Sunday, November 09, 2008

BoS Meeting & Recreation Plan Workshop - Notes - 11/6/2008

Workshop 7:00 PM - Five Year Recreation Plan

Ed Moore of the Recreation Board was the spokesperson for the five year plan committee.  He acknowledged the help and input of Butch Scerbo, Jeff Bader, Jim Craig (also an Elected Auditor), and Bob Dilts. 

Moore detailed Forks' growth from 2003-2007.  He said that 1344 homes were built and that the population is now 14,500.  Moore said that the last five year plan was done in 1977 and that the October 2006 recreation survey was used to formulate the new plan.  The survey was sent to 5196 households and 1078 were returned - for a 21% response rate.  Of the 1078 completed surveys, 97 residents chose expansion of the walking/biking/jogging trail system as their first choice, 70 opted for a swimming pool (as first choice), and 58 preferred improved playgrounds and playground expansion (as first choice.)  (Also see:  FAC notes from Supervisor Miller's presentation of the interpreted survey results to the BoS - December 2006.)

Moore stressed that the new plan is dynamic, in that it can be changed in the future as needed.  Plan highlights by year include:

  1. 2008 
    1. gather information and start a pool feasibility study
    2. preparation of a bid spec to recondition the four tennis courts
    3. review and update the master bike plan
  2. 2009
    1. construct a bandshell
    2. look at building a dog park
    3. grade and seed the recreation land at Braden park, Lafayette (Meco?) park, and the DeWalt/Maloney field
    4. build restrooms at Braden park and Meco field
    5. erect an "all purpose" building at airport (Braden?) park
  3. 2010
    1. install ball fields at DeWalt/Maloney park
    2. recreation fields at Lafayette and airport parks
    3. consider adding an additional pavilion and basketball court to Community Park
    4. review a bike bridge over Sullivan Trail
  4. 2011
    1. consider building an outdoor ice skating rink
    2. acquire land for a possible sleigh ride and tubing park
  5. 2012
    1. finish projects from prior year
    2. begin work on a new five year plan


Supervisor Nicholas asked if the only passive recreation in the plan was to continue the recreation paths and build a bandshell?  Moore said that the "all purpose building" will serve Township seniors who want dancing and aerobic exercise.  He added that the Community Center basketball courts are ill-suited for that. 

Supervisor Howell asked Moore if he thought that the Community Center could not be expanded?  Moore said that was a great question but he wasn't sure if the land around it was sufficient for expansion. 

Howell then asked if the lack of mention of neighborhood parks was because it was not on the 2006 survey?  Moore replied that the committee began work on the plan in June before they had the tabulated survey data and that the neighborhood parks discussions with the Parks & Recreation BoS Standing Committee began after June.  He said that they took that on as a separate issue (from the five year plan) and were waiting for the BoS to give them "some direction on how that was to go forward."

Howell said that he was hoping for a more comprehensive plan - one that wasn't just recreation and might include expanding the arboretum and addressing the traffic that adding more ball fields will bring. 

Supervisor Miller offered that the original park plan (from 1991) shows another parking lot - inside the park - from the Sycamore Avenue dead end.  Howell bet that other than Miller, there is not a single Supervisor who knows that there is a plan to use Community Park land for a parking lot. 

Howell said that he would have liked the plan to address the Community Center's deficiencies.  He added that the developer-built bike paths on the master plan do not all exist but are planned and will be built at an unknown time in the future - by developers when their projects are under construction.  He wanted to see a plan linking the paths - those links must be built and paid for by the Township since they are not part of a development.  Howell said that a more comprehensive plan would show the BoS where they will need to find capital. 

Supervisor Chuss said that he thinks the plan is a good foundation and includes some great ideas.  He thought that the next steps should be set-up and that some ballpark cost figures are needed.  Moore said that this is a broad based plan about what the Township wants.  Nicholas remarked that the plan is a good foundation and needs more direction from the BoS.  She added that the committee should elaborate on some of the items and estimate some of the costs. 

Supervisor Egolf commented that the plan is a "fine job and a good start."  He too, questioned the lack of neighborhood parks in the plan.  Moore said that the committee wanted input from the BoS about whether or not the parks should be put in "pockets" or in existing parks.  Egolf said that he thought that the spring joint meeting (specifically on the subject of neighborhood parks) defined the issue.  He added that a whole summer was lost without neighborhood parks and he wouldn't like another summer to go by without them.  The Parks & Recreation committee has petitions from residents and has met with a lot of people and would like the Recreation Board's endorsement. 

