Sunday, May 18, 2008

BoS Meeting 5/15/08

Regular Meeting (agenda)

The small agenda did not insure a short BoS meeting as a good deal of time was spent discussing the Comprehensive Plan process.  For more, see Madeleine Mathias' article from the May 16, 2008 edition of the Morning Call.

Public Comments (non-agenda) - There were no comments from the public re. non-agenda items.  (Note:  This section has been moved to the beginning of the meeting - after the approval of the previous meeting's minutes.)

Supervisor Remarks

Supervisor Chuss raised two questions/issues: 

  1. He asked what the disposition of the new policy re. contact with the solicitor and engineer was.  He was reminded by Nicholas that the policy passed at a previous meeting.  (See BoS meeting notes from 4/3/08.)
  2. He asked that meeting agendas (if available) and confirmations/cancellations of committee meetings be sent via email to all Board members a few days before meetings.  Supervisor Egolf said that he already sends them to those attending and will copy the Board.  Chairman Howell said of the Parks & Recreation Committee agenda that it is a "comprehensive" one that includes all the items that the committee is considering.  At meetings different items are emphasized.  He will forward the agenda to the Board when he sends the meeting minutes. 

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 current outstanding debt is $7,875,858.

(Resident) Sandy Hanks asked what the transfer of funds to the Recreation Land Acquisition Fund is?  Finance Manager Farley explained that it is monies for the cost of materials and supplies for the Gollub Park project.  Howell wondered why the $1 million from the Real Estate Fund wasn't questioned by anyone.  Farley explained that it was simply a check cut from the real estate tax receipts fund for deposit to the General Fund.  The monies were collected in April and a transfer is not done, a check is actually written.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - noted that the May meeting was canceled and that the next will be on June 3rd.  He reported that the police department is getting the furniture plans together and that the discussion about the fire training facility foundation is underway.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that there has been no meeting so there is no report.  
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - reported that the committee met last Thursday and is continuing to explore park equipment - whether to restore or buy new.  The committee is preparing to report to the Board on a mini/neighborhood park concept where smaller recreation equipment would be located in some Township neighborhoods.  It would take some pressure off of the central park.  The committee will send a request for recommendations to the Recreation Board.  This committee meets twice a month.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the next meeting is scheduled for June 9th at 6 PM.  She reported that the rough draft of the next Forks Quarterly is ready.  Township Manager Schnaedter said that he expects a proof in a few days and will distribute it to the Board. 
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the committee met on May 14th and that the new server is being installed.  The installation will take approximately two weeks and when up and running, should help greatly with email and with the document management system.  The committee is looking at the best ways to manage documents that are received daily.  Egolf said that they attended a document management conference on Tuesday and that Farley will attend a one day workshop (on the document management system).  The committee meets twice a month and the next meeting is set for May 28th.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - said that he received a letter from the Bushkill Stream Conservancy requesting permission to put in a wildflower meadow at Lion's Park.  Howell said that when he read the letter from Mrs. Merwarth, President of the Bushkill Stream Conservancy, he asked Miller and DPW Director Mark Roberts to check out the area being considered.  Miller said that both he and Roberts have done that.  The area is already staked out and is not an area that cars use.  He said the wildflower meadow will look nice and is a good addition to what's along the creek.  Roberts added that Ed (Kleppinger - Parks Crew Chief) looked the area over as well and foresees no maintenance issues with it.  Howell asked if this will affect the Eagle Scouts' project.  Roberts said he will meet with the aspiring Eagle Scouts tomorrow (Friday, 5/16). 

Nicholas asked about access to the creek for fisherman (and others) and was told that it won't be impeded.

Egolf made a motion (seconded by Chuss) to approve the meadow in Lion's Park and to authorize the preparation of the area (and to include the Boy Scouts.)  The vote was unanimous.

Schnaedter also reported that the minutes of the meeting with PennDOT and various municipal officials about the Stockertown bridge are included in the Supervisors' packets.  Howell asked what Stockertown's point of view is regarding the bridge.  Schnaedter said that Stockertown Borough Council voted against replacing the vehicle bridge but would like a pedestrian bridge that is coordinated with the area recreation trails.  Howell asked the Board if it was interested in pursuing Chuss' request from the last meeting about a letter to Stockertown.

Chuss said that Schnaedter spoke with Mr. Fatzinger (Stockertown Council member) and Fatzinger was adamant about "no bridge."  Chuss said that he thought that comments by Forks' Supervisors should be passed on as the bridge would help to alleviate traffic on Sullivan & Uhler, Bushkill & Uhler, and Church Lane & Sullivan Trail. 

Chuss made a motion to send a letter to the Borough of Stockertown expressing Forks' support of the bridge.  Miller seconded the motion.  In discussion, Nicholas said that although she would like to see the bridge, she felt that it was not the Board's place to tell Stockertown what to do.  She said it would be akin to Stockertown telling Forks not to allow a business in its industrial park because it would create more traffic in Stockertown. 

