Sunday, November 23, 2008

BoS Meeting Notes - 11/20/2008

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Some of this night's meeting was once again devoted to discussion of the Forks EMS (FEMS) situation - whether FEMS will actually reimburse those residents who sent 2009 subscription dollars - in a timely fashion or whether it will be a very long, cold day... before FEMS sells its property and has the funds to make the promised restitution.   Please read Tony Nauroth (Express Times) for more on the complexities involved.    

Public Comments (non-agenda) -

  • Resident Sandy Hanks asked if the Township is paid for advertisements on its Zucksville Road electronic sign board.  She was told that "happy birthdays" are paid for but notices about scheduled Community Center activities (like massage services - since rent is collected for use of the Community Center) are not.
  • Bill Petterson, Director of Mad Science of the Lehigh Valley, complimented the Township for helping to make the summer Mad Science Camp a wonderful experience for all involved.  He said that he's done many workshops in a lot of townships and his observation is that Forks' Community Center is a true community center, existing for the community.  He especially thanked Don Miller, Rick Schnaedter, and the Community Center staff and said that "the kids had an absolutely wonderful time and learned a lot about science..."  Petterson said, "And who knows, maybe the next Einstein will come out of the Forks Township Mad Science Camp."  He also promised to do it again.
  • Resident Mark Phillips told the BoS that it was his understanding that the Township has no ordinance about tractor trailers parked on residential streets.  Zoning Officer Tim Weis told him that there is an ordinance and trucks are prohibited in residential areas and that he should call the Township and ask for the zoning office and the problem will be taken care of.  Mr. Phillips said that he called the police and officer Dressler told him that there was no law against it.  Weis explained that it is in the zoning ordinance and that his office will address it.   Mr. Phillips asked what to do "after hours" and Weis said that he should call the police department and that they will take the information and he (Weis) will deal with it during business hours.  Chief Dorney said that he will follow up on making sure officers are informed. 

Supervisor Remarks - None

Treasurer's Report - Supervisor Egolf was out of town and Finance Manager Farley detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors' meeting. The debits and transfers were approved with a 4:0 vote.  The Township's current outstanding debt is $7,400,223.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the next meeting will be held on December 2nd at 5 PM in the Municipal Building.  There has been no meeting since the last BoS meeting.  Chuss said that the emergency service tower is being built and that the hope is that the concrete flooring will be done next week so that it can cure over the holiday.

As to the "EMS situation," Chuss said that the EMS board member he spoke with (who told him that subscriptions would not be refunded) "spoke out of turn."  Chuss said "it has come to light" (ref. Tony Nauroth - Express Times, 11/8/08) that FEMS will repay the subscriptions and said the BoS needs to "go back" and look at the motion made at the last BoS meeting.  He asked Kline how the BoS should address it.

Kline said that the BoS operated with the information it had at the time - that Chuss reported that FEMS was not going to return subscription monies to residents - and acted on a motion to provide protection to Forks citizens who paid FEMS and not Suburban EMS (SEMS).  Kline said that since the original information now appears to have been in error, it is appropriate that the Supervisors take a step back and re-look at the situation.  He thought it a good idea that Public Safety take it up and make a recommendation to the BoS at the next meeting.  Kline also said that it would be appropriate for the BoS to consider revoking the motion to reimburse (via subscriptions to SEMS) residents for their FEMS subscriptions. 

Chuss made that motion and Miller seconded. 

In discussion of the motion, Howell said that he would rather wait and hear from the Public Safety Committee and that he would like to have had it as an agenda item or to have had some prior notice.  He said that it does no harm to continue receiving information from the public as to subscriptions paid to FEMS.  The BoS can act upon the information (or not) after the Public Safety review. 

Chuss said that in fact, he thought this (decision to revoke) was what came out of the meeting with SEMS on Tuesday.  Howell said that he was at that meeting and that is not what came out of it.  Kline said that he, too, was there and that it was his understanding that this issue was to be taken back to the Public Safety Committee with a recommendation.

Kline offered that there is no alternative motion being put forward tonight.  He added that right now, with the resolution from the last meeting, SEMS can anticipate receiving subscription money from the Township.

Howell asked if anyone believes that FEMS will pay these (subscription refunds) with available cash?  He said that FEMS' offer, "although well intended can't be well effectuated" and that he doesn't think that FEMS has the wherewithal to pay back the 120 to 150 subscription checks at this time.  Howell said that taking the offer off the table now, would put the BoS back where they were before.