Chuss said that "neighborhood parks" were never before the BoS.  Egolf said that there was a joint workshop and he didn't understand why anyone in Forks would be against neighborhood parks.  Moore said that the Recreation Board is not against neighborhood parks and that the Recreation Board lost a whole summer waiting for the five year recreation plan.

Butch Scerbo said that he is not against tot-lots but is against a basketball court in Penn's Ridge.  He said that the Parks & Recreation (BoS standing) committee meets during working hours.  Egolf said that the committee would have changed the meeting times had there been requests.

The BoS will get back to Miller on how it will go forward with the five year recreation plan. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Much of the next nearly three hours was devoted to discussion of the EMS subscription issue and how Suburban EMS (SEMS) was to recover revenues lost during the one month between the dissolution of its billing agreement with Forks EMS (FEMS) and its designation as the Township's sole EMS provider. 

Please read Tony Nauroth's very clear Express Times article for more on the EMS discussion and the BoS action to help make residents who paid FEMS and not SEMS convert their subscriptions to SEMS.

NOTE:  On November 8, the Express Times' Tony Nauroth reported that the now defunct Forks EMS will return all checks to residents who subscribed during its 2009 fund drive. 

Public Comments (non-agenda) -

  • Katherine Watt (sic) representing the Lehigh Valley Coalition on Affordable Housing in Bethlehem said that she sent a letter to Chairman Howell (in September) about the Coalition's annual municipal funding appeal for the area's nine city based shelters.  Currently funding comes from the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton but the group feels that all municipalities should share the responsibility for caring for the valley's homeless population.  She said that 42% of the people using the shelters are from outside of the major cities and and that in 2007, 11 were from Forks Township.  The total shelter census for 2007 was 2598.

Heads of households who are working and can't make it on what they earn represent 25% of the shelter users.  Fair market apartment rent in the LV is $816 and the LV is has a severe apartment shortage.  The shelters offer programs to address self-sufficiency. 

The Coalition is asking for $5,633, a figure arrived at based on Forks' demographics in the 2000 census.  Ms. Watt said that the BoS last contributed five or six years ago and that she is aware that budget constraints make this is a bad time to ask.  (Please see BoS Meeting Notes 10/20/05 for the coalition's last appeal to the BoS.)

Tyson Sprandell representing Safe Harbor in Easton told the BoS that Safe Harbor helps 300 homeless men and women per year and serves two meals a day to about 75 in its day time drop in program.  He said that he needs to raise $100,000 a year in order to keep the doors open.

  • Marcia Hauser of Penn's Ridge addressed the BoS about plans for a basketball court in Penn's Ridge.  She said that quite a few people object, particularly those adjacent to the open field.  She said that they have no problem with a playground.  She questioned whether the basketball court would be lighted.  Howell explained that at this time, a basketball court is a proposal only and started as a proposal for a 2-12 year old toddler lot with park benches and a swing set.  Basketball was added as a response to complaints about stand alone basketball hoops in the rights-of-way.  Ms. Hauser said that she counted the hoops and there are 22 of them. Of the kids using the hoops, only one does not get out of the way of cars.  That child's basketball hoop is located between 2551 and 2545 Penn's Ridge Boulevard.

Ms. Hauser also said that a basketball court is an invitation for kids to hang out.   She said that the history of the parking lot (on Silo Drive) is not good.  At one time, residents were parking cars and trailers there for storage.  The kids would get between the parked vehicles and get high and drink beer.  Ms. Hauser said that she and her neighbor cleaned up there and on two occasions found two empty cases of beer, a roach (pot) and two used condoms.  The police were called a couple of times to get residents to move their vehicles and now it's an empty lot.  Kids don't hang out there anymore.

Lots of Penn's Ridge kids use the field for football, baseball, golf, and volley ball.  Ms. Hauser wondered how much room the court will cover and if it will prevent other kids from using the field.  She asked too, about basketballs hitting parked cars (parked on the street because there is no place else to park) and noise (some residents in the immediate area work nights and sleep during day).  Water damage and flooding are also concerns because of the slope of the field (which serves as a water retention area.)

And, lastly Ms. Hauser said that her neighbor put in a pool and had to post a sign and notify neighbors within a specific area about the construction of the pool.  She wondered why no one in Penn's Ridge has been notified about a basketball court and where it is to be located. 

Howell explained that the Township is so far away from putting one in, that it is not yet time to notify residents.  He also said that funds have not been allocated.  Howell asked Ms. Hauser if it was her general feeling that the neighbors do not like the stand alone hoops?  He said that people came to a BoS meeting and complained about how difficult it is to walk on the sidewalk with the hoops obstructing them.  Howell said that the big issue with the stand alone hoops is the winter - cars on the roads and snow clearing. 

