Sunday, December 21, 2008

BoS Meeting Notes - 12/18/2008

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Forks Supervisors began this evening at 6:30 with a Conditional Use Hearing for The Brake Shop of the Lehigh Valley, Inc. (dba The Brake Shop & Auto Repair.)  See the New Business agenda item below for more. 

The 2009 10% tax increase and budget were approved, the reasons for Mr. Rob Leiser not signing on the PennDOTTED line were detailed, and a movement may be in motion for a Farmland Preservation ballot referendum. 

Please read Tony Nauroth (Express Times) for more on the 2009 budget.  (Note:  There is an error in Mr. Nauroth's article.  The 2009 millage rate is in fact increasing to 5.6 from 5.1.)  

The biggest news of the night though, was learning that Klein Farms has been accepted as a preserved farm by Northampton County!  Only three applications are accepted into the program each year and this year Klein Farms made the cut in the #2 position.

Public Comments (non-agenda)

  • Rob Leiser - Leiser's Rental Barn - explained that he was not holding the Meco/Sullivan traffic light project hostage as was stated in a recent Morning Call article (see Christopher Baxter, December 11, 2008).  He said that in fact, he is the hostage.  He said that he was left out of the loop until mid-July when PennDOT "brought him in." 

Mr. Leiser said that the plan he has seen does not address his entrance (on Sullivan Trail).  Fred Hay (Township Engineer) said that spending money to prepare a plan when he (Leiser) has not agreed is fruitless.  Mr. Leiser maintains that someone should have known that PennDOT wanted his entrance moved. 

Mr. Leiser said, too, that if the driveways are created on his property, there must be easy access into and out of his business.  He said that one of his competitors in Wind Gap lost business and eventually went out of business during the roadwork on 115 in Wind Gap because the roadwork made it very difficult for customers to get to his business.

Solicitor Karl Kline noted that it is interesting that something (Leiser’s Sullivan Trail driveway) PennDOT approved 20 years ago is now not suitable.  Kline said that Leiser's Rental Barn did not move and that Meco Road did not move.  Mr. Leiser said that 20 years ago the land around his shop was open fields with two houses and that Meco Road did indeed move.  Hay said that he recommended to the Board that the Leiser driveways be part of the project.

Kline asked Leiser directly what he wants and Mr. Leiser answered that he wants:

    • The entrance moved.
    • The entrance approved by Planning Commission in 2002.
    • Everything paid for because he does not have the money do it.
    • At least the Meco Road entrance cut.

Mr. Leiser said that he knows that a light needs to be put there (Meco/Sullivan) but not at his cost.  He added that his project was held hostage (years before) when a Supervisor asked that he be removed from a meeting and when he received a letter from Kline detailing eight items discussed at a meeting with him (Leiser) that were never discussed.

Mr. Leiser said that he estimates the cost of moving his entrance to be $50,000 to $80,000 and he wants to be certain that all the cost will be covered by the Township.  Hay said that an estimate has not yet been prepared and he does not believe the cost to be that much.

Mr. Leiser said that the "whole point" is that the Supervisors should be talking to him.  Hay said that he came to him with a plan of what PennDOT allowed. 

Mr. Leiser concluded by stating that he wants to see some plans and that he needs to be "engaged with the plans, the ideas, and the promises."

Supervisor Remarks:

  • Chairman Howell listed some "house keeping" items particularly that the BoS Re-organization meeting is scheduled for January 5th at 7:00 PM.  Howell said that the meeting schedules for all other boards/commission/committees will be set by the Supervisors at the re-org meeting.

The elected auditors will set the pay rates of Supervisors employed by the Township at their meeting on January 6th at 7 PM.

Howell said too, that the Supervisor's packets contain a flyer for the upcoming Lehigh Valley Planning Commission "Smart Transportation Workshop" (click on Commission Staff and then click on Workshop) scheduled for January 16th from 8:30-noon. 

