Sunday, March 30, 2008

Comprehensive Plan - No Slam Dunk for PC!

Forks Planning Commissioners' public hearing on the new Comprehensive Plan was just that, a public hearing.  Residents who were curious, who were concerned about changes to their neighborhoods, and/or who want the plan to express a real vision for Forks' future came - and spoke.  There was no press presence.  It was just us folks from Forks.

A resident contingent from the tucked away Blossom Hill/Ramblewood/Clarendon neighborhood expressed concern about the planned extension of Ramblewood through their quiet neighborhood - to Sullivan Trail.  They spoke of how nice it is there now and how it won't be when thru-traffic is allowed.  They were told that the extension of Ramblewood has been in the Township Comprehensive Plan since at least 1996.  It will only be done if and when a developer acquires the Jackson Farm and brings a land development plan to the Township.  At that point, the developer will be encouraged to comply with the Comprehensive Plan and put in the road.  The Township will not build the road extension, a future developer will. 

Another resident asked if the new Comp Plan was different than the last one which, she recalled, was simply "borrowed" from a Bucks County community and was not really Forks' own plan.  She was concerned that the new plan may not be defensible.  She was reassured that for one, the Comprehensive Plan can never be cited as reason for a zoning challenge.  The Comprehensive Plan is a guide and not a law.  Also, she was told that the new Comprehensive Plan is basically an update of the old one and is intended to be more in agreement with the new SALDO (Subdivision and Land Ordinance) and the new Zoning Ordinance.

And, another resident expressed concern that there was no real unifying vision between the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Ordinance and the SALDO.  Still another was concerned that the recreation trails were not detailed completely enough particularly in the Riverview area.

The Planning Commission members will discuss these concerns and ideas at their next workshop on April 22nd at 7:00 PM.  They will also review any other outstanding Comprehensive Plan issues.  They may/can vote on the plan at that workshop. 

Charlie Schmehl (of URDC - the Township's consultant for the latest plan and ordinances) will make recommended corrections and changes to the Comprehensive Plan before it is sent to the LVPC (Lehigh Valley Planning Commission) and to the EASD (Easton Area School District) for review. 

After that (possibly in May), the Board of Supervisors will hold its public hearing on the new Forks Township Comprehensive Plan - the guide to Forks' next ten years.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Zoning Hearing Board - Procedural Challenge Ruling

The Forks Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) listened to Solicitor Karl Kline's testimony under questioning by attorney Steven N. Goudsouzian and under cross examination by attorney John VanLuvanee and came to a conclusion.   That conclusion was that in the enactment of the 2006 Zoning Ordinance, all the T's were crossed and all the I's were dotted - the prescribed procedure was followed.  The vote was unanimous.  The 2006 Zoning Ordinance is legal. 

The ZHB also considered the subpoena request by KMRD for all zoning ordinance (enactment) documents back to 1983.  Since the ZHB had already ruled the 2006 Zoning Ordinance to be in compliance and therefore legally in force, the ZHB saw no reason for the Township to dig back into (up to) 25 year old records to satisfy what was referred to by Goudsouzian as a "fishing expedition."

The motion was to "deny the remaining procedural challenges as moot based upon the denial to the procedural challenge to the 2006 Zoning Ordinance."  The vote was 4:1 with Robert Kimmel, the newest ZHB member, casting the single nay vote.

Read Madeleine Mathias' Morning Call article and the Express Times Easton Area Blog post by JD Malone for more.

Expect this ZHB decision to to be appealed to the courts.  VanLuvanee said it would be.

On Monday, March 31st the continuing substantive challenge to the Forks 2006 Zoning Ordinance resumes at 7:30 PM.  Charlie Schmehl of Urban Research & Development Corporation will testify.  He and his firm guided the Township through the 2006 Zoning Ordinance re-write.  He also worked with the Township on the new SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance), and the soon to be adopted new Forks' Comprehensive Plan.

