Sunday, December 27, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 12/17/2009

Regular Meeting (agenda)

Four plus hours of meeting resulted in Supervisors voting 4:1 for the public works garage concept produced by Kimmel-Bogrette Architecture.  There was much discussion between the Board and residents who own properties near the intended site.  For more details, please read Sara Satullo's Express Times article.

On this night, Supervisors also approved a new fire truck purchase, a renewal of the fire coverage contract with Stockertown, and the 2010 budget.  There will be no tax increase for Forks property owners in 2010! 

Supervisors also learned that developer Gary Strausser has filed yet another lawsuit against the Township and, this time, also against Township Solicitor, Karl Kline, and Board Chairman, David Howell.  Strausser alleges that he has been deprived of his constitutional rights - because the Township is enforcing its cash escrow policy and filing deadlines.  See Michael Buck, Express Times, and Christopher Baxter, Morning Call for more.

It was also a night of retirements from the Board and from staff.  Supervisors Miller and Nicholas were presented with plaques and words of appreciation for their years of service to the Township.  Miller served on the Board for 24 years.  Nicholas served one term as a Supervisor and before that was on the Zoning Hearing Board (for one plus terms).  Township Engineer, Fred Hay/Keystone Engineering, said that Keystone worked for the Township for 13 years. 

Miller listed some of his accomplishments including the expansion of the park from 20 acres to over 50 acres, the creation of a park plan (by URDC) that has been followed in the development of the park, the recreation path, the log cabin, and the park arboretum.  The arboretum theme is "trees around the world."  Miller said that Forks has one of the nicest community parks in the Lehigh Valley.

Nicholas thanked everyone for "tolerating" her for the last six years.  She said that the Township has a really good group of employees and that she is leaving the Township in good hands.

Hay said that being associated with Forks Township for the past 13 years has been his (and Keystone's) privilege.

Public Comments (non-agenda) -

  • David Hoff, former Forks Supervisor, addressed the Board and spoke to Don Miller's first election 24 years ago.  He congratulated Miller for serving for 24 years and said that Miller only got into politics because they (the Recreation Board and the Athletic Association) were convinced that they needed someone to watch out for recreation - and that he did.  Hoff said that Miller has served the community well and he thanked him on behalf of "the generations of children and adults yet to come" who will enjoy what he has done in the community.
  • Ken Nagy, Forks resident, spoke first to what he referred to as "airport expansion."  He said that larger fuel tanks and a larger terminal constitute expansion.  Mr. Nagy said that this expansion deals with traffic at Braden and Queen City airports noting that it would be foolish for the Airport Authority to sink money into Braden without a some sort of return.  He said that the Airport Authority is really talking about expansion, including increased traffic and night operation.  Mr. Nagy said that the property the airport sits on, because of the coming Tatamy/Palmer Route 33 interchange, is going to be worth a heck of a lot of money.  He said that Allentown desperately wants the Queen City land for its tax base and that Braden will likely see some transfer of traffic.  He said that he "would like to see the community take the land back."

Mr. Nagy also addressed "open space" and asked the BoS to ask Solicitor Kline to write a letter to Northampton County Council saying that they have reneged on the open space contract and that Forks wants its 1/4 point back - so that it can be used for its own projects.  The monies paid for open space are now part of the County's general fund.  He said that he is aggravated by projects outside of the county receiving funding while County farms sit on the list.  Mr. Nagy said that he is disappointed that "you people" did not push harder for the open space committee to do something.  He suggested that BoS meeting nights be changed so that some of "you" can attend County meetings (held on the same nights).  He said that what is in the newspapers is not what goes on there at all. 

  • Sandy Hanks, Forks resident, asked the Board if the Township has an ordinance that deals with weight limits on certain roads.  In particular, she said that she saw an open type tractor trailer (like a grain truck) turn onto Frost Hollow Road.  Chief Dorney said that Frost Hollow is a State road and that if she sees another truck on it of that size she should call Forks police.   He said that the department has two officers on day shift who are certified in truck weight limits.   Mark Roberts, DPW Director said that there were salt deliveries today and that the truck she saw was one of the delivery trucks. 

Mrs. Hanks also asked who is responsible for the care of sidewalks in Riverview Estates?  She said that there is a portion of sidewalk missing on Winchester Dr. and there is a utility box in the way.  She said people run there at night and someone recently fell.   She said that it is a safety issue and should be marked with yellow tape or a saw horse.  Howell said that Winchester belongs to the developer and has not yet been dedicated to the Township.  Township Engineer Fred Hay said that the completion of the sidewalk is on the punch list for Riverview Recreation Phase 1.  It is Strausser property and the improvements must be done by June 2010.  Hay added that most of the improvements on the punch list have been completed.

  • Jeff Sargent (sic), of Northeast ITS told the Board that his company has submitted drawings and a letter to the Township.  They are laying 350-400 miles of fiber (cable) from Ohio through New Jersey.  He said that he was at this meeting as a "courtesy call."  He said that the letter contains contact information and a brief synopsis of the project.  Mr. Sargent said that although this is being done in state rights-of-way, they are contacting all the townships impacted.  He said that when they come through an area they place hangers on doors.  The hangers have 800 numbers and contact information.  This west to east line is now in Mercer County and it will cut through Forks near Bushkill Park Drive and then go east to Easton.  There will, at a minimum, be a meeting with PA One Call.  They notify all the utilities in the townships.  The majority of the line is installed by drilling - it is bored and the fiber is pulled through.  Cross-country lines have indicator posts installed but in towns, curbs are marked instead.
  • Nancy Walters, Forks resident, urged Supervisors to pursue a more aggressive path for re-cycling.  She suggested that Forks consider, in addition to its existing curbside recycling, a recycling center.  She offered that Bethlehem's facility is nice and is on a relatively small piece of land.  It generates an income stream, part time jobs, and mentoring positions for young people.  She thought that the Frost Hollow property (where the current DPW garage is) might be a suitable site.  She also encouraged the Board to sponsor e-waste and hazardous waste programs. 

Mrs. Walters also said that she is involved with the Kiwanis Club.  She asked that, since
we are all aging" that recreation for adults become a focus. 

And, she told the Board that the YMCA daycare has created a safety hazard on Old Sullivan Trail.  Cars are parked on both sides of the street and parents - "fifty percent of the time on their cell phones" - come "sailing out of there" and cannot see.  Howell said that it is a problem and that two SUVs going in opposite directions on the street would probably hit mirrors.  He said that the Public Safety Committee is aware of the problem and will discuss the sight line further.

Howell also said that she will be contacted when discussions begin on the second life of the Frost Hollow public works site.

Supervisors' Remarks:

  • Supervisor Nicholas said that she attended the Community Days committee meeting last week and learned that Susan and Harry Bennett, current joint chairs of the committee, are moving from Forks to Palmer Township.  The bylaws require residency - and happily the Bennetts have offered to help after they move.  Neal Fehnel has offered to vice chair the committee.  A chairperson is being sought.  Howell suggested that he and Township Manager Schnaedter use their association with the Forks Business and Commerce Association to "put some muscle on the project" - but citizen participation is needed as well.  Susan Bennett said that the Forks Township Community Days now has non-profit status and has applied for grants - some businesses, like Crayola, require a list of officers.  On that application she wrote "to be announced" for president, for vice president she wrote Neal Fehnel, for secretary, Dan Whiting (sic), and for treasurer there is no one.  At the moment, the committee has an impressive steering committee.  She said that the time to act is now since letters seeking funds go out in March.  Mrs. Bennett suggested that Nicholas become president of the group since she has been involved since its inception.  Howell expressed his appreciation of the work that the Bennetts have done every year. 

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 $7,739,994.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Howell - said that this was his last year as chairman of the committee.  Next year, Supervisor Egolf will be the chairman and the 2010 meeting times will be set at the Re-Org meeting on January 4th.  The main topic at this past week's meeting was the fire and vehicle rescue assistance agreement with the Borough of Stockertown.  It is on tonight's agenda.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the committee met on December 8th and reviewed the DPW garage site plans, any concerns about it, and any potential cost savings.  Also under review was the Meadow Lane property issue.  Chuss said that this was his last meeting as chairman of the committee and that next year Howell will hold that position.  He said that this has been a good year and thanked everyone for their help and support. 
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - said that, with the help of Supervisor Nicholas, this was an extremely successful year.  Because the meeting time was changed to evening, the committee met almost every month with the Recreation Board and the Athletic Association.  Among the accomplishments in 2009 was the tot lot and basketball court a Penn's Ridge, replacement of the outdoor exercise equipment in the park, the park tennis and basketball courts were reconditioned, plans were begun for the amphitheater, the five acre parcel (behind the community center) was graded and seeded, and rest rooms were installed at Braden and Lafayette fields.  Egolf said that the committee had a very successful meeting last Monday.  Next year, Supervisor Rogers will be chair and assistant chair will be Supervisor Billings.  The Recreation Board priority list, part of its five year plan, has top priority.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - said that the last meeting was cancelled and that in January, Chuss will chair the committee and Howell will be assistant chairman.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the committee met on December 9 and reviewed the monthly finances.  She said that they Township did rather well and is $700,000 "up."  Of that, $270,000 will go to the carryover accrual.  There should be $500,000 in total carryover for bills at the beginning of the year.  The committee also reviewed agenda procedures, community center rentals and rates, the police server, evaluation forms, a fire truck, the public works garage, goal setting, the police retirement plan, and wrestling building rentals.

Howell introduced the new Supervisors, Michele Rogers and David Billings.  Rogers will be chairing the Parks & Recreation Committee and Billings will head the Finance & Administration Committee. 

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - said that his written report was before the Board and unless the Board had questions, he had no additional comments.  Howell commented that Forks has never had such well written and organized manager's reports.

Engineer's Report - Fred Hay - agenda items only.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - said that Gary Strausser has filed another lawsuit against the Township and this time also against Township Solicitor Kline and Supervisor Chairman Howell claiming that his civil rights have been violated by the enforcement of the Township's cash escrow requirements and plan filing deadlines - the same rules that apply to all developers.  Kline said that Mr. Strausser has signed contracts agreeing to the cash escrow requirements and now he says that they deprive him of his constitutional rights.   Kline offered that the suit has no merit whatsoever and that it is an effort to intimidate and bully the Township.  "The Township has not and will not give in to such tactics," said Kline.  All developers must "abide the rules specified by State law."  

Kline also said that he heard from Alfero Construction's owner who wanted to know why their land development plan was rejected.  The Alfero plan was rejected by the BoS at its December 3rd meeting because there was no activity and the engineer's comments (and letter) were ignored.  If the Township does not act within a certain amount of time, a plan can be deemed approved.  And, the Board had to act in order to avoid a deemed approval.  The developer did not show up at the Planning Commission (PC) meeting so the PC recommended rejection.  The developer did not show up at the BoS meeting either.   Kline said that Alfero's engineer apparently did not advise him of the correspondence and meeting dates.  Alfero asked the Board's consideration and told Kline that he plans to appear before the Board at the January 4 meeting. 

Chuss questioned having a regular business meeting after the January 4th Re-Org meeting and was reminded that if one wasn't held then, it would have to be held on the first Thursday - January 7th - and that the BoS customarily has the regular meeting following the Re-Org meeting.


Final Adoption of 2010 Budget (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Howell remarked that the budget process was an arduous task led by (Finance Manager) Farley and Schnaedter, who kept the process on schedule, met with staff, met with the board, and complied with statute requirements. 

Farley said that the process began in October with (open to the public) work sessions with department heads.  It continued with the first draft submission and its posting on the Township website.  On November 19th the draft was tentatively adopted by the Board.  It was available for public view on both the website and at the Township office.

Revenues are projected at $7.483 million against (projected) expenses of $7.386 million.  The $96,000 surplus will be used to build the yearend carryover.  The purpose of the carryover is to fund the first few months of the year.  There is no revenue stream in the first few months of the year - until the tax bills are mailed out and payments are received. 

Farley said that the goal is to hold the line on expenses and look for the most frugal ways to do business while keeping services where they are now.  Egolf made the motion to accept the 2010 budget, Chuss seconded, and the vote was 5:0.  Howell noted that taxes are not being raised and it looks like the Township is in pretty good shape.

Bethlehem Army Reserve Center (Fred Hay, Township Engineer) - Hay explained that the engineer's letter from December 4th and the Army Reserve land development plan, to join two lots, were in the BoS packets. 

Zoning Officer Weis said that the lot line adjustment is part of the approval for the land development.  Chuss said that he thought the Board was to see a presentation of the project. 

A representative of the US Army Corps of Engineers was there to explain the plan and why the Army Reserve is leaving its Bethlehem facility for a new home in Forks - it is because of BRAC, Base Realignment And Closure.  The new site is composed of lots 15 & 16 in Fort James III - on the same side of Braden Boulevard as Weyerhaeuser and just north of it.  It will be home to a 39,000 square foot two story training facility - for 200 reservists, a maintenance facility for military equipment, and unheated storage. 

Chuss said that a presentation was given to the Planning Commission (PC) and that the PC recommended (to the Board) that the Board approve the plan.  However, the Board gives final approval and it likes to know what it is approving.  The same presentation would help.  Howell agreed and said that the Board at least deserves the same presentation.  Nicholas said that she's never had someone come in and say that this is what they want and give no presentation.  She added that the PC is an advisory board only.

Egolf said that he believes the developer (the Army Corps)  should follow the usual procedures and that the BoS should have a full presentation similar to, or the same as, the one given to the PC.  The meeting will be advertised and anyone in the community who wants to see the plans will be aware that the meeting is scheduled. 

Chuss asked if there will be any time implications.  Kline said that the BoS at the last meeting indicated that time was running out and asked the Army to give a time extension.  Zoning Officer Weis contacted Michael Baker, Jr. Inc. and got a letter dated 12/7 granting a 30 day time extension and asking that the agenda item be tabled until the meeting of 12/17.  Kline said that there may be a problem if this goes past January 11th (12/11 letter date confirmed by Weis) without another time extension.

Kline advised staff to be sure the item is on the January 4th BoS agenda and he told the Army representatives to be certain that someone be at that meeting to discuss the land development and the intended uses.  The Board must act on the plan and the lot consolidation at that meeting.

Egolf made a motion to postpone the Bethlehem Army Reserve Center Land Development to the January 4th meeting to review all plans and consider granting approval.  Miller seconded and the vote was 5:0.


01.  Public Works Facility Presentation / Approval – Kimmel Bogrette (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - The two hour and 24 minute public works garage discussion was described by Sara Satullo in her Express Times article.  Please read it for an accurate summary.  FAC will try, at a later date, to post a short version of the discussion to augment the newspaper piece. 

Added 12/28/2009:  On December 28th, the Morning Call published Christopher Baxter's thorough article and companion summary piece on the cost of building green.

02.  Board Agenda Policy (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - A single motion was made by Egolf to table agenda items 2, 3, and 7 until the January 17th BoS meeting.  The vote was 5:0.

03.  2010 Goal Setting Session (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - A single motion was made by Egolf to table agenda items 2, 3, and 7 until the January 17th BoS meeting.  The vote was 5:0.

04. Fire Truck Purchase / PEMA Loan (Jim Farley, Finance Manager / Bryan Weis, Fire Chief) - Farley explained that the fire truck purchase is part of the Fire Department's 25 year plan.  The net cost of the truck is $544,753.  So far $106,824 has been accrued.  The fire capital purchase allowance for 2009 is $200,000 and in 2010 it is $100,000.  In addition, the Fire Company will apply for a PEMA loan of $100,000.  The remaining $38,000 will come from the Board's "discretionary fund."  Currently that fund has a balance of $561,000.

Fire Chief Bryan Weis explained that this is for an engine pumper truck to replace the 1983 one.  The new engine will meet all current safety standards, be more multi-functional, and have greater flexibility.  The next vehicle scheduled for replacement is in five years. 

Howell asked Kline if the Township must apply for the PEMA loan.  Kline said that PEMA takes the position that the Township must guarantee the payment of the debt, therefore the Township will have debt. 

Nicholas said that she was told at a Finance & Administration Committee meeting that the engine price would not exceed $500,000 and that no money would be coming from the discretionary fund.  Weis said that that was a four year old number and the EPA changes have upped the cost of vehicles.  Farley said that the figures he was working with at the committee meetings were from the 25 year plan which was created about seven years ago. 

Nicholas said that she thinks the 25 year plan should be updated.  Farley agreed and said that the plan was developed when the Township was experiencing significant growth and that is not the case now.

Howell offered that there is no question that the new fire truck is needed.  Nicholas made the motion to purchase, Chuss seconded, and the vote was 5:0.

05.  Police Server Replacement – EZ Micro (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Farley said that the police department server was installed in 2006.  It was an emergency installation at the time and it is now time to change it.  The replacement unit will put the department into a terminal/server environment.  It can stand alone or connect into a network.  The current server does not work with the laptops in the patrol cars. 

Approval tonight will mean placing the new server in service in January.

Nicholas made the motion to purchase the server at $8,360.  The vote was 5:0.

06.  Fire and Vehicle Rescue Assistance Agreement with the Borough of Stockertown (Bryan Weis, Fire Chief) - Howell said that Stockertown is asking for a definite term of five years so that it can budget for fire coverage. 

Chief Weis said that the relationship with Stockertown has been good and that the revenues earned exceed expenses.  He suggested adding a sentence to the terms for review and adjustment for economic conditions.  Nicholas agreed and said, "A five year contract locked in at a certain price is way too long."

Kline said that Stockertown wants assurance that the contract is firm for five years but if the Board says it is going to be periodically reviewed for costs, then the contract is totally "open ended" for the future.  The Board would consider using the CPI (Consumer Price Index) if Stockertown will agree to it.

