Sunday, February 22, 2009

BoS Meeting Notes - 2/19/2009

Regular Meeting (agenda)

This night, in the first 10 minutes of the meeting, Forks Supervisors learned from a resident that the deed restrictions on the vacant former Laneco property no longer apply. 

The Board also considered and granted Senator Wonderling's request for space in the Municipal complex for a satellite office.  On two Tuesdays each month, he and/or his staff will be available to constituents.  Supervisors went further than Senator Wonderling's request and said that the allotted space (in the Community Center lobby/atrium) will also be available to other elected officials (Grucela, Dent, Dowd, etc.) to meet with constituents.  Please read Tony Nauroth's article (Express Times, February 21, 2009) for more details.

Public Comments (non-agenda) 

Ken Nagy, Forks resident, addressed the Supervisors because he read an article in the newspaper (Morning Call, Christopher Baxter, February 17, 2009) that reported that the Township was considering increasing taxes for open space preservation.  Mr. Nagy reminded the Board that Forks already pays Northampton County that same thing and has yet to get some back.  Instead the county uses the money for rails-to-trails (over a million dollars), for private property purchases (that still remains private property), and other projects.  He said that we have farms that have been on the farmland preservation list for over two years. 

Mr. Nagy went on to say that it is disturbing to be treated like a "step child and a cash cow" by the county.  He said that the county has many dollars "to be had if you go and get them" and that Forks should be "aggressively pursuing" its council representative. 

As to the new regional health department, Nagy said that it "will take the burden of paying off of the backs of Allentown, and Bethlehem and lay it across the county line."

As a better way to get open space money than raising taxes in Forks, Nagy suggested that the Board write a letter to Northampton County stating, "We see no benefit, we get no benefit from the open space provisions, therefore we are going to cease paying it.  Please send us the 1/4 mill you receive from our residents."  He suggested, too, that if the Board reads the papers to see what the county is doing, it will know that it must be more aggressive to stop some of what is planned.  As examples he cited the TIF (Tax Incentive Financing) program, a hockey stadium ($30 million from the County), and Steel Stax (a private corporation that got $2 million with more coming from the County).

Nagy said that Forks does not have that much open space and that the County assumes that Forks sits on top of "nothing but a lot of money."

Finally, Mr. Nagy asked if anyone had pursued bringing in the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) to help with the old Laneco property.  He said that Phil Mitman, LVEDC President, told him that the deed restrictions on the property no longer apply.

Supervisor Remarks:

  • Supervisor Egolf - said that the Bushkill Stream Conservancy meeting in the Municipal Building on Tuesday night was well attended and that there were fine articles about it in the local newspapers (Christopher Baxter for the Morning Call and Tony Nauroth for the Express Times).  The program itself focused on a report by LandStudies, Inc., an environmental consulting firm.  They looked at Bushkill Creek from north of Tatamy to Easton.  The final report will be completed in a few weeks and a copy will be sent to the Township Manager.
  • Supervisor Chuss - in response to Mr. Nagy's comment said that the talk of the 1/4 mill tax for open space/farmland preservation will actually be a feasibility study as recommended by the Farmland Preservation Comprehensive Plan subcommittee.  He added that 44 acres are being preserved in Forks this year and that there will be more from that same farmer next year.  Chuss said, too, that there is another forks farm on the list for either this year or early next year.  He thanked Mr. Nagy for his comments and added that Forks residents' "pockets are not bottomless."

As to the Old Laneco property currently owned by ONE UP, LLC, Chuss said that he contacted them two years ago as part of the Comprehensive Plan Economic Development subcommittee.  He asked if they would come in and discuss what could be done about their property.  He said that the owner was open to it at first but never returned calls to confirm that he would be here.   Chuss said that this is an item constantly raised by residents.  He asked that the Supervisors look into declaring it a blighted property and direct the Township Manager to look into it.  Township Manager Schnaedter interjected and asked that the Board hold off taking any action on that building (old Laneco) for at least 45 days.  He added that the LVEDC is aware of the building and is marketing it.

