Sunday, September 07, 2008

BoS Meeting Notes - 9/4/2008

Regular Meeting (agenda)

This night's meeting was filled with a variety of topics - from Forks EMS, the Forks Elementary School's new playground equipment, to Crayola's solar park.  For more on the EMS discussion please read Tony Nauroth (Express Times) and Tom De Martini (Morning Call) and, this editorial from Sunday's Express Times.

For more on the Crayola solar project see Tony Nauroth's Express Times article.

The minutes from the August 21st meeting were not approved.  Approval was tabled in a 4:0 vote (Nicholas abstained because she was not at the August 21st meeting) following a motion to table by Egolf who said that the minutes were "not complete."  The recording secretary was not present at the August 21st meeting and minutes were written from the meeting recording.  Each Supervisor is to email comments/corrections to Schnaedter. 

Public Comments (non-agenda)

  • Michael Goffredo - Sullivan Trail Business Park - was asked by Supervisor Howell to hold his comments until the Solicitor's Report.
  • Rob Leiser - Leiser's Rental Barn on Sullivan Trail - discussed the traffic light at Meco and Sullivan Trail.  He began by stating (of the BoS) that the "faces have changed but the anti-business rhetoric remains the same."  He said that the project has been going on for three years and that only now is he being consulted regarding the entrance to his business.  He said that (Township Engineer) Hay brought him a release to sign and if he had signed it, his Sullivan Trail entrance would be closed and the BoS would dictate that the new entrance be from Meco Road behind his barn and against a residential line.  To put it there, he said, would require removing "a storage building, nine mature trees, a 100 year old stone corral, and adding almost 6000 feet of pavement..."  In addition Mr. Leiser said that it would damage his business.  He offered that the new entrance should be right behind his building. 

Mr. Leiser said that the light is needed and that it is an important, and relatively safe, intersection - although "sooner or later, somebody's going to be killed there."  He is the "first responder." 

He said that the reason his signature is needed to move the project forward is "to protect guys like me, from guys like you."  He concluded by stating the plan is not good for him and that as far as he is concerned, the project is dead.  He said that he is not "signing off."

  • Sandy Hanks - resident - asked if there is a Township ordinance regarding the placement of realtors' signs on corners.  Ms. Hanks said that they are often within the sight triangle.  Chief Dorney said that he would look into it.  Also, Ms. Hanks said that parents dropping their children off at school bus stops park right on the corners.  In particular, it's a problem at Meadow Lane and Ramblewood, and at Meadow Lane and Treeline.  Chief Dorney said that the Police Department (PD) has already spoken to parents at those bus stops and has also referred the problem to the school district.  The department will follow up on it.

Supervisor Remarks: Howell asked that Township Engineer Fred Hay address Mr. Leiser's remarks in his Engineer's Report.  Howell added that both the Meco light and his business are very important to the community.

Treasurer's ReportEgolf detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors' meeting. The debits and transfers were approved with a 5:0 vote.  The Township's current outstanding debt is $7,804,374.

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 Tuesday and:
    • The PD accreditation effort is underway and is ahead of schedule.
    • The PD has ordered additional anti-speeding signs.  Chief Dorney said that the additional are replacements and some will go to people with pending applications (for signs).  Residents who want a sign should contact the PD.
    • The emergency services tower foundation design is expected Monday and will go out for bids.  The building has been delivered and is on site.
    • Suburban EMS (SEMS) was represented at the meeting.  (Aside:  SEMS sent a truck to New Orleans to help with hurricane Gustav.)  Forks EMS (FEMS) was not at the meeting.
      • SEMS has not received payment from FEMS.
      • Forks has not received payment of outstanding taxes from FEMS.
      • The letter sent by FEMS to the Township and dated September 2nd did not include the requested financial statements nor a new business plan.  Instead it stated that the April 2007 business plan is still in effect.  The letter also blamed the Board of Supervisors for FEMS current situation. 
        • Howell said that in reading the letter, he sees that FEMS has closed the door on the subject of financial reports.  He said that FEMS financial condition is not in any way due to the Board of Supervisors.  As of May 31, 2008, FEMS had current liabilities of $183,000 and long term debt of $274,000 - for a total of $457,000.  Howell said that the $20,000 (budgeted in 2007), if it is ever distributed, will be used to pay the $14,000 still owed by FEMS to SEMS and that he was very disappointed with this letter. 
        • Chuss added that there has been no communication with FEMS, aside from a brief meeting between the Township Manager and William Keifer (President of FEMS) regarding the debt or  billing arrangements.  Chuss was concerned enough to ask Solicitor Kline to look into any PA ordinance requiring communication between medical services and municipalities and if there is one, FEMS may not be in compliance.  "They have isolated themselves and there's no room for discussion whatsoever."
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - noted that the committee had had not met since the last BoS meeting.  The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 9th at 7:30 AM.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - reported that the committee met last week.  The replacement carousel and outdoor fitness equipment decisions should come from the Recreation Board within the next week and then orders will be placed.  Purchases of both items were already approved by the BoS. 