Chuss said that he was approached by two residents about flags/stakes who wanted to know if it will be a full or half court.  Chuss said that he told them it was for a basketball court and although he didn't know whether it would be a full or half court, he thought a full court would be open the public and would not be restricted to Penn's Ridge residents.  Chuss said that the residents do not want to encourage people to come there - "undesirable people" - and that there would be parking issues.  He also said that a friend told him that Vista Estates residents are concerned about tot lots bringing a negative element into their neighborhood.  Howell asked Ms. Hauser if she objected to a tot lot near the parking lot.  She said that she does not object.

  • John Wieller of Penn's Ridge addressed the BoS to make them aware of kids hanging around in the Community Park playground near the basketball court.  He said that a woman told him she can't take her kids there because of the foul language from these kids.  Mr. Wieller said too, that the kids take the football bleachers and put them in the middle of the basketball court, skateboard on them, and hang around smoking cigarettes.  He said that he called a police officer over on one occasion.  He said that he does not want "that" in his development.  Mr. Wieller told the Supervisors that they should see what's there on a Saturday afternoon and that it needs patrolling.  He said that the kids are in fifth, sixth, and seventh grades.  As to the stand alone basketball hoops, he said that there are 21 in the development and he has one for his kids.  His kids get out of the way of cars and the hoop is moved out of the way when it snows.

Supervisor Remarks: 

Chairman Howell said that the Board received a letter from Leiser's Rental & Sales relative to the light at Meco Road and Sullivan Trail.  The Board got it this evening.

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 Township's current outstanding debt is $7,768,332.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - said that the committee met on November 4th. 
    • Police Chief Dorney reported that the department passed the formal onsite assessment for re-accreditation - with "flying colors."  The process included a facility tour and inspection, a policy manual review, and a thorough compliance file review.  Dorney will go to Harrisburg on December 8th to appear before the accreditation bureau with a recommendation that the department be re-accredited for the next three years.  There are 1252 municipal police departments in PA and only 50 are recognized as accredited.
    • Chuss said that the department is looking into the possibility of national accreditation - in three years.  It would involve a commitment from the Township.
    • There is progress being made on the modular furniture and the evidence locker installation.  Both should be done by year end or very early next year. 
    • The emergency services tower foundation backfill is complete, the floor is done, and the building erection should start Thursday and take 4-6 weeks.
    • The committee discussed a volunteer incentive program and will make recommendations to the BoS.
    • An hour and twenty minutes of the committee's meeting was devoted to discussion of EMS status.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - reported that the committee had not met since the last BoS meeting and will meet next week. 
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - said that the committee had not met since the last BoS meeting and did have a workshop at 7 PM - prior to this night's meeting. 
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - reported that the committee will meet on Monday at 6 PM.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - said that the committee met on October 22nd and the main focus continues to be the 2009 budget.   The next meeting is November 12th at 5 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter asked the BoS for authorization to hire a new DPW employee.  The position has been vacant for four months.  The interview process is complete.  Leaf collection has begun and snow plowing is upcoming.  Another worker is out because of medical disability.  The new employee is needed.  He would like to make the offer to the selected individual tomorrow.  The vote to authorize the new hire was 5:0.

Schnaedter also reported that he is getting positive feedback from the business leaders breakfast.  Interest in continuing has been expressed.

Engineer's Report - Hay - reported that the Sullivan Trail Business Park paving has been completed - by the developer's paving contractor.  Hay also reported that the foundation and slab for the fire training facility are completed. 

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that the last of the KMRD hearings on the substantive challenge to the language of the zoning ordinance before the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) was held on October 20.  There were closing arguments and statements in opposition from several citizens.  The ZHB voted unanimously to reject the challenge.  The next step is a written statement drafted by the ZHB solicitor and approved by the ZHB.

KMRD has vowed to immediately appeal to the Northampton Court of Common Pleas.  There will be no hearings conducted in that court as the court's decision is based solely on the records established by the ZHB hearings.  The case will likely go further - to the Commonwealth Court, if not to the PA Supreme Court. 

Howell thanked Kline and attorney Steve Goudsouzian for the best legal advice the Township could have had.


Suburban EMS Subscription Discussion (Erik Chuss, Supervisor) - Notes from this over 1-1/2 hour discussion to follow.  Please read Tony Nauroth's very clear Express Times article for more on the EMS discussion and the BoS action to help make residents who paid FEMS and not SEMS convert their subscriptions to SEMS.  Morning Call reporter, Christopher Baxter was there but no report has yet been online - nor in print that we have seen.

Please note:  On November 8, the Express Times' Tony Nauroth reported that the now defunct Forks EMS will return all checks to residents who subscribed during its 2009 fund drive. 