Howell noted that he and Supervisor Egolf attended an open space workshop in Easton.  They were invited by the Two Rivers Council of Governments (TRCOG) and the Lehigh Valley League of Women Voters (LVLWV).  Howell said that presentations were made by six of Forks' neighboring townships that have successfully passed referenda and either used bond issues or EIT (earned income tax) increases to raise funds to purchase development rights and open space - in order to preserve farmland.  He said that he will approach the Board in 2009 to get a workshop together - with all Township boards - in order to start thinking about open space and helping Forks' farmers.

  • Supervisor Nicholas said that she had a letter about the Palmer bikepath that is to go through Forks.  She is concerned whether Forks is to mark the road crossings or if Palmer is to do it.  She said that the crossings in Palmer are not well marked and she asked that the Township work with Palmer about how the path will be marked to insure safety in crossing Forks' roads.  She said that she will visit the crossings and send her findings/recommendations to Township Manager Schnaedter.  Kline offered that signage is being considered and that Palmer plans to begin the path construction in the spring.  Palmer needs signs indicating that vehicles must stop for pedestrians.  Forks recreation paths have such signs. 
  • Supervisor Chuss said that the Planning Commission (draft) minutes (from its December 11th meeting) indicate that Dan Fazekas will not seek reappointment in 2010.  He asked that Schnaedter draft a letter of appreciation for his service.

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 $7,382,099.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - said that there had been no meeting since the last BoS meeting.  Fire Chief Bryan Weis updated the progress on the new emergency services training tower:
    • The construction is complete.
    • The interior concrete and the Padgenite lining are installed.
    • The garage door installation is scheduled for Monday.
    • A concrete apron will be installed in the spring. 
    • Conditioning burns are scheduled for this weekend.

Nicholas complimented Chief Weis for the photo morph of the tower construction on the website.

Chuss extended thanks to the committee members and especially Police Chief Dorney, Fire Chief Weis, Schnaedter, and Suburban EMS for their hard work and accomplishments in 2008.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that the committee met last week and that the road crew has been very busy this fall.  There were three crews collecting leaves.  Leaf collection is done for this year.  The DPW is now cleaning catch basins, trimming trees, and repairing street lights.  The park restrooms have been cleaned and winterized and the playing fields have been shut down for the winter. 

DPW Director Mark Roberts said that in preparation for weekend snow plowing, 123 notices were placed on vehicles parked in the streets.  The tagged vehicles included trailers, boats, etc.  The notices state that the vehicles are to be removed from streets as soon as possible.  Nicholas asked if there are on-street parking restrictions for trailers and boats and Zoning Officer Weis said that there are none as long as the vehicles are licensed.  He added that there are parking restrictions for tractor trailers.

  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - said that the committee had its last meeting of the year and wrapped up some loose ends including:
    • The Community Park carousel is ordered and delivery is expected sometime before spring. 
    • The selection and purchase of fitness stations for the Community Park is in progress.
    • The Penn's Ridge's neighborhood park has been given priority.  The committee has been working with the Recreation Board and Miller on a 3/4 size basketball court and a tot lot. Recommendations will be made to the BoS early in 2009.
    • Miller and Roberts have finished their inspection of the basketball and tennis courts.  An estimate on resurfacing both will be presented to the BoS when it is completed - with a hope for an early 2009 approval.
    • Miller is preparing an estimate for an additional pavilion in the park.

Howell thanked Miller and Farley for all their work in 2008.  He noted that it is the first complete year that the new software (to track youth sports participation) has been used and it showed that the Community Center brought in a record $261,000 (year to date) in 2008.  The Township subsidy to the Recreation Board is low.

The committee accomplished the first major purchase of new play equipment and gym #1 users now have heat and air conditioning as do the users of gyms #2 and #3.

Howell said that all of this was done at no cost to the taxpayers.  Funds from the developer recreation impact fees were used and "spent wisely."  He extended thanks to Miller, Farley and Schnaedter.

  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - said that there was no meeting since the last BoS meeting.  She thanked Schnaedter for all his work on the Forks Quarterly and said that Supervisor Miller will chair the committee next year.  He will be joined by Supervisor Chuss.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the committee met twice a month over the year.  At the last meeting, the managers' goals were reviewed and he was pleased with the work and that all goals were met.  Next year the committee plans a Saturday goal setting workshop with department managers and the BoS.

