Regular Meeting (agenda)
This night's Supervisor's meeting was not a record setter but was long enough. It was once again capped by an Executive Session on a personnel matter and a potential litigation. The highlight of the meeting was the reading of the Resolution to honor Forks resident, Judge Robert Freedberg, who has just been appointed to the State Superior Court (see Edward Sieger - Express-Times).
Public Comments (non-agenda) - none
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. Egolf said that the current outstanding debt, although missing from the printed agenda, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $7,800,000.
Standing Committee Reports (meetings are open to the public - see the official Township calendar for dates and times)
- Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - reported that at its July 1 meeting, the committee covered:
- Police Department (PD) re-accreditation status - Chief Dorney said that the department is in its third year of its first accreditation and the deadline for re-accreditation is December 17. A mock assessment is planned for August 19-20 and the formal assessment (conducted by three representatives assigned by the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission) will be September 23-24. Dorney said that the PD is well on its way to being fully prepared.
- There will be a press release for the anti-speeding campaign - As part of the program, "NO SPEEDING" signs have been made and will be available to Forks residents to use in their front yards. The signs have been delivered to the Municipal Building. The reaction to similar signs in other Townships is that speeders slow down because they sense that "people are watching." Speed limits will be enforced.
- The police building continues to have HVAC issues.
- Large event parking at the Community Center policies have been reviewed and recommendations for changes have been made.
- Phase 1 of the (PD) modular furniture installation is complete. Phase 2 will be done after the PD re-accreditation process is completed (in September).
- Emergency services tower site preparation is in progress - site plans are being finalized. Construction should begin in a few weeks and completion is expected in October (or shortly thereafter.)
- A more restrictive burning ordinance update (based on ordinances in other townships) is underway by Fire Chief Weis.
- Fire Chief Weis said that multi-agencies - Plainfield FD, Tatamy FD, Forks FD, and Forks EMS - conducted a simulated evacuation drill at an elderly housing residential building (2222 Sullivan Trail houses 60 residents) and it was very successful. The building was evacuated in under 10 minutes. Weis also commended the Forks PD on its recent record prosecution in a homicide case. Dorney said that it took 15 minutes and included time to eat.
- Chuss also said that there are three bills pending in the PA House and Senate that, if passed will take some of the pressure off of fire departments to move from voluntary to paid. Two of the bills directly impact volunteer firefighters (one with tax credit and one with tuition assistance). The third bill would give a tax incentive to businesses that employ volunteer firefighters. Chuss proposed that the Board write a letter to Forks' PA representatives recommending that they support the three bills. Nicholas asked to see copies of the bills first. (See Baker and Waugh Push Tax Credit Bills for more.)
- The EMS billing issue (per Chuss - a lengthy committee discussion) was deferred to the EMS agenda item.
- Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that there have been no committee meetings since the last BoS meeting and that the next is scheduled for Tuesday.
- Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - reported that the committee met on June 26th and discussed the joint workshop topics:
- Township interest in a swimming pool - on the agenda for discussion.
- Miller's long standing wish for a recreation bridge over Sullivan Trail. Miller was authorized to explore whatever Federal and State grants may be available.
- The amphitheater as a 2009 project because grant applications will not be considered until the fall.
Howell said that he attended the June 29 Recreation Board (RB) meeting where the proposed neighborhood parks were discussed. Specifically the Recreation Board:
- Endorsed the neighborhood parks proposal and listed the RB's priorities, namely parks at Penn's Ridge (because of its density), Vista Estates (also density), and Braden (with a restroom to help facilitate rentals and the resultant rental income).
- Wants a part in equipment selection - in particular the play structures and larger sized equipment.
- Has a wish list that includes the possible expansion of the Lafayette/Meco park into a family park and a Braden park expansion. These will probably be part of the RB five year plan.
The RB is working with Miller on a review of equipment needs in the parks. They will prepare a proposal for the full Board.
Miller is also working on suggestions for the fitness station equipment and placement as well as the replacement carousel. Both purchases have already been approved by the Board.
- Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - said that every household in the Township should have received a copy of the latest Forks Quarterly (FQ) in their mailboxes. She explained that some of the news is outdated and it is Hometown Press' fault. She said that she spoke with the owner and he promised that it will not happen again. At the next committee meeting, new vendors for the FQ will be explored. Nicholas said that the issue with tonight's agenda (it was not on the Township website until 7/3/08 at approximately 5:30 PM) will be straightened out as well. The committee meets on the second Monday of the month at 6 PM.
Howell said that he's received a lot of phone calls about Gollub Park since the article in the new FQ appeared. He said that the park has had a lot of visitors.
- Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 9 at 5 PM.
Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter reported that he received a phone call from the EASD transportation department. They want to meet with the Board of Supervisors regarding the Mitman Road school bus issue. Nicholas asked about doing a workshop before the next BoS meeting. Howell suggested that a Public Safety meeting be used. Chuss said that the next Public Safety meeting is August 5. Egolf said that an August meeting will be too late as the bus routes will already be planned. He said that parents are notified of the routes at the end of July.
Schnaedter said that school district is interested in cooperating but maintains that it cannot get all the buses off of Mitman Road. The district wants to show its proposed routes to the Township.
Howell said that the Board already asked Keystone Engineering to review Mitman Road to see if any modifications can be made to the Township ordinance. Hay said that he did not have it and Egolf asked, "Why not?"
Schnaedter was asked to set up an administrative meeting during the week of July 14 and include himself, a Supervisor (Howell volunteered if no one else could make it) or two, Police Chief Dorney, and Engineer Hay. The group will report back to the Board.
Engineer's Report - Hay - said that he only had agenda items.
Nicholas asked if he could have the Mitman Road study by July 14. Hay said that the road is already posted with a 7 ton limit and that the State does not allow vehicle length prohibitions. Schnaedter was asked to research how much a school bus weighs.
Egolf said that the buses have been using that road for so long that "we have become complacent and because of our complacency, we are going to have an accident." He said that the Middle School is moving the 5th and 6th grades to the new Forks campus and that will mean even more buses.
Resident Sandy Hanks asked if Mitman could be made one-way (up the hill)?
Egolf said that he is "ready to stand out there with a sign or lie in the road if need be." He said that Mitman is a serious problem.
Nicholas suggested that (Zoning Officer) Weis take photos but school is not in session and there are no buses to photograph.
Egolf asked Hay to report on the Meco traffic signal. Hay said that he and Schnaedter are meeting with PennDOT officials at their Allentown office on July 19 at 10 AM. Hay said that PennDOT wants Meco aligned on both sides of Sullivan Trail and that will mean taking property. PennDOT wants the Township to "deal with" Mr. Leiser. Hay also said that there's only 7 ft between the Miller property and the road. The Township plans intersection widening to be towards Met-Ed. Hay also said that PennDOT is enforcing an obscure rule that any property owner adjacent to highway work must sign off on it.
Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that the Strausser billing dispute arbitration testimony has been concluded and that he expects a decision by the next BoS meeting. The dispute over the bill began in 2001. There were three arbitration meetings.
Forks EMS Donation Request (Erik Chuss, Supervisor - Public Safety Committee) - Chuss detailed the background of the newly revived Forks EMS squad - that it went out of business two years ago and came back, with all its debt, in April of 2007. At that time, Township Supervisors designated Forks EMS as the BLS (basic life support) provider and Suburban EMS was designated as the ALS (advanced life support) provider. In the absence of Forks EMS, Suburban EMS provided both BLS and ALS service to Forks.
Barry Albertson (Executive Director/Suburban EMS) addressed the Board and summarized the current state of the billing agreement between the two EMS squads - void. He said that Forks EMS is in arrears in its payments to Suburban and that Suburban's officers have taken the position that it is their fiduciary responsibility to terminate the agreement. And, until a new agreement with Forks EMS can be reached, Suburban has offered to hold ALS billings to Forks residents for (up to) the next 30 days. If a new agreement is reached before that, billings will resume sooner. Albertson said that to be fair, the Forks squad made payments on time for the first 60 days of the (now void) agreement.
Both Suburban and Forks EMS have now involved attorneys in the process. Albertson expects that new payment and repayment agreements will take longer than the two days it took in April - when they did not use attorneys.
Forks EMS owes $23,000 to Suburban and was to have delivered a check for $6,200 to Suburban before tonight's meeting. The check was not delivered and that act is what caused Suburban to finally pull the plug.
Albertson explained that Forks EMS does the billing to insurers for both BLS and ALS services when ALS is involved. Medicare participants account for most of the ambulance calls and Medicare will only accept one bill and it must come from the transporting ambulance service and in Forks' case, that is Forks EMS. Forks EMS bills the insurers and the insurers pay them directly. They are in turn, obligated to pay Suburban for its services. They have not complied completely and thus the large amount owed to Suburban. The repayment agreement is also void at this point.
Forks EMS president William Keifer addressed the Board and said that he had both a check for Suburban and the squad's attorney, Mark Sigmon (sic), with him. Keifer said that the squad will begin its subscription drive in 30-45 days. The subscription drive is how the squad gets the bulk of its money.
Howell reminded the Board that they were not there as "judge and jury" but in their oversight capacity to insure adequate EMS coverage for Forks citizens - and that obligations are met. The regional contract is not a decision for the Board. And, since the donation request is the agenda item, Howell felt that under the circumstances, it was premature to think of a donation.
