Sunday, February 24, 2008

BoS Meeting 2/21/2008

Regular Meeting (agenda)

The Board of Supervisors was asked by Police Chief Dorney to appoint three new police officers. Two will fill vacancies created by recent resignations and the third will fill a new position called for in the department five-year plan. Two other officers were promoted, one to Captain and one to Detective. Read more below and in articles by JD Malone (Express Times) and Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call). The police department appointments were moved from the NEW BUSINESS section of the agenda to the beginning of the OLD BUSINESS section at the request of Chief Dorney.

Supervisors' Comments

Chairman Howell said that he attended the hearing held by Representative Freeman on H.B. 2018, the bill to allow municipalities with greater than 17% tax exempt properties to share in monies collected for a liquor tax (that currently goes into the PA general fund). This (now) 18% liquor tax was originally enacted to help with the 1936 Johnstown flood. It was never repealed. Large amounts of tax exempt properties put an inordinate burden on the infrastructure to serve all the citizens. Howell provided the Board with some examples and cited Gettysburg, where 79% of the property is tax exempt because of the Gettysburg College. He said that Gettysburg would be entitled to a $702,000 payment. Howell said that Finance Manager Farley is putting something together for the Finance & Administration Committee to determine whether the proposed legislation may benefit Forks. Forks has schools, churches, parks, the Municipal Complex, the airport, etc. that are all tax exempt. At the least, the committee will determine whether or not to recommend that Forks endorse the legislation through resolution. The endorsement would be passed on to Reps. Grucela and Freeman to show support for their efforts.

Supervisor Miller updated the Board on the Bushkill Streams Conservancy's work to thwart further destruction by the two beavers that have been spotted near Lion's Park. Eighty seven (new) trees now have wire fencing around them.

Miller also said that an Antique Knife & Sword Show is coming to the Community Center September 27-28. There will be exhibits of military swords, antique daggers, and more. The show's sponsor is printing 10,000 flyers.

Supervisor Nicholas reported that she attended Boy Scout Troop 29's meeting and gave a talk on "their constitutional rights." She said that she was approached by at least five potential Eagle Scouts who are looking for projects. One of them, Sterling Pennington (sic) has volunteered to "do the parking lot at Gollub Park." Nicholas said that his good ideas include putting in a guard rail, a retaining wall, and a trail map. Nicholas said, too, that she asked DPW Director Roberts for ideas and he said the parking lot by the catch & release looks "ratty." Nicholas will try to get one of the scouts to improve it.

Nicholas said that she and Howell walked Gollub Park last weekend just to check it out. She noted that there are remnants of a pavilion there and that it, too, may be a good Eagle Scout project.

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. Current outstanding debt is $7,927.858.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - reported that Chief Dorney is still gathering information on modular furniture for the Police Department. Chuss said that the committee has items on the agenda.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that he was not at the Public Works Committee meeting. Township Manager Schnaedter reported that various options for a new public works building were discussed - size/bays/land. Schnaedter said that the discussion is very preliminary.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - said that the committee will meet next Thursday at 4 PM.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - reported that because advertisement purchases have been slow as business are still getting their (advertising) budgets together, the new edition of the Forks Quarterly will come out in mid-March. She said that the rest of this year's editions will be on time.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - said that the last meeting was canceled because of ice and that the next meeting will be next Wednesday at 5 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - reported that to date no action has been taken on the Gollub Park emergency access road but work should begin on Monday. Roberts (not present) has obtained a cost estimate. Nicholas asked if something could be done about the PRIVATE DRIVE / NO TRESPASSING sign on a tree there. She asked Kline if the Township can take it down. Kline said that it is misleading and that someone should first talk to the residents and tell them they need to take it down. Schnaedter has been assigned the task.

Schnaedter reported that he has received the DCNR grant application. He hopes to have a recommendation to the Board at the first meeting in April. He and Miller are working on it.