The expectation is that Mr. Schmehl's testimony will conclude on March 31st.  An April 21st meeting has also been scheduled. 

It's winding down!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

BoS Meeting 3/20/2008

Regular Meeting (agenda)

The local press passed on their opportunity to attend this night's relatively brief (43 minutes) Board of Supervisors meeting.  The concluding Executive Session was another matter.  It lasted 1-1/2 hours and was held to discuss two potential litigation matters. 

Supervisors' Comments

Supervisor Chuss reminded everyone that the Planning Commission 2008 Comprehensive Plan public hearing is Tuesday, March 25th at 7 PM and that there will be an open house at 6:30 PM.

Supervisor Howell noted that a citizen commented that the Comprehensive Plan (draft) was not yet on the Township website.  Nicholas thought that it couldn't be put up if it hadn't been approved.  Kline said that as long as it's clear that it's a draft and not yet approved, it can be online.  Because the Township offices are closed tomorrow, Howell said that he would send an email to (Tim) Weis to have it put up on Monday.  (Note:  the draft Comprehensive Plan is now online and available for download.)

Supervisor Nicholas reported that the Forks Community Days committee met this past Monday and that they are "starting to get going."  The next meeting will be Monday, April 21st at 7 PM.  They welcome volunteers and are looking for a meeting secretary.

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 $7,910,079.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - said that newspaper advertisements for the fire training facility have been published.  Bids were originally due March 20 but that has been extended to April 1.  To date, no bids have been received but contact has been made with one or two bidders.  Pricing has been received for the police department modular furniture.  The HVAC issue in the police department is being addressed and the communications issue may be addressed (by the county) this week.  The next committee meeting is Monday, April 1 (5 PM).
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that the DPW is preparing the Gollub Park emergency access road and that the parks crew is working on the fields for spring sports - baseball, softball, and soccer. Miller said the weather is not cooperating.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - had no report but Miller did.  Miller said that the 26 basketball teams are winding down.  Eighteen of the teams finished their last games last weekend.  The other eight have won playoff positions and the finals are the first week in April.  All final games will be held at the Forks Community Center.  Miller also announced that the Community Center (CC) will host Summer Science Camps for kids 5-12 years.  The camps will be taught by school teachers and there will be five programs offered.  Miller said that he saw a demonstration in the CC atrium where 200 cups of made-before-his-eyes slim were given away by 1:30 PM.  The demo was to run from noon to 3 PM.  Howell asked about publicity and Miller said that the camp will take care of it but that the Township will do some advertising as well.  An ad will be in the next Forks Quarterly and Miller will be visiting some of the school principals to talk about it.  Miller said that the kids will build rockets and take them outside to shoot them off. The five programs being offered are:
    • Claws, codes, & constellations
    • Moving with science
    • Chemicals, cells, & crime
    • Red-hot robots
    • NASA - future space explorers
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the new Township maps have been sent to residents and that she thought "they came out pretty nice."  Nicholas offered the credit for them to Howell since it was begun when he was on the committee.  The next edition of the Forks Quarterly is due soon and will have the award certificate (Second Place in the PSATS Citizen Communication Contest) on the front page.  Nicholas said that the committee meets next on April 7 at 6 PM.  (The date may be April 14 so please check with the Township office before going.) 
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the administrators have all submitted their goals for the year and that Finance Manager Farley has two items on the agenda - the items reflect the work of the committee.  Egolf also said that the committee will have a working session on the 2007 budget to review it for overages.  The date will be announced.  Also, Egolf said that the new system (audio/visual for the meeting room) is here and that Tim Weis will demonstrate it at an upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - on vacation.

Engineer's Report - Hay - agenda items only.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that Lafayette College and the Township are close to execution of the lease for the college owned springhouse on Bushkill Drive.  They are agreement with all the language.  Howell added that the Forks Historical Society has already received a $5,000 grant for repair and improvements to the springhouse. 

Comments from the floor - None.


