Sunday, August 10, 2008

BoS Meeting Notes - 8/7/2008

Regular Meeting (agenda)

The local press chose not to send reporters to this night's Forks Board of Supervisors (BoS) meeting.  Its short agenda promised a short meeting.  It was not.  Once again, EMS was a major focus as the Board discussed the best way to inform Forks residents of their 7/17/08 decision to designate Suburban EMS (SEMS) as Forks' ALS (Advanced Life Support) provider.

Public Comments (non-agenda) - none.

Supervisor Remarks:

  • Supervisor Howell said that the Board received notice from Easton Mayor Panto's office that there will be a ceremony honoring EASHS outstanding graduates/athletes in Center Square at 1 PM on Saturday.  Howell said that honoree Jarred Holley is from Forks Township.  Resident Sandy Hanks offered that Chanelle Price is also from Forks.  Howell said that he would check this out as the notice he had stated that she is from Palmer.  (Update:  Both Chanelle Price and Jarred Holley are indeed from Forks Township!)

Treasurer's ReportEgolf detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors' meeting. The debits and transfers were approved with a 4:0 vote.  The Township's current outstanding debt is $7,822,214.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the committee met on August 5th.  Items discussed include:
    • The Police Department (PD) re-accreditation is going well.  A mock assessment is scheduled for September 17th and the formal assessment will take place the week of October 27th.
    • All 100 of the anti-speeding signs have been distributed to residents.  In fact, they all went out in the first week that they were available and there have been requests for more signs.  Chief Dorney said that they have been placed where they are the most effective.  He said that other municipalities have found that they have more success with fewer rather than more signs.  Dorney added that the purpose of the signs is not to litter the Township with them.  So far, seven signs have been stolen and 11 have been vandalized.
    • The evidence locker is on order and should be in place for the PD re-accreditation review in October.
    • The PD has been working with the Shawnee School police in preparation for the start of fall classes.  Three thousand students are expected to be on the campus.
    • The PD youth academy, held the week of July 26th was very successful.  Dorney said that there was a lot of positive feedback from the kids and their parents.
    • The fire tower core borings are completed and bids are being sought for the building foundation.  The building should be completed by the 12th (no month indicated).  Driveway plans are being explored.
    • Fire Chief Bryan Weis said he will have the signed final copy of the Fire Company agreement at the next BoS meeting.  Chuss said that the $25,000 check (towards the tower) will come then also.
    • Barry Albertson of Suburban EMS (SEMS) was at the August 5 committee meeting.  Forks EMS (FEMS) was not represented.  FEMS has still not paid SEMS. 
      • Notice has been sent to the Northampton County 911 Center of the ALS provider change.  (FEMS is still the BLS provider.)  The changes were "invoked" on July 25th and to date support has been good and there have been no real issues.
      • Chuss suggested that the BoS explain the EMS situation to Forks residents via the Township website.  He said that he thought it would help explain to residents why they are getting two different subscription requests.  FEMS is expected to send out its subscription requests in the next few weeks.  SEMS does not ordinarily send theirs until January but will try to get them out to Forks residents before November. 
        • Howell suggested that care be taken to present the EMS situation in "a factual way because of the difficulties the two providers have had with one another."
        • The subscription amount to be requested by FEMS is unknown.  Albertson, present at this meeting as well, suggested that the FEMS amount should be less than last year since it will not be shared with SEMS.
        • SEMS ALS subscription amounts are:  $25 for individuals and $35 for a family.  (When both ALS and BLS are provided, the charges are $35/individual and $45/family.)
        • Howell asked Kline whether it is the responsibility of the municipality or the EMS provider to make the service announcement.  Kline offered that he thinks the Township should not be in a situation to tell either body whether they should write a letter or what they should put in the letter.  Kline said that the Township should let residents know to expect two bills, one from FEMS and one from SEMS.  A subscription payment to FEMS will not cover services provided by SEMS.  Kline cautioned that the Township tread lightly and not take sides.  Kline said too, that a notice laying out the facts should be on the Township website and that there should also be an article in the next Forks Quarterly and/or a full letter to the entire Township.  Howell suggest a press release also.
        • Albertson said that there will be a lot of confusion this year and that perhaps Supervisor Nicholas' suggestion at the last meeting would help, that is that the Township use the $20,000 set aside for EMS in the 2007 budget to cover residents' subscriptions (to SEMS) for the balance of this year.  Albertson stressed that he is not asking for that money.
        • Kline said that he thinks "there's a very serious misconception with the public about what this Board did at the last meeting."  They think that the BoS stripped FEMS of certain rights.  In fact, what the BoS did was to, in effect, send one ambulance instead of two on emergency calls and that this needs to be made clear to the public. 
        • Howell stated that it is incumbent on the Township to explain exactly what EMS service is in its letter to residents.  The letter will clarify the situation and will benefit both EMS services.  Howell suggested that the EMS funds be used to pay for the mailing.
        • Albertson offered that the SEMS subscription notice going out to Forks households will not contain a letter "bashing the other guy" but will be a straightforward explanation of what the subscription is and who SEMS is (a history). 
        • Georgeann Wambold (PC) said that a letter is definitely needed as she has attended meetings for the last year and although she understands the situation, "people are going to wonder where the money goes."  She thought the letter should be very detailed since a lot of people think the BoS undermined FEMS.
        • Fire Chief Weis said that the number one question to answer is what ALS and BLS are - a heart attack (ALS) vs. a broken arm (BLS).
        • Reta Howell (resident) said that people will want to know why a BLS subscription costs twice as much as an ALS subscription (note:  rates for FEMS are unknown at this time but were $65/$75 last year.)  To that Kline added that the BoS letter should tell people what the amounts of the subscriptions are so that people can make their own decisions.
        • It will take more than a month for SEMS to get everything in order to send out subscription letters to Forks households.
        • Howell asked Chuss to let FEMS know that a letter (from the Township) is going out.  Kline said that information is need from FEMS as well - in particular, when they plan to send their subscription notices and what their rates will be?
        • Howell suggested that the PA EMS Council language be used for definitions.  Albertson said that which service (BLS or ALS) is dispatched is determined by questions asked by the 911 center. 
      • Chuss made a motion to direct Schnaedter and Kline to draft a letter (for BoS approval) providing a description of ALS and BLS services, the situation regarding the providers of these services in Forks, and information about each of the provider's subscription programs (when and how much).  Egolf seconded. 
      • Sandy Hands (resident) asked Albertson what the ALS response time will be.  Albertson said that the peak call times in Forks are between 5 PM and 7 PM and SEMS will have a unit floating in Forks between those hours.  At all times, a unit is stationed in Tatamy.  Patients are taken to the LV hospital of their choice unless it's an emergency requiring an ER doctor, then they are taken to the nearest ER - or to St. Luke's for trauma and LVH for burns. Also, if a BLS ambulance is dispatched and ALS is needed, the BLS ambulance should "load and go" and call for assistance to an ALS provider to meet them on route to the hospital.
      • Georgeann Wambold asked what happens if FEMS closes its doors.  Howell said that they are required to inform the Township and the 911 center that they are no longer providing service.  Ms. Wambold asked what happens to the subscription money paid to FEMS and Howell said that they are free to allocate it in any way they wish.  Forks Supervisors have no say in how they spend their funds.
      • The vote to approve the drafting of a letter of explanation to residents was 4:0. 
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - reported that the committee had not held a meeting since the last BoS meeting.  He did fill everyone in on what the DPW has been doing in the park:
    • Widening the park parking lot for safer and easier traffic flow.
    • Installing underground electric lines for use by the Community Day vendors.

Howell said that a Hillside Avenue resident inquired about paving work and he talked to DPW Director Roberts last week about putting the schedule for road paving on the Township website.  It will be done and residents will be directed to the website for paving information.  Solicitor Kline asked if nearby residents were notified personally when paving was going to take place and was told that they are. 

Resident Dick Wambold said that the Met-Ed pole at the bottom of Winchester Drive and Frost Hollow should be moved because it obstructs the view of drivers attempting to turn left from Winchester.  They cannot see a car that's coming south on 611 and turning right onto Frost Hollow.  Kline said that Frost Hollow is owned by the State and Winchester by Strausser. 

Engineer Hay noted that Strausser graded the land around the pole without a permit from PennDOT and that the work by Met-Ed to move the pole is to be paid for by Strausser.  Kline said that the Township has pleaded with Strausser, talked with him, and almost "called him bad names" and nothing has made him move forward with the work there.  The Township has been trying to force Strausser to get a PennDot permit for the intersection improvements and the work on 611. 

The Township cannot accept the road (Winchester) until Strausser completes the work.  He has no escrow money with the Township for moving the pole or for the 611 improvements.  Without the intersection improvements completed, Strausser cannot move forward with phases 5, 6, and 7 at Riverview.  If the pole came down in a storm, Met-Ed would probably put it where it belongs.  Kline suggested that maybe if the Township put some branches on the pole Strausser will think it's a tree and cut it down. 

Georgeann Wambold asked who would be sued if there is a fatality there?  Kline said that Strausser and PennDOT would be sued.  Kline said that he and Hay will look over the intersection and make a recommendation for some kind of action. 

Egolf offered that "we need to take action and let people know that Forks Township means business.

  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - announced that the committee will meet on Thursday, August 14 at 4 PM.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - absent.  Township Manager Schnaedter reported that the Supervisors have a proof of the Fall Quaterly in their mailboxes.  If approvals are forthcoming by the next committee meeting (Monday), Schnaedter expects to meet the 9/1/08 deadline for residents to receive their mailed copies.  There was discussion about adding an EMS article but it is too late.  Schnaedter said that July 11th was the deadline for articles. 
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - announced that the committee will meet on Wednesday, August 13 at 5 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter was asked by Howell about the tree grant issue (in his written report).  Schnaedter said that he just received it a few days ago and August 11th is the deadline for the fall planting.  The text acknowledges the lateness of the mailing and states the most people will be looking for a spring opportunity.  There are criteria that must be met if the Board wants to proceed and Schnaedter will prepare a report what that entails if the Board wants (to proceed with the application.)  Howell asked if the grant was just for trees on public land and if it is limited to certain types of trees.  He wondered if the grant could be used to fill in some of the arboretum.   Schnaedter said that a committee must be established to make recommendations.  Howell offered the Parks & Recreation standing committee and there were no objections.

Engineer's Report - Hay - reported that the fire tower bids will go out as soon as the foundation design is received.  Hay said too, that there was a pre-construction meeting for the HVAC installation in the Community Center.  There's a six week turnaround once the major equipment is received.  The installation will be quicker now that the sports are out of the gyms.  Chuss asked about the light at Meco/Sullivan.  Hay said that he and Schnaedter met with PennDOT and that the issues of Mr. Leiser's driveway and the street alignment were discussed.  Hay sent an email to PennDOT stating that the alignment is off by only two feet and that straightening it would mean taking out Karl Miller's daughter's bushes and fence - both of which are a good barrier for traffic. 

Solicitor's Report - Kline - Agenda items only.


EASD - Paxinosa School Addition/Developer's Agreements - (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline reported that the agreements have been signed by the EASD and that the money has been posted for the inspections.  There will be no letter of credit because of the EASD taxing powers.  Everything is in order and the agreements were accepted in a 4:0 vote.


Volunteer Fire Fighters' Benefits - (3) House Bills/Consideration for Endorsement - (Erik Chuss, Supervisor) - Chuss recommended that the BoS send a letter to all of Forks State representatives in support of the three bills before them, SB131, SB132 and SB1169.  Chuss explained that the bills provide benefits to PA volunteer firefighters.  He said that it is difficult to recruit and retain volunteers.  One bill provides up to $500 in tax credits, another pays 50% of state university tuition (or the equivalent amount at a private college), and the third allows up to $5,000 in tax credits to employers of volunteer firefighters who allow their employees to answer calls during working hours.  There is also a provision that allows municipalities to issue up to $400 of EIT credit to volunteer firefighters.  Two of the bills involve no costs to Forks residents. 

Chuss added that volunteer organizations are a tremendous asset to a community and that to have a paid firefighter staff of six (10 percent of our volunteers), could cost more than $1 million.  Chuss motioned that Schnaedter draft a letter to our State representatives in support of these bills and of others like these.  Miller seconded.

Howell said that Nicholas brought to his attention that there are different criteria for determining who is and who isn't a volunteer in the three bills.  Chief Weis said that extensive records are kept detailing training hours, certifications, and ancillary calls - down to the minute.  The local chief certifies that an individual meets the criteria.

Chuss noted that the criteria for volunteers is a little different in each of the bills and that all could pass.  Weis said that it (the different criteria) can be worked out and that he clearly supports all three bills.  He said that the goal to retain and the incentive to recruit firefighters "hits that mark." 

The vote was 4:0 to send the endorsement letters.

Executive Session - An executive session was held to discuss litigation and a personnel matter.  No action was taken during or 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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