Also, Schnaedter commended the work done by the employee run "resurrected" Safety Committee. All departments are represented on the committee. The charge is to identify potential workplace hazards. He cited Pete Gheller (last year's chairman), Sean Quick (this year's chairman), Irene Hess, Loretta Fuehrer, Don Miller, Steve Nicholson, Jim Seiple, and Tim Weis. Acknowledgements (of appreciation) were presented to all. Weis and Miller received theirs at the meeting.

Schnaedter said that on February 13th he received a fax from Northampton Emergency Management Services asking that he select one of two proposed projects for funding consideration. Forks will have to provide a 25% match. He said that he only had until 4 PM that day to respond and consulted with (assistant Emergency Management Coordinator) Tim Weis. They opted for a new drainage pipe in the 100 year flood plain area of Kesslersville Road. The estimated total cost of the project is $250,000. The other project offered was to replace and install new culvert in the 2900 block of Sullivan Trail. Weis explained that these projects were identified by the Lehigh/Northampton Joint Hazard Mitigation program that he was involved in last year. Projects were identified in the event that Federal money became available. Some funds are now available - but receipt is not guaranteed.

Engineer's Report - Hay - asked the Board for permission to put the fire training facility specs out for bid. The facility will be located on Glover and Kuebler Roads. Egolf asked what the building will look like. Chuss gave him a sketch.

Resident Sandy Hanks asked why Forks needs its own facility when there is one ten miles north in Washington Township? Fire Chief Bryan Weis explained that the entrance is narrow and they can't get all the vehicles in there, in particular the ladder truck. Chief Weis added that the ten miles creates a significant response time delay should they be needed in Forks. He said too, that there has been a 337% increase in calls in the past eight years and that the new facility will also bring in outside agencies for training.

When questioned about the estimated cost ($350,000 to $400,000), Weis said that the fire company has been planning for it for several years (it is in the five-year plan) and has committed to pay for half of it. The company has received many grants and has more grant active applications in the works.

It will be a state of the art facility. The next nearest comparable one is in Bucks County. Chuss added that the facility is budgeted and because it will not be for exclusive Township use agreements will be worked out to recoup the money.

Ms. Hanks said that the PA State Planning Board report recommends shared municipal services. Howell said that it is virtually impossible to get the COG (Council of Governments) to do anything regional. He said that within the Two Rivers COG different municipalities have different kinds of fire companies or none at all. Some of the companies are union, some are paid, some are volunteers - "a hodgepodge of incorporated departments." Howell said that at the PSATS meetings, "regionalization" is a very easy thing to say but it is extremely difficult to accomplish.

Weis added to that the Washington Township facility is operated by and used by Northampton Community College.

Nicholas asked Hay to put a price hold time limit in the bid package. The Board approved the solicitation of bids in a 5:0 vote.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - agenda items only.

Comments from the floor - None.


Hiring of (3) New Full Time Police Officers - Chief Dorney nominated three individuals to fill the two vacancies created by resignations and the one vacancy already in the budget. The Board accepted all nominees in a 5:0 vote. The new officers are James Rovinski, Joe Kizer, and Brandon Schippers. For more details, please read the February 22, 2008 articles by JD Malone (Express Times) and Madeleine Mathias (Morning Call). The new officers begin their jobs on March 2. Chuss expressed thanks to Chief Dorney for his extensive work to find and field the candidates.

Promotion of Police Captain - The Board approved the promotion of corporal Richard Griffo to captain. The position, last held by Lou Coxe, has been vacant since 2003 when Coxe resigned. The promotion is effective March 2nd. The vote was unanimous.

Promotion of Police Detective - In another unanimous vote by the Board, officer Joe Effting was promoted to detective. This promotion is also effective March 2nd.

Recreation Path - (This is for a recreation path plan for Riverview Estates.) Howell said that the Planning Commission (PC) has considered three options and settled on one to recommend to the Board. In the PC recommended plan the path runs along the north side of Winchester from the nature trail to Broadway where it continues west on the south side of Winchester. Howell added that the PC is considering a broader trail system and that will be presented at a later date.