Egolf said that "tons and tons" of documents were organized, sorted, and shelved.  He thank Finance Manager Farley for that successful effort.  He thanked Schnaedter for the successful breakfast with Forks business leaders.  It was held in the meeting room and will lead to future discussions.  He said the year was very rewarding.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter thanked the Kiwanis organization for its annual sponsorship of the Township Christmas tree lighting.  He said that well over 100 people participated including the choir from EAHS.  He thanked Pitchfork Nursery and Karl Miller for the lobby decorations and he thanked Ed Kleppinger (Parks Department Crew Chief) for all his efforts.

Chuss thanked Schnaedter for all his work helping to coordinate the event.  Howell noted that it's the first one he's missed but that it is quite a sight to see the antique fire truck roaring down the road with Santa on board.

Schnaedter also welcomed Dr. Yuri Shevtziv to the Township.

Engineer's Report - Hay - agenda items only.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - agenda items only.


Real Estate Tax Millage Change (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Farley explained that the budget process began in October with an analysis of expenses for the current year versus the end of the previous year.  Trends were considered.  Meetings were held with department managers to analyze costs and a proposed budget was developed for presentation to the BoS in November.  Tentative approval was granted by the BoS at its November 18 meeting. 

Farley said that the proposed budget was available to the public both on the Township website and at the front counter in the Municipal Building. 

The motion to approve the millage increase from 5.1 to 5.6 was approved with a 5:0 vote. 

2009 Budget - Final Approval (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - The vote to approve the proposed budget was 5:0.  Egolf noted that this budget has gone through "major surgery" and was trimmed as much as it could be trimmed.  He said that there were quite a few meetings with department managers who were asked to justify their proposals.  Adjustments were made.  The final budget is "frugal and holds the line on everything."  In particular, capital requests are on indefinite hold. 

An audience member asked about the $70,000 in capital purchases (listed under Police Department expenses).  Farley explained that capital purchases are listed but are on hold until at least mid-year.  Some of them may be considered at that time if housing starts improve and revenues exceed the budgeted amounts.  

The carryover amount is needed to keep the Township running during the first quarter until tax payments begin to arrive.


Farmland Preservation (Erik Chuss, Supervisor) - Chuss said that he received a request from Layne and Beth Klein (Klein Farms) to preserve their 44 acre farm. 

Mr. Klein addressed the BoS and said that at this time his is the only dairy farm left in Forks Township.  He added that there are four grain farmers (a couple of them are part time), and a couple of vegetable farms.  He owns 51 acres, his mother has 30 acres, and he rents an additional 100 acres. 

At this time, Klein Farms, number two on the Northampton County Farmland Preservation list, has been accepted into the program.  Forks' other preserved farm, the Elsie Brown Farm, is adjacent to the Klein Farm. 

Mr. Klein said that part of the application process included an appraisal by the county at a cost of $1,000 (to be reimbursed) and a second, independent appraisal that cost him $3,200.  In both, the land is appraised as farmland and again as developable land.  The county pays farmers the difference between the two appraisals (as a farm and as developable land) using the average between the county appraisals and the independent one. 

Mr. Klein said that he wants a little more help.  Williams Township, for example, pays farmers (of preserved farms) the difference between the amount approved by the county and the amount of the independent appraisal. 

Preserved farms become deed restricted and can never be developed.  They must always be farmed.  Mr. Klein said that it is in the Township's interest to preserve farms.  He also wants to "preserve" his mother's farm. 

Klein Farms draws customers from the area and even from as far away as New York City.

Mr. Klein noted too, that Victaulic is "at the back door" and has approached him about buying his land.  He thought the best case would be that Forks do something like Williams Township has done (to help farmers.)  And, he reminded the Supervisors that they all ran on farmland preservation platforms. 

Howell said that he (Klein) was right, that there has been "a lot of talk and no action."  Lower Mount Bethel, Upper Mount Bethel, Bushkill, Lower Saucon, and Williams have all "joined the club."  Williams has money from Chrin as well as a fund for farmland preservation. 