In regard to the "neighborhood parks," Howell said that the committee is still gathering information as to the placement of the Penn's Ridge basketball court and exploring the cost of the Township installing it versus having an outside contractor do it.  The playground equipment selection (for future approval) for the parks will be done shortly.  Miller is working on the placement of the restrooms at Braden and Meco/Lafayette parks - the type and quality will be considered by the BoS before funds are appropriated.

Barry Albertson of Suburban EMS (SEMS) asked for a list of Township residents' addresses so that subscription letters can be mailed within the next month or two.  A SEMS ALS (advanced life support) subscription will be $47.  Albertson said that the SEMS subscription will cover BLS (basic life support) calls if Forks EMS' (FEMS) truck is busy.  Residents (with SEMS subscriptions) will not be charged extra for SEMS provided BLS services.  Howell said that SEMS will be given the same mailing data that FEMS gets and that Albertson should let Schnaedter know the preferred format. 

Howell thanked Albertson and SEMS on behalf of the BoS for sending a truck to help with hurricane relief efforts.  The SEMS truck is coming back on September 10th. 

Chuss asked about the status of the Recreation Board's five year plan.  Howell said that he noticed that the EASD Business Manager - who is on the Recreation Board's five year plan committee - Jeff Bader (Express Times), has accepted a new position in Harrisburg.  Howell said he's spoken with Carl Scerbo, Recreation Board chairman, and asked for the plan within the next two weeks.  He said that if the five year plan is further delayed, the "Rec Committee, the Township Manager, and Director of Parks and Recreation" will do it.

Chuss said that he is "very concerned" about spending significant recreation funds (on tot lots - neighborhood parks) without an overall plan in place.  He said that that would not be "fiscally responsible."  Howell reminded him that the Recreation Board approved the parks plans and that the parks will not only be part of the five year plan but part of the Comprehensive Plan.

  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - reported that the committee will meet on Monday (September 8th) at 6 PM.  She said too, that the fall edition of the Forks Quarterly should arrive in mailboxes shortly.  Since it is late again, a new vendor for next year will be a topic of discussion at the meeting.  Nicholas reminded everyone that Forks Days are September 20th and 21st and "it should be fun."   
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - said that the committee will meet on Wednesday, September 10th at 5 PM.  They will begin work on preparing the 2009 budget. 

Chuss announced that on Sunday, weather permitting, the EAA is having its annual fly-in at Braden Air Park.  The Kiwanis will have its breakfast fundraiser (at the airport) from 7:30-11 AM.  Visitors are to use the the Uhler Road (back) entrance for parking.  Nicholas asked that the Kiwanis breakfast be added to the Township website.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter said that his report was in the Supervisors packets.  He had nothing to add to what they were given.  Howell asked about the meeting with Keifer and whether Keifer indicated that he would be providing any documents.  Schnaedter said that he met with him before the September 2nd deadline and that Keifer said that he would have a response to the Board's request. 

Engineer's Report - Hay - said that the form that Mr. Leiser was asked to sign was an indemnification agreement for PennDOT and that he would not be signing away any rights.  It is to release PennDOT from liability.  Hay went on to say that PennDOT can not make one vacate a driveway. 