Howell said that the minutes were of meeting with PennDOT and in considering etiquette, he thought that perhaps the letter should be sent to PennDOT since they were the ones interested in input and Forks was not invited. Howell said that he understood Nicholas' comments and that telling Stockertown that "we want the bridge for our selfish reasons and they don't want the bridge for theirs" can have unintended consequences.

Chuss amended his motion to send the letter to PennDOT.  It passed 4:1 with Howell casting the nay vote.

Schnaedter also reported that he met with Solicitor Kline and is gathering sample ordinances and policies from area municipalities regarding obstructions in right-of-ways.  He will report further at the next meeting. 

Engineer's Report - reported that the specifications for the Community Center HVAC were complete and he asked permission to go out for bid.  The system is for both buildings.  Nicholas asked that the specs be emailed to her.  Miller made the motion and Egolf seconded.  The procedure is that the specs will be advertised and then there will be a pre-bid meeting, then a bid opening, and the bids will be checked by staff for bonding, compliance, etc.  The contract will likely be awarded at the the second BoS meeting in June.  Nicholas also asked that copies of the contract be provided to the Board.  The vote was unanimous.  (The Community Center air conditioning will be working this summer.)

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported the following:

  1. He reviewed Forks' ordinances for one dealing with on-sidewalk basketball hoops.  Schnaedter is reviewing the issue with other municipalities.  If there are continuing problems, residents should call the police department and they will handle the complaints as appropriate.
  2. The KMRD Procedural Challenge 24 page Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) decision (large file) has been received.  The ZHB rejected the challenge by KMRD and upheld the procedural validity of the Township Zoning Ordinance.  KMRD had hoped to invalidate all zoning ordinances back to 1983 so that they could proceed with their land plans for the FP (Farmland Protection district) under the old rules.  KMRD has 30 days from receipt of the written decision to file an appeal with the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. 
  3. The KMRD Substantive Challenge hearings are continuing.  The Township's testimony has been concluded (on 5/14/08).  The last witness, Charles Schmehl of Urban Research and Development (URDC), the Township's expert, will be cross-examined at the next hearing on June 16th.  Kline said that KMRD will probably have a rebuttal witness as well.  There should only be two or three more hearings.
  4. The Kings Farm land development plan (the by-right plan, filed under the 2001 zoning ordinance - with 2 acre lots - that was rejected by the BoS because the developer did not perform the soil and perc tests - the developer's failure to proceed) appeal was rejected by the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas.  The time to appeal that decision has passed and the developer did not appeal.  This one is over.
  5. Playground equipment purchased under COSTARS, the State negotiated price program, can be negotiated down in price.  The COSTARS numbers are the capped (top) price.  In that spirit, Kline negotiated $1000 out of the installation price.  The total price for the equipment plus installation is now $55,688.  Kline recommended that the Board sign the contract at the reduced price.  A new motion was made at the revised price.  It passed unanimously.


Sullivan Trail Business Park (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that this has been on the books for years and that there has been a great deal of difficulty getting the developer (Goffredo) to complete the improvements.  The plan was approved in August 2001 and the subdivision improvement agreement was executed in August 2002.  Five years later, with most of the lots sold (exceptions are the Weis site and lots 5A & 5B), many of the required improvements are not complete.

Goffredo was to have completed all of the improvements within two years of the issuance of the first building permit.   The first was issued in October 2005 and all the municipal improvements were to be completed no later than last October.  Kline said that he has written to the developer and he and Hay have met with him and with his legal council and there is still no indication that the work will be completed.

The regional detention pond on the Merchants Bank property is not fixed.  The bank is extremely displeased and upset with the developer.  Because there is no low-flow drain in it, it has become a marsh - complete with cattails.

Kline recommended that the BoS draw on the line of credit.  This action will notify the bank that the developer is in default and that they are to immediately give Forks the $179,886.74 balance.  This means that the Township will undertake the improvements and the amount becomes a debt of the developer.  The letter of credit expires May 24th.

Nicholas asked if this was work that the Township DPW can do or if it will have to go out for bids.  Hay replied that bids will be needed. 

(Resident) Sandy Hanks asked who is responsible if the work costs more than the letter of credit balance?  Kline replied that it is the developer's responsibility and that under the MPC (Municipal Planning Code), the Township is responsible to see that the work gets done.  Kline offered that the Township can sue the developer for the difference or there may be opportunities to work out arrangements with some of the other builders coming in to the business park.  Kline thought it premature to decide to sue the developer.

The work to be done includes the wearing course on the business park roads, a job that will be not be done until after the Weis site (and other) construction is completed. 

Nicholas made a motion, seconded by Miller, to draw on the letter of credit.  In discussion, Egolf said that he saw that trees were being planted along the perimeter of the site.  Hay said that developers commonly do the easy things and that he saw that couple of light poles were in also.  The vote was 5:0.


Fort James III Subdivision (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline reported that the developers agreements are in place and that a letter of credit for the entire site has been received - in the amount of $3,258,299.15.  Two major land developments are in process, Weyerhaeuser Industries and Henningsen Cold Storage.  The subdivision was approved in a 5:0 vote. 