Howell assured Mr. Klein that the BoS is intent on doing something and will begin the referendum process.  He asked Mr. Klein to write a letter to the Township Manager detailing what he would like to see happen. 

Klein noted that Northampton County has just celebrated preserving 10,000 acres of farmland and that Forks has only 100 acres preserved - or 1% of the total.  He said that Township help would be appreciated and that "farmland is worthless without the farmer - it has to be farmed." 

Nicholas asked (Solicitor) Kline what the process is for preparing a referendum for voting in 2009.  Kline suggested that if the BoS wants it to be successful that it should look at what other municipalities have done.  He said that in the case of Upper Saucon, both the Supervisors and an active citizen committee got the referendum on the ballot.  It missed being passed by only a few votes.  The process can take a year and probably would have passed in Upper Saucon had the economy not collapsed.  Convincing people that it is appropriate to raise taxes is difficult.  Kline said that he has information on the process and will make it available to the BoS.  Also, the conservancies have booklets for guidance.

Howell said that he and Egolf can arrange to have a forum like the one they attended on open space.  He said that it "takes an army with strategies to reverse the DNA for no more taxes."  Howell asked Mr. Klein if he would like to play a role and Mr. Klein said "yes."   

Chuss offered that he has been involved in the Township for 15 years (eight of them on the Planning Commission) and during that time farmland has been a hot issue in the Comprehensive Plan - yet nothing has been done.  He went on to say that "here we have a farmer stepping up and asking for help..."  Chuss said there's been enough talk.  He doesn't see the need for more committees and more discussions and would like the BoS to look at the Klein request in January.  And, he added that residential development puts a lot more burden on townships than businesses do.

Nicholas said that the Finance and Administration committee is going to be working on a three year plan.

Open Records Policy (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter explained that this is a revised "right-to-know" policy.  He said that PSATS provided a sample ordinance and he filled in the blanks.  The copy cost will remain at $.25 per page.  Costs for copy orders of 100 pages or more can be collected in advance of copying.  The rules will be posted on the website and in the municipal building.  The ordinance designates Schnaedter as the Township Open Records Officer.  Egolf said that the typos should be fixed.  The vote to approve the open records policy was was 5:0.

Estate of Elsie Brown Preliminary/Final Major Subdivision Plan (Tim Weis, Zoning Officer) - Lou Ferrone, project engineer, explained that this is a simple lot line adjustment to add 1.5 acres to the Daub residence on Kline Road.  The septic system on the 1.5 acres serves the Daub residence and the land is exempt from the conservation easement.  The plan is to add the land to accommodate the septic easement. 

The plan was approved 5:0, with waivers (for plan scale) and based on Keystone Engineering's letter.

Ordinance No. 311 - Adoption of EASJSA resolutions (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline said that the EAJSA (Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority) is required by the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt new streamlined rules.  The rules add a new section (150-62).  Ordinance No. 311 is an ordinance to ratify the ordinance/resolution.  Howell asked if Forks is the first (member municipality) to do this and Kline said that Forks is in fact, the last.  Kline said that it took a year to get a response to his request for a list and that response was that there is no list yet - that it is being prepared.  He remarked that it is a "good idea to know what we are enforcing so that we can all sleep better at night."

The vote to approve advertising the ordinance was 5:0.

Brake Shop of Lehigh Valley - Conditional Use (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline summarized and said that Bradley Fleming, President of The Brake Shop of the Lehigh Valley, Inc. (dba the Brake Shop & Auto Repair) proposes leasing space in the former Baurkot beer distributor building on Sullivan Trail.  Kline said that car repairs, per the zoning ordinance, is a conditional use in the EC (Employment Center).  A conditional use means that the use is acceptable but is subject to further review.  The hearing was held at 6:30 PM.

The Board reviewed and voted 5:0 on the first eight requirements (to be met).  At requirement #9 (does the Township want it?), the vote was again 5:0 with the conditions cited by the Planning Commission (buffering of lights, cars under repair stored inside, and attention paid to the required needs of other future tenants) and Keystone Engineering's letter.