Howell told Mr. Leiser that there has never been any action by the Board (or any executive session discussion) to close his driveway.  Mr. Leiser said that the plans he has from PennDOT show his current Sullivan Trail entrance closed.  He added that PennDOT told him that it does not want to go ahead with the (Meco intersection light) project unless his Sullivan Trail entrance is closed and he will not sign off on the project if they move his driveway.  Hay said that the traffic signal plan shows the Sullivan Trail driveway as open. 

Howell said that he is "rather shocked" and asked what the Township can do?  He told Mr. Leiser that it is not the intent of the Board to deny his Sullivan Trail driveway.  It was decided that Hay would bring the plans to the Municipal Building and call Mr. Leiser to view them.    Howell said that he would like to be there.  Mr. Leiser noted that it must be clear to him "and right now it is not very clear."  Howell said that other than the maps and the Board's intention, he doesn't know what other assurances the Board can give.  Howell added that it is a very important project. 

Mr. Leiser said that his contact at PennDOT does not return phone calls or answer his emails.  He thinks that she has "just soured of the whole project herself."  He said that she said his driveway has to be moved and that she agrees (with him) that it would be better located behind his building.  Mr. Leiser added that that is not something the Township would allow. 

As to the emergency services tower foundation, Mr. Hay said that the designs are due Monday and that bid packages will be sent out but the bids will not be back in two weeks.  Hay expects them to be between $10,000 - $15,000.  In the interest of time, he asked the Board to award the bid administratively, that is to let him pick the lowest bidder (who fits the parameters of the bid package) and give them the contract.  This will save at least a week.  The BoS voted 5:0 to do that providing Solicitor Kline reviews the bid bond and says that everything is in order.  The BoS will ratify the bid award at its October 2nd meeting.  Nicholas asked that the bid be emailed to her.  It will be sent via email to the entire Board.  

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported on the progress of Sullivan Trail Business Park and the municipal improvements.  He reminded the Board that on July 17th, a resolution was adopted giving the developer (Michael Goffredo) until Labor Day to complete the punch list of municipal site improvements.  Among other things, the list includes televising the sanitary sewer, stormwater work, paving Braden Boulevard (to Merchants National Bank), and repairs to the two driveway crossings at Scott's Collision Center.  There was no work done on the site between July 17th and August 24th.

Kline said that on August 25th Lehigh Valley Site Contractors was mobilized and the detention pond work was completed satisfactorily on September 2nd, the day after Labor Day.  Hay was informed that the contractor was then pulled off the job.  No other work was completed. 

Nicholas Noel, attorney for Goffredo, called Kline this afternoon and told him that Pan Contracting (of Forks) will begin work on at least some of the remaining punch list items, but because of their "busy construction schedule" cannot start until September 9th.  Kline said he told Noel what his recommendation to the Board would be.

Kline (and Hay) recommended to the Board that bid specs be prepared and legal notices be drawn up with the "intent to move forward with the awarding of bids" - to get the work completed this year.  Kline added that if Goffredo completes the work, then "fine so much the better.  The Township is getting what it really wanted in the first place."

Michael Goffredo took exception to Kline's description of the events.  He said that Kline's "characterization was far from accurate."  Goffredo said that the punch list is complete with the exception of Braden paving, the re-paving of two driveways, and some minor patch up work, including the alignment of one six foot section of curbing.  He said that he has photos of every punch list item that is completed - but did not have them with him.

Of the detention basin, Goffredo said that the contractor came back to "modify" it - only after extensive negotiations.  Of the paving, Goffredo said that the price of asphalt was at an all time high in July and August 2008 and that paving would have cost only $22,000 in 2006 when he wanted to do it - but was prevented by the Township.  He added that the figure is "in the record... or will be it it need to."

Goffredo said that he wanted again to pave in September 2007 and was again told no because of the imminent Weis Market construction and expected damage to the roadway.  Goffredo said that if the road was paved and the paving was damaged by Weis or Warren Hospital construction, that it would be Weis' and/or Warren Hospital's responsibility to repair the road. 