Nicholas asked Kline for clarification and asked if SEMS was assuming that Forks would pay for subscriptions?  Kline said that right now, SEMS is assuming that the Township will pay for subscriptions whether or not the citizens get their money back.  The BoS must decide if it is going to rescind the resolution now or wait to make a decision until after the Public Safety meeting.

Howell said that he remembers the BoS saw a need to reimburse Forks citizens who paid FEMS - with a "credit."  He said that if they "believe in their heart" that FEMS will repay residents...  He said he doesn't see that happening and he would rather have the solution with SEMS that takes care of the entire arrangement.  He thought that the offer should be left open for the "integrity of the offer."

Resident Jim Wideman said that is was his understanding that if a resident paid (FEMS) before October 16th that the Township would pay SEMS for that resident's subscription.  He said that it didn't make the Township liable for any services and said that he thought it was a great offer by the Township for those caught in the middle.  Mr. Wideman said that he sees no reason to rescind that offer. 

Resident Sandy Hanks said that she agreed with Howell and thought it premature knowing FEMS' history.  She said that it was in the newspaper and people know to bring their cancelled checks to get a SEMS subscription.

Resident Dick Wambold said that it sounds like FEMS "has perpetrated a theft of services and that something should be done to them if the money is not paid back to Suburban."  Howell offered that the money was probably used for general expenses, a legitimate use of subscription monies.

The motion to rescind the reimbursement credit (from the October 16 meeting) and refer the matter to Public Safety to report back with a recommendation at the first BoS meeting in December was discussed further.  Nicholas said that she would like a (Public Safety) report before the (BoS) meeting.  Chuss said that the Public Safety meeting is after the (Supervisors') packets go out.  Howell suggested a fast email. 

Chuss offered that he would hate to see people going through the hassle of getting cancelled checks and that FEMS has gone on "very, very public record" about their intent to refund subscriptions.  He felt that the resolution should be rescinded as it can put back on the table in a month or the BoS can "start from scratch." 

Howell said that there is no money and that the refunds are not going to paid any time soon.  He referred to a  Morning Call article reporting that refunds (ref. Christopher Baxter, 11/11/08) will be paid only after the building is sold.  Howell said it is rather callous to walk away from the problem. 

The vote to revoke was defeated in a 1:3 vote.  Chuss was the only "yes."  This issue will be on the next BoS agenda.

  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - reported that public works is in the ongoing process of "putting up the park system" for the winter.  He said too, that the new "gym 1" HVAC installation should be completed tomorrow and that it did miss the summer cooling season.  Also, the Community Center is in the process of scheduling winter programs.  There will be 360 basketball games in the Community Center.  Forks has 30 teams.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - no report. 
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - reported that Supervisors have received copies of the next Forks Quarterly.  She asks that they get back to Schnaedter by noon on Monday with any recommended changes.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - absent and the budget continues to be the focus.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter announced that the Kiwanis annual tree lighting at the Municipal Building is set for December 7th at 7 PM.  Attendees are asked to bring non-perishable goods to be given to local food banks as the Kiwanis hope to have a substantial donation.  The Township staff is also collecting food and there will be collection baskets throughout the municipal complex. 

Engineer's Report - Hay - agenda items only.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - said that he reported at the last meeting that the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) rejected the challenge to the validity of the Forks Zoning Ordinance.  In another suit, KMRD's procedural challenge to all zoning ordinances back to 1983, the ZHB ruled that the 2006 Zoning Ordinance is valid and therefore there is no need to look back further. 

KMRD, however, likes the 1983 ordinance and would prefer to operate under it. To that end, KMRD has filed an appeal to the ZHB procedural challenge decision.  It is currently in the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County before Judge Emil Giordano

And, while this appeal was pending, KMRD filed a separate motion before the judge to "present additional evidence" about the other, older ordinances they were challenging and asked that the case be sent back to the ZHB.  Judge Giordano rejected that motion.

The ultimate issue, the validity of the procedures involved in enacting the 2006 zoning ordinance, has not yet been decided by the court.  If Judge Giordano agrees with the ZHB, that the 2006 procedures were valid, Kline feels that he will not require analysis of any of the prior zoning ordinances.  Kline said, "That's where it stands.  One more step along the way.  One more victory for the Township.  One more defeat for the developers." 

Kline added that there is a provision in the Municipal Planning Code (MPC) that appellants can petition the court to order that there be additional evidence.  However, he didn't think there could be a separate appeal on it.