Comment from Georgeann Wambold, Planning Commission member - re. Kline Farm issue - Ms. Wambold said that she believed it imperative that the Township do something quickly.  She added that recently the Township gave quickly to others and that Farmland Preservation is important in the new (still in draft) Comprehensive Plan.  Ms. Wambold served on the 2008 Comprehensive Plan Farmland Preservation subcommittee.

Executive Session - There was an executive session to discuss a personnel issue.  No action was taken after the session and the meeting was adjourned.

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.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Upcoming vacancies. You are needed! Apply by Dec. 29th

According to the roster of appointed boards and commissions posted on the Forks Township website, terms are expiring December 31st on the following:

  • Planning Commission
  • Zoning Hearing Board
  • Recreation Board

Each has one upcoming vacancy.  These are appointed positions and not elected ones so you must let the Township know that you are interested and want to serve.  The Board of Supervisors reviews letters of interest and conducts interviews before making appointments. 

The application deadline is December 29th.  So... get your application letter polished and send it to Township Manager Rick Schnaedter.  Be sure to include your background and what you hope to bring to the Planning Commission, Zoning Hearing Board, or the Recreation Board. 

Send your letter by regular mail, email, or hand deliver it yourself.  Don't dawdle.  Be part of the solution. 

2009 is just around the corner!

BoS Meeting Notes - 12/4/2008 - updated

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Note:  These notes were updated on 12/13/08.  The updates are labeled Update and are in this same color blue.

On this night, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to donate the balance of the 2007 EMS set-aside money to Suburban EMS.  In exchange, all Forks residents who paid 2009 subscription money to Forks EMS (and not to Suburban EMS), will be covered by Suburban.  The Board acknowledged that Suburban has worked hard for Forks residents over the last 2-1/2 years and has not always been paid.  (see Suburban EMS Forks squad)

The BoS also voted 4:1 to donate a portion of the money earmarked for an employee Christmas party to Safe Harbor of Easton.  This is to be a one time donation $2,000 on behalf of the Board of Supervisors and the employees of Forks Township.  The 2008 employee Christmas party has been cancelled.

Please read Sarah Wojcik's two Express Times articles - one on the EMS donation  and one on the Safe Harbor donation - and Christopher Baxter's Morning Call piece for more on both donation decisions.  

Public Comments (non-agenda) - None

Supervisor Remarks:

  • Supervisor Nicholas suggested that the Board "go green" and use the new smart-board to show the agenda instead of printing so many copies.  Zoning Officer Weis said that if the Board is to be used for a presentation, the agenda will have to come down.
  • Supervisor Howell said that he sent an email to Township Manager Schnaedter about the upcoming vacancies on the appointed boards.  There is one on the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB), one on the Planning Commission (PC), and one on the Recreation Board (Rec Board).  All are four year terms. 

December 29th was set as the deadline for applicants to submit their intentions and qualifications.  A legal notice will be published and interviews will be conducted - possibly at the first (or second) BoS meeting in January.  All boards have quorums and can hold their first meetings in January.

Howell noted that Lou Moyer (ZHB) has already asked (via email to the BoS) to be reconsidered.  Applications may be sent via email or via the US postal service. 

The vacancy on the Vacancy Board was also discussed.  It is a one year term.  Currently the position is held by former Supervisor Henning Holmgaard.  Howell asked Kline if that position must also be advertised and Kline said that since the Vacancy Board doesn't do anything unless "the Board fails to act in a particular situation" he does not see the need to advertise it - if that person is willing to do it.   Schnaedter will call Mr. Holmgaard to ask his intentions.

  • Supervisor Chuss asked if there is to be a Conditional Use Hearing before the next BoS meeting.  Weis confirmed and said it is scheduled for 6:30 PM. 

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 $7,400,223.

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 last Tuesday in its final meeting of 2008.  He reported the following:
    • The Police Department (PD) is receiving its re-accreditation award this week in Carlisle. 
    • The PD is going to investigate what will be needed for national accreditation and if the requirements seem doable, may try for it next year.  
    • The modular furniture/evidence locker is to be installed on December 10th. 
    • The emergency services tower should be completed by the end of the month and available for training early next year.  The Fire Department is developing standard operating procedures, guidelines, and a suggested fee schedule (by other municipalities or organizations) before use.
    • In Fire Company voting, Bryan Weis was re-elected as Chief and Charles Chapman was elected Deputy Chief.