Goffredo gave copies of the 2002 developers agreement to both Howell and Kline and asked if there was anything in the document that gave the Township the right to control when he could and could not pave?  Instead, he said, the Board chose to say he was in default.  He added that the bottom line is that he was never allowed to complete the work.  He said that he is going to get the paving done and it should be completed next week or at least before the Township can get bid packages prepared, advertised, bids received, and contracts awarded.  It only took two men 1-1/2 days (12 hours) to complete the punch list work that was done.  "It was so minor," Goffredo said.

Kline said that he didn't want "to fan the flames" but the project was started in 2002.  He doesn't know what happened in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, or 2008 - except a lot of meetings to try to get the developer to complete the municipal improvements.  The detention pond improvements were done in a week.  Putting the wearing course on the roads in the entire development, makes no sense since Weis Market, the daycare center, and the office building are yet to be built.  Merchants National Bank however, is open and cars are hitting the raised manhole covers.  Kline added that if Goffredo wants to put the wearing course on all the roads, the Township will not stop it.  There is an 18 month maintenance agreement during which the developer is responsible for repairs. 

Nicholas motioned to proceed with the preparation of bid specs for the open punch list items.  The vote was unanimous. 

Chuss asked about the status of Weis Market and Kline said that Weis is moving forward with getting approvals from outside agencies - PennDOT for the intersection improvements and rights of way from the airport, Wachovia and possibly the owner of the lot on the northeast corner.


Forks Elementary PTA - Playground Structure (Linda Hill) - Ms. Hill, representing the Forks Elementary School PTA, said that she spearheaded the large community wide program to underwrite the new playground equipment for Forks.  She thanked both the Township for its $10,000 donation and the Forks Athletic Association for its donation.

Ms. Hill said that the old equipment was 20 years old and made of CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) treated wood and that the "good news" is that the school nurse no longer has to pull out kids' splinters.  The EASD graded the site and removed the old equipment.  The supplier sent two crews of 12 people and put up the new equipment in two days. 

Before selecting the play equipment for phase 2, teachers will be asked what the kids like best - what they stand in line to use.  The playground committee will then decide whether to add duplicates of the more popular equipment to the phase 2 purchase.  Fundraising efforts are ongoing for phase 2.

The playground dedication ceremony is planned for September 29th at 6 PM and Ms. Hill extended an invitation to the Board from the playground committee to be honored guests at the ceremony. 

Throughout, Ms Hill showed photographs of the old and the new.  Howell expressed his thanks to Ms. Hill and asked when the general public can use the playground.  Ms. Hill said that the playground is open to the public any time that school is not in session (4 PM until dark), including weekends and holidays.


Compensation for Real Estate Tax Collector for the year 2010 (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Ms. Vale asked the BoS to raise the rate of compensation for the elected Forks Township Tax Collector to between $35,000 and $45,000 beginning in 2010.  Her term expires at the end of 2009 and the rates can only be changed effective the next four year term.  She presented earnings data of elected tax collectors in neighboring communities and listed some of the duties performed in addition to the collection of real estate taxes.  Her research shows that the Palmer collector earns $89,302 (from both RE and LST collections), the Bushkill collector is paid $26,000, and the East Allen collector gets $17,700.  In contrast, she is paid $15,000 by Forks Township.  Ms. Vail said that she mailed approximately 7,000 bills and collected in excess of $2,000,000.  Miller asked if that was her total compensation and she replied that she also earned $9,000 for the preparation of "certs" and that money is not paid by the Township but by the companies requesting the certs.  No action was taken by the Board. 

2009 Minimum Municipal Obligation (MMO) for Forks Township Pension Plan (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Farley said that the Township must submit its municipal obligation for pensions to the State at this time every year and that the forms listing salaries and wages (estimated to year end) must be submitted by the end of the month.  The State calculations are completed and total $267,028.  Farley offered that a considerable portion is refunded by the State.  Howell asked what might lower the amount owed and Farley replied that changes in staff do that.  The BoS must acknowledge and approve the figures before submission.  The motion to move forward was made by Nicholas, seconded by Miller, and approved unanimously.