Municipal Pool – Feasibility Study (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter reported that he and Miller met with Mr. Lorne Possinger from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to get some tips on preparing the bid spec document.  Possinger told them that a feasibility study can cost between $20,000 and $40,000.  The City of Easton study cost about $60,000.  Schnaedter researched further and learned that the cost paid by three municipalities that either recently renovated or built pools ranged from $2.7 million to $6 million.  Schnaedter asked the BoS, in light of the costs involved, if he should proceed with preparing a bid document for a feasibility study. 

Chuss suggested that "in light of budgetary considerations" that the study be revisited in the second quarter of next year.  Egolf thought that other contiguous municipalities might be interested in a joint venture. 

Howell said that it would be wasted money if the study were done and the pool not built.  He said that this is an inappropriate time to go forward. 

The pool feasibility study was tabled because of budgetary considerations and the economy and Schnaedter was directed to not proceed with the RFP but to keep the documents he has amassed so far, in a file. 


CCTV System – Awarding of bid (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter reported that this has gone out to bid twice.  The first time only one bid was received and it was deficient.  This time two bids were received - the low one was deficient and the next bid was much higher.  He recommended that both bids be rejected and that it be re-advertised.  The BoS agreed in a 5:0 vote.

Elsie Brown Preliminary / Final Minor Subdivision Plan (Tim Weis, Zoning Officer) - Hay explained that this was taking one large tract and making two smaller ones - basically cutting the tract in half.  There is no development permitted since the land is all in preservation and therefore there is no drainage issue.  It is the settling of an estate and one of the lots may be sold to a farmer.  There may be a house built on the other 54.37(?) acre parcel.  One house is allowed in the County preservation agreement and Kline explained that Maria Bentzoni (of the County) sent a letter indicating approval. 

Both votes were 5:0.  The first granted waivers of plan scale, absence of contour lines, and drainage requirements and the second was to approve the final minor subdivision.

Application for permit to install and operate traffic signals – Meco Road & Sullivan Trail (Fred Hay, Township Engineer) - Hay explained that PennDOT has lost the resolution already created by the Township.  Hay said that he met with the PennDOT District 5-0 traffic engineer and his position was that the signal, with the existing Leiser driveway will never come to fruition.  The engineer felt that the best place for Leiser's driveway is behind his barn and that he didn't think that Leiser should get two driveways.  In fact, according to Hay, PennDOT won't approve two driveways. 

Hay's recommendation is that the BoS grant a waiver (of distance from the intersection) to Mr. Leiser and allow him to move his driveway to the other side of the foundation and as far as possible towards the insurance building (to the south).  Hay said that he will meet with Mr. Leiser tomorrow.

The BoS passed the motion to apply for the permit to install and operate a traffic signal at Meco Road and Sullivan Trail with a 5:0 vote. 

Kline said that he thinks the Township took the position previously that Mr. Leiser could keep his Sullivan Trail driveway where it is but that it would not allow another on Meco Road.  The problem is that it is not acceptable to PennDOT. 

Hay said that PennDOT will not allow two driveways and that he will offer Mr. Leiser either a moved Sullivan Trail driveway or one from Meco. 

Resolution for One Street Light/Riverview Ests. Ramblewood Dr. & Road A (tabled prev.mtg.) (Fred Hay, Township Engineer) - Hay explained that this is a Met-Ed resolution for a street light at the Riverview Recreation Center.  It was approved 5:0.

2009 Budget - First Submission (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Farley said that he submitted a rough draft of the 2009 budget and that a tentative work session is scheduled for November 12th at 5 PM.  Nicholas suggested that all departments with capital projects in their budgets, justify and prioritize them.  Farley said that he will email all department heads and ask that they submit their lists in writing.  He also asked that any Supervisors who have questions let him know prior to the work session and he will do research in advance to answer.  Chuss said that although he cannot be at the work session, he will submit his ideas for areas to cut costs to the Board via email. 

Ordinance # 310 – Adamson Street Sewer Line (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that the proposed ordinance amendment to the 1976 Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority (EAJSA) original inter-municipality ordinance - that created the EAJSA - was necessary because although it was thought that the Adamson Street line was included as a common use line, it was not in any of the agreements.  The ordinance amendment has been reviewed and approved by all member municipalities and endorsed by Forks' representative to the EAJSA, Henning Holmgaard, as appropriate.  The vote to advertise the ordinance for adoption was 5:0.  It will be adopted by the BoS at its November 20th meeting.

Executive Session - There was an executive session on a personnel matter.  No action was taken 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.

No comments: