Regular Meeting (agenda)
This night's business portion of the Board of Supervisors meeting, although it had no "new" or "old" business on the agenda, did last for 1-1/4 hours. The main topic was, once again, Forks EMS. Please read Douglas Brill (Express Times) for more on the EMS discussion.
Public Comments (non-agenda) - Harry and Sue Bennett, co-chairs of the Forks Community Days festivities, extended invitations to "everyone" to attend this year's Forks Community Days. It is set for September 20th and 21st in the Forks Community Park. The Bennetts said that they especially hope that the Supervisors will attend. This year's features include:
- Fifty vendors
- Two horses - for petting
- Tethered balloon rides (weather permitting)
- Classic cars
- Battle of the Bands
- A dump tank (by the Forks Athletic Association)
- A train layout in the Community Center atrium
- Log cabin tours, demonstrations of antique equipment, quilting, and woodworking (by the Forks Historical Society)
- Hay rides (by Pitchfork Nursery)
- Landscaping exhibits
- Food vendors including three new ones - Fat Daddy's, Ms Steaks, and Big Woody's
Supervisor Howell expressed his thanks and appreciation to the Bennetts who, he said, "have worked their hearts out." He said that he hoped they have enough energy to do this again next year.
The Bennetts said that they enjoy doing it and although they do not have a lot of volunteers, their small core uses a team approach. Harry Bennett lauded the help of the Supervisors and was effusive in his praise for DPW Director Mark Roberts and his ability to get things done. He said that they start work in February and finish in September and "the two days of the show are what I get my happiness out of... I see the young children and their parents and the smiles on their faces... and the elderly people, they have smiles. That's what it's all about." Sue Bennett said that a friend of hers who volunteers at the State Theater told her that children there were asked what the best part of their summer was and one child said, "My days at Forks Community festival."
DPW Director Mark Roberts and Township Manager Rick Schnaedter will continue to provide assistance. The event will be advertised on the Township website and in news releases to the Morning Call and the Express Times.
Supervisor Remarks: None
Treasurer's Report - Egolf detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors' meeting. The debits and transfers were approved with a 4:0 vote (Supervisor Nicholas was absent). The Township's current outstanding debt is $7,820,936.
Standing Committee Reports (meetings are open to the public - see the official Township calendar for dates and times)
- Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - reported:
- The emergency services tower project is waiting for final approval of the foundation plans. When they are approved, bids will be sought.
- The agreement between the Fire Company and the Township has been signed and Chief Bryan Weis presented the Township with a check for $25,000. Chuss noted that the check is a major milestone in the efforts to build the tower. He added that he appreciated the work of Chief Weis and Kline and everyone else involved in the agreement.
- Regarding the Express Times article about the passing of a Forks resident and the quoted Forks EMS (FEMS)comments, Chuss said that it was an "inappropriate and irresponsible piece of journalism." Chuss said that he got a call a little after noon on Friday and that the incident happened on Wednesday. He spoke with both Police Chief Dorney and Barry Albertson of Suburban EMS (SEMS) and believed it to be a non-issue as the response was handled well within established guidelines. He said,too, that he spoke with a representative of the deceased's family who appreciated learning "the facts of the case" although he was still upset that it was published in the newspaper.
- Regarding other EMS issues in particular the a letter of clarification regarding ALS (advanced life support) and BLS (basic life support) and the upcoming subscription drives, SEMS has its information together but the FEMS drive is on hold.
- Albertson gave an update on the outstanding FEMS debt and said that the second agreement for payments has not been met - SEMS has received no payment. The total now owed is $14,362.50 (this figure includes the old monies owed to Medic9, now a part of SEMS). Albertson said that SEMS financial director has tried to contact FEMS but has had no response. The SEMS board of directors met last night because of the newspaper article. Albertson said that Chuss called him and he told Chuss that there had been an ALS call in Forks three minutes before the call described in the paper. The Tatamy truck responded to the first call and the Palmer truck was on its way to Forks when the second call came. He said that on issues like this, either SEMS or the EMS Council should have been called to look into it. The EMS Council would have done it quickly and it never would have made the newspaper.
Chuss said that the newspaper misreported and took things out of context. The call came in at 7:28 AM and 28 minutes later, at 7:56 AM the patient was at the ER. The Forks PD arrived at the home first and began administering CPR - one minute before the SEMS unit arrived. The patient was treated, loaded, and taken to the hospital in 28 minutes.
