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

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