Executive Session - There was a short mid-meeting executive session on a matter of potential litigation and on a personnel issue.  No action was taken during or after the session.


Ordinance #310 Adoption - Adamson Street Common Use Line (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that although all Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority (EAJSA) member municipalities thought the short Adamson Street line in West Easton was included as part of the common use sewer line, it was never officially part of the 1976 inter-municipal agreement.  All members must adopt this ordinance amendment to get it included.  Forks' representative to the EAJSA, Henning Holmgaard, recommends approval.  Kline said that the amendment was properly advertised and is ready for BoS approval.  The Supervisors agreed and adopted the ordinance in a 4:0 vote.

Proposed 2009 Township Budget - (Jim Farley, Finance Director) - Farley began with an overview of the budget process.  He said that they began working on the budget in early October and that there were five work sessions with the BoS and with department heads. 

There are challenges to the 2009 budget because the "bottom has fallen out" in housing starts and reality transfers as well as the reciprocal revenues, such as permits.  The net impact is that $400,000 of revenue is literally removed from the budget.  The Township must still deal with the price of fuel and with staff contractual obligations.

In the final work session, there was a proposal for the net reduction of $49,000 in general expenses across the board in all departments.  The capital requests for next year are frozen.  They will appear on the budget line as items but will not be released until at least mid-year after it has been determined that the revenue stream can support them.  That frozen amount is $345,000 in proposed capital purchases.  Even that amount still results in a shortfall for the needed 2010 carryover amount.  Therefore, a tax rate adjustment of 1/2 mil for 2009 is necessary.  This 1/2 mil increase is approximately equal to $39 per household. 

Forks is not alone as other municipalities are facing the same problem.  For the last 1-1/2 years, the Township has been looking for opportunities to renegotiate vendor contracts.  Farley said that he hopes that next year is decent and that reserves can be built up again. 

Farley said that this tentative, rough final draft of the budget can be approved or disapproved.  It must be on public view for 20 days and final approval can be at the December 18th BoS meeting or, if necessary, at a special meeting at the end of the year.

Nicholas asked if even with the 1/2 mil increase, the Township would still be short for the 2010 carryover?  Farley explained that it would be "little" short if the capital items are purchased.  Of course, if any capital items are to be purchased the priority will be decided by the BoS.

Howell asked when the real estate tax monies come in and Farley said that the majority are in by the end of May.

Farley said that the real estate transfer revenue is a big problem but if it rebounds a bit the Township will be in a better cash position and it will help to build back a significant reserve.

Howell asked if the budget had been adjusted for the drop in the price of gas and oil.  Farley said that it has not.  He used October rates.  Howell thought there might be an area of savings there.

Nicholas asked about the $218,000 surplus.  Farley said that if the capital items are not purchased, the surplus will be $500,000.

Planner Dean Turner asked if the budget will be on the website.  He was told yes and that it will be at the Municipal Building counter tomorrow.  The legal advertisement should be in the newspaper over the weekend.

The 2009 tentative budget with its included 1/2 mil increase was adopted with a 4:0 vote.


Fancy Furrow Farms Preliminary / Final Minor Subdivision Plan (Tim Weis, Zoning Officer) - Engineer Fred Hay referred to Keystone's letter of 10/3/08.  He explained that this plan is taking one tract of land and creating a three lot subdivision.  On lots one and two are two residences and a business.  He recommended approval with the conditions specified by the Planning Commission (PC).

Howell said that it appears the PC is asking for a 40 ft. right-of-way from the center of the road and going around two of the buildings (so that the buildings will not be in the right-of-way).  And, that the applicant (former Supervisor John Ackerman) did not feel it necessary to dedicate a right-of-way. 

Hay said that the PC recommends that the BoS reject the plan if the right-of-way is not dedicated.

Attorney Joel Scheer, representing Fancy Furrow Farms, pointed out that there are no proposals for changes in use or intensity.  The purpose is to separate the lots so that John Ackerman's brother's lot is broken off from the tract.  Scheer said that because Uhler Road is a State road and because Fort James III is under development, PennDOT has "fully vetted" Uhler Road.

Scheer said that based on previous court rulings, a subdivision cannot be rejected based on the refusal to grant a right-of-way.  Setbacks can be required but not rights-of-way. Scheer said that the courts say that if you insist on someone's land, you have to pay for it. 

Kline said that that the MPC specifies in Section 503, that "a subdivision or land development shall conform to the Comprehensive Plan..."  The SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance) looks at various streets and indicates certain rights-of-way for those streets.  In the case of Uhler Road, the right-of-way is 40 feet from the center of the road.  Kline advised that Keystone did not just make it up on an "ad hoc basis."