Chuss said that his thought is that since the revised Comprehensive Plan is so close to being adopted that the Board should wait until it is adopted. Winchester Drive is to be a minor arterial road and he thought that the Board should designate a recreation path on both sides from Frost Hollow to Richmond, putting it on the map (in the Comprehensive Plan) so that residents know that the path may be built.

Howell noted that discussion should be limited to Riverview and asked, "What is Strausser's responsibility? Hay explained that the sidewalks (per plan) will be on the south side of Winchester from Iron Run to Ramblewood and then (west) on both sides. There is still a gap from Broadway to Iron Run.

Chuss offered that per the new zoning ordinance there will be sidewalks on both sides of newly approved developments. John Ackerman (former Supervisor) commented that sidewalks are added when land is developed and not on undeveloped land.

Dean Turner (Planning Commission Chairman) clarified that the Comprehensive Plan will undergo final PC review at the workshop next week (February 26th at 7 PM). The PC public hearing is scheduled for the PC workshop in March. The Comp Plan then goes to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC). Chuss said that the Board of Supervisors will review it at their first meeting in April.

Nicholas offered a motion that the Board look at the entire recreation path system and prioritize sections for action. She noted that there are gaps.

Howell clarified that it is a motion to table until after the approval of the Comp Plan after which the entire trail system will be prioritized. In discussion, Egolf asked, "Who will prioritize?" Howell answered that the Parks and Recreation Committee standing committee will do that. Egolf remarked that he would like PC participation as well. Miller said that the Recreation Board cannot be left out either and they should have a part in this. Howell said that the motion is simply to table this agenda item and reconsider it after the Comprehensive Plan has been approved.

Egolf thought the motion too complicated. Kline suggested that it be two motions.

So, the Board voted 5:0 to table any consideration of the recreation path system until the Comprehensive Plan is approved by the Board. Next the Board voted 5:0 to determine the input it will receive from the PC and Recreation Board in order to prioritize the building of the recreation path system - after the Comprehensive Plan adoption.

Turner said that in the past, PC workshops were used to prioritize projects. He suggested that all three groups, the PC (at workshops), the Parks and Recreation Committee, and the Recreation Board use their meetings to put together a priority list. Howell said that the Board will do its best to coordinate the PC, the Recreation Board, the Parks and Recreation Committee, and any other interested citizens.

Resident Gretchen Gerstel commented that the Forks Township "should have told the developers where Forks wanted the paths and not let the developers say where they wanted to put them."

Penn's Ridge/Commercial Land Development - Kline explained that the developer was before the Board at its last meeting and that everyone is familiar with the proposal. He said that the developer is agreeable to the all the conditions. (For more details on the Penn's Ridge commercial project - a 10,000 sq.ft. strip mall on Bushkill Drive near the Kesslersville Road entrance to Penn's Ridge, see the FAC Projects page, Penn's Ridge.) The land development was conditionally approved (to include the engineer's letter and the PC recommendations) in a 5:0 vote.


Ordinance 309 - Farmland Preservation Tax Millage Freeze - Howell introduced this item by recalling that at the last meeting, Maria Bentzoni, Farmland Preservation Program Administrator was before them and outlined Act 4's provisions and that the Board asked Kline to prepare this ordinance.

In review, Kline said that "the ordinance will establish a real estate millage rate freeze on certain eligible property" in Forks and that there are four conditions that must be met:

  1. Act 4 must be approved by all three taxing bodies, Northampton County, Forks Township, and the Easton Area School District (EASD). To date only Northampton County has approved it. Kline noted that the EASD has the most to gain by preventing further development.
  2. What is exempt is real property for land (or easements on land) acquired by the county.
  3. The ordinance applies to eligible property whether it meets the criteria before or after adoption of the ordinance.
  4. The Board must notify Northampton County with the exact rate/amount of the millage, the date frozen, and the parcel(s) included.

Kline noted that there is nothing in Act 4 that says that the freeze "runs with the land forever."