Supervisor Miller added that the property owner has an approved plan through the Township and could begin to develop it next week if he wanted.  He chooses not to. 

Mr Nagy said that the Township should lean on the back of the LVEDC.  He restated that Mr. Mitman said that the restrictions are now gone and he (Nagy) wondered if it could be a KOZ (Keystone Opportunity Zone) to make it attractive enough.

Treasurer's Report - Egolf began by welcoming the students in the back of the room.  All were seniors at EAHS and attending one township meeting, one county council meeting, and one school board meeting are required for Mr. Corpora's AP Government class.

Egolf next 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 $8,381,641. 

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 earlier this week that he will send the draft notes to the Board in a few days.  The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 3rd at 8 AM.
  • Public Works - Supervisor Chuss - reported that the committee met on February 10th.  He was unable to attend but said that the five year plan was discussed and the final draft will be reviewed before it is sent to the BoS.   Also, there was additional discussion on the feasibility of a new public works building.  Both topics will be discussed further at the next meeting on March 10th.
  • Parks & Recreation - Supervisor Egolf - reported that the committee met on February 9th.  He remarked that with the change in meeting time to 6 PM, the meetings are better attended - especially by representatives from the various Township organizations.  He said that the committee had a full agenda and discussed Penn's Ridge, the court resurfacing, the bandshell, grading at the Braden Airport park, and the restrooms at Braden.  "The minutes will be forthcoming."  The next meeting will by on Monday, March 9th at 6 PM.
  • Community Relations - Supervisor Miller - said that the committee met this week.  Both staff and Supervisors have submitted suggestions for website changes and the committee is reviewing the suggestions.  The website consultant will attend the next meeting to offer his comments on the changes and to provide cost estimates on effecting them.   The deadline for the Spring/Summer newsletter has been provided by Hometown Press.  Schnaedter is gathering "appropriate time sensitive articles for the publication." 
  • Finance and Administration - Supervisor Nicholas - said that the committee met on February 11th and reviewed January 2009 Township expenses.  They discussed the Waste Management contract and Nicholas asked the Board if it wants a public hearing over the contract renewal terms and fees.  Currently Forks has a full contract with recycling every week.  There are other options that can be chosen, for example collecting recycling every other week would lower costs.  Howell said that it is a good idea to understand the "pulse of the community." 

Nicholas offered that she thinks the new contract will be a lot higher than the existing contract.  She said that perhaps Waste Management can attend and offer help to understand the new contract and the options and pricing available. 

Howell said that is in favor of a workshop and it must be well publicized to insure that a good cross-section of the community attends.  Schnaedter suggested that Waste Management may be able to help promote the workshop.  He said that he and Finance Manager Farley will be meeting with representatives from Waste Management next week.

Chuss asked why this couldn't simply be an agenda item at a regular meeting?  Schnaedter said that sometimes workshops about specific items bring out more people.  Nicholas said that people are more likely to talk at a workshop.  Schnaedter said he has learned that other communities are facing substantial increases.  And, he will report on his meeting with Waste Management at the March 5th BoS meeting.  Supervisors will revisit a decision at that time.

Nicholas said that the staff evaluation forms are completed.  She will get a copy to the Board for review.  She said, too, that the EIT form (Earned Income Tax) is available for download on the website.  The swipe card system for the Community Center gym will be finished by March.  Farley said that the system is up, they are waiting for the tags.  The handrail for the Municipal Building sidewalk is here and awaiting installation.

Nicholas asked the Board if when Farley puts out the budget calendar for 2010 that there be a notice on it that professionals' fee schedules are due to the Township Manager no later than October 10th.  And, finally, Nicholas reported that HR Manager, Barb Bartek has been asked to represent the Lehigh Valley Insurance Co-op Connection Care advisory board.  Nicholas said this is a good position for her and she congratulated her for doing that.  Bartek has been on the Lehigh Insurance Co-op board for several years.    Connection Care provides services to individuals diagnosed with cancer.