Comprehensive Plan Update (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline briefed the Supervisors about the decision by the Planning Commission (PC) last week to pass the draft Comprehensive Plan (in its current state) to them.  He said that the PC was hard at work for many months on the Comprehensive Plan and that many volunteers worked on it also.  Reports were submitted to the PC.  The Comprehensive Plan was put together in draft form by the PC and Charlie Schmehl (of URDC). 

Kline added that he believed Schmehl was planning to add the charts and maps before sending it to the Board.  It will be emailed to the Township.  And, Kline thought that the Board should discuss and write out what the process for going forward with the Comprehensive Plan will be.  Although, he offered that without anything in front of them, it may be difficult to make a decision tonight.

Howell asked Zoning Officer Tim Weis to provide a hard copy for each of the Supervisors.  Weis said that he will advise the Board when he's received it so that they can make a decision about putting it on the agenda.

Kline enumerated the steps that must happen before the plan's adoption:

  1. The Board must be satisfied with the condition of the document.
  2. The plan must be sent to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC), the EASD, and neighboring municipalities for comment.
  3. There must be a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors.

Kline said that Board must decide what the procedure will be for editorial or substantive changes - should the Board wish to make any. 

Howell said that he would like the Board to make some sort of timetable for the review at the next meeting. 

Chuss said that the MPC has guidelines and that the Board should make a decision at its next meeting to send the plan on the LVPC and to the surrounding municipalities.  He said that the PC target date was March and that a complete review of the plan will result in unnecessary delay.  Chuss said that PC has gone to great lengths to solicit public input and BoS comments.  Further delay may mean looking at issues again.

Egolf said that he understands Chuss' concerns.  It has been a long process and reflects a lot of hard work from many people. 

Howell agreed that there were lots of opportunities for comment throughout the process.  There were comments made by the Supervisors and by the public but he said that he is not sure how they were compiled or listed since the minutes he's reviewed do not reference them.  Howell said that he's attended 80% of the workshop meetings and that comments were taken but he's not sure what happened to them.

Egolf said that this is exactly how he feels but that he is optimistic and "will take the whole thing on good faith."  He said that significant revisions were asked for and if they are included, he thinks it will be a "green light."  But, he said, he must see the draft before he will agree to pass it on to neighboring municipalities, the LVPC, etc.

Nicholas addressed Kline and said that she was at the workshop meeting when the motion to establish an ad hoc committee to review comments was passed.  Then she got the email from Dean (Turner - PC Chairman) stating that the PC was sending the plan to the Board as is.  She thought that this would be like her saying that she wants to do a vote over on something from last year.  Nicholas asked Kline if it was proper and Kline said that the PC has a right to do it. He added that "there are numerous instances where a governing body chooses to reconsider an action that it took before." 

Nicholas said that her understanding then is that the comments made at that workshop will (now) not be included.  Kline said that at that meeting there were editorial comments made by the public as well as comments of a substantive nature.  He added, "The PC was not interested in proceeding with the substantive changes and that only editorial changes needed to be made."  And, he suggested that if the Board wants those comments included it will have to decide on the process to include them. 

Chuss said that that was not his understanding and that any changes the PC agreed to would be incorporated by Schmehl into the document that would be sent to the Board. 

Kline said that the PC voted to pass it on in whatever condition it is.  However in an email from Schmehl to Kline and the Board, Schmehl said that he wanted to "issue a new draft to incorporate editorial improvements, updated mapping, photos, and some items raised at the last meeting and to incorporate the changes memo that was distributed at the April Planning Commission workshop."  Kline said that some of the comments may be in the draft that Schmehl sends - but until the Board gets it, it won't know.

Chuss said that he requested that Schmehl place bookmarks at all the changes so that a full review will be unnecessary.  He offered that if there are any significant issues they can be discussed - although he can't imagine what those significant issues could be that have not already been discussed.  He said again that the Board "should be prepared at the next meeting to forward it on to the LVPC and other communities so that we (the Board) can be sure that the Comprehensive Plan meets the needs of the Township."  Chuss added that the LVPC review can take up to 45 days which would put the public hearing sometime in August and that this (moving it forward) is one of the ways to "expedite the process."

Egolf said that the bottom line is that until the Board sees the draft it won't know what has been done.  He offered again that he will remain optimistic that it's all included.

Chuss agreed that he, too, is optimistic and said that he trusts Mr. Schmehl a lot.  He praised how receptive Schmehl has been to any comments and that he was always accommodating.

Weis said that he is sure they will have it before the next meeting so it should be placed on the agenda for discussion "one way or the other."

Nicholas said that she thinks that it is a very important document - considering the lawsuits against the Township.  She added that the Board really needs to be cautious and certain that this (document) is what the Board wants.

Howell said, "There were substantive comments made throughout the entire process... at meetings that Charles (Schmehl) was not present."   Howell said that he doesn't know what the process was to collect the comments.  He said that he is not concerned about the timing because "the process is the process."  He reiterated Nicholas' sentiment, that the Comprehensive Plan is a guide for the Board.  And, he added, that it is a guide that will be supported by changes in the Zoning Ordinance.