Approval of the 2009 Budget Calendar (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Farley explained that he prepared a budget calendar similar to the ones used in previous years and that although it is tentative, he believes it gives enough time to prepare a "good, healthy budget."  Several of the meetings will be held at 6:30 PM prior to BoS meetings.  The calendar was approved with a unanimous vote.

Request to re-bid/CCTV Municipal Complex CCTV System (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter explained that the single bid received (from Scott Communications) was incomplete.  It was missing a bid bond, a reference list, and was more than anticipated.  Schnaedter said that this time potential bidders will be invited to a pre-bid meeting.  Kline said that the BoS must formally reject the bid (from Scott Communications) and notify the bidder.  The vote to re-bid and notify the existing bidder was 5:0.  Schnaedter said that it will be advertised in the papers and posted on the Township website.

Crayola Land Development/Fotowatio USA, Inc/Preliminary/Final Approval Request (Keystone Consulting Engineer) - Fotowatio's representatives gave a similar presentation to the BoS that they gave to the Planning Commission (PC) on August 14th.  (See the FAC Blog post.) 

The BoS was told that Fotowatio is now in the USA and it is here because it is a promising place to be... "and it is exciting."

The Crayola 3 megawatt photo volcanic array will cover 15 acres of a 127 acre parcel.  It works year round but if the snow is deep, the panels must be brushed off.  The panels will be angled to catch southern light.  They are not visually imposing and do not reflect light (they absorb it.)  There are no moving parts.  Each panel can be monitored remotely.  The panels just sit there and quietly generate power when the sun is shining.  There will be a 40 ft x 70 ft control pad where the inverters convert DC current to AC. 

MetEd is said to be excited because of the load that will be pulled off the grid.  The BoS was told that it was a "win-win" because solar power helps the Commonwealth, the USA, and Forks Township move towards the future.

Maintenance of the system is minimal.  The system is guaranteed for 25 years.

The entrance will be through the Crayola property (behind the plant).  No land will be disturbed except for the access road and the 12" diameter by 48" deep holes that will be dug for the poles.  There will be a 6-7 foot high fence around the solar array.  A single trench will be dug for the underground wires that will connect the (interconnected above ground) array with the control panel.  Grass will be planted under the panels.  There will be one (emergency only) light on the equipment pad with lockbox access.  The buffer and setbacks are planned at 50 feet.  The buffer will be flat and not raised.  There is a double tree row between the site and Kesslersville Road.

Nicholas recalled that in 2001 (when Binney & Smith expanded) that there was a stipulation that a section of this parcel not be developed.  Kline clarified that Binney & Smith requested, about the time the new zoning was being adopted in 2001, that a part of the farm property they were purchasing be designated EC (Employment Center).  Kline said that the 128 acre parcel is in fact in two zoning districts, the FP (Farmland Protection) and the EC and that the F-1 use (Utility Operating Facility) is permitted in all districts.  The solar array will be on the EC part of the parcel. 

Nicholas questioned the depth of the setbacks.  She thought 100 feet was required and not 50. 

Nicholas asked the Fotowatio representatives why the "emergency" and was told that solar is not doable without help from the government and the Federal energy tax credit program is expiring at the end of December.  Without the Federal energy tax incentives there will be no project. 

Nicholas said that she just saw the drawings tonight and that SALDO is important and the requested waivers should be considered independently.  She was told that the PC considered the waivers separately and granted all of them.  Hay said that this project is the opposite of intensive development and that a lot of things do not apply.  He added that he looks for impact on neighbors and this project is "about as clean and quiet as you can get."

Kline said that the neighbors who were at the PC meeting were very supportive and that they said that the only thing quieter would be a cemetery. 

Resident and property neighbor, Rachel Hoagland asked that the Board be certain about the setback requirements and confirm them.  She thought that they were 100 feet.  It will be followed up according to a project representative.

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

Executive Session - An executive session was requested by Chuss to discuss a legal question and by Nicholas for a personnel issue.  The session lasted over an hour.  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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