Howell asked where FEMS was and noted that "their allegations were literally despicable." Albertson said that FEMS was at a Stockertown incident and he didn't know if they had more than one truck. Fire Chief Weis confirmed that FEMS' primary truck was in Stockertown.
Howell asked Albertson how how many police departments he works with. The answer was seven to nine. Howell asked if they all have "first responder training." Albertson said that most do and that SEMS will help them get "their AVs." Chief Dorney said that Forks officers are all trained beyond "first responder" and that there are AVs in every vehicle.
Chuss asked about outstanding taxes owed by FEMS to Forks. Farley said that the EIT for first and second quarters is unpaid ($777 and $761) and that the LST (Local Services Tax) is also unpaid for both quarters ($92 and $92). Farley said that Forks' EIT officer contacted the FEMS accountant, John Kuhns, and was told that FEMS did not have the money and that they are also behind in State and Federal taxes. Farley pointed out that the law says that when one withholds money from paychecks to pay taxes, one is required to submit it or to put it in escrow if one does not have enough to cover it. Also owed to the Township and unpaid are utility bills for the first two quarters of 2008. The total owed to Forks is $1980.81.
Howell said that this is all he's thought about since the story appeared in the Express Times and that he does not fault the reporter or the editorial stall. He said that the story did not appear out of thin air and that there had to be an "initiating party." He thought the reporter did a good report and he "found Mr. Keifer's remarks despicable of the worst order." Keifer made the innuendo that it could be resolved - by amending Forks' relationship with SEMS and so that they can again answer calls with them.
Howell added that the Township permitted FEMS to be the provider of BLS on the condition of financial security. "Poor finance equals degrading service... that's a mantra in any business." Howell said that financial statements have been requested for the last three months and that FEMS is delinquent in providing them. Howell said too, that the Township got a courtesy letter from the Office of the State Fire Commissioner advising that FEMS has been sent 35 delinquency letters for loan #22786 and that it is heading for default. The letter was also sent to Representative Grucela and to Senator Wonderling in the hope that it would generate some responsibility. Howell suggested that FEMS will be encouraged (by the State) to apply for a grant and so it can turn around and pay off the loan. Taxpayers get hit twice.
Howell recommended that FEMS be placed on "credit watch" and that the Township more closely monitor their financial status. He said that FEMS should present a business plan to retire the debt and show that they can operate in a manner to maintain their trucks and equipment. "If they can't do that, " Howell said, "then, we have a very serious problem."
Chuss wondered if the Township can legally request this.
Kline noted that FEMS had both BLS and ALS and when it closed, the Township was left in a situation where it immediately had to get a replacement. FEMS problem was not service but financial. When FEMS restarted it asked to be the BLS provider and the Township agreed. Now there are a lot of warning signals and the Board must make the best decision for the residents. Kline said that they are a private organization and they can refuse to provide the information but that wouldn't be professional. The Township has the authority to decide, though, who is the the appropriate ALS and BLS provider and the Township has the perfect right to ask for the information.
Howell said that the Board should put FEMS on a "credit watch" and make a demand for financials and a business plan that demonstrates that it can become viable - or wait for the inevitable. The credit watch is to elevate concern and is the beginning of a process - and "we are down to the 9th inning." He said that he has heard that there have been more resignations from FEMS board and that they may no longer have a quorum. Howell said that the organization has built a wall around it.
Chuss said that he's requested financials and that since the July 2nd BoS meeting, he has not heard from Keifer. Keifer has not attended Public Safety meetings since then either.
Egolf suggested that notifying them that they are on watch may not influence them much - "since we are dealing with a dysfunctional organization." They should be told that there are consequences if they do not comply - that the BoS will remove their status as the Forks BLS provider.
Chuss suggested that Schnaedter send a firm letter. Howell said that Kline should review it.
Egolf made a motion to notify FEMS that they are being put on financial watch and that the Board wants an immediate response with financial records and a business plan September 2nd. Chuss seconded.
Resident Thomas Humcheck (sic) said that he made phone calls after seeing the sign on Sullivan Trail in front of the FEMS building. He said that he's been a resident for 10 years and has a sick wife and problems with his kids. He's paid FEMS and willingly belonged to both Forks providers for a number of years. He said that he doesn't care who he pays, he needs somebody there. He needs the protection. He said that he came to the meeting to see what's going on. Howell told him that the BoS is sending a straightforward, fact based letter clarifying EMS in the Township and stating that both volunteer service organizations will send subscription solicitation letters. Howell said that he wants to include the subscription amounts of each organization in the letter.