Chuss also congratulated the police for the apprehension of the Washington Township burglary suspects on Route 611.  He said they did a very nice job.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that there was no meeting since the last BoS meeting.  No report.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - said that there was no meeting since the last BoS meeting.  No report. 
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - said that she will be out of town and the upcoming Monday meeting is cancelled.  No report. 
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the 2009 proposed budget is online (click the Finance tab).  Finance Manager Farley noted that the budget is scheduled for approval at the December 18 BoS meeting.  The Township Manager's current year goals will be reviewed at the next committee meeting (December 10th at 5 PM).  There will be no committee meeting on December 24th. 

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter reminded all present that the Kiwanis annual tree lighting at the Municipal Building will be on December 7th at 7 PM.  Attendees are asked to bring non-perishable goods to be given to local food banks. 

Engineer's Report - Hay - updated the Board on PennDOT and the Meco/Sullivan traffic light.  He said that he met with PennDOT and that PennDOT will allow a right-in/right-out driveway at Leiser's Rental Barn - further from the intersection than the current driveway - as well as a new full size driveway on Meco Road.  Hay said that Mr. Leiser has had this information for three weeks and that he (Hay) does not think that he (Leiser) will sign - which will kill the project. 

Chuss asked if Mr. Leiser has provided any insight into his concerns.  Hay replied that he (Leiser) is upset with the Township for what happened three to five years ago when he applied for land development. 

Howell said that PennDOT is approving ingress and egress far beyond what he originally asked for...  Hay offered that this driveway arrangement will increase the value of the Leiser property.  He said that if he (Leiser) were just beginning to develop the property, PennDOT would make him put in the signal.  In this arrangement, he gets the signal for free.

PennDOT will not issue the permit for the light with the driveway in its existing location.

Nicholas said that the Township traffic study rated that intersection a "F" (one of the worst) and because Mr. Leiser does not want a new driveway, the Township is unable to improve a very bad intersection.

Howell said that the intersection is clogged at rush hour with cars trying to get onto Sullivan Trail.  The improvements included turn lanes, sight lines... and the Township has probably already spent - in traffic studies and other things - in excess of $70,000 (on this project.)  The landowner is "withholding approval without explanation" and would rather keep his "grandfathered" driveway.  

Kline said that this is so unfortunate because this traffic light is to be on a state highway.  PennDOT has said that  it doesn't have the money to do the improvements.  The Township recognizes this and is willing to spend the money to design the improvements and to pay the costs of putting in the light.  PennDOT says that unless this one individual cooperates, "it's dead."  PennDOT is willing to give Mr. Leiser a larger driveway and an additional one on Meco.  Kline said, "It is so unfortunate that this one individual like this is really standing in the way of substantial improvement of the safety for this community."  Howell noted that the Township has no means to force it upon him.

Resident Thomas Humcheck (sic) asked who would be paying for the driveways, him or the Township?  Hay answered, "The Township."

Egolf asked if there is a time limit on the project.  Hay said that there is none on the application and that the Township has met all the requirements except "this."  Egolf asked, "So next year, he could say yes and it would be a go?"  Hay noted that the only danger is that PennDOT could change the requirements and make them more stringent.

Kline offered that PennDOT could say that it is not going to let one person "hold this whole project hostage" and proceed with the improvements.

Hay noted that in 1986 Mr. Leiser got a permit from PennDOT for the current driveway.  Kline noted that it is ironic that PennDOT thought it safe enough in 1986 but is now willing to hold up the project over it.  He offered that PennDOT does not have to impose that requirement.

Hay said that the driveway is an alternative to Mr. Leiser signing the indemnification agreement which was originally requested.  PennDOT does not want to be sued.  Kline said that PennDOT was perfectly willing to allow the light if Mr. Leiser would sign a paper holding PennDOT harmless.

Update:  On December 10th Christopher Baxter (Morning Call) followed up with a more indepth article on this issue and its history. 