Egolf suggested lowering the number of years.  Weis said that there is language in the agreement that either party can terminate it with 60 days notice.

Nicholas said that the current contract is year to year and if Forks notifies Stockertown by a prescribed deadline of what the new rate will be so that they can budget, it can stay year to year. 

Chuss made a motion for a three year contract extension.  Egolf seconded and the motion passed 5:0. 

07.  Comprehensive Plan (tabled previous meeting) (Dean Turner, Planning Commission) - A single motion was made by Egolf to table agenda items 2, 3, and 7 until the January 17th BoS meeting.  The vote was 5:0.

Executive Session - There was no Executive Session and the meeting was adjourned.

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or COMMENT here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Commonwealth Court says "no" to KMRD's procedural challenge

From the FAC website:  On December 21, 2009, the PA Commonwealth Court validated Forks Zoning Hearing Board's decision in favor the of the Township and against KMRD in its procedural challenge of Forks zoning ordinances.  

It remains to be seen if KMRD will pursue the challenge to the next level, the State Supreme Court, and if it does, whether or not the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case.

Read the decision here - large file.  For more details read these articles:   Tony Nauroth - December 23rd Express Times and Riley Yates - December 24th - Morning Call.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 12/3/2009

Executive Session - 7:00 PM

The session was held for a personnel matter.  Both Supervisors-elect attended.  No action was taken during or immediately after the session.

Regular Meeting (agenda)

On this night Supervisors voted to contribute $2,000 to Safe Harbor of Easton, hire a new Township Engineering firm, appoint a new Forks representative to the Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority (EAJSA), increase the sports sign up fees, advance the new solar ordinance, table the Comprehensive Plan, and almost went head to head with the Army Reserve!

For more on the Safe Harbor contribution (4:1 vote), please read Douglas Brill's Express Times article.  Also read the Express Times Turkey (editorial) - awarded for the second year in a row to the lone Forks Supervisor to vote against a Safe Harbor contribution.

For more on the Army Reserve's Forks Township plan, please see Douglas Brill's Express Times coverage

And, for more on the tabling of the Comprehensive Plan, see Tom De Martini, Morning Call

Public Comments (non-agenda) -

  • Neil Schurgot, of Meadow Lane Drive, told the Board of an abandoned property on his street (2309 Meadow Lane Drive) and the problems it is bringing.  The property has been vacant for two years.  The first year, the bank maintained the property and mowed the lawn every two to three weeks.  Since May of 2009, the property has been ignored. 

Mr. Schurgot has called the Township numerous times about the property and the problem is not remedied.  Rodent infestation is now coming onto his property.  He said that the owner of the property is in Philadelphia and the property is in foreclosure.  He has been in touch both with the owner and with the bank.  Nothing has been done.

Zoning Officer Tim Weis has been in touch with the bank and originally it was cooperating.  However, at this point, thirty days has elapsed and nothing has been done.  Weis said that he thought the next recourse would be a lien on the property.  Kline said that if the property is in foreclosure, the bank (Countrywide Bank) does not own the it. 

The process in place in the Township for dealing with its ordinances is unacceptable according to Mr. Schurgot who added that the Township's ordinance regarding abandoned property is very weak.  He said that with the way the market is today and the fact that people are walking away from their properties, the Township needs something in place to be sure that the value of residents' properties does not decrease because of abandoned properties. 

Weis said that the Sheriff's Department needs to get involved.  Nicholas suggested that Weis and Solicitor Kline get together to find a solution.  Mr. Schurgot said that if a solution is not found by the end of the month, he will have to resort to legal recourse.

Supervisors' Remarks:

  • Chairman Howell said that Chuss' motion (at the last meeting) specified a December 31st deadline for applications to the open seats on the appointed boards.  The legal notice in the Express Times contained an incorrect date.  Kline said that another BoS vote is not necessary since it was already voted.  Howell told Schnaedter to adjust the advertisement on the Township website to reflect the correct date. 
  • Supervisor Egolf - said that the Township contributed $2,000 to Safe Harbor last year and he was interested in seeing if the BoS wants to do it again.  Howell suggested that it be added as an agenda item (see below - Old Business.)
  • Supervisor Chuss reminded everyone of the tree lighting at the Community Center for Sunday, December 6th at 7 PM.  Bring canned goods.

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 $7,755,398.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Howell - said the next meeting is Tuesday, December 15th at 8 AM in the Municipal Building.  The principal item to be discussed is fire equipment.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that there has been no meeting of the committee since the last BoS meeting.  The next will be on December 8th at 7:30 AM in the Municipal Building.  To be discussed will be the public works garage and ways to reduce the cost of the initial design submitted by Kimmel Bogrette.  Also to be discussed are various projects going on in the Township. 
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - was happy to report that Jim Farley (Finance Manager) sat down with some officers of the Recreation Board.  They covered everything that was covered at the regular meeting.  The Recreation Board five-year plan is in hiatus and next week Egolf will meet with Ed Moore to see what needs to be done to move it forward.  The fifth item on the agenda (New Business - Increase Sports Sign-up Rate for 2010) is an outgrowth of financial work with both the Recreation Board and the Athletic Association.  The next meeting is scheduled for December 14th at 6 PM in the Municipal Building.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - said that the next meeting will be on December 14th at 5 PM.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that there had been no meeting since the last BoS meeting.  The next will be on December 9 at 5 PM in the Municipal Building.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - said that the Supervisors had his report in front of them.  He reminded them of the Township (employee) assessment forms and that if they wish a formal tour of the (Township owned) house on Zucksville, they should let him know.  Howell said that he would like all Supervisors to see the house because there are pending issues on the application of it for 2010. 

It is at 700 Zucksville Road and was previously rented to the Township Fire Chief, Bryan Weis.  He is getting married and has moved.

Schnaedter also said that Supervisors have the revisions to the Comprehensive Plan in front of them.  He said that they came in late this afternoon and he was told that the changes are italicized. 

Engineer's Report - Fred Hay - absent

Solicitor's Report - Kline - said that the Weis Market land development is moving along.  The additional right-of-way (Uhler Road and Sullivan Trail) to be dedicated to PennDOT has been acquired.  PennDOT requires it before it will issue a permit for the intersection.  Also, the Township right-of-way must be deeded over as well.  The deeds should be wrapped up shortly and a spring construction start is expected. 

Kline also reported that there have been three inquiries from three residential subdivision developers who are talking about getting agreements in place to get started.  They are the Courts at Newlins, Town Center II, and the Knollwood subdivision.  Howell remarked that the Courts at Newlins (Newlins and Sullivan) land is for sale.  Kline said that with the stormwater improvements in place (under Sullivan Trail), the land will be easier to sell.


Contribution to Safe Harbor - 2009 (Robert Egolf, Supervisor) - Egolf said that he thought that the $2,000 amount is appropriate for this year and that it is the amount given last year.  He made the motion for the donation.  It was seconded by Miller. 

Nicholas asked from which account the money will be taken.  Farley said that the Township is under budget as a whole.  Last year the money came from the Supervisors' discretionary fund.  There is no Christmas party planned for this year. 

Chuss commented that he voted against it last year and will again this year as it is taking residents' money - money they are forced to pay - and donating it.  He said that he thinks people should be encouraged to give to Safe Harbor and other charitable organizations but that taxpayer money should not be given away.  Chuss said that he thought the Township was "opening up a can of worms" and that he doesn't want to choose who to give to.

Howell remarked that Safe Harbor and the local SPCA are two charities that have a meaningful impact on the Township.  He said that the Township should not turn its back on a place that takes in Forks residents.  He also said that there was a time when the Township gave $5,000 to Safe Harbor.

The vote was 4:1 to make the donation of $2,000.  The nay vote was cast by Chuss.  Schnaedter was asked to send an appropriate letter with the check.  The donation is for 2009.

For more details see Douglas Brill's Express Times article and the Express Times Turkey (editorial).


Forks Vacancy on the Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority (David Howell, Supervisor) - Howell explained that this is a unique vacancy caused by the resignation of (former Supervisor) Henning Holmgaard as the Forks representative on the EAJSA.  Mr. Holmgaard is now a resident of Seattle, WA.  He served on the EASJA board (meets once a month) as well as on its engineering (meets once a month) and finance (meets as needed) committees. 

Howell said that only one candidate has expressed an interest in this position, Carl Dicker.  He is on the Planning Commission (PC) and applied for the EASJA seat in 2005.  Mr. Dicker is a professional engineer and his specialty is storm water and wastewater services for the Lehigh Valley office of Spotts, Stevens & McCoy (SSM).  SSM is not affiliated with the EAJSA.

In discussion it was learned that calls were made to the EAJSA to determine the type of term that is open, an unexpired one or a new one.  The EAJSA has very poor records and does not know the answer to that question.  It is a five year term.  Howell suggested that since there is an important meeting coming up on December 21, that Dicker's appointment be for the unexpired term of Henning Holmgaard and that at the BoS Re-organizational meeting in January, when more is known, another appointment be considered. 

Chuss wondered if there was a conflict of interest because of Dicker's seat on the PC.  Kline said that there is none since nothing prohibits him from sitting on two appointed boards. 

Kline said that there must be some records for the terms of the EAJSA members.  He suggested that he write to EAJSA solicitor (with the Board's permission) and ask for clarification of all the terms on the Authority.

Chuss made a motion - Nicholas seconded - to appoint Dicker until the termination of the unexpired term.  The vote was 5:0.

Bethlehem Army Reserve Center Land Development Plan – Lots 15 & 16 Fort James III (Tim Weis, Zoning Officer) - Weis said that Keystone Engineering's letter is in the Supervisors' packets.  He also noted that the Army was not here tonight.  The lot consolidation plan will be before the PC this month.  Weis recommended that this agenda item be tabled until the lot consolidation is approved by the PC.  Chuss made the motion to table.  Egolf seconded. 

In discussion, Turner (PC Chairman) asked if a time extension will be necessary to avoid a "deemed approval."  Kline said that they are dealing with the Federal government and that the Keystone list does not involve problems with the township roads or its sewer system.  Initially, the list had 36 SALDO related items but the Army Corps knocked out some due to security concerns and others with the "document of preemption" (where the Federal rules overrule the local ones.) 

Only two of the issues cited by Keystone must be dealt with.  As part of their stormwater system, they want to use infiltration beds in a known karst limestone area and that is just asking for sinkholes.  Township Engineer Fred Hay asked that they do resistivity testing and the (Swiss cheese) voids found under the lots put them on notice that they may be causing problems for themselves if they use the infiltration methods.  The Township sanitary sewer line runs under the property.  Kline went on to to say that Hay was satisfied that other than that, the plan is okay.  Kline said that the Board can grant conditional approval subject to the October 2009 Keystone letter including comments #1 and #2 - with the understanding that he, Kline, will add a warning of the inadvisability of using infiltration beds.

Nicholas said that she has questions and that the Army representatives should be there to address the Board.  She will not vote on any plan when there is no representative present to answer her questions. 

The motion and second were withdrawn.

Chuss said that he does not remember seeing the plan before and he made a motion to request that the Army grant a time extension and if they do not, then the plans are not approved - included was a request that they appear before the Board.

Kline said that the Army granted an extension until a few days after tonight's meeting and if they do not grant an additional extension the Board can deny the plan.  The Board must be aware, however, that it may begin a "direct battle" with the Federal government.  Kline added that there is nothing in the review letter that can serve as a basis for a denial.  He said that they still need the lot consolidation as well as approvals from outside agencies. 

Turner said that it is a very different plan than the PC dealt with and, "It is what it is."  He said that the Army plan complies with sewer requirements "and they have Federal regulations that trump Township regulations."

Chuss offered that he "trusts the PC a lot and values their views and opinions."

Howell asked Kline to review the Board's options.  The time extension (already granted) will expire before the next BoS meeting.  Kline said that the Board can grant approval with the two Keystone conditions or ask for the Army to grant a time extension and  if no new time extension is granted, the BoS can deny the plans.  However, it needs reasons to deny. 

Kline said that the Army Reserve appeared at all the PC meetings and were the ones anxious to advance the plan to this December 3rd meeting of the Supervisors.  He said that they knew they had to be present.

He suggested that the motion be to give an extension of time to give the BoS an opportunity to ask any questions they have about the project.  If the extension is not granted, the plan is denied.  Chuss complied and made a motion to request a time extension and if it is not granted, the plan will be rejected based on the fact that it has never been presented to the Board of Supervisors.  Egolf offered that it could be an oversight but that is not known and since it is not known "they must be treated like any other miscreant who doesn't show up when they are supposed to."  The vote was 5:0.

Read Douglas Brill's Express Times coverage for more.

Alfero Construction Company Land Development Plan (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline said that "these miscreants" did not show up tonight and did not show up before the Planning Commission either.  Keystone Engineering's letter contained 32 items that have not been addressed.  Kline noted that the BoS can vote to deny the land development based on the comments in the review letter.  Keystone will provide the details of the SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance) rules.  The vote was 5:0 to deny.

Appointment of Township Engineer (David Howell, Supervisor) - Howell said that the selection of an engineer has been a long process and that Chuss, chairman of the public works committee, has done an excellent job in the screening of applicants. 

Chuss said that it has taken a few months and that it has been a long time (five to seven years) since the Township looked to see what other engineering firms were "out there."  He added that the current Township Engineer has done an excellent job.  Chuss highlighted the selection process:

  • It was agreed that the selection would be done by December so that the new engineer could start in January.
  • Township Manager Schnaedter, DPW Director Roberts, and Zoning Officer Weis were heavily involved.
  • There were 31 applicants.  The committee narrowed the field to seven and they were interviewed in October. 
  • The committee recommended four firms to the Board and the current Board, Supevisors-elect, and staff "discussed the advantages and disadvantages and pros and cons" of each firm.
  • It was decided that December would be the transition month.

Chuss offered that it is a very difficult decision since all of the candidates are excellent.  Howell added that in his four years as a Supervisor, he's never been involved in a decision this difficult.  He said that the timing was difficult, too, since it occurred in an election year and there is only one meeting left.  Howell said that involving the Supervisors-elect was important so that they can be comfortable in 2010 with a decision made by the 2009 BoS. 

Chuss made a motion to appoint Gilmore Associates and requested that it be effective immediately.  Egolf seconded the motion.  After Kline explained that a transition period is obviously needed and that their rates will be set at the 2010 Re-org meeting, Chuss amended his motion to state that Gilmore Associates is the selection of the Board to be appointed at the Re-org meeting on January 4th 2010 and that the transition begin immediately.  Egolf seconded the motion.  Howell offered that the 5:0 vote showed the solidarity of the Township. 

Representatives from Rettew and Spotts, Stevens & McCoy were present and Howell said that the Board was really impressed with their presentations and that he was sorry there wasn't another job for them as well.  No one was there to represent the winning engineering firm, Gilmore Associates.

The four finalists were: 

Increase Sports Signup Rate for 2010 (Jim Farley, Finance Manager & Bob Egolf, Supervisor) - Farley said that the Township budgeted $72,000 for sports and agreed to hold the line at that amount for 2010.  The Athletic Association (Forks Township Youth Sports Organization) has requested $110,000 for 2010.  The bottom line, said Farley, is that they have additional needs - referees and umpires in particular.  After an analysis of other municipality sports fees, it was recommended that Forks' fees be increased by $10 (from $40 to $50) per child per sport.  Currently, the $40 is split evenly between the Township and the FTYSO.  This will close the gap by $17,000 and the Recreation Board will use its surplus funds for the balance.  Farley offered that they will work with the FTYSO to analyze how the programs are run and to look for opportunities to cut costs for next year.  Egolf made the motion to ask the BoS to endorse the increase.  Nicholas seconded.  The vote was 5:0.

Comprehensive Plan (Dean Turner, Planning Commission) - Howell said that the BoS held a public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan on Tuesday night.  It was productive and a number of changes were talked about.  The written changes arrived today and Supervisors have not yet had a chance to review them. 

Dean Turner (PC Chairman) noted that he, too, has not had time to review the changes.   Kline said that according to the MPC (Municipalities Planning Code) if, after the hearing, the proposed plan is substantially revised then another public hearing must be advertised and held.  The question is, "Do all the changes constitute a substantial revision?"  Kline offered that if the BoS is satisfied that at the end of the hearing, all the changes wanted were noted, it can set a date for another public hearing as well as a date for consideration for adoption of the plan.  

Turner suggested that the BoS review the changes and have a final version available to the public for review before the (to be) advertised next hearing. 

Nicholas made a motion to table the Comprehensive Plan until the December 17th BoS meeting.  It passed 5:0.  Please read Tom De Martini, Morning Call for more.

Planning Commission request to advance Solar Ordinance (Dean Turner, Planning Commissioner) - Turner said that Kline forwarded both the proposed Solar Ordinance and Historical Resources Ordinance to the BoS in June.  The historical properties list will show all existing structures in the Township that are over 100 years old. 

The original plan was for the two ordinances to be moved forward together however there is still more to do on the Historical Resources Ordinance.  The Planning Commission (PC) needs to develop procedures for properties to get on the list, to change classifications, to be removed from the list, and to be elevated on the list.  

Turner asked for permission to hold a PC public hearing for only the Solar Ordinance at the January 26, 2010 PC workshop.  The Historical Resources Ordinance hearing will be more complicated and expensive since it will involve the notification of property owners.

A motion was made (by Chuss) to approve the advertising of the PC January 26th public hearing for the solar update to the Zoning Ordinance and SALDO (Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance). 

Kline said that, per the MPC (Municipalities Planning Code), copies must be sent to the LVPC (Lehigh Valley Planning Commission) along with a notice of the public hearing as well as when it will be considered for adoption by the BoS. 

The motion passed with a 5:0 vote.  Either Kline or Weis will write the advertisement.

Executive Session - There was an Executive Session for a personnel matter earlier, at 7 PM.  No action was taken. Supervisors-elect attended.

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, November 28, 2009

Your township needs you! - Vacancies need filling.

Supervisors voted to advertise openings for the following boards and commissions:

Planning Commission 3 openings
Zoning Hearing Board 1 opening
Recreation Board 2 openings
Vacancy Board 1 opening

Send your resumes and letters of interest to Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager.  The deadline, according to the Board's approved motion, is December 31st. 

Applicants will be interviewed in January and appointments will be made by January 31st.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 11/19/2009

Regular Meeting (agenda)

This was a pre-holiday meeting with only one agenda item. Supervisors should have ripped through the meeting rather efficiently. In fact, they did - with the exception of a one hour plus Executive Session to discuss litigation, personnel, and real estate issues.

The tentative 2010 budget was approved in a 4:0 vote. Supervisor Nicholas was absent. No tax increase is expected for 2010!

Approval of the October 29th special meeting minutes was once again tabled. A memorial statue was offered and accepted for the Community Center grounds. And, Supervisors learned that the owner of one private home on Newlins Road East is seeking a real estate tax re-assessment.

Public Comments (non-agenda) -

  • Fritz Wiede, Forks resident, addressed the Board and reminded them that he was at the last BoS meeting and spoke about the "$3.5 million equipment shed." He asked if the Board had a chance to discuss the project since the last meeting. Chairman Howell said that there was discussion of the plans at a conceptual meeting (of the public works committee). Mr. Wiede said that he visited the "old equipment shed" and admitted that it is an outdated piece of equipment (from the outside - he did not go inside). He said that he's been a resident of the Township for 40 years and asked that the Board keep taxpayers in mind when it comes to paying $3.5 million. He added that he thought a price of $1 million would be enough and asked the BoS if a referendum has been considered so that the people can vote on this project. Howell explained that the Board did not feel a referendum to be necessary when the project originated. Howell suggested that any Board member who feels that there should be a referendum, advise Mr. Wiede. Mr. Wiede said that he will be back in January to ask the new Board members. He was told that they were both in the audience and he could discuss it with them in the lobby after the meeting. He chose to leave the meeting.

Supervisors' Remarks:

  • Supervisor Miller introduced Mr. Michael Kadjeski of Mechanicsburg, PA. He is the son of the late Robert Kadjeski, a long time figure in Fork Township athletics and a former Community Center employee. Mr. Kadjeski asked the Board's permission to erect a memorial statue on the grounds of the Community Center. He said that it will be financed entirely by the Kadjeski family and that site preparation work will be reimbursed to the Township. The memorial is a bronze statue of children playing on a log. Mr. Kadjeski said that he will personally guarantee maintenance and repair in the event of manufacturer's flaw or vandalism - for twenty years.

Of his dad, Mr. Kadjeski said that he was a 53 year resident of Forks and active in the 60s and 70s when there were only three sports for boys - football, basketball, and baseball. Now there is also lacrosse, soccer, wrestling, volleyball, etc. He was president of the Forks Township Athletic Association for a number of years. He was responsible for the first purchase of wrestling mats and now the wrestling program has its own building.

Mr. Kadjeski said that his father was very proud of the fact that the Community Center was more than just a place for kids in competitive sports. He and Miller coached at the Community Center and when Kadjeski retired from his job, Miller asked him to work there.

Howell said that he has seen the statue and that it is lovely and in very good taste. In fact, he said that it is the kind of statue that should be enjoyed in a 360 degree view. Howell said that the Board is honored to receive it and hoped that the family would revisit other areas of the park that may have a more appropriate site for it.

Miller offered that there is already a plaque and that Mrs. Kadjeski and her daughter looked at five different sites and wanted the statue located around the Community Center somewhere. Mr. Kadjeski said that the family did not want to be presumptuous but will certainly consider other spots for it.

The motion to accept the memorial statue was made by Miller and seconded by Egolf - subject to placement. The vote was 4:0.

  • Supervisor Chuss mentioned the upcoming openings on the various Township boards. The Planning Commission will have three vacancies - Tamborrino, Rizzo, and Billings. The Zoning Hearing Board will have one vacancy - Pappas. The Recreation Board will have two seats open - Reiter and O'Neil. And, the Vacancy Board will have one opening - Holmgaard.

The Vacancy Board position was discussed. It has never been advertised and has traditionally been filled by a former Supervisor. Solicitor Kline said that the appointed person only acts if there is a vacancy on the BoS and that the person appointed need not be a former Supervisor. In further discussion, the Board learned that Mr. Holmgaard intends to move from Forks. His home is for sale.

Chuss made a motion that all vacancies be advertised, with all applications due by the end of December, and that all applicants be interviewed in January, and appointments made by January 31st. Miller seconded and the vote was 4:0.

  • Supervisor Miller said that the Township currently has no policy regarding memorials in the park and he suggested that Township Manager Schnaedter look into it. There are several memorials in the park for Forks residents, including one for Colleen Supinski who was killed on 911 and one for Barry Bush, the FBI agent killed accidentally in the line of duty. Miller said that none of these came before the BoS but that there should be a policy that starts with the Township Manager or the Board.
  • Supervisor Egolf said that he attended the ground breaking for the Crayola solar farm this morning. He added that the project was started last year and aborted and is now alive again. The solar panels are manufactured in Ohio. There were about 100 people at the ceremony and Egolf said that it was noteworthy for Forks as it will likely get worldwide notice. The solar array "will power a good part of the manufacturing operation when it is up and shining." Howell added that the 15 acre site is one of the highest in Forks and that the project is part of the stimulus program ($1.4 million) and will provide 23 jobs.

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. The Township's current outstanding debt is $7,756,832.

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Howell - said that the committee met last week and discussed routine business plus the Borough of Emmaus' ordinance on animal population (specifically dogs and cats) within residential homes. According to Schnaedter, although it has worked out a system of appeals and inspections and passed an ordinance, Emmaus does not intend to enforce it. The Public Safety Committee therefore, recommends foregoing studying this any further as it does not want to approve a bill that will not be enforced. The bill would be too intrusive on homeowners. The next meeting is Tuesday, December 15th at 8 AM.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the committee's November 10th meeting was cancelled due to an emergency. The committee was also in the middle of the engineering firm interviews. The field of applicants has been narrowed from 31 to seven and after the seven were interviewed, the field is now down to four. Final public interviews will be Monday and Tuesday evenings from 7-9 PM in the Municipal Building.

Chuss said, too, that Kimmel and Bogrette's preliminary sketch has been received and that it is an interesting design. Costs were discussed and they were encouraged to keep them down. The firm will come back with a more finalized sketch which will be opened up to full Board review and comments by the public.

Egolf offered a "funny" story. He said that several years ago, a Sullivan County community was looking to build a storage building. There were people on both sides - spend more vs. spend less. The community built the lesser of the two buildings. The 1996 heavy snows collapsed the building. Egolf offered that he thinks "you get what you pay for."

  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - gave credit to Jim Farley, Finance Manager, who has taken time to look at the the things going on in the athletic association program. Lots of spreadsheets have been prepared and both the Recreation Board and the AA were invited to the last committee meeting. It was a good meeting but no one from the Recreation Board attended. Egolf said that he is hoping that wires were simply crossed and that sooner or later both organizations will be at the table at the same time. He said that he was optimistic after a budget workshop when both the AA and the Recreation Board attended.

Egolf also said that the wrestling commissioner would like to start a "mat club" for off season wrestling designed for young kids interested in wrestling. A recommendation from the Board is needed and he would like to say to Dan Martyak that as soon as the AA gets a proposal together the Board will consider it.

Lastly, the AA is putting a new system for volunteers in place. They are not getting as many as they would like and will assess parents when they sign their kids up for programs - volunteer or pay a fee.

  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - said that Schnaedter is working on new additions to the newsletter. Miller said that his proposal will be presented at the next BoS meeting. Schnaedter offered that it is for the website and will be brought to the committee first.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - Absent. The next meeting will be on December 9 at 5 PM.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - reported that there was a recent meeting of the Northampton County Tax Collection District. Forks share is $1,456.55 which entitles it to 2.91% of the vote. The District meets once a month and he and Farley alternate attendance.

Howell asked how the 2.9% was arrived at and Farley said it was based on confirmed revenue from 2007. Howell noted that Forks appears to be the 6th or 7th largest community in the district. Farley offered that the data is on the Supervisors' shared drive and that he will continue to post information there as it becomes available.

Howell thought it amazing that Forks has higher receipts than the city of Easton. Schnaedter said that Easton is disputing the way it was calculated.

Schnaedter said that there have been a tremendous amount of responses for the Community Center Monitor positions. The application deadline is November 30th. Interviews will be held shortly after that.

Also, Schnaedter said that the schedule and names of the four engineering firms for the Monday and Tuesday interviews are in the Supervisor packets.

Engineer's Report - Fred Hay - absent

Solicitor's Report - Kline - said that the KMRD procedural challenge oral arguments were heard in the Commonwealth Court in Philadelphia last week. Those in attendance included Mr. & Mrs. Howell and Jim Wideman. It will be at least 90 days before a decision is rendered.

Kline said that the huge record of material for the substantive challenge has now been assembled and sent to the Northampton Court of Common Pleas.

In addition, Kline said that the Comprehensive Plan public hearing is set for Tuesday, December 1st at 7:00 PM. The BoS will be in a position to consider the plan at its December 3rd meeting and if there are no changes, the Board can adopt the Comprehensive Plan at that meeting.

Also at the December 3rd BoS meeting, the Planning Commission plans to make presentations of two ordinances that the PC has been working on for changes to the Zoning Ordinance and the SALDO (subdivision and land development ordinance). One is a solar ordinance and the other is a historic resource ordinance. The latter is likely to be controversial for all the people who have properties on the list. Kline said that he heard that there are over 200 properties named.

Howell asked if it will be a presentation only or if the Board is to act on the ordinances that night. Kline said that it is a presentation and although the historic resource ordinance is complete, the actual inventory list is not. There are three categories - 1, 2, and 3 - and each property must be assigned to one of them. The categories determine the restrictions that apply.

Once the Board has the ordinance and the historic resources inventory, it can decide if it wants to proceed with it at all and what the process will be. Kline suggested that although it is not necessary, the BoS may want to ask the PC to hold the first public hearing - after giving notice to all the property owners who may be affected.

And, finally, Kline said that there is another tax assessment appeal in progress. This one is for a single family home on Newlins Road East. It is likely to have only a minor effect on the budget.


Tentative Adoption of 2010 Budget – as per calendar (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Farley said that there were three budget work sessions since the beginning of October. This budget has come together in a fairly easy first and second pass. There is a modest surplus from 2009 and no tax increase is needed for 2010. The Township is able to meet all obligations and to fund some capital improvement projects.

Farley asked the Board to tentatively adopt the 2010 budget as it stands and to to authorize advertising it in the newspaper as well as making it available at the office and on the Township website for public review - for the mandatory 20 day period. This will make it available for adoption at the December 17th BoS meeting.

Howell asked that an executive summary (for the public) be prepared to accompany the budget. Schnaedter said that he would put together a letter like last year's cover letter. Per Schnaedter, the Township finances are in much better shape than last year. He said, "It's a credit to the Board, to the staff, and all the hard work they did."

Egolf made a motion for the tentative adoption of the 2010 Forks Township budget. Chuss seconded and it passed 4:0.



Executive Session - There was an Executive Session for a litigation matter, a personnel issue, and a real estate matter. The Supervisors-elect attended.

Two motions were made, one to increase the DPW Director's annual vacation time from 80 hours to 120 hours and to increase the Finance Manager's vacation time from 108 hours to 120 hours. The other motion was to give the Township Manager a $200 monthly vehicle allowance. Both motions passed with 4:0 votes.

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, November 15, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 11/5/09

Regular Meeting (agenda)

This four and one half hour meeting was one of the longest in recent memory.

Supervisors voted 3:2 to disavow the lease signed by Don Miller (Community Center Manager/Supervisor) and the HOPE Wesleyan Church to use a large part of the Forks Community Center on Sunday mornings - for a full year.  Read Edward Sieger (Express Times) and Christopher Baxter (Morning Call) for more details on the long discussion.

Also on this night, Jim Farley, Finance Manager, informed the BoS that there is a small surplus in the 2009 budget and that according to the 2010 draft budget that they all had in their meeting packets, no tax increase will be needed in 2010!  Please read Christopher Baxter (Morning Call) for more on this good news.

And, both Supervisors elect, David Billings (a meeting regular) and Michele Rogers (a first timer) were there and both were extended courtesy invitations into the Executive Session.  Both accepted.

Public Comments (non-agenda) -

  • Dan Martyak, President of the Forks Township Youth Sports Organization, informed the Board that the tax reporting issues from the last few years have been addressed and that I.R.S. penalties have been waived.
  • Eric Konecke of Cosenza Court in College Park Estates told the Board that he was under the impression that the construction of ball fields on the five acre tract behind his house was "in motion."  He has since learned from Don Miller that there are only drafts/sketches for the site and that no formal plans have been done.  The plans, when done, will come before the Board for approval.  Mr. Konecke said that he was before the Board at the October 15th meeting and that the depth of the five acre tract is only 300 feet, not enough for setbacks and playing fields.  He asked that the Township notify him and his neighbors when the plans are to come before the Board.  Mr. Konecke pointed out that even neighbors whose properties are not adjacent to the park land have issue with the parking that the fields will attract.  He said that there will easily be 60 to 70 cars whose drivers will park them along their streets.  The recreation path will then be used to access the fields.  He said that the planned parking at the end of Sycamore will displace soccer fields.  He suggested that the 53 acre parcel at Newlins and Richmond and the Lafayette fields are more suitable for ball fields.
  • Fritz Wiede, Forks resident, addressed the Board with his concerns regarding the building of the $3.5 million "equipment shed" that he read about in the newspapers.  He was speaking of the estimated $3.2 million DPW garage.  It was explained to him that no one is sure what the facility will cost as it has not yet gone out for bids.  The figure was used in conversations with the bond consultants.  At this time, the Township is planning to refinance its entire debt because the rates are very favorable.  Mr. Weide asked how many pieces of equipment will be stored in the building and was told by DPW Director Mark Roberts that there will be approximately 25.  Howell added that in addition to equipment storage the buildings will have space for the crew, for inside equipment repairs, and for vehicle washing.  Mr. Weide thought the DPW garage should come before Forks voters as a ballot referendum.  He was told that the condition of the current facilities was presented at a public meeting.  Mr. Weide thought that with two new Supervisors starting in January, that it would be "fiscally responsible" to bring up the building again.

Supervisors' Remarks: 

  • Supervisor Miller said that there had been a good meeting with Lafayette College and Forks coaches the previous night.  They worked on areas where both teams could agree on practice times, etc.  Miller said that a week ago he called Don Miers, Wrestling Commissioner, to inform him that all wrestling matches would be in gym #1.
  • Supervisor Chuss extended congratulations to the new Supervisors elect, David Billings and Michele Rogers.  He then said that he spoke with Mr. Konecke (see above Public Comments) regarding the new fields.  Parking is a significant issue.  He asked that the Board to look back at the proposed parking and access to the new fields.  Howell said that at this point, the Board has only approved the grading and the planting of grass.  Miller said that the parking plan for 90 cars off of Sycamore is the same parking plan that has been in place since the beginning (when the park plans were done) and that the area currently is 1/2 soccer field and 1/2 nothing.  It is not planted or graded and there are no plans for the five acre parcel yet.  Howell suggested that the plan be looked at again.  As to Mr. Weide's comments regarding the DPW garage, Chuss offered that the garage has been in discussion since the early 90s.  He said that planning started early this year with presentations of the current conditions and prices.  Chuss said that had Mr. Weide come to township meetings or read the minutes, he would have found this out.

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 $7,774,126. 

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

  • Public Safety - Supervisor Howell - said that the next meeting is set for November 17 at 8 AM.  To be discussed are general issues of public safety.  He added that the Suburban EMS subscription drive is underway.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that there has been no meeting since the last BoS meeting.  He updated the BoS with the following:
    • The DPW garage initial plan draft and initial cost estimates from Kimmel and Bogrette are expected next Thursday.  They will be presented at the next BoS meeting.
    • Thirty one engineering firms have responded to the Township's RFQ.  The field has been narrowed (by the committee) to seven.  Interviews will be conducted next Monday (6:00 PM) and Tuesday (5:30 PM).  The BoS will conduct interviews of the final three as recommended by the committee.
    • The next meeting is Tuesday, November 10 at 7:30 AM.  The DPW garage will be on the agenda.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - said that there has been no meeting since the last BoS meeting and the next is scheduled for Monday at 6 PM.  Because of the interviews being held by the Public Works Committee in the Municipal Building meeting room, the Parks & Recreations Committee will meet in the Supervisors conference room.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - said that the next meeting will be on Monday, November 9 at 5 PM.
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that at the last meeting the committee worked on the budget and that there is no meeting in November because of the Veteran's Day.  The next meeting will be on December 9 at 5 PM.  She said that she will report what the agenda will be at the next BoS meeting (December 3).

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter - announced that the Kiwanis annual tree lighting will be on Sunday December 6.  There will be beverages and the Easton Area Choir.  It will be an enjoyable event.  Those who attend are requested to bring non-perishable goods as donations for those less fortunate. 

Schnaedter also reminded the Board about the evaluation forms.  They are used to assess the operations and the performance of the department heads (and the Township Manager) for the past year.

Also, Schnaedter asked the members of the Board to let him know if they wanted to tour the Township property on Zucksville Road.  (The current tenant, Fire Chief Bryan Weis, will be vacating the house.)

