Sunday, June 08, 2008

BoS Meeting 6/5/08

Regular Meeting (agenda)

This night's 3-1/2 hour long session was held in the meeting room, with the air conditioner off for most of the night.  The discomfort level did not shorten the meeting.  The Board did vote on a part of the last agenda item of the night, the Neighborhood Recreation Parks Proposal, to donate $10,000 of recreation capital equipment funds to the playground drive headed by parents of Forks Elementary School.  This school playground is open to the public during non-school hours and its fields are used by the Forks Athletic Association.  Read Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call) for details of this Board action.

For more on the Center for Animal Health & Welfare contract status report read Chris Knight (Express Times) and for more on the Neighborhood Parks Proposal read Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call).

Public Comments (non-agenda)

  1. Beth Adoni - spoke to the (as yet unaccepted by the Center for Animal Health & Welfare) animal control contract.  She said that she has only positive things to say about the center.  It is a no-kill shelter and it spayed/neutered more than 3000 cats and dogs last year - at no charge.  Ms. Adoni said that she believes that 100% of residents with animals would be extremely upset if the Township opted for an agreement with another organization (rather than the no-kill Center).  The Center has extended the contract signing deadline to June 15th.  Supervisor Howell said that until the issue appeared in this meeting's packet, the Board was unaware that there was a problem.  He added that Township Manager Schnaedter would be discussing this in his manager's report.
  2. Brett Morrow - alerted the Board to a problem in his neighborhood involving a resident parking (and running) his Easton Auto Body flatbed on the street.  The truck leaked oil on the street.  Morrow said that the leak is a potential DEP issue.  He also said that he thought the problem of diesel engine noise may have been taken care of;  (Zoning Officer) Tim Weis spoke to a neighbor this morning and police officer Rowden spoke directly with the resident.  Weis said that Forks ordinances prohibit the overnight parking of vehicles over 14,000 lbs on Township streets.  They can be parked overnight if garaged.  Howell asked about regulations for boats and RVs.  Weis said that (depending on the size) up to two recreation vehicles are okay (unlicensed) as long as they are covered (tarp) and/or garaged - and not on the street.  If they are parked on the street and licensed and registered, there is nothing the Township can do about it.

Supervisor Remarks - none

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.  The current outstanding debt is $7,857,956.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - reported on the committee's June 3rd meeting:
    • The modular furniture for the Police Department will be installed on Monday and Tuesday.  The old furniture is earmarked.
    • The anti-speeding program will launch in the next few weeks.  The committee is looking into signs for high speed areas, an electronic speedometer sign, and continued enforcement.
    • Township Engineer Fred Hay is working on the foundation plans for the emergency services training tower.  The final plans have been received.  Site preparation should begin shortly.
    • All Supervisors who have not yet done so are required to take a NIMS training class (online).
    • The fuel budget for emergency vehicles is being reviewed.  The costs are over budget so far but look manageable.  According to the law, vehicles must not idle for more than 20 minutes.
    • William Keifer, President of Forks EMS addressed the Board to ask once again for the funding budgeted in  2007 ($20,000).  He said that the Forks squad has an agreement in place with (Palmer) Suburban EMS - the $10,000 payment already made, additional payments on the 15th of the month (on the old balance), and keeping current on new billings.  Subscriptions account for most of the money needed and the squad's new subscription drive will begin in 75 days.  Keifer said, "Now is the time that we can use our funding."  They are "dealing with" the new diesel fuel costs and would like the Township's support.  Chuss asked the Board if they wished to deal with the EMS request this night.  Howell said that because it's a financial matter it should be an agenda item.  Nicholas agreed and added that the Board needs time to prepare.  Chuss asked that this be added to the June 19 meeting agenda. Howell asked that the squad send its latest financial report to the Township by 2:30 PM Tuesday, June 17th so that it can be placed in the Supervisors' packets.  Keifer agreed although he said that the statement is normally approved at their Tuesday evening meeting.  It was suggested that the unapproved financial report be sent and that Keifer call the Township on Wednesday to confirm that the statement was approved by the EMS board.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - reported that the road crew is spraying weed killer along guardrails and around signs, the roadway into the Community Center has been widened, the storm drains at Klein's Road are under repair, and roads throughout the Township are being patched and swept.  The banks at Ayers Road and Richmond Road are being cut in order to improve visibility.  Stumps that interfere with road bank mowing are being pulled.  The demolition of the main play structure (in the park) is nearly complete - in advance of next week's delivery of the new equipment.  Nicholas asked about Valley View Road (the emergency road into Gollub Park).  Miller said that the road crew is working on it and it should be completed by the end of next week.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - reported that the play lots are on this night's agenda and that the bid opening for the Community Center air conditioning system will be next week.  He added that the new air conditioning will make the Community Center gym more usable and therefore more profitable. 
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - said that at the committee's 6 PM meeting on Monday, the Forks Quarterly will be discussed.  In particular, the committee will talk about getting a new vendor since Hometown Press has been consistently late. 
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the new server is up and running but not everyone is getting email yet.  The committee is continuing its work on document management and storage.  Nicholas asked about "going paperless."  Egolf said that Finance Manager Farley is taking the next steps.  He explained that the Board gets a stack of papers every week and that they are talking about being as paperless as possible - thereby saving trees and "entering the 21st century."

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter announced that he spoke with Hometown Press and that the Township should have a proof (of the next Forks Quarterly) by Monday.

Schnaedter reported that the Supervisors had a copy of a letter from the Center for Animal Health & Welfare (in their packets).  It was received on Tuesday and says that the contract is the same as last year's and is for cats and dogs and cannot be altered. 

Howell said that he voted to exclude cats (the vote was 5:0) with the understanding that there would be an alternative way of dealing with them.  He said that he had no idea that his vote was to opt out of the spay and neuter program.  Howell added that he thinks Forks should join with Easton and other communities to renegotiate the contract "and become a humane township while taking care of stray cats and dogs otherwise we will have no contract." 

Schnaedter said that since Tuesday he contacted approximately ten surrounding municipalities and learned that some have signed the contract while others are going to another county.  And, yet two others told him that the Center was "not allowed to not accept dogs" - if they are brought in by a bona fide agency.  He will look further into that claim. 

Howell asked Beth Adoni (see above Comments) if the contract was only dealing with feral cats.  She said that the Center offers free spaying and neutering for stray and feral cats as well as low cost spaying and neutering for household cats.  Ms. Adoni said that she is not affiliated with the Center and that her knowledge comes from using their services.  She said that the Center will take orphaned kittens and does not discriminate against cats.  She said that the Center offers many services and all they ask is a per animal fee of $50.  "The taxpayers of this community who have cats have the same right to know that their cat is going to be safe if it gets out."

Farley offered that in 2005 the contract allowed only Township police or the animal control officer to bring animals to the shelter and both cats and dogs were included.  In 2006 the contract allowed residents to bring animals to the shelter.  Farley said that there were many more cats brought to the shelter in 2006 with one household alone (in a six month period) responsible for bringing in 23 cats.  He said that it's possible (but not certain) that the cats belonged to the household and the (then $40 per animal) costs were borne by Forks taxpayers.  Farley said the cats were then, as part of the trap and neuter program, returned to the residents who brought them.  He said that a problem he sees is how to control that the same animals are not brought in several times. 

Ms. Adoni suggested that the Township amend the contract in the only place the center will allow, that is, restricting who can bring animals to the shelter to Forks police or the animal control officer.

Howell asked Schnaedter to find out from the Center exactly what the Township options are regarding the financial obligation and the duties of the Township.  Please read Chris Knight (Express Times) for more on the Center for Animal Health & Welfare contract discussion.

Engineer's Report - Hay - reported that he spoke with the traffic engineer responsible for the Meco/Sullivan Trail signal and he has not heard from PennDOT.  Hay will try to contact the permit director on Friday.  Also, his office is putting together a bid package to go out to contractors - for the Sullivan Trail Business Park work - it should be ready in the next week or so. 

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that over the last few weeks, he and Hay were busy dealing with some problems with developers:

  1. The Weyerhaeuser land developer started work on the detention ponds and swales without the final approval of the Northampton County Conservation District of the erosion and sedimentation plan.  A notice of violation was issued by the Conservation District and a meeting was held with the developer, the Conservation District, Keystone Engineering, and DEP.  The developer took the position, "Better to do something and ask forgiveness than it is to ask for permission in the first place."  Kline said that normally the Township is willing to work with developers who are on a tight schedule, even if they do not have all the outside agency approvals, by scheduling a pre-construction conference - with the understanding that the developer cannot start without those approvals. The Township will not do that this time.  The outside agency approvals must be in hand before the pre-construction conference.
  2. The letter of credit $179,000 balance for Sullivan Trail Business Park was drawn on because of incomplete site improvements.  Klein said that he met with Hay and that Keystone is now working on the steps necessary to complete the municipal improvements.  Some of the existing tenants in the park, including Merchants Bank which has been open a long time, have been upset by the lack of improvements, including the lack of a "wearing course" on the road.  Klein said that this will be done this year.
  3. The third and final arbitration hearing for the billing dispute with Strausser Enterprises is scheduled for June 26th.  At issue are engineering invoices.  The Township Engineer's office must do inspections when a developer is working on a site's municipal improvements - to insure that the roads, stormwater system, etc. are properly installed.  The developer is billed for the inspections.  Mr. Strausser is contesting Hay's billings for that.


General Obligation Bond (Karl Kline, Solicitor) -  The low bidder for the Department of Public Works $1,020,000 capital equipment purchase(s) was PNC Bank at an "all in" interest rate of 3.93% for 10 years.  The draft ordinance (#310) was reviewed by Kline and the Board voted 5:0 to approve the ordinance and 5:0 to award the loan/bond to PNC. 

The proposal was sent to ten bidders and the interest rates varied to as high as 5.89%.  The loan closing is set for July 9th.  The annual debt service will be $122,963.63 with the first payment being made from the Liquid Fuels account.  Annual principal payments will be made in July and interest payments will be made twice a year.

Kline explained the process as (1) seeking bids, (2) obtaining bids, (3) recommending how to proceeds, (4) creating and passing an ordinance, and then (5) getting approval from the Department of Community & Economic Development.

Gary Pulcini (and his company) was the financial advisory and Michael Gault (sic) of the Kings Drive law firm (?) was the bond counsel.  Kline said that the Township used the Pulcini company for the last bond issue and was very satisfied with their work.  Kline also said that that was his first introduction to Internet bidding (for bond issues.)

Weyerhaeuser Land Development - Developer's Agreements (Karl Kline, Solicitor) -  Kline reported that he had the land development agreements. that the funds for the escrow account are in place, and that the letter of credit for $776,812 has been received.  He told the Board that all was in order and they voted 5:0 to accept the agreements. 


Sullivan Trail Business Park - Daycare & Office Buildings (Tim Weis) - Kline explained that the developer was given preliminary conditional approval for the minor subdivision (lot 5 into lots 5A and 5B) by the Board on April 3.  He said that the developer is now seeking approval of the land development plans for lots 5A and 5B.  The Planning Commission recommended conditional approval based on Keystone's May 2nd letter. 

Nicholas commented that it was her understanding that plans were not to come before the Board unless the Board was provided with the minutes from the Planning Commission - in advance.  She then asked if about sidewalks and the parking lot and asked if they will be shown on the plan.  They are part of the conditional approval. 

Howell said that Nicholas' comment about agenda items was "well taken" and an administrative matter.  As such he asked that Weis work with Dean Turner (PC Chairman).  Weis said that he will at least provide draft minutes in the future. 

Hay said that one of the Keystone (letter) comments was no longer valid - that no utility work be done on the site until the Merchant's Bank pond is done - because the Township will now be doing the work.

Terry Faul, attorney for the developer (Goffredo) said that his client did not approve of the action taken by the Board at its May meeting - the vote to draw on the letter of credit to complete the municipal site improvements.  He explained that his client had an arrangement with First National Bank of Palmerton to extend the letter of credit.  He requested that it be reinstated and that the bidding process be avoided. 

Kline reminded Faul that the first approvals were in 2001, the subdivision agreement was executed in 2002, and six years later, Merchants Bank does not yet have a paved road in front of it.  "That's outrageous."  The Township has worked with and spent time with the developer.  "The time has run out."  Kline said that the Township was given no choice.  Kline sent a letter to attorney Faul reminding him that 2-1/2 years had passed since the first building permit was issued and in the agreement, the developer had two years after the issuance of the first permit to get the other improvements done.  "The developer is clearly in default of the agreement." 

Howell stated that, as far as he is concerned, the Board would not revisit the authority given to Kline to draw on the letter of credit.

Kline noted that the the condition requiring that all of the municipal improvements be completed (per the Keystone letter) before a building permit can be issued has been removed (because the Township is to do the work using the money drawn on the letter of credit.) 

The vote to conditionally approve the final land development plan (for lots 5A and 5B) was 5:0.

Stryker Brigade Combat Team Facilities - Final Plan (Tim Weis) - Chad Lello of Pennoni Associates represented the Stryker Brigade project before the Board.  He asked for final approval based on the May 8th Planning Commission recommendation.  Lello said that as of yesterday, all outside agency permits have been received. 

Lello said that the project originally before the Board two years ago was a much larger project.  Because of cost considerations, the project scope was reduced. 

The Board did not have the PC minutes and did have the final plans.  Howell said that he thought it "pretty sloppy" and said it was the Township's fault, not the Stryker Brigade's.  Nicholas made a motion to table and it was seconded by Egolf. 

In discussion, Chuss said that he would be willing to "entertain a review" although this is the first he's seen of the new site plan. He said that it would require "faith in the Planning Commission" and that he had the minutes from the PC meeting and he didn't see any major issues. 

Kline said that the plans were submitted in a timely manner in order to get on the PC agenda and tonight is not the developer's fault.  He added that they are anxious to get the project going. 

Lello said that the ground breaking was held last week.

The vote to table was defeated 2:3 (Nicholas and Egolf - aye and Miller, Chuss, and Howell - nay).

Hay explained to the Board that the new plan does not differ substantially from the original one, that it's just a smaller scale. 

Lello reviewed the differences for the Board.  Access to the road through the driveway with the adjacent property is the same.  The project has been reduced to one building and no longer crosses the swale.  There will be one detention basin - suitable for a 100 year storm.  No storm water infiltration will be provided due to the karst topography.  The parking area will be crushed stone.

The waivers recommended by the PC include an exemption for the slope of the detention basin (acceptable because there will be no children on site).  The PC also included the Keystone review letter as a condition of the approval.

The vote to conditionally approve the new final plan was 5:0.

Paxinosa Elementary School (Tim Weis) - The final plan (an addition which will include two classroom pods of six classrooms each, a cafeteria, and additional administration space) was conditionally approved subject to Keystone's May 2nd review letter in a 5:0 vote.  The EASD will be funding the escrow account and paying the sewer fee, but will not be subject to the capital improvements fee.

Discussion included child security in getting to the cafeteria (resolved in the design) and sound issues with the new HVAC units.  The Board was told they would be smaller and quieter and that the old units will also be replaced with the more efficient, smaller ones.  Before the certificate of occupancy is issued, the units' noise level will be tested. 

The total additional area will be 30,000 square feet.

The new entry area will be in the front instead of where it is now, in the center.  People coming to the building will go right to the administration area and not further into the building to get to it.  The school will get a new playground, with both hard and soft play areas, and primary access from the cafeteria.  There will be an underground storm water detention pond with an irrigation system.

Miller mentioned the fact that the school buses are not using North Trail as was agreed when the Shawnee project was approved.  The  representatives promised to raise this concern with the EASD.  Miller said that there must be something put in writing, a guarantee, that the buses will not travel on (from the west) Arndt Road and will use North Trail.  Kline suggested that the Township could stop every bus and give every bus a ticket - make it illegal in some way - perhaps limiting the weights on Arndt.  Kline said the EASD "will get the message in short order."

Adjustment to Township Fee Schedule - Pages 3 & 5 (Tim Weis) - Weis explained that the fee schedule is reviewed and adjusted annually.  This year's changes, approved unanimously, include:

  • Sports registration sign-up - Township fees - were $20 per child/per sport - are now:
    • for the 1st child - $20
    • For the 2nd child - $15
    • For the 3rd and more - $10
  • Electrical inspections:
    • Single family dwelling from $125 to $150
    • Residential building addition/renovation from $75 to $100
    • Building service from $50 to $75
    • Swimming pool - above ground - from $50 to $85
    • Swimming pool - in ground - from $100 to $150
    • Hot tub/spa - from $60 to $85

Forks Township Resolution #080605-1/Acceptance of Mort Drive (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline reported that the Mort Drive cul de sac (leading to Tioga Pipe off of Kuebler Road) has been inspected and approved by Keystone Engineering.  The deed of dedication is in place.  The Board accepted the road in a 5:0 vote.

Fort James III - Tri-party Agreement and Indemnification Agreement (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - This agreement was approved unanimously.  Kline explained that the developer (JG Petrucci) must run a sanitary sewer line to the Fort James III industrial park under the Norfolk Southern rail lines and Norfolk Southern has very stringent rules for what goes under their lines.  An agreement is necessary between Norfolk Southern, the Township, and the developer.  A second agreement - holding the developer responsible for the installation, indemnifying the Township, and specifying that the developer will perform maintenance for five years - was also approved unanimously.  Before the vote, Nicholas asked about the tri-party agreement stipulation that the Township is responsible for what happens under the line.  Kline explained that Norfolk Southern has thrown every possible contingency into the agreement and that the Township in turn, (in the two-party agreement) has given that liability to the developer.  Hay will be inspecting the line as it is installed and has said that after five years (the length of the agreement), nothing is likely to happen under the rail line.

Neighborhood Recreation Parks Proposal (Parks & Recreation Standing Committee) - Howell detailed the proposal for three neighborhood parks (at Penn's Ridge, Vista Estates, and Ramblewood) and three satellite parks (enhanced - Braden Air Park, Lafayette/Meco, and Gollub Park) as well as a Township contribution for new park equipment at Forks Elementary School.  He explained that growth in the Township has created new neighborhoods and that neighborhood parks will relieve some of the stress on the main Community Park. 

Egolf explained the process used to develop the proposal.  He said that the Parks & Recreation Standing Committee used surveys (talking to people) regarding the need and feasibility, they received a letter of support from one of the neighborhoods, they worked with DPW Director Roberts to determine the best sites, and they conferred with Community Center Director, Don Miller, on equipment selection.  Egolf added that they did quite a bit of "homework" to come up the proposal - in an attempt to serve all areas of the Township.

Howell noted that equipment on the list is not from any particular vendor.  The prices come from the State COSTARS list.  The Township will ultimately go with the best prices and use volume purchase discounts.  He said that tonight the Board is not approving the specifics, but the concept and the anticipated capital expenditures.

Howell reviewed the proposed equipment for each park and said that two of them, Braden Air Park and Lafayette/Meco will get restroom facilities.  He said that the restrooms at Braden are particularly important since it will help Miller to rent the facility making it an income source for the Township.  For the Lafayette/Meco park, the sewer and water will come from the stub line that Patriot Village installed for that purpose.  For the proposal the committee used ready made restrooms from Modern Concrete (a Forks company).  Nicholas asked to see drawings.  Howell said that he would get some for her. 

Nicholas expressed a concern about sand boxes.  She said that in neighborhoods with a lot of cats, sand boxes often become litter boxes.  Howell explained that they will be above ground, pre-fabricated, and represent a modest item that is easily monitored and is first on everyone's list.  He said that toddlers love to get dirty.  He added that this is not the final selection of equipment.

As to the donation request from the parents group of Forks Elementary, Howell said that the EASD elementary school budgets do not provide replacement playgrounds.  (The Paxinosa School is getting a playground because it is part of the funds approved for the expansion.)  Howell said that the school playground will be available for public use dawn to dusk - whenever school is not in session. 

Linda Hill, playground committee chairwoman for the Forks Elementary School parents group, addressed the Board regarding the committee's request for a $10,000 donation towards new equipment.  The EASD has given a $10,000 donation. 

Ms. Hill said that the playground will be done in two phases, the first will cost $40,000 and the second $16,000.  To date, the committee has raised $34,800.  The play equipment for phase I has already been ordered.  Phase II will have swings, climbers, activity panels, and other essentials.  There will be equipment for special needs children as well.  Installation is included in the prices. 

Nicholas asked about donations to non-profits, since the Township is holding back the EMS funds.  She thought a donation for playground equipment at the school would "open the floodgates."  Howell explained that the money is from the dedicated recreation account, funds collected from developers and not from the taxpayers, and that the EMS money is in fact taxpayer dollars.  Howell said, "Forks Elementary is in our Township and we have an active recreation program supported by developer fees."  He added that he visited the school playground and the existing equipment there is terrible.

Chuss said that he donated.  The Forks Athletic Association gave $500. 

It was decided to split the donation vote from the neighborhood parks proposal and to vote on it.  Farley asked that the Township check be payable directly to the vendor and not to the school district so that the funds can be attributed to a capital purchase. 

The vote to give $10,000 for phase I of the playground equipment at the school was 5:0.  Please see Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call) for more on the playground donation.

The Board turned the discussion back to the Neighborhood Parks Proposal.  Nicholas asked to see drawings of the restrooms and Chuss said that the Recreation Board should have reviewed the proposal before it came to the BoS.  He said further that he thinks this is premature because the Comprehensive Plan has not yet been approved and it (the Comprehensive Plan) contains a significant recreation section.  Chuss' other concern was that this is not part of the overall recreation plan for the Township "which is in the Comprehensive Plan and which is also to be implemented by the Recreation Board."

Howell remarked that he didn't think the Recreation Board would be implementing the expenditures of these monies and that this is a BoS decision.  He noted that the Recreation Board five year plan has not yet been seen by the BoS.  Miller said that the old one exists - even if no one knows where it is - and that the Recreation Board is finishing up the new one and it should be presented to the BoS shortly.

Miller said that he supports the (neighborhood parks concept) and believes that the Recreation Board would also if they were "pulled in" to the planning.  Nicholas suggested a Board of Supervisors work session with the Recreation Board before the next Supervisors' meeting on June 19th. 

Chuss said that spending money on "this" when the Comprehensive Plan calls for other expenditures (trails, bandshell, etc.) might make the Comprehensive Plan projects undoable.  He said he wasn't sure why this was before them now and he feels that the BoS must move forward with the Comprehensive Plan.

Nicholas remarked that summer is here and that some of this should be done now.  She made a motion for a 6:00 PM, June 19th workshop and that Neighborhood Parks Proposal be on that night's BoS agenda.  In discussion, Chuss remarked, "Why do we have have a Recreation Board?  This is their job."  He said that they have raised concerns with him and that they've never seen the proposal.

Howell said that this is a good time for the Recreation Board "to bring their ideas to the table."

The motion passed 4:1.  The dissenting vote was cast by Chuss. 

Please read Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call) and Chris Knight (Express Times) for more on the Neighborhood Parks proposal.

Executive Session - The session was held to discuss a personnel matter.  Henning Holmgaard, the Forks representative to the EAJSA attended.  No action was taken during or after the session.

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