Solicitor's Report - Kline - said that in view of the fact that the real estate market is terrible and because banks are tightening credit standards, it is more important than ever that the Township keep a close watch on letters of credit.  Letters of credit provide the security that developers will provide municipal improvements as part of their projects.   If the improvements are not done and the developer "walks or goes belly up," the letters of credit provide the money to complete the improvements. 

Kline warned that banks' tightened credit standards may mean that some letters of credit will not be renewed.  He asked that the BoS authorize him to notify all the developers that unless their letter of credit is renewed no less than two weeks before expiration, the Township "is going to draw on the letter of credit."  

Kline said that Strausser's Riverview letter of credit is the next to expire - on January 7th.  Kline said that he contacted the issuing bank and that the bank is in the process of renewing all Strausser's letters of credit.  Also, the language is being changed so that the letters will automatically renew unless informed that the developer does not want them renewed.

Chuss made the motion that the Township notify developers that unless their letters of credit are renewed at least two weeks prior to expiration, the Township will draw on the letters to complete improvements.  Nicholas seconded.

In discussion, Howell asked about Strausser's letters of credit.  Kline said that he has one in January and two in March.  He said that he bank assured him that everything would be in place by the end of the year. 

Howell asked if there is an adequate tickler system in place and was told "yes."

The motion passed 5:0.


Suburban EMS Agreement (Erik Chuss, Supervisor) -  Kline explained that he met with Barry Albertson and Jeff Young from Suburban EMS (SEMS) and circulated a draft of the proposed agreement to the BoS and to the attorney for SEMS. 

The agreement includes some of the background of this EMS situation.  Kline recounted that on July 11, 2006, when Forks EMS (FEMS) abruptly ceased operation, SEMS agreed to pick up both ALS (advanced life support) and BLS (basic life support) coverage for Forks.

On August 28, 2006, after FEMS restructured, the Township gave it the opportunity to provide BLS service to Forks.  Suburban continued to provide ALS.

FEMS restarted and "things didn't go very well."  On July 17, 2008, the BoS adopted a change and made FEMS the only squad to go on BLS calls and SEMS the only one to go on ALS calls.  This change allowed SEMS to bill separately for its services. 

On October 16, 2008 the BoS appointed SEMS as the sole ALS and BLS provider.  Meanwhile an unknown number of residents sent subscription money to FEMS and not to SEMS, so they were then without coverage. 

Kline said that the BoS desires to recognize the services that SEMS has provided in difficult circumstances over the past 2-1/2 years and also to protect Forks residents who paid (FEMS) in good faith.  He said that the BoS "wishes to provide efficient and fiscally sound" EMS services to all Forks residents.

The terms stipulate that SEMS will honor all subscriptions from residents made to FEMS from the beginning of the current 2008-2009 subscription drive to the date of the agreement. 

The Township agrees to make a one time contribution of $17,322 to SEMS.  There will be no money set aside for EMS in 2009.  This money is in addition to the $2,678 approved by the BoS at its November 6th meeting.  There are no oral agreements and any changes must be agreed to by both the Township and SEMS.

Chuss made the motion to approve the contribution.  Egolf seconded. 

Howell asked how residents will know that they are covered - assuming the Township sends all the information it has on hand to SEMS on residents who paid FEMS?  Albertson said that SEMS gives a small card and can also provide a whole packet of information (to the people who have given Schnaedter their cancelled checks) to acknowledge that they are now covered by SEMS.

The vote to approve the donation was 5:0.


Contribution to Safe Harbor (Robert Egolf, Supervisor) - Egolf said that Tyson Sprandell of Safe Harbor spoke at the November 6th BoS meeting.  The Board learned that 11 Forks residents sought help from Safe Harbor last year.  Egolf said that at the Finance & Administration committee meeting the holiday party for employees and spouses was discussed and the thought was that it would be appropriate, because of "dire straights," to not have the party.  Instead some of the money could be used to make a one time contribution to Safe Harbor.  Egolf said that this is not to set a precedent.  He noted, too, that area food banks are empty.