Financing of Public Works Equipment (Jim Farley) - Farley explained that the capital loan for DPW equipment was approved in the fall of 2007 (during the budget process).  It is to have a ten year pay back.  Farley said that since then the Township has been in discussion with its financial advisors, the ones carrying the bonds on the Municipal Complex.  Farley stated that "the market has been all over the place."  The committee has been looking at refinancing those bonds provided that there is sufficient savings. 

The committee has discussed asking the representative (advisor?) to go forward and broker a deal for the DPW money, using a traditional loan format with the exception that there be a "will call number" - when the potential savings of refinancing the entire bond issue exceeds $300,000, (he said) it would be prudent to refinance and save the significant dollars.

Farley asked the Board's approval to go with a traditional loan and at the same time, when the bid is open, to have the Township's broker look at the refinancing of the bond to determine if it's financially feasible. 

Howell asked Kline how to proceed if there is uncertainty as to whether the bond will be added to or renegotiated?  Kline explained that an ordinance is necessary every time a municipality takes on debt and that the Department of Community & Economic Development in Harrisburg must approve it.  The ordinance must indicate clearly the dollars and cents involved.  He also said that until the ordinance is adopted, it's okay to explore the options of which way to do the financing.  The Board took no action and the issue will go back to committee for further exploration.


Meyner Center of Lafayette College - Proposal to Survey (Jim Farley) - Farley explained that the Meyner Center does studies of government and how government interacts with other entities.  Farley added that in 2007, the Township negotiated two contracts, the uniformed and the non-uniformed employee contracts.  Research was done to determine the "market price" of salaries and wages.  The professional staff were not included in these contracts and no research was done on their salaries/wages. 

Farley said, too, that Schnaedter and David L. Woglom (Associate Director for Public Service at the Meyner Center) have discussed doing a study of the salaries of Forks professional staff as they compare to 20 local municipalities.  The study will cost $500.  Egolf made a motion to do the study.  Miller seconded the motion.

In discussion, Nicholas said that her only issue is that this is all public information and instead of spending $500 of taxpayers' money, she suggested the information be gathered via email.  Egolf said that Nicholas' reservations were known during the committee discussions.  His feeling is that the Meyner Center has "people who are trained to gather the data, compile it, analyze it, and put it in report form."  Egolf thought that if the Township does it on its own without the data being standardized, that there may be a lot of useless data at the cost of a lot of Township employees' time.  

Howell asked if there will some analysis indicating where salaries are and where they are going?  Nicholas said it will be (reading from a document) "a spreadsheet in easy to read format."  Farley offered that it will be an analysis of current salaries. 

The vote was 4:1 with Nicholas casting the nay.

PSATS - Voting Delegate (C. David Howell) - Howell explained that during the general session of the PSATS (Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors) annual convention, a number of resolutions and other matters subject to vote by municipalities are presented.  Schnaedter has indicated that he will attend the general session and has volunteered to be the Township's voting delegate. 

Howell said that if the Board agrees to appoint a delegate for the upcoming convention general session, that he would also like a voting delegate to be appointed annually at the January Re-Org meeting.

Nicholas asked if the delegate had to be a Supervisor and Howell said that it can be a Supervisor or an employee "under the authorization" of the Board of Supervisors.  Egolf asked if each Township has one delegate and was told that each has one voting delegate.

Jim Wideman (resident) asked if the agenda will be known beforehand?  Howell said that he was recently invited (and agreed) to be a member of the Board of the Northampton County Association for Township Officials.  All Forks Supervisors are members.  Howell said that the organization has worked on a number of resolutions to present to PSATS.  At some point, the resolutions that are to be on the floor at the general session will be known to the organization.  The answer to Mr. Wideman's question is "yes," that the agenda will be known beforehand and will be reviewed by the Forks Supervisors.  Mr. Schnaedter will be instructed how to vote.

Chuss said that he thought it a good idea to appoint the voting delegate annually at the Board's January Re-Org meeting. 