Township Manager's Report - Schnaedter reported that he received correspondence from Lafayette College's Meyner Center regarding a regional comprehensive plan.  He said that over the last two years a regional comprehensive plan was addressed several times at the Two Rivers COG (Council of Governments) meetings and although there was some interest, he thought that Forks was not interested in a regional comprehensive plan.  He said that unless something has changed, he will notify the Meyner Center that Forks is not interested. 

Chuss said that the didn't know a decision had been made and that he understands that there are grants and State/Federal money available for regional plans.  Schnaedter confirmed that there is State money available for the organization of comprehensive plans.  He added that the Township had a difficult time planning for its own community and this would involve neighboring municipalities.  Traditionally legislative bodies are reluctant to give that authority to neighboring communities.

Howell said at the Meyner Center/COG discussions Forks' district would include West Easton, Glendon, Freemansburg, Wilson, and Easton.  Palmer and Bethlehem Townships would have opted out.  He suggested that if Chuss wanted to revisit it, he is welcome to attend the COG and learn more about it.

Chuss asked why Bethlehem and Palmer would opt out and Howell said that it is because they don't want the "tail to wag the dog."  There is not much to plan in Easton and they will look to the suburbs to solve their issues.  Forks is involved in a lawsuit over providing affordable housing, one of Easton's major concerns. 

Schnaedter said that he will notify the Meyner Center that Forks chooses not to participate on the 27th.

Schnaedter also said that the Meyner Center is looking for the Board's comments on the report draft from the strategic planning workshop.  Howell said that he would like to get it going.  Egolf thought that an ad hoc committee to propose deadlines that will be sent to the Supervisors for approval/revision will work.  He said that it was important to move on it since these are 2009 goals - and it's already the end of February.  Schnaedter will set up a meeting within the next five working days.  The members are Schnaedter, Howell, and Egolf.

Schnaedter also said that the Board has the 2010 appropriations grant application (for the public works facility) for review.  The deadline is the 27th and unless the Board has objects, he will to send it tomorrow.

Schnaedter met with Brian Locus (sic) of the Forks Township business group.  He and other members will make a presentation at a BoS meeting about their plans to contact other business groups.  The group wants the Board to participate in that effort.

Engineer's Report - Hay - not present

Solicitor's Report - Kline - reported that he spoke with Mr. Rinaldi about the crop farming lease.  He is in agreement but has not sent the signed lease back yet.  It will be an agenda item at the March 5th meeting.

Kline also reported that the EAJSA (Easton Area Joint Sewer Authority) solicitor has been directed to prepare a new sewage service agreement that will control its relationship with member municipalities.  The current agreement is in many dated parts, 1976 inter-municipal agreement, 1988 agreement, the 1995 court order, and the amended articles of incorporation.  The new agreement will consolidate all into one.  This is a long and very important document since there are millions of dollars involved.  Kline said that he reviewed the new document and will meet with Henning Holmgaard, Forks' representative on the EAJSA, and then make a report to the Board.

Kline also updated the Board on the nine expiring letters of credit.  He explained that these letters are required of developers to insure that required municipal improvements are completed.  If the work is not done by the developers, the Township has the right to draw on the letters so that the work can be completed.  Seven of the letters have been resolved.  The two unresolved are from Strausser Enterprises.  They are due to expire on March 31st. 

Kline further explained that developers are unlikely to do the improvements before they begin building and have money coming in, so security is provided with letters of credit provided by banks.  The Township notifies the bank that issued the letter if the work is not done and the bank sends the money to the Township and bills the developer.