A long discussion ensued about traffic, the Fort James III development, road improvements, and PennDOT's unwillingness to have money to acquire land for road widening while still demanding same - forcing townships to pay for it.  A potential problem is, that in the future, Braden Boulevard may extend north and take a left over to Church Lane.  Another issue is future development to the north.

There was also discussion of the improvements made by JG Petrucci for the Fort James III industrial park.  They include extending the sewer line across the road to the Ackerman rental building on lot 2 (the old dairy store now occupied by a tenant - who, the PC was told, may want to purchase the building) and grass planting and railroad tie curbing.

Hay offered that a road is never paved to the edge of a right-of-way - usually only up to 10 feet of it.  An acceptable compromise was achieved with the word "covenant" - it will run with the land and be noted on the plan along with a 40 foot right-of-way that jogs appropriately around existing buildings and that covenant will apply to all three of the lots.  It will used if any of the lots are developed - in the future.

As to the on-lot septic, the BoS was informed that the developer has agreed to hook up the two buildings on lot 2 because the septic system will be only inches from the road. 

The BoS voted 4:0 to grant conditional approval, subject to Keystone's letter of 10/3/08 (less comments #3 and #4), of the Fancy Furrow minor subdivision with the covenant that the Township has the right to acquire the 40 foot (from the road center) right-of-way (with the jogs around the buildings).  The covenant shall be subject to the approval of the Township Solicitor. 

Sullivan Trail Business Park, Lot 5B Daycare Center – developer’s agreement (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline recounted the approval of the splitting of lot 5 into two lots, lot 5A and lot 5B (ref. the April 3rd BoS meeting notes).  The day care center developer requires an indemnification agreement so that dirt can be moved.  There is no letter of credit yet so no building permit can be issued.  The certificate of insurance, the escrow account money, and the indemnification agreement "signed by our good friend Mr. Goffredo" have been received.  The vote was 4:0 to accept the developer's agreement.  

Executive Session - There was an executive session on a personnel matter.  No action was taken 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.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Forks 2009 Projection = 10% tax increase + cinched belt

According to an article by Christopher Baxter in the November 13, 2008 Morning Call, Forks officials working on the 2009 budget are in the uncomfortable position of cutting expenses AND raising taxes.  The worldwide economic mess is hitting home... homes in Forks.  Property owners may be facing a 10% real estate tax increase in 2009.

In the past, Forks' rapidly rising population and simultaneously rising expenses were subsidized by the very developers who built-out the Township.  That building/revenue source has come to a screeching halt. 

Everyone knew it would happen sooner or later.  Most expected that it would end slowly and that lost developer monies would be replaced by monies from new economic development in our industrial parks. 

The world stepped in, however, and Forks Township, just like its residents, is being forced to examine every budget line item. 

A glance at the official Township calendar shows that the Finance & Administration standing committee will meet at least one more time before the budget is adopted by the BoS at its December 18th meeting.  The Finance & Administration meetings are working sessions that are open to the public. 

Hang on to your hats!

Election 2008 over - Election 2009 begins

Thinking about running for one of the two upcoming vacancies on the Forks Board of Supervisors?  There is good  news for you this month.  It might even get you off of the fence and into the ring. 

On Saturday, November 22nd the League of Women Voters of Lehigh County and the League of Women Voters of Northampton County are hosting a workshop on running for local office in 2009.  It will be held at Northampton Community College, in the Kiva room, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 (continental breakfast included).  There is a $45 charge to cover their costs - a workbook is included.

For more information on this highly acclaimed (by successful candidates) workshop, please see the workshop brochure.  And, get off that fence! 

Sunday, November 09, 2008

BoS Meeting & Recreation Plan Workshop - Notes - 11/6/2008

Workshop 7:00 PM - Five Year Recreation Plan

Ed Moore of the Recreation Board was the spokesperson for the five year plan committee.  He acknowledged the help and input of Butch Scerbo, Jeff Bader, Jim Craig (also an Elected Auditor), and Bob Dilts. 

Moore detailed Forks' growth from 2003-2007.  He said that 1344 homes were built and that the population is now 14,500.  Moore said that the last five year plan was done in 1977 and that the October 2006 recreation survey was used to formulate the new plan.  The survey was sent to 5196 households and 1078 were returned - for a 21% response rate.  Of the 1078 completed surveys, 97 residents chose expansion of the walking/biking/jogging trail system as their first choice, 70 opted for a swimming pool (as first choice), and 58 preferred improved playgrounds and playground expansion (as first choice.)  (Also see:  FAC notes from Supervisor Miller's presentation of the interpreted survey results to the BoS - December 2006.)