Engineer's Report - Fred Hay - said that a written report was submitted to the Board.  He reported that the Meco/Sullivan plans for the pole relocation have been given to Verizon and the area is staked out.  As to the park tennis and basketball court rehabilitations, Hay said that there is only a final coating and the fence replacement left to do. 

The sewer rehab is winding down and one area needs to be repaired.  The work on Sullivan Trail has not been started.  The hazard mitigation work on Kesslersville has been slowed by PEMA and FEMA fighting over which form the Township is to complete. 

And, Hay met with Weis Market representatives last week to discuss the right-of-way issues with PennDOT.  Weis is anxious to start construction as soon as possible.  Apparently the Township owns some rights-of-way (dedicated by developers) that PennDOT wants turned over to them. 

Hay also said that Winchester Drive is finally paved. 

Nicholas asked if there will be signs at the basketball and tennis courts that prohibit skateboarding.  She said that she has received a few phone calls with complaints that "people were skateboarding on the new surface."  Roberts said that there will be signs posted as soon as the fence goes up.

Dean Turner (Planning Commission Chairman) asked if the roads will be paved after the sewer line work is done.  Hay said that the contractor is prevented from doing permanent pavement for one month after the temporary pavement is done.  This allows for settlement (of the earth) and for time to do video inspections.  Old Mill Road is scheduled to be paved shortly.

Solicitor's Report - Kline - said that he was at the Weis Market meeting.  Some technical issues with the right-of-way were discussed.  The Township just learned that it has owned a right-of-way for the last 50 years - that it didn't know it owned.  The paperwork to straighten things out will be provided to PennDOT as soon as possible. 


Hope Church Lehigh Valley – Community Center Rental Agreement (David Howell, Chairman) - Kline reviewed the situation and the legal issues involved.  He said that he became aware only last week of an arrangement made with the Hope Wesleyan Church to use a significant portion of the Forks Community Center "for religious services, meetings, and other church operations."  The contract was signed August 4, 2009.  For $700 a week for one year, the church is to use rooms "A, B, C, D, MP (multi-purpose room), and gym #1 (on Sundays from 7 AM to noon).  The contract is the standard form used to rent any single room in the Community Center - "for a limited purpose."  

Plans underway last week for the church's pastor to use a storage room as a permanent office - with the installation of a telephone line, a FAX line, and an Internet connection - have been withdrawn.  They were not included as part of the original agreement. 

The church website and its mailed flyers list the Forks Community Center as the church's address.

On November 1st, the first day of the contract, the church was using the entire Community Center except for gyms #2 and #3 and the fitness center.   The church website indicates other (youth group) events for other times including something at 2 PM (on a Sunday) and laser tag in the Community Park after dusk (on a Saturday from 7:30 to 10 PM).

Kline said that there are Constitutional issues involved and that the applicable law must be considered - not just whether it is thought to be okay or not okay.  Kline said that he thinks there are two Constitutional provisions that come into play:  the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 3 of the PA Constitution.  The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."   The PA Constitution states that "All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship."

The Establishment Clause bans the government from "abandoning secular purposes in order to put a stamp of approval on one religion."  Government cannot favor any sect or religious organization.  The Establishment Clause mandates tolerance of all religions.  It is a balancing act. 

In 1971, a Supreme Court case established a three prong test:

  1. Is there a bone fide secular purpose?
  2. Will it neither enhance nor inhibit religion?
  3. Is excessive entanglement (of religion and government) avoided? 

Kline said that all three must be answered affirmatively or the court will strike down the activity.

Kline offered that on Community Day, non-profits, including churches, were able to have booths, sell food, and even talk about their church services.  There currently is equal access for all churches to rent a room for bible (or koran) study or any other particular purpose.

According to Kline, in the case of the Hope Church lease there are problems with all three prongs of the Supreme Court test.  The use of a municipal building, parking lots and recreation fields for its place of worship advances one particular religion - especially given the magnitude of the lease agreement.  There is excessive entanglement (what if other faiths want equal space?).  Also, although not a Constitutional issue, the use places limitations of facilities use by local residents and on other Community Center programs such as wrestling. 

Kline's opinion is that this has gone over the line and does not meet the Constitutional standard.  He recommends that the Board adopt a motion that it will not continue to make the space available to the Hope Wesleyan Church because it does not meet the policy of separation of church and state as stated in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

Egolf question the second test of the three prongs.  Kline said the scope of the activity appears that it (the lease) is advancing one religion.  Egolf said that he thought that test to be an "either/or" question and he asked what the case was and did Kline have a summary with him.  Kline said it was Lemon v Kurtzman and no, he did not have it with him.  It is a rule that the Supreme Court set up and has been used from then (1971) on. 

Nicholas apologized for not being at the special meeting and said that she read over the information and has had phone calls, spoken with others, and received email.  For her, the real issue is whether or not Miller, or any other Township employee, has the right to enter into this kind of agreement - an agreement of that length (a year) and magnitude (the amount of facility used).  She said that at the BoS meeting of September 17th, she asked the Board if the Community Center was supposed to be for the people of Forks Township first.  Egolf and Miller were not there but Chuss and Howell (and Nicholas) agreed that the Community Center is for the people of Forks first.  Nicholas said that this agreement prohibits the people of Forks from using their community center for a year and that no one has the right to authorize this.

Chuss said that he feels that this is a separation of church and state issue.  He agrees with the Solicitor (Kline), who spent much time researching the issue.  He said that it this is an unfortunate situation and that at the emergency meeting (October 29th) the Board was still receiving information regarding the terms and conditions of the lease and the situation.  Chuss said too, that he has no problem with the length of the lease but that there is "cause for concern" with the number of rooms and the dollar amount.  Allowing the church on Township property, in his opinion, is explicit support for a particular religion without giving others the option for equal access to the building - going to the exercise room or to rent gyms #2 and #3 for example.  He feels that this is "opening a Pandora's box."  Chuss said that the Township should void the agreement at this time. 

Nicholas said the issue is renting that amount of space in the Community Center for that long of a period of time - not who it is rented to.  She promised "wrestling" that they will have their matches in gym #1 and she intends to keep her word; the facility "is for Forks residents first."

Miller offered that the church is in gym #1 and that other rooms are for the nursery (with 8-10 little kids and no programs).  He said that church starts at 10 AM and is over at 11 AM and everyone is completely gone by 11:45.  He said that there are no guidelines that say he cannot sign contracts of this kind and that he didn't enter into a contract; he used the regular room reservation form.  Miller said too, that there is nothing going on in the Community Center from 10-11.  He said that in his 24 years on the Board, he has never gone against the Solicitor's recommendations.  In this case, however, he does not agree with him.  Miller said that there are churches in schools and other public buildings throughout the Lehigh Valley.  Church members come in at 7 AM in order to transform the gym into a church.  They bring their own chairs, lighting, and a PA system that "rivals the State Theater."  Their band plays church music.  They have no choir.  Miller comes in at 7 AM to open the Community Center for the church to set-up.  Regular hours on Sunday begin at 7:30 AM.

Egolf said that he would agree with Nicholas except he was not aware that any Forks Township group asked to use the room at that time and was denied.  Men's basketball is in the other two gyms at 8 AM.  In fact, he said that a lot of the facility is being used by residents and he doesn't see a problem unless unless a Forks group is denied. 

Nicholas said that she found out about the wrestling conflict on September 17th when she learned that the wrestling team was told they could not have gym #1 for their three matches.  She asked the Board if it should set a policy.  The Board said "no." 

Egolf said that in going through the Township policies, the Board will see that it needs a lot more policies.  A clear cut policy of who can sign what is needed.  Egolf said that gym #1 is to be used by the wrestling program and the church is moving to one of the other two gyms... and that problem is solved. 

Miller said that the wrestling matches start at 12:30 PM.  The novice program starts before that and the facility must be set up.  Floor covering is needed for both the wrestling use and the church use and he was trying to put both groups in gym #1. 

Howell said that he agrees with Chuss and Nicholas in principle.  This not the time to be negotiating a contract.  The main issue is whether there is a contract and whether there is a potential violation of church and state.  Howell said that Kline did not mention the authority to enter into binding contracts (although he did at the special meeting.)  Rules were never needed before because the rooms were rented on a daily basis.  Howell said that Schnaedter believes the contract should have another $20,000 in it.  There are rules for entering into contracts such as the fire and possible police protection with Stockertown.  Howell cannot see where an employee of the Township can negotiate a contract of this size and magnitude in July with the only inkling of it in September when the wrestling group thought there was a conflict.   

Howell said that he would disavow the contract on the basis that Miller had no authority to enter into it.  He also believes in the separation of church and state.  When a non-profit is accommodated, the Township must be prepared to accommodate other non-profits.  Howell mentioned "lease creep" as a possibility when dealing with a church - the holidays like Christmas and Good Friday are times when a church will want services.  Outreach programs and other special needs of the congregation are not covered in the agreement.  Lease creep is a natural thing.

Howell said that he was at every poll on election day.  The church was a hot topic.  Two devote catholic (Easton has lost two catholic churches) women asked him if the Township would accommodate them to have masses early in the morning for commuters.  What if a group of young Jewish citizens feel that they are religiously under-served in Forks Township and want worship time on Saturdays in the Community Center?