At this time only one farm in Forks has been acquired by the County, the Elsie Louis Brown farm. Egolf asked Kline how the properties are identified. Kline explained that the County is trying to acquire properties but has a limited amount of money. In an effort to get the "most bang for the buck," they may be trying to preserve more farms to the north of Forks where the land is less expensive. Kline added that there are two farms in Forks that have submitted applications. Chuss commented that he thinks this is a great thing to do to help preserve farmland in Forks.

Ackerman said that there is one farm in Forks that has an application in but although he knows who it is, he is not going to say. He said that applicants are not identified because it may cause other farms to submit applications and mess it up for the ones already on the list. "...they don't have enough money to go around."

The Township will send a letter to the EASD telling them of the new ordinance. In a 5:0 vote the Board authorized the advertising of the ordinance. It will be considered for adoption at the March 6 meeting.

Fire Department Presentation - Fire Chief Bryan Weis presented the Fire Department 2007 Year End Report. It is available for download on the fire department website. Weis said that he has been a member of the fire department for fifteen years, the last seven as an officer. Weis said that he works from home for a company that does database design and is in the Township most of the time - and can respond to calls.

Weis said that of last year's 564 calls, the majority (26%) were for vehicle accidents. On average 500 hours a month are spent on incidents and another 500 are spent on other activities (training, maintenance, fire prevention, etc.)

Calls in Forks were 82% of all calls. Stockertown calls totaled 55 (or 10%). There are mutual aid agreements in place and last year, outside agencies came in 16 times. Two thirds of the calls are daytime calls (between 6 AM and 6 PM). The fire company has 60 volunteers and is second in size (for volunteer companies in Northampton County) to Bangor.

Last year the company totaled more than 6600 hours in staff training, or 110 hours per firefighter. The average response time is 5.5 minutes. Forks' Incident Command System (ICS) is now the County standard.

In addition, Weis said that the company has an EMT (who can begin care before an ambulance arrives) and conducts fire prevention sessions at schools and daycares. In 2007 they addressed 1500 kids. The company is striving toward State accreditation by the end of 2008.

Weis said that another of the goals is to achieve and maintain an ISO (Insurance Services Organization) Class 1 rating. Right now Forks' rating is 5/9. The 5 is in areas with hydrants and the 9 is in areas without hydrants. Among other things, a Class I rating will result in reduced insurance premiums for all residents (and businesses).

In a community outreach program to businesses, the company is compiling a database (of maps, floor plans, hazardous materials inventories, etc.) so that it can do its job more effectively.

In the third quarter of 2007, the department applied for $291,000 in grants from the Department of Homeland Security. A grant for $22,000 was awarded by the State. The Forks Township Volunteer Fire Department Relief Association, which gets money from outside the State, has provided the department with equipment, training funds, life insurance premiums, insurance physicals (the cost of), etc. Fully 75% (or $135,000) of the department's operating costs have been paid for with funds from outside of the Township.

Executive Session - An executive session was to discuss a personnel issue and matters involving potential litigation. After the (one hour and twenty minutes) executive session, the Board voted 5:0 to grant an employee's request for extended bereavement leave - from the normal four days to six days. 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.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

BoS Meeting 2/7/2008


Board Vacancy Interview and Discussion of Commission Vacancies - Scot Abert was interviewed for the opening on the Recreation Board.  He has been a Forks resident since 1999 and is active in the Athletic Association.  He grew up in Williams Township where his father served on the Williams Recreation Board for thirty years.  Mr. Abert said that he likes to think he can make a difference and that more can be offered in the way of recreation programs for older residents.

Planning Commission (PC) Chairman Dean Turner reviewed the process used by the PC to arrive at the two applicants the PC recommended to the Board, from PC participation in the formal interviews, to a PC workshop and executive session, to the final selection(s).  (Note: The two recommendations were announced at the PC workshop, Nicole Viscomi Alexander and David Billings.)  An email was sent to the Supervisors with the names and reasons for their selections. 

Supervisor Chuss noted that the criteria used by the PC included "participation and leadership" in the Comprehensive Plan subcommittees and that the large younger population in Forks should be represented.

Read more in Madeleine Mathias' Morning Call report.  The Express Times was not represented.

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Supervisors' Comments

Supervisor Nicholas announced that Boy Scout Troop 29 is looking for Eagle Scout projects and asked that anyone with ideas for the troop call her at 484-239-0866.  Chairman Howell asked what kinds of projects are being sought and Nicholas said that in the past the Eagle Scouts have done landscaping, bat houses, pathways and basically "projects where they build things."

Nicholas said too, that the next Community Days committee meeting is set for March 17th at 7:00 PM in the Community Center.

Supervisor Egolf said that he and Township Manager Rick Schnaedter attended the Better Models for Development in Pennsylvania (full day) workshop.  Edward McMahon was the speaker.  Egolf said of McMahon that he is very active in the state and nationally in getting communities to look at different ways of approaching development.  Egolf said too, that the Township has several copies of McMahon's book and that if any PC member or (the general public) would like to read it, a way can be worked out to loan it.  Nicholas said that she also has a copy that she will loan if needed. 

Treasurer's Report - Robert Egolf detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors meeting. The debits and transfers were approved with a 5:0 vote.  Current outstanding debt is $7,929,292.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the February 5th meeting was very productive.  Topics discussed included: 
    • The status of the police department new hires (for several vacancies).
    • Police department modular furniture purchase and installation planning.
    • A communication issue with Northampton County that will be resolved shortly.
    • The fire department site plan sketch of the new tower/training facility.
    • Security cameras - a committee will be headed by Schnaedter to look into this issue across the municipal complex.
    • Heating and ventilation issues in both the fire and police departments.  The FD issue is resolved.  Correction of the PD issue is in progress.
    • Emergency operations procedures.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - announced that the first committee meeting is scheduled for next week.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - reported that the committee held its first meeting the last Thursday of January.  Egolf was introduced to the committee.  Discussed were a review of the finances of the Community Center for the five-year plan (being prepared by the Recreation Board), the priorities of capital improvements throughout the park system, and the very serious gym #1 (the largest of the gyms) air conditioning issue.  Schnaedter is working on specifications for an upgrade to the AC system. 
    • Resident Gretchen Gerstel asked Howell if he planned "on doing something about adult recreation... when and what?"   Howell said that adult recreation is a community priority and that the committee is waiting to hear from the Recreation Board.  He suggested that she can attend the Recreation Board meetings on Sunday nights or the Parks and Recreation standing committee meetings to give her ideas. 
    • Undeterred, Ms. Gerstel produced sample program publications from Forks, Palmer, and Bethlehem townships for comparison.  She said that Forks single sided sheet of paper is a disgrace and that she worked on the Comprehensive Plan and "nothing is ever done."  Ms. Gerstel said that she has been screaming for four or five years about getting a dog park.  She said that it's time for Forks to do something.
    • At this point Miller said that the Community Center has a lot of adult programs and that the building was built for a lot of different programs.  He said that both yoga and a senior exercise program by Easton Hospital were tried but there was no interest.  Miller said that the Senior Citizens met there today and had a guest speaker, an artist from Forks and it was well attended.  Gerstel said that it wasn't advertised and Miller said that the group does its own advertising. 
    • Howell noted that perhaps she should address her advertising issue as an agenda item at the Community Relations standing committee meeting. 
    • Resident Sandy Hanks said that she attended a Finance and Administration standing committee meeting and was not given a chance to talk. 
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - reported that the Township website updates are in progress and among the improvements, is the new calendar.  She said it looks great, "like a regular calendar."  (See it here.)  Schnaedter said that the new edition of the Forks Quarterly and the new Township map (the last one was done in 2002) are at the printers and should be in residents' mailboxes within 30 days.  Nicholas asked that anyone with ideas for the website contact her. 
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - said that the committee met on January 23rd and reviewed the goals and objectives for each department.  They also had updates on the the email system and the meeting room projector system.  A major committee concern (and now goal) is the way legal and other important documents are stored. 
    • Egolf addressed Sandy Hanks' (above) issue about not being allowed to speak during the meeting she attended.  He said that he was there early and that at the end of the meeting he asked if anyone had anything to say.  No one did.  Egolf explained too, that the standing committees are administrative committees and although their meetings are open to the public, they are not public meetings. 
    • Howell explained that they are working committees and the public may attend as witnesses, not as employees of the Township.  He said that at the end of the meetings there may be an opportunity to speak with the chairman and that the other committee members (township employees) may leave as they have other things to do.  Howell noted that the public cannot expect to attend "public administrative meetings" in Easton or Northampton County and be a participant.  He added that this is open government and that there is plenty of time to comment - at the end of the meeting to the chairman - not during the one hour work meeting.
    • Ms. Hanks said that when she attends Board of Supervisors meetings she knows that if she has a comment to make and it's not on an agenda item, she must sign up before the meeting.  She wondered, however, when she could comment on things under discussion that are agenda items.  Howell said that she may make her comment at the appropriate time but it is to be a comment and not a discourse or accusatorial.  Howell said that if she attended the Easton City Council meetings she would see that Forks is much more transparent and allows for much more interactive comment.  Howell added that the Board, however, "cannot allow comment to get to a point where it takes over the whole meeting. We just won't get anything done." 

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - said that he received a letter from Senator Rob Wonderling announcing that Forks was awarded $58,870 for its recycling program.  He commended both Finance Manager Farley and Sharon Fisher for their efforts re. obtaining the grant.

Schnaedter also reported that a public works employee submitted his letter of resignation and that the position will be advertised. 

The Historical Society has requested that their restored merchant's wagon be displayed in the Municipal Building lobby.  After much discussion about the pros/cons - the size, insurance, how to keep people/kids off of the wagon, where it should be located, egress, the time period for display - it was decided in a 5:0 vote to have Schnaedter prepare a letter of agreement to the Historical Society (and submit it to Kline for review.)  The letter will state the Historical Society's responsibilities. 

Supervisor Egolf was elected in a 5:0 vote as the alternate representative to the TRCOG (Two Rivers Council of Governments).

Schnaedter reported too, that Congressman Dent sent a notice that 2009 grant applications for up to 55% funding of a project are due February 29th.  Schnaedter recommended that the Township submit an application for funding of the amphitheater (bandshell) project.  Nicholas asked if there is a time limit to use the grant money since the Township also needs a public works garage.  Schnaedter said that the grants are for things in wide use by the public and that it's a "stretch to think we'll get it."  He will prepare the grant and ask for $150,000 for construction only.  It will not include the sound system or anything else.  Confirmation that the application has been received will be in March and notice of award will be in December 2008.

Howell asked Engineer Hay about the specs for the air conditioner in gym #1 and whether the compressor will be internal or external.  Hay said that first the load must be determined and then its location will fall from that. 

Engineer's Report - Hay - no report.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - agenda items only.

Comments from the floor - None.


Executive Session - to discuss the applicants for the Recreation Board and Planning Commission vacancies and a personnel matter.  Kline reported that no action was taken by the Board during the executive session.

Appointments to fill vacancies - Recreation Board and Planning Commission - The first appointment was to the Recreation Board.  Miller made the motion to appoint Scot Abert.  It was seconded by Egolf.  In a 5:0 roll call vote, Scot Abert was appointed to the Recreation Board. 

Planning Commission - Chuss made a motion to appoint Sharon Davis.  Egolf seconded the motion.  The roll call vote was 2:3 with the nay votes coming from Miller, Nicholas, and Howell. 

Miller then made a motion to appoint David Billings.  Nicholas seconded and the vote was 4:1 with Egolf casting the nay.  David Billings was appointed to the Planning Commission. 