Egolf motioned to send Schnaedter as a voting delegate to the PSATS meeting in May and that that a voting delegate be appointed annually at the Re-Org meeting.  Chuss seconded the motion.  The vote was 5:0.

Resolution #080320-1 - Application for PennDOT Permit to Install and Operate Traffic Signal at Uhler Road and Bushkill Drive (Keystone Engineering) - Hay explained that as part of the Chrin land development in Tatamy and Palmer, PennDOT has required this light be installed.  It will be paid for by Chrin and Forks will be responsible for its maintenance. 

Chuss said that he looked back through the two recent traffic studies and the draft Comprehensive Plan and that all three recommend this traffic light.

Howell asked about other intersection improvements.  Hay said that there will be widening and lane additions.  Nicholas remarked that Chrin's property does not touch this intersection.  She wondered how Chrin could be forced to do the improvements since Forks cannot require developers to do off-site (not contiguous)  improvements.  Kline explained that the Township cannot, but PennDOT can.  He said that the Township can "press" PennDOT when it needs improvements.  He added, "The real hammer is with PennDOT." 

The resolution was passed in a 5:0 vote. 

Executive Session - held to discuss two potential litigations.  No action was taken during or after the executive 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.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Draft 2008 Comprehensive Plan Is Online!

On Tuesday, March 25th at 7:00 PM, the Planning Commission (PC) will hold a public hearing on the new Forks Township Comprehensive Plan. This is your first opportunity to comment on the completed plan. The draft is now online for your review before Tuesday's meeting. Click here to read/download the plan (large file).

The plan update process has been in progress for well over a year. Discussions began in October 2006 and work on it began in January 2007. The PC devoted monthly workshops (on the fourth Tuesday of every month) to it. Residents' input was welcomed and encouraged.

Subcommittees (of Forks residents) were formed to tackle four main areas: Transportation, Economic Development, Recreation, and Agricultural/Open Space Preservation/Architectural Review. Each of the 2007 Supervisor candidates took active rolls. Three of them headed subcommittees. The fourth was Chairman of the PC.

Charlie S. Schmehl of Urban Research and Development Corporation (URDC) is the paid consultant to the project.

Plan to attend this most important hearing. Forks' future is being mapped out and you need to be part of it!

The evening will begin at 6:30 with an open house where you may ask questions of the plan developers and view the large maps that are part of the new Forks Township Comprehensive Plan.

The Board of Supervisors will hold its public hearing in April. If all goes well, the plan will be adopted and the new guide to Forks' future will be in place.

Two Hearings In One Night - Kings Mill/KMRD - March 24th

Round 2 - KMRD Procedural Challenge & Round 20 - Kings Mill Substantive Challenge to Forks Zoning on the same night, Monday, March 24th beginning at 7:30 PM.

The Zoning Hearing Board will hear the second and final round of the KMRD Procedural Challenge.  Forks' Solicitor Karl Kline will testify as to the procedures followed in enacting the 2006 Zoning Ordinance. 

KMRD alleges that something was missed in the 2006 process as well as in every process back to 1983.  The attorneys say that KMRD should therefore be allowed to build in the Farmland Protection District (FP) under 1983 rules. 

Forks defense is that if the 2006 Zoning Ordinance is ruled procedurally proper, then it is the law and whatever happened before is irrelevant.  The Township has produced 300 pages of documentation on the 2006 ordinance process. 

This will be decided by the Zoning Hearing Board on this night.  (You can bet that however it turns out, there will be a challenge filed in the Northampton Court of Common Pleas.)

After the Procedural Challenge, time permitting of course, the Township defense team will call its final witness in the Kings Mill Substantive Challenge.  This will begin its 20th Round

Charlie Schmehl of Urban Research & Development Corporation will testify.  He is the guiding light (and paid consultant) for the 2006 Zoning Ordinance.  He also worked on Forks' new SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance), and the soon to be adopted new Forks' Comprehensive Plan.

The expectation is that Mr. Schmehl's testimony will conclude on March 31st.  An April 21st meeting has been scheduled as well.  We are guessing but believe the April meeting is for summations.

Folks, it's almost over!  Come out, come out, wherever you are!  It's time!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

No Car Wash - No Lube Shop - Zoners Hang Tough

On March 10th, the Zoning Hearing Board heard a variance request for a car wash and lube shop on Town Center Boulevard. The zoners were not convinced of a hardship and voted unanimously against the request. Read the meeting Minutes here.

For details read Madeleine Mathias' (Morning Call) thorough account of the meeting.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

BoS Meeting 3/6/2008

Regular Meeting (agenda)

The Board of Supervisors meeting began with a moment of silence for Elwood "Tiny" Smith, a lifelong resident of Forks, a former Forks Supervisor, and lifetime member of the Forks Fire Department.  Mr. Smith passed away on March 1, 2008.

This night Supervisors considered and voted against an audit of Forks EMS.  Read more in JD Malone's Express Times article. 

The Supervisors also voted to adopt Ordinance 309, the Farmland Preservation Tax Millage Freeze.  Currently the only farm in the Township that qualifies is the Elsie Louise Brown farm.  At least one other has filed an application to become a preserved farm.  If it is accepted by the County, it too, will qualify for a tax millage freeze.  For more background, see JD Malone's post on the (Express Times) Easton Area Blog.

Supervisors' Comments

Supervisor Nicholas said that she asked Finance Manager Jim Farley to prepare a report of last year's budget (by departments) so that she (and the Board) can see where the budget was over and under.  She would like to know "where we went wrong and how to make it better."  The Finance and Administration Committee will review the report first.

Supervisor Egolf reported that he and Supervisor Chuss attended PSATS (Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors) training workshops on February 2nd and 9th.  He said that the sessions were "informative... and long."

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 $7,911,513.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the committee met on March 3 and that they are making a lot of progress.  The police department has received sketches of the modular furniture and there is some interest by two departments, for the old furniture.  The communications issue with the County is being addressed.  The fire tower bid request was advertised with an extended bid closing to March 22.  Fire Chief Bryan Weis said that he wants to update the burning ordinance.  The emergency operations procedures draft will be reviewed at the April Public Safety Committee meeting.  Also, Chuss said that EASD (acting) Superintendent Kish sent a letter thanking Chief Dorney and the Forks police officers for a job well done with the leap year rumors issue.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that the committee will meet next week.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - reported that the last meeting was canceled but that the committee is working to survey and address all recreation and park assets for repair/replacement issues.  A report will be made to the Board on those items as well as the estimated costs.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the next meeting is Monday at 6:00 PM.  The newsletter is going out within the next two weeks.  Nicholas also said that changes have been made to the Township website.   
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the committee met on February 27.  He said that Tim Weis reported that the camera system for the municipal meeting room will be installed on March 12-13.  Egolf also announced that Barb Bartek, Tim Weis, Jim Farley, and Mark Roberts will attend an Employee Harassment Training For Supervisory Personnel seminar at Lafayette College's Meyner Center on March 20.  Also, Rick Schnaedter and Jim Farley are continuing to evaluate the record storage issue and the committee is working on a protocol for record storage.  The next meeting is March 12 at 5 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - introduced Sarah Marten, Director of Community Relations of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.  She said that the Phillies are interested in community involvement and she is passing the first pitch ball through all the LV communities.  Chairman Howell pitched to Schnaedter who caught the ball successfully.  The official season begins on April 11th.

Schnaedter said that he was approached by a representative from a Forks business who wanted to know if the Board would be interested in initiating a business association.  He described it as informal and asked if the Board would send a representative to the inaugural meeting.  Chuss asked if more than one Supervisor may attend.  He said that a group like this is one of the recommendations in the draft Comprehensive Plan.  Both Howell and Chuss volunteered. 