Egolf said that he thought that it was very important and he read the second paragraph from a "very friendly" letter sent to employees by Schnaedter regarding the holiday party. In it Schnaedter acknowledges that the Township truly appreciates their "diligence, performance and dedication."  He said these qualities help to make the Township what it is. 

Egolf made a motion for a 2008 contribution at the amount that the Finance & Administration committee recommended, $2,000.  Howell seconded.

In discussion, Chuss, the first to speak, said that the initial intent of the cancelled holiday party was to relieve the tax burden on residents and "to take money from the Township and give it to a charitable organization - although Safe Harbor is a fine charitable organization - is an injustice to the employees and more so an injustice to the residents of the Township."  He added, "If we do this for Safe Harbor who's to say that the Salvation Army or the American Heart Association, Cancer Society, or whatever won't come next month?"  He said that he is opposed to the motion.

Egolf said that he understood what Chuss had to say but wanted to remind everyone that only ten minutes ago, the Board voted to give $17,000 to Suburban EMS without them even submitting a bill.  It was given in a "goodwill effort."  Egolf said, "$17,000 contrasted to $2,000 is hardly a significant amount."  He offered that this money has nothing to do with the 2009 budget and is money that is in the Township coffers right now.  Egolf said too, that if the Township is inundated with funding requests, it will deal with them then.  He pointed out that some of Forks citizens have used Safe Harbor. 

Nicholas asked that since the money is not in the budget, where will it come from?   Farley said that it usually comes from the BoS "discretionary fund."  Howell asked if that's what would have paid for the party and Farley said, "Yes." 

Howell said that he was embarrassed two years ago when the BoS stopped supporting non-profits that have served our community.  He noted that the Township used to support Forks EMS ($5,000 then $10, 000 and on), Safe Harbor ($5,000), the SPCA... "Now the Township has a contract with SPCA... and to say that we will ignore Safe Harbor but we will take care of the SPCA contractually, the other non-for-profit, and not Safe Harbor..."  Howell said that he's been coming to BoS meetings for five years and never seen any "national" non-profits there.  He noted that this is a local non-profit that provides a benefit to the Township.  He said that if the Supervisor don't give money to them tonight that that each write a check for $100 and give it to Safe Harbor or if going by in the summer time bring coffee and donuts and sit down and talk with the "folks" there.

Resident Larry Kitson also said that he understood what Chuss said about residents objecting to the donation but that there are residents of Forks who have lost their jobs and may need Safe Harbor.  He thought the donation a good idea.

Chuss replied that he knows people in dire straights right now.  He said that the tax increase is going to have a serious impact on them.  He also said that there are many other local charities.  He said that he talked to several people who are very angry and upset that the BoS is considering this (donation.)

Resident Thomas Humcheck (sic) asked if the contribution would be less than the cost of the party?  Egolf said that last year the party cost $2,500.  Mr. Humcheck (sic) said that if they are giving up something that the Township is willing to give up and shifting it to help people who need it, and spending even less is okay. 
Howell said that he spoke with some employees and they very pleased to to give this gift on behalf of the Supervisors and the employees of the Township.  He said it's a "token" and probably just a small amount of Safe Harbor's budget.  Howell added that municipalities are ignoring some moral obligations.  He added that it's "not going to break bank" and that limits have been placed on expenses. 

Chuss argued that if the money is not spent this year, it would be carried over to next year.  He said that anything that reduces expenses for next year, should be taken.

Nicholas commented that she was on the fence on this issue because in her five years on the BoS, the policy was not to give to charities because everyone would be "knocking on our doors."  She said that Mr. Kitson made a very good point, that there are a lot of people in Forks who may be losing their jobs and need to use Safe Harbor.  She said that she has been there with her son and the Scouts - they have help prepare food and serve it.  Nicholas added that she knows that it is a very good cause.  

Miller commented that the motion is just for this year and next year may be different.

The $2,000 one time donation to Safe Harbor was approved in a 4:1 vote.  Chuss cast the "nay" vote.

Update:  On December 13, the Express Times published an editorial on Lehigh Valley municipal contributions to area homeless shelters.  Turkeys were awarded to both Bethlehem Township and to Supervisor Chuss.

Executive Session - There was no executive session.

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