Nicholas said that her concern was for the citizens of Forks Township and that in her opinion, Suburban has been very patient. She added that senior citizens could be "wiped out" if they have to pay the full costs of ambulance services. Nicholas said too, that the agreement clearly states that Forks EMS is supposed to stay up-to-date with their payments to Suburban.
Egolf likened Keifer's remarks to that of a "miscreant student" who is sent on occasion after occasion to the assistant principal's office and has one excuse after the other and points the blame at everyone else. Egolf stated, "I think I've had enough." And, he added that what is at stake is the health and welfare of Forks' citizens. He said that he would like the Board to immediately make Suburban the primary responder. He suggested that Forks citizens who want to pay a subscription to Suburban should send the money to the Township and that the Township could reduce the donation amount by that much. He said he's "had it" and doesn't want to see Forks EMS or Suburban back before the Board about their differences again.
Attorney Sigmon started to speak and Howell said that he was not recognized. Instead he addressed Kline, Forks solicitor, for an opinion on the Board's role in view of the contract breach. Howell said that he is opposed to the travesty of negotiating an agreement before the Board of Supervisors. He also asked if Suburban can be appointed primary provider at any point in time?
Kline said that Township has the authority to designate who will be the ALS and BLS providers - at any time. Suburban provided both BLS and ALS service when Forks EMS went out of business. When Forks EMS came back in business, a prior Board selected Forks EMS for BLS service and Suburban for ALS. That created the problems that continue today. Kline said that the current Board can switch but he didn't think it something that should be taken lightly. Kline said too, that the airing of all this dirty laundry in a public meeting is unfortunate as is the fact that the Board has to spend its valuable time on this issue rather than other pressing ones.
Howell asked Kline if it was his advice that they table the agenda item and wait to hear from Forks and Suburban as to any new agreement. He suggested that the squads report to Kline's office with the status of their contractual relationship.
Kline said that the Board could, instead of having a donation request on its next agenda, add an item about who will be the ALS and who will be the BLS providers.
Nicholas said that she agreed with Kline and that there should be an Executive Session discussion and a provider decision made at the next meeting.
Egolf said that it is clear to him that the Township needs to go with a provider of ALS service. Nicholas asked Egolf if he meant that he wanted only one EMS service and he said, "That's right." Nicholas said that she thinks it's come to the point where the Board needs to make a decision - at the next meeting - after an Executive Session discussion - about this.
Susan Sklodowsky, of Stockertown Borough's Council, addressed the Board and said that she was speaking on behalf of Stockertown residents and not on behalf of the Council. She asked that Forks keep Stockertown informed. She also extended praise for the coverage that Fork's fire department gives the Borough. Kline thought it appropriate that Stockertown be kept informed since it will be affected greatly by whatever decision the Township makes. Howell suggested that someone from Stockertown attend the (public) Public Safety Committee meetings. He said that it would be an informative and more casual forum for them.
Attorney Sigmon told the Board that he had checks totaling $6,200 and asked that the Board table the agenda item until their next meeting. He said that he will submit everything to Kline and hopes to have an agreement before the next BoS meeting.
Albertson said that Suburban's attorney and key staff are on vacation and that's why they offered the 30 days.
Resident Sandy Hanks asked who determines whether a call to 911 is an ALS or BLS call? Howell said that the 911 operator does that and that the operator has a protocol to follow in order to make the determination. Ms. Hanks added that she agrees with Egolf that the Township needs one service to handle everything.
Resident Richard Wambold asked if the there's only one payment made when both ambulances go to a call and does the payment go to Forks (EMS)? If Forks gets the payment, then is Forks keeping Suburban's money? "They've been using their money to run their operation. Is that what's happening?"
Howell said that is a contract issue and it is what got "us here today." He said that the most important issue facing the Board is to determine the financial viability of Forks EMS.
A motion was made to table the donation request and remove it from the agenda - until such time as it is put back on the agenda. It was approved unanimously.
Sullivan Trail Business Park Improvements - Invitation to Bid (Fred Hay, Township Engineer) - Hay said that the met with the project engineer last week and they reviewed remedies for the pond. The project engineer will have a plan for Hay's review this coming week and Hay recommended that the Board table this item until the next meeting. They complied in a 5:0 vote.
Resolution - Honoring Forks Resident Judge Robert Freedberg on the occasion of his appointment to the Pennsylvania Superior Court (C. David Howell, Supervisor) - Kline said that it was a great honor for him to read this resolution. He's known Judge Freedberg for 32 years and said that he doesn't think one could find a finer, more honest man. He said that Judge Freedberg is exactly the kind of person one wants for a judge. After the unanimous vote to adopt the resolution, Howell asked Schnaedter to send a letter and a "roll copy" to Judge Freedberg. Schnaedter recommended that Kline do it. Kline will do it.
Mitman Road - EASD School Bus Restriction Resolution #080703-01 (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline sent this resolution to the Supervisors via email. Not all of them received it before the meeting. Kline said that this resolution urges, respectfully but strongly, that the EASD not to use Mitman Road as a bus route. He read it to the assembly. The vote to adopt was 5:0. Egolf suggested that a copy of the resolution be sent to each EASD board member as well as to the appropriate EASD administrators. Kline said that he will send it to the EASD attorney, to Joseph Kish, to the acting Superintendent, and to all the school board members. Howell noted that Forks has two representatives on the school board.
Jeffrey Brown Subdivision (Fred Hay, Township Engineer) - Hay explained that this four lot subdivision (on the south side of Newlins Road, one lot away from the DPW garage) was conditionally approved by the Planning Commission at its June 6 meeting. Hay said that there were a couple of changes to his letter, one being that the to-be-established homeowners association will be responsible for road maintenance and storm water drainage and another that one of the requested waivers be changed to a deferral. Establishment of the homeowners association must be in place (and approved by the Township) before the plans can be recorded or the lots sold.
Nicholas objected to the size of the plan (11" x 17") because she could not read it.
The Board reviewed each of the waivers and the deferral - for a (10 ft length of) sidewalk until the Township determines that one is needed. No trees will be disturbed in the wooded area. Each lot will be at least two acres.
The votes were the same for each waiver, 4:1, with Egolf casting all of the nay votes. There will be a plan note that the sidewalk, should it be required, will be the responsibility of the owner of lot #1. Comment #2 on the review letter was changed to require the homeowners association to maintain the road and the storm water facility and that trees be planted on the west side of lot 4 shielding the Haywood property. The grading of the sand mound must be approved by Hay.
This plan passed conditionally (subject to the above and to Keystone's June 6 letter) in another 4:1 vote (Egolf). Egolf said that in his opinion this is an example of "squeezing as much life as can possibly be squeezed" out of a small piece of land.
Hall/Renigar Lot Line Adjustment - Newlins Road W & Sullivan Trail (Fred Hay, Township Engineer) - This lot line adjustment, giving land in the 100 year flood plain from the Hall property to the Renigar property was approved 5:0. The land is "unbuildable" and has been mowed and otherwise cared for by the Renigars. (The Halls gave the land to the Renigars.)
Authorization to solicit request for proposals for feasibility study of Municipal swimming pool (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Howell said that everywhere he goes, he hears from people that they want a pool or don't want a pool and there's talk, too, of the recreation survey. He explained that "a feasibility study has to be what it is; it is a really big deal." A definitive study will tell what a pool will cost, what types of pools are available, how much land will be needed, where it will be located, what other buildings will be needed, what the maintenance will be, how it will be financed - "the whole ball of wax." Professional opinions may be needed and if so, Schnaedter will come back to the Board to ask for the funds to do that. This will tell what the impact of a pool will be and whether the Township is financially able to do it.
Nicholas made a motion to authorize it. She said that it's been number 1 on the surveys for years. Howell asked for pre-motion discussion first.
Chuss said that he was totally in support of this and noted that a pool was #1 on the latest recreation survey as well as on the one 12 years ago. Egolf said that his daughter was on a municipal swim team and is now a swim coach. He added that "it is one of the best, wholesome things for our young people." Miller said that he supports this study and that the Township should "move forward one way or the other." Nicholas said that swimming is not just for kids and that a pool will also benefit some of the older people in the Township. She added that it's a great place for people to gather and have a good time, young or old.
Howell said that the study progress will be monitored by the Parks & Recreation committee and that the progress will be reported back to the Board. The study is necessary because not all things can be predicted. He added that the study will involve the Recreation Board, the Athletic Association, other townships, etc. Howell said that the success of any pool is revenue and revenue is obtained from resident and non-resident use of the pool as well as by fully utilizing it.
Resident Tom Hanks suggested that the study be for an indoor/outdoor pool (like the one in Bethlehem Township) so that it can be used year round.
By voting for this, Howell explained, the Board is making Schnaedter responsible for the study. Schnaedter said that he will get several proposals and report back to the Board.
Egolf made the motion to authorization the study. Chuss seconded and it passed 5:0.
Executive Session - The executive session was held to discuss a personnel matter and a potential litigation. No action was taken during the session. After the session, however, the Board voted 5:0 to authorize advertisement of a newly vacant position in the DPW/Maintenance department. It was explained that the vacancy is due to a resignation.
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