Rules and standards are needed.  Howell feels that Miller had no authority to enter into a contract with such huge social and legal implications, not to mention that it is a huge revenue matter.  He also agrees with Chuss that there is a potential conflict with the Establishment Clause and that Pandora's Box is being opened. 
The discussion continued for nearly another hour. 

Dean Turner, Chairman of the Planning Commission, said that discussion of the availability of the Community Center should also include the availability of parking.  He said that when the Shawnee School project was being discussed, parking was considered particularly when more than one activity was to be scheduled for the same time. 

Ron Asteak, Zoning Hearing Board, said that the Board should listen to the sound advice of the Township Solicitor.

Gretchen Gerstel, resident, said that she taught school for 31 years and used to read scripture and recite the flag salute.  Then the schools couldn't read scripture.  Then teachers had to hide religious emblems (if worn).  Then there were no Christmas carols.  She said that she agrees with separation of church and state.

James Wideman, resident, spoke in favor of disavowing the contract.  He felt that the Solicitor's opinion should be respected especially regarding church and state issues.  He said too, that Miller over-stepped his bounds regarding the size of the contract (it is over $10,000) and the parking.  The church requires 100% of the 100 parking spaces.  This restricts others. 

Sandra Hanks, Elected Auditor and resident, said that she agrees with the Solicitor.  She said too, that if the Township rents to this group and a right wing or left wing organization comes along and wants to rent space, the Township will be in a "heep of trouble."

Dan Martyak, President of the Forks Township Youth Sports Organization, said that the decision should be based on the Solicitor's legal opinion.  Guidelines for the use and availability of the facility are needed.  Compromises and short term accommodations can be reached by working with the Parks & Recreation Committee.  The park is heavily used in the spring and parking is an issue.

Chuss made a motion that the contract for rooms A, B, C, D, MP, and gym #1 at $700 per week was signed without authorization and therefore is not a valid contract.  Nicholas seconded. 

The vote was 3:2 with Miller and Egolf casting the dissenting votes.

Please read the very thorough newspaper accounts of this agenda item.  See:

Comprehensive Plan (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Kline explained that the latest Comprehensive Plan (draft) has been years in the making.  There were many meetings.  There were questions about language and substance.  It was re-drafted by a joint committee of the Planning Commission and the Supervisors.  There were questions about grammar. 

A draft was sent to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) where it was reviewed and commented.  The LVPC comments were submitted to Dean Turner (PC Chairman).  The PC was the agency that started the process and as such is required to hold one public meeting.  It was held on July 9th.  The Comprehensive Plan was also sent to the local school district and to adjacent municipalities for comment.  None have been received. 

The Board of Supervisors is required to hold one public hearing.  If the Comprehensive Plan is revised, another public hearing will be necessary.  It can then be adopted by resolution. 

If the Board is satisfied - without any more changes to the plan - Kline can be directed to advertise the public meeting with a date in early December. 

Howell asked Turner if the LVPC comments are more benign than they have been in the past.  Turner thought that was the case.  The PC recommends that the Plan process proceed.

Egolf asked if the Township must address the recommendations of the LVPC in any way or if the Township could simply say "thanks but no thanks."  Kline said that the Township is indeed free to say "thanks but no thanks."  The recommendations are advisory.  They are from the experts on the LVPC staff who are more concerned that the Township's plan fits into their plan.

Chuss noted that he, Turner, and Billings attended the workshop on smart transportation yet none of that is in the plan. 

Egolf made the motion that the Comprehensive Plan be placed out for public review as stipulated by the MPC (Municipal Planning Code) and that it be available to the public at both the Municipal office and on the township website.  Nicholas seconded.

In discussion of the motion, Chuss remarked that there has been no opportunity for the Board to comment and to review the plan.  His biggest problems are the changes made by the joint (PC & BoS) committee.  He said that the committee met without agendas, plans, or schedules.  He is particularly bothered by two things:  (1) recommending increased density in the Town Center district and (2) schools in the Farmland Protection district.  Chuss asked that it go another month before holding the public hearing and that a joint meeting be held and the plan changes listed.

The vote on the motion was 4:1 with Chuss casting the nay vote.  He said that he wanted Charlie Schmehl (URDC) to review the plan changes. 

The public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, December 1st at 7:00 PM.

CMX Amphitheater Proposal (Bonnie Nicholas, Supervisor) - Nicholas reported that the meeting with CMX, Modern Concrete and staff was very productive and that they were able to get the price for the amphitheater down to $312,000 (of which, $28,000 is contingency money).  Nicholas reminded everyone that the money is not taxpayer money but money set aside from the recreation fees paid by developers. 

In order to shave the costs, DPW Director Roberts offered the DPW crew for trenching and landscaping and Modern Concrete offered to use a product called "dry-it" (sic) for some of the relief areas of the structure's surface.  She said that this is not going to be just a bandshell, but a "very nice looking amphitheater."

Nicholas made a motion to move forward by having CMX go out for bids.  Howell seconded the motion for discussion purposes.

In discussion, Chuss said that he hates the phrase "not using taxpayer money."  He called it a shell game.  The price of $312,000 does not include the Township's cost of using the DPW budget.  Chuss said that the area will need a restroom ($$$) and other intangibles and the Township already paid the $49,900 design fee.  There will be "opportunity costs."  There is no plan (a reference to the Five-Year Recreation Plan that has not yet been presented to the Board) in place.  Chuss said that this project will use a significant amount of the money in the (recreation) fund.

Nicholas offered that in the Recreation Survey (done in 2006), residents voted for a bandshell as their number two choice.  It is passive recreation. 

Howell noted that Nicholas and the Parks & Recreation Committee have worked diligently on the amphitheater.  Miller said that there is a meeting of the Recreation Board coming up.

Egolf said that he is concerned with the hardship the project may put on the DPW department.  He would rather have outside contractors do the work.  To that, Schnaedter said that all aspects of the project will be in the bid package.  Nicholas offered that the Township's DPW department does not have to do the work. 

Howell remarked that since 1997 when he started following Forks Township, this is the first project that is for all citizens.  It will also get business and commerce more involved in the Township.

The vote on the motion to move forward was 4:1 with Chuss casting the dissenting vote.

Please read Edward Sieger (Express Times) for more details.

Riverview Recreation Center (Karl Kline, Solicitor) - Kline refreshed everyone's memory with a summary of the Riverview Recreation Center phasing proposal.  He said that there will be a cul de sac and two lots, one with the Recreation Center and one with no (as of yet, future) plans.  The developer wants to complete the portion of Ramblewood Drive that borders the lots and then dedicate it to the Township.  The Township holds the position that all the planned improvements must be complete before it will take the road.

Kline further explained that the Planning Commission (PC) recommended conditional approval.  The conditions include the recreation path spur and the need for a phasing language change to the plans.  Another issue came up after the PC meeting - a small section of sidewalk on the south side of Winchester Drive is not complete.  Kline recommended that the BoS add completion of the sidewalk as a condition to the PRD (planned residential development) phase 3 boundary.  There is a transformer directly in the path of the sidewalk and Kline suggested that the Township work with the developer to go around the obstruction.

When Chuss asked about adding escrow replacement as a condition, Kline explained that it is a separate issue and that the Letter or Credit for the improvements is in place.  He said too, that it is appropriate to accept conditions from the PC with the addition of including the remaining sidewalk.

Kline said that the homeowners want the path (spur) moved 150 feet to the east. 

Kline recommended that the Board approve the phasing with the conditions set forth by the PC and that the Board then do another motion for a field change to move the path to the east subject to Strausser, the homeowners, and the Township Engineer's agreement. 

Chuss made the first motion - to approve the phasing plan as approved by the PC and with the additional condition that the sidewalk be completed.  Nicholas seconded and it passed 5:0.

Chuss made the second motion - to allow Strausser Enterprises, the Riverview Homeowners Association, an the Township Engineer to move the spur to the east, keeping its same size and scope.  Miller seconded and the motion passed 5:0.


First Submission of Overall 2010 Budget - Rough Draft (Jim Farley, Finance Manager) - Farley reported that three work sessions were held in September and October and that there is no tax increase projected in the draft budget.  Instead there apparently is a modest surplus for 2009.  The draft has been presented to the Board for review and at the next meeting there will be a motion to tentatively approve it.  In December, after the budget has been publicly advertised, there will be a formal approval.  Farley said that this is one of the least painful budget processes he has experienced.  See Christopher Baxter (Morning Call) for more on the 2010 budget.

Executive Session - There was an Executive Session for a litigation matter.  The Supervisors-elect attended.  No action was taken after the session and the meeting was adjourned

Our objective is to relate what is experienced at Forks Township meetings for those who cannot attend. We are attempting to be as factual as we can. If we make a mistake, tell us via email or COMMENT here in the blog, and we will do our best to correct it. We are not perfect. We want to get it right.