Northampton County Farmland Preservation - Speaker Maria Bentzoni - Schnaedter introduced this agenda item and the speaker, Maria Bentzoni, Farmland Preservation Program Administrator

Ms. Bentzoni said that they are requesting that the Forks Board of Supervisors support Act 4 and HB 87.  Act 4 allows for a millage freeze for preserved property at the rate in effect at the time that the last entity signs on.  Three entities must sign - the county, the township and the school district.  So far the Northampton County is "on board."  She is currently working with both the EASD and the (Nazareth) NASD.

At this time there is only one preserved farm in Forks, 103 acres of the Brown farm.  Ms. Bentzoni said that another Forks farmer has filed an application for preservation.  She said that the dollars removed from taxation are far less than the costs associated with development and additional children in the school system - a $6,000 deficit per child per year.  In Northampton County that deficit is $9,000 on average. 

Howell asked if there was an impact with Agricultural Security Areas (ASA - Act 43) and was told that there is no impact because ASAs designate a use - agricultural - and does not mean that the farm is preserved.  Farmland Preservation is Act 149, a different program.  The Act 4 program is strictly for farms that have sold their development rights to the State, County, or Township.  However, a farm must be in an ASA in order for the county to purchase its development rights.  It's the "starting point."

The Board learned that there are 84 farms preserved in Northampton County and that Lower Mount Bethel Township (LMBT) has the most preserved acreage - 2,603 acres.  The Bangor Area School District passed Act 4 in 2006.  Pen Argyl School District has passed it as have Williams/Wilson and Saucon Valley. 

There are six other townships that have passed it:  East Allen, Plainfield, Lower Saucon, Lehigh, Upper Mount Bethel, and Bushkill is expected to pass it this night. 

Kline asked if the millage freeze is forever.  The answer was that the Act is not specific and that as long as the law is active and not amended, there is no sunset clause.  Kline also asked if the easements are in perpetuity and yes, they are.  Bentzoni said that the farmland preservation easements cannot be reversed.  Kline remarked that "forever is a long time." 

Chuss asked about the size of the farms acceptable for preservation and was told that 25 acres is the minimum - or 10 acres contiguous to other farmed acreage is eligible. 

Jim Wideman (former PC member) asked if there were instances were a smaller parcel producing $2,000 in receipts would qualify and was told that unless it is attached to a larger tract, it would not qualify for preservation.  Wideman also asked if there were programs to extend county monies so that farms could be preserved today?  Ms. Bentzoni said that there are three and five year installment plans and that the interest rates are paid based on market rates. 

John Ackerman (former Supervisor) recommended that the Board approve the freeze because "you hear so many times that you want to preserve farmland - and this here should not even be a question.  This should just be voted in because if you want to really preserve farmland then help the farmer out."  Ackerman also said that the farmer has to pay capital gains on the money given (the easement purchase) to them so anything the Board can do to help the farmer is the way to go.

Ms. Bentzoni said that they are working with the federal government to reduce or eliminate capital gains on development rights purchases.

Howell remarked that it's a "no brainer" to help Forks farmers who've resisted the "lure and gold and continued to farm." 

Nicholas made a motion to have Kline write an ordinance to support Act 4 (was House Bill 87).  Chuss seconded the motion.  The vote was 5:0.  Applause!

Center for Animal Health and Welfare/2008 Service Agreement - Schnaedter said that the Center for Animal Health and Welfare changed the contract from previous years and in addition to raising the per animal fee from $40 to $50 (per day per animal), added "cats" to the list of eligible animals.  The attorney for the center was contacted and he said that concerned municipalities can simple remove the term "cats" and initial the change and return the signed contract along with a cover letter indicating the Board's direction.  Chuss' motion that the Board go with the recommendation of the manager and include the cover letter was approved in a 5:0 vote. 

Correspondence - Howell said that the Board received a letter from Alan McFall (solicitor for the EAJSA) stating that Wilson Borough intends to sell capacity to Williams Township.  Howell asked, "Are we interested or not?" Kline commented that the Board looked at its needs last year and acquired 150,000 gallons per day capacity from Wilson. 

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.