Howell said that he will be looking at how the Zoning Ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan agree on what the Township sees for the FP.  He will also look at comments he's made regarding "vision" and about the refining of the Plan. 

Howell said that the URDC/Schmehl proposal is a rather substantial document and is about 50 pages long.  Yet the Planners' comments are that they are just "fine tuning and tweaking" (the 1997 Comprehensive Plan.)  Howell added that in the first few sentences of the document (the draft Comprehensive Plan) it says the duration of the Plan is 15 years.  He would agree that tweaking and fine tuning would be fine if nothing had happened in the Township since 1997.  However, since a lot has happened in the Township since 1997, Schmehl's proposal was right on target.  Howell added that Schmehl has done a credible job and the document complies with the statute and the design desired by the LVPC.  He just wants to be certain that the content is what the Board wants.

Howell related that in the mid-nineties, Supervisor Hoff complained that the Township was not getting its share of commercial and residential development.  To remedy that the Board lowered impact fees... and got growth.  Howell said, speaking for himself, he wants to be sure the Comprehensive Plan prepares the Township for the next 15 years.  And, he added, that if the Board, after review, has any substantive changes, that the changes are considered and not just forgotten.  Howell said that he will have substantive changes.

Chuss said that throughout the process there has been opportunity to provide input from both the Supervisors and the public.  Chuss said that he finds it "a little bit troubling to stop now and begin changing what has already been developed through meeting after meeting."  The opportunities, he said, for public input were more than ample.  He said these changes are coming in not at the 11th hour, not at 11:59, but at 12:15.  Chuss added that this delay is unnecessary and that "the Plan will never be perfect because as long as it's being worked on, the Township - the State - the world is changing."

Howell said that 15 years is written in the Plan and when he asked a few planners if they knew that, they did not.  He said that he brought up early on about vision sessions and never heard a conversation about one in public.  Howell said that he took Vito (Planner Tamborrino) at his word at the last (PC) meeting, when he said, "We are going to send it to the Board as is because we know we're going to get it back."  Howell said that no one is talking about a re-write and that suggestion of one is a "conjured up idea." 

Nicholas said that she doesn't think the plan should be for 15 years and that that should be taken out.  She remarked that a lot has happened since 1997 and that there's no way to know what will happen in the next five years.

Sandra Hanks asked if the Board can make changes or if it's only a PC function?  The answer was "yes" that the Board can make comments/suggestions. 

Chuss said that there were joint PC/BoS meetings in January, February and March specifically to address issues.  He added that the 15 years in the Plan is the maximum length and there is nothing preventing it from being changed next year.  Chuss reiterated that it's simply a guide and that ordinances are based on it.  He added that there is "an underlying vision in the plan and it is the vision of the residents who participated."

Howell offered that they must understand that "the process is what it is... it takes as long as it takes."  He asked Weis to post the new draft Comprehensive Plan on the Township website so that the public can see it.  The process is transparent.

Executive Session - The session was held to discuss several personnel matters.  No action was taken during the session but afterwards, in a 5:0 vote, the Board promoted Robin Featherman to the new position of Senior Crew Chief at a rate of $22.00/hr.  The rate for a Crew Chief is $20.96/hr.  Featherman will be second under DPW Director Mark Roberts.

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, May 10, 2008

"I don't want to waste any more time on this." Vito Tamborrino referring to the Comp Plan editorial review - PC Meeting 5/8/08

The May 8, 2008 Planning Commission (PC) meeting was not the expected session, at least not in the first eight or so minutes.  Click here for the Agenda.  This was the night that the ad hoc committee of three planners was to be created - and charged with the mission of compiling the editorial suggestions/comments from the other planners and from the public and performing a unifying edit to the draft Comprehensive Plan.  Those in attendance expected this. 

Before the official start of the meeting, while the PC members and the audience waited for missing planner Dan Fazekas, a call was made to Fazekas by Zoning Officer Tim Weis.  Mr. Weis' cell phone was on speaker.  (Paraphrased:)  Weis asked Fazekas if he was coming.  Fazekas asked... to what?  Weis said... to the Planning Commission meeting.  Fazekas replied that he was not coming to that.

Planner Georgeann Wambold was not in attendance either.  Her absence seemed expected as no one said that they were waiting for her, only for Fazekas.

Also, before the gavel start of the meeting, Weis made copies of the 4/22/08 workshop minutes for those PC members who did not have them with them and/or who did not receive them via email.  (The minutes were not included in the PC meeting packets.)  These were the minutes the PC was to approve by vote at the beginning of the meeting.  Tamborrino, who had received the minutes (via email) earlier in the week, had one minor correction to offer.  The minutes (available online) were approved unanimously.  (Please see the FAC blog post for additional details of the 4/22/08 workshop discussion/comments.)