Moore stressed that the new plan is dynamic, in that it can be changed in the future as needed.  Plan highlights by year include:

  1. 2008 
    1. gather information and start a pool feasibility study
    2. preparation of a bid spec to recondition the four tennis courts
    3. review and update the master bike plan
  2. 2009
    1. construct a bandshell
    2. look at building a dog park
    3. grade and seed the recreation land at Braden park, Lafayette (Meco?) park, and the DeWalt/Maloney field
    4. build restrooms at Braden park and Meco field
    5. erect an "all purpose" building at airport (Braden?) park
  3. 2010
    1. install ball fields at DeWalt/Maloney park
    2. recreation fields at Lafayette and airport parks
    3. consider adding an additional pavilion and basketball court to Community Park
    4. review a bike bridge over Sullivan Trail
  4. 2011
    1. consider building an outdoor ice skating rink
    2. acquire land for a possible sleigh ride and tubing park
  5. 2012
    1. finish projects from prior year
    2. begin work on a new five year plan


Supervisor Nicholas asked if the only passive recreation in the plan was to continue the recreation paths and build a bandshell?  Moore said that the "all purpose building" will serve Township seniors who want dancing and aerobic exercise.  He added that the Community Center basketball courts are ill-suited for that. 

Supervisor Howell asked Moore if he thought that the Community Center could not be expanded?  Moore said that was a great question but he wasn't sure if the land around it was sufficient for expansion. 

Howell then asked if the lack of mention of neighborhood parks was because it was not on the 2006 survey?  Moore replied that the committee began work on the plan in June before they had the tabulated survey data and that the neighborhood parks discussions with the Parks & Recreation BoS Standing Committee began after June.  He said that they took that on as a separate issue (from the five year plan) and were waiting for the BoS to give them "some direction on how that was to go forward."

Howell said that he was hoping for a more comprehensive plan - one that wasn't just recreation and might include expanding the arboretum and addressing the traffic that adding more ball fields will bring. 

Supervisor Miller offered that the original park plan (from 1991) shows another parking lot - inside the park - from the Sycamore Avenue dead end.  Howell bet that other than Miller, there is not a single Supervisor who knows that there is a plan to use Community Park land for a parking lot. 

Howell said that he would have liked the plan to address the Community Center's deficiencies.  He added that the developer-built bike paths on the master plan do not all exist but are planned and will be built at an unknown time in the future - by developers when their projects are under construction.  He wanted to see a plan linking the paths - those links must be built and paid for by the Township since they are not part of a development.  Howell said that a more comprehensive plan would show the BoS where they will need to find capital. 

Supervisor Chuss said that he thinks the plan is a good foundation and includes some great ideas.  He thought that the next steps should be set-up and that some ballpark cost figures are needed.  Moore said that this is a broad based plan about what the Township wants.  Nicholas remarked that the plan is a good foundation and needs more direction from the BoS.  She added that the committee should elaborate on some of the items and estimate some of the costs. 

Supervisor Egolf commented that the plan is a "fine job and a good start."  He too, questioned the lack of neighborhood parks in the plan.  Moore said that the committee wanted input from the BoS about whether or not the parks should be put in "pockets" or in existing parks.  Egolf said that he thought that the spring joint meeting (specifically on the subject of neighborhood parks) defined the issue.  He added that a whole summer was lost without neighborhood parks and he wouldn't like another summer to go by without them.  The Parks & Recreation committee has petitions from residents and has met with a lot of people and would like the Recreation Board's endorsement. 

Chuss said that "neighborhood parks" were never before the BoS.  Egolf said that there was a joint workshop and he didn't understand why anyone in Forks would be against neighborhood parks.  Moore said that the Recreation Board is not against neighborhood parks and that the Recreation Board lost a whole summer waiting for the five year recreation plan.

Butch Scerbo said that he is not against tot-lots but is against a basketball court in Penn's Ridge.  He said that the Parks & Recreation (BoS standing) committee meets during working hours.  Egolf said that the committee would have changed the meeting times had there been requests.

The BoS will get back to Miller on how it will go forward with the five year recreation plan. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Much of the next nearly three hours was devoted to discussion of the EMS subscription issue and how Suburban EMS (SEMS) was to recover revenues lost during the one month between the dissolution of its billing agreement with Forks EMS (FEMS) and its designation as the Township's sole EMS provider. 

Please read Tony Nauroth's very clear Express Times article for more on the EMS discussion and the BoS action to help make residents who paid FEMS and not SEMS convert their subscriptions to SEMS.

NOTE:  On November 8, the Express Times' Tony Nauroth reported that the now defunct Forks EMS will return all checks to residents who subscribed during its 2009 fund drive. 

Public Comments (non-agenda) -

  • Katherine Watt (sic) representing the Lehigh Valley Coalition on Affordable Housing in Bethlehem said that she sent a letter to Chairman Howell (in September) about the Coalition's annual municipal funding appeal for the area's nine city based shelters.  Currently funding comes from the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton but the group feels that all municipalities should share the responsibility for caring for the valley's homeless population.  She said that 42% of the people using the shelters are from outside of the major cities and and that in 2007, 11 were from Forks Township.  The total shelter census for 2007 was 2598.

Heads of households who are working and can't make it on what they earn represent 25% of the shelter users.  Fair market apartment rent in the LV is $816 and the LV is has a severe apartment shortage.  The shelters offer programs to address self-sufficiency. 

The Coalition is asking for $5,633, a figure arrived at based on Forks' demographics in the 2000 census.  Ms. Watt said that the BoS last contributed five or six years ago and that she is aware that budget constraints make this is a bad time to ask.  (Please see BoS Meeting Notes 10/20/05 for the coalition's last appeal to the BoS.)

Tyson Sprandell representing Safe Harbor in Easton told the BoS that Safe Harbor helps 300 homeless men and women per year and serves two meals a day to about 75 in its day time drop in program.  He said that he needs to raise $100,000 a year in order to keep the doors open.

  • Marcia Hauser of Penn's Ridge addressed the BoS about plans for a basketball court in Penn's Ridge.  She said that quite a few people object, particularly those adjacent to the open field.  She said that they have no problem with a playground.  She questioned whether the basketball court would be lighted.  Howell explained that at this time, a basketball court is a proposal only and started as a proposal for a 2-12 year old toddler lot with park benches and a swing set.  Basketball was added as a response to complaints about stand alone basketball hoops in the rights-of-way.  Ms. Hauser said that she counted the hoops and there are 22 of them. Of the kids using the hoops, only one does not get out of the way of cars.  That child's basketball hoop is located between 2551 and 2545 Penn's Ridge Boulevard.

Ms. Hauser also said that a basketball court is an invitation for kids to hang out.   She said that the history of the parking lot (on Silo Drive) is not good.  At one time, residents were parking cars and trailers there for storage.  The kids would get between the parked vehicles and get high and drink beer.  Ms. Hauser said that she and her neighbor cleaned up there and on two occasions found two empty cases of beer, a roach (pot) and two used condoms.  The police were called a couple of times to get residents to move their vehicles and now it's an empty lot.  Kids don't hang out there anymore.

Lots of Penn's Ridge kids use the field for football, baseball, golf, and volley ball.  Ms. Hauser wondered how much room the court will cover and if it will prevent other kids from using the field.  She asked too, about basketballs hitting parked cars (parked on the street because there is no place else to park) and noise (some residents in the immediate area work nights and sleep during day).  Water damage and flooding are also concerns because of the slope of the field (which serves as a water retention area.)

And, lastly Ms. Hauser said that her neighbor put in a pool and had to post a sign and notify neighbors within a specific area about the construction of the pool.  She wondered why no one in Penn's Ridge has been notified about a basketball court and where it is to be located. 

Howell explained that the Township is so far away from putting one in, that it is not yet time to notify residents.  He also said that funds have not been allocated.  Howell asked Ms. Hauser if it was her general feeling that the neighbors do not like the stand alone hoops?  He said that people came to a BoS meeting and complained about how difficult it is to walk on the sidewalk with the hoops obstructing them.  Howell said that the big issue with the stand alone hoops is the winter - cars on the roads and snow clearing. 

Chuss said that he was approached by two residents about flags/stakes who wanted to know if it will be a full or half court.  Chuss said that he told them it was for a basketball court and although he didn't know whether it would be a full or half court, he thought a full court would be open the public and would not be restricted to Penn's Ridge residents.  Chuss said that the residents do not want to encourage people to come there - "undesirable people" - and that there would be parking issues.  He also said that a friend told him that Vista Estates residents are concerned about tot lots bringing a negative element into their neighborhood.  Howell asked Ms. Hauser if she objected to a tot lot near the parking lot.  She said that she does not object.

  • John Wieller of Penn's Ridge addressed the BoS to make them aware of kids hanging around in the Community Park playground near the basketball court.  He said that a woman told him she can't take her kids there because of the foul language from these kids.  Mr. Wieller said too, that the kids take the football bleachers and put them in the middle of the basketball court, skateboard on them, and hang around smoking cigarettes.  He said that he called a police officer over on one occasion.  He said that he does not want "that" in his development.  Mr. Wieller told the Supervisors that they should see what's there on a Saturday afternoon and that it needs patrolling.  He said that the kids are in fifth, sixth, and seventh grades.  As to the stand alone basketball hoops, he said that there are 21 in the development and he has one for his kids.  His kids get out of the way of cars and the hoop is moved out of the way when it snows.

Supervisor Remarks: 

Chairman Howell said that the Board received a letter from Leiser's Rental & Sales relative to the light at Meco Road and Sullivan Trail.  The Board got it this evening.

Treasurer's Report - Egolf detailed the debits (cash paid out) since the last Supervisors' meeting.  The debits and transfers were approved with a 5:0 vote.  The Township's current outstanding debt is $7,768,332.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Chuss - said that the committee met on November 4th. 
    • Police Chief Dorney reported that the department passed the formal onsite assessment for re-accreditation - with "flying colors."  The process included a facility tour and inspection, a policy manual review, and a thorough compliance file review.  Dorney will go to Harrisburg on December 8th to appear before the accreditation bureau with a recommendation that the department be re-accredited for the next three years.  There are 1252 municipal police departments in PA and only 50 are recognized as accredited.
    • Chuss said that the department is looking into the possibility of national accreditation - in three years.  It would involve a commitment from the Township.
    • There is progress being made on the modular furniture and the evidence locker installation.  Both should be done by year end or very early next year. 
    • The emergency services tower foundation backfill is complete, the floor is done, and the building erection should start Thursday and take 4-6 weeks.
    • The committee discussed a volunteer incentive program and will make recommendations to the BoS.
    • An hour and twenty minutes of the committee's meeting was devoted to discussion of EMS status.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Miller - reported that the committee had not met since the last BoS meeting and will meet next week. 
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Howell - said that the committee had not met since the last BoS meeting and did have a workshop at 7 PM - prior to this night's meeting. 
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Nicholas - reported that the committee will meet on Monday at 6 PM.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Egolf - said that the committee met on October 22nd and the main focus continues to be the 2009 budget.   The next meeting is November 12th at 5 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter asked the BoS for authorization to hire a new DPW employee.  The position has been vacant for four months.  The interview process is complete.  Leaf collection has begun and snow plowing is upcoming.  Another worker is out because of medical disability.  The new employee is needed.  He would like to make the offer to the selected individual tomorrow.  The vote to authorize the new hire was 5:0.

Schnaedter also reported that he is getting positive feedback from the business leaders breakfast.  Interest in continuing has been expressed.

Engineer's Report - Hay - reported that the Sullivan Trail Business Park paving has been completed - by the developer's paving contractor.  Hay also reported that the foundation and slab for the fire training facility are completed. 

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that the last of the KMRD hearings on the substantive challenge to the language of the zoning ordinance before the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) was held on October 20.  There were closing arguments and statements in opposition from several citizens.  The ZHB voted unanimously to reject the challenge.  The next step is a written statement drafted by the ZHB solicitor and approved by the ZHB.

KMRD has vowed to immediately appeal to the Northampton Court of Common Pleas.  There will be no hearings conducted in that court as the court's decision is based solely on the records established by the ZHB hearings.  The case will likely go further - to the Commonwealth Court, if not to the PA Supreme Court. 

Howell thanked Kline and attorney Steve Goudsouzian for the best legal advice the Township could have had.


Suburban EMS Subscription Discussion (Erik Chuss, Supervisor) - Notes from this over 1-1/2 hour discussion to follow.  Please read Tony Nauroth's very clear Express Times article for more on the EMS discussion and the BoS action to help make residents who paid FEMS and not SEMS convert their subscriptions to SEMS.  Morning Call reporter, Christopher Baxter was there but no report has yet been online - nor in print that we have seen.

Please note:  On November 8, the Express Times' Tony Nauroth reported that the now defunct Forks EMS will return all checks to residents who subscribed during its 2009 fund drive. 