Request for authorization to bid – resurfacing of Tennis Courts and re-furbishing of basketball Court (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter asked the Board for authorization to go out to bid for the rehabilitation of the Community Park basketball court and the resurfacing of its tennis court.   The advertising will be on March 29th, April 3rd, and April 6th.  There will be a mandatory pre-bid meeting on April 9th and bids will be opened on April 13th.  Several vendors have expressed interest.

Miller thought that there was one line that was inappropriate in the bid spec, and that is that the vendor must be a member of the American Sports Builders Association.  He said that there may be many qualified bidders who are not members.  Miller said that he looked it up on the web and that they are out of MD and require an annual membership fee of $840.  He asked Kline for his opinion.

Kline said that the purpose of the bid is to make sure you have qualified bidders and you need to be satisfied that they are in fact qualified.  The requirement that they pay $840 has nothing to do with qualification to do the job.  He recommended deleting the line.

Nicholas questioned the project notes section that says there is no removal or disposal of existing base included.  She wondered who is getting rid of it.  Schnaedter explained that this is rehabilitation and the materials will be reused.  DPW Director Roberts said that the stone base will remain and only the blacktop will be removed.  This will address the cracks in the court surface.

Nicholas questioned the line in the project notes that states the contractor will not accept responsibility or liability for damage done to existing areas required to access the work area.  Roberts agreed that damage could happen.  When asked who helped prepare the bid spec, Schnaedter said that a potential bidder did.  The Township Engineer then reviewed it and put in language to prevent one company from having unfair advantage.  Nicholas wanted the line removed and Kline agreed.  Howell asked if there were provisions in the package that will guarantee that the things like removing the fence around the tennis court will result in the fence being replaced as it was.  He was told that there were.

Nicholas then questioned the variable bid price provision (based on AC oil and market prices) for the blacktop and wanted it removed.  Roberts said that last year blacktop prices were volatile.  Nicholas said that bids should be good for so many days.

Howell remarked that there is a problem when potential bidders are writing specs. 

Nicholas recapped the changes as eliminating that the contractor is not liable for damages and adding instead that the contractor is responsible for damages, and eliminating the clause about the AC oil price index and adding per Kline, that the price be guaranteed for 30 or 60 days or until the bid is awarded.

Howell suggested that the Board could approve Schnaedter's authority to go out for bid if the Board agrees to allow him to consult with Kline for the correct language. 

Egolf made the motion to authorize the Township Manager to advertise for bids for the rehabilitation of the basketball court and the resurfacing of the tennis court with the stipulation that Schnaedter meet with Kline and Hay to finalize the wording with reference to the liability insurance, black top pricing, association membership, and the length of the contract.  Miller seconded and it passed 5:0.

Senator Wonderling’s request for Satellite Office in Forks Township Municipal Complex (Rick Schnaedter, Township Manager) - Schnaedter explained that Board had a copy of the email request from Senator Wonderling's office to set up a table two Tuesdays a month (for a few hours) in the Municipal Building lobby to meet with and serve constituents. 

Chuss suggested that the there is more traffic in the Community Center. 

Howell said that this is a request from one elected official and although he is not a fan of elected officials using "our facilities," it should be offered to all elected officials (Grucela, Dent, Dowd, etc.).  He agreed with Chuss that the Community Center is a much better venue for it especially if there are a significant number of people with issues.  Howell stipulated, too, that there should be no electioneering. 

Nicholas agreed that there should be no campaigning.  And, Egolf suggested that there be blackout dates during election times.  He said that the Community Center is a great place.  Howell suggested space in its atrium.  Miller offered that Saturdays would not be good since "they would be run over by 300 kids."

Schnaedter noted that this is the third request the Township has received (Dent and Specter were the others).

Chuss made a motion to set a policy that any elected official may use space in the Community Center for the purpose of meeting with constituents.  The time and dates must be arranged with the Township Manager and there will be no electioneering.  Egolf seconded and it passed 5:0.

Executive Session - The session was held to discuss a matter of current litigation and one of a potential litigation.  No action was taken and the meeting was adjourned.

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