Chairman Dean Turner opened the meeting with an apology to the Ramblewood residents who came to the 4/22/08 workshop to voice their concerns about the Ramblewood extension mentioned in the draft Comprehensive Plan.  Turner said that the PC spent too much time "bickering" and thus did not allow enough time for a "productive discussion." - "We cut them short too much."  Turner noted that the PC will try to be more attentive in the future to the input offered by residents. 

The next item on the agenda was listed under REPORTS:  EDITORIAL COMMENTS FOR COMPREHENSIVE PLAN.  Turner asked Township Manager Schnaedter, the PC members, and Solicitor Karl Kline if they had received any comments or had any input.  Each said "no" except planners David Billings and Vito Tamborrino.  Billings said that he had emailed his edits/input to Turner earlier in the day.  He offered a printed copy to Turner.  Turner declined the offer indicating that the email was sufficient. 

And, then Tamborrino offered his "comment."   He said that he wanted to reverse his vote from the workshop motion that created the extra four weeks to gather, compile, and edit the Comp Plan.  Tamborrino said that "in light of what he'd been hearing over the last two weeks... the opinions of Supervisors and such," he'd like to change his vote from the last meeting.  He then made a motion that the Comp Plan be "put over to the Supervisors in its present form" so that they can begin their part of the process.  Tamborrino added that he felt it (the Comp Plan) was going to get bounced back to the PC anyway and that the content and meaning are there (in the Plan).  He said, "I don't want to waste any more time on this."   The motion was seconded by Planner John Castrovinci. 

In discussion of the motion, Billings said that the PC needs to understand that its "job is to oversee the preparation of the Comprehensive Plan."  He said that "it's not to send a draft... not to just pass it along."  He remarked that they are being asked to vote on a Comprehensive Plan that they have never seen a final draft of... and it's beyond his comprehension how they can vote on something they have never seen.  He felt that the PC should be voting on the version that the Supervisors will see and not on a draft with additional comments by URDC. 

Tamborrino said that "the content is there and although it may not look pretty, the meaning is there."  He restated that because he thinks it will be bounced back to the PC, he wanted it to get there (to the BoS) so that they could make their comments and send it back.  And, again, he stated that he didn't want to waste any more time... "to make it look pretty to be sent to them and just be chewed up and spit out back to us."

Billings said that he didn't think it was a waste of time and he quoted from the draft Forks Comp Plan: 

"Some of the greatest responsibilities of a Planning Commission include to oversee the preparation and implementation of the Comprehensive Plan and the preparation of Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance revisions." 

Turner offered that it has to do with their understanding of the process, that is that they were charged by the BoS to put together a plan, solicit public input, hire a professional (to guide the process), put together something for the public hearing...  "We've done all that."  Turned continued that it then goes to the BoS who mulls it over and holds a public hearing and at that point, it is in its final form. 

The vote on the motion to pass the draft Comp Plan in its present form on to the Board of Supervisors was 4:1.  Billings cast the nay vote.

Turner offered a website link for anyone who wants to learn more about what the MPC and the State of PA have available for municipal planners.  There are booklets available for online reading (the files can be opened and saved to your computer) and for purchase as paper copies.

The other agenda items, all projects, are updated on the FAC Projects page. 

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, May 04, 2008

BoS Meeting 5/1/2008

Regular Meeting (agenda)

The Board held a workshop at 6:30 PM to walk the municipal grounds and look at the security camera locations and the recommendations for changes. 

At its 2-1/2 hour regular meeting, the Board of Supervisors (BoS) considered a variety of topics, from agenda items to basketball hoops blocking sidewalks in the Penn's Ridge neighborhood to Lafayette College's Lauren's First & Goal Football Camp traffic needs.  (The Morning Call's Madeleine Mathias was there.  Please read her 5/5/08 article for more on the meeting.)

Supervisors' Comments

Supervisor Chuss raised two issues: 

  1. He asked the Board to consider sending a petition of support for the Stockertown bridge. He said that some Stockertown residents want the bridge replaced and he feels that a bridge there would be beneficial to Forks as it would alleviate some of the traffic from the west and south at the Uhler/Bushkill and Uhler/Sullivan Trail intersections.  Howell asked what Stockertown Borough's opinion is.  Chuss said that informally he believes that PennDOT is recommending a foot bridge.  Egolf questioned that and said that he was under the impression that PennDOT was recommending a regular bridge.  Nicholas said that she would like to see cars through there.  Howell remarked that a petition/letter from the Board would be somewhat premature since it is an issue that they (Stockertown) have before them and that they have not sought to discuss it publicly.   Township Manager Schnaedter offered to contact PennDOT and Stockertown to get the status of the bridge (and any link-up with the recreation path system) and will report back to the Board at its next meeting.  (For background on the Stockertown bridge issue, see the April 25, 2008 Express Times editorial.)
  2. Chuss asked the Board to consider sending the draft Comprehensive Plan to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) now - while it undergoes editorial review by the PC.  He said that although he missed the first 45 minutes of he April 22nd (PC) Planning Commission Workshop discussion, he felt that there were no substantial changes to be made to the plan, only editorial ones.  Chuss said that the LVPC does not review editorial changes.  Howell said that he thought it premature for the BoS to get active in the process since it is before the PC.  He added that it is a rather substantial thing and it is not on the agenda.  Nicholas said that she doesn't want it to go anywhere until it has been changed.  Chuss noted that the since BoS will review it and since a public hearing will be held, there will be opportunity to make changes.  He also said that in the last 16 months (that the plan has been in development), there has been ample opportunity for input and comment and that the Township is incurring charges by the consultant (URDC).  Chuss said that by delaying the approval process a disservice is being done to the residents and to the people who have put in so much time on the plan already.  Nicholas offered that Bob (Egolf) brought up a good point (at the PC workshop) about something ("goals") that is not in the plan that should have been in it and she does not think that it's finished.  Howell said he was at the meeting (PC workshop), that he did not see a sense of urgency, and that the PC will set up an ad hoc committee and that the Supervisors are invited to send in comments.  Chuss said that he was told at the meeting (PC workshop) that there would be no substance changes.  The changes would be all editorial.  He urged that the process be expedited and not delayed for 3-4 months.  Chuss made a motion to add the Comprehensive Plan Distribution to the LVPC for Review as agenda item #5 under new business.  There was no second and the motion failed.

Supervisor Miller announced that in addition to the "Mad Science for Kids" summer program, there will also be computer classes for all ages.  "Computertots" is for ages 3-6 years and "Computer Explorers" is for ages 6-12 years.  There will also be a course for adults and senior citizens.  Details can be found at the Community Center and at its Programs web page and will also be in the June newsletter.

Supervisor Nicholas reported that she and Supervisor Chuss recently met with the Lehigh Valley Airport Authority. The airport has received a PennDOT $500,000 grant (that they must match) to replace its four "hodgepodge" office buildings with one new one. The authority wanted Nicholas and Chuss to know that it is just an idea at this point and that there are no plans to expand the airport.  Nicholas said that she advised the authority that they must submit plans to the Township in the normal fashion.

Nicholas also commented regarding agenda items being added after the Tuesday deadlines.  She said that when things are added after the deadline, the supporting documents are not included in the Supervisors' packets and thus, the Supervisors are not prepared (to discuss the added items at the meeting) nor is the public informed of what's actually on the agenda.  She said that there had been an agreement that if an item concerned the PC, that the PC minutes would be included in the packets.  In particular, she noted the Barry Miles Minor Subdivision agenda item.  All Board members were in agreement with Nicholas on this issue.  Solicitor Kline said that the PC did approve the April 10 minutes at their April 22 workshop.  Chuss had a copy of the April 10 PC approved minutes and copies were made for distribution to the rest of the Board.

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 current outstanding debt is $7,875,858.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - noted that the May 6th meeting is canceled.  He will be at a business meeting and Fire Chief Bryan Weis will be on vacation.  He reported the following:
    • Kline will update the status to the emergency services tower in his report.
    • The Police Department (PD) furniture installation has not begun.
    • The committee will review Chief Dorney's anti-speeding program at its June meeting.
    • Forks EMS squad is making its payments to Suburban and keeping up with current obligations (to Suburban).  Two payments have been made.
    • Chuss made a motion made to add the audio/visual camera update as an agenda item under OLD BUSINESS.  It was seconded by Egolf.  In the lengthy discussion, Nicholas stated that she is against the plan as proposed because it involves removing all the cameras from the Fire Department building but not from the interiors of any other Township buildings.  She said that the Fire Department building has a lot of very expensive equipment in it and that lots of people come and go and not all are fire fighters.  She also said that the plan does not have enough information and does not show any of the cameras inside the Community Center.  She believes all the cameras should be on the plan.  Nicholas said that this decision shouldn't be rushed since a mistake was made the last time and it cost thousands of dollars.  Howell said that he attended the Public Safety Committee meeting where the plan was explained and that the consultant said that there are a lot of redundancies and external cameras will show any breach of the building.  Egolf suggested adding the notes from the 6:30 workshop to the plan and then sending the amended plan out to bid.  Resident Amy Lohmann said that since he (Chuss) feels very strongly, she felt the item should be added to the agenda.  It was added to the agenda in a 5:0 vote. 
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - said that there has been no meeting yet this month.  
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - had no report other than an agenda item. 
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the next meeting is scheduled for May 12th at 6 PM.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the committee met last week and completed a review of the 2007 budget analysis prepared by Finance Manager Farley.  They looked in particular at line item overages.  Egolf thanked Farley for preparing the report and leading the committee through the review.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - reminded the Board about the TRCOG E-Cycling event at the EAHS on Saturday, May 3rd from 10 AM to 2 PM.  He said that there is a small fee involved to recycle old computer screens, copiers, fax machines, microwaves, etc.

Schnaedter said that Lafayette College is hosting its regular charity event, Lauren's First & Goal Football Camp at Metzger Field (June 1) and is requesting the Board's authorization. 

Chuss said that last year traffic was an issue with the overflow using the airport authority, the Township, the Eagles and the Forks Diner parking.  He thought that someone from the Township should work with Lafayette to mitigate the problem and that the college should be encouraged to provide more onsite parking. 

Weis said that the ordinance for more than 500 people at an event calls for layouts of the plan, parking, and sanitation facilities.  Howell thought that this was more like a football game and is consistent with REM district activities and that Kline can explain if the ordinance applies.

Kline said that Ordinance 211 (from 1991) was written after a gentleman came to the BoS and asked to use Bushkill Park for a rock concert with over 1000 expected attendees... "like Woodstock," he said.  That request led to concerns about planning and controls for outdoor amusements like liability insurance, food service, sanitation, and traffic problems.  The ordinance does not apply to the regularly continuing operations of a for-profit amusement park nor does it apply to programs by the college community if they are standard practice.

Weis said he was looking for guidance.  Dorney said that in the past Forks PD worked with the college's public safety department.

After more discussion, it was decided that Schnaedter and Weis will draft a policy for events such as this and present it to the Board for consideration.

Miller remarked that this is a great event and a first class operation (complete with porta-potties) - on Lafayette's 300 acres.  The coaches are allowed to park on Forks property.

Engineer's Report - agenda items only.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that he and Chief Dorney have been working on revisions to the memo of understanding between Forks PD and the EASD school police.  The memo details under what circumstances Forks PD will become involved in proceedings in the school and when the school police, who have full police powers, should handle matters themselves.  The document has been sent to the solicitor for the EASD for review.  After the EASD agrees to the memo, it will go next to the Public Safety Committee for review.

Kline also said that the contract for the emergency services training facility was sent to the winning bidder (in Kansas) and has been signed and fully executed.  The company is ready to start building.  There is an up front payment of 25% due now. 

Comments from the Public (non-agenda)

  • Amy Lohmann from Chestnut Lane in Penn's Ridge asked the Board's help with portable basketball hoops blocking sidewalks - forcing her to walk in the street with her young children (two and five years old).  She would like the hoops placed in the driveways and not on the sidewalks.  She also said that the kids playing in the street cannot be seen by drivers making the turn or backing out of their driveways.  Ms. Lohmann added that the kids are disrespectful and curse at her.  She said too, that a basketball court won't stop the problem.

Nicholas said that she totally agreed that the basketball hoops are a hazard.  Lohmann said that a town in New Jersey has enacted an ordinance and is fining (warning first) those not in compliance.  She said that she has information on that ordinance if the Board would like to see it.  Ms. Lohmann added that two other towns in PA have adopted similar ordinances.  Miller thought that Forks has an ordinance going way back in years and that he recalls the Township cutting down a basketball hoop - with a torch.  Nicholas asked that Kline look up that ordinance and if there isn't one, draft one. 

  • Roxanna Keller of Chestnut Lane in Penn's Ridge said that her own kids cannot play in their yard because of the 20 kids that sit on the sidewalk using bad words.  They cursed at her husband in Spanish. 

Howell suggested that the ordinances be examined for both on street and for sidewalks and to see what must be done legislatively to correct the situation.  And, he asked that staff call the developer to see if there is a space to retire all the hoops for kids to go there temporarily. He said that later on the agenda, there will be discussion of improvements to the play area in the community park - a first stage.  The second stage in the park improvement program will be the designation of three to five neighborhood parks. 

Howell said that Penn's Ridge is the most dense of all the Township's neighborhoods.  A mini-park there is a priority for the Parks & Recreation Committee.  Ms. Lohmann said that that will not take care of the issue and if there is no ordinance, there needs to be one, one that can be enforced. 

Kline said that he will research the ordinances.  He added that as long as you have kids and summer and portable basketball hoops, the problem will continue.  He said that he doesn't think there is an ordinance (he will check) but he does think there is a policy about public streets.  And, if there was danger, obstructions were not to be allowed.  Kline said that he doesn't think there was much concern about sidewalks (when the policy was developed.)  "Sidewalks are for people to walk on..." and are not to be obstructed.  He will report back at the next BoS meeting.

Chief Dorney said that there are 19 hoops on the sidewalks in Penn's Ridge and that under the criminal code, obstructed passageways includes sidewalks.  However, he said it's difficult to enforce because a magistrate may not consider it an obstruction if one can just walk around it.  He added that the police should be called for disorderly behavior (the swearing).  Lohmann said that she's had the police at her house three times over this problems and that the officers have always been "so kind" and that they always understand the problem.

Nicholas said, "We need to do something we can enforce."

Lohmann asked if she should continue coming to meetings to in order to see what the Township will do and Howell said that it will not be an agenda item but will be part of Kline's report at the next meeting. 


Audio/Visual Camera Update (Erik Chuss - added during Public Safety report) - Chuss stated the background - that department heads reviewed their facilities and made recommendations for camera coverage.  The recommendations were "run by" the PD and the RFP (request for purchase) was formulated.  The original camera plan was internally focused and the new plan is now external. 