Municipal Pool – Feasibility Study (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter reported that he and Miller met with Mr. Lorne Possinger from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to get some tips on preparing the bid spec document.  Possinger told them that a feasibility study can cost between $20,000 and $40,000.  The City of Easton study cost about $60,000.  Schnaedter researched further and learned that the cost paid by three municipalities that either recently renovated or built pools ranged from $2.7 million to $6 million.  Schnaedter asked the BoS, in light of the costs involved, if he should proceed with preparing a bid document for a feasibility study. 

Chuss suggested that "in light of budgetary considerations" that the study be revisited in the second quarter of next year.  Egolf thought that other contiguous municipalities might be interested in a joint venture. 

Howell said that it would be wasted money if the study were done and the pool not built.  He said that this is an inappropriate time to go forward. 

The pool feasibility study was tabled because of budgetary considerations and the economy and Schnaedter was directed to not proceed with the RFP but to keep the documents he has amassed so far, in a file. 


CCTV System – Awarding of bid (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter reported that this has gone out to bid twice.  The first time only one bid was received and it was deficient.  This time two bids were received - the low one was deficient and the next bid was much higher.  He recommended that both bids be rejected and that it be re-advertised.  The BoS agreed in a 5:0 vote.

Elsie Brown Preliminary / Final Minor Subdivision Plan (Tim Weis, Zoning Officer) - Hay explained that this was taking one large tract and making two smaller ones - basically cutting the tract in half.  There is no development permitted since the land is all in preservation and therefore there is no drainage issue.  It is the settling of an estate and one of the lots may be sold to a farmer.  There may be a house built on the other 54.37(?) acre parcel.  One house is allowed in the County preservation agreement and Kline explained that Maria Bentzoni (of the County) sent a letter indicating approval. 

Both votes were 5:0.  The first granted waivers of plan scale, absence of contour lines, and drainage requirements and the second was to approve the final minor subdivision.

Application for permit to install and operate traffic signals – Meco Road & Sullivan Trail (Fred Hay, Township Engineer) - Hay explained that PennDOT has lost the resolution already created by the Township.  Hay said that he met with the PennDOT District 5-0 traffic engineer and his position was that the signal, with the existing Leiser driveway will never come to fruition.  The engineer felt that the best place for Leiser's driveway is behind his barn and that he didn't think that Leiser should get two driveways.  In fact, according to Hay, PennDOT won't approve two driveways. 

Hay's recommendation is that the BoS grant a waiver (of distance from the intersection) to Mr. Leiser and allow him to move his driveway to the other side of the foundation and as far as possible towards the insurance building (to the south).  Hay said that he will meet with Mr. Leiser tomorrow.

The BoS passed the motion to apply for the permit to install and operate a traffic signal at Meco Road and Sullivan Trail with a 5:0 vote. 

Kline said that he thinks the Township took the position previously that Mr. Leiser could keep his Sullivan Trail driveway where it is but that it would not allow another on Meco Road.  The problem is that it is not acceptable to PennDOT. 

Hay said that PennDOT will not allow two driveways and that he will offer Mr. Leiser either a moved Sullivan Trail driveway or one from Meco. 

Resolution for One Street Light/Riverview Ests. Ramblewood Dr. & Road A (tabled prev.mtg.) (Fred Hay, Township Engineer) - Hay explained that this is a Met-Ed resolution for a street light at the Riverview Recreation Center.  It was approved 5:0.

2009 Budget - First Submission (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Farley said that he submitted a rough draft of the 2009 budget and that a tentative work session is scheduled for November 12th at 5 PM.  Nicholas suggested that all departments with capital projects in their budgets, justify and prioritize them.  Farley said that he will email all department heads and ask that they submit their lists in writing.  He also asked that any Supervisors who have questions let him know prior to the work session and he will do research in advance to answer.  Chuss said that although he cannot be at the work session, he will submit his ideas for areas to cut costs to the Board via email. 

Ordinance # 310 – Adamson Street Sewer Line (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline explained that the proposed ordinance amendment to the 1976 Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority (EAJSA) original inter-municipality ordinance - that created the EAJSA - was necessary because although it was thought that the Adamson Street line was included as a common use line, it was not in any of the agreements.  The ordinance amendment has been reviewed and approved by all member municipalities and endorsed by Forks' representative to the EAJSA, Henning Holmgaard, as appropriate.  The vote to advertise the ordinance for adoption was 5:0.  It will be adopted by the BoS at its November 20th meeting.

Executive Session - There was an executive session on a personnel matter.  No action was taken 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.