Schnaedter reported, too, that two grant applications have been submitted and that the DPW is working at Gollub Park.

Engineer's Report - (Ryan) Christman - agenda items only.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that the Northampton Court of Common Pleas upheld the Township decision to allow a grocery use in the EC.  The issue was threefold: 

  1. The zoning ordinance - challenged
  2. Land development - not challenged
  3. Approval of Conditional Use - challenged

The challenger, Scott Gingold, has thirty days to appeal.  If he does, the case goes to the Commonwealth Court. 

Kline said that he was in contact with Weis Market representatives and that they are looking forward to starting (construction).

Comments from the floor - None.


Community Center Fitness Room Access System Proposal - Farley explained that this proposal is to install a swipe card system to prevent use of the fitness rooms by folks who do not pay.  The rest of the complex is on a Simplex/Grinnell system and this would piggyback on it.  The cost is $8,000 (plus) and the money is accrued from last year.  The roll call vote was 5:0 in favor. 

Fort James III - Lot #17 - Weyerhaeuser Land Development - Final Plan - Project engineer Steve Pany presented a summary of the plan to the Board.  It is a rail served site with 100,000 square feet of building - for lumber storage both inside the building and in the yard.  Weyerhaeuser expects to send out 25 trucks per day to retail destinations and employ 27 people initially.  Future expansion could take the employee total to 50.  The Board roll call vote was unanimous (5:0) in favor with conditions.   The conditions include the engineer's letter and that the emergency access road will be maintained and plowed (by Weyerhaeuser now and the owner of lot 1 when that lot is sold).  See the Express Times March 7th article for more.

Meyner Center of Lafayette College - Proposal to Survey - Tabled.

Ordinance #309 - Adoption (Farmland Preservation Tax Millage Freeze) - Kline explained that Maria Bentzoni, the Farmland Preservation Program Administrator for Northampton County addressed the Board on February 7th.  She detailed the program that will allow millage rate freezes on approved preserved farms in the county and said too, that in order to work, the all three taxing bodies must "join in."  So far, Northampton County is on board.  The EASD has yet to commit.  At this time, only the Elsie Louise Brown farm is in preservation and qualifies.  Another farm has applied but has not yet been accepted.  The ordinance was properly advertised and the roll call vote to pass the ordinance was unanimous, 5:0.  Kline will send a copy of the ordinance to the County and write a letter to the school district encouraging them to adopt a resolution.  He said that the EASD has the most to gain by preserving farms - fewer new homes and thus fewer new students.  Egolf suggested that because Mr. Kish is the "acting" Superintendent, that copies be sent as well to all EASD board members. 

Jim Wideman (resident) asked Kline the millage freeze would apply to land preserved through the Heritage or Wildlands Conservancies.  He wondered if it was just for land preserved through the counties.  Kline replied that he thought the ASA (Agricultural Security Area) provision would cover those preserved lands as well.

Establish Fire Department 2008 Idle Rate - Schnaedter said that this item was discussed at the Public Safety committee meeting and Fire Chief Bryan Weis suggested that the Federal reimbursement rate of 50.5 cents per mile be used for actual mileage used.  And, although the FEMA rate for idle time is $19.90 per hour, Weis suggested $3.98.  Weis uses his personal vehicle for fire events and idles it while on scene to keep electronic equipment running.  Nicholas wondered why the billing couldn't be done quarterly as it would cut down on record keeping for the office. 

Chuss made a motion that both the IRS rate for mileage and the requested idle time rate with a cap at $3,500 per year be approved.  Nicholas said that the cap was not right.  She said that last year it was $800 and was raised to $1,600.  Nicholas said too, that the fire department was over-budget last year.  Chief Weis said that the Fire Ordinance indicates that the cap is to be approved annually and his letter is asking that the cap be changed to match the budget line item of $3500.  Nicholas said that there are other items in the budget line item than just the idle time cap.  She warned that they better start looking at the budget. 