There was a lengthy discussion about removing all the internal cameras from the Fire Department building.  Howell said that the consultant recommended moving them to the perimeter of the building so that everyone leaving and entering can be seen. 

Resident Sandy Hanks asked what the cost of keeping the cameras would be?  She wondered if the issue is "what is going on in the building."  (Tim) Weis said that all the interior cameras are aimed at doors.  With cameras on the outside, doors as well as the building exterior will be covered. 

Nicholas said that one of the cameras was covered (over) by a department head.

Chuss made a motion that the proposal as written be let out for bids.  Egolf seconded.  In discussion of the motion, Farley said that he hasn't seen the proposal and asked that in view of past experience/expense, that adequate surge protection be included.  Nicholas reaffirmed that she does not want the cameras removed from the Fire Department.  She also said that the department heads of today may not be department heads next year. 

Resident Charlotte Salkin thought that technology goes out of date so quickly that perhaps the BoS should wait.  Chuss explained that it is difficult to "hit the technology target." 

Howell added that cameras will be installed in the community park for 24/7 external coverage.  Nicholas said that she has no issue with adding cameras, just with removing them. 

In a 4:1 vote (Nicholas cast the nay) the Board approved sending the proposal out to bid. 


Forks Twp. Community Park-Recreation Equipment Capital Purchases (Don Miller, Director of Parks & Recreation) -Howell said by way of introduction that the Parks & Recreation Committee, Don Miller, the Recreation Board, and Mark Roberts (DPW Director) spent a lot of time evaluating the capital assets in the park in order to determine what should be fixed and what should be replaced. 

Miller said that the playground equipment in the community park was installed over 20 years ago and is deteriorating.  He said that the groups evaluated equipment ranging in price from $9,000 to $170,000 and settled on a system from Miracle Recreation Equipment Co., a vendor approved in the PA COSTARS program (formerly the "piggyback program") for $42,000 (after discounts and before installation).  The total installed price is $56,688.  The equipment is 50% bigger than the existing equipment and provides 20 different things for kids to do on it.  One part of it serves the needs of kids 2-5 years old and the other part serves the needs of kids 5-12 years old.

Miller said too, that the merry-go-round bearings are bad and parts are unobtainable.  A new one will cost between $3,000-$4,000.  An approved vendor will be selected from the COSTARS list. 

Other needed park items include a dozen picnic tables, park benches, and a replacement adult fitness station.  The benches and tables are made by prisoners (PA State Prison).  The old cost of the picnic tables was around $250; Miller is not sure what they cost this year.  The current cost of the benches is $175.  The benches and picnic tables made by the prison, can be purchased without bids as long as they cost less than $4,000.

Adult fitness equipment vendors are also on the COSTARS list.

Farley reviewed the Miracle Recreation Equipment Co. installation contract and gave it to Kline to review.  At issue is the "prevailing wages" municipality requirement. Farley thought the price may change slightly because of that.

The Board voted unanimously to approve the purchase of the playground equipment, a fitness station, and a carousel from the PA COSTARS program. 

Resolution #080501-1 DEP Resolution for Lisa Bodnar existing home septic system (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline briefed the Board on the history of this property.  He said it is on Route 611 and was damaged in the floods.  The house has been completely rebuilt but has a failing septic system.  The DEP requires a Township resolution in order to approve the proposed "stream septic system" that Ms. Bodnar needs to install in order to occupy her house.  Kline said that in effect, the resolution is changing Act 537 for one house.  Nicholas asked who tracks the system and was told that the system is in fact a "package treatment plant."  Egolf questioned revising Act 537 for one house and asked Kline if the Township will be setting a precedent.  Kline clarified that it is on a case by case basis and that the system Ms. Bodnar will be installing is more modern and more expensive than the old, failed system.  Egolf then asked if there is a hardship involved and was told that without the new system, Ms. Bodnar cannot live in her house.  The vote was 4:1 with Egolf casting the nay vote. 

Barry Miles Minor Subdivision (Keystone Consulting Engineer) - Ryan Christman from Keystone Consulting Engineers spoke to this plan for a lot line adjustment and the PC condition that there either be a plan note stating that the site will be connected to the public sewer or that a sewage planning module be submitted.  Christman said that Mr. Miles is prepared to add the plan note that the site will be connected to public sewer.  After discussion about this being a subdivision on paper only, Howell asked about the status of "Lower Road" - a road named on the map but not built.  Kline said that it's been on the map for over 21 years and that since it's never been opened, the land reverts back to the adjacent properties - from the middle of the road on each side.  There were two votes, the first to accept the waivers as detailed in the Keystone review later of April 7th and second to approve the subdivision subject to the sewer condition (and to Keystone's review letter).  Both motions passed in 5:0 votes.  Mr. Miles thanked the Board and then asked for an itemized statement from Keystone.  He said that the review fee was more than he paid his engineer. 

Approval of AA/Forks Recreation Registration Fees (Don Miller) - withdrawn.

Executive Session - None.

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.