Chuss said that residents shouldn't worry, 911 calls will be answered. The newspaper article showed a good response time. SEMS has a truck stationed in Tatamy.
David Billings (PC) asked what happens if FEMS does not respond. Howell said that he'd like to think that won't happen but that he wasn't sure how the Public Safety Committee will handle it. Billings said that consequences (that they will be removed as the BLS provider) should be stated in the FEMS letter. Howell said that the letter will refer to the financial watch, the items required for presentation, and the delinquencies. It will also ask for positive steps to remain viable and it will remind them that they are "an at-will provider."
The vote on the motion for financial watch and a demand for financials and a business plan by September 2nd was 4:0.
Egolf noted that it is "very, very important" that the letter go out to Forks citizens "pronto." It is important they "know that they are covered and what they are covered for."
- Public Works - Supervisor Miller - reported that the new paver arrived yesterday and that the road crew paved "at the Community Park and a couple of parking lots" today and are pleased with the new equipment. Miller also reported that ten new prison-made picnic tables are due to arrive tomorrow. He added that they are "top quality" tables.
- Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - said that the committee will meet next Thursday at 4 PM.
- Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - absent.
- Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the committee met on August 13th and "covered many, many things" - chiefly - performance evaluations for department heads. Egolf will provide updates as work on the evaluations progresses.
Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter said that the Supervisors' packets contain the guidelines for "feasibility of new facilities" which were provided by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Schnaedter and Miller will meet with a Department representative on September 12th. Schnaedter said that there is grant money available for a project of this "size and caliber." (Note: Schnaedter did not say what the project is.)
- Schnaedter reported that Township business forms are still in the planning stages. He will give more information to the BoS as work progresses.
- Finance Manager Farley and he are continuing work on the "public documents policy."
- A list of surplus equipment that is advertised for bids was provided to the BoS. The equipment "has outlived its usefulness to the Public Works and Police Departments." The deadline for receipt of bids is August 28th.
- And, the part time office position has been filled. Carolyn Foucart (sic) was selected from the 80 applicants for the slot. She begins work on August 25th.
Howell asked Schnaedter if he would be willing to act as the Township Document Officer. Schnaedter said that he would. Howell explained that under the Right To Know Act, each municipality must designate a Document Officer to receive and process all requests for documents. Farley and Schnaedter will draft the document request protocol. Schnaedter was appointed Document Officer under the Right To Know Act in a 4:0 vote.
Engineer's Report - Hay - gave an update on the power pole at Frost Hollow and Winchester and its impact on sight distance. He said that the weeds were the problem, not the pole and both he and Zoning Officer Tim Weis contacted Strausser to cut them, but in the meantime, the Forks DPW had already done the job. Hay said, too, that he has contacted Met-Ed for a price to move the pole and a time frame to move it.
Hay reported also on the Meco/Sullivan intersection. He said that he spoke with Mr. Leiser and discussed the relocation of his driveway. He said that Mr. Leiser wants the Meco driveway but also wants to keep his Sullivan Trail driveway. Hay recommends that that not be an option. Hay gave Mr. Leiser the form that PennDOT needs signed, he set up using Jan at the Police Department to notarize the form, and he asked that Mr. Leiser call him when it's done and he will take care of getting it to PennDOT. Howell said that a lot of people will be pleased to have the Meco Road traffic light before Christmas.
Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported on the Sullivan Trail Business Park. He reminded the Supervisors that they adopted a resolution at the July 17th BoS meeting that allowed that the developer (Goffredo) must have all the municipal improvements done by September 1 in order to see the return of the letter of credit money ($179,000) taken by the Township. In effect, the developer had six weeks to get everything done. Kline said, "It is now August 21 and he has not done a single thing other than write a letter to say that well maybe there will be bad weather and I won't be able to get it done by September 1." This has been the best August weather that Kline has seen in many years and the developer now has only 10 days to complete the work. Kline requested that this be put on the September 4th agenda.
Kline also reported that Henningsen Cold Storage has requested a Conditional Use Hearing which he originally thought could be heard (by the BoS) on September 4th if the Planning Commission (PC) reviewed it at their August 26th workshop. However, the PC has agreed to review the Crayola solar park plan so that Crayola can be before the BoS on September 4th. The PC will review the Henningsen land development plan at its September 11th meeting. A motion was made to hold the Henningsen Conditional Use Hearing at 6:30 PM before the September 18th BoS meeting. The motion passed 4:0.
Executive Session - An executive session was requested by Chuss to discuss a legal question. The session lasted over an hour. No action was taken during or after the session.
Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or COMMENT here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.