Howell offered that the fire department is staffed with volunteers and that no car is provided.  He thought it counter-productive.  Howell said that the Township is spending a lot on public safety (new police officers and modular furniture for the PD) and not on fire department payroll.  Howell asked if the Board is saying that if the cap has been met, Chief Weis will not be reimbursed for his expenses at additional fires?  Egolf expressed his support and reminded everyone that the Chief and Assistant Chief use their personal vehicles and pay for wear and tear, new tires, etc.  He thought it a bargain compared to the Township buying and maintaining two additional vehicles. 

From the audience, Sandy Hanks asked, "Why is it necessary to idle your car to run the computer?  Don't you have a battery?"  She said that she was against raising the cap since it was done just last fall.  Chuss said that the rates are used by companies all over the country and are very fair. 

The roll call vote for the new rates and cap was 4:1 with Nicholas casting the nay vote. 

Authorization for Forks EMS Audit - Chuss explained that it has been a year since the Forks EMS reorganized and there are concerns about its current finances.  He said that the $20,000 township payment has been restricted to paying Suburban EMS for monies due them if the funds are distributed at all.  Chuss said, too, that the EMS president thinks an audit would be beneficial.  Chuss suggested using Forks auditors, France, Anderson, Basile & Company, P.C.  He thought the cost of the audit would be between $3,000 and $5,000.  Chuss' motion was to get approval to seek bids/proposals to audit the year end financials of the Forks EMS and to approve spending $3,000 to $5,000 from the general fund to do the audit. If the amount exceeds $5,000, the audit will not be pursued.  The auditors will be determined in discussions with Forks EMS and the Township.  Egolf seconded the motion. 

Nicholas asked what will be done with the audit information.  Chuss offered that the  audit will verify accuracy and will help restore confidence.  If the audit uncovers errors, it will help the EMS to correct and properly record their data.  Nicholas asked why are we spending taxpayers' money to find out that they are losing money every month?  Will there a decision that will be made at the end of the audit?  Chuss said that no, he didn't anticipate that.  Nicholas said, "So we are paying for an audit and there will be no decision made?"  She said that Farley has looked at the paperwork from the EMS.  Farley confirmed that he has and that an audit (of an organization without six to eight years of records to examine) can only find material misrepresentations or compromised practices.  He said that the monthly statements submitted speak for themselves. 

Howell offered that Forks EMS is the Township authorized BLS (basic life support) provider and is required to give monthly asset and liability and income and expense statements to the Board.  Farley has taken the monthly statements and consolidated them.  The submitted reports are prepared for the EMS by a CPA but they are not certified reports.  Howell asked Farley if he thought the reports accurately reflect the condition of Forks EMS.  Farley replied that he thought they did and that the numbers are not "good."  Howell said that if the Mr. Kuhn (the CPA and a member of the EMS board) had a bias the reports would look better than they are.  The numbers show that Suburban is now owed $30,000.  Howell said that the service being provided by Forks EMS is as it should be and they say that "they will continue until they can't." 

Morris Metz (former Supervisor and one of the founders of the Forks EMS 36 years ago) said that he has more than a "glimmer of hope" that the EMS will be successful.  He has been asked to return to the squad as a director and he accepted.  He said that what the squad needs now is the support of the Supervisors and the support of the citizens of Forks.  Mr. Metz said that there will be an open house in early April (after one year of service) and that he supports them 100%.  Forks EMS saved his life in 1986.

Gretchen Gerstel offered that she heard that 16 people in the EMS are being paid.  She said that she doesn't know if that's true.  Gerstel said that in her opinion an audit is not necessary.  Howell said that the trained medical personnel and the administrator get paid.  Nicholas said that there are 16 paid and only one volunteer.  She said that no one is questioning whether the EMS is doing a good job.  She said that paying money for an audit will not do any good for anyone.

Egolf said everything he is hearing in the discussion is punctuated with with a question mark.  He thought that the audit might answer some of the questions that have been raised and would be beneficial to the Township and the squad.

Miller said that he's known John Kuhns (the accountant) for 30 years and he believes the figures provided are accurate.  He said that he supports the emergency squad and does not want to see them go under.  Miller said that he'd rather take the $5,000 and add it to the $20,000 and give them $25,000.  He thought that would be a better way to spend taxpayers' money.

The roll call vote for authorization to get bids/proposals for an audit (as noted above in the motion) was 2:3 with Miller, Nicholas, and Howell casting the nay votes. 

EXTRA:  Erik Chuss announced that the Kiwanis is having Breakfast with the Easter Bunny on March 15 from 9-11:30 AM at the Career Institute of Technology (CIT).  Admission is $6 for kids over 12 and $4 for kids 2-12 years. 

Morris Metz thanked the Supervisors and the Township for the WWII plaque restoration.  Metz said that is is a tribute to all those from Forks who served in WWII.  He said that it was in his barn for three years or more until someone came up with the idea to restore it.

Howell reminded everyone that the "rogues gallery" of Supervisors photos is on display in the hall and that Morris Metz and Elwood Smith are in the photos. 

There was no Executive 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.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

KMRD's Procedural Challenge - Round 1 - 2/18/2008

The following is a reprint from the FAC website:

On Monday, February 18th at Round 1 of the KMRD, LP Procedural Challenge (large file), attorney John VanLuvanee had his co-attorney, Kellie McGowan testify to her review of township records regarding the 2001 and 2006 zoning ordinances principally obtained from right-to-know requests.  VanLuvanee said that her testimony would show that he was not on a “fishing expedition” but rather on a systematic record search, which also included the public library archives of Express-Times legal notices filed by the township.

VanLuvanee’s ultimate intent was to get the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) to issue a subpoena for all zoning ordinance documentation back to 1983.  Independent of this request, ZHB Solicitor Michael Shay noted that there may be issue of “standing” since KMRD did not own land in the township at the time of the enactment of the older zoning ordinances.

The ZHB ruled not to issue a subpoena at this time but to instead consider the procedural challenge of zoning ordinance 2006 before making that decision.  Since the Township had previously provided KMRD with 300 pages of documentation pertaining to the enactment of the latest (2006) zoning ordinance, attorneys for the township requested that it be allowed to present testimony to rebut the KMRD claim of procedural errors in its enactment.

The Township's position is that if the 2006 zoning process is deemed correct, then there is no reason to look back as the ordinance is valid.  KMRD, on the other hand, maintains that there have been errors of procedure that would negate all zoning ordinances adopted after 1983.  Thus, the principals of KMRD believe that they should be allowed to build under 1983 rules. The ZHB agreed with the Township and requested KMRD to proceed with only the 2006 ordinance challenge.

In testimony that followed, Ms. McGowan alleged that the public hearing for the 2006 zoning ordinance was not proper because the summary legal notice published in the Express Times prior to the hearing was not consistent with MPC (Municipal Planning Code) standards.  This is KMRD's only issue with the 2006 zoning ordinance procedure. The legal notice was drafted for publication by Forks Solicitor Karl Kline. 

The evening's proceeding ended before the Township could put Karl Kline on the stand to refute the claim of error and to provide testimony as to the sufficiency of the legal notice.  Attorney Kline will testify at Round 2 on March 24th. 

Ms. McGowan concluded her testimony by stating she was a principal in KMRD, LP as well as being an attorney in the law firm of Eastburn & Gray, PC (the same Doylestown law firm that employs VanLuvanee.)

VanLuvanee asked that the hearing resume on March 24, the date originally reserved for Round 20 of the substantive challenge, instead of March 31 as scheduled.  The ZHB granted the date change.  Round 20 will begin on the same night, time permitting.  March 31 and April 21 have also been reserved for the substantive challenge. 

Morning Call reporter Madeleine Mathias' thorough article is a must read!